Tag Archives: Jazzology Records

A SECOND EAR-RING: JON-ERIK KELLSO and The EarRegulars: MATT MUNISTERI, EVAN CHRISTOPHER, KERRY LEWIS (on JAZZOLOGY)

The EarRegulars have come out with a second CD, and it’s delicious, even before one unwraps the package: the ingenious cover art is by Cecile McLorin Salvant:

EARREGULARS CD Jazzology

The first EarRegular CD featured Kellso, Munisteri, Scott Robinson, and Greg Cohen:

EarReg 1 CD

The splendid new disc features a New York / New Orleans hybrid: Kellso, trumpet; Munisteri,guitar / vocal; Evan Christopher, clarinet, and Kerry Lewis, string bass.  And they groove spectacularly.

And here are the notes that someone enthusiastic wrote:

I am proud to have followed The EarRegulars with delight, rapt attentiveness, and recording devices, since they first began to transform the cosmos on Sunday, June 17, 2007, at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City). They’ve been consistently inspiring, a twenty-first century version of Fifty-Second Street many blocks to the south. (My only problem with The EarRegulars is that I can’t decide if they IS or ARE, for reasons beyond the grammatical.)

They are a Marvel of Nature, an expansive sonic orchestra that masquerades as a tidy improvising quartet. They model democracy in swingtime, where each of the four players is audible, recognizable, playfully sharing musical heart-truths. In their native habitat, they are small enough to fit in a New York corner (The Ear Inn is a compact place), where they reverberate not loudly but mightily. Their mailing address is the intersection of Translucence and Stomp, just off Lyrical.

And although the Official Jazz Historians try to force music into restrictive boxes, The EarRegulars create timeless and limitless music, joyous lyrical improvising. One hears the Ancestors (who are grinning) but this band is a triumph of the Here and Now. They cavort in the present moment rather than offering shelf-stable, freeze-dried jazz repertory. Their musical conversation is collaborative joy: one hears four creative individuals, easily amused, sweetly competitive, extending each others’ thoughts, capping each others’ jokes.

The pleasure, not only mine, of witnessing The EarRegulars live, Sunday after glorious Sunday, has been the feeling, “This is the way I imagine musicians play when all distractions and tensions are removed, when the ideal audience fully understands them, when they are surrounded by love, free to express themselves fully. What a blessing this is.” This bicoastal version of the band offers its leader, Jon-Erik Kellso, and his inspiring colleague, Matt Munisteri, alongside New Orleans heroes Evan Christopher and Kerry Lewis. Their sounds need no explication, merely your most fervent close listening. Each track has beauties it reveals on the third hearing, the twentieth, their approach a beautiful oxymoron, a delicate ferocity. And their flexible, playful approach reminds me of what Ruby Braff would do with any gathering of musicians: scatter them on the floor like puzzle pieces and reassemble them in surprising, fluid ways. So this quartet becomes a series of trios, duos, and solos, never predictable, never the Same Old Thing of ensemble-solos-ensemble. And the sounds!

The repertoire is gorgeously uplifting. Even though I have heard The EarRegulars take the most familiar song and make it new, this CD is full of delights. Jon-Erik’s OUT OF THE GATE has to be the soundtrack for an animated film, LITTLE JAZZ! — where superhero Roy Eldridge vanquishes the enemies of Swing. His EARREGULARITY (something to be sought out, not feared) is a 2015 ragtime dance. Evan’s SURRENDER BLUE is so touching! I hear it as lullaby superimposed on love song, the most tender music imaginable. The other songs have wondrous associations: the Casa Loma Orchestra, Benny Carter, the Hot Five, Ivie and Duke, Louis and Papa Joe, Fate Marable . . . all memorable but rare.

I think of these sounds as healing defense against the wounding clamor of the world, reminders that the cosmos will welcome us. Start with IN THE LAND OF BEGINNING AGAIN – sung so soulfully by Matt – and you will agree. I am honored to live in a time and place where such joy is not only possible but freely offered. Bless The EarRegulars and may they prosper. Forever.

Although I find it inconceivable that anyone encountering JAZZ LIVES would be unfamiliar with the EarRegulars, here they are — at least three-fourths of the latest combination — onstage at the Louisiana Music Factory.

BLUES IN MY HEART:

IN THE LAND OF BEGINNING AGAIN (vocal Matt):

Of course, you can purchase the disc from Jon-Erik at The Ear Inn or at other gigs, or visit here.  It is on Amazon as a download, and probably iTunes.  And available direct from Jazzology and Louisiana Music Factory.

Here’s a song direct from the CD — a poignant version of SMOKE RINGS — but do the right thing and help support the art and the artists by buying it:

One way to get a double dose of this joy is to visit Symphony Space at Broadway at 95th Street in New York City on November 2, 2015, at 7:15 PM  for the Sidney Bechet Society’s season finale, “Ear Inn, Uptown!” which will feature Jon-Erik Kellso, Evan Christopher, Matt Munisteri, singer Brianna Thomas, and others in a jam session saluting the jazz scene at The Ear Inn, the city’s oldest bar.  Tickets $30 in advance via mailorder from the Society, and $35 at the box office: Peter Norton Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY 10025.  (212) 864-5400.

May your happiness increase!

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HAL SMITH HONORS “MISTER CHACE”

The splendid jazz drummer and jazz scholar Hal Smith and I share certain serious devotions.  One is to the pianist Frank Melrose and his daughter Ida; another is to the clarinetist and brave explorer Frank Chace.

Hal has emerged with yet a third talent to share (generously) with us: he has created a beautiful and lively video tribute to Mister Chace, with a glorious soundtrack of SORRY — played by Marty Grosz and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band from the Riverside recording called HOORAY FOR BIX — as well as a panorama of rare, never-before-seen, highly evocative photographs that open the door to understanding Frank Chace a little wider.

Thank you, Hal!  Frank would be amused, perplexed, and I think pleased by your creative act of love.  Ultimately, he would be delighted that someone who understood the music so well — and played it with equal grace — had taken the time to honor him:

Hal and Frank can be heard together on two rewarding and illuminating CD sets on the Jazzology label — one with Butch Thompson, John Otto, and Charlie DeVore; the other with Tom Pletcher and Tom Bartlett, among others.  Winning music indeed.

May your happiness increase!

“GOOD AFTERNOON, HOT MUSIC AFICIONADOS,” SEPTEMBER 1944, AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO UNCLE DA DA

I don’t ordinarily join in the chorus of people celebrating the birthdays of those who have left us, but, “from Ketchikan to Calcutta,” we can all salute Eddie Condon, who was born November 16, 1905. . . . with a little music, as he would have liked — in this case, an AFRS transcription of a Town Hall concert from September 9, 1944.

A New York Times advertisement for a Condon concert, 1942: courtesy of MULE WALK AND JAZZ TALK

An April 1942 advertisement: thanks to MULE WALK AND JAZZ TALK

The collective personnel, as explained by Mister Condon — from the hallowed and gilt-edged Town Hall — is Max Kaminsky, Muggsy Spanier, Billy Butterfield, trumpet / cornet; Miff Mole, trombone; Pee Wee Russell, clarinet;  Ernie Caceres, baritone saxophone; Gene Schroeder, Bob Haggart, bass; Condon, Gene Krupa, Joe Grauso, drums.

Some stream-of-delighted-consciousness notes on the music: LOVE NEST (with Krupa accents during Mole’s solo, continuing to push Max onwards, then Pee Wee).  Some words from Eddie and Gene, leading in to BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA (how beautiful the sound of Haggart’s bass is!); a salute to Louis — with a brief arranged introduction — in BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN (with Muggsy replacing Max) — pay close attention to Pee Wee’s sixteen bars, where he seems to float backwards against the nearly-violent current of the music — before Muggsy pays the Master homage.  A pause before THE BLUES BY PEE WEE RUSSELL with dark filigree by Schroeder behind him; then HEEBIE JEEBIES featuring Billy Butterfield and Joe Grauso (Krupa may have had to sprint back to his regular gig at the Capitol Theatre) — with some skips in the disc during Miff’s solo; then the closing IMPROMPTU ENSEMBLE, with the soloists announced: Schroeder, Caceres, Mole (nifty pushing riffs behind him), Max, Muggsy with his plunger mute, Pee Wee, Billy Butterfield, Haggart, Schroeder for another circuit, Caceres also, Max, Muggsy, Pee Wee (the subject of sarcastic witticisms), Butterfield, Grauso . . . .leading into an ensemble paraphrase of DIPPERMOUTH BLUES with drum breaks.  And that applause was real (with unannounced segments of BIG BOY and SWING THAT MUSIC  — Krupa audibly present on the latter — spliced in from a different concert: I hear Max, Pee Wee, Caceres, and Benny Morton up front.)

I have a wall of CDs, and a good many of them are by Eddie Condon and his friends, but I would certainly love to live in an alternate universe where on a Saturday afternoon I could be sure of turning on my radio and hearing a half-hour of this splendor.

Note: the music from this transcription — without the AFRS “fillers” at the end can be heard, in better sound quality, on Volume Five of the comprehensive Jazzology Records series of Condon concerts 1944-45, more than twenty CDs in all.

This one’s for Hank O’Neal — who enabled many of us to hear the Town Hall concerts for the first time — and for Maggie Condon, for many reasons.

May your happiness increase!

HOMAGE TO WILD BILL: “THE WILD BILL DAVISON CENTENNIAL CONCERT” (LEON OAKLEY, DAN BARRETT, RICHARD HADLOCK, RAY SKJELBRED, KATIE CAVERA, CLINT BAKER, J. HANSEN, BOB MIELKE: January 8, 2006)

Paying tribute to such a strongly idiosyncratic musical personality as cornetist Wild Bill Davison could be a doomed endeavor, if the cornet player in charge attempts to honor Bill by reproducing his repertoire of short phrases, growls, vocalized blurts and sotto-voce murmurs. My reaction to such things has been to turn back to Bill’s recorded legacy.  The copies are the aural equivalent of Al Hirschfeld drawings: ingenious but verging on affectionate caricature.

WILD BILL CENTENNIAL CONCERT

A band of wise players assembled in Berkeley, California, at the Freight and Salvage in early 2006 to celebrate Bill’s centennial.  The results, issued on a Jazzology CD, are a model of what energetic creative tribute should be.

The participants are Leon Oakley, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Mielke, trombone guest star; Richard Hadlock, reeds and master of ceremonies (offering commentary between each selection); Ray Skjelbred, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; J. Hansen, drums.  The CD begins with an excerpt from a recording made in Britain — Bill singing a bit of IS IT TRUE WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT DIXIE? in a light, sincere, swinging voice — and it concludes with Bill, ending a set.  So the presence of the great man is immediately evident.  In between, the band plays the hot ones — THAT’S A PLENTY, COLLIER’S CLAMBAKE, I NEVER KNEW and I NEVER KNEW I COULD LOVE ANYBODY, a strong-minded BLUES FOR WILD BILL, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GAVE TO ME.

But the sweet melodic side of Wild Bill gets equal time, with MEMORIES OF YOU, WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE (very successfully evoking a 1944 Condon date for Decca where Bill wasn’t present but Billy Butterfield and Bobby Hackett were), MANDY, I’M CONFESSIN’, SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA, and a particularly moving version of BLACK BUTTERFLY on which we hear Barrett and Mielke in tandem.

The band is superb, because each one of them knows the style deeply but is committed to improvising within it.  Leon Oakley has said he was deeply influenced by Wild Bill, and occasionally he dips into the Davison grab-bag of singular effects, but for the most part he simply, eloquently plays hot cornet — in a way that would fit in at The Ear Inn in 2013 or Condon’s in 1956.  Barrett, Hadlock, and Mielke all sound like themselves (Hadlock in a particularly forceful mood) but they are all obviously overjoyed to be playing with the ideal rhythm sections, with the ghosts of Stacy, Sullivan, Condon, Walter Page, Wettling and Drootin making ectoplasmic appearances.

It may be heretical to say so, but I gave up collecting Wild Bill records because each one sounded precisely like the last (he had created his own master solos and delivered them — perfectly or slightly imperfectly) but I have not tired of this disc.  I’ve already played it several times and found new reasons to cheer each time.  (Excellent recorded sound, too.)

May your happiness increase. 

BUNK and WIGGS

 Names to conjure with — the classic monickers of two New Orleans brass giants, Willie “Bunk” Johnson (1879 or 1889-1949) and John Wigginton Hyman (1899-1977).  Bunk is widely-known; Wiggs should be.   

Two new compact discs present these men in very congenial settings. 

Let’s take “Johnny Wiggs” first.  Wiggs is yet another living proof that there are second and third acts in American lives: he recorded in 1927 and then not again for two decades (in the meantime, he had a successful career as a teacher and home-builder); he continued playing until his death.  Wiggs also fascinates me because of his deep lyrical strain: his early influence was Joe Oliver, but he fell under the spell of Bix Beiderbecke and (to my ears) he often sounds the way I imagine an elder Bix would have sounded: melancholy, introspective, singing softly to himself.

Wiggs has often been represented on record as the lead horn in a traditional New Orleans ensemble, and these settings haven’t always done him justice, because the energetic bandsmen have sometimes created a raucous good-time environment.  Best of all are his chamber sessions with only clarinetist Raymond Burke (another poetic soul), guitar (often Dr. Edmond Souchon), and bass — recorded on the Paramount label in the Fifties and I think impossible to find. 

But the Wiggs sessions collected on a new CD show his deep feeling and wide range.  Some of this music was issued on an lp — also called CONGO SQUARE — but this CD issue adds previously unissued material.  Here’s one of the original 78s:

 The music on the CD covers the years 1948-73, and was primarily recorded in New Orleans — one particularly exuberant small group includes Wiggs, clarinetist Bujie Centobie, tenorist Eddie Miller (their limpid sounds intertwining), and the Stacy-Bix pianist Armand Hug.  But to me the most interesting combination was suggested by the ever-inventive Hank O’Neal, who set up a date for Wiggs to record four of his own compositions . . . in New York, with a “New York” quartet of Dill Jones (from Wales), Cliff Leeman (from New England), and Maxine Sullivan (from Baltimore).  The results are special, making me wish that Wiggs had been transported out of his native element more often.  He’s worth discovering or rediscovering.

Bunk Johnson is a different case entirely: someone who has his own mythology, a figure with such a clearly defined identity that there were pro-and-anti Bunk forces at work.  I first heard Bunk on his earliest recordings, and was unimpressed: he seemed a rudimentary player doing his best but not always being able to break free from the near-amateur musicians surrounding him. 

It was only later when I heard his “Last Testament” recordings for Columbia in 1947 that I could hear what he was doing and revel in his beautiful melodic simplicity, the emotional directness of his lines, the delicacy of his embellishments. 

But it was clear to me (although some disagree) that Bunk was a more sophisticated musician than the contexts he was often placed in.  Put next to the vehemently competitive Sidney Bechet in Boston, he often held his own but sometimes sounded as if he had been dropped into the Golden Gloves. 

In front of a sympathetic, swinging band, he blossomed and relaxed.  He had just that setting in the recordings now issued on an American Music CD — a 1947 concert with cornetist Doc Evans’s rocking little band and the perfect support of pianist Don Ewell.

Ewell hasn’t been celebrated enough — certainly not sufficiently in his lifetime.  But he was an elegantly swinging pianist, his subtle approach encompassing Jelly Roll Morton’s ruffles and flourishes and the later swing of Hines, Stacy, Fats, and James P. Johnson.  It says a good deal about Ewell that he seemed to be the favorite pianist of both Jack Teagarden and Frank Chace.  And Bunk Johnson.  A year before this concert, Bunk, Ewell, and drummer Alphonso Steele had recorded as a trio in New York for American Music — playing pop tunes and old favorites: WHEN THE MOON COMES OVER THE MOUNTAIN, I’LL TAKE YOU HOME AGAIN KATHLEEN, IN THE GLOAMING, OH, YOU BEAUTIFUL DOLL, JA-DA, YOU’VE GOT TO SEE MAMA EVERY NIGHT, POOR BUTTERFLY, and WHERE THE RIVER SHANNON FLOWS. 

At the Minneapolis concert, there are vibrant full-band versions of traditional standards such as HIGH SOCIETY, THE SHEIK OF ARABY, and SISTER KATE, but there are also wonderful examples of the Bunk-Ewell partnership.  (One elaborately wayward performance after hours, where Bunk is trying to teach Ewell the harmonies to HEARTACHES, both of them having imbibed more than they should, has been preserved in the Jazzology book on Bunk: SONG OF THE WANDERER, by Barry Martyn and Mike Hazeldine, as is their IN THE GLOAMING.)

But this concert presents what is, to me, the clearest representation of what Bunk could do — out of the recording studio, having a wonderful time, inspiring and being inspired by a first-rate group. 

 And now for some compelling musical evidence (music also available from the George H. Buck family of labels):

Bunk, Ewell, and Alphonso Steele in New York City, 1946:

Wiggs with the legendary guitarist Snoozer Quinn in 1948:

To order the Bunk / Ewell / Evans CD, click here:

 http://www.jazzology.com/item_detail.php?id=AMCD-129

To order the Wiggs CD, click here:

http://www.jazzology.com/item_detail.php?id=BCD-507

REMEMBER TO CLICK HERE TO REPAY THE MUSICIANS:

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FRANK CHACE, SEEKER

Clarinetist Frank Chace stood very still when he played, his eyes closed.  In the fashion of the true mystic, he looked inwards, seeking something new, beautiful, personal.  His own speech, his own pathways. 

A Chace solo winds around the melody and the chords, hesitant but guided by its own self-trust: “I don’t know the way but I know where I’m going.” 

He didn’t record enough for any of us, and often he seemed to be making his way through his fellow players — yearning to break free.  When he was playing alongside his great friends Don Ewell or Marty Grosz, he knew that they would supply an indefatigable rhythmic pulse, they would lay down the right chords, and he could then soar.

And soar he did.

In 1985, when I had only recently encountered the mysterious, elliptical Chace universe, Jazzology Records issued a record of a live session led by pianist Butch Thompson.  I thought it remarkable that here was a new Frank Chace record: it remains a treasure.  Charlie DeVore, cornet, John Otto, clarinet, alto sax, vocal; Hal Smith, drums; Jack Meilahn, guitar; Bill Evans, bass, were the other fellows on the stand.  And the session was full of delights, aside from Frank: Hal’s press rolls and shimmering hi-hat; the solid rhythm section; Otto’s sweet, thoughtful alto; De Vore’s Muggy Spanier-emphases.  But Frank Chace produces marvel after marvel. 

Hear him chart his own paths, his eyes closed, his only goal to create his own speech.  Frank was rarely — if ever — satisfied with something he had recorded, so I can’t say that he was complacently pleased with this or any other disc.  About an early session with the Salty Dogs, he told me, “I was fighting for my life!”  But no strain can be heard here: just beauty, impassioned or quietly subversive.     

Now, the complete session (offering twenty-four selections) is available on a double-CD Jazzology set.  (JCD 373/374), available at a variety of online sources.  I can’t praise it highly enough. 

The selections are I FOUND A NEW BABY / ROSE ROOM / I SURRENDER, DEAR / I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / SWEET SUBSTITUTE / SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE / ONE HOUR / JAZZ BAND BALL / IDA / I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU / SWEET LORRAINE / THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART / HOME / JELLY ROLL / YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME / BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU / OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT? / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? / FROM MONDAY ON / S’POSIN’ / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE / MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS / THANKS A MILLION. 

Frank doesn’t make an obsession out of being “untraditional,” but he won’t play the expected lines, the predictable harmonies.  You might think you know where his next phrase is going . . . but it turns out that he has led us in his own way, eyes closed, finding new surprises.

Listen to his ardor, his courage, his whimsical explorations. 

“THANKS A MILLION”: CLICK HERE.  ALL MONEY GOES TO THE MUSICIANS!

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CHRIS TYLE, CL.

I know Chris Tyle as a wonderful hot cornetist, a superb drummer, an affecting singer.  What more would anyone want? 

But Chris is a splendid clarinetist as well — and I’ve just been reminded of this by one of the most consistently stirring new CDs to burst out of its mailer.  It won’t be out until mid-October (so says Amazon) but this will give you time to get excited, to anticipate, and (if you like) to pre-order.  It’s a honey of a session!

Since the photograph is a bit small, I will offer subtitles: the band is CHRIS TYLE’S PACIFIC PLAYERS, and the disc is “TRIBUTE TO PEE WEE RUSSELL” (Jazzology JCD 378). 

The Pacific Players are Chris, clarinet, vocals; Katie Cavera, solo guitar, bass, vocals; Ray Skjelbred, piano; June Smith, rhythm guitar; Hal Smith, drums. 

Most CDs by one jazz group — even the ones I earnestly yearn for — begin to seem long.  Maybe it’s my late-life-attention-deficit-disorder, but it’s more the unintentional lack of variety on those discs.  Seventy-five minutes of the same thing can get monotonous.  

Happily, I listened to this disc all the way through, delighting at the varied tempos and instrumental textures this little group accomplished with great style and knowledge. 

Creating a tribute to someone whose sound and approach were so distinctive could pose its own problem for a musician less intuitive than Chris Tyle.  Russell’s twists and turns, his mutters and wails have tempted less gifted clarinetists to attempt to “be” Pee Wee for a day.  And since Russell’s vocabularly was always vividly aduible, from his talking-to-himself chalumeau musings to his out-and-out arching hollers, lesser musicians might simply offer almost-identical collections of gestures within familiar repertoire.  The result, a shadow Pee Wee. 

But Tyle, rather like the late Frank Chace, knows better.  We have the original recordings, and someone attracted to a Russell tribute is likely to know them well, so imitation is suicide, to reiterate Emerson. 

Tyle has some of Russell’s characteristic phrases under his fingers and in his emotional library, but he blends his own left-handed approach with the Master’s.  If I heard this CD in a Blindfold Test (or a CADENCE “Flying Blind”) I would say, “That’s someone who loves Pee Wee but has his own musical identity.”  Chris has an innate rhythmic energy (he is a hot player even when purling his way through a ballad) and his own sound, both within and enveloped by Russell’s. 

And the CD — wisely — roams throughout Russell’s career and wide range of musical situations: there’s a WILD MAN BLUES that suggests the 1957 performance on television on THE SOUND OF JAZZ, a number of songs associated with Russell’s late quartet with Marshall Brown (MY MOTHER’S EYES and HOW ABOUT ME), some Condonia (MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND and SAVE YOUR SORROW) and homages to the Rhythmakers among others.  This multi-faceted approach — without making the disc a chronological tour through Pee Wee’s recordings — adds a great deal to its charm and vitality.  I heard the rhythm section taking on some of the characteristics of Russell’s later recordings with Nat Pierce, Jo Jones, and George Wettling, and they manage to make SHINE ON YOUR SHOES and HELLO, LOLA romp with one horn only.

Chris would have had a steeper uphill climb with a lesser rhythm section, to be sure.  The first sound I heard on this disc was the joyous swish of Hal Smith’s hi-hat, and I will say only that his drumming through this session is supportive and exultant: he uses every part of his drum kit in the most swinging ways.  Katie Cavera adds her girlish singing (very sweet indeed) to a few numbers, her solo guitar most effectively, and her solid bass work throughout — sounding much like Walter Page, no small compliment.  June Smith is a wonderful guitarist with an authentic rhythm wave that can echo Freddie Green or Condon most delightfully.  And Ray Skjelbred is just invaluable — his rocking accompaniment and brilliant solo playing do honor to Hines and Frank Melrose, to Stacy and Sullivan . . . boiling away through the ensembles. 

I think this is a thrilling CD.  Hail Chris Tyle and his mighty colleagues!