Tag Archives: Jelly Roll Morton

MORE, MORE MORTON (Opus 2 and 3): MESSRS. ANDREW OLIVER and DAVID HORNIBLOW

This new endeavor — performing and recording all of Jelly Roll Morton’s compositions at the rate of two a week, scored and sometimes reimagined for clarinet or other reeds (David Horniblow) and piano (Andrew Oliver) is generous, expert, and ultimately joyous.  I’ve fallen slightly behind, so this post offers weeks two and three.  Here is the first part, garlanded with deep praise from Moi.

A few words.  In this technological age, artists are under pressure to give their work away for free — I’m part of this skewed exchange — and the results are sometimes uneven.  But the Complete Morton Project, although it has no dusty air about it, no scent of the museum, is beautifully considered and executed, and the results are not only graciously offered but superbly inventive.  I find that when I listen to a Morton orchestral recording, I hear the band, which is not a bad thing: here, the clarity of presentation makes me hear David and Andrew, of course, but the music is almost visible as it purls by.

GOOD OLD NEW YORK, with David on bass clarinet:

The deeply mournful WHY?:

The mysteriously titled FICKLE FAY CREEP:

and Morton’s evocation of Bert Williams, which makes me think of his poker-playing routine:

Here’s the link to the CMP on andrewoliver.net — elegant commentary also, not didactic — and on their YouTube channel.  To get a regular weekly delivery of this expert pleasure right to your door, you don’t have to have money deducted from your paycheck or sign an agreement.  Simply watch, feel delight, and tell your like-minded friends: that, I think, will be all the reward Andrew and David yearn for.  Thank you, Benefactors!

May your happiness increase!

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THEIR JELLY IS SWEET AND HOT: ANDREW OLIVER and DAVID HORNIBLOW HONOR MISTER MORTON

For me, this morning started off splendidly with a blast of expert passionate hot music from pianist Andrew Oliver and clarinetist David Horniblow:

Please notice their immense romping ardor, and that although they are respectfully hewing to Morton’s composition, they aren’t reproducing the record note for note.

And the imagined flip side of the video 78, ORIGINAL JELLY ROLL BLUES:

Andrew and David have set themselves the substantial and joyous task of playing all of Morton’s compositions — about one hundred — in this duo format.  And “playing” means several things that we take for granted in 2018.  Their performances will be on video, and they will be offered to the eager public for free, both on their dedicated YouTube channel and on Andrew’s blog.  I find this both refreshingly “contemporary” and “antique” at the same time, as if I could go down to the best record store in my town every Tuesday and buy the new Oliver-Hornblow 78 of two more Morton compositions, being very careful not to slip on the ice and break my precious purchase.

Andrew’s blog is here.  The YouTube channel is called Complete Morton Project.  Charming and accurate.

I emphasize that their generous Musical Offering is done for free.  That’s the way musicians function or perhaps have to function in this century.  How could we make Messrs. Oliver and Horniblow feel welcomed in what is, after all, a world of commodities that have to be paid for?  (Artists, like us, have a fondness for meals and electricity and clean laundry . . . .)  At this point the forbidding God of Should emerges and with a voice louder than thunder says, “You SHOULD subscribe to the YouTube channel.  You SHOULD go to gigs that Andrew and David are playing (especially if you live in the United Kingdom).  You SHOULD check out their fine band, The Dime Notes, and buy their debut CD or vinyl record.  Details here.

For me (now that the God has spoken and I can hear myself think once again) I wish that there could be a Morton-Oliver-Horniblow PayPal subscription.  I would gladly send these fellows ten dollars a week for their musical generosity. But until that time, I will merely exhort you to make sure that you watch these bursts of joy and get your hot-jazz friends to do likewise.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGING FOR THE KID: HAL SMITH’S “ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND”

Edward Ory — that’s the Kid to those of us who admire and keep his name and music alive — is a fabled figure.  His 1925-28 Chicago recordings with Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Luis Russell, Johnny Dodds, Lil Hardin, George Mitchell, Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey, even Tiny Parham are bedrock masterpieces of the pre-World War Two jazz canon, and many bands celebrate them.

But the California climate — whether you consider the ground-breaking 1922 recordings or the evidence of Ory’s second career — must have agreed with him, because the music he made from 1943 on, while less celebrated, is as gratifying, to some even more so.  In the middle Forties, Ory’s band was not a formulaic “trad” group; like Bunk Johnson, he played popular songs.  Rather than have a two-beat rhythm section with banjo, tuba, and a pianist playing their impressions of an older style, the Ory band carried a rhythm guitarist, a string bassist who mized 2/4 and 4/4,  and often had the elegantly down-home pianist Don Ewell keeping things light, bright, and swinging.  At its most gliding, the Ory band suggested a fraternal meeting of New Orleanians still in beautiful form and a swing rhythm section with hints of Basie’s . . . quite a lovely blend.

Ory’s music of the Forties and Fifties  has been well-documented on disc, because the band was caught live on radio broadcasts, and, later, for Norman Granz, but I think many lovers of “traditional jazz” associated him with a rough-hewn trombone style over their idea of “traditional” rhythms.  That is, until the superb drummer and jazz scholar Hal Smith assembled a group of congenial players for his new “On the Levee” Jazz Band, its title referring to a San Francisco club owned by Ory, where he and his band played from 1957-61.

I asked Hal about his first awareness of this period of Ory’s music, and he told me, Back when I bought my first Lu Watters record, the owner of the record store handed me the Watters LP, looked at the label and said “Oh — ‘Good Time Jazz.’ I have another Good Time Jazz record here that someone ordered, but never came in to pick up.” The LP she offered me was “Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band, 1954.” I gladly accepted it, and from the first hearing the combination of Ory’s tailgate trombone and the swinging rhythm section (Minor Hall, Ed Garland and Don Ewell in particular) became some of my favorite sounds in Jazz.

Hal later told me, Based on our performances in New Orleans and Pensacola, I think the On The Levee group most closely resembles the GOOD TIME JAZZ ensembles, circa 1953 – 1955. A lot of that is due to Kris’ admiration for Ewell, and Josh Gouzy’s Ed Garland-inspired bass. (Ory’s sound changed considerably after Ewell and Garland left, and even more in the late ’50s and early ’60s).

The band has already played gigs in New Orleans and in Pensacola, Florida, with Clint Baker nobly filling the Ory role; Ben Polcer, trumpet; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  And early in 2018 they will again play in New Orleans . . . and will appear at the San Diego Jazz Fest in November.  I am sure that there will be many other opportunities to hail this group in between.

For now, here is the band’s website, and here are a few videos.  Many more are on YouTube, and the site has a whole cloud of audio-only performances, more than enough to roll up the rugs (if anyone does that) and invite the neighbors over for swinging cheer.

WEARY BLUES:

DOWN HOME RAG:

CARELESS LOVE:

PANAMA:

Many bands are playing this repertoire, but few are doing it in this fervent;y swinging way.  And since the club no longer exists on the Embarcadero — 987 would be part of the Ferry Plaza Maketplace — we should embrace this new band, so nicely keeping a jazz legacy vibrantly alive.

May your happiness increase!

“RAGSTRETCH” IS GOOD FOR YOU

Sometimes you know how good a band is in the first two choruses.  That happened to me with RAGSTRETCH, whose debut CD I am reviewing belatedly. True, I knew two members of the band through hearing them several times in New York City: trombonist / singer Shannon Barnett and trumpeter / singer Bjorn Ingelstam, so I was already eager to hear the CD.  But I was unprepared for just how hot and expert this Australian – Scandinavian jazz hybrid is.

By the way, you can skip my encomia and go directly here, which is the band’s website.  Here you can sample the sounds and buy the CD.

The other 4/6 of this sextet: Chris Tanner, clarinet / vocals; Craig Fermanis, guitar; Sam Anning, string bass; Rajiv Jayaweera, drums.

The repertoire is familiar but the treatment is energized: DANS LA RUE D’ANTIBES / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM / JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / MY MONDAY DATE / JAZZ ME BLUES / FOOLIN’ MYSELF / WHY DON’T YOU GO DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / PANAMA / SWEET LORRAINE / I’LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT.

“Energized” in this case doesn’t mean loud or fast, although Ragstretch is capable of playing romping tempos without rushing or dragging: it means that they are expert at conveying enthusiasm — musically, without jokes.  It also means that they have, individually and as a group, heard a wide variety of jazz and pop, and they bring their awareness to the repertoire.  It doesn’t mean that the solo work in JAZZ ME BLUES (for one example) sounds like Blue Note sixties hard bop, but it also means that this band knows that the music continued even after the death of Bunk Johnson.  There’s a joyous playfulness and charging rhythm that many other better-known bands could learn from.

Here’s a sample:

and

Sam Anning’s cover sketch — “Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Trousers” — sums up so much about this band: cheerfully in love with the music but just slightly subversive.  And completely satisfying.

I have no license to practice medicine, but I prescribe RAGSTRETCH and their CD as a proven mood-enhancer . . . without side effects.  It made me feel better. What more could anyone say?

May your happiness increase!

“THE DIME NOTES” ADD UP TO HOT JAZZ PLEASURE

Before you ask the pressing question, please look under D: Cab Calloway’s Hepster’s Dictionary defines “dime note” as a ten-dollar bill.

It’s also the name of a rocking, utterly satisfying new band.  Cab would approve.

As the Elders used to say, “Here’s what I’m talkin’ about!“:

THE DIME NOTES are Andrew Oliver, piano; David Horniblow, clarinet; Dave Kelbie, guitar; Tom Wheatley, string bass.  And you can get a good idea of where their hearts lie by their chosen repertoire; ORIGINAL JELLY ROLL BLUES, ALABAMY BOUND, AUNT HAGAR’S CHILDREN’S BLUES, BLACK STICK BLUES, THE PEARLS, T’AIN’T CLEAN, SI TU VOIS MA MERE, THE CAMEL WALK, THE CRAVE, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES, OLE MISS, TURTLE TWIST, WHAT A DREAM.  The first thing one notices is the presence of Morton, then Bechet, a few “jazz classics” with associations to Fats, W. C. Handy, and then compositions nobody plays: what band is delving into the Boyd Senter repertoire these days?  There’s also an original composition by Andrew, OTIS STOMP, “inspired by a small Oregon town called Otis Junction,” as Evan Christopher’s lavish liner notes tell us.

But a tune list is just that: some lesser bands would take this one and create something admiring yet completely dessicated.  Heroic, admiring copies of venerable 78s in twenty-first century sound.  That line of work can be a great pleasure, in person and on record, but THE DIME NOTES have come to play, which they do splendidly, with heartfelt understanding of all the music that has come before them and what its open possibilities are right now.

And here’s the secret of this engaging little group (a quartet that will not make you lonesome for a cornet, trombone, or drums): THEY SWING.  Let that sink in. Some groups that have given their study and energy to the music of the Twenties and early Thirties seem to have made it a point of honor to keep the rhythmic styles of the great innovators as they were, as if the way the music propelled itself in 1937 would be an insult to a composition first performed fifteen years earlier.  I don’t mean that this band plays hot jazz with a side dish of Dizzy, Bird, and Al Haig — but they do know that Count Basie walked the earth and improved it seriously.  So THE DIME NOTES benefit not only from the magnificent playing of each of the four instrumentalists, but they understand how to work together as a supple, rocking small ensemble.  To me, they are the Guarnieri Quartet of Hot.

They can swagger and soar and make it seem as if the disc in the player — the player itself — is about to take off and rocket around the room.  But they can also be tender and quiet, deeply lyrical, sorrowing, when the song calls for it.  And the disc is certified gimmick-free: no jokes, no tricks played on the listener.

This band is frankly irresistible.

And I’ve read somewhere that The Dime Notes are the only band I know to have its (their?) own chocolate bar, on sale in Whole Foods in the UK.  Until that commodity crosses my path, my hand, or my lips, I will content myself with their sounds.  Here you can buy their CD, or their “vinyl,” and see a video of them in performance.  Better than chocolate.  Longer-lasting.

May your happiness increase!

MORE FROM “HOT CLASSICISM” — KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH — at SNUG HARBOR, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

The trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Hal Smith, drums; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet, called HOT CLASSICISM, is one of the most consistently satisfying jazz groups I know.

Here are a few more delights from their chamber recital in New Orleans last September.

A modern version of the Jelly Roll Morton – King Oliver duet on KING PORTER STOMP, scored for cornet and piano:

“Chicago style,” dirty but not unclean — fully realized on this rendition of MECCA FLAT BLUES:

PARKWAY STOMP (which, if my ears are right, is a very close cousin to Shelton Brooks’ DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL, and the 1928 recording originally featured Al Wynn, Punch Miller, and a very young Sidney Catlett).  In Big Sid’s honor, Hal “whips them cymbals” with precision and energy:

and, finally, for this interlude, an evocation of “the dear boy” from Iowa:

There will be more from this glorious compact inspired band to come.

May your happiness increase!

“SYNCOPATED CLASSIC”: GREG RUBY AND THE RHYTHM RUNNERS PLAY FRANK D. WALDRON

Frank D. Waldron wasn’t well-known outside the Seattle area, but the music he composed nearly a century ago is memorable.  Greg Ruby and the Rhythm Runners have brought Waldron’s quirky, lively music to life on a new CD.

As Greg tells us in the video above, Waldron’s music is an unearthed treasure. And the band he assembled to play it is superb: Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Charlie Halloran, Cassidy Holden, Julian MacDonough, and himself — with Mike Marshall as a guest on two tracks.

As you’ve gathered from Greg’s video, the project needs funding to reach completion: see here or visit Kickstarter here — where you can contribute the smallest amount and get a tangible reward.  “Every dollar helps a lot.”

I am writing this post for reasons both selfish and altruistic.  First and perhaps most plain: the music is rewarding as a series of surprises: truly idiomatic previously-unheard compositions.  Of course there are Twenties and Thirties songs we haven’t heard before, but people deeply involved in this music know a wide range of compositions.  Waldron’s music has what they would have called “pep,” and it’s not a matter of being a series of rapid one-steps.  Rather, his compositions have memorable melodies, unpredictable turns, and multiple strains.  This CD is the equivalent of finding a folio of new Morton or Parham songs.

And, as I’ve written here, since there are few working bands with fixed personnel these days, the repertoire has understandably narrowed to “something everybody knows,” and that can make for monochromatic performances.  I dream that Greg’s work will stimulate a Waldron revival.

Second, music is more than its notation.  Greg’s Rhythm Runners are a superb group — musicians who respect the compositions but let their individual personalities come out sweetly and convincingly.  I was delighted by Greg’s first CD, WASHINGTON HALL STOMP, which I wrote about about here (and the personnel on that CD is the same as on SYNCOPATED CLASSIC).  I’d like to see this band prosper.

New music, estimable young musicians, a delightful — and well-recorded / well-produced new CD.  I encourage you to support this project.  And Frank D. Waldron thanks you as well.

May your happiness increase!