One of my friends recently asked me what I was doing for Thanksgiving, and I said, “I’m flying to San Diego for a wonderful jazz festival,” and this is why: the San Diego Jazz Fest (all schedules subject to change, but this is a filling menu indeed).
The names you don’t see on the flyer above are Marc Caparone, Kim Cusack, Chris Dawson, Carl Sonny Leyland, Conal Fowkes, Kevin Dorn, Orange Kellin, Tom Bartlett, Duke Heitger, Leon Oakley, Clint Baker, Dawn Lambeth, and many others. I know that some of you will say, with good reason, “That’s too far away,” and I understand that. But if you say, “Oh, that’s just another California trad festival,” I hope you are not within swatting range, for it isn’t. But rather than take this uncharacteristic vehemence as merely the expression of the writer’s personality, look below.
Evidence from November 30, 2014: a small-group session led by Ray Skjelbred, piano and vocal; Hal Smith, drums; Beau Sample, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jim Buchmann, clarinet and saxello, Marc Caparone, trumpet. I’ve posted other videos from this session, but here are the two that closed it. One lyrical, one steaming.
The first song, ANYTIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE, which I associate with Lee Wiley — who recorded it a half-dozen times between 1950 and 1972. Wiley wrote the lyrics; Ned Washington and Victor Young the melody. I suspect that Ray knew it first from the Mills Brothers recording, but perhaps from the Chick Bullock, Ellington, Hackett, or Nat Cole sides, too.
It is one of those rare love songs that isn’t I WISH I HAD YOU or YOU BROKE MY HEART, but a seriously intent paean to fidelity (rather like I’LL FOLLOW YOU, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, or I’D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN). Yet unlike those two songs, it doesn’t stress super-heroic behavior as testimony of diligent indefatigable fidelity. There are no caveats: “I have to check my calendar. I can’t be devoted to you this Tuesday. How about Wednesday?” There aren’t any mighty distances, rivers, or mountains. The singer simply says, “Ask for me and I’ll be there,” which I find touching. And Ray’s spare, whispered declaration of the lyrics makes it even more so. I don’t hear his singing as evidence of a limited vocal range; rather, he sounds like someone uttering his deepest heart-truths about devotion in the form of a vow. A Thirties pop song about love — what could be more common — that suddenly seems a sacred offering:
From a sacred offering delivered in hushed tones to another song-of-relationships, the critical / satirical NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW, which — with lyrics — details the small-town girl who has come to the big city and quickly become unrecognizable. Perhaps she’d come to the South Side of Chicago and started hanging around the Lincoln Gardens? If so, I’d assess her transformation as an improvement. Note the easy hot tempo — that’s no oxymoron — and how Marc Caparone sounds a bit like a holy ancestor from Corsicana, Texas. To quote Ring Lardner, you could look it up. Or you could simply immerse yourself in the video:
Here’s the festival’s home page and the relevant Facebook page. I hope you’ll heed the siren call of Good Music and join us there. Festivals need more than enthusiastic watchers-of-videos to survive.
I hope I will be forgiven for ending on an autobiographical note. Five years ago, I had some cardiac excitement that was repaired by the best kind of Western medicine: open the patient up and put a little machine in. It works; I’m fine. Ask my electrocardiologist. But when I watch and listen to music at this level — music that I experienced then and have revisited often — I think, “Goodness, I could have died and never seen / heard this,” in a state of astonished gratitude. Not a bad place to be. Rather like the San Diego Jazz Fest.
May your happiness increase!