Tag Archives: Jim Ketch

ANOTHER MINT JULEP, PLEASE!

mjjb-dosn-cd-cover

A new CD, DURHAM ON SATURDAY NIGHT, by the Mint Julep Jazz Band, featuring the excellent singer Laura Windley, is a honey.

The MJJB is a small hot group — well-versed in playing for dancers, so they set swinging tempos and stick to them.  Their ensemble work is beautifully precise without being stiff, and they really understand the subtle mysteries of swing rhythm.  And the solos are just fine: not only can these young folks energetically pretend that 1941 isn’t really gone, but they can launch their own inventive solos time after time.

One of their main inspirations is youthful Ella Fitzgerald and the small group out of Chick Webb’s band — The Savoy Eight — and they evoke that sound perfectly without turning out pale note-for-note copies of the records.  I heard evocations of Sandy Williams and Sidney Bechet, but also Al Grey and Howard McGhee.

The repertory also looks with affection at the Ellington small groups and Victor band, the Kirby Sextet, the Ink Spots, the Basie band of the same period (I really welcome hearing JIVE AT FIVE, and the MJJB swings it the best way.)

They also find rather obscure pop tunes — which work!: GET IT SOUTHERN STYLE, ONE GIRL AND TWO BOYS, and there’s a nifty original, MIAMI BOULEVARD.

The excellent young musicians on this disc are Lucian Cobb, trombone; Laura Windley, vocals and glockenspiel; Aaron Hill, alto saxophone / clarinet; Keenan McKenzie, tenor saxophone / clarinet; Jared Worford, guitar; Jim Ketch, trumpet; Jason Foureman, string bass; Aaron Tucker, drums.  They aren’t restricted to the world of 1937, but there are no excursions into Sonny Rollins on a Swing chart, if you know what I mean.

Those boys rock,” the folks at the Savoy would have said.

Laura Windley is a special pleasure.  Many youthful singers in the “swing dance” scene have memorized the gestures of their idols — listening to the records so many times that they can mimic those Vocalions — and they, women and men, dress beautifully.  But as singers they lack their own personalities.  All gown, no voice.

Laura’s got her own sweet style with a serious rhythmic underpinning: if she were handed a song she’d never heard before, she could do it convincingly without echoing anyone else.  Her rich voice reminded me of young Ella — that hopeful, wistful, asking-for-love quality — but she can turn corners at a fast tempo, as she proves on the CD’s closer, the band’s romping version of Lil Armstrong’s HARLEM ON SATURDAY NIGHT.

Here’s a small sample from a band-within-a-band:

Laura Windley (vocals), Lucian Cobb (trombone), Aaron Hill (tenor sax), Keenan McKenzie (sitting in on soprano sax), Aaron Tucker (drums), J.C. Martin (guitar), Peter Kimosh (bass).

What you will hear on the CD will convince you that — like Swing itself — the Mint Julep Jazz Band is here to stay.  And that is very reassuring news.

Visit them, hear more from their CD (it’s also available on iTunes and CD Baby), and follow them here.

May your happiness increase!

BRAD LINDE and TED BROWN and FRIENDS at TOMI JAZZ (Feb. 5, 2011)

The musical intelligence of youthful saxophonist Brad Linde continues to impress me.  Brad also has good taste in friends: Lee Konitz and Ted Brown. 

One of the high points of seeing Ted Brown and friends live at Sofia’s in January 2011 was the impromptu pairing of Ted and Brad, eminence and youthful star, musing over the chord changes, having a lovely empathic dialogue.  Affectionate, thoughtful collaboration, not competition. 

So when Brad told me that he and Ted would be leading a quartet (with Joe Solomon, bass, and Taro Okamoto, drums) at Tomi Jazz on East 53rd Street in New York City, I was there . . . quite early, as always, to document the good sounds I knew would be created. 

Tomi Jazz is very cozy (you could pass right by it on the street) and for much of the evening the audience was made up of intent listeners.  

Here are some of the songs that Brad, Ted, Joe, and Taro (with surprise guests) reinvented that night.  Obviously they are honoring their own creative impulses and going their own way, but they also do honor to the Masters: Pres and Bird, Lee and Lennie.  And the contrasts of pure sound are so revealing here: Ted often has a particularly focused, intense sound on his tenor that suggests a double-reed instrument (an English horn, perhaps?) while Brad’s sound is more orthodox, more furry, broader.  (Not meaning to be taken seriously, I told Brad that at points they reminded me of Herschel and Pres in the Basie band . . . and we both laughed.)  Joe Solomon’s bass sonority is big and warm, and Taro Okamoto knows just what to play, when, and when not to!  I’ll let you discover Jim, Sarah, and Lena as we go along . . .

From the first set, here’s Ted’s improvisation on the changes of THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU — celebrating perhaps more than a little ruefully what it was like in Los Angeles — SMOG EYES:

Here’s the tender, winding SWEET AND LOVELY.  I always wonder where the more “modern” musicians picked this one up from.  Bing?  Ed Hall?  Hawkins?  Whatever the source, it is a song that lives up to its title:

Not too fast, but truly exuberant — one for Lester Willis Young from Woodville, Mississippi — LESTER LEAPS IN (I believe a title created by John Hammond, someone Lester came to abhor):

Still on a 1939-40 Basie kick — always a good idea!  Here’s BROADWAY:

Since Lester’s spirit was at Tomi Jazz and is always in the room — delicately but tangibly — I should point out that the eminent Chris Albertson has just posted on his STOMP OFF IN C site a recording of the 1958 interview he did with Lester: click here to hear it: http://stomp-off.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-interview-with-lester-young.html

Joined by trumpeter Jim Ketch, the band launches into a song honoring that Parker fellow and his early creation.  Jim Ketch, by the way, is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Here’s his website: http://www.jimketch.com/index.html.  And here’s YARDBIRD SUITE:

Another song with unusual chord changes was the Ned Washington – Victor Young I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, which Tommy Dorsey took as his theme song:

Two songs about memory and memories:

I REMEMBER YOU:

and I’LL REMEMBER APRIL:

The young, gifted altoist Sarah Hughes joined the quartet for a romp on Lee Konitz’s SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE, based on WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? changes:

Another song with subtle, unusual harmonies is YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM:

The very fine player Lena Bloch came on board, tenor at the ready, for Harold Arlen’s exhortation GET HAPPY.  (The ding-dong at the start is Tomi Jazz’s doorbell rather than an aesthetic comment from extraterrestrials.):

A very rewarding evening — even for a man standing up through three sets with a video camera.

For those who, like me, enjoy reading what the musicians have to say, there’s a wonderful interview with Ted done by Clifford Allen: read it here:

http://cliffordallen.blogspot.com/2011/01/ear-conditioning-with-tenor-saxophonist.html?showComment=1297609944573#c7835830240652120113.

REMEMBER THE MUSICIANS!  ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM, SO CLICK HERE (EVERY NICKEL HELPS A LOT):

https://.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQASwww

And a possibly superfluous postscript.  I celebrate what some listeners call “OKOM” (Our Kind Of Music) although I also love other styles — with melodies and swing.  I hope that listeners with more firmly defined preferences don’t reject performances such as the ones above because they don’t fit expected formulas: I bow low before the Blue Note Jazzmen of 1943-44, say, but there are worlds and worlds of creativity.  Stretching isn’t just confined to yoga!  End of sermon.