Few readers of JAZZ LIVES were actually enjoying the music on Fifty-Second Street, or at a Jimmy Ryan’s jam session, or were in the audience after-hours in Harlem, Chicago, or Kansas City. What we have now are reminiscences, photographs, and the very rare live recording. We have to rely on issued recordings for evocations of those times and places, and — infrequently — live performances in this century. Every so often, I am sitting in front of a band whose musical energy is so wise, so deep, and so intense, that I say to myself, “That’s what it might have sounded like at the Lincoln Gardens,” or “uptown in 1941,” or “at the Reno Club.”
This performance — recorded on November 4, 2014, at the San Diego Jazz Fest — made me think, “This is an unissued Commodore session . . . rejected because it ran too long.” I don’t have higher praise than that, and since I think the dead know, I believe that Milt Gabler is feeling the good spirits too.
The musicians (or wizards of feeling?) are Ray Skjelbred, piano and inspiration; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jim Buchmann, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.
The song chosen is really a layer-cake of three. First, DIGA DIGA DOO (by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields) — a song made for romping, even though its people-of-color-are-so-hedonistic lyrics are now hard to sing. It’s overlaid by KRAZY KAPERS, a riff created at the 1933 “Chocolate Dandies” session overseen by John Hammond (the awful band title aside, it was a hot mixed group), and then the song that Ray murmurs about — the one that went too long at Carnegie Hall — Louis Prima’s SING SING SING, with or without commas, which gives Ray a chance to evoke Jess Stacy, always welcome.
When I was busily setting up the video on YouTube — writing a title, description, and creating tags, one of the suggested tabs that the YT machinery came up with was
My feelings exactly.
It’s in moments like this — nearly seven minutes of moments — that I feel I’m doing the important work of my life (with no offense meant to the students I teach) . . . attempting to make the evanescent permanent, attempting to make the local heroes world-famous. It makes the knapsack with cameras and tripod feel feathery, not burdensome.
And — quite relevant to this music — I just read that Mosaic Records has completed an eight-CD set of the complete Commodore and Decca recordings of Eddie Condon and Bud Freeman, which will be available in mid-April. Need I say more?
May your happiness increase!