The clarinetist / saxophonist / arranger Frank Teschemacher, a brilliant individualistic voice in Chicago jazz of the late Twenties, didn’t live to see his twenty-sixth birthday. Everyone who played alongside him spoke of him with awe. Even though the recorded evidence of his idiosyncratic personality amounts to less than ninety minutes, he shines and blazes through any ensemble.
In celebration of what would have been Tesch’s centenary, Marty Grosz put together a tribute at the September 2006 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. It wasn’t a series of note-for-note copies of his recordings (this would have horrified the Austin High Gang) but a sincere hot effort to capture Tesch’s musical world — with great success. I was there with a moderately-concealed digital recorder, and couldn’t bear that this set would only be a memory, so what follows is my audio recording.
Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, commentary; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, Scott Robinson, reeds; James Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone; Pete Siers, drums. (The voice you’ll hear discoursing with Marty is that of the late Joe Boughton, creator of this and many other festivals.)
PRINCE OF WAILS (Dapogny transcription / arrangement) / BULL FROG BLUES (JD arr) / WAILING BLUES (JD arr) / I MUST HAVE THAT MAN (possibly Marty’s arrangement) / TRYING TO STOP MY CRYING (possibly Marty arrangement, his vocal, glee club) / SUGAR (possibly Marty arrangement, his vocal) / COPENHAGEN (with Marty’s Indiana etymology / story of Boyce Brown getting fired for talking about reincarnation). Thanks to Chris Smith for his assistance.
This post is in honor of Missy Kyzer, who was fascinated by Tesch and his world a long time ago. See her work here and here.
The music may not go ’round and ’round, but at the moment my collection certainly extends itself from room to room. Because I can envision myself moving house, as the Brits say, I have been slightly more energetic in my tidying, although Marie Kondo would have walked away in despair a long time ago (Marie: what happens if so many things “spark joy”? Hmmmm?)
A few days ago I noticed three cassette boxes that have been on a bedroom windowsill for some time. One was empty and unlabeled; another was Frank O’Connor reading “My Oedipus Complex,” a souvenir of a past life, and the third, mildly waterlogged and soiled, but with its tape safely inside, was this:
I recognized it as a gift from the late Joe Boughton, which, since Joe left us in 2010, already made it an artifact. Joe was a concert and jazz-party impresario (“Jazz at Chautauqua” among other delights), a record producer, but most often he was a collector and enthusiast who brought a tape recorder to many gigs and traded tapes of his favorites. Our tastes ran in the same directions, and when I had obtained something I knew he would like, I would send him a cassette of it, and he would send me one of his homemade anthologies. (We never called them “mixtapes,” but each of us had cars with cassette decks.)
I didn’t know if the tape would play, but it did, and I can share with you the most remarkable portions . . . saved from the recycling bag that holds disposable plastics.
First, four performances captured on home-recorded acetates, radio broadcasts of Ed Hall’s Sextet from the Savoy Cafe, Boston, WMEX, Nat Hentoff, m.c. May-June 1949: Hall, clarinet; Ruby Braff, cornet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Kenny Kersey, piano; John Field, string bass; Jimmy Crawford, drums. CHINA BOY / MORE THAN YOU KNOW (glorious Vic) / S’WONDERFUL into program closing / THE MAN I LOVE //
And a mysterious bonus, mysterious because Joe didn’t type in any data about it, BACK HOME IN INDIANA, by (audibly) Max Kaminsky, trumpet; Vernon Brown, trombone; others not known. My friend Sonny McGown, a fine listener and collector himself, wrote in quickly, “The version of Indiana sounded familiar to me and I recognized the clarinetist as Ernie Caceres. The recording is from an Eddie Condon Associated transcription session of 24 October 1944. Others listed for this particular tune on the session date are Kaminsky, Lou McGarity, Jess Stacy, Condon, Bob Haggart, and George Wettling. What a band!”
Then, Ralph Sutton at Sunnie’s Rendezvous in Aspen, Colorado, 1960s, playing Willard RobIson’s I HEARD A MOCKINGBIRD SINGING IN CALIFORNIA.
Thank you, gorgeous improvisers, and thank you, Joe, for sharing the music with me . . . so that more than a dozen years later, I can share it with you.
Marty Grosz, or Martin Oliver Grosz, is 92 today. Although he would probably have some derisive comment to make about his birthday or the people who celebrate it — his candor can be a little startling — we are glad he is here to be derisive. And even if he doesn’t want to celebrate the day, we always celebrate him.
Ah, Marty: the surprisingly tender balladeer, the sophisticated orchestral guitarist summoning up Kress and McDonough, the hot vaudevillian rocking (and mocking) the ballad in the best Fats manner. We are blessed by his multiple musical personalities. This tape comes from the collection of the late John L. Fell, and traces its provenance back to John Steiner (who recorded it) and Joe Boughton (who saved it). I treasure it.
When this tape was played for Marty in 2021, thanks to his friend and musical colleague Jim Gicking, he remembered going to a room above Steiner’s garage for what he called “clowning around” that was preserved on tape.
There’s comedy here but also swing and romance: the gifts of Grosz.
In 1956, POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS, by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, had been a popular standard — first recorded in 1940 by Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey — and was also part of the jazz repertoire. Did Marty hear it on the radio or was it a request at a gig, and did he want to both address its sweetness (think Red McKenzie) and loosen its structure (think Fats Waller) in his own way?
Whatever he was thinking, he and Bob Saltmarsh made an impromptu performance that to me summons up his essence: a Venn diagram of so many overlapping spheres, too intricate to analyze . . . but so rich in pleasure.
All in less than five minutes. And Marty was 26.
In researching this post, I looked into the song itself — even when its lyrics take chances, I’ve always found it charming, and the cyberworld yielded up this gem that would have pleased both Ed Beach and S.J. Perelman. It’s from Wikipedia, so help me: The song has a notable lyric: the man discovers love at a country dance by accidentally bumping into a woman who has a pug nose. The others at the dance are looking strange at this, since her nose makes her someone they wouldn’t think romantically about. But he has the last laugh: she becomes the love of his life, and he settles down with her.
And here’s the brief verse, which I’ve never heard sung or played.
Happy birthday, Marty! We love you, even if you don’t want to hear about it.
The Music Box, Boston, March 16, 1951. Bobby Hackett, cornet or trumpet; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Gene Sedric, clarinet; Teddy Roy, piano; Bill Goodall, string bass; Buddy Lowell, drums. Theme: STREET OF DREAMS / MUSKRAT RAMBLE / CLARINET BLUES (Sedric) / MONDAY DATE / FIDGETY FEET / STREET OF DREAMS // Speed-corrected by Christopher Tyle. Source tape from John L. Fell, possibly recorded off the air by Joe Boughton.
And for those who like numbers: this music is seventy years old and it still leaps and cavorts in glee. Also numerically, how much joy these heroes pack into nineteen minutes: the greatest art.
I could have called what follows HOT MUSIC FROM DEEP CHICAGO and it would have been equally true: intense improvised readings of two popular songs of the late Twenties by Marty Grosz, guitar; Frank Chace, clarinet; Joe Benge, drums . . . privately recorded, probably by John Steiner, on October 25, 1956. (Source material from Joe Boughton or Wayne Jones, preserved and edited by Hal Smith.)
Marty, of course, is internationally renowned; Frank deserves to be equally celebrated. (Frank called Marty, reverently, “a one-man rhythm gang,” and that’s still true, but I think neither man gets full credit for a lovely yearning lyricism.)
Drummer Joe Benge is almost unknown in jazz circles; he was an Amherst College alumnus at the time of this session, and a member of the college’s Delta Five, which also included the late and much-missed cornetist John Bucher. But he led a fascinating life: he went to Evanston High School, which probably led to his connection with this group; he studied German at Amherst and Northwestern, and worked in advertising: he’s responsible for the “Maytag repairman” ads. In 1972, he became a manager for a canoe outfitter in Ontario; he was an ecological activist and naturalist, also teaching native children. He lived until 2016. Clearly a remarkable person.
Back to my hero (and once-upon-a-time phone conversationalist) Frank Chace. The reflex reaction of the first-time listener is to say, “He sounds just like Pee Wee Russell!” to which I would say, “He revered Pee Wee, but he also revered Omer Simeon, Frank Teschemacher, Jimmie Noone . . . and he folded all these influences into a shape uniquely his.” Close listening will reveal his own sweet-strange inventiveness, which continues to reward, elate, and surprise.
Music, then. CHERRY, from the McKinney’s Cotton Pickers’ book:
and Rodgers and Hart’s BLUE MOON:
As memorable as Casals -Thibaud – Cortot, and hotter. Bless these cats. Forevermore.
My time machine won’t go back to 1935 and the Reno Club, nor to Fifty-Second Street, no matter how hard I twist the dials, but it does go back to 1970 — audio only — and 2009 — adding video. One of the great pleasures of this century for me was being allowed to bring my video camera to what was Jazz at Chautauqua and then took on different names and a different venue. We miss it terribly. But some wonderful evidence remains.
It was held during a long weekend late in September at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, and its founder Joe Boughton had certain rituals in scheduling. Friday afternoon, solo piano recitals in the parlor; Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon were for organized sets in the large ballroom.
But Thursday night was informal, because musicians and guests arrived as they could — for me, it was about a seven-hour trip there whether I drove or flew to Buffalo — but certain rituals were observed. I believe the open bar opened itself around 5 PM, and the line for the buffet dinner began also. At around 6, music began in the smaller back room, and I learned quickly to bring my plate, my knapsack of video equipment there rather than dining like a civilized person at a table among others. (“I can always eat, but I can’t miss this set,” I reminded myself.)
I’m not exaggerating when I say some of the best musical moments of this century, for me, took place on those Thursday evenings. Sometimes the piano wasn’t perfect, or I had to sit behind friends and shoot video with their heads as part of the scenery, but those sessions are joyous memories. And they exist to be shared with the faithful. The little ad hoc groupings didn’t have official leaders, but someone might suggest a tune that everyone knew, they would agree on a ley and tempo, and magic would happen.
It did on Thursday, September 19, 2013, thanks to Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Andy Schumm, cornet; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums. They did three classic standards; they had fun; so did we.
A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT, which suggests what might have happened if Bix had lived into 1937:
Simple math: seven memorable songs, two deeply intuitive improvisers, one jazz criminal with a hidden recorder = lasting magic.
I’d like to explain how this all came to pass, but if you’d like to skip down to the music and (perhaps) read this later, I won’t blame you. That music is slightly under a half-hour of quiet splendor, casual mastery, great mutual warmth. And it’s just what the title says: an audio recording of two of my heroes, Rebecca Kilgore and James Dapogny, in duet, performing Irving Berlin songs at the 2006 Jazz at Chautauqua. I emphasize audio recording, although there is a still photograph of the Professor to please the eye, but this was before I had the courage to bring a camera to as many gigs as the law allowed.
James Dapogny at Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman.
Like Paul Muni, I confess to criminal acts. But you are being rewarded, I hope, by my illicit behavior.
I first came to Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2004, my gift to myself for no longer being legally connected to a woman who disliked jazz (yes, I ask myself that same question now). The party’s founder, Joe Boughton, had been friendly to me for a number of years and had been eager for me to come, to write about and publicize his weekend.
Ordinarily, I would have brought a recorder, but I knew that Joe was possessive about “his” music and very fierce about transgressions. However, by 2006, I’d gotten bolder, and was pained by all the music vanishing into the air, so I took my new Sony digital recorder, slightly longer than a pack of cigarettes, with me.
Chautauqua is a ninety-minute car ride from the Buffalo airport, and a seven-hour drive from where I live (at least) so I did not want to make it evident that it was recording what was, in some ways, Joe’s private party to which we were invited. I concealed the recorder in an outer pocket of my sportscoat, which will account for noise you hear as I moved slightly. Those offended by the noise can say to themselves, “Sit still, Michael!” if it is any consolation. There is crowd noise; someone says “Excuse me, Michael,” while stepping over me.
And then some of the most beautiful music I know begins. I was seated closer to the piano than to Becky, so initially you might hear an imbalance of volume, but your ears adapt quickly — and Jim is playing so marvelously.
The songs are ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND / SHAKING THE BLUES AWAY / REACHING FOR THE MOON / ISN’T THIS A LOVELY DAY? / CHEEK TO CHEEK / COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS / IT’S A LOVELY DAY TODAY. They cover an astonishing range of emotions, from sorrow to elation to hymnlike serenity. And in case anyone has forgotten, every note and word is Berlin’s.
Please, enjoy this offering — blessings from Becky, Jim, and Irving:
Incidentally, this would have remained on a homemade compact disc if my Texas collector-friend Elbie, whom I told about this, hadn’t said, “Can’t you transfer audio to video?” and I found, to my surprise, that I could. There will be many more “audio only” delights and surprises.
I didn’t sing or play a note. But I am proud of my part in making this music permanent and accessible. I hope you will allow me that.
Billy, at work / at play, at one of Joe Boughton’s Conneaut Lake jazz weekends.
When I was compiling yesterday’s post — a conversation with Billy Butterfield’s family that revealed him to be a sweet-natured, generous man who loved being with them — read ithere — I also returned to the music he made, and there’s a proliferation of it on YouTube, showing Billy in many contexts. (Trust me: this post will not be silent . . . )
I knew about the breadth of Billy’s working career — more than forty years of touring with big bands, small jam-session groups, concerts here and overseas, radio and studio work, club dates and gigs a-plenty — which pointed me to Tom Lord’s discography.
Recordings are only a slice of a musician’s career, a narrow reflection of what (s)he may have created, but in Billy’s case, the list of people he recorded with is astonishing in its breadth: it says so much about his professionalism and versatility, and the respect his peers afforded him.
For my own pleasure and I hope yours, here is a seriously edited list — in alphabetical order — of some of the people Billy recorded with . . . many surprises. I did get carried away, but it was impossible to stop.
Louis Armstrong, Georgie Auld, Mildred Bailey, Pearl Bailey, Tallulah Bankhead, George Barnes, Andy Bartha, Tony Bennett, Eddie Bert, Johnny Blowers, Will Bradley, Ruby Braff, Lawrence Brown, Oscar Brown, Jr., Kenny Burrell, Connie Boswell, Dave Bowman, Les Brown, Vernon Brown, John Bunch, Ernie Caceres, Nick Caiazza, Una Mae Carlisle, Dick Cary, Sidney Catlett, Charlie Christian, Buck Clayton, Al Cohn, Cozy Cole, Eddie Condon, Ray Conniff, Jimmy Crawford, Bing Crosby, Bob Crosby, Cutty Cutshall, Delta Rhythm Boys, John Dengler, Vic Dickenson, Tommy Dorsey, Buzzy Drootin, Dutch College Swing Band, Billy Eckstine, Gil Evans, Nick Fatool, Irving Fazola, Morey Feld, Ella Fitzgerald, Helen Forrest, Bud Freeman, Barry Gailbraith, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Brad Gowans, Teddy Grace, Freddie Green, Urbie Green, Tyree Glenn, Henry Grimes, Johnny Guarnieri, Bobby Hackett, Bob Haggart, Al Hall, Edmond Hall, Sir Roland Hanna, Coleman Hawkins, Neal Hefti, J.C. Higginbotham, Milt Hinton, Billie Holiday, Peanuts Hucko, Eddie Hubble, Dick Hyman, Chubby Jackson, Harry James, Jack Jenney, Jerry Jerome, Taft Jordan, Gus Johnson, Osie Johnson, Hank Jones, Jo Jones, Roger Kellaway, Kenny Kersey, Carl Kress, Yank Lawson, Peggy Lee, Cliff Leeman, Jack Lesberg, Abe Lincoln, Jimmy Lytell, Mundell Lowe, Joe Marsala, Carmen Mastren, Matty Matlock, Jimmy Maxwell, Lou McGarity, Red McKenzie, Hal McKusick, Johnny Mercer, Eddie Miller, Miff Mole, Benny Morton, Tony Mottola, Turk Murphy, Hot Lips Page, Walter Page, Oscar Pettiford, Flip Phillips, Mel Powell, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Jimmy Rushing, Babe Russin, Pee Wee Russell, Doc Severinsen, Charlie Shavers, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra, Jess Stacy, Jo Stafford, Kay Starr, Bill Stegmeyer, Lou Stein, Rex Stewart, Joe Sullivan, Maxine Sullivan, Ralph Sutton, Buddy Tate, Jack Teagarden, Claude Thornhill, Martha Tilton, Dave Tough, Sarah Vaughan, Helen Ward, Earle Warren, Dick Wellstood, George Wettling, Paul Whiteman, Margaret Whiting, Bob Wilber, Joe Wilder, Lee Wiley, Roy Williams, Shadow Wilson, Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Bob Zurke . . .
This list is breathtaking. Sure, some of the associations come from Billy’s being a Swing-Era-and-beyond big band star, sparkplug, and valued section player. And some of the associations come from studio work. But the whole list says so much about Billy’s marvelous combination of skills: he could play a four-chorus solo that would astonish everyone in the room, but he could also blend in and let other people take the lead.
And these associations speak to a wonderful professionalism: you could be the most luminous player in the firmament, but if you showed up late, were drunk or stoned, didn’t have your instrument ready, couldn’t sight-read the charts or transpose or take direction, your first studio date would be your last. Clyde and Judi Groves (Billy’s son-in-law and daughter) told me that Billy’s house in Virginia had that most odd thing, a flat roof over the garage, and it was spectacularly reinforced . . . so that a helicopter could land on it, and I am sure that was to get Billy to a New York City record date quickly. In today’s parlance, that’s “essential services,” no? And it says how much in demand he was for his beautiful sound, his memorable improvisations, and the maturity he brought to his work.
Now, to move from words to music. One of the video-performances I most cherish is from the December 1, 1978, Manassas Jazz Festival, featuring Billy, Spiegle Willcox, trombone; Kenny Davern, clarinet; Spencer Clark, bass saxophone; Dick Wellstood, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Van Perry, string bass; Tony Di Nicola, drums. “Fantastic!” says Marty when the second number suggested is SWEET SUE in G. I can’t disagree:
Judi also mentioned that Billy had — under duress — essayed a vocal on one of his Capitol sides, that he disliked the result and said that the company was trying to save money. Here’s one example, showing his gentle, amused voice . . . with a searing trumpet solo in between the vocal interludes (followed by the instrumental JALOUSIE):
You may decide to skip the next performance because there is an added echo and a debatable transfer — but Billy sings with easy conviction and plays splendidly:
There is a third vocal performance (very charming) of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ on YouTube, but the owner plays the record on a seriously ancient portable wind-up gramophone that allows very little sound to emerge, so you’ll have to find that one on your own.
For a palate-cleanser, a little of the famous Butterfield humor, from my friend Norman Vickers, a retired physician who is one of the founders of Jazz Pensacola in Florida:
My late friend, record producer Gus Statiras, would sometimes handle a tour for the group—Lawson, Haggart, Butterfield – remnants of World’s Greatest Jazz Band. There was a practicing physician in Georgia who played piano. He would sponsor the group so he could play piano with them. Of course, they would have preferred a professional pianist, but he doc was paying for the gig. During the event, Haggart said to Butterfield, “How’d you like to have him take out your gall-bladder?” To which Butterfield replied, “ Yeah, and I think he’s doing it RIGHT NOW!”
To return to music. When I asked the multi-instrumentalist Herb Gardner if I had his permission to post this, he wrote back in minutes, “Fine with me. Those guys were great fun to work with.” That says it all.
This brief performance comes, like the one above, from the Manassas Jazz Festival, this time December 3, 1978, where Billy plays alongside Bob Wilber, clarinet, alto, soprano saxophones; Herb Gardner, trombone; John Eaton, piano; Butch Hall, guitar; Dean Keenhold, string bass; Cliff Leeman, drums: SOMEDAY SWEETHEART / STARDUST / a fragment of STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY — that performance does not exist on this tape although Johnson McRee issued it on an audiocassette of this set / COTTON TAIL / SINGIN’ THE BLUES:
Savor that, and help me in my quest to make sure that the great players — the great individuals — are not forgotten. Gratitude to Clyde, Judi, and Pat (the Butterfield family), Norman Vickers, and my enthusiastic readers. And there is more Manassas video featuring Billy, and others, to come . . .
The last of five splendid performances that took place at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 21, 2008, celebrating the hot music of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four, enlivened in the present moment by Bob Wilber, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass. The first four performances: THAT’S A PLENTY, SQUEEZE ME, SWEET SUE, and IF I COULD BE WITH YOU (ONE HOUR TONIGHT) can be savored here.
And the inspiration, although not on the original Hot Record Society label:
And here we go!
All I will say is that these informally-captured treasures have been in the Official JAZZ LIVES vault for a dozen years. They haven’t gotten stale; in fact, their flavors seem richer today than ever. Bless them all: Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, Carmen Mastren, Wellman Braud, Steve Smith (HRS record producer), Vince Giordano, Marty Grosz, Jon-Erik Kellso, Bob Wilber, Joe Boughton, family, and friends . . . even the people crossing in front of me with plates of food and Styrofoam cups of coffee, because they, as the audience, made Jazz at Chautauqua possible. Days gone by.
The scene of the gorgeous music, and now, the poignant memories:
Where it happened!
The reality, as created forty-eight years later, by Bob Wilber, soprano saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass:
How lyrically they swing out — and before noon, no less. For those of you who slept late (in a manner of speaking) here you can enjoy the first three songs performed that morning: THAT’S A PLENTY, SQUEEZE ME, and SWEET SUE.
My title . . . in my suburban town, parking meters ornament the sidewalks except for a very few oases. And municipalities such as mine are always looking for more money, so when I moved here in 2004, a quarter bought me sixty minutes on the meter. A few years ago, the Code Enforcement people decided that this was too generous, and now I’d need two quarters for the same time. Love, or even a trip to the pizza parlor, became twice as costly. But still worth the price.
The title of the song. Exhibit A:
But also Exhibit B:
I prefer the latter, perhaps because I was trained by the late — and very much missed — John L. Fell, who would type WDYINO for the famous song about New Orleans. Life is too short to spell everything out, and you can always ask.
Finally, when my hero Vic Dickenson, very late in his life, sang ONE HOUR, when he got to that phrase, he would very clearly and vehemently hold up two fingers so that everyone could see that sixty minutes would be insufficient for “I’d love you strong.” You can see that performancehere — a small masterpiece.
One more performance from 2008 exists: see you and it tomorrow.
As JAZZ LIVES waves adieu to 2020, we continue with our series of five memorably hot performances created at Jazz at Chautauqua on a Sunday morning, September 21, 2008, by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bob Wilber, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass — honoring irreplaceable recordings from 1940 featuring Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, Carmen Mastren, and Wellman Braud, known to us as the “Bechet-Spanier Big Four.”
If this is your first immersion in Hot, you can visit the first two splendid performances — THAT’S A PLENTY and SQUEEZE ME — here.
And here’s Will J. Harris and Victor Young’s 1928 paean to Miss Sue, with a charmingly period sheet music cover to start the good works.
and the sounds of 2008 as we — hopeful and cautious — peer into 2021:
thanks to Bob Wilber, soprano saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass. For Part One (THAT’S A PLENTY) and more explication, click here. Today, our breakfast menu has one item, Fats Waller’s airbrushing of THE BOY IN THE BOAT into SQUEEZE ME:
Delightful. Timeless. And this Big Four played three more. No fractions.
It was a Sunday morning, 10:30 or so, and perhaps half of the audience was deep in contemplation of their breakfasts on September 21, 2008.
But magic larger than bacon and coffee was being revealed to us. We can revisit it now: festival director Joe Boughton’s idea to recreate the Bechet-Spanier Big Four of Blessed Memory (1940, Hot Record Society: Sidney Bechet, Muggsy Spanier, Carmen Mastren, Wellman Braud) with living Masters: Bob Wilber, clarinet and soprano; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Vince Giordano, string bass. Five songs were performed, each a Hot Benediction:
I had no video empire then — no collection of cameras, tripods, batteries, external hard drives — and I recorded this quite surreptitiously. But I didn’t want it to vanish. For you, for me, forevermore.
Yesterday I published a post where four wonderful musicians — Eddy Davis, Conal Fowkes, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Evan Arntzen — improvised on OUR MONDAY DATE in December 2019 at Cafe Bohemia in Greenwich Village, New York City. You can enjoy it here. And I hope you do.
A MONDAY DATE has a personal resonance. It’s not unique to me, but I haven’t had the pleasure of “being on a date” with a tangible person since the end of February (dinner and a festival of short animated films). For me, songs about dating are poignant and hopeful: such encounters can come again, although the February evening was more short than animated. Mirror-gazing over. Onwards.
This MONDAY DATE was performed at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2009, although not on a Monday. These brilliant players are Tom Pletcher, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Jim Dapogny, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Pete Siers, drums. I was, as I have explained elsewhere, shooting video sub rosa without Joe Boughton’s permission, which lends a subversive air to the recording, but I was thrilled it came off, then and now. It is a special pleasure to hear Jim’s piano ringing through, adding magic.
Jim Dapogny and Tom Pletcher are no longer with us: I’ve written about them here and (with a beautiful long essay by David Jellema) here. Both posts also have video-recordings of performances you won’t see or hear elsewhere.
A note about “recordings” at Jazz at Chautauqua. Joe Boughton was enthusiastically kind to me long before we met in person: he recognized that we adored the same music. When I visited Chautauqua in 2004, he greeted me warmly, and I spent the whole weekend writing about the joys I experienced there, and wrote the program biographies for more than ten years.
Joe had certain aversions, in large type. The most dramatic was his loathing for over-familiar songs: SATIN DOLL, SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, slow blues, and more. Musicians who broke this rule were asked not to return — in one case, in the middle of the weekend. Secondly, although Joe apparently recorded every note of the weekends I came to — someone operated a videocamera high above our heads — he would not tolerate anyone else recording anything, although he let an amateur jazz photographer make low-quality cassettes. I gave Joe valuable publicity in The Mississippi Rag, which he appreciated: I don’t know whether he saw me with my camera and tacitly accepted it as part of the Michael-bargain or whether he was too busy with the music to notice, but I send him deep gratitude now. I hope you do also.
Another of the wondrous ballad medleys that used to begin and end the splendid jazz weekend, Jazz at Chautauqua: here, from 2013. And, because it’s daylight, it was the medley that sent us all home, exhausted by pleasure, on a Sunday afternoon.
The roadmap: After a few of the usual hi-jinks, the rescue squad finds a second microphone for Marty Grosz, Harry Allen plays EASY LIVING; Dan Block, DAY DREAM; Bob Havens essays CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN; Duke Heitger finishes off this segment with I KNOW WHY (And So Do You):
I had to put a new battery in at this point, so I missed a few choruses (you’ll see Dan Levinson leaving the stage — my apologies to Dan and the other musicians I couldn’t capture).
Then, Randy Reiinhart plays MY FUNNY VALENTINE; Andy Schumm follows, politely, with PLEASE; Andy Stein calls for LAURA; Marty takes the stage by himself for the Horace Gerlach classic IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN; Rossano Sportiello plays SOPHISTICATED LADY, so beautifully:
Those would have been the closing notes of the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua: another unforgettable interlude of music and friendship. Bless the musicians, bless the shade of Joe Boughton and bless his living family, bless Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock. Those experiences are unforgettable evidence that once, such things were beautifully possible, and we witnessed them — me, with a video camera. How fortunate we were!
The music that follows requires some prelude. It was created at the now-legendary Jazz at Chautauqua, almost seven years ago — which seems like several lifetimes. The founder and imperial monarch of this jazz weekend, Joe Boughton, responsible for so many hours and days of wonderful jazz music, loathed what he thought of as overplayed repertoire. SWEET GEORGIA BROWN was forbidden; A GARDEN IN THE RAIN was bliss. Not for him Hot Lips Page’s ecumenical idea, “The material is immaterial.” But, whether it was Jon-Erik Kellso’s idea or Joe’s, a set called “‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS,” its repertoire consisting of well-worn Bourbon Street favorites, happened. And it was wonderful.
The regular band was Pete Siers, drums; Kerry Lewis, string bass; John Sheridan, piano; Dan Block, clarinet; Bob Havens, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet. But one of Jon-Erik’s Michigander friends, the fine multi-instrumentalist — clarinet, soprano saxophone, banjo, tenor guitar and perhaps more — Tom Bogardus, was also at Chautauqua, and Jon-Erik not only invited him to join in for this set, but Howard Alden generously lent Tom his tenor banjo and Tom added so much to the sound. He told me recently, “This was a big night in my musical career, getting to play with these outstanding musicians in today’s jazz. I am so thankful that Jon-Erik asked me and Howard Alden let me use his banjo. Now I have video proof. It’s a 4 string tenor banjo with traditional tenor tuning. I think it’s a Bacon & Day, but am not sure.”
Before we move on to the music, a small — possibly irrelevant — personal note. I sat at my table with my video camera on a tripod, as if it were my date, and the world of people talking, getting up for drink refills, and having dinner happily swirled around me. So the first voice you will hear on the first video is the amiable waitperson asking me, as they are trained to do, if I was finished, “Can I take that away for you? Are you through?” which is really, “Let me get all the dishes off the tables as we are required to do,” and my response — I am proud to say, not in a snarl, “No.” My people have certain boundary issues: “Touch my food if I haven’t offered it to you, and I will be unhappy,” which is why I weigh more now than in 2013. But I digress.
‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:
BASIN STREET BLUES, featuring Bob Havens:
DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?:
and a quick set-closer, SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE:
Alas, Jazz at Chautauqua and its successors, the Allegheny Jazz Party and the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, are no more, but we have our happy memories and these videos. Incidentally, when I asked Jon-Erik for permission to post these videos, “Happy memories!” is what he said. So true. Thanks to the musicians, to Joe Boughton and all his family, to Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock. And to my polite waitperson: can’t forget her.
Yes, the ceilings leaked at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, and every year there were new Rorschach-blot patterns (is that a bird, a monkey, or a shapely leg?) above me. The venerable elevator provoked anxiety. But inside this hotel, one September weekend, starting for me in 2004, some of the best music I’ve ever witnessed was created for us, thanks to a stunning assortment of musicians. Here’s a lovely interlude; watching it, I rub my eyes: did such things happen? Well, thank the Goddess for video evidence that I can share with you.
There will of course be debate over Jelly Roll Morton’s birthdate — September or October 20? — but there should be no debating the beauty of this performance, another treasure from the 2020 JAZZ LIVES Archaeological Dig. Here’s our Becky — Rebecca Kilgore — subtly embracing the song as only she can — with the noble help of Ricky Malachi, drums; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Howard Alden, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Scott Robinson, clarinet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Duke Heitger, trumpet.
Don’t want no regular!
Thanks not only to the musicians, but to the Emperor of it all, Joe Boughton, his family (hello to Sarah, Bill, and David!) and his friendly Chiefs of Staff and Official Diplomats, Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock. Moments like this vibrate in the memory.
I could introduce this post in several ways: a reference to Irving Berlin’s THE SONG IS ENDED in my title, a memory of Faulkner’s character Gavin Stevens, “The past isn’t dead; it’s not even past,” or perhaps Shelley:
Music, when soft voices die, Vibrates in the memory—
All true. But I’d prefer to start with the mundane before presenting magical vibrating sounds. I have spent more than a month in the emotion-charged task of tidying my apartment. No sandwiches under the bed — in my world, food gets eaten — or inches of dust, since I do know how to use standard cleaning tools (even when I neglect to). It is more a matter of sifting through things that had been put into piles “for when I have time,” which I now do. And I was rewarded by objects I once thought lost coming back to me of their own accord.
One such delight is an assortment of videos, created but now often forgotten, that I had shot at Jazz at Chautauqua: I’ve shared some of them already: fourteen such postings since February 2018: search for “Chautauqua” and they will jump into your lap.
But here are three “new” previously unseen masterpieces from the informal Thursday-night session at Chautauqua — by a quartet of subtle wizards of melody, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass. And Joe Wilder, not the young hero of the Fifties but — if possible — more subtle, more deep, more able to touch our hearts.
The videos aren’t perfect. The piano could have been tuned more recently. Heads are in the way, some famous, and the image I achieved with that camera is not perfectly sharp. DON’T BLAME ME ends abruptly and incompletely — my fault. But I marvel at the music and hope you will also.
‘DEED I DO, where Joe leaps in exuberantly:
JUST SQUEEZE ME:
I am saving the closing two performances from this session for another post: it would not be right to choke you with an excess of beauty all at once. And when I think about the blessings of the second half of my life, I include the friendly respect of the musicians here — the gracious living trio and Joe. When I think that Joe spoke to me, wrote to me, and laughed with me, my joy and awe are immense . . . but he extended the gift of his warm self to so many, I know I am not unique.
This post is sent as a gift to Solveig Wilder. And it is dedicated to the memory of Ed Berger and Joe Boughton, each of whom made beauty possible.
We all know what a ballad is — a rhapsodic experience, possibly melancholy, played or sung slowly. But a “rhythm ballad” is something created in the Thirties: a sweet ballad played at a danceable tempo, so that you and your honey could swoon while doing those steps you had practiced at home. Even when the lyrics described heartbreak, those performances had a distinct pulse, or as Marty Grosz says below, “I gotta wake up.” Here are some moving examples of the form, performed during the closing ballad medley at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2012. First, Marty evokes 1931 Bing Crosby, then Rossano Sportiello honors Hoagy Carmichael, and Dan Barrett tenderly expresses a wish for gentle romantic possession:
Howard Alden’s melodic exposition of an early-Fifties pop hit:
Finally, Dan Block — incapable of playing dull notes — woos us in a Johnny Hodges reverie over imagined real estate:
It’s appropriate that this post begins with THANKS — words cannot convey my gratitude to these artists who continue to enrich our lives. And I am particularly grateful to those who allowed me to aim a camera at them . . . so that we can all enjoy the results.
A math problem or perhaps a logic one. When you add this
what is the result? From my perspective, pure joy and a delightful surprise.
Hereand hereI’ve shared the story of Flip as well as two otherwise undocumented live performances by Randy Reinhart, Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, James Dapogny, John Sheridan, Marty Grosz, Vince Giordano, John Von Ohlen at the September 2008 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend.
And here is Flip’s final gift to us — a performance of the Horace Henderson composition (recorded in 1933 by a small group led by Coleman Hawkins) JAMAICA SHOUT by Marty Grosz, guitar; James Dapogny, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor sax; Chuck Wilson, alto saxophone; Vince Giordano, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:
There are many things I do not know about this song and this performance. I suspect that the JAMAICA in the title refers to the Long Island, New York suburb — “the country” in 1933 — rather than the Caribbean island, but neither Walter C. Allen nor John Chilton has anything to say on the subject. I don’t know if the chart is Marty’s or Jim’s, but it certainly honors the original while giving the players ample room to be themselves.
I do know why I only recorded three performances — fear of the Roman-emperor-of-Hot Joe Boughton, who could be fierce — but I wish I had been more daring. You’ll note that my video-capture has all the earmarks of illicit, sub rosawork — there is a splendid Parade of Torsos by men entirely oblivious of my presence and camera, but Louis forgive them, they knew not what they did. And they may have been returning to their seats with slices of cake, a phenomenon which tends to blot out all cognition. (On that note, Corrections Officials here or on YouTube who write in to criticize the video will be politely berated.) However, the music is audible; the performance survives; and we can celebrate the living while mourning the departed, James Dapogny and Chuck Wilson, who are very much alive here.
There are many more newly-unearthed and never-shared performances from the 2011-17 Jazz at Chautauqua and Cleveland Classic Jazz Party to come: one of the benefits of archaeological apartment-tidying. For now, I thank Flip, who enabled this music to live on. And the musicians, of course — some of whom can still raise a SHOUT when the time is right.
But I’d rather begin with Flip and come back to that song. I would urge those unaware of the glory of Flip to visit here, with otherwise unknown and unrecorded hot jazz. And here’s Flip, in case you’ve never met the little friend:
But this post is really about two heroes. One is this deity:
another is this dear down-to-earth majestic presence (who would surely make a joke out of that appellation), James Dapogny:
And they come together in September 2008, at that wonderful weekend of music we were fortunate enough to call Jazz at Chautauqua. Absolute joy, brought to us by the Flip video camera. Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, dangerous badinage, offers one section of his HORACE GERLACH TRIBUTE MELODY MEMORIAL with Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Professor James Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums. In the video, slow-moving cheerfully oblivious couples swim by. They know not what they do. But we do.
To me, this song and this performance are extremely touching because of their heartfelt Louisness — please understand that when I hear Louis singing and playing (let us say LA VIE EN ROSE over a restaurant’s sound system) my eyes fill up and I have to prevent myself from standing up with my hand over my heart. Because Joe Boughton would not — in 2008 — have allowed me to record this performance openly from a front-row seat, I chose to be near the piano and thus hear more of the Professor than I would have otherwise. What a blessing!
Writing this post and hearing this song, I think of Jim, of Louis, and all the people I love who have moved on. We can not meet again in the usual ways, and that is sorrowful. But through music, we are instantly able to meet in the most inspiring ways; we are in touch with each other as soon as I hear a note or think of some moments we shared. Perhaps you might, as I have done, watch and absorb this performance once for our own pleasure, then again in honor of those beloved individuals.
Warning for the timid and the finicky: the video that follows is unusually flawed and visually limited. But the sound is fine and the performance precious.
Some of you may recognize this now-obsolete piece of technology. In 2008, before I bought my first video camera, I tried out a Flip pocket video. It recorded sixty minutes; it had no controls aside from an on / off button and a rudimentary zoom function; it fit in a pocket.
I had shot some video with it, but remember only two instances: once at The Ear Inn, where a musician who shall be nameless expressed his displeasure by coming close to me and hissing, “Audio’s all right, but that video don’t do nothin’ for me, Pops,” to which I apologized, put it away, and later deleted the video. Pops hasn’t forgotten, you will notice, and in his dotage, he avoids that musician, even without a camera.
The other instance was in Mexico, where I recorded some vibrant street musicians, but I foolishly packed Flip (as I thought of him, like a cartoon character) in my checked luggage and he went on to a new life in someone else’s pocket. And I graduated to “real” video cameras, as you have probably seen.
The story of My Friend Flip would have remained a crumb in the breadbox of memory except that two days ago I started a rigorous — no, violent — apartment-tidying, in search of some things I knew I had but couldn’t find. You know the feeling. I found a once-blank CD with the puzzling notation, “Chau 2008 Flip.” At first I thought, “Did I see Flip Phillips at Jazz at Chautauqua?” but knew I hadn’t. I put the disc in the computer’s DVD tray, waited, and eventually discovered three video performances I had completely forgotten — but which made me joyous, as you will understand.
The late Joe Boughton, who ran Jazz at Chautauqua, was severe in the way I imagine a Roman emperor must have been. Oh, it was covered by friendliness . . . until you violated one of his strictures. Musicians can tell you the verbal assaults that resulted when someone played a song that was, to Joe, too common. SATIN DOLL or SWEET GEORGIA BROWN was punishable by exile: I WISH I WERE TWINS or HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH would make Joe happy and guarantee you’d be invited back.
Joe also recorded everything for his own pleasure (and those recordings, I am told, survive in a university collection) but he didn’t want anyone else recording anything.
Fast forward to 2011, when I’d had this blog for a few years and had Joe in my readership. I boldly brought my video camera with me and — expecting the worst — asked Joe if it was OK if I videoed a few tunes, for publicity, if I got the musicians’ permission. His response was positive but also imperial, “Who cares about their permission? Idon’t mind!: and I went ahead.
Before then, a shy criminal, I recorded as much audio as possible on a digital recorder I kept in my pocket (which means that some discs begin with the sound of me walking from my room to the ballroom) and in 2007 I took my point-and-shoot camera, stood at one side of the stage, and recorded two performances, which I have posted here. Joe didn’t notice, and the palace guards liked me, so I was able to return the next year.
On three separate occasions in 2008, I walked to one side of the stage (perhaps I pretended I was visiting the men’s room), turned on Flip, and recorded some wonderful music for posterity, for me, for you. Before you move on, I warn you that the video is as if seen through a dirty car windshield. I was shooting into a brightly lit window, so much is overexposed. The focus is variable, and there is a Thanksgiving Day Parade of slow-moving patrons who amble on their way, often standing in front of the man with a little white box to his eye. “Could it have been a camera that young fellow was holding, Marge? I don’t know, but don’t rush me, John!”
But the music comes right through. Some drum accents have the explosive power of small-arms fire, Flip was a simple camera. However, everyone shines: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Sheridan, piano; Vinc Giordano, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums, playing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:
Two more surprises will come along in time. Until then, bless Randy, Jon-Erik, John, Vince, and John. Joe, I apologize, but as Barney tells us, “Sharing is caring.” And thank you, Friend Flip . . . wherever you are now.