I was seriously tempted to call this post THE OFFICIAL JAZZ LIVES HOLIDAY MUSIC RESCUE KIT, but maybe some readers like the new hip-hop FROSTY THE SNOWMAN, so who am I to get in the way of pleasure? Leaving aside THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY, I have no argument with the songs themselves, but the current performances strike me as the aural equivalent of instant oatmeal with too much hot water mixed in. (And this blogpost had its start in a large Boston hotel lobby with Christmas music everywhere, so I am not writing it in isolation.)
So I was thrilled to stumble over this gem (thanks to Lin McPhillips on Facebook) and am very happy to share it with you. It’s hip but not self-conscious, and the playing is superb, ensembles, arrangements, and solos. The performances are compact — perhaps with hopes of AM radio airplay so that these would become a hit — but these wonderful musicians pack so much music into eight or sixteen bars that no one went away wishing for JATP-length excursions.
Here’s the discographical listing:
A Cool Yuletide : Urbie Green and his All-Stars : Joe Wilder (tp) Urbie Green (tb) Al Cohn (ts) Al Epstein (bar) Buddy Weed (p) Mundell Lowe (g) Milt Hinton (b) Jimmy Crawford (d-1) Don Lamond (d-2) Charlie Shirley (arr) New York, 1954 E4LB5118 Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer (1) “X” LXA3026 E4LB5119 Christmas song (1) – E4LB5120 I saw mama kissing Santa Claus (1) – E4LB5121 Santa Claus is coming to town (1) – E4LB5122 White Christmas (2) – E4LB5123 Jingle bells (2) – E4LB5124 My two front teeth (2) – E4LB5125 Winter wonderland (2) –
and the music. To some listeners, this will not be a “pure jazz” recording of the type issued then by Verve, Savoy, or Prestige — more “middle of the road” or “businessman’s bounce.” But the solos are jewels, and Charlie Shirley’s arrangements pack so much music into those short (by our standards) selections.
RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER:
THE CHRISTMAS SONG:
I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS:
SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN:
ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS (IS MY TWO FRONT TEETH):
and something for those who crave the best possible sound:
I only go the mall these days under the most serious duress, but were I walking through one and I heard this, I would be delighted and astonished: such good and vibrant music.
Anyone who knew Joe Wilder, even slightly, felt his loving presence: he was a sunbeam who happened to make lovely music with the same ease he made friends. I’d first spoken with him at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 2004, and told him I had taken photographs of him at a local concert — Dick Hyman’s Perfect Jazz Repertory Quintet, which was then Joe, Dick, Phil Bodner, Milt Hinton, and Ronnie Bedford. An expert and tireless photographer, he was delighted to learn this and I offered to send him the photographs for his collection. He copied them and returned them, and sent them back with an elegant handwritten note.
I don’t think he had many opportunities in this century to lead his own group at a jazz club, although he was in demand at jazz parties. So when I learned that he would be leading a quartet at the Village Vanguard, I made a reservation, arrived early, and settled in. In 2006, I didn’t have a date, but I did have a small digital recorder, slightly longer than a pack of cigarettes, which I brought in, hoping to surreptitiously record the evening. As the band set up, I started the recorder, holding it under the table, hoping to be unobserved.
Alas, about thirty-five minutes in, one of the waitstaff spotted the glowing display, approached me, and said quietly, “You’ll have to leave if you don’t stop recording,” or words to that effect. I must have turned a deep red at being caught, but I was relieved he didn’t attempt to confiscate the recorder or make a fuss and have me removed. I did get to preserve three segments: the first, about thirty minutes uninterrupted; the second, one performance and some of Joe’s infamous puns; the third, a truncated LOVE FOR SALE where you can hear the malefactor being apprehended. Not incidentally, some years later I sent CD copies of this event to Joe and to his biographer, Ed Berger: they were thrilled. (Where were the jazz record labels when Joe had his week? A good question, with no answer.)
This year, I decided to share the music — but since I am a moral criminal, I reached out to pianist Michael Weiss (a Facebook friend who has also recorded gigs), then to string bassist John Webber, and Michael (another benefactor) got an OK from drummer Lewis Nash. So here you may hear.
This post is in honor of Joe and his friends, and for Solveig Wilder and her family.
Even though Joe didn’t play Tadd Dameron’s OUR DELIGHT, that title comes to mind:
Was this title oddly prescient in view of the third performance?
Caught . . .
I’m honored to have been there, and equally so that I can share some precious music with all of you.
John Webber said it best, “The world could use some more Joe Wilder!”
What is a trumpet (flugelhorn, trombone, and so on) after all except an unforgiving collection of metal tubing through which an idealist propels warm vibrating air? But Joe Wilder could make this hardware-store-in-a-velvet case sing with the delicate intensity of the most touching singer, emotive and expert at once. I had heard him on recordings, but did not meet him until 2004, and it is true, as Roswell Rudd told me, “You play your personality.” Joe’s personality was a gracious warm embrace: of the melody, of the possibility of song, of the audience — and everyone felt it. Here Joe is warmly accompanied by Steve Ash, piano; Yasushi Nakamura, string bass; Marion Felder, drums. The occasion was a “Harlem in the Himalayas” concert organized by Loren Schoenberg, held at the Rubin Museum in New York City in June 2008. I was in the first or second row with my digital recorder, and you can hear the result now. Such beauty:
He was the most rare of gentlemen, and it was a deep privilege to know him, for he greeted the most casual acquaintance as a new dear friend, in the most genuine way. And every note was a friend as well.
I think of these five players as Idiosyncratic Swing Lyricists, singers on their instrument who play beautifully with others but are full of surprises. Possibly Joe and Chuck had done other club dates with Frank, being heroes of the New York scene, but Larry and Pete lived elsewhere, so it was only the genius or whimsical taste (you pick) of Joe Boughton that brought them together for this brief interlude. For those unfamiliar with these artists and craftsmen, Joe played trumpet and flugelhorn; Chuck, alto saxophone (although doubling other reeds); Larry, piano; Frank, string bass; Pete, drums. Happily, Frank and Pete are still with us, doing what they do so splendidly.
I recorded this with my illegal digital recorder, so there will be audio artifacts (the fancy name for extraneous noises) but I think it is a treasure. Alas, you can’t see the five of them grinning at each other and listening intently: take it from me, their pleasure spread throughout the huge ballroom.
I’M BEGINNG TO SEE THE LIGHT / AUTUMN LEAVES / THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE / LOTUS BLOSSOM (Eanet-Wilson) / SAMBA DE ORFEU // Jazz at Chautauqua, the last weekend in September, 2006.
I will now indulge myself in a few ruminations about the five heroes. I cannot picture Frank Tate without a grin on his face, either ready to break into laughter or just coming out of it, perhaps at something absurd or coincidental or weird. Pete Siers is the master of the unexpected gesture that comes out perfectly, on the drums and off: a red George Wettling candle is only one of the great gifts he has bestowed. I miss them both — and hope for reunions somewhere, sometime soon.
I never spoke with Larry Eanet in person, but remember explicitly one of his beautiful sentences (his touch on the piano and in prose were similarly beautiful): recalling his early jazz epiphany — someone had given him the Columbia 78 album of Louis and Earl. “It hit me,” he wrote, “like Cupid’s arrow.” Of late, I have been listening to his solo recordings for JUMP: lovely and beyond.
I saw Chuck Wilson up close a number of times — occasionally with an assorted group of musicians playing in the afternoon in a particularly rowdy basement, once or twice at The Ear Inn — and often my camera and its propensity to record his work for posterity made him ill at ease, and he would frown at me as if he was mildly in pain or something smelled “putrid-like,” and say, “Awwww, Michael, I’d really rather you didn’t,” and I’d say, “But you played so beautifully!” and once in a while he allowed himself to be convinced. He wasn’t annoyed, just — in his own way — shy.
Joe Wilder, although the most courtly of gentlemen (I have a few of his handwritten notes) was in his own way boyish — in that he said what he felt, respectfully and wittily, but people like me (“civilians” to some) he treated as equals, as friends. His absolute refusal to construct barriers, whether he was at an airport when we were waiting to fly to Buffalo and telling me of his morning’s stomach distress, or whether I saw him be completely delighted to meet someone he hadn’t expected to meet. That joy, that openness, bubbles through his playing, and I think at gatherings like Jazz at Chautauqua, he could be among friends and admirers, play the music that made him happy. It certainly made us feel sky-high.
Marvels from rare individualists, music and memories I cherish.
It was one of those bands that actually lived up to its bold title, whether the front line was as it was here, or the variation that I saw in Morgan Park in Glen Cove, so many years ago — Joe Wilder and Phil Bodner (with Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, and I think Ronnie Zito).
Under Dick Hyman’s astonishing leadership, the Quintet chose to concentrate on jazz before the Second World War, but the result was timeless, full of improvisational brilliance and energy, even though there were many manuscripts on those music stands. One of the pleasures of the video that follows is seeing members of the quintet, professional in every detail, taking their music off the stands at the end of the set. But I have doubt that a Quintet performance concentrating on the music of Tadd Dameron, Charlie Parker, and early Miles Davis would have been compelling music also.
Here we have their first manifestation: Dick Hyman, piano; Pee Wee Erwin, cornet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones; Milt Hinton, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums.
The video that follows captures a performance at the Grande Parade du Jazz, made for French television but apparently not broadcast and certainly not trimmed-down for time limitations.
Setting up [for the impatient, the “music begins at” 5:55] / CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME / I’M GONNA STOMP MR. HENRY LEE [at a lovely swaying tempo] / MY MAN’S GONE NOW (Wilber) / OLD MAN BLUES / SOPHISTICATED LADY (Hyman, Hinton, Rosengarden) / JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK (Erwin – Hyman) / DOOJI WOOJI / DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN / a few seconds of packing up //.
The late reedman Leroy “Sam” Parkins told me, more than once, that great art was in the balance between passionate abandon and expert restraint. The Quintet embodies that in every note.
A very happy P.S. I posted this video early on Friday, February 20, and mid-afternoon Mr. Dick Human himself (he will be 94 this March 8) commented on the video:
Once I was a hero-worshipping autograph-seeker (“hound” is so dismissive). Beginning in 1967, I asked Louis, Teddy Wilson, Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, Sonny Greer, Buck Clayton, Bobby Hackett, Zoot Sims, and others, for theirs. Oddly, only Jo, who had a reputation for being irascible and unpredictable, asked my name and inscribed my record “To Micheal.” Other musicians I would have liked to ask but either found them intimidating, or — since I was a criminal with a poorly concealed cassette recorder — thought it best to stay hidden.
Autograph-seeking presumes reverential distance. I am a Fan, you are The Star. The Fan approaches the Star, timidly, politely, holds out a piece of paper or some other object, and asks for a signature or an inscription. In that ten-second interchange, the Fan feels seen, and the Star may feel exhausted or be gratified by the appearance of a Fan or a line of them. (In my literary life, I asked Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Richard Ford, and Julian Barnes to sign books. And Whitney Balliett.)
But I no longer chase Stars. Were I to have asked Jim Dapogny, Connie Jones, Jake Hanna, or Joe Wilder for “an autograph,” they would have found the request strange, because I had been talking or eating with them as a presumed equal. I am sure the anthropologists have a name for this kind of cultural transgression, as if your mother made special waffles for your birthday and you left her a tip, even 25%. In my world, at least, many of the Stars have become Friends: whether formality is a thing of the past or my stature has changed, I have no need to investigate.
I will say that, a few years ago, when a musician-friend of mine, thinking to praise me, said I was “the best fan” he knew, I snapped, “I’m not a Fan!” and then explained what I associated with the term. He changed his designation, to what I don’t remember, and it felt better.
Yet I think autographs are sacred — here is a photograph that Sidney Catlett held and wrote on. The Deity comes to Earth for thirty seconds and touches down. I have bought or copied pieces of paper signed by Pete Brown, Rod Cless, Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell (who wrote his first name as two separate words, should you wonder), Adrian Rollini, Claude Hopkins, and more.
I continue to keep track of such holy relics on eBay, as people who follow JAZZ LIVES know. In that spirit, here are manifestations of the autograph dance.
Someone came to Cab Calloway — anywhere between 1942 (when the record was issued) and his death in 1994, and asked him to sign this lovely purple OKeh 78, which he did, with his signature phrase, in the white ink used for record labels:
I have seen enough Cab-signatures to think this one authentic.
And here he is — in his best passionate mode, with a very early reading of Alec Wilder’s classic:
This autograph’s closer to home for me:
Again, completely authentic. But from what I know — from my own experience of Ruby (and this could have been signed any time between 1954 and 2002) I am reasonably sure that when the admiring Fan approached him, Ruby would have said something dismissive, because he disdained his early work vehemently. I recall when I first met him in 1971, praising his MY MELANCHOLY BABY on a new Atlantic recording by George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, and Ruby’s response was terse, curt, and precise, “THAT shit?” Difficult to find shades of ambiguity in that response.
Here’s Ruby’s ELLIE (one of his few compositions) from that date, with Johnny Guarnieri, Walter Page, Bobby Donaldson:
Some artists, remarkably, used the occasion to impart a message — in this case, a moral lesson. Saxophonist Don Lanphere, later in life, was born again and changed his life completely . . . so much so that an inscription became a chance to spread the Gospel:
It feels as if Don had more than a momentary acquaintance with Debbie, Ron, and Bob, but I may be assuming too much.
Here’s his beautiful DEAR OLD STOCKHOLM from the 1983 sessions, a duet with pianist Don Friedman:
Those three examples suggest face-to-face contact, and certainly a few words being exchanged. The closing artifact, here, comes from another dance entirely. For instance, I have a photograph signed by Connee Boswell, in her distinctive hand, and then personalized by her secretary, and I presume this all was done by mail, that the Fan wrote to Miss Boswell asking for an autographed picture — and that Connee, sometime, somewhere, sat down with a pile of them and signed her name a hundred or five hundred times in a sitting, and the photos could then be sent off. (Better, mind you, than Benny Goodman requiring people who worked for him to copy his signature onto photographs.)
I had to do some quick research to find out (to remind myself) that the 8-track tape was popular between 1965 and the late Seventies . . . it was replaced by the smaller, more flexible cassette tape, which could also be recorded on. I saw these tapes and players in action, but neither my parents nor I had an 8-track deck in our respective cars.
But some people did. Thus . . .
I note with amusement the ages of the attractive couple on the cover: would you think that in 1970 they would be close-dancing to Harry rather than the Stones? I doubt it. And inside:
This was on sale on eBay for a very low price: $10 plus 3.99 shipping, and I asked a dear friend who admires Harry if he wanted it as a gift, and he snorted and said, “Please,” in the way that people do when they really mean, “I’ll kill you.” I amused myself by imagining the scene of the person or couple coming across the dance floor to Harry at the set break and asking him to sign their new treasure, which he did quickly and without fanfare. But I was wrong, because a return to eBay showed two other signed sets, which suggests to me that Harry spent some tedious hours at home or in a hotel room, signing set after set, box after box. Hence:
At least those purchasers got a “Sincerely.” I remember sets packaged by the Longines Symphonette Society, but can’t recall whether they were offered on television after 11 PM, and whether the autographed sets cost more.
Here’s a favorite recording by Harry, the October 1939 SLEEPY TIME GAL, in three tempos, with just the rhythm section — Jack Gardner, piano; Brian “Red” Kent, guitar; Thurman Teague, string bass; Ralph Hawkins, drums:
I hope you noticed the profound Louis-influence there, starting with the opening references to SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH. It’s the perfect segue to this delightful photograph — place, date, and photographer unknown (thanks to Loren Schoenberg for the Facebook “Rare Jazz Photos” group) of two men beaming love at each other. Feel free to invent appropriate dialogue:
The splendid people at jgautographs (on eBay) have reached into the apparently bottomless treasure chest and come up with an assortment of photographs for sale. The auction has a time limit, so don’t (as we say) dither.
Bill, Kenny, and Bob, also riding the range, although dressed like city slickers.
Question: what do Bobby Hackett, George Barnes, Flip Phillips, Bob Wilber, Bud Freeman, Connie Jones, Max Kaminsky, Joe Venuti, Lou Stein, Joe Wilder, Zoot Sims, Ralph Sutton, Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Scott Hamilton, Milt Hinton, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Greg Cohen, Dick Hyman, Urbie Green, Trummy Young, Vic Dickenson, Hank Jones, Bob Haggart, Dick Cathcart, Jess Stacy, Joe Bushkin, Dave McKenna, John Best, Franz Jackson, Wild Bill Davison, Butch Miles, Jack Lesberg, Dick Johnson, Bob Havens, and a few others have in common . . . . aside from their musical glories?
Urbie, the one, the only.
Answer: They were all caught in performance by Al White and his roving camera (many of them at Dick Gibson’s Colorado jazz parties) — asked to sign the photos — the ones I’ve seen have all been inscribed to Al — and these 8 x 10″ black and white beauties are now being offered at the site above.
In 2000, Al and Ralph Sutton’s biographer James D. Schacter created a large-format book, JAZZ PARTY, with over a hundred of these inscribed photographs, but that book is now out of print, although copies can be found.
Al started life as an amateur drummer and jazz fan, then put on concerts and parties in Arkansas . . . . and at some point began to specialize in candid shots of the musicians he admired.
The noble Dick Cathcart.
The photographs offered on eBay have, for me, a special resonance. For a moment in time, Bobby or Urbie had to touch this piece of paper to sign it, so they are beautiful artifacts or relics or what you will.
I’ve been running out of wall space for some time now (and it would be disrespectful as well as damp to start hanging photographs in the bathroom) so the field is clear for you to visually admire and place bids, even though I might be tempted in two days and twenty-something hours.
I thought you might like some jazz-party-jazz, so here is the priceless 1977 color film (102 minutes) of the Dick Gibson party, “The Great Rocky Mountain Jazz Party,” featuring everyone:
I offer you the second part of a glorious informal session from Thursday night, September 17, 2009 at Jazz at Chautauqua — a quartet of lyrical melodists: Joe Wilder, trumpet and flugelhorn; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass. Hereis the first part of the evening’s festivities: DON’T BLAME ME, ‘DEED I DO, and JUST SQUEEZE ME.
Mr.Wilder, himself: characteristically cheerful and beautifully dressed:
Messrs. Allen, Burr, and Wilder. You’ll hear Fratello Sportiello soon:
Here is music to delight the angels, Joe’s EMBRACEABLE YOU:
and the Basie-flavored protestation of good humor, I AIN’T MAD AT YOU:
How fortunate I was to be there, and (without self-congratulation, I hope) how fortunate that I had a camera. Bless these four brilliant modest luminaries. In my thoughts, I embrace them all.
Even at 10:30 in the morning, the great artists create lovely subtle art — as did Howard Alden, guitar, and Joe Wilder, trumpet and flugelhorn. This telepathic pair made beauty tangible at the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend in mid-September 2009, and I am delighted to be able to present two duets.
People who knew Joe well will also notice his uncharacteristically informal attire — one of the few times he was ever seen without a suit and tie — and I delight, on SAMBA, that he is using his green plastic cup (‘from the five and ten,” he told me) as a mute.
My videos are characteristically imperfect, even more so because I was not supposed to be shooting them: people pass by and pause, and I think my camera rises and falls with my breathing. But I’d rather have these moments, preserved.
SECRET LOVE, made famous by Doris Day in 1953:
Luiz Bonfa’s SAMBA DE ORFEU, from the film BLACK ORPHEUS:
Howard has been incredibly gracious about allowing me to video-record him and then to post selected performances: if you search JAZZ LIVES posts, he is part of more than one hundred. Joe appeared most recently in a 2009 session with Rossano Sportiello, Harry Allen, and Jon Burr, and the first part is here. Bless them both.
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.
Consider this very truncated list: Bix Beiderbecke, Jack Purvis, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Jabbo Smith, Sandy Williams, Cassino Simpson, Dave Tough, Tony Fruscella, Fud Livingston, Dick McDonough, Serge Chaloff, Fats Navarro, Fats Waller, Bunny Berigan.
What do they have in common? Would you, were you a recording supervisor, hire them for a record date? Would you hire them for your orchestra or gig? Could you count on them to do the work asked of them? (A hint here: as much as I revere, let’s say, Fruscella or Livingston, I wouldn’t want them driving the kids to summer camp.)
That list contains poets of the music, artistic trailblazers, instantly recognizable creators, memorable improvisers. But it is also a list of people who didn’t show up on time or at all for the gig or has to be awakened in the middle of a song to play, people who were addicted to alcohol, food, drugs, and sex; people who had borderline personality disorder; people who stole, lied, and destroyed property; people who refused to bathe or change their clothes . . . and more.
Even if this seems blasphemous, do me the kindness to read on.
And if you proclaim that Genius must be forgiven anything because it’s Genius, I wonder how you would feel if the Genius vomited on your living room rug or stole money from you.
I suspect that most jazz fans are Apollonian (in Nietzsche’s dichotomy): they drive in the proper lane; they shower regularly; they hold jobs; they change the registration sticker on their car when the law says they must. But, perhaps as a result, they are fascinated by the Dionysiac, the Bad Boys and Girls of Jazz, the people whose behavior is flashy, self-destructive, eccentric, illegal.
Consider this: if someone could come up with an authenticated needle used by Billie or Bird, or a piece of Bix’s mummified blue sweater, how much would those holy relics — the jazz Shroud of Turin — fetch on eBay?
Violently erratic “bad” behavior makes good copy. How many biographies of Bix are there, as compared to his more restrained contemporaries? How many theatrical presentations “recreating” Billie are there, as opposed to the lives of other singers who drank Seven-Up?
I was motivated to write this piece because of the just-issued biography of Johnny Guarnieri, SUPERSTRIDE, beautifully written and researched by Derek Coller, depicts a good husband and father, and a craftsman, someone serious about his art even when striding joyously.
I think of others of the same general character: people who kept pocket notebooks and were thus early to gigs, who came prepared to make music, with horns that worked and a knowledge of the charts; musicians who could transpose and knew their keys; who came to the club date in appropriate, even elaborate formal wear; whose clothes were clean; who conducted themselves as professionals and whose behavior might have been placid and thus not worthy of chronicling, but who behaved as adults.
Think of Maxine Sullivan, George Duvivier, Milt Hinton, Joe Wilder, Teddi King, Eddie Barefield, Al Hall, Ed Hall, Mary Lou Williams, Marian McPartland, Bennie Morton, and Buster Bailey among others: artists who didn’t use “genius” as an excuse for childishness. Sadly, I sense a silent snobbery among jazz fans, who look down on these mature men and women because their personal lives are uneventful. And, aside from Hinton, Wilder, and Ed Hall, how many of the artists in the list above have been properly chronicled? Men and women who didn’t destroy themselves and others are proper figures to contemplate and admire. Even if they are tediously busy being professional, monogamous, and sober, their lives have much to show us.
Obviously it’s not thrilling to write about someone who does his or her job without drama, but we should be celebrating these artists as grownups. And grownups are hard to find in any field.
Here’s music made by several grownups: musicians, classically trained who could cut the charts and swing like mad, who appear on many record dates because they were both creative and reliable: William C. Bailey of Memphis, Tennessee, coincidentally backed by Osie Johnson, drums, and that very same Johnny Guarnieri among others:
I wonder what would happen to us, as an audience, if we chose not to fetishize childish self-destructive behavior, and instead celebrated adult behavior?
Inspiration for this post is, as it often is, thanks to Sammut of Malta, whose thoughts are always inspiring.
You can find the first part of this rare and delicious performance here — eight songs created by the esteemed tenor saxophonist Ted Brown, with Tardo Hammer, piano; Ray Macchiarola, guitar; Paul Gill, string bass; Jeff Brown, drums — at the 75 Club (75 Murray Street, New York), on March 23. Here’s the rest of the evening’s music, six selections.
But before you immerse yourself in the floating inquiring sounds created that night, just a word — perhaps tactless but necessary. Ted is having some financial trouble and would welcome your assistance. Click here to see what it’s all about. “Every nickel helps a lot,” reminds the Shoe Shine Boy.
Now to music. Ted’s repertoire his broad, his approach melodic, lyrical, quietly surprising. But you knew that. Or you will learn it now.
A classic Forties pop, famous even before Bird took to it, SLOW BOAT TO CHINA:
For Lester and Basie, BROADWAY:
and more Lester and Basie, LESTER LEAPS IN:
The gorgeous Irving Berlin ballad, HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN?:
Perhaps in honor of Ginger Rogers, her hair a crown of shampoo turned white, THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT:
and Ted’s own JAZZ OF TWO CITIES, with no apologies to Dickens:
I bow to Mr. Brown, who creates such lasting beauties.
One of the many pleasures of my jazz endeavor is that I have been able to shake hands with the Masters: Joe Wilder, Jim Dapogny, Bob Wilber, Marty Grosz, among others: people who have given us beauty and musical wisdom for decades.
Starting in January 2011, I have had the honor of hearing, meeting, and recording the lyrical and intense tenor saxophonist Ted Brown. Here he is with Ethan Iverson, Putter Smith, and Hyland Harris, performing THESE FOOLISH THINGS in December 2012, when Ted was a mere 85, at the much-missed Drawing Room.
March 23, 2019: photograph by Seth Kaplan.
On March 23 of this year, I was able to be awestruck by Ted — at 91 — playing among friends at the 75 Club: Jeff Brown, drums, Paul Gill, string bass, Ray Macchiarola, guitar; Tardo Hammer, piano. What music he and they make! I could write about Ted’s connections to Lennie Tristano, Warne Marsh, and Lester Young, but I’d prefer — as does Ted — to let the music sing, muse, and soar for itself. Here is a substantial helping of searching beauty with a swinging pulse . . . and more to come.
Bird’s blues, RELAXIN’ AT CAMARILLO,
I think Sigmund Romberg would approve of this LOVER, COME BACK TO ME. Or if he didn’t, I certainly do:
Lennie Tristano’s musing line on OUT OF NOWHERE, 317 EAST 32nd STREET:
An energized THE SONG IS YOU:
A pensive STAR DUST, which Ted starts all by himself, gorgeously:
Sweet and tart, TANGERINE:
Ted’s own SMOG EYES, celebrating his first time in Los Angeles:
Asking the eternal question, with or without comma, WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?:
Remarkable news: Ted is offering lessons via Skype. Even those who don’t play tenor could all take a lesson from him. You can find him here on Facebook.
I am so fortunate in many ways, some of them not evident on this site. But JAZZ LIVES readers will understand that my being able to interview Dan Morgenstern at his home from March 2017 on — at irregular intervals — is a gift I would not have dreamed possible when I was only A Wee Boy reading his liner notes and DOWN BEAT articles.
Dan is an unaffected master of small revealing insights that show character: in some ways, he is a great short-story writer even though he is working with factual narrative. Watching these interviews, you’ll go away with Artie Shaw pacing the room and talking, Willis Conover’s ashtrays, Cootie Williams reverently carrying Louis’ horn back to the latter’s hotel, and more.
About ten days ago, we spent another ninety minutes where Dan told affectionate tales of Jaki Byard, Ulysses Kay, Randy Weston, Kenny Dorham, and more. Those videos will come to light in time. But we had a marathon session last June, with stories of Louis, Cozy Cole, Milt Hinton, Coltrane, Roy, Teddy, Basie, Joe Wilder, Ed Berger, Perry Como and others — which you can savor here. And, although it sounds immodest, you should. (I also have videos of a July session with Dan: stay tuned, as they used to say.)
Here are more delightful stories from the June session.
Dan remembers Symphony Sid Torin, with sidebars about John Hammond, Nat Lorber, Rudi Blesh, Stan Kenton at Carnegie Hall, Roy Eldridge, and jazz radio in general:
Dan’s affectionate portrait of another man with a mission concerning jazz — the Voice of America’s Willis Conover:
and some afterthoughts about Willis:
and, to conclude, another leisurely portrait, early and late, of Artie Shaw:
with Artie as a “champion talker,” and a gig at Bop City, and sidelights about Benny Goodman and Cootie Williams, the latter reverent of Louis:
Thank you, Dan, for so generously making these people, scenes, and sounds come so alive.
Dan Morgenstern, now 89, is so full of wonderful stories — sharply-realized, hilarious, sad — that my job as a visitor with a camera has usually been to set up the video equipment, do a sound check, ask a leading question, and sit back in bliss. Here’s the first half of my June 2018 visit to Dan’s nest. Beautiful narratives are all nicely set out for us.
I’d already posted the first one — a total surprise, a heroic reaction to injustice — but I would like more people to hear and see it:
More about Cozy Cole and friends, including Milt Hinton, Cab Calloway, and a hungry Benny Carter:
More about Milt Hinton, with wonderful anecdotes about Louis and Joe Glaser, Dizzy Gillespie, Cozy Cole, and Mel Lewis:
And some beautiful stories about Count Basie — including Dan’s attendance at a Town Hall concert with Basie, Roy Eldridge, and John Coltrane:
Finally (for this posting — there will be a continuation) memories of Joe Wilder, Ed Berger, with a comment about Roy Eldridge:
That we have Dan Morgenstern with us to tell such tales is a wonderful thing. As Louis said to the King, “This one’s for you, Rex!”
I love that I live about an hour from the jazz-metropolis that is New York City, but I will drive for hours when the music beckons. It did last Saturday, when brassmen Danny Tobias and Warren Vaché joined with Philip Orr, piano; Joe Plowman, string bass; Pat Mercuri, guitar, for a wonderful afternoon of acoustic improvisations at the lovely 1867 Sanctuary Arts and Culture Centerin Ewing, New Jersey. (101 Scotch Road will stay in my car’s GPS for that reason.) Here’s some evidence — thanks to the very subtle photographer Lynn Redmile — to document the scene:
and the two Swing perpetrators:
It’s an immense compliment to the melodic swinging inventiveness of this ad hoc quintet, that their music requires no explanation. But what is especially touching is the teamwork: when portrayed in films, trumpet players are always trying to outdo each other. Not here: Danny and Warren played and acted like family, and a particularly loving branch. They have very individual voices, but if I said that the approving ghosts up in the rafters were Ruby Braff, Joe Wilder, Kenny Davern, and Tony DiNicola, no one would object. Phil, Joe, and Pat listened, responded, and created with characteristic grace. Thanks to Bob and Helen Kull, the guiding spirits of the 1867 Sanctuary, for making us all so welcome with such fine music.
It was a memorable afternoon, and I wish only that this was a regular occasion, to be documented by CD releases and general acclamation. We can hope.
I have a dozen beauties to share with you. Here are the first four.
Irving Berlin’s ALL BY MYSELF, and someone in the band breaks into song, most effectively:
Another Berlin treasure, CHANGE PARTNERS:
Edgar Sampson’s paean to hope, IF DREAMS COME TRUE:
Marian McPartland and Monk Rowe, photo by Val DeVisser
A the end of the preceding century, while many of us were standing at Tower Records, considering which CD to buy, Monk Rowe — musician and scholar — was busy doing good work in the land of jazz.
Monk is a modest fellow, so he will probably protest all this praise aimed at him and say, “It’s not me . . . it’s the Filius Jazz Archiveat Hamilton College,” but he will have to put up with the adulation for the time being. Monk’s ongoing gift to is a series of video interviews done with jazz artists and luminaries from 1995 on. More than 300 interviews have been conducted, and they are appearing — almost daily — on the Archive’s YouTube channel. Most of the interviews run an hour, which is a wonderful visit with people you and I haven’t had the opportunity for such sustained conversations with.
I confess that I have been slow in alerting JAZZ LIVES’ readers to this magic toybox, because I feared for the collective health. The interviews are wonderfully informative in a low-key, friendly way — Rowe does not obsess over musicological details but is interested in letting the artist speak — and they are devilishly addictive. I’ve lost hours in front of the computer because of them, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And the interview subjects often are people who have not been fussed over in public — at all or in such gratifying ways. Here are a dozen names: Manny Albam, Eddie Bert, Bill Charlap, Benny Waters, Keith Ingham, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, Sherrie Maricle, Stanley Kay, Grover Mitchell, Rossano Sportiello, Ron Carter — and those interviews have been posted on YouTube in the past month. Let that sink in.
Here’s Monk himself — in under two minutes — introducing the channel. You can see how low-key and amiably focused he is. He mentions the book that he co-authored, drawn from the interviews: I’ve written about it here.
Here are several interviews that will fascinate JAZZ LIVES’ readers. prepare to be entranced, amused, moved, informed.
Monk talks to Tom Baker — someone we miss seriously — in 1997: it amuses me that this interview was recorded in a corner of the Hotel Athenaeum at Chautauqua, New York — the fabled home of Jazz at Chautauqua:
and the illustrious Marty Grosz in 1995:
Kenny Davern, Part One, in conversation with Dr. Michael Woods:
and Part Two:
and “just one more,” Nicki Parrott in 2010:
Set aside a few weeks: this is much more rewarding than several semesters deep in the Jazz Studies curriculum, I assure you. And I haven’t even included Helen and Stanley Dance, Vi Redd, Ruth Brown, Jean Bach, Jerry Jerome, Chubby and Duffy Jackson, Ralph Sutton, Bob Wilber, Joe Wilder, Sweets Edison . . . . that you can do for yourself.
In my adolescence, I read every jazz book on the shelves of the very well-stocked suburban public library. I didn’t understand everything I read (when one reads Andre Hodeir’s harsh analysis of, say, Dickie Wells’ later style without having the musical examples at hand, it is an oddly unbalanced experience) but I absorbed as much as I could, from Rudi Blesh to Barry Ulanov and beyond.
I remember clearly that some of the history-of-jazz books (each with its own ideological slant) used diagrams, in approved textbook fashion, for readers who needed an easy visual guide. Often, the diagram was a flow chart —
Sometimes the charts were location-based: New Orleans branched out into Chicago, New York City, Kansas City (as if the authors were tracing the path of an epidemic). More often, they depicted “schools” and “styles”: Ragtime, New Orleans, Dixieland, Chicago jazz, Early Big Bands, Stride Piano, The Swing Era, Fifty-Second Street, Bebop, Modern . . .
Sectarian art criticism, if you will. You had different dishes for New Orleans and Modern; you didn’t eat Dixieland on Fridays. And you had to wait two hours before going in the water. It also supported mythic constructs: the earliest jazz styles were the Truth and everything else was degenerate art, or the notion that every new development was an improvement on its primitive ancestor.
The critics and journalists loved these fantasies; the musicians paid little attention. Although you wouldn’t find Wingy Manone playing ANTHROPOLOGY, such artificial boundaries didn’t bother George Barnes, Joe Wilder, or Milt Hinton (the latter eminence having recorded with Tiny Parham, Eddie South, Clifford Brown, and Branford Marsalis).
Happily, the musicians are able to assemble — in the most friendly ways — wherever there is a paying gig. No one has to wear a t-shirt embossed with his or her allegiance and stylistic categorization. Such a gathering took place on Sunday, August 14, 2016, in the basement of 75 Christopher Street, New York City — known in the guidebooks as FAT CAT, although there are many variants on that title.
The leader and organizer of this ecumenical frolic was Terry Waldo, pianist, ragtime scholar, vocalist, and composer. For this session, his Gotham City Band was Chuck Wilson, alto saxophone; Jim Fryer (the Secret Marvel), trombone and vocal; Jay Leonhart, string bass and vocal; Jay Lepley, drums.
And here are four examples of the good feeling these musicians generated so easily.
DIGA DIGA DOO:
MEMORIES OF YOU (starting with Terry’s elaborate homage to its composer, Eubie Blake):
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY (with a funny, theatrical vocal by Terry):
OLD FASHIONED LOVE (sung by the romantic Jim Fryer):
Once again, this post is dedicated to the inquiring scholar from Bahia, who sat to my left and brightened the room.
Marian McPartland and Monk Rowe, photo by Val DeVisser
Monk Rowe is a jazz musician — saxophonist, pianist, composer, arranger — and he has a day gig at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, as the Joe Williams Director of the Filius Jazz Archive there. The Archive will be twenty-one in 2016, and it is indeed remarkably adult.
So far, Monk has conducted video interviews with more than 325 musicians, ranging from the great forbears (Doc Cheatham, Eddie Bert, Kenny Davern, Jerry Jerome, Ray Conniff, Joe Williams, Milt Hinton) to the living legends of the present and future (Nicki Parrott, Kidd Jordan, Sherrie Maricle, Bill Charlap, Holly Hofmann, Maria Schneider). And excerpts from those interviews, thematically and intelligently arranged, now form a compact yet impressive book (with a brief foreword by jazz eminence Dan Morgenstern) whose title is above.
A friend at Hamilton sent me a copy of the book some weeks back, and I have been slow to write about it — for two reasons. One, the semester got in the way, unforgivably, and two, I was often making notes and laughing so hard that I couldn’t read much at a sitting. But my instant recommendation is BUY IT. So those of you who want to skip the evidence can zoom to the bottom of this post. Others can linger.
A brief prelude. I am immensely in favor of oral history although it cannot replace the best analysis or aesthetic criticism. I wouldn’t give up Whitney Balliett, Martin Williams, Gary Giddins, Anthony Barnett, Frank Buchmann-Moller, Manfred Selchow, or John Chilton . . . the list goes on and I know I am leaving two dozen worthy writers out. But what wouldn’t we give for a ten-minute interview with Tony Fruscella, Frank Teschemacher, Jimmy Harrison, Herschel Evans, Eddie Lang, Jimmy Blanton, or Buster Bailey? True, some musicians were and are shy or not always able to articulate much about the music, but others — as we know — are born raconteurs, sharp observers, comedians, anthropologists. Their stories, no matter how brief, are precious. Two pages by Clark Terry where he speaks of being beaten by Caucasians because he was a “Nigerian” while in Mississippi — and then being rescued by another group of Caucasians — say more about race relations in the United States than twenty hours of PBS footage could ever do.
The material is organized thematically, enabling the reader to hear, for instance, stories of life on the road from Kenny Davern, Lanny Morgan, and Phil Woods. Then there are sharp observations — one can almost hear the rimshot that follows. Dave Pell calls Stan Getz “the greatest dressing room player that ever lived.” Stan Kenton stops his band from swinging too much and says, “This is not Basie. This is Stan Kenton.” Bobby Rosengarden talks about Toscanini, Joe Wilder about punctuality, Dick Hyman and Bucky Pizzarelli about life in the recording studio. Keter Betts, as a high-school student, is bought lunch by Milt Hinton; Jean Bach explains the Ellington habit of “seagulling”; Sherrie Maricle recalls her metal clarinet. Dan Barrett gives advice to young musicians. Randy Sandke talks about the perils of thinking. Karl Berger talks about his conducting; Kidd Jordan deconstructs a song’s title. And there’s a historical perspective covering nearly a century: we hear Doc Cheatham talk about Ma Rainey, then Jerry Jerome describe the first Glenn Miller band — all the way up to the present.
It’s an enthralling book. And since Monk Rowe is a professional musician, his interludes and commentary are more than useful; his questions are on the mark. Other writers put themselves into the dialogue merely to say, “Well, Dizzy always used to say to me,” but Monk is a gracious interpreter rather than a narcissist.
To find out the story of the elephant beer and the priceless answer, visit Monk’s JAZZ BACKSTORY blog here and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Then you can read the rest of Phil Woods’ words and — by the way — find out exactly what Dizzy Gillespie said when presented with the key to the city of Syracuse, New York.
JAZZ TALES FROM JAZZ LEGENDS is available here through Amazon. And the proceeds from the book support the Archives.
NEWS FLASH: Monk is going to be teaching a free online course on jazz, starting February 2, 2016: details here.
I don’t ordinarily like surprises, because so many of them feel as if someone has crept up behind me and popped an inflated paper bag to watch me suddenly soar up to the ceiling — but the most lovely surprise is meeting someone new and finding out that (s)he has deep joyous talents you’d never known of before.
Such a person is trumpeter / composer Chris Hodgkins. In fairness, I’d already heard Chris play (on recordings only, alas) and admired him as a thoughtful lyrical trumpeter — someone who admired Louis, Ruby, Brownie, Humphrey Lyttelton, without imitating a phrase. And I hear the same kind of tenderness I always heard in Joe Wilder’s playing. (In the interest of accuracy, I will note that I first heard and wrote about Chris a few years ago here.
The two YouTube videos above offer music from the new Hodgkins CD, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD, which I celebrate here as an outpouring of sophisticated yet gentle Mainstream jazz.
I had the opportunity to write a few words for this disc, and they will serve as my enthusiastic endorsement:
Chris Hodgkins and friends do not have the international reputations they deserve, but they create endearing music that doesn’t reveal all its secrets at once.
Aside from two originals and the poignant BLACK BUTTERFLY, the repertoire suggests a formulaic Mainstream set that one might hear at a jazz party. But that narrow assumption vanishes once the music begins, for Chris, Dave, Erika, and Ashley offer serene yet searching chamber jazz, refreshing improvisations on familiar songs. (Although I suppose that SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE is now arcane to all but a few listeners.)
I delight in the delicately streamlined instrumentation, reminiscent of sessions by Ruby Braff and Warren Vache. Hearing this music, I am breathing in the light-hearted interplay, without the conventions of four-bar trades or ensemble-solos-ensemble. The players have created an airy, open music, full of pleasant wanderings but solidly grounded in melody and beating-heart rhythms.
And this music gladdens on many levels: a musician could analyze and admire subtle rhythmic displacements, chord substitutions, shifting textures. A casual listener would say, “What is that? That sounds beautiful,” and both responses would be true.
Chris is a master of his instrument. He can modulate from what Agatha Beiderbecke heard in her son’s playing, a “sudden perky blare,” to what Ruby Braff recognized in Lawrence Brown’s “a wonderful little cry.” I hear echoes of a grand tradition – everyone from George Mitchell to Clifford Brown and beyond – but Chris is himself throughout.
Emotionally warm music comes out of the emotions of the players – not only their love of sounds and textures, but a love for the people who have gone before and who have created personal art. On this CD, one hears everyone’s affection and admiration for the great ancestors, but Chris cites two people in particular.
One, his older brother, played trumpet, so Chris heard Louis and Morton and more, but, as he says, “When I was about 14 or 15, my brother said, ‘You don’t want to hear it, you want to play it!’ so he got me a trumpet from a second-hand shop and I never looked back.”
Later, Chris played with guitarist Vic Parker. “He was born in Cardiff, played in London before and during the war. In 1940 he worked at the Embassy Club in Bond Street playing accordion and double bass with Don Marino Barreto. He can be seen in Barreto’s band during a nightclub sequence in the musical film Under Your Hat. He came back to Cardiff and I used to work with him in the Quebec every Monday and Wednesday. We had a little duo, just playing standards, and he would sing in a Cardiff accent. When you’re young, you forget so much. You can be handed the keys to the kingdom and you don’t notice. Working with Vic was like that: he was in his late 60s then, one of the nicest guys you could meet.”
Chris has also played alongside Pete Allen, Rod Mason, Kathy Stobart, Humphrey Lyttelton (whose passionate influence I hear), Buddy Tate, and Wild Bill Davison.
Chris is also a wise generous leader, someone who knows that Being Out Front Always is hard on one’s chops as well as on band morale, so each performance makes his colleagues equals rather than subordinates. One of the most moving performances here is A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, an etude for piano and two double-basses, both celebration and elegy for wartime Britain, with death, romance, and endurance intermingled.
And those colleagues! Bassist Erika Lyons appeared on a BBC master class with Ray Brown, and studied with Buster Williams, Rufus Reid, and Hal Galper. Now she plays jazz festivals all over the world. Pianist Dave Price is a deep student of jazz piano from the Thirties to tomorrow, and he has worked with Tubby Hayes, Tony Coe, Nat Adderley, and Peanuts Hucko among many others. Bassist Ashley John Long is known not only for his work with Hans Koller, Bobby Wellins, Keith Tippett and others, but for his compositions for film, television, and the concert hall.
Together, they make BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD what jazz recordings should be, no matter what genre: warm, wide-awake, deeply personal.
If you go to thechannel that Chris has created on YouTube, you can hear two more beauties from BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD and more lovely music.
The CD offers SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE, A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON, STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, SUNDAY, ANGEL EYES, LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, BLACK BUTTERFLY, JEEPERS CREEPERS, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD, ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE, SWINGING AT THE COPPER BEECH, BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES, YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO, VP, JUST FRIENDS — and it’s beautifully recorded. Hereyou can find out more — including how to purchase the disc, which I do recommend.
Hot jazz can be both leisurely and intense. It doesn’t have to be too loud or too fast. And the best musicians do the neat trick of honoring their ancestors while sounding exactly like themselves.
New evidence of this — a swing session by masters, recorded in 2004 — has recently surfaced. It comes from Mat and Rachel Domber’s (the team responsible for so much joy on Arbors Records) MARCH OF JAZZ in celebration of Kenny Davern’s birthday, and the noble, gently convincing participants are Kenny, clarinet; Danny Tobias, cornet; Tom Artin, trombone; John Bunch, piano; John Beal, string bass; Tony DeNicola, drums.
Kenny Davern is justly the most famous and perhaps the most missed person on stage, but I would like to draw your attention also to the cornet player.
Young Mister Tobias plays with easy lyrical grace. When I first heard him a decade ago (as the trumpet with Kevin Dorn’s Traditional Jazz Collective at the Cajun) I was instantly a convert and fan. At the end of the first set, I went over, introduced myself, and said, “You sound beautifully. I guess you also like Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, don’t you?” He grinned, and we became friends.
Please enjoy, observe, and commit to memory:
JAZZ ME BLUES:
and a most remarkable ALL OF ME, in a romantic tempo (the romance isn’t diminished by Kenny’s silent-film comedy gestures at the start):
I asked Danny what he remembered about this session:
I was delighted that Kenny got me on the event. I remember being very nervous playing because in the hospitality room, on the top floor of the Sheraton Hotel the other musicians watched the stage via closed circuit TV. I was, and am, in awe of the musicians who were in attendance that weekend. I remember talking to Bucky, Joe Wilder, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dorough, and many more. I had no idea what Kenny would call, and was relieved when he asked theaudience if anyone had played “All of Me” yet that weekend? He then turned to the band and said, “Nobody played it like this!” and counted off the slowest tempo I’ve ever heard for that tune. It could have been painful but with Bunch, and Tony DeNicola it was pure bliss. Watching the video reminds me of how lucky I was to be able to make music with these masters. Kenny was so generous with me. He would make me tapes of PeeWee, Joe Sullivan, Irving Fazola, Johnny Dodds, etc. When I heard the recording of “Who Stole the Lock?” I flipped out! It was clear after listening to these records that Kenny incorporated these players into his playing. For example when he would soar into the final chorus on a gliss, I knew that he was channeling Fazola. He would, after a gig, invite me to hear something in his car. Sometimes it was a rare recording of Benny Goodman playing tenor, or William Furtwangler conducting movement of a Beethoven symphony.
I miss Tony, and John Bunch, and Kenny. But I feel good that I knew how good it was when it was happening and let them know I felt.
Danny Tobias is a modest fellow with a true subtle talent, and in these videos you can experience what many already know, that he is a master among masters.
And — as a postscript — it reminds me how much I and everyone who knew him miss Mat Domber. (Rachel, bless her, is still with us.) I believe these videos were done by the faithful and diligent Don Wolff: bless and thank him, too.
Here are two masters of swing and stride piano with impeccable credentials — Dick Hyman and Mike Lipskin. Together they’ve learned from and played with everyone from Teddy Wilson to Willie “the Lion” Smith to Willie Gant, Cliff Jackson . . . not forgetting Charlie Parker, Ruby Braff, Joe Wilder, and many others. They played beautifully on wonderful instruments supplied by Piedmont Piano in Oakland, California, on August 9, 2014. And the buoyant tune is LINGER AWHILE — which we did:
“Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” said Mister Morton.
And for the scholars in the audience, LINGER AWHILE — a favorite of pianists and bands even today — was written in 1923 by Vincent Rose and Harry Owens: