Tag Archives: John Cocuzzi

YOUR HAPPINESS LIES / RIGHT UNDER YOUR EYES, or POSTPONE THAT TRIP (2020 Edition)

I believe that the first version of this now-neglected classic song I heard was Jolson’s, then Billie’s . . . and it is even more pertinent now, as an antidote to the restless itch to be somewhere else, or to have a “bucket list” of places to visit.  In this time of sheltering-at-home, to me it seems the ideal soundtrack, even if your backyard is only imaginary or remembered.

From 2011:

2012:

Later that year, and closer to my backyard:

2014:

and 2016:

I even have a version of this song recorded in March 2020, but it hasn’t passed the Imperial Board of Censors just yet.  And since I am keenly aware of ironies, I know that for all but one of these performances celebrating the joys of one’s own place, I had to get on a plane to enjoy and record it.  Calling Steven Wright or perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson — the latter of whom wrote “Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.

So today, perhaps, I will put off the thrilling journey to the Post Office and, later, when adventure calls to me, I will take the cardboard boxes to the recycling area. Back in my own backyard for sure.  Possibly constrained, but reasonably safe from harm.

May your happiness increase!

 

MONTEREY DELIGHTS! (Jazz Bash By the Bay, 40th Anniversary Edition, March 5-8, 2020)

It’s never too early to get prepared for joy, especially the varieties that the Jazz Bash by the Bay delivers so generously.  (An All-Events badge is available at a discount before December 31, so if thrift makes your eyes gleam, check here.) Now.

I’ve been attending this March festival every year since 2011 (I missed 2018) and have fond memories.  I could write a good deal about the pleasures of this grouping of musicians and fans, and the pleasures of being able to walk around a truly charming town center . . . or the pleasure of being a guest at the Portola Hotel and Spa, with the music just a trot away, but I will simply direct you to the Bash’s website, where you can find out such useful information as the dates (March 6-8), the band schedule (not available yet), ticket prices, and the bands themselves.

For me, the bands and guest stars are the reason to come to a particular festival, so I will list them here (as of January 2020) so you can see the delights to be had.  First, the Musician of the Year is my hero Marc Caparone, so even though I doubt there will be a parasol-laden coronation, I want to be there to see the rites and praises.  Then, guest stars Bob Draga, Brian Holland, Danny Coots, Dawn Lambeth, Eddie Erickson, Gary Ryan, Jeff Barnhart, Jerry Krahn, and Katie Cavera.  The bands: Blue Street Jazz Band, Bye Bye Blues Boys Band, Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, Cornet Chop Suey, Crescent Katz, Don Neely’s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Fast Mama Excitement, Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Ivory&Gold, Le Jazz Hot, Midiri Brothers, Sierra Seven, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, We Three (Thursday only), Yve Evans and Company, and the Zydeco Flames.

Looking at the 2019 schedule, the Bash offered four simultaneous sessions for full twelve-hour days on Friday and Saturday, and a half day on Sunday . . . one hundred and fifty sessions, including full bands, singers, solo and duo pianos, youth bands, sets for amateur jammers, and more.  Even someone like myself, who doesn’t fell compelled to see and hear everything, finds it a delightfully exhausting experience.  There’s a separate Thursday-night dance and an appearance by We Three, and I quote: “Kick off Jazz Bash by the Bay on Thursday, March 5, 2020, with a big band dance party featuring Clicktrax Jazz Orchestra. Attendees will enjoy danceable swing and traditional jazz at the Portola Hotel and Spa from 7:30 to 11 pm. Admission is $25.00. Also, in a Special One-Night-Only appearance, the hit trio We3 featuring Bob Draga, Jeff Barnhart, and Danny Coots will be playing from 7 to 8:30 pm. Admission is $30.00. Add the dance for $20 more. All tickets can be purchased by phone, mail, online or at the door.”

Did you notice that there is an Early Bird All-Events Badge at a discount if you order before December 31, 2019?  Yes, I repeat myself: details here.

For me, a post advertising a particular festival is not effective unless some musical evidence can be included.  I broke one of my rules — that is, there are musicians in the 2011-19 videos below who do not appear at this year’s Bash, and I apologize to them if anyone’s feelings are bruised.  But I started to go through the 200+ videos I’d posted of various Monterey Bashes, and some of them were do fine that I couldn’t leave them out.  You’ll get a panoramic sense of the wide variety of good, lively, inventive music that happens here.  And each video has a detailed description of who’s playing and singing, and when it happened.

an old song, swung, 2019:

for Django:

Becky and the blues:

the late Westy Westenhofer:

Ivory&Gold (Jeff and Anne Barnhart):

Paolo Alderighi, Phil Flanigan, Jeff Hamilton:

Katie Cavera and the Au Brothers:

Bob Schulz and the Frisco Jazz Band:

Allan Vache, John Sheridan, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, Ed Metz:

High Sierra:

Hot Strings at Monterey 2011:

a jam session with Bryan Shaw, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, Marc Caparone, John Reynolds, Katie Cavera, Ralf Reynolds:

Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Jeff Hamilton, performing Sonny’s composition that insures that no rodents visit the Portola during the Bash:

It might seem a long way away, but it isn’t.  And it’s a truly enjoyable event.

May your happiness increase!

HAIL AND FAREWELL: SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (a/k/a SACRAMENTO JAZZ JUBILEE) TO CLOSE AFTER 44 YEARS

More bad news for people who like their jazz in profusion over one weekend: the Sacramento Music Festival, once known as the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, will not continue on next year. Here is the whole story.

An observant person could tell the reasons for this decision, and they are primarily financial: festivals are terribly expensive to run, and the ratio between costs and audience was not always encouraging.  I am sad to read this, because in the past six months a number of festivals have said goodbye.  I won’t mount the soapbox and harangue readers who had said, “Oh, I’ll go next year,” but the moral — carpe diem over a swinging 4/4 — is clear.

My videos — about one hundred and fifty — show that I attended the SJJ in 2011, 12, and 14.  It was an unusual event.  I seem to remember racing from one side of the causeway (if that is what it was called) to the other for sets, and scurrying (that’s not true — I don’t really scurry) from one venue to another.  There was an astonishing amount of good music in the years I attended, and some very lovely performances took place in the oddest venues.

Here are more than a half-dozen splendid performances, so we can grieve for the loss of a festival while at the same time smiling and swinging.

From 2011, TRUCKIN’ by Hal Smith’s International Sextet:

and one of my favorite 1926 songs, HE’S THE LAST WORD:

The Jubilee also made room for pretty ballads like this one, featuring John Cocuzzi, Jennifer Leitham, and Johnny Varro:

A year later, Rebecca Kilgore was HUMMIN’ TO HERSELF:

Marc Caparone doffs his handmade cap to Louis for HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH:

Another pretty one — MORE THAN YOU KNOW — featuring Allan Vache:

and some Orientalia out of doors — SAN by the Reynolds Brothers and Clint Baker:

A nice medium blues by Dan Barrett and Rossano Sportiello:

THE BOB AND RAY SHOW in 2014 — Schulz and Skjelbred, performing SHOE SHINE BOY:

CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS, featuring Dave Stone and Russ Phillips with Vince Bartels and Johnny Varro:

and an extended performance by Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs from 2014:

One of my favorite stories — a Louise Hay affirmation of sorts — comes from the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.  It was held over Memorial Day weekend, and there was riotous excitement on the days preceding Monday — but Sacramento on Memorial Day was one of the most deserted urban centers I’ve ever encountered. The nice Vietnamese restaurant I had hopes of returning to was shuttered for the holiday, the streets were quiet with only the intermittent homeless person taking his ease.  Since I have been a New Yorker all my life, the criminal offense termed “jaywalking” does not terrify me.  On one such Monday, the light was red against me but there were no cars in sight.  Full of assurance, I strolled across the street and made eye contact with a young woman standing — a law-abiding citizen — on the opposite curb.  When I reached her and grinned at her legal timidity, she looked disapprovingly at me and said, “Rule-breaker!”  I grinned some more and replied, “Free spirit!”

At its best, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee inspired such free-spirited behavior, musical and otherwise — among dear friends.  Adieu, adieu!

May your happiness increase!

FOR, WITH, AND BY BUCKY: NEW JERSEY JAZZ SOCIETY’S 45th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT (October 22, 2017)

The New Jersey Jazz Society is a fount of good things — concerts, publications, supporting the music and the musicians.  And no one has a bad word to say about Bucky Pizzarelli . . . so take a few very brief minutes and watch this:

For those who don’t want to watch even brief videos (there’s music in this one), a flurry of reiterated details:

Don Braden, Director, Tenor Sax/Flute
WBGO’s Rhonda Hamilton, Mistress of Ceremonies
Special guest Dorthaan Kirk, “Newark’s First Lady of Jazz”

Nathan Eklund Trumpet
Jason Jackson Trombone
Ed Laub, Dave Stryker Guitar
Tomoko Ohno Piano
Martin Pizzarelli Bass
Bernard Purdie Drums
Danny Bacher, Antoinette Montague, Alexis Morrast, Marlene VerPlanck Vocals
Leonieke Scheuble Piano
Tim Givens Bass
Nick Scheuble Drums
William Paterson University Students “Little Big Band”

Sunday, October 22, 2017
3:00– 6:00pm
Dorothy Young Center for the Arts on the campus of
Drew University, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ 07940

Big Band to Bebop and Beyond
A “Jersey Best” celebration of the rich jazz history of New Jersey; honoring the 75-year career of the Garden State’s own legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.
NJJS Members advance sale $30 each (at the door: $35)
Non-members advance sale $35 each (at the door: $40)
Students balcony seating $15 each (I.D. required)
Proceeds from the event benefit NJJS scholarships, and its educational program Generations of Jazz.  Please consider making a separate, tax-deductible contribution over and above the ticket price.
3 ways to order tickets:
• online: njjs.org
• by phone: 1-800-838-3006; select option 1.
• by mail: send a check payable to NJJS, including
a $3 per order handling fee, together with a stamped,
self-addressed envelope to: NJJS, c/o Kate Casano,
158 Cotton Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127.
Your order must be mailed no later than October 12.
NJJS is a qualified I.R.C. 501(c)(3)
dedicated to the performance, promotion and preservation of jazz.
Ticket price is not tax deductible.
NJJS is a qualified agency of the New Jersey Cultural Trust

It is possible but inconceivable that some people don’t know Bucky’s mastery (where might they have been hiding for the past decades?) so I offer two examples.

TRES PALABRAS, from the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party:

and, on the other side of things, at the 2014 AJP. SING SING SING, with Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, and Ed Metz:

May your happiness increase!

SQUEEZINGS

squeeze-3

I try to avoid soda, the beverage of my childhood, but I once bought a bottle of SQUEEZE because its affectionate logo charmed me.  The bottle vanished in one of several moves, but the melody lingers on.

Fats Waller’s first published song — although it was liberally based on a bawdy tune called THE BOY IN THE BOAT, whose central image was not nautical.  But here are a few versions . . . . the first one from Jazz at Chautauqua in 2011 with Marty Grosz, Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson, Frank Tate:

with a pause for liquid enlightenment here:

squeeze-2

and a solo version by Ray Skjelbred, recorded at Cline Cellars in California, June 2013:

with one more icon:

squeeze

and from the 2014 Atlanta  Jazz Party, with Dan Block, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Ed Polcer, John Cocuzzi, Paul Keller, Ed Metz:

Reading this post and listening to the music, I don’t know if you’ll suddenly crave an orange soda, look around for the right person to squeeze and be squeezed by . . . in such things, you’re on your own.  But perhaps at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — starting September 15 — someone will give this wonderful song another squeeze.  You never know.

May your happiness increase!

KINGS OF SWING: ALLAN VACHÉ, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, DARRIAN DOUGLAS at the 2015 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 18, 2015)

ALLAN VACHE

Allan Vaché knows what swing is all about, and when you get him on a bandstand with a good rhythm section, floating jazz improvisations happen.  And that was the case at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — when he and Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums, took their happy way through three Charlie Christian / Lionel Hampton riff tunes that have been associated with Benny Goodman for seventy-five years.

I’m amused that one title seems to refer to air travel (more of a novelty in 1939 than now), one to Benny’s clarinet, one to shooting craps.

FLYIN’ HOME:

SOFT WINDS:

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

Yes, we certainly could lament that this is no longer our popular music, and occasionally I myself dip into that pit of despair, but the music that these five people made and still make is a true cure for any sadness.

And here is the information you’ll need about the 2016 Atlanta Jazz Party, April 22-24.

May your happiness increase!

JUST ANOTHER “DIXIELAND TUNE,” BUT OH HOW GOOD IT SOUNDS: DAN BARRETT, ED POLCER, DAN BLOCK, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, ED METZ at the 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

Even though now and again I feel the signs of a ROYAL GARDEN BLUES overdose approaching, there’s new life in “old music” that nobody can deny.

JAZZ ME BLUES

The JAZZ ME BLUES is surely an old chestnut, a “Dixieland classic,” a “good old good one” that some listeners and musicians assume comes from the era of faux-jazz: straw hats and striped jackets, jazz half-recreated rather than created.  But no material is in itself alive or dead; it depends on the energy, wit, ingenuity, and feeling that musicians can bring to it.

Thus, this artifact —

JAZZ ME BLUES 78

became something quite vivid and lively in an April 25, 2014 performance at the Atlanta Jazz Party by Dan Barrett, trombone; Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Block, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ed Metz, drums (and a cameo appearance by Chair):

Notice the nice relaxed tempo, the little ingenuities, the backing figures, the eloquent but understated playing.  Nothing’s dead unless we choose to make it so is the moral of this particular story.  Also that the Atlanta Jazz Party is alive and well in 2016!  More details as the date approaches.

May your happiness increase!

SLIDING THE BLUES (RUSS PHILLIPS, DAN BARRETT, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, JOHN COCUZZI at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

When you’re sliding, the whole world slides with you.  Or we hope so.

These are trombonists I don’t mind encouraging, and a nifty medium-uptempo blues is a cure for many ills.

This one — the line Artie Shaw called SUMMIT RIDGE DRIVE after his home address of the time, recorded by the Gramercy 5 — is brought to swinging life by Russ Phillips (left), Dan Barrett (right), trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; John Cocuzzi, drums.  One of the hundreds of sweet highlights of the 2015 Atlanta Jazz  Party.

And what a rhythm section.  Everyone‘s sliding, and not a cliche in sight.

May your happiness increase!

CONFESS YOUR FEARS AND THEY MAY BE TRANSFORMED: DUKE HEITGER, BEN POLCER, RUSS PHILLIPS, TOM FISCHER, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, DANNY COOTS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 17, 2015)

I’M CONFESSIN’ (a song with an unusual history — written in 1929 and published with another title and lyrics, then recreated a year later with the same melody, new lyrics, and an entirely different set of composers credited) is a lovely durable melody . . . of course, first made immortal by Louis Armstrong, who sang and played it for the next forty years.  I couldn’t find a copy of the first sheet music, but here is a later version:

I'M CONFESSIN'Many bands pick this as a reliable rhythm ballad — and some race through it as if on jazz cruise control, taking it as an interlude between one punishingly fast / loud number and the next.

Happily, this was not the case with Duke Heitger, Ben Polcer, trumpet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Tom Fischer, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, piano; Paul Keller, strig bass; Danny Coots, drums, at this year’s Atlanta Jazz Party (this performance was only the second song of the three-day marathon).  These master musicians created something frankly alchemical, transforming sadness into joy:

Everything about this performance entrances me: the sweet steady tread of the rhythm section (a wonderful team saying with every beat to the horn players, “Create whatever is in your heart and we will be there to support you, to make you feel safe”) to the compact singing utterances of the horns — how to make those instruments speak in such heartfelt ways in sixteen bars!  (Sixteen bars go by so quickly.)  The variety of sounds!

And just as a self-referential digression: inspired by the song, I stopped writing and went twenty feet to the other end of this long room, where a cherished cornet rests on blue velour in its ancient case.  I picked it up and “played” the first sixteen bars of I’M CONFESSIN’ and reminded myself only how incredibly difficult making an instrument sing is.  Mine sang, but I won’t describe how or what it was singing.

From the title alone, one would think that I’M CONFESSIN’ would be an exultant outpouring of love, with the Lover offering feelings openly.  And that is indeed the case.  But the Lover here is both frightened and self-aware, wondering if those feelings will be reciprocated or discarded.  And the Love Object — the source of power in this interlude — is both inscrutable and ambiguous: the eyes embody one “strange” message; the lips offer another.

I think that JAZZ LIVES readers might need to hear the lyrics as well as the melody. And thanks to my dear friend Austin Casey, here is THE version of the century: Louis on the Frank Sinatra Show.

Gorgeous, light-hearted, and heartfelt.  I offer this as evidence to those who think Louis didn’t care about the lyrics: here he offers each word as if it had been written by Keats.  Tonation and phrasing for the ages.  I also offer this performance not as a diminution of the one created on April 17, 2015, but to show that the two stand side-by-side, our heroes in this century so completely lit from within by Louis’ blessed spirit.

A last word about the alchemy of music, of candor.  The musicians in Atlanta did the impossible by transforming unease and anxiety into something beautiful, in the spirit of Louis.  This transformation is not always possible in what passes for real life, but it is worth attempting.  Keeping one’s terrors to oneself is what we have been trained to do.  Adults don’t talk about what scares them: they might terrify the children.  But I wonder if we said out loud to ourselves, “I am deeply afraid that ___________ might happen,” that the fear, put into syllables we can hear ourselves saying, might be more manageable.  Saying to the Love Object, “I’m afraid some day you’ll leave me / Saying ‘Can’t we still be friends?'” is a true act of courage, because the Love Object can always say back, “Indeed, that was just what I was thinking this very moment,” but [hence the MAY in my title] it could provoke reassurance.

JAZZ LIVES offers no advice in relationships, and hence is held harmless from any liability.  But speaking what you feel, embodying what you feel is always courageous, no matter what the result.

Keep CONFESSIN’, I say.

May your happiness increase! 

THE VIEW FROM TABLE 3 WAS GRAND; THE MUSIC, GRANDER: BEN POLCER, DAN BARRETT, ALLAN VACHÉ, JOHN COCUZZI, NICKI PARROTT, DANNY COOTS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 18, 2015)

I’m still grinning when I think of all the good music created last weekend (April 17-19) at the 26th Atlanta Jazz Party.

Here’s another leisurely sample, performed by Ben Polcer, trumpet; Allan Vaché, clarinet; Dan Barrett, trombone; John Cocuzzi, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Danny Coots, drums.

It’s the ROYAL GARDEN BLUES.  Now, if I could see you, I would catch some of my readers in mid-wince.  “God, not that song again!  That’s what’s wrong with ‘traditional jazz’!”  Even I have been known to think and say, “I wish I could have a moratorium on ROYAL GARDEN,” but this performance reminds me again how little the repertoire has to do with the beauty created:

Although they play the song with the correct conventions, the appropriate gestures, there’s nothing locked-in here.  Once those gavottes are accomplished, you can feel the musicians relaxing into a medium-fast twelve bar blues . . . and each one has a beautiful story to tell.  Pay particular attention to that rhythm section!  And you all know and admire Messrs. Vaché and Barrett, but one of the great lyrical surprises of the AJP was Ben Polcer — who is so much more than just “Ed Polcer’s kid” — an easy, hot player with a fine range who knows the twists and turns but also has a swing feel . . . now and again reminding me of Buck Clayton, and that is high praise.

This performance was only one of more than a hundred at the AJP — and it is by no means the only standout.  Next year, the Party will be on April 15, 16, and 17. I hope to be there, and at Table Three.  My jazz home away from home for three days.

May your happiness increase!

A REMINDER: THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY IS ALMOST HERE (April 17-19, 2015)

I am excited to be attending the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — a week away!  That’s April 17 through 19th in the very comfortable Grand Ballroom of the Westin Atlanta North at Perimeter.  It’s an incredibly lavish buffet of hot music: seven sets on Friday night, seven sets on Saturday afternoon, seven sets on Saturday night, and seven sets on Sunday. All performers are featured in each session. Atlanta Jazz Party Patrons and Guarantors get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch!

And there’s something new and exciting: the new Jazz Dinner Buffets featuring surprise special guest performers on Friday and Saturday Night, in the newly created “Johnny Mercer Room” right across from the Grand Ballroom. This change is important to the Party’s survival.  And I know — don’t ask me how — that one of the “surprise special guest performers” is someone legendary.

Who’s playing and singing?  Ben Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Allan Vaché, Tom Fischer, Eddie Erickson, Darian Douglas, Sean Cronin, Dalton Ridenhour, John Cocuzzi, Johnny Varro, Rossano Sportiello, Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, Nicki Parrott, Paul Keller, Danny Coots, Chuck Redd, Rebecca Kilgore.

Here’s Danny Coots and Ten at the 2014 AJP:

and since that sounds so good, let’s have another:

and the song that conveys the way I feel about the Party:

See you there, I hope.  It’s one of those enterprises that truly deserves your energetic support.

May your happiness increase!

GENTLY, THEY INQUIRE: ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, RANDY NAPOLEON, PAUL KELLER, DANNY COOTS at the 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

If you follow its lyrics, the 1929 song CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? describes the sorrow and the disillusionment of a failed relationship.  But as a piece of instrumental music, it’s pretty and lilting rather than morose — as in the performance below, from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

The delightful inquirers on the bandstand are Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Danny Coots, drums:

Here is more information about this year’s Atlanta Jazz Party — the twenty-sixth — which will be held in a very comfortable hotel this coming April 17 through 19th.  And more information about practical matters.  I know many gentle questions will be asked, and will receive swinging, lyrical answers.

May your happiness increase!

GOING MY WAY? (to the JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY, March 6-7-8, 2015?)

bash

I hope that posts such as these aren’t too frustrating for those JAZZ LIVES readers who are far away from the particular Mecca of Hot.  If you’re in Illinois or Newcastle, you are hereby let off the hook.  But for those readers who can, or could, or might . . . read on.

The 2015 Jazz Bash by the Bay is happening soon — an opening concert / dance on Thursday, March 5, then full-steam ahead for Friday through Sunday. I have delightful memories of being there from 2011 on — a very friendly and hospitable festival, the staff and volunteers exceedingly nice, the rooms in which one hears and sees music very comfortable.  And the music itself, although the players and singers shift slightly from year to year, is always both superb and varied.  Your favorite bands — including High Sierra, the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio, Ivory & Gold, Ellis Island Boys, Crescent Katz, Cocuzzi/Vache All Stars, Le Jazz Hot, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra.  Soloists: Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Ehud Asherie, Stephanie Trick, David Boeddinghaus, Banu Gibson, Dawn Lambeth, Yve Evans, Jeff Barnhart, Jason Wanner, Marc Caparone, Bob Draga, John Reynolds, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Mehling, Clint Baker, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Danny Coots, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, and many more.  Everything from hot jazz to swinging rhythmic ballads to ragtime, stride, and boogie-woogie, with offferings of zydeco and gypsy swing.

It’s a lovely place to visit, also — my meteorological memories of Monterey in March (say that once at a conversational tempo) are lovely: sunny and warm.

Here are the band schedules.  I spent a happy fifteen minutes this morning with a green highlighter, noting sets I absolutely wanted to be at — and there were no idle hours.

And just for our collective happiness, here are my videos of a March 2011 performance featuring Clint Baker, Marc Caparone, Howard Miyata, Mike Baird, Dawn Lambeth, Katie Cavera, Jeff Hamilton, and Marty Eggers — mixing sweet, swing, and hot.

I am eagerly looking forward to it.  And I hope to see you there, too.  No fooling. And if you’re hungry for more music, you can search this site for “bash” or “Monterey” and find videos from 2011-14 . . . better yet, you can make plans to attend.

May your happiness increase!

SPORTIELLO-METZ, UNLIMITED (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 27, 2014)

Rossano Sportiello, piano, and Ed Metz, snare drum with wire brushes, made up a fully satisfying combo / band / orchestra in their morning set at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.  The music they made has resonated happily in my memory, and now I have the pleasure of sharing it with you.

Rossano began the set with a heartfelt BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL — which had a Strayhorn coloration at the start.  In an age of bright colors and high volumes, it is so reassuring to hear a Maestro like Rossano play a ballad — not in any hurry to get through, to speed it up:

From Basie to his teacher, Fats, for HANDFUL OF KEYS, joined by Ed:

Then, a long interlude-concert which allows both players to shine as soloists and as part of a wondrous duo.  The selections are MISTY, IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, CHINATOWN (with a hand-drum solo a la Jo Jones), LUCKY TO BE ME, Liszt’s CONSOLATION #3, SHOE SHINE BOY — a full circle back to Basie:

Throughout this morning serenade, I was reminded of the beautiful sound of Johnny Guarnieri and Sidney Catlett, and I marvel at Rossano’s beautiful precision and the astonishing variety of sounds and textures Ed gets out of this most minimalist drum kit — and the duo’s apparently indefatigable swing. Proof, once again, that you don’t need a lot of volume to swing.

All this happened at the April 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, and I have every expectation that equally beautiful music will be created there again this April. Details and registration information here.  And since — as is the custom in most parties — the earlier you register, the better your seating . . . carpe diem in a big way.

The players this year will be Ben Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Allan Vache, Tom Fischer, Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Johnny Varro, Dalton Ridenhour, Eddie Erickson, Nicki Parrott, Paul Keller, Sean Cronin, Danny Coots, Chuck Redd, Darrian Douglas, Rebecca Kilgore.  Quite a varied and energetic crew.

May your happiness increase!

HAPPY BUCKY, BIRTHDAY! (with ED METZ, ALLAN VACHE, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY, April 26, 2014)

Bucky Pizzarelli was born on January 9, 1926.  Ordinarily I don’t devote JAZZ LIVES to birthday celebrations — but it seems right to celebrate Bucky at 89.

I have experienced the several sides of Mr. Pizzarelli: the man who likes to play tender unaccompanied ballads; the great duet player who summons up a whole guitar tradition from its Italian roots to Dick McDonough, Charlie Christian, and his once-partner George Barnes; the swinging rhythm wizard . . . and the showman who is not happy until the audience is standing and hollering.  It is this last Bucky (a beloved and infallible rabble-rouser) that I celebrate here, with a version of SING SING SING recorded at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, with the help of Ed Metz, drums; Paul Keller, string bass; Allan Vache, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone:

Bucky played often with Benny Goodman, so he knows the routine.  I might also mention Gene Krupa (celebrated by Mr. Metz) and the much-missed Jess Stacy and Harry James.  But Bucky directs traffic — and we are all glad. Thank you for being so entertaining and so durable.  Bucky won’t see this blog . . . but he knows he’s well and truly loved.

May your happiness increase! 

ATLANTA WARMTH: ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, PAUL KELLER, DANNY COOTS (April 25, 2014)

Even in sunny Northern California, it can be quite chilly as the year ends, so I have been thinking of warm places with warm music.  One that came to mind instantly was the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party. Here’s a swing set performed there on April 25, 2014, by Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Danny Coots, drums.  It’s Goodman-inspired in terms of repertoire but anything but imitative, and Allan encourages everyone to stretch out in the most rewarding ways on three ensemble numbers and one ballad feature for Signor Pizzarelli.

IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME:

A SMOOTH ONE:

DARN THAT DREAM (featuring Maestro Pizzarelli):

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

The next AJP will take place April 17, 18, 19, 2015: click here for details.

May your happiness increase!

FRESH-SQUEEZED (Version Two): DAN BLOCK, DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, ED POLCER, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, ED METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 23, 2014)

Another delicious version of Mister Waller’s SQUEEZE ME — this time from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, with a cast of characters: Dan Block, clarinet; Duke Heitger, Ed Polcer, Bria Skonberg, trumpets; John Cocuzzi, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums:

Here was the first of the series — for those who haven’t had their daily ration of beautiful music.

May your happiness increase!

AMONG THE REEDS: DAN BLOCK, ALLAN VACHE, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, DANNY COOTS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 26, 2014)

No postmodern ironies in sight. No drama, no competition.  Just gliding swing from Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Danny Coots, drums. Recorded on April 26, 2014, at the Atlanta Jazz Party, where swing gets comfortable.

MOTEN SWING:

SOMEBODY LOVES ME:

THOSE Bb BLUES:

Thanks for the expert ride, gentlemen.

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY MORNING SERENADES: ED POLCER, DAN BARRETT, JOHN COCUZZI, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, PAUL KELLER at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (August 26, 2014)

Even the most ardent jazz fan might not want to hear the band at full strength immediately on rising.  In keeping with that idea, here is a too-brief set of quiet beauty — swinging music performed on a Sunday morning (April 26, 2014) at the Atlanta Jazz Party by five masters of the craft: Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Paul Keller, string bass; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano.

Listeners who have good memories or who were around in the years 1951-1976 might, as I did, note a gentle evocation of the music Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson made together — no copying of phrases at the 2014 Party, but a gentle melodic caress by all the players — showing just how much variety remains in “rhythm ballads” at “medium tempo.”

SECRET LOVE:

WHAT’S NEW?:

EAST OF THE SUN:

Thanks to these sensitive musicians and to the Atlanta Jazz Party, where such lyrical music is always offered so generously.

May your happiness increase! 

HOT JAZZ JUBILEE 2014 (August 29-September 1)

Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend has not been associated with outpourings of hot jazz — but that has been changing because of the Hot Jazz Jubilee, held in Rancho Cordova, California — an explosion of musical enthusiasm now ready to have its second blast-off.

HOT JAZZ JUBILEE

You can read more about the Jubilee here and on their Facebook page, but here are a few details. Without getting into the politics of hot jazz, it appears that the HJJ is a way of making the music available on a grand scale as a swinging farewell to the delights of high summer, and also a way of giving bands and musicians (youth bands and experienced stars) who are less-represented elsewhere a place to show what they can do.

Some of the players, in no order of excellence (implied or expressed) are the inimitable Bob Draga and Friends, The Au Brothers with Katie Cavers, The Crescent Katz,  (John) Cocuzzi, (Danny) Coots, and Williams, High Sierra Jazz Band, High Street, Tom Rigney and Flambeau, Sister Swing, Gator Nation Band, The Tepid Club of Cool, Blue Street Jazz Band, Yve Evans and Company, Big Mama Sue and Friends, Wally’s Warehouse Waifs, the Night Blooming Jazzmen, The Professors, Ken Hall, The Smart Fellers, Hot Ticket, Stardust Cowboys, and more surely to be added between now and the end of August.

Sadly, I won’t be there: I’ll be back in my New York apartment, trying to figure out exactly what happened to me (and to understand that I have to go back to work as does the rest of this country) — but this means there is another seat open for you.

And if you visit the Hot Jazz Jubilee site, you will find all your questions (leaving aside the deep metaphysical ones) answered: how to volunteer, what the event pricing is, how to donate, what hotel accommodations there are, where Rancho Cordova is, how much one of those cushions costs, and more.  It’s a deeply enlightening experience, I assure you — and the Jubilee will be even more so. But don’t wait.  Get it while it’s Hot!

May your happiness increase!

THE REAL THING IN ATLANTA: DAN BARRETT, DUKE HEITGER, DAN BLOCK, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER. DANNY COOTS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

I know some jazz fans who speak disdainfully of what they call “jazz party jazz.” The stereotypical music they reject is fast, loud, and showy. Through many routined performances, it lacks spark and ingenuity; it is flashy, never delicate.

I submit this trio of performances from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party as inventive, lyrical rejoinders.  For one thing, there’s Dan Barrett’s choice of songs; to some, they are ancient standards, “played to death.”  But when was the last time you heard a band play these three songs?  (Perhaps in 1945, these were overdone, but they aren’t now.) And the performances are leisurely, rather than formulaic, the music growing organically rather than according to set patterns.  Hear the variations within each performance: trades, unaccompanied passages, riffs, backgrounds, a little homage to Coleman Hawkins in IDAHO — a sweet singing quality throughout. I hear truly satisfying music: Keynote Records visits April 2014, if you admire science-fiction in swingtime.

MY MELANCHOLY BABY:

I SURRENDER, DEAR:

IDAHO:

I’ll be posting more from the Atlanta Jazz Party, and hope to see you there in April 2015.

May your happiness increase!

ROMBERG IN RHYTHM: A SWING INTERLUDE FROM THE 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 27, 2014): DANNY COOTS, ED POLCER, BRIA SKONBERG, DAN BARRETT, BOB HAVENS, ALLAN VACHE, DAN BLOCK, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, RANDY NAPOLEON, PAUL KELLER

I am still smiling because of the music I heard and the good feelings it engendered at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

If you were there, you need no convincing; if you weren’t able to attend, here is a soul-stirring example of the great jazz created consistently over the weekend.

This song (as explained by witty leader, drummer Danny Coots) is WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.  Danny was in front of a group of serious individualists: Ed Polcer, cornet; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass.

Now, that lineup glistens all by itself. But some JAZZ LIVES readers, veterans of jazz parties now and then, might expect what a musician I know calls, sadly, “jazz party jazz”: a session that features everyone taking two choruses after a single-chorus ensemble.  Competent playing, always, but long, formulaic solos.

The musicians at the AJP seemed exceedingly happy to be there, and their improvisations were delightfully on target, cheerful, inspiring. Listen for that often-forgotten device, the split chorus, where A plays the first half and B the second, or A plays everything but the bridge, leaving those harmonically fast-moving eight bars to B. Here, you’ll also note the musicians happily creating impromptu duets and conversations: lively and enlightening.

Some of the credit for this goes to our Mister Coots, but much of it comes from the musicians’ ingenuity and pleasure at being onstage at the AJP.

See and hear for yourself:

With deferential apologies to lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, you never grow too old to dream when music like that is being made! What a wonderful time we had!

The 26th Atlanta Jazz Party will take place on April 17-19, 2015. Thanks to Pualani and Philip Carroll for such a great party.

May your happiness increase!