Tag Archives: John Cocuzzi

LUCKY TO BE THERE: THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY NEARS! (April 25-27, 2014)

April is a-coming in, and so is the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

I offer a beautiful interlude, recorded at the 2012 AJP, of Rossano Sportiello tenderly playing Leonard Bernstein — as a soundtrack while you read more.

At the Atlanta Jazz Party, good music flourishes over the course of a weekend. All the elements are in place before a note sounds: comfort, friendliness, ease, variety.  A well-lit room, good sound, good sight lines, easy access to high-quality food and drink in a clean, hospitable hotel.  Each player or singer gets to lead at least one set, and the stylistic range goes back to King Oliver and forward to the present day, with pleasing stops for up-tempo romps and pretty ballads.

This is the AJP’s twenty-fifth anniversary, proof that they understand the fine art of pleasing both patrons and musicians. I’ve joined the Party twice and found it a banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook page for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party are once again enthusiastic, swinging, and surprising:

Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

You can look forward to thirty sets of beautifully-conceived jazz: ballads, New Orleans, mainstream, small-band swing, offered in four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday afternoon. Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians. More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North) is exceedingly comfortable: it is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

JUST PEACHY: THE 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

I’m in the mood for the Atlanta Jazz Party, and it’s coming up — April 25 through 27, 2014.  Here’s the appropriate song from the 2012 Party (played by Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Richard Simon, and Ed Metz):

The Atlanta Jazz Party promises — and delivers — delightful music over the course of a weekend.  I’ll name the esteemed musicians in a few lines, but I want to say something about what goes on above and beyond.

A jazz party is more than a series of performances: for the party to satisfy, the patrons and musicians must be happy and comfortable.  The patrons need variety, comfortable seating, a well-lit room, good sound, good sight lines, easy access to high-quality food and drink in a clean, hospitable hotel.  The AJP provides all of this with great style. And as for the music: the musicians are not tied down by restrictions; each player or singer gets to lead at least one set, and the stylistic range goes back to CHIMES BLUES or KEEP OFF THE GRASS up to ANTHROPOLOGY or SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, with surprising digressions along the way.

This is the AJP’s twenty-fifth anniversary, so you know they understand the fine arts of pleasing both patrons and musicians.

I’ve joined the Party twice and found it a banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook site for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party (as always) are professionals, enthusiastic, swinging, and surprising: Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

I anticipate thirty sets of beautifully-conceived jazz: ballads, New Orleans, mainstream, small-band swing, offered in four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday afternoon. Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians.

More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North*) is exceedingly comfortable.

*The hotel is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

Here are two examples of uplifting jazz I recorded at the 2012 AJP.

STEALIN’ APPLES, performed by Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Chuck Redd:

Bucky, solo, tenderly considering TRES PALABRAS:

As I;ve said before, if you need tres palabras from me, they could be “Mark your calendars,” or “Make your reservations,” or “Don’t miss this.”

May your happiness increase!

FABULOUS FRIDAY at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (Part One): FEBRUARY 21, 2014

A week ago (that would be February 21) I was ready to have fun at my first-ever San Diego Jazz Party.  And I certainly did.  The music below will speak — and play and sing — for itself, but the SDJP was a real pleasure . . . comfort all around, the details managed gently and wisely, the musicians smiling.  As were we.

Here are a few shining examples of how fine the music was, how comfortable the musicians were . . . couldn’t ask for more!

If you need more words — data, information, facts —   here is what I wrote about the party as it was in progress.  But I think you’ll want to hear and see some of the joyousness first.

WABASH BLUES (Ed Polcer, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Antti Sarpila, soprano saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; Ed Metz, drums):

ROBBINS’ NEST (John Allred, trombone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chuck Redd, vibes; Jason Wanner, piano; Dave Stone, string bass; Butch Miles, drums):

THE FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE (Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Eddie Erickson, guitar; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, percussion and miscellaneous instruments):

That, dear friends, is just a sample of how delicious the whole weekend was.  And my videos — which I am proud of — can’t convey the whole experience.  You’ll just have to be there in 2014.

May your happiness increase!

GOOD, BETTER, BEST: SWEET NOTES FROM THE 26th SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY

The musicians are taking a break; it’s too early for another meal; what should I do?  I can share my joy at being at the San Diego Jazz Party, that’s what.

It’s only about twenty percent through (there’s still a full day-and-a-half of music to come) but it has been splendid.  Nicely organized, humanely planned — all the things that make a jazz weekend comfortable as well as gratifying — and the music last night was often spectacular.  You can find out the complete list of players here but I just want to speak of a few delicious moments that happened last night so you, too, can get a taste . . .

Even before the official festivities began, there was wonderful music during the cocktail hour: Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Jason Wanner, and Dave Stone started slow and easy and then romped through a closing IDAHO; Antti Sarpila, Chuck Redd, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, and Nicki Parrott followed with a passionate NEW ORLEANS and an old-school SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL.

(During the soundcheck that followed, Sarpilla sat down at the piano and quietly — as if no one had been listening — played a sweet, streamlined DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM, which was a private treat.)

A ten-minute swaggering WABASH BLUES was offered to us by Ed Polcer, Bria, Antti, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Cocuzzi, Richard Simon, Ed Metz.  A smaller group — John Allred, Harry Allen, Chuck Redd, Jason Wanner, Dave Stone, and Butch Miles — showed us what Groovy and Sweet meant in less than half an hour, with a coasting ROBBINS’ NEST, a from-the-heart SOLITUDE, and an exuberant CHEROKEE.  Becky Kilgore, looking mighty glamorous, took the stage with old pals Barrett and Erickson, Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, and Ed Metz for a set that culminated in the best FIVE O’CLOCK WHISTLE since Ivie Anderson, and a Romany duo: Becky’s own THE GYPSY (which began with a tender Sportiello-Barrett duet) followed by Eddie’s narrative of finding love and caffeine, IN A LITLE GYPSY TEAROOM.

And four more sets followed!  How about a duo of Venerables Bucky Pizzarelli and Mundell Lowe (the latter now 91) for — among other beauties — I REMEMBER YOU and an Oscar Pettiford blues?  Bria Skonberg told us all about Ruth Etting and then sang and played — with real ardor — LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME.  Houston Person wooed the crowd with medium-tempo ballads and Ellington; Anti Sarpilla took out his curved soprano for SUMMERTIME and his clarinet for RUNNIN’ WILD, and a band of Harry Allen, Bria, and Dan Barrett, Rossano, Richard Simon, and Butch Miles created a hot THEM THERE EYES, which made many pairs shine and gleam.

If you were in the audience, you know I am understating what we all saw and heard.  More to come.  Save your quarters, make your plans for 2105.

May your happiness increase! 

FEBRUARY COULD BE THE WARMEST MONTH, IF YOU’RE PROPERLY SITUATED: THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ PARTY (February 21-23, 2014)

Although it is the shortest month, February has a well-deserved reputation for unpleasantness.  But this February could change all the bad press, if you can make it to the San Diego Jazz Party.

The Party begins Friday, February 21 and continues at a leisurely pace to Sunday, February 24, 2014, at the Hilton San Diego / Del Mar (15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, CA 92014-1901 — (800) 833-7904 (toll-free) / (858) 792-5200 (local) / (858) 792-9538 (fax).

Here is the Party’s site.

They’ve been doing a fine job of presenting classic mainstream jazz since 1988, when these musicians who appeared at the first Party, a list that makes me very nostalgic:

John Clayton, Jr. (b); Bob Haggart (b); Milt Hinton (b); Kenny Davern (cl); Peanuts Hucko (cl); Bob Wilber (cl); Jake Hanna (d); Gus Johnson, Jr. (d); Butch Miles (d); Herb Ellis (g); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Dick Hyman (p); Paul Smith (p); Ralph Sutton (p); Scott Hamilton (ts); Flip Phillips (ts); Marshal Royal (as); Buddy Tate (ts); Al Grey (tb); George Masso (tb); Bill Watrous (tb); Ed Polcer (co); Warren Vaché (co); Snooky Young (t).

The 2014 list of players and singers is just as inspiring: Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Mundell Lowe, Ed Metz Jr., Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpilla, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.

On that list, players born in 1922 and 1926: will we have decades to see their like again? And — to balance it all out — there are Youngbloods born in 1978 and only a little earlier. Men and women, American and European, a lovely diversified mix — but with one common goal, to swing memorably and melodically.

And when you look here, at how the sets have been planned — you can see how intelligently this Party has been laid out. All the music is in one ballroom of a comfortable hotel (so no rushing from room to room); the music runs from late afternoon Friday to late afternoon Sunday with breaks for meals, and the layout of who-plays-when is wise and sensible. There’s a comforting awareness of an audience’s need for dynamics, for variety, so solo piano sets and duos for piano, for guitar, alternate with quartets and quintets.  There is one eleven-person blowout and that is appropriately on Saturday night.

As to those important questions, “Can I / we get there?” “Can I / we afford it?” you’re on your own and only by visiting the site will you find answers to these questions. I do think that a weekend like this is worth its weight in YouTube videos and CDs, but that’s me.

Worth repeating, I think: many jazz fans spend much energy lamenting What Was. “Were you there at the sessions when Kitty Katz and the Persian Hairballs would play MY LITTLE BIMBO or C JAM BLUES for weeks at a time? That club / festival / party is now gone and I miss it so.”  I miss it too. But I know why it’s no longer here, and so do you.

As Eleanor Roosevelt or perhaps Scatman Crothers said, “It is better to Do Something than to Lament in your den.  The things you love will evaporate if you aren’t participating in them.”

See you at San Diego on February 21st! Details here. And if you want to tell them, “I only did it to stop that pesky JAZZ LIVES from tugging at my cyber-clothes and hissing “Carpe diem!” in my ear, I will accept the stigma and the guilt.

May your happiness increase!

COME CELEBRATE APRIL IN ATLANTA at THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 25-27, 2014)

During the weekend of April 25-27, 2014, the Atlanta Jazz Party will celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary.  I’ve joined the Party twice and it was an extravagant banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook site for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party (as always) are a wonderful bunch, linked by a common urge to swing, to surprise us with new melodies, to play sweet, to get us all excited with the music: Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

The music is beautifully conceived, with something for everyone: pretty ballads, rocking New Orleans, hot Goodman-style small groups; timeless Mainstream. And no one will go away hungry for music: I counted thirty sets in four sessions (Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday) Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians.

More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North*) is exceedingly comfortable; the ballroom is also, with good sight lines and nice sound.  There is a pleasing democracy at work here: everyone gets to lead a session, and the results are nicely situated between Old Favorites and New Surprises.

*The hotel is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

Here are two examples of uplifting jazz I recorded at the 2012 AJP.

STEALIN’ APPLES, performed by Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Chuck Redd:

Bucky, solo, tenderly considering TRES PALABRAS:

If you need tres palabras from me, they could be “Mark your calendars,” or “Make your reservations,” or “Don’t miss this.”

May your happiness increase!

IT HAPPENS IN MONTEREY (March 7-9, 2014)

These two worthies found love at the Jazz Bash by the Bay:

I am not proposing that everyone who goes to this year’s festival (March 7-9) will come away with the Love of His / Her Life — maybe you are all already spoken for.

But the music will be wonderful. And I write this as someone who’s been there since 2010.

For me, the Jazz Bash by the Bay was a transformative experience.

I had not been to California since having been conceived there . . . . insert your own witticism here. And when I had the notion in March 2010 of going to see and hear the people I so admired in their video appearances, I expected to have a good time in a new jazz setting, perhaps make a few new friends.

It was a life-altering experience: I came back to New York and said to the Beloved, “I’ve never had such a good time in my life. Do you think we could spend the summer in California?”

Fast forward to 2014, where I am writing this from Novato, with serious plans to make the Golden State my retirement home.

So if the Jazz Bash by the Bay can make one couple find love; if it can make a native New Yorker say, “I’ll move to California,” I think its powers are . . . powerful.  But enough personal narratives.  What’s in store for you?

As always, a wide variety of well-played music.

You can visit the site to find out if Your Favorite Band is going to be there, but here are some kinds of music that will be played: blazing stride piano in solo and duo, boogie-woogie, sweet singing in so many forms, rocking small-band swing, New Orleans ensemble polyphony, trad, Dixieland, blues, zydeco, gypsy swing, classic songs from the Great American Songbook, Jazz Age hot dance music, ragtime piano, stomp, swing, music to dance to, San Francisco jazz, washboard rhythm, music to hold hands to.

And the stars?  Well . . . Ray Skjelbred, High Sierra, Carl Sonny Leyland, Bob Draga, Rebecca Kilgore Trio, Dan Barrett, Ivory and Gold, Ellis Island Boys, Marc Caparone, Le Jazz Hot, Jeff Hamilton, Dawn Lambeth, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Yve Evans, Katie Cavera, Paul Mehling, Clint Baker, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Frederick Hodges, Jim Buchmann, Eddie Erickson, Jason Wanner, John Cocuzzi, Howard Miyata, Big Mama Sue, Ed Metz, the Au Brothers, Bob Schulz, Pieter Meijers, Brady McKay, Tom Rigney, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra . . . and more, and more.

Important links.

The BAND LINEUP.

The all-important too-Much-Of-A-Good-Thing-Is-Wonderful SCHEDULE, which calls for careful planning (“If I go to see X, then I have to miss part of Y, but it puts me in a good place to be right up front for Z.  Anyone have a Tylenol?”) — with four or five sessions going on at the same time.

And most important — with a Sidney Catlett drum roll or a Vic Berton tympani flourish — the GET TICKETS NOW page.

I try to hold down the didactic tendencies that four decades of standing in front of sleepy (good-natured) young men and women have solidified, but I hope readers will permit me this basic logic exercise.  Festivals where people buy tickets last forever.  Festivals where people don’t vanish.  And then there is a wailing and a gnashing of teeth — very hard on the neighbors and harder on the dental work.  I think of the California festivals that have moved into The Great Memory even in my short acquaintanceship with this state.

(Or, as William Carlos Williams — or was it Philip Larkin? — wrote: “Want it to stay?  Do not delay.”)

So I hope to see throngs of friends and even strangers at the Jazz Bash by the Bay.  Anything that makes live jazz in profusion go on is a good thing.

P.S.  Need more evidence?  Go to YouTube and type in “Dixieland Monterey,” or “Jazz Bash by the Bay,” or the name of your favorite artist.  I, Rae Ann Berry, and Tom Warner, among others, have created many videos — enough to while away the hours in the most energized ways.  Proof!

May your happiness increase!

GOIN’ TO SAN DIEGO (and YOU CAN COME, TOO)

I’ve been listening to a bootleg Jimmy Rushing lp where he sings GOIN’ TO CHICAGO, with the famous lines, “Goin’ to Chicago / Sorry, but I can’t take you.”

Thus my title: the Beloved and I are thrilled to be making our debut voyage to the 2014 San Diego Jazz Party, and we can — in a manner of speaking — take you. And even if you don’t want to be Our New Pals, you owe it to yourself to check out what the SDJP is offering from Friday, February 21 to Sunday, February 24, 2014, at the Hilton San Diego / Del Mar (15575 Jimmy Durante Blvd., Del Mar, CA 92014-1901 — (800) 833-7904 (toll-free) / (858) 792-5200 (local) / (858) 792-9538 (fax).

Here is the Party’s site.

They’ve been doing a wonderful job of presenting classic mainstream jazz since their first party in 1988: I looked at their archives and found these musicians who appeared at the first Party, a list that makes me very nostalgic.  It’s also proof of fine taste:

John Clayton, Jr. (b); Bob Haggart (b); Milt Hinton (b); Kenny Davern (cl); Peanuts Hucko (cl); Bob Wilber (cl); Jake Hanna (d); Gus Johnson, Jr. (d); Butch Miles (d); Herb Ellis (g); Bucky Pizzarelli (g); Dick Hyman (p); Paul Smith (p); Ralph Sutton (p); Scott Hamilton (ts); Flip Phillips (ts); Marshal Royal (as); Buddy Tate (ts); Al Grey (tb); George Masso (tb); Bill Watrous (tb); Ed Polcer (co); Warren Vaché (co); Snooky Young (t).

Some of those heroes are gone, but the 2014 list of players and singers is just as inspiring: Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Mundell Lowe, Ed Metz Jr., Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpilla, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.

On that list, players born in 1922 and 1926: will we have decades to see their like again?  And — to balance it all out — there are Youngbloods born in 1978 and only a little earlier.  Men and women, American and European, a lovely diversified mix — but with one common goal, to swing memorably and melodically.

And when you look here, at the lineup — how the sets have been planned — you can see how intelligently this Party has been laid out. All the music is in one ballroom of what I see is a comfortable hotel (so no rushing from room to room); the music runs from late afternoon Friday to late afternoon Sunday with breaks for meals, and the layout of who-plays-when is wise and sensible. Some parties put one seven-piece band (three or four horns with rhythm) on after another and the results can seem similar.

At this Party, there’s a very comforting awareness of an audience’s need for dynamics, for variety, so solo piano sets and duos for piano, for guitar, alternate with quartets and quintets; there’s only one eleven-person blowout and that is appropriately on Saturday night.

As to those important questions, “Can I / we get there?” “Can I / we afford it?” you’re on your own and only by visiting the site can you find answers to the second question. I do think that a weekend like this is worth its weight in YouTube videos and CDs, but that’s me.

What follows might seem overly gloomy, but it’s no less true.  Many fanciers of the music who have long memories spend much energy lamenting What Was.  “Were you there at the sessions when Big Barko and his Leash-Pullers used to play IN A MELLOTONE (or UNDER THE BAMBOO TREE) for forty-seven minutes?  That club / festival / party is now gone and I miss it so.”

I miss it too.  But I know why it’s no longer here, and so do you.

As Eleanor Roosevelt or perhaps Eddie South used to say, “It is better to write a check, make a hotel reservation, and be there now than to sit in your living room lamenting that The Great Things are here no more.  The Great Things need you to preserve them.”

See you at San Diego on February 21st! Details here.  And if you want to tell them, “I only did it to stop that nagging JAZZ LIVES from plucking at my sleeve and whispering “Carpe diem!” in my ear, I will bear the emotional burden.

May your happiness increase!

UNDER WESTERN SKIES, JAZZ HORIZONS

Long-Beach-California-Sunrise

With great pleasure, I have transplanted myself from one coast to the other, from suburban New York to Marin County in California, where I will be for the next eight months.  So what follows is a brief and selective listing of musical events the Beloved and I might show up at . . . feel free to join us!

Clint Baker and his New Orleans Jazz Band will be playing for the Wednesday Night Hop in San Mateo on January 8: details and directions here.

Emily Asher’s Garden Party will be touring this side of the continent in mid-January, with Emily’s Hoagy Carmichael program.  On January 16, she, friends, and sitters-in will make merry at a San Francisco house concert: details here.  On the 17th, the Garden Party will reappear, bright and perky, at the Red Poppy Art House, to offer another helping of subtle, lyrical, hot music: details to come here.

Clint and Friends (I don’t know the official band title, so am inventing the simplest) will be playing for the Central Coast Hot Jazz Society in Pismo Beach on January 26.  Details are not yet available on the website, but I have it on good authority that the band will include Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Mike Baird, Carl Sonny Leyland, and Katie Cavera.

A moment of self-advertisement: I will be giving a Sunday afternoon workshop at Berkeley’s The Jazz School  — on February 9, called LOUIS ARMSTRONG SPEAKS TO US.  Details here.’

And, from February 21-23, the Beloved and I will be happily in attendance at the San Diego Jazz Party — details here — to be held at the Del Mar Hilton, honoring guitar legend Mundell Lowe and featuring Harry Allen, John Allred, Dan Barrett, John Cocuzzi, John Eaton, Eddie Erickson, Rebecca Kilgore, Ed Metz, Butch Miles, Nicki Parrott, Houston Person, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ed Polcer, Chuck Redd, Antti Sarpila, Richard Simon, Bria Skonberg, Rossano Sportiello, Dave Stone, Johnny Varro, Jason Wanner.  The sessions will offer solo piano all the way up to nonets, with amiable cross-generational jazz at every turn.  In a triumph of organization, you can even see here who’s playing with whom and when, from Friday afternoon to Sunday farewell.

In March, the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey . . . make your plans here!

And — a little closer to the here and now — if you don’t have plans for a New Year’s Eve gala, check out ZUT! in Berkeley.  Good food — and Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz (with singer Kallye Gray) will be giving 2013 a gentle push at the stroke of midnight.  Details here.

We hope to see our friends at these events!

May your happiness increase!

HOT THANKSGIVING: SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 27 – December 1, 2013)

“Thanksgiving” is a manufactured holiday.  In this century, you can have roast turkey whenever you like, and any dish with marshmallows should be eyed skeptically.

But being thankful among friends and fine jazz intensifies the pleasure.  It’s gratitude in swing.  One particularly nifty place to have this experience is at the San Diego Jazz Fest (once known as the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival — accurate but unwieldy) which is taking place this year between November 27 and December 1.

Many of my heroes and friends will be there!

Clint Baker, working hard at play, in the moment.

Clint Baker, working hard at play, in the moment.

How about Ray Skjelbred, Katie Cavera, John Gill, Marty Eggers, the Reynolds Brothers, Grand Dominion, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Kevin Dorn, Jeff Hamilton, Leon Oakley, Chris Tyle, Tom Bartlett, Orange Kellin, Conal Fowkes, Bob Schulz, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Glenn Crytzer, Bob Draga, and many others.  Because I know I’ve left out many favorites, be sure to visit here and check out the schedule.

San Diego presents so many choices that it will require some advance planning — seven venues, big and small, offering music almost simultaneously.  (One must choose: “Do I stay in one spot and take what’s offered me or do I prance from place to place in search of Elysian sounds?”  It’s not an easy choice.)

The festival offers a wide variety of swinging sounds — from ragtime and banjo sing-alongs (think George M. Cohan and SHINE ON HARVEST MOON) to “hot jazz,” “Dixieland,” “boogie woogie,” “blues,” “gypsy jazz,” “swing dance,” and other, less classifiable experiences.  And there are many special sets: clarinet extravaganzas, piano duets (Paolo and Stephanie, a special treat), and a Battle of the Bands between Glenn Crytzer’s Savoy Seven and Stompy Jones (the latter featuring John Cocuzzi as well).  Second Line parades, dance classes, tributes to Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, and Bob Scobey.

It won’t sway anyone who isn’t already interested, but the Beloved and I will be there.

Five-day badges are only $105: details here.  And the rooms at the Town and Country Convention Center are surely comfortable.  I’ve even learned, after three years of practice, how to get back to my room after the last set.  Good jazz sharpens one’s navigational skills!

Here’s a song that might be the festival’s theme song — in a wonderfully sweet performance from the 2012 Fest:

So I suggest, meaning no offense to your sweet-natured relatives, that you tell them you will be available for dinner and anecdotage any weekend of the year except this one.  Walk, drive, fly, hitch to San Diego for Thanksgiving! (And late November there is positively balmy . . . wool sweaters not needed.)

And as a postscript: if you were to search JAZZ LIVES by entering the words “San Diego” in the appropriate box, you would find more hot jazz videos than you could watch in a day and a night . . . evidence of the riches that have been offered and will go on, thanks to the musicians, to Paul Daspit, and to the enthusiastic volunteers and staff (including the enthusiastic Jim McNaughton).  San Diego Joys!

May your happiness increase!

UNUSUAL, INSPIRING: JIM FRYER and THE USUAL SUSPECTS at MONTEREY 2013

Jim Fryer is a multitalented fellow: nimble, thoughtful trombonist, cornetist, euphonist (?), singer, composer, man of many thoughts and a wide repertoire of music.  He showed off some of these facets in an inspiring set at the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay, with fellow Suspects John Cocuzzi, piano; Ike Harris, string bass; Danny Coots, drums.

Benny Carter’s evergreen, I’M IN THE MOOD FOR SWING:

Something different!  Abdullah Ibrahim’s AFRICAN MARKETPLACE:

Jim’s own CRYSTAL AIR:

The pretty ballad, YOUNG AND FOOLISH:

I hope that other festivals and concerts take inspiration from this and give our own Mister Fryer more places to show what he does so well.

May your happiness increase!

IN THE SWING OF THINGS at MONTEREY 2013: ALLAN VACHE, JOHN SHERIDAN, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, ED METZ (March 2, 2013)

Here’s a masterful swing session recorded on March 2, 2013, at Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay, featuring Allan Vache, clarinet; John Sheridan, piano (and leader for this set); John Cocuzzi, vibraphone / vocal; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.

Characteristically, they draw inspiration from the best sources: Goodman, Ellington, Ray Noble, Lunceford, Charlie Christian, jazz and pop classics from the Swing Era and earlier — for leisurely yet intense performances solidly based on smooth rhythmic propulsion and logical melodic improvisations.  For this set, John Sheridan was appointed leader: a role he takes to modestly yet with style — like his approach to the piano.  You’ll also have the pleasure of a few of John Cocuzzi’s slyly irresistible vocals, Allan Vache’s fluid clarinet playing, and superb rhythmic playing from Paul Keller and Ed Metz.

IN A MELLOTONE:

YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO:

I MAY BE WRONG:

MARGIE:

MOONGLOW:

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

May your happiness increase!

MIGHTY GOOD at MONTEREY 2013 / THE CASE OF THE YEARNING DAMSELS

I am back home and back at the computer one day after the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or Dixieland Monterey for those who like alternatives): it was quite fine on many levels.  I didn’t video quite as much as I have done in past years, but this was because I had made a conscious decision to behave with greater rationality . . . rather than seeing how many sets I could cram into the weekend and arriving home with a cold or a cough that would take two weeks to shake off.  But there will be videos, I promise.

I heard splendid music from Carl Sonny Leyland in a solo set full of his originals; I encountered Ivory and Gold for the first time, although I have known Jeff and Anne Barnhart — wonderful variety of sounds; their characteristic wit; a great presentation.  The Allan Vache – John Cocuzzi – John Sheridan – Paul Keller – Ed Metz group rocked (a highlight was an extended IN A MELLOTONE); the splendid singer Dawn Lambeth appeared with a number of bands and made us feel better and better as she sang; Marc Caparone appeared as a guest star with High Sierra — his teamwork with Bryan Shaw is astonishing; Jim Fryer had a rare and delightful solo set; the Reynolds Brothers with Clint Baker caused seismic shifts of the most rewarding kind.  Howard Miyata was crowned Musician of the Year 2013 in a ceremony both goofy and touching, and his nephews Gordon, Justin, and Brandon swung out with the noble help of Katie Cavera and Danny Coots.

And I know other attendees had their own version of an exquisite weekend while listening to all the other bands and soloists on the program.

Did you miss it?  Were you being wisely frugal?  Did it pass you by? Don’t despair: a 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay is solidly in the works, with these artists and more — Becky Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Eddie Erickson, Bob Draga, the Au Brothers, High Sierra, Bob Schulz’ Frisco Jazz Band, Danny Coots, Phil Flanigan, Stephanie Trick, Sue Kroninger, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Crown Syncopators, and more.  (And without being too didactic, I will point out that these enterprises rely on your tangible support — financial / physical — or they evaporate.  Look around for the sad evidence.)

It will be held March 7-8-9, 2014.  You may call 831.675.0298 or visit here for more information.  I will provide updates as I know them.

On to a related subject.  You are encountering JAZZ LIVES through a computer, an iPad, a phone or some other electronic gizmo.  And probably you think nothing of it.  But for other members of the jazz community, this is a terrifying kind of esoterica.

I met several charming ladies of a certain age (one doesn’t ask) at the Bash who told me that they were pining away for want of gallant male swains with whom to dance.  In each case, the ladies had been happily married for a long time; their husbands had died.  And unattached men seem not only fragile but in short supply.  So — if you are a single fellow out there, with or without two-tone shoes, and you can dance, there are willing partners a-plenty at these festivals.

The second part of my thinking goes back to our easy reliance on technology.  Since I have had a life-changing experience on Craigslist (of the best sort), I said to each of the damsels, “Do you have a computer?”  No.  One had a computer but her son used it and she had no idea how to on her own.  In each case, it was as if I had asked, “Do you know how to speak Sanskrit?”  I was all ready to say, “I know there are music-loving men of your generation who would be happy to dance with you — you could go to STRICTLY PLATONIC or ACTIVITY PARTNERS (whatever it is now called) on Craigslist — and gratifying things would happen.” But no.

So, I propose this as a generous act for a segment of the JAZZ LIVES readership. If you know someone, Auntie or Grandma or the Lady Two Houses Down, and she loves to dance . . . either help her out on your computer OR show her how to operate one.  I think this would be an act of deep swinging charity.  I know that people say, “Oh, no!  I don’t go on the computer!  I could get killed!  I could get my identity stolen!”  These fears have some basis in reality, I admit . . . but going to your grave without a partner is, to me, a sorrowful idea.

May your happiness increase.

FEEL LIKE A (JAZZ) BASH? (MARCH 1-2-3, 2013, MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA)

The music doesn’t start for another ten days, give or take — but we’re excited about the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or you can call it Dixieland Monterey . . . call it what you will as long as you support it by your presence!).

The Beloved and I will be there for as much of it as possible.  The music begins on Thursday night (Feb. 28, if my dates are right) with a special benefit concert by “We3” — Jeff Barnhart, Danny Coots, and Bob Draga — and runs like an express train until Sunday, March 3, late in the afternoon.

Here‘s the schedule.  And although my counting skills are imperfect, I see 149 or so sets in that weekend — because of simultaneous action in a variety of rooms.  What this means to me: Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Jeff Barnhart, Anne Barhart, Bryan Shaw, Howard Miyata, John Reynolds, Clint Baker, Ralf Reynolds, Katie Cavera, Carl Sonny Leyland, Banu Gibson, John Sheridan, John Cocuzzi, Allan Vache, Ed Metz, Paul Keller, Sue Kroninger, Eddie Erickson, Chris Calabrese, Jim Fryer, Danny Coots, Jeff Hamilton, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Gordon Au, Justin Au, Brandon Au, David Boeddinghaus, Jason Wanner, Ray Templin . . . and you can add your own favorites, heroes, heroines, and heartthrobs.

Here‘s ticket information.  Few people I know are moved to take positive action because of fear and dread, but the evidence speaks for itself: many jazz festivals have vanished or morphed unrecognizably before vanishing: join us at the Jazz Bash by the Bay!

And for those readers who say, “I’m not convinced.  I need evidence before I get in the car, find someone to walk the dog, and unstrap my wallet,” will this do?  Recorded on March 2, 2012 — something to provoke SMILES:

May your happiness increase. 

THE JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY IS COMING! (March 1-3, 2013)

I’m happy, excited, bewildered, and reaching for the oaktag and the colored Sharpies.  No arts and crafts project is on the horizon, but Dixieland Monterey’s JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY has just published its 2013 schedule.  This moment is always a combination of elation and puzzlement.  “Are all my favorite bands playing or am I dreaming?” to quote a late-Thirties record.  Yes, there’s John Sheridan and Jeff Barnhart, Carl Sonny Leyland and the Au Brothers, High Sierra, The Reynolds Brothers, David Boeddinghaus, Banu Gibson, Katie Cavera, Marc Caparone, Eddie Erickson, Sue Kroninger, Danny Coots, Howard Miyata, Pieter Meijers, Allan Vache, Bob Draga, Ivory and Gold, Jim Fryer, Titan Hot Seven, John Cocuzzi, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Ivory and Gold, Frederick Hodges, We 3, Jerry Krahn, Ed Metz, Paul Keller, and more . . .

That’s wonderful.  Then the headache starts to creep up my neck.  “All right.  I have to see X but Y is playing at the same time, and Z starts a half-hour later.  Where shall I go?”

We should all have such problems.  Plot out your perfect weekend — including dance lessons and a Thursday-night concert by We 3 (Barnhart, Coots, Draga) to kick things off properly.

Here is the schedule.

Try it for yourself.  You have seven weeks to calculate the possibilities that will bring the most joy.  But you can do it!

And I’ll see you in the Portola Room, or the De Anza, or the Bonsai . . . look for me and say hello!

May your happiness increase. 

POSITIVELY VIBRANT at ATLANTA 2012: JOHN COCUZZI, CHUCK REDD, HARRY ALLEN, MATT MUNISTERI, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, FRANK TATE, ED METZ (April 22, 2012)

Two men, one vibraphone, no pushing or crowding, just swing and harmony: more a brotherly conversation than a cutting contest.  The font line is John Cocuzzi and Chuck Redd, wielding their mallets with intensity and care; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.

Only at the Atlanta Jazz Party!

The venerable and much-loved CRAZY RHYTHM to start:

John slyly sings I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING:

A lovely interlude — harking back to JATP or to Condon’s — the ballad medley: GHOST OF A CHANCE (John) / CHELSEA BRIDGE (Harry) – SOME OTHER SPRING (Chuck):

And the Hampton – Christian – Goodman AIR MAIL SPECIAL to close:

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: ED POLCER, DUKE HEITGER, RUSS PHILLIPS, ALLAN VACHE, MATT MUNISTERI, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, CHUCK REDD (April 21, 2012)

A set of hot music by Ed Polcer, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; John Cocuzzi, piano, Frank Tate, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums. Recorded April 21, 2012 at the Atlanta Jazz Party.

Ageless music — even if the repertoire comes from 1917-1935, the energy, wit, and passion are unabated.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (for Louis and Papa Joe, Bix and his Gang, Condon and his boys, whether at the Park Lane, the Newport Jazz Festival, 47 West Third Street, or the New School):

LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE (in honor of Fats Waller, Danny Coots’ “Uncle Fred,” and the crew of THIS OLD HOUSE):

FIDGETY FEET (recalling the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the Big 72 and all the bands worldwide in between):

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: ALLAN VACHE, MATT MUNISTERI, MARK SHANE, JOHN COCUZZI, FRANK TATE, ED METZ (April 21, 2012)

“Romping,” as someone near me said at the end of this inspired set — featuring Allan Vache, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Frank Tate, string bass; Ed Metz, drums — from the 2012 Atlanta Jazz Party.  After the initial selection, the repertoire seems to be an expertly-played tribute to the Benny Goodman small groups, 1936-40, but let us not forget Lionel Hampton, Charlie Christian, and Teddy Wilson as worthy creators.

IT’S YOU OR NO ONE:

SOFT WINDS:

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

MEMORIES OF YOU:

FLYIN’ HOME:

May your happiness increase.

ATLANTA 2012: BOB SCHULZ and FRIENDS: “RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE”

Good stuff.  The real thing.  Beyond category.  Too good to ignore.

Bob Schulz, cornet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Mark Shane, piano; Richard Simon, string bass; John Cocuzzi, drums.

May your happiness increase.

MAKING MERRY at MONTEREY 2012: A REYNOLDS BROTHERS JAM SESSION with JOHN SHERIDAN, ALLAN VACHE, JOHN COCUZZI, DAWN LAMBETH, and SUE KRONINGER (March 4, 2012)

Some jazz parties and festivals visibly deflate in their final hours.  Not the 2012 Jazz Bash by the Bay — also known as Dixieland Monterey.  This was, for me, the final set of the three-day blowout, and it was a delight.

Once again, the sly truth came out: the Reynolds Brothers don’t have the international reputation their music deserves, and on some festival bills they aren’t the band whose name appears in the largest font.

But they exude jazz pheronomes — or, to put it more simply, the best musicians on the bill always make it a point to sit in with John Reynolds, Ralf Reynolds, Katie Cavera, and Marc Caparone.  It’s the jazz equivalent of a civilian finding the restaurant where the chefs eat on their night off.  The noble sitters-in were John Sheridan, piano; Allan Vache, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, unamplified vibraphone.  “Three Johns, no waiting,” says Mr. John Reynolds at the start.

The set started right off with an enthusiastic affirmation — saying YES to life is a good thing! — I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

Another affirmation, even when it’s couched as a question by way of Fats Waller, AIN’T ‘CHA GLAD?:

One of Ralf’s many secrets is that he did graduate work in European history . . . who better to instruct the crowd in historical geography with CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS . . . making Merry, of course.  Merry says hello:

From raillery to romance with the help of Dawn Lambeth, the living embodiment of what Louis called “tonation and phrasing,” her subtly textured voice and her speaking rubatos beautifully on display in SUGAR (with majestically quiet help from John Sheridan):

What might seem odd, an instrumental version of a song associated with Bing Crosby, works perfectly, with Marc leading the way into YOUNG AND HEALTHY:

A friend of the music and one of the gracious shapers of the Jazz Bash by the Bay, Sue Kroninger — also a dynamic singer — joined in with WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO, giving Allan a chance to show off his version of early Benny to great advantage with Hamp Cocuzzi and Teddy Sheridan in hot pursuit.  1936, anyone?:

The tempo had to slow down — so here’s a tender I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING.  Beneath that serious exterior, John Sheridan is a deep romantic — and his playing of the verse is just another glorious piece of evidence.  And it’s not just the verse!  Listening to this one again, I think it might have been one of the highlights of the whole weekend:

John’s choice of THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN is always a wise one — not only is it a romping song, but its political / ethical sentiments continue to strike chords today — Thoreau in swingtime:

And — to close — CRAZY RHYTHM — a rendition that truly lives up to its name with a cutting contest or a conversation between Ralf on washboard and John on vibraphone — or at least parts of his vibraphone — that has to be seen to be believed.  Or something like that.  Crazy, man, crazy! (With very strong echoes of a Hampton Victor circa 1937, too.):

Thank you, Reynolds Brothers.  Thank you, friends.  Thank you, Merry.  Thank you, Jazz Bash by the Bay.  I’m ready to make my room reservations for March 2013.  Just let me know the dates!  Dixieland Monterey / Jazz Bash by the Bay is a proven source of joy.

May your happiness increase.

YOU WON’T NEED A SPREADSHEET TO HAVE FUN AT THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 25-28, 2012)

My friend Nancy Doran Giffin just sent me this early-birthday gift — the schedule for the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival.  I’ll be there.  Will you?  I can see myself racing around from sets:  the Reynolds Brothers, Rebecca Kilgore Trio, Bob Draga, Ray Templin, Clint Baker, Tofu Cavera, Uptown Lowdown, Dave Bennett, Allan Vache, Russ Phillips, John Cocuzzi, Uptown Lowdown, Stephanie Trick, Dan Barrett, Rossano Sportiello, Jennifer Leitham, Big Mama Sue, the Red Skunk Jipzee Swing Band, the New Black Eagles, Eddie Erickson, Molly Ryan, Bob Ringwald, Ray Templin, Vince Bartels . . . and that’s only about twenty percent of what’s on the program.

Since I am an old-fashioned type (I remember life before the computer), I will eventually give myself the sumptuous pleasure of printing out these pages and marking out my musical peregrinations with a yellow highlighter so that I don’t miss an exalted note.  But I’ve looked at this cornucopia for a long time, basking in anticipation of the wonders we will hear . . .

The festival schedule is posted and arranged by day.  Anyone can go to each day and do a “Find” for a particular name, then keep clicking “Next” to see all the places they are listed on that page.

Try it here.  Go ahead, knock yourselves out!

May your happiness increase.

SWING SESSION at DIXIELAND MONTEREY 2012: ALLAN VACHE, JOHN COCUZZI, JOHN SHERIDAN, PAUL KELLER, ED METZ (March 3, 2012)

Here are Allan Vache, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; John Sheridan, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums and master of jazz ceremonies, having a good time and making sure we did as well, on March 3, 2012, at Dixieland Monterey — the Jazz Bash by the Bay.

They began with a rocking DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE, with a shuffle beat.  (Allan had changed the title, for all to hear, to DON’T GET MUCH AROUND HERE ANYMORE, a subtle but telling difference):

Then, after Ed had explained his unexpected proliferation of nouns and verbs, he led the band into that paean to familiar joys, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:

Many jazz festivals are short on PRETTY — the prevailing winds are loud and fast — so this serene version of MORE THAN YOU KNOW was a deep delight, starting with Sheridan’s reading of the verse:

A romping SOME OF THESE DAYS, featuring Ed.  Himself:

Memories of Benny, Lionel, Teddy, and Gene — MEMORIES OF YOU:

For Bix, for Louis, and for fun — ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

And another pretty tune — how lovely!  Johnny Mandel / Johnny Mercer’s EMILY:

The set closed with a paradox (among the musical vaudeville and tender ballads) — CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME — even though they were already there.  Paul Keller embodies “the walking bass” for us:

May your happiness increase.