Tag Archives: John Scurry

“YOU CAN GO AS FAR AS YOU LIKE WITH ME”: STILL MORE FROM A VISIT TO CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA: JULY 22, 2015 — JOSH DUFFEE’S GRAYSTONE MONARCHS (ANDY SCHUMM, MIKE DAVIS, JIM FRYER, MICHAEL McQUAID, JASON DOWNES, JAY RATTMAN, TOM ROBERTS, JOHN SCURRY, LEIGH BARKER, JOSH DUFFEE)

This post is part three of three.  I wish it were part three of ten, but one can’t be greedy.  Here’s part one, and part two.  And here is the 1927 Oldsmobile.

And now . . . . four classic performances that we all associate with Jean Goldkette, Bill Challis, Bix Beiderbecke, and Frank Trumbauer, music conceived in 1927 and revisited for enthusiasm, style, and expertise in 2015.

I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA:

IN MY MERRY OLDSMOBILE (the 4 / 4 version), with Mike Davis blowing a scorching chorus where the vocal once was:

CLEMENTINE (From New Orleans), the last side this band recorded for Victor:

MY PRETTY GIRL:

It was an honor to be there, and it is a privilege to share these dozen performances with you.  Blessings on the musicians, on Chauncey Morehouse’s friends and family, and, as before, this post is dedicated to Susan Anne Atherton.

May your happiness increase!

“IDOLIZING”: MORE FROM A VISIT TO CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA: JULY 22, 2015 — JOSH DUFFEE’S GRAYSTONE MONARCHS (ANDY SCHUMM, MIKE DAVIS, JIM FRYER, MICHAEL McQUAID, JASON DOWNES, JAY RATTMAN, TOM ROBERTS, JOHN SCURRY, LEIGH BARKER, JOSH DUFFEE)

Here‘s the first part of my trip to the Capitol Theater in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania — Chauncey Morehouse’s home town — including performances of I’M GONNA MEET MY SWEETIE NOW, SLOW RIVER, DINAH, and MIDNIGHT OIL by Josh Duffee’s Graystone Monarchs, a wonderful orchestra of musicians from New York, Iowa, and Australia.  And, yes, that gun is loaded.

Here are the next four delightful performances.

THE PANIC (a musical satire on the unwise rush to get married):

CONGOLAND, a Morehouse composition, whose title Josh explains:

And back to the Goldkette book, with the ODJB’s OSTRICH WALK:

And the hot-romantic IDOLIZING (which is all that seems worthwhile):

This post, as are the others in this series, is dedicated to Susan Anne Atherton.

May your happiness increase!

A VISIT TO CHAMBERSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA (Part One): JULY 22, 2015 — JOSH DUFFEE’S GRAYSTONE MONARCHS (ANDY SCHUMM, MIKE DAVIS, JIM FRYER, MICHAEL McQUAID, JASON DOWNES, JAY RATTMAN, TOM ROBERTS, JOHN SCURRY, LEIGH BARKER, JOSH DUFFEE)

I hadn’t heard of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania before the summer of 2015, when drummer-percussionist-archivist Josh Duffee announced his intention of giving a concert with his ten-piece Graystone Monarchs to celebrate the appearance of the Jean Goldkette Orchestra at the Capitol Theater on May 4, 1927, which was a triumphant evening, made even more so because Chambersburg was legendary drummer Chauncey Morehouse’s home town.

As you will see, the modern evening was triumphant also.  And a fact that says something about Josh’s devotion to the jazz heritage — the 2015 concert was free to the public (I am sure the 1927 one wasn’t).

Of course, I asked Josh if he needed a videographer, and he did, so you can see highlights of that concert here.  The band — expert and hot — was Josh on drums; Leigh Barker, string bass; John Scurry, banjo / guitar; Tom Roberts, piano; Jason Downes, Michael McQuaid, Jay Rattman, reeds; Jim Fryer, trombone; Andy Schumm, Mike Davis, trumpets.

Twelve performances from this evening have been approved for you to enjoy, and I have taken the perhaps unusual step in presenting them in three portions, as if you’d bought two new records from the local Victor dealer and would have weeks or more to savor them.  But eight more performances will follow.

An exuberant start:

SLOW RIVER, arranged by Bill Challis, who told Phil Schaap he hated the limp melody and tried to bury and sabotage it:

DINAH, harking back to the 1926 version featuring Steve Brown:

And the fourth “side,” from Chauncey’s days with the 1935 Russ Morgan orchestra:

More lovely music to come.

May your happiness increase!

“I ALWAYS BEGIN WITH THE EYES”: MAGDA BOREYSZA’S GLITTERING IMPROVISATIONS

I am neither an art connoisseur or collector, but recently, I have had the wonderful luck of being able to follow three artists, directly or tangentially connected to jazz, whom I also personally admire.  There’s John Scurry and Ivana Falconi Allen.  To that inspiring warm company I now add Magda Boreysza.

I first took note of Magda’s work this summer when I saw this poster, had an immediate fierce infatuation with it, bought two, and spoke with her in cyberspace.  This post is my idea, although many of the words are hers.

She is a three-dimensional jazz improviser, inventing worlds we hadn’t thought of before, populated with immaculately drawn and vividly imagined creatures.  Her scope is ever-expanding: she’s not primarily a “jazz artist,” but those two works — depicted here — were my entryway into her universes.

Here she is:

I think of my pictures as stories, and I always start with a character. As I draw, the character tells me what else is happening in the story/picture. I always begin with the eyes. They reveal who the character will be. All my imagery comes from the same world, where the boundaries between human and animal are blurry.

Cue theme music:

All my work is drawing-based, but I work in different mediums. I self-publish comics, I make painted ceramic masks, I’m a printmaker, and I also make regular drawings, which I sell as reproductions. I found I would rather draw my own ideas rather than working to someone else’s specifications. But from time to time, I will make an album cover or a poster for my musician friends.

Juju’s Jazz Band Ball is an event organized by my friend Ewan Bleach, of the Cable Street Rag Band. He asked me to create a poster, and we agreed that it should feature foxes and other feral animals found in the streets of London. I imagined their wild party, their jazz dance, and I tried to capture that energy as well as a typical alley in the Brick Lane area of London. The animal musicians are based on the band members.

I was born in Poland but mostly grew up in the south of Sweden, before moving to Scotland and eventually to New Orleans. I’m married to a jazz musician, Robin Rapuzzi, who plays washboard and drums in Tuba Skinny. Because of this, I’m immersed in the world of music, and I have myself started playing, mainly the bass drum and some auxiliary percussion.

At the Edinburgh College of Art, in Scotland, I specialized in traditional animation techniques, and I made a hand-drawn film for my Master’s — A Game of String, available to stream http://foxandcomet.com/post/113892897077/a-game-of-string-hand-drawn-animation-2010.

As for the Frog & Henry poster, I just wanted to make a silly image, and I was inspired by old cartoons, where objects are sentient.

These things and people inspire my work: Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. The works of David Lynch. Nature, animals, wilderness. Pagan folklore and ritual. Medieval western European religious art, such as the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch and Hans Memling. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with John Tenniel’s original illustrations.

Here is Magda’s Facebook page. You can see more of her work here, and more importantly, you can buy it here.  Her imagination is spacious, sometimes dark and luminous at the same time, and she invites us in.

May your happiness increase!

“FOREVER WEIRD”: THE MICROSCOPIC SEPTET and FRIENDS at THE KITCHEN, PART TWO (Dec. 9, 2017)

Here’s Part Two of that glorious evening at The Kitchen in New York’s Greenwich Village with the Microscopic Septet and friends.  Part One, for those who want to review their notes (and the Septet’s) is here.  But here’s the personnel for those who, like me, need to know the names of our heroes: Joel Forrester, piano, composer, co-leader; Phillip Johnston, alto and soprano saxophone, composer, co-leader; Dave Hofstra, string bass; Richard Dworkin, drums; Dave Sewelson, baritone saxophone and vocal on CRY; Michael Hashim, tenor saxophone, Don Davis, alto saxophone.  Incidentally, for some listeners who like their jazz only one or two ways, the Micros may sound “avant-garde.” I urge them to listen: this band loves the blues and has its own ferocious swing.  They seem to me to be taking traditional forms and approaching them with loving zealous individualities.

The Microscopic Septet, if they are new to you, is a long-lived improvising ensemble — devoted to “serious fun,” as my friend John Scurry terms it.

Phillip Johnston’s LET’S COOLERATE ONE:

From The Middle Period, LOBSTER IN THE LIMELIGHT:

If you need directions, just TAKE THE Z TRAIN:

Finally, I GOT A RIGHT TO CRY (vocal Dave Sewelson) — originally performed by Joe Liggins but sounding eerily and happily like a Joel Forrester composition:

The Grand Finale, deserving of initial capitals, where the Micros, the Jazz Passengers, and the Kamikaze Ground Crew, jammed on DON’T MIND IF I DO, will appear in the last post of this series.  Look for it wherever better blogposts and videos are given away for free.

Extra!  This post is in celebration of Micros co-leader Phillip Johnston, who yesterday won the 2017 Johnny Dennis Music Award:

The 2017 winner of the Johnny Dennis Music Award, which acknowledges great achievement in Australian music composition, is composer/performer Phillip Johnston.

Outgoing Australian Guild of Screen Composers’ President, Guy Gross, said “The AGSC Board were delighted with the choice of Phillip Johnston as the 2017 recipient of this major award which carries a cash prize of $20,000.”

“This award gives the recipient the creative and financial freedom to work on a project of their choice. The project chosen by Phillip Johnston will expand the knowledge and understanding of the history of the Australian film industry, both in Australia and internationally, as well as create new and innovative fusions of film and music.”

The JD Awards were established in perpetuity through the will of Dennis John Mole, whose stage name was Johnny Dennis.

Phillip Johnston’s winning proposal was to conduct research at the National Film and Sound Archive with the purpose of creating new original scores for historical Australian silent films that would help to make the films accessible to modern audiences.

On receiving the Award Phillip Johnston stated “Receiving the Johnny Dennis Award will support my new original scores for silent film project, which involves both research into the rich history of Australian silent film and the creation of new musical scores to be performed live with the films.”

“After 25 years of composing and performing new scores for American, European and Japanese silent films worldwide, I’m very excited about turning my attention to a new exciting project combining two of my major interests: new relationships between music and film, and Australia’s great contribution to world film history.”

May your happiness increase!

JOHN SCURRY’S SINGULAR VIGNETTES: REVERSE SWING: “POST-MATINEE”

You might not have heard of the splendid musician John Scurry, but that can be remedied right away.  Here’s a whimsical, swinging sample — elating even if you are allergic to cats:

John and I have a long yet intermittent musical friendship.  I know I heard him on a variety of Australian jazz recordings with, among others, Allan Browne and Bob Barnard, but we did not meet in person until July 2010 at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, where he performed as part of Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys, captured here with John on banjo, playing that often abused instrument with grace.  In time, I began to hear John as a guitarist but even more importantly as a composer.  And I heard tales of his small ingenious band, REVERSE SWING, which I described here.  I’d not heard the band, but John’s explanation of the title (enclosed in the post above) made me an enthusiast, taking it on faith.

As a serious but relevant digression, John is also a lyrical painter and photographer, imbuing “common” objects with resonance that makes me think of the painter Giorgio Morandi.  The cover is his, and when you purchase the disc, the photographs inside are his also.

In 2011, John — along with Andy Schumm, Jason Downes, Josh Duffee, Leigh Barker, and Michael McQuaid, was part of the Hot Jazz Alliance: they gave concerts and toured in 2014 and 2015.  I saw them at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in the latter year and followed John and a larger ensemble led by Josh to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania — Chauncey Morehouse’s home town — for a concert of Morehouse / Goldkette music.  In the lobby of John’s hotel, we had a long conversation, and I believe he said a REVERSE SWING disc was in process and I (perhaps not subtly) offered my services as a pro bono liner-note writer.  (I’d done the same for the HJA disc.)

And so it came to pass . . . that I heard REVERSE SWING, and was captivated by it.  The seventeen compositions on the disc are all John’s, varied in mood and approach: the CD feels like a leisurely sweep through a hall of evocative paintings.  Or a slim volume of short stories.  It’s not a “trad” band nor a post-bop ensemble — the performances swing — but a group that draws on a tradition of improvising over strong, sometimes quirky melodies and surprising harmonies.

The basic personnel is Eugene Ball, trumpet; Michael McQuaid, clarinet, alto saxophone; Matt Boden, piano; Howard Cairns, string bass, concertina; John Scurry, guitar — with additional cameos by Shelley Scown, vocal; Danny Fischer, drums; James Macaulay, trombone; Phil Noy, alto saxophone.

I know that the combination, for some more staid listeners, of original compositions and a band of less well-known musicians might be slightly intimidating, but we all have sufficient shelf space devoted to Our Favorite and Sometimes Predictable Bands . . . REVERSE SWING well deserves your attention.

Here are my notes:

In A VISION, Yeats wrote that the spirits visited him “to give him metaphors for poetry.” For inspiration, all I can claim is Facebook, where, a few hours before this disc arrived I had seen a famous Mississippi restaurant, The Dinner Bell, with a round table, seating twenty, two dozen entrees on its rotating center. As I listened to REVERSE SWING, I thought of diners moving from one serving dish to another, each one different in content, texture, seasoning, all harmonizing memorably.

A didactic annotator could fill pages saying what this track Sounds Like and what band / musician he Is Reminded Of, but I will leave such fetishes to those who cannot find pleasure without them. Scurry’s music, although irresistibly swinging, is MUSIC first, jazz second: melodic, surprising but inevitable (to steal from Whitney Balliett) with its bright eyes on us, sometimes teary, sometimes winking, even tenderly sleepy. I imagine a dance programme ranging from uptown funk to pastoralia, or soundtrack music for a never-seen Dennis Potter project.

Of John’s light-hearted but distincitve compositional art I can write only that I kept smiling and saying to myself, “Look what he’s doing THERE!” Each song is complete and shapely: a painting or photograph in itself, which is apt. I am also thrilled to hear so much of his guitar playing out in the open, concise yet emotive in solo, prancing in ensemble. Of the other players I write, as would Louis, that they are Topmen On Their Instruments, masters of Tonation and Phrasing. I’d never heard Shelley Scown sing before, but I bow low before her sweet elegance.

Alec Wilder would have admired this; Ellington, too. I want a second and third volume.

Now, something from the Uncollected Scurry-Steinman Correspondence.  I’d asked John — so that I could understand the musical scenes better — where the compositions came from, and he wrote me this.  Its length is my doing, not his immodesty, because I frankly badgered him to tell me everything, because I find the artist’s motivations fascinating — and how often do we have the artist ready to tell all through a series of emails?

“This CD is a selection of tunes of mine written over some years and conceived specifically for this recording. I can liken it to having an exhibition of paintings wherein there is no articulated concept or theme at play, rather a gathering of works that hopefully cohabit together and make sense musically. Most of the pieces were kept relatively short so as to state them as tunes in their various guises and feels and not as extensive flights of improvisation. Part of the joy in producing this body of works was in having the privilege of playing with my fellow musician friends developing and coaxing these melodies into life as new presences. Some have been recorded previously such as “Yes’” and “By practised Skill”. These two, put to music from two poems by Dashiell Hammett written in 1927 (from memory) with the words and poetic form fitting well in 32 bar and 24 bar formats common to the period. With the song “How Calm the Sea is Tonight,” when I put it together melodically and with the words, my original thought was to use Shelley Scown to sing it. I had imagined her singing for several years before actually meeting her. She made a wonderful recording called “Angel” with Paul Grabowsky and the late Allan Browne and Gary Costello respectively. Her voice had a lilting purity that I thought would embody the song. The song I developed verbatim from the last paragraph of a brief magazine story told by a woman reflecting on her life in a whaling town in southern New South Wales. Hence its folk ballad sense. The melody was originally created as a sound backdrop for a short animation. I finally met Shelley last year at a memorial concert for my old comrade Allan Browne where we were both performing and the circle was completed. Shelley’s other vocal,”Your Face”, I fess up to the words. In the spirit of all those who have gone before, another song about longing and the tactility of memory.

“Virology” was conceived for the band “Virus” that I played with regularly for many years. Strangely we never played this tune. Some of the tunes have personal connections such as “A Walk Around Tom” which is for my oldest brother who sadly has severe short term memory recall. A big jazz aficionado in his day with what he referred to as progressive jazz and, like my immediate next brother, a huge influence. “Post Matinee” for me has cinematic overtones. Sometimes meaning in a non literal way evolves out of the process of connecting time signatures and chord structures. My first paid employment, albeit brief, was as a ten year old theatre attendant selling screen news magazines at our local theatre. The theatre is long defunct but maintains its physical presence as an apartment block in Windsor, Melbourne. Going to the Saturday matinee every week was like church. A few years back I made a small painting of the then ex Windsor Theatre and called it “Post Matinee”.

Two more with poetry connections. “ Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” is by Pablo Neruda. The first seven words of the opening stanza are enough to create the feel and melodic context for the resultant song. “Last Trams” is titled after the poem by Australian poet Kenneth Slessor. Originally, from memory, I think I was playing around with the changes to “Baby Won”t You Please Come Home”.

Some fauna related pieces. “Otis the Cat” is not the guy you are sharing a cell with; he is my dear friend of eighteen years, our cat Otis. Unbridled sentimentality to the fore. “A Blackbird Skipped Quivering Between Things” Yes, I know. Behind every title is a story. Oddly enough titles emanate from the spirit of the work. We are visited daily by a blackbird family in search of morsels of cat food. They stop and start skipping across grass and verandah and at a pinch have the odd quiver. I came across a lovely quote by a French art critic who was lauding the paintings of Berthe Morisot, Manet’s sister, and he stated with reference to the light in her paintings that there was “a quivering between things”. Hence my theft which seemed apt at the time. A little waltz with an inadvertent homage to American folk traditions, as our music from my first memories is a great melting pot of American popular song plus a smattering of British music hall and folk song, not to forget the centrality of hymns. “Sad Songs” is a tune without words which it almost demands. It started off as “Sad songs and bad songs,” a would be letter to a recently deceased musical friend, reassuring him as to his boy’s welfare, but somehow it turned into a sort of optimistic cowboy song. They can assert themselves with a life of their own, these songs.

The last piece I shall comment on is “Thomas and Green,” named for the street corner where I grew up. My first encounter with live music was not “Honey Hush” or “Buttons and Bows” that blared regularly on the radio, but the mellifluous sounds of tenor horns and cornets from the Salvation Band that would appear of a Sunday evening on that corner. Howard Cairns grew up in a Salvo family, his dad being a Major in it. Howard inherited his father’s concertina so we conceived honouring that connection in the chorale “Thomas and Green” as a coda to the album.”

Here the wise and curious listener can hear more, purchase a disc or a download.  I recommend all these actions.  REVERSE SWING is quietly, subversively remarkable.

May your happiness increase!

A HALLEY’S COMET OF HOT (July 20, 2015: Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola)

Halleys Comet

I know that even the most devoted jazz fans get complacent.  “Oh, we have to go to my sister-in-law’s that night.  We can always see that band.”  Or “She’ll be coming back to [insert your city or favorite jazz club] in a few months.  I’m tired.  I have a headache.  It’s raining.”  I’ve done it myself.  But I think — in what I admit is a rather gloomy way — what if someone had said, “Oh, we can always hear Bix / Charlie Christian / Jimmie Blanton / Sidney Catlett / Clifford Brown,” and then woke up to the newspapers a few days later.

Now, here is a band portrait.  Each of these gentlemen has many decades to go, to spread joy, to fill the air with beautiful sounds.  So I am not writing a morbid post.

If you don’t recognize them, they are known as THE HOT JAZZ ALLIANCE, which is an accurate name.

HJA picture

BUT.  This band — an Australian-US conglomeration of the highest order — is not a group that you can see every Monday and Thursday, wherever you live. Two of its members, Andy Schumm, cornet and miscellaneous instruments; Josh Duffee, drums, come from the United States.  Yes, I’ve seen them in the UK, but not as part of this group.  The other four luminaries hail from Australia, and although I’ve met Michael McQuaid, reeds; Jason Downes, reeds, and John Scurry, banjo / guitar, also in the UK (I apologize to Leigh Barker, string and brass bass, for not having bowed low before him.  Yet.) this group took a good amount of will-power and diligence to assemble.

So they are playing three shows in the United States, unless my information is faulty.  One is Josh’s July 22 tribute to Chauncey Morehouse in PoPa’s home town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania — details here — I wonder how many Hot devotees in the tri-state New York area have plans to attend the HJA’s delicious two-show offering at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola?  One night, July 20.  Two shows, at 7:30 and 9:30.  You can read about the event here and you can purchase tickets (which I suggest you do while they are still available) here.

Now, it is possible that someone reading this post is already impatient.  “What? Does Michael think I am made of money?  The kids need braces; Mama needs to finish her post-doc in Spenser, and our ancient Toyota is falling apart as I sit here.”  I apologize.  I have a mortgage and an ancient car, and the orthodonture my parents paid for in my childhood has not stayed where it was put.  I understand other people’s bills.  But this is a once-in-a-who-knows-how-long event.

I’ll be at Dizzy’s . . . but without video camera.  Draw whatever conclusions you like, but if you are depending on me to be the Frank Buck of Hot (you could look it up) it won’t happen.  My apologies.

On another note.  “Michael, why should I go to hear a band I don’t know, when I can hear the Elastic Snappers any time I want?”  Good question.  Valid objection. But take an aural sniff of this:

Frank Melrose’s FORTY AND TIGHT:

CHICAGO RHYTHM:

TEXAS MOANER BLUES:

What I hear here is intense, passionate, “clean” and dirty all at once, expert and casual.  The HJA harks back to the beloved Ancestors but they aren’t in the business of reproducing old discs right in front of us.  They enliven and cheer.

And — just for a thrill — here is the cover photo, the gents all spiffy! — of their debut CD.  I’ve heard it and the glasses in the kitchen cabinet are still rocking. The CD will be on sale at Dizzy’s too, so you can take home a souvenir.

HJA CD coverEnough loving bullying for one post, one month, perhaps for ever.

But I think of a line from a late-Forties Mildred Bailey blues: “If you miss me / you’ll be missing that Acme Fast Freight.”  I am not a connoisseur of Forties freight shipping . . . but obviously the AFF was something special, perhaps the FedEx of 1947:

Acme Fast FreightI quietly suggest that the HJA is even more special, its New York appearance even more a rarity . . . who cares if there is not yet a special Hot Jazz Alliance matchbook?

I hope to see you at Dizzy’s!

May your happiness increase!

 

GET ON THE BUS! (July 22, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; July 20, New York City)

Goldkette bus

 

It’s a familiar sight.  But now it’s re-emerged for an even more exciting reason. Josh Duffee, drummer and bandleader who loves the hot / dance music of this period, especially admires drummer multi-instrumentalist Chauncey Morehouse.  And rightly so.

Josh’s dreams are substantial, and he energetically makes them take shape.  His newest venture will please up to 800 people on the evening of Wednesday, July 22, 2015, at the Capitol Theater in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

CAPITOL THEATRE

Chambersburg isn’t one of the most famous stops on the Official Jazz History tour, but it was the home town of Chauncey and of Jean Goldkette trumpeter Fuzzy Farrar.  In 1927, the Goldkette orchestra played a concert in this beautiful theatre; on July 22, a reconstituted tentet of some of the finest hot musicians worldwide will honor Chauncey and his music.  And it’s free.

Goldkette ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out much more about the concert here and, should you be so inclined, you can make a donation to cover the expenses.

I asked Josh for more details about the music and the musicians.  First off, this ten-piece band will be primarily made up of the brilliant Hot Jazz Alliance, a sextet that is four-sixths Australian and two-sixths North American and six-sixths brilliant: From Oz, Michael McQuaid, reeds; Jason Downes, reeds; John Scurry, banjo / guitar; Leigh Barker, string bass.  From the US: Andy Schumm, cornet; Josh Duffee, drums.  Joining them for this concert will be Jay Rattman, reeds; Mike Davis, trumpet; David Sager, trombone; Tom Roberts, piano.
If you’ve heard nothing of the Hot Jazz Alliance, feast your ears here:

GIVE ME YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER:

MILENBURG JOYS:

The second performance is particularly significant because it comes from the HJA’s debut CD — which is now issued, in gorgeous sound, ready for the eager multitudes.

But back to the Capitol Theatre concert.

The tentet will be playing a variety of songs that Chauncey played throughout his career. Josh says, “We’ll play the closest Goldkette recording to the date they played in 1927, Slow River. We’ll also be playing Congoland, which Chauncey co-wrote with Frank Guarente when they were with the Paul Specht Orchestra.  Audience members will hear music from the bands Chauncey played in throughout his career, like Paul Specht, Jean Goldkette, Russ Morgan, Frank Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Howard Lanin’s Benjamin Franklin Dance Orchestra, Irving Mills’ Hotsy-Totsy Gang, and others.  This will be the very first time this music will have been heard in this acoustic form in this theatre! Here are some of the songs we’ll be playing: Slow River; Harvey; My Pretty Girl; Midnight Oil; Clarinet Marmalade; Don’t Wake Me Up, Let Me Dream; Stampede; Dinah; Idolizing; Three Blind Mice; Congoland; 
Singin’ The Blues . . . .”

I don’t like being in the car for more than ninety minutes at a time, but I’m driving out to Chambersburg for this one.

And two days earlier / closer to home in New York City, the Hot Jazz Alliance will be performing two shows on Monday, July 20, at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Jazz at Lincoln Center:  details here.

As I write these words, it is ninety degrees and humid both inside and out.  But even more Hot — of the best sort — is coming.

May your happiness increase!

“SWING, STRIDE”: STEVE GRANT at the PIANO (2012)

swingstride

This CD is accurately titled.  Pianist Steve Grant (from Australia) does both — neatly, wittily, and spicily.  The disc’s subtitle is “some good old jazz favorites,” which is also truth in advertising.

There aren’t any liner notes for the disc, so I hope Mr. Grant forgives me if I write the lines that I think should be there.

Many players in these idioms good-naturedly make the error of overwhelming the listener with their technique.  An Ellington original — a stride showpiece eighty years before this — was called LOTS O’FINGERS, and they take that ornateness as their goal.  Volume and tempo follow, and the result can be a density that is impressive but exhausting.

Not Steve Grant.  He can play at rapid tempos (the opening SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE is anything but languid, and HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN suggests high tides!) but his playing is lucid, clear.

I thought of the 1935-7 Wilson solos (with a more experimental harmonic range), anchored by a light stride bass opened up with walking tenths and rhythmic suspensions.  Grant is not a gifted imitator, stringing together phrases laboriously learned from the recordings: he is an improviser, going where his impulses lead him.

On each track, he shows himself to be a master of implying: he doesn’t stress or lean on the listener, “Look!  I can really Get Hot, can’t I?”  Rather, a Grant solo is a series of small playful excursions, “Was that a tango I just heard going by?  Quick, look out the window!”  But he leaves himself and the listener a good deal of space, and the overall effect is, “That’s so simple.  If I practiced a bit more, I could play like that,” what I call the Bing Crosby Effect.  Another illusion, as anyone who sits down at the piano finds out.

Most of the tracks toddle along at a rocking medium tempo, but each one has its own delightful explosions.  LAURA, for instance, is full of quite remarkable right-hand arpeggios that show a harmonic imagination that’s anything but simple.  THE MIDNIGHT SUN combines optimism and melancholy with understated emotional power.  And Grant makes it possible to hear BODY AND SOUL without decades of familiar accretions on its hull.

But Grant — because he seems to be so simple — continually tricks us.  The first chorus of THESE FOOLISH THINGS might lull us into complacency,”Oh, he’s just playing the melody,” and then we wouldn’t notice the sweet, quietly subversive things he does in the choruses that follow.  Only a musician with a deep sense of humor and an expansive conception of what it means to improvise would or could create such rewarding music.  This CD is well worth investigating, and I’ve kept on being surprised by it on repeated playings.

The disc offers SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE / OLD FASHIONED LOVE / LAURA / BABY WONTCHA PLEASE COME HOME (I reproduce this title exactly) / THE MIDNIGHT SUN WILL NEVER SET / THESE FOOLISH THINGS / HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN / BODY AND SOUL / DID I REMEMBER / PASSPORT TO PARADISE / BYE BYE BLACKBIRD.  It was recorded in the Echidna Studios, Yarra Glen.

Here’s the SHOP page on his website.  And here you can hear other solo performances recorded at home — I hope I won’t hurt his feelings by saying the piano sound is less than studio-quality.  (P.S.  As Julius Yang has pointed out below, it’s a kind of electronic piano.  So I hope I did not hurt Steve’s or the piano’s feelings.)

But the playing is delightful.  (As an aside, I first heard Grant on record as a shining member of Bob Barnard’s crew — at the jazz parties captured on NifNuf Records — then as a cornetist, superbly, alongside guitarist John Scurry on a Judy Carmichael trio CD — details here — he is something special!)

May your happiness increase.

“I’D LOVE IT”: WHITLEY BAY JOYS — 2011, 2012, 2013 . . . !

I’ve attended the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party for the last few years . . . and always had an extraordinary experience . . . meeting and hearing players who don’t often make it to the United States, including Jean-Francois Bonnel, Bent Persson, Frans Sjostrom, Michel Bastide, Nick Ward, Norman Field, Spats Langham, Michael McQuaid, John Scurry, Jason Downes, Matthias Seuffert, Enrico Tomasso, Jacob Ullberger, and two dozen other luminaries — even musicians from the US I don’t encounter often enough, such as Andy Schumm, Josh Duffee, and Jeff Barnhart.

The 2012 Jazz Party is sold out, but if you want a portable audio sampling of the 2011 Party, I urge you to snap up a copy of this limited edition CD . . . only 100 copies were produced.

The CD was recorded live at the 2011 Party by Torstein Kubban, and features this stellar assortment of players: Michel Bastide, Mike Durham, Bent Persson, Andy Schumm, Enrico Tomasso, Andy Woon, Alistair Allan, Kristoffer Kompen, Paul Munnery, David Sager, Steve Andrews, Bernard Anetherieu, Michel Bescont, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Norman Field, Mauro Porro, Matthias Seuffert, Paul Asaro, Jon Penn, Keith Nichols, Martin Seck, Jean-Pierre Dubois, Phillippe Guignier, Keith Stephen, Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, Christian LeFevre,Henry Lemaire, Bruce Rollo, Phil Rutherford, Debbie Arthurs, Josh Duffee, Richard Pite, Nick Ward, Raymond Grasier, Mike Piggott, Frans Sjostrom, Caroline Irwin, Cecile McLorin Salvant.

And the songs?  Nothing “psychological,” as Ruby Braff once said.  I’D LOVE IT / I GOT RHYTHM / SWEET SUE / I DON’T KNOW IF I’M COMIN’ OR GOIN’ / COTTON CLUB STOMP / WOLVERINE BLUES / VIPER’S DRAG / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / THANKS A MILLION / STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER / WHEN YOU LEAVE ME ALONE TO PINE / SOUTH / SNOWY MORNING BLUES / BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL / ALLIGATOR CRAWL / FRONT AND CENTER / OH, BABY! / WILDFLOWER RAG / CORNFED / BUGLE CALL RAG — a nice mix of small bands, big bands, three-tenor extravaganzas, vocals, novelty showcases . . . not a dull minute in the seventy-eight contained on the CD.

You can purchase a copy of the souvenir CD by visiting here.  Your purchase helps fund future Classic Jazz Parties, but the price of the disc isn’t prohibitive.

On to the future.  The 2013 CJP will run from November 1-3, and the following musicians are being considered . . . which will give us all something to dream about:

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Enrico Tomasso (UK), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Andy Woon (UK)

Trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK)

Reeds: Aurélie Tropez (France), Stéphane Gillot (France), Claus Jacobi (Germany) , Norman Field (UK), Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Mauro Porro (Italy)

Piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Jeff Barnhart (USA), Morten Gunnar Larssen (Norway), Martin Seck (Germany)

Banjo/Guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Martin Wheatley (UK), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Keith Stephen (UK)

String Bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Malcolm Sked (UK)

Brass Bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Jean-Philippe Palma (France)

Drums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Julien Richard (France), Nick Ward (UK)

Bass Sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden)

Violin: Mike Piggott (UK)

Vocals: Daryl Sherman (USA), Caroline Irwin (UK), Spats Langham (UK)

and you can visit here to see the “themes” being mulled over for 2013 — because, as you may already know, the CJP is remarkable in its intense focus.  Some jazz parties get wonderful results by merely putting a group of musicians onstage and saying, in effect, “You have 45 minutes to do whatever you’d like.”  The CJP arranges its musicians thematically — so there might be a Jelly Roll Morton trio, a Lionel Hampton small-group session, a recreated McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, the Rhythmakers come again, and so on.  It’s not a dry historical lesson — more like a pageant of jazz history, alive and exuberant.

So, I encourage you to do “all of the above” if possible.  You’ll love it.  Or them.

May your happiness increase.

JOHN SCURRY’S “REVERSE SWING”: THURSDAYS IN MARCH 2012

Here’s the good news — guitarist John Scurry has announced some regular gigs for his lively band REVERSE SWING (which also features my multi-instrumentalist friend Michael McQuaid, trumpeter Eugene Ball, string bassist Leigh Barker, and singer Heather Stewart.

I looked at my calendar in the kitchen and saw that Thursdays in March were fairly free.  Ten dollars is a bargain for two hours of creative improvised music, certainly.

So how am I to get there?

I decided to check out the possible directions through Google Maps . . . and was somewhat dismayed.  I read the first two of three stern warnings: “This route has tolls. This route includes a ferry.”  I could deal with those details.  But “This route crosses through Japan.” gave me pause, as did the distance: 16, 139 miles, and the proposed time: 56 days, 7 hours.

John, I might not make it in time.

But if any JAZZ LIVES readers are closer to Melbourne, I hope they will attend, fill the tip jar (or whatever they call it in Australia) lavishly, perhaps take a few neat videos, and report back.  I can attend vicariously.

THE HOT JAZZ ALLIANCE SWINGS OUT (April 20, 2011)

When my learned and hot Australian friend Michael McQuaid (clarinet, alto sax, cornet, and leader of the Late Hour Boys) told me sometime last year about a tour he and his colleagues intended to do, I badly wanted to join them as an aging roadie, carrying the cases and music stands, finding places to recharge my video camera’s batteries, recording every second for posterity.  I would have worn a cap and held the door open.

My idea was one whose time had not yet come.  But thanks to fellow reed wizard Jason Downes, we now have eighteen video performances to thrill us.  Michael and Jason on their own are — to quote the late Pee Wee Erwin, “hotter than a depot stove” (you could look it up) . . . and here they are joined by guitarist / banjoist John Scurry, bassist Leigh Barker, and two Americans whose names will be familiar to JAZZ LIVES: Andy Schumm on cornet and Josh Duffee on drums.  The results are nearly incendiary, and would be so even if the surroundings didn’t suggest Hades reborn as a speakeasy in color and decor.

I think I am performing a public service by alerting my readers of these clips.  See if you don’t agree.  And I can’t wait for the double CD-DVD set.  (Yes, one of the titles below is DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM, but any causal connection here is incidental, of course.)

Wow!  As we say in the States.

This session was recorded on April 20, 2011, in Club Cursley, Near Cobargo, NSW, Australia.  I was told that this lavish interior is inside a generous host’s country house . . . one with its own stage.  Some people know how to live.

How about a searing WILD MAN BLUES, styled after Johnny Dodds’ Black Bottom Stompers — and hear young Mister Schumm get into his 1927 Louis-regalia in the most convincing way:

Here is the aforementioned request (or command?), DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM (which has a chorus-ending tag that sounds like a thousand other tunes — I thought of WHY COULDN’T IT BE POOR LITTLE ME and GOOD LITTLE, BAD LITTLE YOU but might be mistaken in both counts).  From the title, I would have expected a snoozy sweet composition, so this romper is a delightful surprise.  The closing chorus is superheated:

And a slow-drag, almost melancholy BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? (in keeping with the yearning lyrics):

And a nearly ominous reading of BLACK SNAKE BLUES:

I have purposely left the remaining fourteen videos unposted: visit “jasondownes” on YouTube and enjoy yourselves.  If you are measured in your enjoyment, that’s two weeks of joy at breakfast.  I still wish with all my heart that I had been along on this tour — maybe next year if I buy a cap that has THE HOT JAZZ ALLIANCE embroidered on it in gold braid, the fellows will make room for me in the band bus?

JOHN SCURRY’S “REVERSE SWING”

One of the most gratifying things about being a jazz listener is the possibility of meeting one’s heroes in the flesh.  I could lament that I never saw Django or Charlie Christian or Teddy Bunn, but I’m happy and proud to be able to write, “I’ve met John Scurry.”

I first heard John — guitarist, banjoist, composer, and not incidentally an artist — on several NifNuf CDs that came out of Bob Barnard’s Jazz Parties (a glorious series of celebrations running for a decade). 

I would put the CD into the player, most often in my car, and just listen, not knowing who the players were aside from Bob and one or two others.  But when I got to my destination or at a stoplight, I would look at the personnel to see exactly who that most impressive (unidentified) player was.  Sometimes it was Fred Parkes, other times Chris Taperell or George Washingmachine. 

But I came to know John Scurry’s work quickly: his ringing lines that didn’t go in familiar paths, his solid rhythm, his interesting voicings.  I then heard him on CDs with Allan Browne and Judy Carmichael and continued to be impressed.

And it would have stayed that way except for this summer’s trip to England and the long thrilling jazz weekend at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival. 

One night before the festival actually began, there was a concert devoted to the great British dance bands of the Thirties.  After we found seats on the little bus that was to take us to the hall, I recognized some people I’d met at the previous year’s festival — the multi-instrumentalist Michael McQuaid and his sweetheart Anna Lyttle. . . then Michael introduced me quickly to his colleagues, “there’s Jason, and John, and Ian.”  I’m not terribly good with names the first time I’m introduced, so I let the new bits of data wash over me.   (Eventually I came to meet and admire Jason Downes and Ian Smith.)

Later on, though, someone pointed out “John” and gave him his full title . . . and I went up to him and said, “You’re John Scurry?  I’ve been admiring your work for a long time . . . ” and on.  When he played with Michael’s Late Hour Boys, he was even better in person.  (I’ve posted a number of clips on YouTube that will bear me out.)

I’ve been listening John’s winding, curious compositions on some other CDs with Allan Browne recently.  I regret that he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to make a solo or duo CD.  In a world full of guitarists, he surely stands out.

I was both delighted and a bit puzzled by the portrait top left — even though I could understand that it is summer in Australia while we are worrying about the effects of the first frost on the plants . . . so I asked John to explain:

The band is a drumless quartet with Eugene Ball trumpet, Mike McQuaid
reeds, Leigh Barker bass, and myself on guitar.  We are unrehearsed and
playing standards, some of my so called originals and whatever comes
to mind in the balmy summer eve atmosphere of the lovely interior
spanish mission style courtyard of the Mission to Seafarers in
Melbourne, and old circa 1910 building.  The painting is by Antoine Watteau and I think it may be in the Met.  Jed Perl who writes for The New Republic did an article on it a few  years back. The painting if I remember correctly was recently rediscovered: I downloaded the image from his article, which was called  ‘A Big Surprise”.  A very beautiful work, don’t you think?  Sort of
encopasses everything really.

 As to “reverse swing”.  It’s a cricketing term, wherein the ball when
bowled swings the other way unexpectantly and contrary to Mr. Isaac
Newton’s expectations.  I like the name, I’m left-handed and happen to
play cricket…and I’m a bowler.  At this stage up until Christmas the gig is only for three weeks, however as  with all things we live in hope and joyful anticipation that more music may be had from the seafarers in the New Year.
I did this gig last year with Mike and Leigh, it’s a lot of fun
working with an acoustically based group without drums……it’s good
to  find one’s voice for better or worse without certain aural
encumbrances.

I only wish that New York was closer to Australia, or the reverse.  Perhaps someone will record REVERSE SWING with a video camera and share the results with us?  It won’t be the same, but it will tamp down my “Something wonderful is happening far away and I can’t get to it.” 

May John Scurry and his friends — not only in the Australian summer — prosper.

JAMMIN’ AT WHITLEY BAY (July 9, 2010)

Jazz musicians know that great truth: if you stay up late, you can always sleep tomorrow. 

Although the players at a jazz party might seem to have an exhausting schedule, many of them are fueled by the encounters with their peers and heroes — thus, an after-hours jam session often happens.  I was lucky enough to be awake for this one and have a fully-charged video camera.  The session took place at the “Victory Pub” in the Village Hotel Newcastle, the comfortable home base for the Whitley Bay International Jazz Party.  

Of course the seating arrangement scattered musicians here and there, and several flat-screen televisions remained on through the session, but the music was the focus here. 

The musicians who began the session were an organized band — a great one: Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys: Michael and Jason Downes on reeds, John Scurry on guitar, Mark Elton on drums, Ian Smith on drums and washboard.  Then they were joined by Graham Hughes (from London) on trombone, and other gifted jammers.    

FORTY AND TIGHT comes from the Johnny Dodds book, and its title is a slang expression for something (or someone) who is splendidly gratifying.  How naughty the coinage is I don’t know; talk among yourselves:

MAMA INEZ certainly has a rocking, irresistible  beat:

Then, they were joined by a friend from the land of Oz — the fine trumpet player and singer Geoff Bull, who nudged them into SOME OF THESE DAYS:

Thinking of Louis, Jeff Barnhart unsheathed the keyboard and sang ROCKIN’ CHAIR:

But that might have been too mournful for a jubilant occasion, so they swung into another Louis-Hoagy connection, JUBILEE, which certainly did make the rafters ring / up to Heaven:

Bassist Henri Lamaire and drummer Josh Duffee joined the festivities and Geoff suggested the pretty THANKS A MILLION, again reaching back to the Thirties Louis book (or perhaps as homage to Dick Powell, who introduced the song in “the film of the same name”):

And the session concluded with a romping JUNE NIGHT, with pianist Martin Seck and a host of other musicians joining in (again, I’ll happily credit them by name if informed).  My hat’s off to Geoff Bull, who certainly knows how to get everyone going in the right direction with inspiring riffs.  And the wonderful solos are surely sparked by Josh’s exuberant drumming:

And here’s a very musical solo from Josh to wrap things up in a swinging way:

If you weren’t already convinced, I think this session is further proof that good things happen in the dark.

MICHAEL McQUAID’S LATE HOUR BOYS at WHITLEY BAY (July 9, 2010)

At my first Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival last year, I met and instantly liked the young Australian jazz virtuoso Michael McQuaid — he plays alto saxophone, clarinet, and cornet — but didn’t get to hear him in his natural settings.  This year the fates were kinder: I saw Michael and the little hot band he leads, the Late Hour Boys, in two sets. 

After the first one, someone asked me what I thought.  Without thinking for a second, I replied, “Scalding!”  I think you will see that I wasn’t being hyperbolic.

The Late Hour Boys take their name, some of their repertoire, and their joyous attitude from the late Ade Monsborough, who named his group this way not because they favored midnight performances, but because he assembled his personnels at the last minute.  Michael McQuaid’s LHB summon up the kind of hot improvisation I associate with Spanier and Bechet, with a bare-knickle version of Soprano Summit in its closing choruses. 

You’ll hear evocations of Johnny Dodds and Pete Brown, of Teddy Bunn and Milt Hinton and Zutty Singleton.  It’s a two-man all reed front line, with Michael and the peerless wit Jason Downes switching off on clarinet and alto; the rhythm is taken care of by the splendid John Scurry on banjo and guitar and Mark (the Eel) Elton on bass.  Ian Smith, who also played cornet with Ade some years back, is a driving homespun drummer and washboardist who sings with great effectiveness — tenderly on a ballad, raucously on a jump tune.  And this band jumps for sure.

Here’s a rollicking CANDY LIPS (I’m STUCK ON YOU) from the Clarence Williams book:

Here’s a wartime composition by Monsborough, SORRY TO BE LEAVING:

PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES is not the usual homage to Louis and the Hot Five.  It has its own romping momentum.  Although I don’t quite understand the emotional / romantic nuances of the lyric, I believe anything that Ian sings:

RAIN is a pretty tune that no one else seems to remember; Ian is in the moment on his sweet vocal:

EUROA, a Monsborough composition, honors a place that Michael suggests is improved by the song:

MELANCHOLY, which harks back to the glory days of 1927 Chicago with Johnny Dodds and Louis Armstrong:

BLAME IT ON THE BLUES, which I associate with Sidney Bechet and Albert Nicholas, intertwining:

Michael and the Late Hour Boys also have a new CD out which entirely captures the exuberance of these video performances.  Listening to it is also a much more focused experience, since you don’t have a running-shoes-for-sale poster in the background.  It is a limited edition, so I don’t know if this posting is too late, but I hope not! 

Check it out at http://www.jasondownes.com/lhbcd.

JUDY CARMICHAEL STRIDES AWAY

The Beloved and I went to Olga Bloom’s “Bargemusic” last Thursday to hear the ebullient stride pianist Judy Carmichael and her trio — with sterling fellows Jon-Erik Kellso and Chris Flory — and the barge wasn’t the only thing a-rockin’. I’ll be writing up that concert for Jazz Improv (www.jazzimprov.com), but take that opening sentence as a preview.

Judy’s new CD, SOUTHERN SWING, just out, pairs her with two like-minded Australian stars, cornetist Stephen Grant and guitarist John Scurry, at the 2007 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz. It presents her set at the festival as it occurred, and the results are cheering. Judy offers a bouncy, streamlined version of many of Fats Waller’s most famous pianistic motifs. Her rhythm is energetic, her pleasure in what she is doing comes through wholly. Catch her bell-like solo passages late in “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” quite moving in their patient simplicity, her willingness to let the piano ring out. Some of Judy’s pleasure, however, comes through in her chatty banter between numbers: the band is so rewarding that I would have traded much of the banter for one or two more songs.

I knew Stephen Grant and John Scurry from hearing them on the CDs recorded live at cornetist Bob Barnard’s annual jazz parties. Scurry I was accustomed to as a limber single-string soloist and rhythm player: here, he offers acoustic chordal solos, heartening suggestions of players like Bernard Addison and Carmen Mastren. Grant is even more astonishing: he appears at the Barnard parties as a pianist — one so splendid that I found myself listening to ensemble passages to hear his uplifting Jess Stacy – Teddy Wilson lines. Here — damn him for being so excessively talented — he shows off his heartfelt, loose-limbed cornet playing. It sounds simple, but every note is perfectly placed, his tone is quietly burnished. Like Scurry, he’s absorbed the great players but isn’t imitating them: a listener catches an annunciatory Joe Thomas arpeggio or a Buck Clayton epigram, but it’s all Grant.  (I also learned that Grant’s talents extend beyond straight-ahead jazz, and that he has recorded on accordion and saxophone.  Highly envy-provoking, I must say.)

The trio creates some very pleasing moments of improvised synergy — the riffs that close the Wilson-Holiday inspired “If Dreams Come True,” the pretty Grant-Scurry duet on “Crazy He Calls Me,” and the mournful yet swinging “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” suggesting a Basie small group after hours, taking its time.

Visit www.judycarmichael.com to purchase this and other CDs, to see Judy with an alligator on her lap, as well as a ckip of her sextet (featuring Kellso and Michael Hashim) on Brazillian television. For CDs recorded at Bob Barnard’s Jazz Parties from 1999 on, don’t miss www.rockyotway.com.