Tag Archives: John Sheridan

A CORNER IN CHICAGO, SOME QUESTIONS OF TASTE

A corner in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood: Google says it is “18th and Racine”:

then, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer Andy Schumm:

then, some music that ties the two together: a performance of Andy’s own “18th and Racine” on September 13, 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, with Dan Levinson, Dan Barrett, John Sheridan, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malachi:

That’s an admirable piece of music, which nobody can deny.  The players are dressed in adult business attire, but they are neither stiff nor constrained; in fact, there’s a bit of unscripted comic repartee before they start to play.

I have been digging through my archives to find previously unknown performances from Jazz at Chautauqua, starting in 2011.  This video, this performance, was hidden in plain sight: it had been given to the larger YouTube public for free six years and a month ago.  I was dumbstruck to see that it had been viewed fewer than one hundred times.  Was it dull?  Was it “bad,” whatever that means?  Had the Lone YouTube Disliker come out of the basement to award it his disapproval?  No, none of those things.

I write this not because my feelings are hurt (Love me, love my videos, or the reverse) but because I don’t understand this lack of enthusiasm.

“Pop” music videos are viewed by millions, and the audience for “hot jazz,” “trad,” whatever you want to call it, is a crumb in the cosmic buffet.

But — follow me.  Invent a band with a clever name.  Let them sit in chairs on the street in the sunshine.  Let them be a mix of young women and young men.  Let them be emotive.  Let there be a washboard.  Perhaps one of the members is fashionably unshaven.  There are shorts, there are legs, there are sandals, there are boots.  No one wears a suit, because buskers have their own kind of chic, and it has nothing to do with Brooks Brothers.  If the members know who Strayhorn and Mercer are, they keep such knowledge to themselves.  They are very serious but they act as if they are raw, earthy, primitive.  Someone sings a vaguely naughty blues.

Mind you, this is all invention.

But let a fan post a new video of this imaginary group and in four days, eleven thousand people scramble to it.

I understand that my taste is not your taste.  And I know that anyone who privileges their taste (“I know what the real thing is.  I like authentic jazz!”) is asking for an argument.  But . . . .”Huh?” as I used to write on student essays when I couldn’t figure out what in the name of Cassino Simpson was going on.

Is this the triumph of sizzle over substance?  Is the larger audience listening with their eyes, a group of people in love with bold colors in bold strokes?  Is all art equally good because some people like it?

And if your impulse now is to reproach me, “Michael, you shouldn’t impose your taste on others,” I would remind you that imposition is not my goal and shouldn’t be yours, and that there is no schoolyard bully at your door threatening, “Like what you see on JAZZ LIVES or else, and gimme your lunch money!”

Everyone has an opinion.  I spoke with an amiable fan at a jazz festival.  I had been delighting in a singularly swinging and persuasive band, no one wearing funny clothes or making noises, and when I told her how much pleasure I was taking, she said, “That band would put me to sleep!  I like (and she named a particularly loud and showy assemblage whose collective volume was never less than a roar).  I replied, “Not for me,” and we parted, each of us thinking the other at best misguided.  Or perhaps she thought me a New York snob, and I will leave the rest of the sentence unwritten.  The imp of the perverse regrets now, perhaps six years later, that I didn’t ask in all innocence, “Do you like Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins?” and see what her reply was.

As the King says, “Is a puzzlement.”

Legal notice: no such band as described above exists, and any resemblance to a group of persons, real or imagined, is accidental.  No one in the 2013 performance video asked me to write this post in their defense, and they may perhaps be embarrassed by it, for which I apologize.  Any other questions should be directed to JAZZ LIVES Customer Service, to be found in the rear of our headquarters (look for the bright red cat door).  Thank you.

May your happiness increase!

MY FRIEND FLIP, at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Part One): RANDY REINHART, JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN SHERIDAN, VINCE GIORDANO, JOHN VON OHLEN (September 2008)

Warning for the timid and the finicky: the video that follows is unusually flawed and visually limited.  But the sound is fine and the performance precious.

Some of you may recognize this now-obsolete piece of technology.  In 2008, before I bought my first video camera, I tried out a Flip pocket video.  It recorded sixty minutes; it had no controls aside from an on / off button and a rudimentary zoom function; it fit in a pocket.

I had shot some video with it, but remember only two instances: once at The Ear Inn, where a musician who shall be nameless expressed his displeasure by coming close to me and hissing, “Audio’s all right, but that video don’t do nothin’ for me, Pops,” to which I apologized, put it away, and later deleted the video.  Pops hasn’t forgotten, you will notice, and in his dotage, he avoids that musician, even without a camera.

The other instance was in Mexico, where I recorded some vibrant street musicians, but I foolishly packed Flip (as I thought of him, like a cartoon character) in my checked luggage and he went on to a new life in someone else’s pocket.  And I graduated to “real” video cameras, as you have probably seen.

The story of My Friend Flip would have remained a crumb in the breadbox of memory except that two days ago I started a rigorous — no, violent — apartment-tidying, in search of some things I knew I had but couldn’t find.  You know the feeling.  I found a once-blank CD with the puzzling notation, “Chau 2008    Flip.”  At first I thought, “Did I see Flip Phillips at Jazz at Chautauqua?” but knew I hadn’t.  I put the disc in the computer’s DVD tray, waited, and eventually discovered three video performances I had completely forgotten — but which made me joyous, as you will understand.

The late Joe Boughton, who ran Jazz at Chautauqua, was severe in the way I imagine a Roman emperor must have been.  Oh, it was covered by friendliness . . . until you violated one of his strictures.  Musicians can tell you the verbal assaults that resulted when someone played a song that was, to Joe, too common.  SATIN DOLL or SWEET GEORGIA BROWN was punishable by exile: I WISH I WERE TWINS or HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH would make Joe happy and guarantee you’d be invited back.

Joe also recorded everything for his own pleasure (and those recordings, I am told, survive in a university collection) but he didn’t want anyone else recording anything.

Fast forward to 2011, when I’d had this blog for a few years and had Joe in my readership.  I boldly brought my video camera with me and — expecting the worst — asked Joe if it was OK if I videoed a few tunes, for publicity, if I got the musicians’ permission.  His response was positive but also imperial, “Who cares about their permission?  I don’t mind!: and I went ahead.

Before then, a shy criminal, I recorded as much audio as possible on a digital recorder I kept in my pocket (which means that some discs begin with the sound of me walking from my room to the ballroom) and in 2007 I took my point-and-shoot camera, stood at one side of the stage, and recorded two performances, which I have posted here.  Joe didn’t notice, and the palace guards liked me, so I was able to return the next year.

On three separate occasions in 2008, I walked to one side of the stage (perhaps I pretended I was visiting the men’s room), turned on Flip, and recorded some wonderful music for posterity, for me, for you.  Before you move on, I warn you that the video is as if seen through a dirty car windshield.  I was shooting into a brightly lit window, so much is overexposed.  The focus is variable, and there is a Thanksgiving Day Parade of slow-moving patrons who amble on their way, often standing in front of the man with a little white box to his eye.  “Could it have been a camera that young fellow was holding, Marge?  I don’t know, but don’t rush me, John!

But the music comes right through.  Some drum accents have the explosive power of small-arms fire, Flip was a simple camera.  However, everyone shines: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Sheridan, piano; Vinc Giordano, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums, playing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:

Two more surprises will come along in time.  Until then, bless Randy, Jon-Erik, John, Vince, and John.  Joe, I apologize, but as Barney tells us, “Sharing is caring.”  And thank you, Friend Flip . . . wherever you are now.

May your happiness increase!

MARK IT DOWN! THE CENTRAL ILLINOIS JAZZ FESTIVAL (March 30, 2019: Decatur, Illinois)

Here’s something for the intellectual puzzle-solvers in the JAZZ LIVES audience.

One.

 

Two.

 

 

 

 

Three.

Kenny Davern, Yank Lawson, Connie Jones, Pee Wee Erwin, Doc Cheatham, Chuck Folds, George Masso, Don Goldie, Johnny Varro, Jon-Erik Kellso, Paul Keller, Ed Polcer, Eddie Higgins, Marty Grosz, Bill Allred, Bob Schulz, Bobby Rosengarden, Milt Hinton, Brian Torff, Johnny Frigo, Peter Ecklund, John Sheridan, Brian Holland, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Ken Peplowski, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, the Fat Babies, and more.

Figured it out?  The answers, although indirect, are below, and they relate to the Juvae Jazz Society and the Central Illinois Jazz Festival: the story of their inception is here.

I confess that Decatur, Illinois has really never loomed large in my vision of bucket-list places.  But I have been terribly myopic about this for the past quarter-century.  Consider the poster below, please:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Juvae Jazz Society is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and rather than expecting people to bring them silver plates and candelabra, they are throwing a one-day jazz party, which you might have understood from the poster above.  (The list of musicians is just some of the notables who have played and sung for them in the last quarter-century.)

Although I admire Petra van Nuis and Andy Brown immensely, I’ve never had a chance to hear Petra and the Recession Seven live.  The Chicago Cellar Boys are one of my favorite bands and would even be so if Dave Bock wore a more sedate bow tie.  Other surprises are possible as well.

Some groovy evidence for you:

and those Boys:

So I’m going to be there.  Care to join me?

May your happiness increase!

A FEW WORDS FOR OUR FRIEND RON HOCKETT

I only had the good fortune to meet Ron Hockett in person once — at a John Sheridan Dream Band session for Arbors Records at Nola Studios in Manhattan. Of course I’d heard him play before, so it was a pleasure to speak to him, but even more than his playing, I was impressed by his easy kindness, the quiet spirituality he brought in to the room, even when he was sitting silently, listening to a playback.

In case his sweet lucid sound isn’t familiar, here he is (with John Sheridan, James Chirillo, Phil Flanigan, Jake Hanna) on IF DREAMS COME TRUE:

Dreams coming true — and needing to come true — are the subject of this post.  Recently, Ron’s friend and mine, Sonny McGown, contacted me to say that Ron’s health was deteriorating.  Here’s the news from Alex, Ron’s stepdaughter:

In February, Ron received a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is a chronic and progressive scarring of the lungs which eventually leads to respiratory failure. There is no cure, the only real treatment is a lung transplant. He is now a patient at Duke . . . and if all of the testing/evaluations/pulmonary rehab goes well, he will be listed for transplant. He has a five day evaluation in August. He is on supplemental oxygen with exertion but he can still play the clarinet thus far! It is our biggest hope that all of this will happen and that he will be healthy, will once again be able to travel and play larger gigs, see his friends, and of course be able to breathe! As you can imagine, the cost is enormous and he and my mom will be forced to relocate for a year or so.  I’ve just started a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe.

Here‘s the link.

And here’s some lovely music that I hope will evoke generous feelings and actions.  Let us do a friend a favor.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURES, CONTINUED: MARTY GROSZ, ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, PETE SIERS: JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

Jazz groups often choose well-established formats: the piano trio; the bebop quintet; the trad or swing sextet.  But “unorthodox” bands offer wonderful surprises.

“Tell us a story, Mister Grosz!” Photo by Lynn Redmile

Marty Grosz likes such original assemblages: two  horns, guitar and string bass, for instance, all unamplified.  And in the case of this morning set at Jazz at Chautauqua, not so long ago, Marty assembled two especially nimble horn players, a pianist, himself, and a very sensitive drummer who used snare and wire brushes only.  It happened in this century, but it felt like a dream of the old days, thanks to Andy Schumm, Scott Robinson, John Sheridan, and Pete Siers.  Now, thanks to the glories of teleportation, and thanks to Nancy Hancock Griffith, we can go there also.

Calling Mr. Berlin!

Marty without Fats just wouldn’t be Marty:

and a homage to the esteemed and elusive Horace Gerlach and his co-composer, Mister Strong:

Marty turned 88 — yes, eighty-eight — a few days ago.  He probably won’t see this post, but it is a deeply admiring salute to his delightful selves.  This place wouldn’t be the same without him.  And here’s a 2013 missive from MOG:

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY, SO RARE: HIDDEN TREASURES FROM JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, BOB HAVENS, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS (September 23, 2012)

When it’s good, you know it.  When it’s sublime, you feel it.  Here are four previously unseen treasures from the sprawling JAZZ LIVES vault of video sweetness, recorded at the Hotel Athenaeum in Chautauqua, New York, on September 23, 2012, during the delightful gathering of cosmic energies once called “Jazz at Chautauqua,” the creation of Joe Boughton and then Nancy Hancock Griffith.

We take so much for granted, and on paper, this set might just have seemed another pleasing interlude in a long weekend of delights — a Sunday-brunch set focused on the music of Louis Armstrong.  With other players, even such an inspiring theme could have turned into genial formula.  But not with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Scott Robinson, metal clarinet, tenor saxophone, and taragoto; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

How they soar.  How tenderly they caress the music.  You’ll experience it for yourselves.

First, a WEARY BLUES that gently piles delight upon delight, a  great piece of Hot Architecture reaching toward the sky:

and, with some priceless commentary from Scott Robinson — erudite comedy gently coming to earth as a loving tribute to Joe Muranyi, who loved to play BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN:

“Right on it,” as they say, with Mr. Robinson on the tenor, for ONCE IN A WHILE, where the rhythm section shines:

If the closing ninety seconds of that performance doesn’t make you jubilant, then perhaps you should consider seeing a specialist.

What could be better to close off such a glorious episode than an expression of gratitude, in this case, THANKS A MILLION, beginning with a Kellso-Sheridan duet on the verse:

I find that performance incredibly tender: gratitude not only from the musicians to the audience, but to Louis and the worlds he created for us.

Perhaps it’s true that “you can’t go home again,” but if I could book a flight to Buffalo in the certainty that I would see this band again, I’d be packed and ready.  Maybe it’s because I can’t get back to this morning in September 2012 in some temporal way that I feel so deeply the precious vibrations these ministers of swinging grace offer us.  Bless them.  It was a privilege to be there, an honor to be allowed to capture this for posterity.

Watch this with full attention; savor it; share it; exult in it.  Let us never take beauty for granted.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURE: MARTY GROSZ and THE CELLAR BOYS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 22, 2012): ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS

Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known

When you’ve shot as many videos as I have — over a decade’s worth — there’s a sizable treasure chest of the unseen.  Sometimes videos are buried for good reason, the primary one being musicians’ unhappiness with the results.  And since we aim to please, I don’t post what offends the creators.

But a few weeks ago, during an atypical tussle with insomnia, I was sitting at my computer at 3:30 AM, looking at unlisted videos stored safely on YouTube, and I found this rousing delight.  The musicians who like to approve of my postings have approved, so I can share it with you.  It’s a hot half-hour with Marty Grosz and his Cellar Boys, from Jazz at Chautauqua, probably a Sunday morning, the exact date noted above.

That’s Marty on guitar, vocal, commentary (yes, he does like to expound, but commenters who complain will be teleported to another blog); Andy Schumm, cornet and miscellaneous instrument; Scott Robinson, reeds and inventiveness; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

The real breadstick, as Marty would say.

Sucrose, no corn syrup:

Don’t tell me different — I know I’m right!  Watch Andy and Scott do magic:

And a series of wonderful hot surprises:

Once, when I was in Dublin, I found the Oxfam charity shop (as they would call it) and sniffed out the small shelf of recordings.  Very little of interest, but there was one jazz lp — autographed by the band, and the band had Keith Ingham in it. I clutched it to my chest, fearful that someone would steal it away, and when I approached the cash register, the gracious woman volunteer looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, YOU’VE found a treasure, haven’t you?”

That’s how I feel about these videos.  Blessings on the musicians and of course on Nancy Hancock Griffith, who made it all possible.

May your happiness increase!