Tag Archives: John Von Ohlen

THE FURTHER GLORIOUS ADVENTURES OF OUR FRIEND FLIP: MARTY GROSZ, JAMES DAPOGNY, JON-ERIK KELLSO, DUKE HEITGER, VINCE GIORDANO, JOHN VON OHLEN (Jazz at Chautauqua 2008)

We could begin here:

But I’d rather begin with Flip and come back to that song.  I would urge those unaware of the glory of Flip to visit here, with otherwise unknown and unrecorded hot jazz.  And here’s Flip, in case you’ve never met the little friend:

But this post is really about two heroes.  One is this deity:

another is this dear down-to-earth majestic presence (who would surely make a joke out of that appellation), James Dapogny:

And they come together in September 2008, at that wonderful weekend of music we were fortunate enough to call Jazz at Chautauqua.  Absolute joy, brought to us by the Flip video camera. Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, dangerous badinage, offers one section of his HORACE GERLACH TRIBUTE MELODY MEMORIAL with Jon-Erik Kellso, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Professor James Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums. In the video, slow-moving cheerfully oblivious couples swim by. They know not what they do. But we do.

Thus:

To me, this song and this performance are extremely touching because of their heartfelt Louisness — please understand that when I hear Louis singing and playing (let us say LA VIE EN ROSE over a restaurant’s sound system) my eyes fill up and I have to prevent myself from standing up with my hand over my heart.  Because Joe Boughton would not — in 2008 — have allowed me to record this performance openly from a front-row seat, I chose to be near the piano and thus hear more of the Professor than I would have otherwise.  What a blessing!

Writing this post and hearing this song, I think of Jim, of Louis, and all the people I love who have moved on.  We can not meet again in the usual ways, and that is sorrowful.  But through music, we are instantly able to meet in the most inspiring ways; we are in touch with each other as soon as I hear a note or think of some moments we shared.  Perhaps you might, as I have done, watch and absorb this performance once for our own pleasure, then again in honor of those beloved individuals.

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!

“YOU’VE GOT ME IN YOUR CLUTCHES”: REBECCA KILGORE, JOHN SHERIDAN, JON BURR, JOHN VON OHLEN (JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA, September 17, 2011)

Medical literature warns us about any kind of addiction — from potato chips to more dangerous seductions.  But what about romance?  Doctors Rebecca Kilgore, John Sheridan, Jon Burr, and John Von Ohlen let us know, gently, that being addicted to someone isn’t such a problem (decades before “stalking” entered the list of criminal offenses) using the words of Al Dubin and the music of Harry Warren to explain it all:

Sadly, LULLABY OF BROADWAY, the biography of Al Dubin written by his daughter Patricia, candidly depicts him as addicted to food, drink, gambling, and eventually morphine, dead at 53.  But this light-hearted love song was written when Dubin’s pleasures still allowed him (with Harry Warren) to create one memorable song after another.

This performance is from a set at the 2011 jazz party, Jazz at Chautauqua, which has delightfully morphed, and moved west to Cleveland, to become the current Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — with some of the same performers, this year from September 14-17, 2017.  I’ve been there every year since 2004, and if that counts as an obsession, it’s one I love.

And the medical news is that Rebecca Kilgore’s singing has been proven addictive, but with only salutary effects on the hearer.

May your happiness increase!

“WAS THAT THE LONE ARRANGER?” or ALLEGHENY JOYS (2014 and 2015)

arranger

In the hot music I and many people gravitate to, there is a certain disdain for music written — tabulated as little signs — on lined pieces of paper.  Real (wo)men don’t read charts.  “Can you read?” goes the joke, “Yeah, but not enough to mess up my playing.”  In the memories of some fans, Pure Jazz is a group of people somewhere jamming on a familiar tune — anything more complicated than that seems an impudent intrusion.

Today’s homework — I am a college professor by profession, and the semester has begun, so put those smartphones away immediately, please — is to watch this glorious video twice, each time concentrating on a different aspect of its splendor.  Once, as I think is usual, bask in the solos.  Then, note how beautifully those solos are framed, encouraged, and sent off into improvisatory paradise by the arrangement.  The arrangement, by the way, is by JAZZ LIVES’ hero, Jim Dapogny, who also doth bestride the mighty piano like a colossus.

The tune is CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME (a relic of those days when the Westward migration made people think not only of gold but of oranges) and the band is Jim, piano [spectacularly], arrangements; Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Marty Grosz, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen.  I recorded this on September 17, 2014, at the first Allegheny Jazz Party in Cleveland, Ohio (more about that below):

I know that these gifted people could have created something delightful on this tune without straining a muscle.  But when you listen closely, the balance (or the necessary alternation) of written passage and arranged passage is what makes this performance even better, more memorable.  So those who groan silently when they see a band spread out manuscript paper on their stands might want to re-evaluate this ancient prejudice.  We all need road maps, and framing the picture sensitively only enhances it.  (And we need to mix metaphors in a sentence: it’s good for the muscles.)

On to a related subject.  I have just returned from the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, both tired and elated.  All I will say is that my face now has new lines in it, but they are from smiling.  With all respects to every other jazz-party organizer, I think  it is the best-run and the kindest party of them all.  And the music soars. I will have more to say and to show about this in future.  Right now I am simply grateful that the AJP exists, and exists so beautifully.

May your happiness increase! 

 

WITH LOUIS AND JACK IN MIND: DUKE HEITGER, RANDY REINHART, BOB HAVENS, HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, HOWARD ALDEN, NICKI PARROTT, JOHN VON OHLEN (ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY, September 18, 2014)

One could make the case that anyone can hear STARS FELL ON ALABAMA without thinking of Jack Teagarden or JEEPERS CREEPERS without recalling Louis Armstrong, but I would be somewhat skeptical.  For me, the first song is ever associated with Jack — for thirty years — and with Louis at Symphony Hall in 1947; the second one has been sung and played by many people including Billie  Holiday and Leo Watson, but for me it is always a Louis song — again, for thirty-five years.

But I know that for most musicians, this kind of nostalgic scholarship is, at most subliminal, and these two songs are just well-established parts of the common language, songs everyone of a certain persuasion knows and loves.  As do I.

These performances took place on September 18, 2014, at the Thursday night jam session that is a tradition for the Allegheny Jazz Party (formerly known, in a different location, as Jazz at Chautauqua).  I was sitting so close to the band, a position I favor, that it was impossible to capture everyone at once, but I think you will agree the sound and image are worth it.

The band for ALABAMA was Duke Heitger, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, guitar (hear his astonishing harmonics on the first song); Nicki Parrott, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums.  For JEEPERS, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone, joined in.

Here’s the leisurely STARS FELL ON ALABAMA:

And the romping JEEPERS CREEPERS:

What better advertisement for the good times and fine music to be had at the Allegheny Jazz Party?

May your happiness increase!

BALLADS BY HARRY ALLEN, DAN BLOCK, BOB HAVENS, DUKE HEITGER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, RANDY REINHART, ANDY SCHUMM, REBECCA KILGORE, DAN BARRETT, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK TATE, JOHN VON OHLEN (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 22, 2013)

Norman Granz took credit for inventing what came to be called “the ballad medley” for his concert performances.  Rather than have everyone stand onstage and take solo choruses on what might be a fourteen-minute BODY AND SOUL, Granz proposed — for variety’s sake — that each of the musicians would emerge from the wings, hastily tell the rhythm section what (s)he had chosen, both song and key, and play or sing a chorus of it, then exit.

For the audience, it is a parade of small memorable delights. First, it reminds us what great players and singers can create within the space of one chorus of a song — note that, at their most leisurely, these performances are two minutes apiece. They offer us subtle embellishments on enduring melodies.  And the tempos!  Once upon a time, there was a precious little thing called the RHYTHM BALLAD, which meant that even if the lyrics said, “I am throwing myself out of the window because you don’t love me,” the rhythm ticked quietly underneath in medium tempo.  The ballad medley requires a perfectly attentive and wise rhythm section, especially a pianist who can respond in a second to something muttered, “WHEN DAY IS DONE, three flats,” modulate in to the proper key and be ready.

The late Joe Boughton, who delighted in jazz ballads, made sure that his jazz parties always included such interludes.

On September 22, 2013, at the closing set of Jazz at Chautauqua, a series of small miraculous evocations came and went in front of our eyes.  I am honored to have been there and privileged to capture much of the ballad medley for you.

The participants are Rossano Sportiello, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar / vocal; Frank Tate, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums; Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Randy Reinhart, Duke Heitger, trumpets; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombones; Andy Stein, violin; Harry Allen, Dan Block, reeds; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

EASY LIVING (Harry Allen), DAY DREAM (Dan Block), CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN (Bob Havens), I KNOW WHY (Duke Heitger):

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME (Jon-Erik Kellso):

MY FUNNY VALENTINE (Randy Reinhart); PLEASE (Andy Schumm); LAURA (Andy Stein); IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN (Marty Grosz); SOPHISTICATED LADY (Rossano Sportiello):

And a wonderful closing serenade, OHIO by Rebecca Kilgore and Dan Barrett:

OHIO offers a perfect transition.  Jazz at Chautauqua has changed its name and moved west — to Cleveland, Ohio — but I know its essential musical nature will not diminish or change.  It’s now the Allegheny Jazz Party, beginning on Thursday, September 18, and concluding (with a ballad medley) on Sunday, September 21.  I hope your life-path and travel plans allow you to be there!

May your happiness increase!

SEPTEMBER SONGS at the 2014 ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 18-21, 2014)

For the preceding nine years, I made the journey to Jazz at Chautauqua to hear the finest hot jazz and sweet ballads among friends — on the stand and off. Now, as many of you know, that party has moved west under a new name — the Allegheny Jazz Party, taking up residence in Cleveland, Ohio, for September 18-21. I found out that the discounted hotel rates will come to an end on August 19, so I wanted to encourage people to join in.  Details here. And the musicians who will be there this year are certainly an august crew: Randy Reinhart, Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Duke Heitger, Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Harry Allen, Dan Levinson, Rossano Sportiello, James Dapogny, John Sheridan, Keith Ingham, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, Kerry Lewis, Jon Burr, John Von Ohlen, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, The Faux Frenchmen.

I could tell you a good deal about the delights of this particular jazz weekend, but I think I will let the information  and the music — a small selection — do that for me. There are no jazz songs pertaining to making a move to Cleveland (why is this?) but two beautiful ones are relevant to September.

From September 2011, Harry Allen and Keith Ingham play Percy Faith’s MAYBE SEPTEMBER:

From September 2009, an informal session (somewhat informally captured) where Dan Block, Duke Heitger, Bob Havens, Ehud Asherie, Frank Tate, and Pete Siers play SEPTEMBER SONG:

But all is not melancholy or wistful at this party.  Far from it. Here’s a hot one, recorded in September 2012 — Marty Grosz, Dan Block, Andy Schumm, and Kerry Lewis romping through ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

And a living sweet evocation of Ella and Louis by Becky Kilgore and Duke Heitger, John Sheridan, Jon Burr, and John Von Ohlen, YOU WON’T BE SATISFIED:

JAZZ LIVES can’t offer guarantees — our legal staff frowns on such things — but I think if you go to the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party, satisfaction awaits. Find out more here or here.

And a postscript. I never liked fund-raising of any kind, nor the coercive tactics that are used to encourage people to support this or that enterprise. So perhaps I should not tell you about the festivals that have ended before their time due to lack of support. I will say that I have received a great deal of pleasure from Jazz at Chautauqua and look forward to even more when it emerges, pink and healthy, as the Allegheny Jazz Party. And the race is indeed to the swift — for tickets, for discounted hotel rooms, all those perks that make joyous experiences even better.

May your happiness increase!