Dave Stuckey (“Pappy” to his intimates) is a rewarding example of something the Ancients knew well . . . the Ancients being Louis Armstrong, Bob Wills, Wingy Manone, Fats Waller, and a hundred others: that good music is also by definition entertaining, that even people who had never heard of Clarence Williams or Hilton Jefferson should be patting their feet and grinning if the people onstage understand their purpose.
And he doesn’t only know that truth, he lives it — in his rocking rhythm, his congenial vocalizing, and the friendly environment he and the Hot House Gang bring to live in performance.
Here’s some delightful evidence from his second set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, where his Gang was the very best. They were Marc Caparone, trumpet; Nate Ketner, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Carl Sonny Leyland on a piano-shaped object — and guests Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Dawn Lambeth, vocals.
Dave asks the musical (and non-musical) question, HOW COULD YOU?:
It’s true: THE MUSIC GOES ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND:
Sonny celebrates a Chicago shero, MY GAL SAL:
Dawn explores the night skies, with WHAT A LITTLE MOONLIGHT CAN DO:
Amanda is indecisive at a crucial juncture in her life: MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND:
A banquet of joyous sounds. Dave and the Hot House Gang will also be appearing at the 2023 Redwood Coast Music Festival . . . a head-spinning all-you-can-experience weekend.
That we have wonderful evidence of this new group is thanks to the multi-talented string player and videographer Matt Weiner, who earns thanks redoubled. Were it within my powers, this quintet of stars would already have a CD and a concert tour. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a bit for these beneficences, but for the moment we have two videos to savor. The Noonatics are Matt, tenor banjo; Jonathan Doyle, bass saxophone; Andrew Oliver, piano; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Paul Woltz, alto saxophone. And if you detect a resemblance to Jimmie Noone’s Apex club Orchestra, you wouldn’t be making a mistake. But they are working within that sound and repertoire to show off their own delicious musical selves. I don’t know the writer of this brief witty blurb, but it rings true:
The Noonatics were birthed on Port Townsend during a brief morning bass sax and tenor banjo jam between Jonathan Doyle and Matt Weiner.
One foot is firmly planted in the style of the great Jimmie Noone bands of the late 20s and early 30s, but when the boys asked Jacob Zimmerman about joining, he said “let’s not just do the Noone repertoire but any tune that might sound good!” Thus, the band dips the toes on the other foot in all sorts of songs that the Noone band did, might have done, could have done, could not have done, and even some that Jimmie would never have done given the chance.
Here’s some music. I know FOREVERMORE from a lovely Joe Sullivan solo recorded for Commodore Records. The Noonatics are even more touching. And they offer the verse!
And if the room needs heat, CHICAGO RHYTHM:
Matt assures me that more songs were performed and recorded. We’ll be waiting! And since all three reed players double and triple, I wonder if there was some nstrument-switching documented here. But we love them as they are.
This new CD is delightful. To be formal about it, the sounds embrace the ear.
A sample — the first track, Nirav’s IRRATIONAL BLUES. (Don’t let the title throw you: more whimsical than irrational.)
The brief Bandcamp note adds some more detail: Led by longtime musician and swing dancer Nirav Sanghani, the Pacific Six play tight arrangements of early jazz and swing tunes for dancers and more. Their repertoire includes transcriptions of small group swing recordings by Benny Goodman, Johnny Hodges & Coleman Hawkins, fresh arrangements of well-loved standards, and vintage-inspired originals composed and arranged by Nirav.
But here I must add a few words. This is music to dance to, music to dance with (for those of us who listen while seated). It is lively and expert — lovely solos and witty arranging touches throughout. For those who need historical landmarks, let us say “Keynote Records,” or “1945 meets 2022 with affection and swing,” or “late Swing Era with modern flourishes.” Think “Teddy Wilson” or “the Blue Note Jazzmen,” but with singularities beyond copying. It’s a lovely ensemble with brilliant individualistic soloists. But your ears will tell you better than those catch-phrases can.
Another taste? Why not: EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY. You hear what I mean about the refreshing mixture of homage and originality.
The cover photograph shows that this CD captures the band at a swing dance — hence the increased enthusiasm that recording studios don’t always make possible — but the sound is so much better than what one would have heard from the dance floor. Nirav tells me, “There were actually not dancers at the recording, but the night before we played a swing dance in that same hall with the same musicians and I like to think that we carried that energy with us into the session!”
Here are the credits: Nirav Sanghani, guitar, arrangements, compositions (1, 4, 7, 8, 12); Jonathan Doyle, clarinet, alto saxophone; Sean Krazit, tenor saxophone; Justin Au: trumpet; Rob Reich, piano; Jen Hodge, string bass; Riley Baker, drums; Clint Baker: trombone (1, 6, 15).
Recorded on February 23, 2020 at Community Music Center in the Mission District of San Francisco. IRRATIONAL BLUES / IT HAD TO BE YOU / TEA FOR TWO / MOODY TOM / AVALON / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS / SUNSET SWING / EASY SAUNTER / OH, LADY BE GOOD / ROSE ROOM / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / REACTIVITY BLUES / SOMEBODY LOVES ME / THE MAN I LOVE / JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE //
The music (in digital form) can be found and purchased here for a pittance. It will reward you with pleasure far greater than the price.
Dawn Lambeth has been one of my favorite singers for more than fifteen years now. I’d never heard of her (such is the East Coast / West Coast divide in Jazz America) until I was asked to review her CD, MIDNIGHT BLUE, for the much-missed Mississippi Rag, and I was astonished. Her lovely voice, her warm phrasing, her love of the melody, her understanding of the lyrics — all splendidly touching. She swings; she embodies the great traditions but sounds like herself, understated and passionate at the same time.
And I could marvel at her work in a variety of contexts at the most recent Redwood Coast Music Festival. Here she is with Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang: Dave, guitar, vocals, and fun; Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.
Many people feel that singing isn’t, after all, so difficult. You learn a song by listening to recordings, perhaps you ask friends who play what key you are singing in, you hope to remember the lyrics and to not hang on to the mike stand too ostentatiously, the pianist plays four bars, you open your mouth — and look, ma, I’m singing! Nice clothing, good hair — also essential.
But this art is so much more complex, and it rests on the dual mastery of the song (how to get from one note to another with grace and personality, and then, how to courageously improvise and land well) and the lyrics (what do those words actually mean? what’s “the story” here? where should I take a breath?) and the deeper understanding of the emotions a song is meant to stir. I could be very wrong here, but an eighteen-year old might not sing THANKS FOR THE MEMORY with the deep rueful sensitivity that the song requires, in the same way that same youthful striver might not deeply understand the feelings of a literary character.
And there’s an even more difficult art — drama without acting — or how to make a group of people in a large hall, through your voice and gesture sent through a microphone, feel the nuances that composer, lyricist, and singer must convey.
I write this perhaps discouraging prelude to simply say that Dawn Lambeth not only knows how to do these rare things, but she embodies the art of communicating information and feeling while the notes roll on. We know, in the song I am about to present here, the joy of past experience and the ruefulness that the experiences are past.
THESE FOOLISH THINGS, by Jack Strachey and Eric Maschwitz (and perhaps Harry Link), has been sung often since its emergence in 1935, and inexperienced singers can make the melody a series of predictable steps, the lyrics a shopping list of sentimental fragments of memory. It has been sung so often that in the wrong hands, its sharp edges have been blurred. But Dawn reaches into the song, without overacting, and offers us the novella of love unattained but recalled that it really is. Hear her poignant variations on “You conquered me!” and know what this rare art truly is.
So moving. Thank you so much, Dawn and friends, for these tender, candid moments.
WHY DON’T YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH has a strong pedigree: recordings by Henry “Red” Allen, the Boswell Sisters, Adrian’s Ramblers, 1934 dance bands, and more. (There are two delightfully odd versions on YouTube — a 1935 duet on film by vaudevillians Blossom Seeley and Benny Davis, and a nearly surrealistic piano / vocal explosion by Speckled Red . . . for you to investigate as you might.)
I suspect that the gentleman in the drawing is “all alone by the telephone,” waiting for the call, promised, that hasn’t arrived.
And for those who want to learn the verse or see the original chords, here is a sample of what people in 1934 would have to practice:
I am certain that the stern patriarch of American popular song, Alec Wilder, would have furrowed his brow over this one: its limited melody, relying on simple patterns and repeated notes (a particular Wilder irritation), and its conversational lyrics with perhaps predictable rhymes. But one could say some of the same things about a number of Berlin songs, and PREACH sticks in the mind. Is it because it is singable? Or is the easy colloquial nature of the lyrics part of the charm — one can imagine a writer in the Brill Building saying in a cranky voice, “For God’s sake, Harry, why don’t you practice what you preach?” and Harry, as they did in films, pushing his fedora back from his forehead and saying, “Say that again. We got a song there!”
But I think the appeal of the song is its light-hearted but serious approach to a universal situation. Who among us has been promised something — and I don’t mean thin-crust pizza, but fidelity, devotion, monogamy — to find that the verbal promise was not matched by behavior. This isn’t a “You lied to me and now it’s all over” aria, but it is, “Why don’t you cut out what you’re doing and be straight with me?” which is all too often the song in our heads.
This performance comes from the second set the OAO and I enjoyed at the Redwood Coast Music Festival: Dave Stuckey, guitar, voice, and focused enthusiasm, led his Hot House Gang: Marc Caparone, cornet; Nate Ketner, tenor saxophone; Carl Sonny Leyland, keyboard, Katie Cavera, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums, with the very special guest Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and tenor saxophone. I have heard Dave perform this song before, so I was ready for joy, and I was entranced by the “right” tempo, the glee club effects, the general we’re-rockin’-this-town spirit, all the way to the vocal triple ending. I loved it in the moment and I love it now. I hope you dig it too:
So swing out. But heed the sermon of Deacon Stuckey. Get yourself together. It’s easier to tell the truth. Collect friends, not enemies. And don’t let your mouth write checks your tail feathers can’t cash. Amen, brothers and sisters.
See you at the 2023 Redwood Coast Music Festival . . . even if you bring all your sins with you in checked luggage.
. . . we’ll remember all winter long. No videos yet, just some words. Oh, and a portrait.
Thursday night, two sets in a row by Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang, which began with Dave (vocal, guitar, ebullience) and Marc Caparone, Nate Ketner, Carl Sonny Leyland, Katie Cavera, Josh Collazo — featuring memorable Thirties classics such as GOT A BRAN’ NEW SUIT — and then adding Jonathan Doyle for a set that offered a choral vocal on WHY DON’T YOU PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH? — a song whose rendition led many in the audience to closely consider their past hypocrisies.
Friday, after brief subversive explorations of Willard Robison and others by Jacob Zimmerman at the piano, we had Marc Caparone and his Back O’Town All-Stars, the band honoring Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars even though the sign said “Back O’Day.” They were Marc, Jacob, Charlie Halloran, Dan Walton, Jamey Cummins, Steve Pikal, and Josh, with vocals by Marc and Dawn. The set started explosively with MAHOGANY HALL STOMP and ended with STEAK FACE, and Eureka, California, will never be the same. But in a nice way. Or maybe a Nice 1948 way.
Next, Joel Paterson, Jonathan Doyle, Carl Sonny Leyland, Beau Sample, and Alex Hall got dangerously groovy with compositions by Illinois Jacquet, Freddie King, Bill Jennings, and others. A Chicago club circa 1955, right in front of us.
The Back O’Town All-Stars returned, but with the cosmic gift of Duke Robillard. They began with JUMPIN’ THE BLUES and the set only paused its jumping for a tenderly lyrical PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, sung as if shiny and new, by Dawn Lambeth.
Saturday began with Hal Smith’s Mortonia Seven, with Kris Tokarski, John Gill, Sam Rocha, Dave Kosmyna, T.J. Muller (on trombone), and Dave Bennett: a set notable for energized renditions of MILENBERG JOYS and PANAMA, but also BLUE BLOOD BLUES, MAMIE’S BLUES, and a positively vivid rendition of BALLIN’ THE JACK, sung and nearly-demonstrated by Dave, who told me he was playing a Conn Victor cornet once owned and played by our mutual hero Jim Dapogny. Jim was surely there, “no doubt,” in spirit.
The temperature rose for Charlie and the Tropicales — that’s Charlie Halloran and his musical voyages through the Caribbean, featuring Jonathan Doyle, Nate Ketner, Kris Tokarski, Twerk Thomson, Josh Collazo, and Jamey Cummins. There was calypso — Lord Melody’s FIFTY CENTS, sung nimbly by Charlie, as well as a few waltzes, a “belly-rubber,” and some all-out romps.
Next, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, with Brian Holland, Danny Coots, Marc Caparone, Jacob Zimmerman, and Steve Pikal, which started with Fats Waller’s MOPPIN’ AND BOPPIN’ went SOUTH for that song and PARDON MY SOUTHERN ACCENT, and ended with the Claude Hopkins’ affirmation, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU.
T.J. Muller switched to cornet for a King Oliver tribute — hotter than a forty-five! Even though he told us he had damaged his lip being over-ambitious on trombone, it was in o way audible. Young Louis was Dave Kosmyna, and the rest of the band was Hal Smith, Clint Baker, Ryan Calloway, Kris Tokarski, John Gill, Twerk Thomson, and their opening DIPPER MOUTH BLUES pushed us back in our seats with its expert hot velocity. I wasn’t around at the Lincoln Gardens in 1923, but this band made me feel that I was.
Then, Jonathan Doyle’s “four horn set,” with a front line of Jonathan, Zimmerman, Halloran, and Kosmyna, and the rhythm of Riley Baker, Tokarski, Cummins, and Collazo. I love Jonathan’s compositions — WHAT’S THE RUMPUS?, WHO’S THAT SCRITCHIN’, YOU CAN’T TAKE THOSE KISSES WITH YOU, but he also performed Moten’s HARMONY BLUES, Clarence Williams’ CUSHION FOOT STOMP, the Ellington-small-band GOOD GAL BLUES, and closed with SIX CATS AND A PRINCE. I had the leisure to admire his arrangements, the ways horns and rhythm gently slid over one another.
Sunday began with Twerk Thomson’s DORO WAT, which was streamlined and gutty at once, with Kris Tokarski, Halloran, Doyle, and Kosmyra — no set list, just a whimsical journey through BOUNCING AROUND, DREAMING THE HOURS AWAY, PONCHARTRAIN, and the whimsically-described CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME. This set — straight out of Marvel comics — also featured an exploding bass bridge (I mean the piece of wood itself) and festival angel Mark Jansen coming to the rescue in seconds with yet another string bass. And yes, I have it all on “film.”
Then, Hal Smith’s Jazzologists, a seriously NOLA band of John Gill, Katie Cavera, T.J. Muller (back on trombone), Clint Baker, Ryan Calloway, Kris Tokarski, offering MOOSE MARCH (a favorite of bassist Mike Fay), BLACK CAT ON THE FENCE, and MY LITTLE GIRL, in honor of Esther Muller, one month old.
In between, we went to the Eagle House (I became a civilian for an hour and left my camera in its nest) to hear Dave Stuckey’s Western Swing ecstasy, which finished with SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE — most riotously.
And (for us) the festival closed with a gentle set by Holland-Coots, with a highlight being Dawn’s sweet POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS and a solidly romping IF DREAMS COME TRUE.
Were there other glorious sets we missed? Did I take notes? Did I video everything here except the Western Swing yee-haw? Hell yes. Or “That’s for darn sure.”
Will you get to see the videos? As many of them as the musicians say YES to. And should you come to next year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival?
Do you even have to ask?
October 5-8, 2023.
P.S. I apologize to any musician whose name I misspelled above (I am sure I did): my excuse is that yesterday’s travel day began before 7 AM in California and ended after 1 AM in New York.
Some people want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the pyramids at Tulum, the Northern Lights . . . . I’ve done some of those things, but what I want in 2022 is to return to the Redwood Coast Music Festival. Keep your monuments: they’ll be around in November. This festival is enduring, but it was made to take a nap in 2020 and 2021 for reasons that should be clear. I was there in 2019 and had the time(s) of my life. So, in less than three weeks, “if the creeks don’t rise,” or “if breath lasts,” (you pick) the OAO and I will be there, grinning and eager, flushed with anticipation.
I should say right here that this post is an unsubtle but perhaps necessary encouragement to all my jazz friends and colleagues to get off their couches and chairs, stop inspecting those books and labels, and enjoy the real thing, fresh, vivid, and multi-hued.
To make it easier to buy tickets, hear sound samples, have questions answered, and more, visit http://rcmfest.org/ (and be dazzled). If someone’s name is unfamiliar to you, the site is the equivalent of an old-fashioned record store’s listening booth.
Kris Tokarski and Hal Smith will be there:
Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, and Dan Walton too:
Jonathan Doyle, Steve Pikal, and Charlie Halloran will be around:
Dave Stuckey and Western Swing pals as well:
Island spice from Charlie and the Tropicales:
Carl Sonny Leyland also:
Thursday and Friday, September 29 and 30:
Again, friends and connoisseurs, that’s http://rcmfest.org/. It is a very congenial experience — even the musicians I know, who are often downtrodden and vocal about it, praise the management, the environment, and more. Good sound technicians, volunteers who don’t shoot first and ask questions later, and a strip of good restaurants in Eureka, a town with a lovely mural and kind feelings.
Also, if you haven’t gleaned it from the schedules, the RCMF is beautifully expansive.
I went to my first jazz party / weekend / festival in 2004, so I speak from experience. As budgetary pressures made themselves ominously evident, festivals shrank. There might still be five sets a day, but the cast of characters was a dozen musicians, changing places on stage. A certain airlessness set in, as if we’d paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet and every dish was based on canned salmon and green beans. And such constriction made itself heard in the setlists.
No, the RCMF has many musicians, simultaneous sets, and a variety of approaches: zydeco, rhythm’n’blues, soul, New Orleans jazz, piano boogie-woogie, Fifty-Second Street flavors, Western Swing, country, Americana, “roots,” Louis, Jelly, Duke, Joplin, and everyone in between. I delight in the rich menu; I despair of getting to hear all the good sounds.
I won’t run through the usual didactic sermon about how festivals require active support (I mean people willing to go there and pay for the music) but I will note that every time a jazz fan doesn’t go to a festival when they could have, an angel dies. Clarence never gets his wings. Do you want that on your conscience?
Attentive readers will already have seen (and heard) my recent post on the Redwood Coast Music Festival, which can be visited here. (There’s a substantial helping of music from the 2019 RCMF.)
Now, the musicians have agreed that the tentative schedule for the festival is fine with them, so I can share it with you here. Make sure you have a cool drink (or a hot one, depending on where you are), a way of taking notes, and perhaps your phone within reach in case you feel faint. The schedule has that effect on me, so I am not fantasizing at all.
Thursday and Friday:
And, a little music to help you take the next step, which involves tickets to the festival, lodging, and transportation. Those you have to do on your own, but they are do-able for certain.
ESQUIRE BOUNCE, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:
and DON’T BE THAT WAY, by a different version of the Swingtet:
I’m eager to go, and I hope you are as well. And the race IS indeed to the swift: when I called the Red Lion Hotel in Eureka, California, some rooms were already booked. Carpe the swing diem, dear readers.
TEN YEARS, by the Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith Western Swing All-Stars:
JULIANNE, by Charlie [Halloran] and the Tropicales:
I am very excited by this news that the Redwood Coast Music Festival is returning. It gives my native optimism fertile soil to grow in. This festival is a friendly sustained explosion of some of the best musical talent I know.
Here are some of the glorious people who will be there, singing and playing. Dave Stuckey, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Twerk Thomson, Kris Tokarski, Charlie Halloran, Jonathan Doyle, Joel Paterson, Dawn Lambeth, Brian Casserly, Dave Bennett, T.J. Muller, Katie Cavera, Jacob Zimmerman, Duke Robillard, Jessica King, Ryan Calloway, Riley Baker, Chris Wilkinson, James Mason, Jamey Cummins, Josh Collazo, Tom Rigney, Sam Rocha, Nate Ketner, Dave Kosymna, Alex Hall, Beau Sample, Dan Walton, John Gill, Jontavious Willis, Brian Holland, Danny Coots, and more. And more.
The festival runs from Thursday evening to Sunday evening (September 29 to October 2) and there are either five or six simultaneous sets. Simultaneous. I emphasize this because I got the most charming vertigo trying to plot a course through the tentative schedule, an exercise in Buddhist non-attachment or chess (which I never learned): “I want to see X at 5:30 but that means I can’t see Y then, but I can see Y the next day.”
I’ve only been to Redwood Coast once, in 2019, a transcendent experience and I don’t overstate: the only festival that made me think longingly of hiring a camera crew of at least two friends so that we could capture some portion of the good(ly) sounds. one of the nicest things about this festival is its broad love of energized passionate music: jazz, blues, swing, country, zydeco, soul, rhythm and blues, “Americana,” “roots” — you name it.
Did I mention that there’s room for dancing?
Are some of the names listed above unfamiliar to you? Go here to learn more about the artists and see videos of their work
You can buy tickets here. And maybe you’ll think this is the voice of entitlement, but an all-events pass — four days! — is $135, at least until August 1.
Here’s one more musical convincer from 2019:
Remember, every time it rains it rains PENNIES FROM HEAVEN — in this case, rare musical experiences. But you can’t catch them in your ears or outstretched hands by staying at home.
Jazz festivals are like people you meet on a first date: some make you look for the exit within five minutes; some you warm to in spite of their odd ways; some you fall for wholeheartedly. The Redwoood Coast Music Festival is my best example of the festival-as-heartthrob.
I’ve only been there once — the green hills and endless vistas that 2019 now seems to be — but I can’t wait to go back. And I spent 2004-20 chasing festival delights in New York, Cleveland, California, England, and Germany, so I have some experience from which to speak.
But why should my enthusiasm matter to you? For all you know, I am being paid wheelbarrows of currency to write this. (I promise you it ain’t so.) Let’s look at some evidence. Caveat: not everyone seen and heard in my 2019 videos is coming to the 2022 festival, but they will serve as a slice of heavenly experience.
Hal Smith’s ON THE LEVEE JAZZ BAND plays IDA:
The Carl Sonny Leyland – Little Charlie Baty Houserockers turn our faces a bright CHERRY RED:
The Jonathan Doyle Swingtet ensures everyone has a CASTLE ROCK:
An interlude for prose.
The poster shows that this is no ordinary jazz festival, relying on a small group of bands and singers within a particular idiom. No, the RCMF offers an aural tasting menu astonishing in its breadth and authenticity.
And hilariously that causes problems — ever since Sir Isaac Newton pointed out that no one can be two places at once, the RCMF makes me want to smack Sir Isaac and say in a loud whine, “Why CAN’T I see / record three groups at three separate venues at once? It’s not fair.” Even I, someone who doesn’t feel the same way about zydeco as I do about swinging jazz, had moral crises at every turn because the variety of delicious choices set out for me eight times a day was overwhelming. (At some festivals, I had time to sit outside and leisurely eat gelato with friends: no such respites at the RCMF. A knapsack full of KIND bars and water bottles just won’t be enough: I need a whole medical staff in attendance.)
What else needs to be said? The prices are more than reasonable, even in these perilous times, for the value-calculation of music per dollar. If you don’t go home sated, you haven’t been trying hard enough. And the couple who seem to be everywhere, helping people out, Mark and Val Jansen, are from another planet where gently amused kindness is the universal language.
Some more music, perhaps?
Walter Donaldson’s LITTLE WHITE LIES by the Jonathan Doyle – Jacob Zimmerman Sextet:
A Charlie Christian tribute featuring Little Charlie Baty and Jamey Cummins on guitar for SEVEN COME ELEVEN:
Asking the musical question, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH THE MILL? — Elana James, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, and assorted gifted rascals:
Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales play TABU. Hand me that glass:
KRAZY KAPERS, irresistibly, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:
BLUE LESTER, from Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:
So . . . even though the world, as delineated in the headlines, is so uncertain, consider ungluing yourself from your chair at the end of September. Carpe the damn diem, as we say.
http://www.rcmfest.org/ is the festival’s website; here they are on Facebook. Make it so that something wonderful is, as Irving Berlin wrote, WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD for you, for all of us:
The trombonist Charlie Halloran has a sweetly audacious imagination. We can all say, “I wonder what this combination of musical experiences would sound like”; Charlie goes ahead and gives his brightly-colored set of possibilities musical shape. And the surprises that result are so very pleasing. Before I introduce you to his latest creation, I would go back a few years to praise one from the past:
Charlie is the first-call trombonist in New Orleans, which means that he plays with a variety of bands — Tuba Skinny, the Shotgun Jazz Band, the Little Big Horns, his own Quality Six, and more. He’s come up to New York to be a featured guest with the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, where he played nobly and made everyone happy. But I think his heart beats fastest (without rushing, mind you) to a larger world-view than SOMEDAY SWEETHEART.
Charlie has immersed himself in that wonderful Venn diagram where New Orleans jazz meets the music of the Caribbean, as astute listeners could hear above. This brings listeners to places they’ve never been but where the music is — although the songs are new — deeply heartfelt and satisfying. When I first began to listen to CE BIGUINE, for example, I thought within a few minutes, “This is going to be one of my favorite discs, full of embracing surprises.” And it’s remained so. When I heard Charlie play some of the same music at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, I looked away from my camera to see the room swaying, the band playing. Smiles proliferated. And the room was gently sashaying in time.
Charlie’s new CD, THE ALCOA SESSIONS, is just extraordinary: not a simple plastic disc with good sounds embossed digitally into it, but a combination of a novel, a travelogue, a happy series of musical voyages to places that only exist in our ears and imaginations. Here’s the cover: doesn’t it make you feel like finding sandals and sunscreen? (It’s not even lunchtime as I write this, but a mojito dances before my eyes.)
But I hear you saying. “Alcoa. Isn’t that an antique brand of aluminum foil? What has all this got to do with music?” Patience. All will be revealed.
The Alcoa Sessions
Tomas Majcherski……Tenor Sax
Jonathan Doyle….Tenor Sax. Clarinet.
Don Vappie, John Rodli and John Maestas………..Guitar
Tyler Thomson, Pete Olinciw……..Bass
Joe Lastie, Doug Garrison, Chris Davis……..Drums
Larry Sieberth, David Boeddinghaus…….Piano
Dédé St. Prix, Drew Gonsalves, Don Vappie………Vocals
Now, a pause for some enlivening musical evidence:
Trombonist Charlie Halloran’s fifth album, and first on the ArtistShare label, imagines the musical experience aboard cruises run by the Alcoa Steamship Co. out of New Orleans from 1949-1959. Pulling from dance band repertoire of Mid Century New Orleans, Trinidad, Venezuela and Guadeloupe, the Alcoa Sessions presents a band in the style of Paul Barbarin or Dave Bartholomew, augmented by Cuban percussion, French Creole and calypso vocals, fully leaning into the Crescent City’s placement as the northernmost city in the Caribbean.
Don Vappie leads the band through “When I Was a Little Child,” a swinging creole number from the Paul Barbarin / John Bruinous band, followed by the appropriately titled “Everybody’s Wailin’,” originally recorded by Huey Piano Smith.
By now the cruise has left the Mississippi River and we begin to explore ports further south. Considered Venezuela’s unofficial national anthem, “Alma Llanera” is given a Trinidadian dance band treatment ala Johnny Gomez. The moody and exotic “Margarita Rosa” comes from the Fitz Vaughan Bryan Orchestra, another dance band working in Port of Spain throughout the 1950s.
Back on the boat now, Halloran provides the vocals for the old jazzstandard, “I Used To Love (But It’s All Over)”. 1950s New Orleans saw the explosion of seminal Rock and Roll and R&B recordings, so surely a New Orleans dance band of the era would be ready to let rip on a tune such as Dave Bartholomew’s “Twins” featuring fine trumpet work here from Mike Davis.
Lionel Belasco was a prolific composer working in Barbardos, Trinidad, Venezuela and New York City through the 1960s. His composition “Miranda” is a Venezuelan waltz and provides theperfect outlet for practicing some Arthur Murray dance steps, whose classes were often taught on these cruises. But don’t get too comfortable in 3/4, as Martinique’s Dédé St. Prix is up next to lead the band through “Moune a ou, ce moune a ou,” a brisk biguine from the French Caribbean, featuring the interplay between the trombone and reeds, particularly Tomas Majcherski’s tenor, giving the trumpet player a moment to grab a drink.
Jonathan Doyle steps to the front on the raucous, “Feeling Good”, harkening to Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen and the screaming tenor saxdriven R&B of the 1950s. Trinidadian/Canadian singer Drew Gonsalves of the band Kobotown joins the band for a humorous calypso from Lord Funny, featuring Gonsalves’ infectious rhythm and cadence.
The band swings out the last two numbers, first with the uptempo “Goodnight” written by Pat Castagne for the sign-off music for Radio Trinidad, and finally the dreamy tropical standard, “Song of the Islands.”
The “Alcoa Sessions” mines wonderful, under the radar repertoire, allof it danceable and from the era when calypso, biguine, R&B, and traditional New Orleans Jazz were exploding and intermingling, alongside the tiki craze, mambo and tropicalia. The Alcoa Steamship company used music imagery and language in their ads and brochures, and Halloran’s “The Alcoa Sessions” is sure to melt the ice in your drink and have you packing your suitcase for a TWA plane bound for warmer climes this winter.
Excited? I certainly was. You can check in here to hear a sample, purchase a download or a disc. Echoes of calypso, early rhythm and blues, and delicious old-school NOLA music. I’ve heard the music and am delighted. You will be, too.
I’ll let Charlie have the last word(s):
I like to imagine a young band aboard the Alcoa steamships,comfortable playing traditional jazz and New Orleans R&B, but incorporating local musicians while in port, blending calypso, beguine, and mazurkas, with their New Orleans sensibilities. This album will feature the sounds likely heard on a 13 day excursion from New Orleans through the Caribbean on the Alcoa Clipper, Corsair, and Cavalier.
I will be brief. Two new releases from heroes of mine, just out on Bandcamp — music to dance to even if, like me, you can’t dance.
The first is the second volume by Hal Smith’s Jazzologists: elegantly rough New Orleans Revival jazz featuring Clint Baker, John Gill, Ryan Calloway, Katie Cavera, Bill Reinhart, Kris Tokarski. Dee-lightful, as Louis would say.
For the historians in the room, think of an alternative universe where Bunk, Mutt, Steele, Jelly, and the Fatha get together, ever so sociably. Here is the link.
Eight rocking performances, good even for the lactose-intolerant.
Jonathan Doyle and his bands are like eternally bubbling fountains, and his new digital album, THE SPIRIT OF KANSAS CITY MEETS CHICAGO, recorded at a swing dance in Seoul, is just grand — think of the Reno Club in modern times.
The stellar band here is Jonathan Doyle, Saul Cline, Josh Roberts, Ray Skjelbred, Jen Hodge, Mike Daugherty. Andhereis the link.
Eddie Durham said of Edmond Hall (I am paraphrasing) that Hall could do anything except not swing. Hal and Jonathan and their bands can be described the same way. This music will act as the best tonic for all your days and nights.
I did not take the pandemic lightly, and I spent a good deal of last year scared to bits . . . but I’m going. And I hope you will also, if you can.
Details here — but I know you want more than just details.
Although for those who like it very plain, some elementary-school math: four days, more than a hundred sets performed at eight stages, from intimate to huge. Dance floors. And the festival is wonderfully varied, presenting every kind of “roots music” you can imagine: “jazz, swing, blues, zydeco, rockabilly, Americana, Western Swing, country.”
Off the top of my head — when I was there in 2019, I heard the music of Charlie Christian, Moon Mullican, Pee Wee Russell, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, Pete Johnson, Billie Holiday, and much more. Bob Wills said howdy to Walter Donaldson, which was very sweet.
And here are some of the jazz and blues artists who will be there: Carl Sonny Leyland, Duke Robillard, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Jonathan Doyle, Jacob Zimmerman, Dan Walton, Marc Caparone, Joe Goldberg, Bill Reinhart, Joshua Gouzy, Joel Patterson, Katie Cavera, Dawn Lambeth, Clint Baker, Kris Tokarski, Nate Ketner, Brian Casserly, Josh Collazo, Ryan Calloway, and two dozen other worthies whose names don’t yet appear on the site. And of course, bands — ad hoc units and working ones.
For the justifiably anxious among us, here is the RCMF’s Covid update: several things stand out. First, California has mandated that ticket sales must be in advance. And understandably, there will be fewer people allowed in any space . . . so this translates for you, dear reader, as a double incentive to buy tickets early. I know that festivals always urge attendees to do this, but you can see these are atypical reasons.
How about some musical evidence?
CASTLE ROCK, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:
WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, by Dawn Lambeth and her Quartet:
REACHING FOR SOMEONE, by the Doyle-Zimmerman Sextet:
HELLO, LOLA! by Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:
SAN ANTONIO ROSE, by Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith’s Western Swing All-Stars:
PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, by Marc Caparone and his “Louis Armstrong All-Stars”:
If the videos don’t act as proof, my words may be superfluous. But to paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog and I’ll write if I want to.”
I come to this festival-jazz party circuit late — both late for me and for the phenomenon — September 2004. Chautauqua, California, Connecticut, Newcastle, Westoverledingen, and others. I’ve attended a hundred of them. Meaning no offense to any festival organizer, I think Redwood Coast delivers such quality and such range that it is astonishing. I told Mark Jansen that it was the SUPERMARKET SWEEP of festivals: so much to pick up on in so short a time. And readers will understand that my range is narrow: there is much music on the list of genres above that doesn’t stir me, although it might be excellent.
However: in 2019 I came home with over 150 videos in four days of enthusiastic observation-participation. I slept as if drugged on the plane ride home. I’d been perforated by music of the finest kind.
I also need to write a few darker sentences.
There is a blessed influx of younger people — dancers, often — to music festivals like this one. But festivals are large enterprises, costly to stage and exhausting to supervise. Those of us who want to be able to see and hear live music must know that this phenomenon needs what realistic promoters call Asses in Seats.
So if you say, “Well, I’ll come in a few years when I’m retired,” that’s understandable. But Asses at Home mean that this festival, and others, might not wait for you. Grim, but true.
So I hope to see you there. There are a million reasons to stay at home. But who will come in and dust you?
The new CD by the Brooks Prumo Orchestra, THIS YEAR’S KISSES, is wonderfully groovy, rather like the thing you can’t stay away from, Bert Lahr’s single Lay’s potato chip. (You can look that up on YouTube. I’ll wait.) By the way, I loved the BPO’s first CD, PASS THE BOUNCE (2017): read about it here.
Here‘s the Bandcamp link for KISSES, where you can see the personnel, the song titles, hear a sample, download, or purchase this CD.
The description reads: The Brooks Prumo Orchestra was made for dancing. Featuring brand new arrangements of long-lost big band tunes, original compositions, and crowd favorites, the Brooks Prumo Orchestra aims to embody a big band dance orchestra of the Swing era. Filled with world-class musicians, the band will evoke thoughts of Count Basie, Earl Hines, Andy Kirk, and Billie Holiday.
The noble members of the BPO are Alice Spencer, vocals*; Mark Gonzales, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Lauryn Gould, alto saxophone; David Jellema, cornet; Oliver Steck, cornet; Hal Smith, drums; Ryan Gould, string bass; Kris Tokarski, piano; Brooks Prumo, guitar.
And the delicious repertoire is CASTLE ROCK / SOMEBODY LOVES ME* / ‘T’AIN’T LIKE THAT / PEEK-A-BOO / THIS YEAR’S KISSES* / JO-JO / DON’T BE THAT WAY / ARMFUL O’ SWEETNESS* / OUT OF NOWHERE / THE THEME / WHAT’S YOUR NAME?* / BLUE LESTER / BROADWAY / I’M THRU WITH LOVE* / JEEP’S BLUES.
Those who know will see splendid associations: Al Sears, Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, Count Basie, Karl George, Billie Holiday, Joe Bushkin, Jo Jones, Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Alex Hill, Fats Waller, Henry “Red” Allen, Dexter Gordon, Nat Cole.
Happily, the CD is very forgiving of the dance-challenged: it allows me to sit in my chair, listen, and beam. And to give you an idea of the intense attraction I had for this CD on my first hearing I thought, “I want this CD!” and then calmed down enough to think, “You already have it.”
Listening to it again and again, I envisioned the eleven members of this orchestra as a kind of M.C. Escher drawing, people swimming blissfully in two divergent streams at once. One could be labeled NOW, which means that the musicians here sound like themselves — and their voices are so individualistic — but they are also having a high old time splashing around in THEN, so that many of the performances have a tender connection to past recorded performances. But there is no conscious attempt (use your Steve Martin voice) to say, “Hey! Let’s Get OLD!” — no archival stiffness. And the familiar material, say SOMEBODY, BROADWAY, NOWHERE, is delightfully enlivened by the band’s passionate immersion in not only the notes but the emotions.
The rhythm section is fine-tuned, flexible and resourceful, four individuals playing as one; the solos are memorable; the ensemble work is both loose and graciously cohesive. This is a band, and even if there isn’t the official BPO band bus for the one-nighters, you can hear their pleasure in working together, easy and intense.
And a few lines, once again, for the miracle of nature known as Alice Spencer, who takes familiar music and makes it fresh, who makes songs associated with Billie Holiday for decades into her own without warping their intent, who can be perky or melancholy with utter conviction. She is full of surprises — many singers telegraph what they are going to do in the next four bars, but she doesn’t — although her surprises always seem like the right thing once they have landed. I won’t compare her to other singers: rather, she has an aura like a great film actress, comfortable in many roles. Think Joan Blondell or Jean Arthur, and you have some idea of her great personal appeal.
This CD is a great gift. It’s music for dancers, music for those of us who know the originals, music for people who need joy in their lives. THIS YEAR’S KISSES is like sunshine breaking through: a consistent delight, much appreciated. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to listen to it again.
Those who have visited my apartment would agree that it resembles as a homemade record store-yard sale. Or a spousal nightmare. Over there, a George Barnes lp, on that table an Eddie Miller cassette; on top of some papers, a Jimmie Rowles CD, and then there are the 78s — which, I say proudly, are in alphabetical order. So I don’t need any more music right away.
Sorry, I was proven wrong this morning when I had a chance to hear and purchase the Oxblood Melodians’ debut CD on Bandcamp. Listen to the first track here while you read.
I had heard of the band — rather like one of those listings in Brian Rust that you know were once recorded (Adrian Rollini, Teddy Bunn, and Frank Froeba, 1930) but you have never heard — I knew some of the musicians, but did not know that they would appear, fully-feathered, to me, this Friday, August 7. More about that date shortly.
For now, some enticing data. Or you can read it all for yourself hereif you are a proud independent cuss who don’t take help from nobody.
We are excited to present The Oxblood Melodians. This self-titled album is the collaboration of Jonathan Doyle & David Jellema, and features many of our favorite Austinites and honorary Austinites. Our goal was to create an ensemble that evokes the New York and Chicago small groups of the mid-late 1920s, with bass saxophone in the bass role and embracing both jazz and blues traditions. The Oxblood Melodians are named in part after the oxblood lilies that grace Austin and central Texas yards in the fall (including our own). Recorded at the legendary “Dandyville” by Alex Hall in 2014, these sides have been simmering and gestating, waiting for just the right moment to be released into the world. That time is finally upon us!
Day 1 :: 4,5,6,7,10,12,14
Alice Spencer—vocals 6 & 14
David Jellema—cornet &/or clarinet
Lyon Graulty—clarinet &/or tenor saxophone
Mark Gonzales—trombone (except 7)
Westen Borghesi—tenor banjo (+vocal on 12)
Jonathan Doyle—bass saxophone
Hal Smith—drum set 4,6,12,14
Day 2 :: 1,2,3,8,9,11,13
Alice Spencer—vocals 1,2,9
David Jellema—cornet &/or clarinet
Lyon Graulty—clarinet &/or tenor saxophone
J.D. Pendley—guitar & tenor banjo
Jonathan Doyle—bass saxophone (+contra-alto clarinet 3 only)
1. Louis-I-An-Ia (Day 2) / (Joe Darensbourg) dir. D.Jellema
2. Oh Daddy Blues / (William Russell / Ed Herbert) arr. D.Jellema, J.D.Pendley
3. Dardanella / (Fred Fisher / Felix Bernard / Johnny S. Black) arr. D.Jellema
5. New Orleans Shuffle / (Bill Whitmore) dir. D.Jellema
6. Of All the Wrongs You’ve Done to Me / (Lew Payton / Chris Smith / Edgar Dowell) dir. D.Jellema
7. Farewell Blues / (Paul Mares / Leon Roppolo / Elmer Schoebel) dir. D.Jellema
8. Cryin’ All Day / (Frank Trumbauer / Chauncey Morehouse) arr. D.Jellema
9. Don’t Give All the Lard Away / (Lockwood Lewis / Henry Clifford) adpt. J.Doyle
10. Feel the River Move / (David Jellema / Rod Jellema) dir. D.Jellema
11. Old Stack O’Lee Blues / (Sidney Bechet) dir. D.Jellema
12. Love Affairs / (Al Dubin / J. Russel Robinson) adpt. J.Doyle
13. Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams / (Ted Koehler / Billy Moll / Harry Barris) dir. D.Jellema
14. Louis-I-An-Ia (Day 1) / (Joe Darensbourg) dir. D.Jellema
Some of the repertoire will point us to “the dear boy” from Davenport, but this is both a humble tribute to him and an understanding that our heroes prize individuality the most. So this isn’t a bunch of kids dressing up for Halloween: “I want be Bessie this year! How come you always get to be Bessie?” “Your brother gets to be Larry Binyon this year. I promised him.” “Let us be. Mom and I are going as Fats Waller.”
Rather, what you will hear is a group of dear musical friends, exuberant and precise, who know the history and have their own songs to sing. Too many delights to elucidate here: I’d rather you head over to Bandcamp directly. Why the rush? Because today Bandcamp gives all the proceeds to the artists and takes no fees. So if you haven’t been able to hear some live jazz, hear this lively version: it will make you glad.
“Believe me,” as Alice tells us at the end of OH DADDY BLUES.
I know it’s the most unwieldy title in the history of JAZZ LIVES’ unwieldy titles, but so be it. At least readers know what they’re getting, or getting into. Here I can offer you gorgeous music from the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet: Jonathan, tenor, composer; Gordon Au, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Sam Rocha, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Jamey Cummins, Alex Belhaj, guitars. Recorded on May 12, 2019, at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, the second part of a very rewarding set, and hereis the first.
Let us begin with Cole Porter’s whimsical-salacious depiction of a very practical amorous relationship, MY HEART BELONGS TO DADDY, which has a good deal of moral ambiguity to it, but who thinks about such things when sunk deeply into this groovy evocation?
More groove, more funk — Al Sears’ CASTLE ROCK:
The venerable CRAZY RHYTHM, at a surprisingly tender tempo, featuring the eloquent Charlie Halloran:
Jonathan’s own JUMP IN, JUMP OUT — which, like his other originals, shows a fully-developed compositional sense. Even when his originals are built on familiar harmonic patterns, his introductions, riffs, textures, and voicings show his expansive imagination:
Fine riffin’ this afternoon — with Illinois Jacquet’s BOTTOMS UP:
and finally, the dark-hued YOU NEVER KNEW ME AT ALL, based on a noble Thirties ballad:
Jonathan and friends were just one highlight of the immensely stirring Redwood Coast Music Festival that made my May 2019 completely memorable. Eleven months from now, there will be the 2021 version . . . and I’ll be there. It’s not too soon to start anticipating these joys and more. May 6-9, 2021. “Mark it down.”
Bouncing has been shown to have salutary therapeutic effects, so join us!
The source of all this joy is the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet, recorded in performance at the magical Redwood Coast Music Festivalon May 12, 2019. That’s Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone / compositions / arrangements; Gordon Au, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jamey Cummins [right], Alex Belhaj [left], guitars; Sam Rocha, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums. . . . captured in a still photograph by the JAZZ LIVES staff:
Now to the music played for the first half of this gratifying set — what Mildred Bailey might have called “a hot half-dozen.”
Take us back to 1943, while Coleman Hawkins stands off to the side, smiling:
and something sweet that Jonathan calls DON’T WALK OUT (the harmonic hint is this — imagine Louis’ opening number as a rhythm ballad and you have it):
Winnie the Pooh couldn’t make it, but in his honor, HONEY JAR, his love:
SLIPPERY SLOPE, perhaps named because of ascending and descending lines:
I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK. If this is true, I have to invite Jonathan and Corinne to sit in Washington Square Park in the late spring:
Thinking of Austin, Texas, zoology, where THE BATS ARE SINGING:
The best news is that Jonathan and friends will be appearing — in whatever permutations they choose — at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 7-10, 2020. Here you can see a list of the other artists, a cornucopia of musical joys that increases my heart rate dangerously.
See you there!
Even better! — here is the schedule for the Festival. I can’t wait.
Few people would recognize the portrait on its own.
But Walter Donaldson (1893-1947) wrote songs that everyone knows (or perhaps, in our collective amnesia, once knew): MY BLUE HEAVEN; LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME; AT SUNDOWN; YES SIR, THAT’S MY BABY; HOW YA GONNA KEEP THEM DOWN ON THE FARM?; MAKIN’ WHOOPEE; CAROLINA IN THE MORNING; LITTLE WHITE LIES; MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME; WHAT CAN I SAY AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY; YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, and many more — six hundred songs and counting. Ironically, the man who created so much of the American vernacular in song is little-chronicled, and if Wikipedia is to be believed, he is buried in an unmarked grave in Brooklyn. So much for Gloria Mundi.
On May 12, 2019, Jonathan Doyle (here playing bass saxophone) and Jacob Zimmerman (clarinet and alto saxophone) created a wonderful exploration of Donaldson’s less-known and often completely unknown compositions for the Redwood Coast Music Festival. Joining them were Kris Tokarski (piano); Katie Cavera (guitar); Charlie Halloran (trombone); Hal Smith (drums). Charlie had to rush off to another set, so Brandon Au takes his place for the final number, JUST THE SAME. There are some small interferences in these videos: lighting that keeps changing, dancers mysteriously magnetized by my camera, yet oblivious to it (a neat trick) but the music comes through bigger-than-life.
Ordinarily, I parcel out long sets in two segments, but I was having such fun reviewing these performances that I thought it would be cruel to make you all wait for Part Two. So here are ten, count them, Donaldson beauties — and please listen closely to the sweetness and propulsion this ad hoc ensemble gets, as well as the distinctive tonalities of each of the players — subtle alchemists all. At points, I thought of a Twenties tea-dance ensemble, sweetly wooing the listeners and dancers; at other times, a stellar hot group circa 1929, recording for OKeh. The unusual instrumentation is a delight, and the combination of Donaldson’s unerring ear for melodies and what these soloists do with “new” “old” material is, for me, a rare joy. In an ideal world, this group, playing rare music, would be “Live from Lincoln Center” or at least issuing a two-CD set. We can hope.
LITTLE WHITE LIES, still a classic mixing swing and romantic betrayal:
DID I REMEMBER? — possibly best-remembered for Billie’s 1936 recording:
SWEET JENNIE LEE! which, for me, summons up a Hit of the Week paper disc and a Frank Chace home jam session:
MAYBE IT’S THE MOON — so pretty and surprisingly unrecorded:
YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO TELL ME (I KNEW IT ALL THE TIME) — in my mind’s ear, I hear Jackson T. singing this:
SOMEBODY LIKE YOU, again, surprisingly unacknowledged:
CLOUDS, recorded by the Quintette of the Hot Club of France:
TIRED OF ME, a very touching waltz:
REACHING FOR SOMEONE (AND NOT FINDING ANYONE THERE), which enjoyed some fame because of Bix, Tram, and Bing:
JUST THE SAME, which I went away humming:
Thoroughly satisfying and intriguing as well.
I dream of the musical surprises that will happen at the 2020Redwood Coast Music Festival (May 7-10, 2020). With over a hundred sets of music spread out over four days and on eight stages, I feel comfortable saying there will be delightful surprises. Their Facebook page is here, too.
Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL is a splendid little band, greeted enthusiastically in person and in cyberspace, which will become evident in sixty-four bars. (The lovely weird artwork below is the cover of their debut CD, by the way.)
Here’s Part One, where you can savor LITTLE GIRL; LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER; HELLO, FISHIES; BATS ON A BRIDGE; BIG AL; PIPELINER’S BLUES; WINDY CITY SWING; HELLO, LOLA.
And the second portion, beginning with LONG-DISTANCE MAN, which has a beautiful story behind it even before the deeply lyrical music begins — for me a highlight of the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival:
Dan Walton’s exuberant ROLL ‘EM, PETE:
Jamey Cummins’ THE SHEIK OF airbnb:
The poignant BLUE LESTER:
And a rollicking THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU:
Truly a band to know and to follow. On a related note — in a major key — the 30th Anniversary Redwood Coast Music Festivalwill take place in Eureka, California, from May 7-10, 2020. I’ll be there, and Hal and many of my hero-friends also.
This is part of the world that Hal Smith’s Swing Central comes from — but the world of Swing Central is living and thriving now.
Courtesy of the Carnegie Hall Archives
This little group is packed with pleasures. It’s Hal Smith’s evocation of a world where Pee Wee Russell and Lester Young could hang out at Jimmy Ryan’s, where Teddy Wilson, Charlie Christian, Eddie Condon, Pops Foster, and Dave Tough could have breakfast after the gig, perhaps chicken and waffles uptown. And the music they created as naturally as breathing was lyrical hot swing that didn’t have the time or patience for labels.
This version of Hal’s group has him on drums and moral leadership, Jonathan Doyle, clarinet and some original compositions, Dan Walton, piano and vocal, Steve Pikal, string bass; Jamey Cummns, guitar. This is the first part of a long leisurely showcase at the 2019 Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California.
and a Bing Crosby hit that justifiably entered the jazz repertoire:
Jonathan Doyle’s wonderful HELLO, FISHIES:
something for people who have been to Austin, Texas, or for those who need to take a trip there, BATS ON A BRIDGE:
A dedication to one Mister Capone, who liked jazz when he wasn’t working:
Dan Walton sings and plays Moon Mullican’s PIPELINER’S BLUES, while everyone joins in on this jump blues:
for the Chicagoans and the rest of us as well, WINDY CITY SWING:
and we’ll close the first half of this uplifting set with HELLO, LOLA — a reminder of Red McKenzie and his friends:
Hal’s beautiful little group also made a CD where they strut their stuff quite happily: I wrote about it here.
And they will be appearing — with Kris Tokarski and Ryan Gould in for Walton and Pikal — at the Austin Lindy Exchange, November 21-24 — which, like love, is just around the corner.
Not incidentally, the Redwood Coast Music Festival is happening again, thank goodness and thanks to Mark Jansen and Valerie Jansen, from May 7-10, 2020. More information here as well. Some numbers: it’s their 30th anniversary; it runs for 4 days; there are 30 bands; more than 100 sets of music. Do the math, as we say, and come on.
To my ears, modern bands don’t find it easy to reproduce the music of Twenties and early Thirties medium-sized ensembles beyond playing the notes, although I commend their attempts. The most pleasing exceptions have been Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, still doing the thing regularly in New York and elsewhere; I’ve also delighted in some ad hoc ensembles put together at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Festival. (Listeners have other favorites, I know: I am not compiling a list here.)
But most recently, the Chicago-based FAT BABIES are are a consistent pleasure.
Here’s UPTOWN, performed at the July 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival:
UPTOWN is also the name of the Babies’ latest CD, their fourth for Delmark, beautifully thought-out, played, and recorded.
Visit here to buy the disc and hear samples, or vice versa.
The band on this disc is the 2016-18 version, with Andy Schumm, cornet, alto saxophone, clarinet; Dave Bock, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet, tenor, soprano; John Otto, clarinet, tenor; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, tenor banjo, tenor guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums, percussion. They deeply understand the music without being stuffy.
Of the thirteen selections, UPTOWN and THAT GAL OF MINE are originals by Andy Schumm; SWEET IS THE NIGHT by Jonathan Doyle. The arrangements and transcriptions are by Schumm, Doyle, and Paul Asaro, who also sings on five tracks with proper period flourishes. The rest of the repertoire — venerable songs — EDNA, HARMONY BLUES, THE BATHING BEAUTY BLUES, RUFF SCUFFLIN’, OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY, THUMPIN’ AND BUMPIN’, THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, TRAVELIN’ THAT ROCKY ROAD, THE SOPHOMORE, HARLEM RHYTHM DANCE — have noble associations with King Oliver, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Eubie Blake, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Bing Crosby, the Dorsey Brothers, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Clarence Williams, Claude Hopkins, and others. But you’ll notice that the song selection, although deep and genuine, is not The Same Old Thing (you know: the same two Ellingtons, one Bix, DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, MOTEN SWING, and so on): even scholars of the period might not be used to hearing some of these compositions.
What makes this band so delightful? The answers come thick and fast. They are a working band, so their section work is beautifully polished but never stiff. The solos caress or explode, depending on what the song requires. There’s also a refreshing variety in tempo and mood: the Babies do not need to play racetrack tempos all the time, and they know that hot is best served with with nicely seasoned side dishes of sweet. This is music for dancers as well as listeners. I’ve seen other ensembles do creditable work with charts they are seeing for the first or second time, but nothing can replace the comfortable familiarity that comes with playing a song twenty times in a month.
“Authenticity” is always a slippery subject, but the Babies manifest it in every note and phrase: they’ve lived with this music long enough and intensely enough to have the rhythmic feel of this period as part of their individual and collective nervous systems, so there is no self-conscious “going backwards,” but the band feels as if they’ve immersed themselves in the conventions of the style — which go beyond slapped bass and choked cymbal. It doesn’t feel as if they are acting, pretending to be ancient: their joy in being comes through. And the solos are stylistically gratifying without being museum-pieces. It’s been said before, but if the Babies were to be dropped in Harlem in 1931, they would cause a sensation and be welcomed at the Rhythm Club, the dance halls, and after-hours clubs.
It’s joyous music, joyously played. And my only reservation about this Delmark CD (which, again, I point out, is beautifully recorded) is that it’s not a three-disc set. Maybe next time.
I’ve been praising Jonathan Doyle in print and in person for the past five years, give or take an enthusiastic outburst. Not only is he a superb reed player (clarinet, tenor and bass saxophones), but he’s a wonderful composer and arranger — not only on the paper but on the spot. And the music he and his friends make is a proven mood-enhancer.
Jonathan Doyle, 2015
I’ve been doling out the music from this May 11, 2019 set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival because it is so delicious that I didn’t want — myself or anyone else — to make it into smartphone background music while the listener was doing something crucial like Instagram or microwave popcorn.
Here are the final three beauties from that set — two originals by Jon, one by Buck Clayton. And in an era where some bands take a long time to get in the groove, please note that the first two performances would fit on a 10″ 78; the last one on a 12″ — maybe a Keynote or a V-Disc . . . although there’s nothing museum-dusty about this music. Ask the dancers.
And the band! The band! From the back, that’s Hal Smith, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Kris Tokarski, piano; Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone. What fun! And, for a change, let me cyber-embrace the team that makes the Redwood Coast Music Festival so memorable, here, rather than at the end of a posting: Mark and Valerie Jansen.
TELL ME IN CHICAGO:
HIGH FIVE, MR. ZEPHYR:
and SIX CATS AND A PRINCE:
I feel better now, and that’s no stage joke.
Next year’s Redwood Coast Music Festival will take place May 7-10, 2020. Miss it and you’ve missed the Acme fast freight, as Mildred Bailey sang.
And the whole set is now available on the blog: just type in “Swingtet” and you will find joys.