Tag Archives: joy

MAGIC MADE AUDIBLE: TAMAR KORN, ROB ADKINS, DAN BLOCK at CASA MEZCAL, PART ONE (May 24, 2015)

I follow the lead of the Blessed Eddie Condon when it comes to hyperbole about music, but in this case restraint is something I will put aside for a moment.  What you are about to see — the first part of a Sunday afternoon session at Casa Mezcal featuring Tamar Korn (voice and theatre), Dan Block (reeds and courage), Rob Adkins (string bass and moral foundation) is some of the most quietly astonishing music I’ve ever seen.

A friend of mine who saw one of the videos called it “an opportunity for magic to be made audible,” and I think that is perfectly evocatively true.

I’ve always had an idea that the music made when there’s no audience is a transporting experience, that the way musicians play for themselves is freer and more exalted than when they have to be conscious of an audience.  In most public situations, all sorts of distractions intrude.  An audience there for brunch won’t stop talking.  Waitstaff cross back and forth with dishes, full or empty. Even the artists most able to free themselves from their surroundings have to notice, now and again, what is buffeting them from the outside world.

Sunday, May 24, 2015, was a gloriously sunny day — a gift from the cosmos to remind us that such things are possible.  And Casa Mezcal was nearly empty as a result.  I was there, as was my new friend Richard Basi from Oregon, and a few others.  But the room was so still that Tamar decided to sing without amplification.  And there was no instrument — piano or guitar — to provide chords.  So the result was ethereal, elastic, delicious: three voices in sweet conversation, stretching time, pitch, and lines.  I’ve left in more than I usually would of the pre-song whimsical deliberations because I find them immensely touching.

What happened wasn’t anything predictable.  It wasn’t Singer with Accompaniment (in Twenties terms, Comedienne with Orchestra) nor was it a cut-down Billie, Pres, and Walter.  Imagine a soulful conversation where no one gets stifled or interrupted, where no one is The Lead, where the common goal is something new and beautiful and rare.  Experiencing this was like being admitted behind the curtain for the genuine deep rituals.

Here are eight glorious performances from the trio’s first set: a divine interchange of energies, and I do not use those words lightly.

CHEEK TO CHEEK:

SINGIN’ THE BLUES:

BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA:

LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE:

THEM THERE EYES:

COME RAIN OR COME SHINE:

WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:

Gorgeous, free, exact, playfully exuberant, joyous.  And this was only the first set of two.  It was an honor to be there.

May your happiness increase!

SPREADING JOY IN MICHIGAN (May 8, 2015)

Any universe is a beautiful place that has such brightly-shining people in it, including the unseen woman behind the camera.

Here are the details . . . the song, the dancers, the musicians, the occasion.

ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM (Walter Jurmann, Gus Kahn, Bronisław Kaper; arranged by James Dapogny).

Dancers:  Erin Morris, Brittany Armstrong-Morton, Rachel Bomphray, Sarah Campbell, Hayden Nickel, Nathan Bugh, Patrick Johnston, Chris Glasow, Ryan Morton, Bryant Stuckey.  (For more information about Erin Morris and her Ragdolls, visit here, and then, feeling the spirit, here.  JAZZ LIVES will soon be able to offer information for those wishing to form local chapters of the Erin Morris and her Ragdolls International Fan Club.

Musicians: , Mike Karoub (cello), James Dapogny (piano), Rod McDonald (guitar), and Joe Fee (bass). College Theater, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Michigan. May 8, 2015. Filmed by Laura Beth Wyman.

Bless each of them . . . so generously blessing us with joy.  Tell your friends.

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD” AT THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, MIKE PITTSLEY, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH

You don’t have to write Odes to Nightingales to be lyrically poetic. In this century, we have Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Hal Smith, drums, to prove this.

The song on which they wax poetic is IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD, performed at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest:

(Connie — a great unheralded singer — embodies a special optimism. Bless him and his colleagues.)

While you are basking in the good sounds and good feeling, think of this: Tim and Connie, with their New Orleans All Stars — Doug Finke, trombone; Chris, Marty, Katie, and Hal — will be playing more than a few sets at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest, November 26-30.

And they are certainly not the only band: click here.

If you can live joyously, it’s always a wonderful world.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER KIND OF TRIBUTE TO DUNCAN P. SCHIEDT: DUKE HEITGER, BOB HAVENS, DAN LEVINSON, ANDY STEIN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, RICKY MALICHI at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 21, 2013)

I’ve spent the last few days grieving for Duncan P. Schiedt.  And my mourning and appreciation is not something I can put away neatly in the closet of emotions and say, “Oh, well, we must move on.” But I wondered if there was a way I could honor Duncan with some joy leavened into the loss . . . and I present my own version of the eternal flame of hot jazz.

What follows is not “just another set of videos I took.”

“Nay nay,” to quote the Master.

Aside from the mail — and then email and telephone — the only place I ever encountered Duncan in person was at Jazz at Chautauqua, nine years in a row (2004-2013).  And I saw him at an adjacent table (with Liz) having a fine time enjoying the music. I know that Duncan was in the room while this set was being created, and it doesn’t take much imagination to add his smiling countenance to the mostly-unseen audience.  I don’t think the musicians will mind.

Incidentally, “Jazz at Chautauqua” has now been reborn as the Allegheny Jazz Party — I’m making plans for my maiden voyage to Cleveland in mid-September.

But back to September 21, 2013.

Those musicians! Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Levinson, clarinet; Andy Stein, baritone saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums — in a session of Condonesque good-old-good ones going back to Porter Steele and forward to Frank Loesser, in the best way.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

A SLOW BOAT TO CHINA:

MY GAL SAL:

STARS FELL ON ALABAMA (by Mister H for Mister T):

HIGH SOCIETY (wait for the riotous version of the Alphonse Picou chorus):

Our lives are so finite . . . but what we do in those brief spans is so beautiful.

May your happiness increase!

A GOOD ANSWER! (JON BURR, HOWARD ALDEN, MENNO DAAMS) Hotel Edison, October 4, 2013)

I fell into conversation with a musician at a gig last week — we were both early and he did me the great courtesy of taking me seriously as I set up my video camera.  “Why do you listen to this music?” he asked.

I gave him my usual and true answer: it was possible for me to hear and listen to Louis Armstrong from my childhood on.  He looked sternly at me and said, “That‘s not an answer.”

I was shocked and thought: how dare you, Sir, suggest that my earliest experiences of the music were in some ways not sufficient rationale for my joy in it now?

But I gathered myself and said, after a pause, “This music makes me feel even more how fortunate we are to be alive.”  He paused, too, then said, almost with reverence, “That’s an answer.”

Here is a physical embodiment of that answer: a performance that makes me feel so joyous, music that balances all the unseemly race to false happiness we find in the world, music that says, “It will be all right.  Beauty is possible.  Here we are to spread joy.”

Bassist, composer, and bandleader Jon Burr has a weekly gig — something I hadn’t known of — in the lounge of the Hotel Edison on Fridays, approximately 4 to 6 PM.  The Edison is between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, between 46th and 47th Street.  I was accustomed to enter the hotel from the south side, 211 West 46th, but the music is most easily accessed from the north.

For this Friday, Jon was in tandem (and that cliche is true) with guitarist Howard Alden, and the ever-resourceful trumpeter Menno Daams — in New York City with his wife Ineke on a visit from the Netherlands — combined to become the essential Count Basie band (no piano, no tuxedos needed) for SHINY STOCKINGS.  They are my heroes and they need no armor.

If you don’t feel better after this performance, email me at swingyoucats@gmail.com and we’ll talk.

Thank you so much, Jon, Howard, and Menno.  You brought a new kind of love to us!

May your happiness increase!

DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD

Many of us have made plans, whether vague and silent or specific and detailed, about what should happen to our STUFF (thank you, George Carlin) after we are no longer around to enjoy it.

But this post isn’t to urge people to make such plans. I would like readers to consider the idea of spontaneous philantropies while the giver and the recipient are both alive and sentient.  

Suppose you know that a jazz friend has never heard an unusual or rare record. You could make a bequest of that disc in your will . . . or you could give it to your friend NOW. If that’s too painfully a precursor of your own death, you could invite your friend over to hear it. You could send a copy now — before other responsibilities get in the way of this impulse.

If you know that your niece is playing saxophone in the school band, why not make sure she has AFTERNOON OF A BASIE-ITE, Ben Webster with Strings, and Buddy Tate records to enjoy? Again, NOW. A fledgling singer has never heard Mildred Bailey or Jimmy Rushing? You’re beginning to see a pattern.

These generosities make a number of happy results possible. Who doesn’t love getting a gift that, in its essence, says, “The person who gave this to me knows me so well and loves me”? So your gesture becomes an offering of affection and joy. In addition, acts like these are quiet ways of letting the music reverberate through the universe: jazz proselytizing, if you will.

A good deal of my musical happiness has been the direct result of the active generosity of many people, living and dead, friends and collectors who said, “You HAVE to hear this!”  Marc Caparone, Ricky Ricccardi, Manfred Selchow, Stu Zimny, David Weiner, Rob Rothberg, Bill Gallagher, David Goldin, Butch Smith, John L. Fell, Joe Boughton, Hal Smith, Wayne Jones, Bob Erdos, Bill Coverdale, Roy Bower, Bert Whyatt, Derek Coller, and two dozen others. Without them, my musical range would have been much more narrow. I remember the giver as much as I do the gift.

Much of my work on this blog is my own attempt to give gifts of music old and new. “Wait, you have never heard HAVEN’T NAMED IT YET?” “You never heard Lips Page or Tricky Sam Nanton play the blues?”

It’s a paradox, but giving precious artifacts away to someone who will appreciate them does not diminish your ownership; it intensifies your pleasure.

I am skirting the practical details of sharing; I don’t mean to suggest that you simply burn CDs, because that deprives the original artists of royalties or income. But I do urge people to open their treasure troves and share the music.

So rather than thinking about the next record or CD you absolutely must possess, why not turn the impulse on its head and think, “Who in my life would be thrilled to listen to what I so enjoy? Who deserves a gift of music, and how might I make this possible?”

In return, you will hear their pleasure and gratitude and be warmed by it. Such acts are love embodied, and the energy behind them is never wasted.

P. S.  If you’re reading this and thinking, “All that is very nice, but I have no rare jazz records to share with other people,” there are always chances to make generosity take shape without spending money. Consider the Ethel Waters principle:

If you say to someone today, “I love you,” “Thanks for everything,” “I’m grateful to you,” “I’m so sorry,” “Can you forgive me?” “What can I do for you?” or “It’s been a long time since we spoke,” those words have the ringing beauty of a Bix solo or a Lester Young chorus.

May your happiness increase!

A LESSON IN SPIRITUAL PHILOSOPHY FROM THE MASTER

The urge to share this ecstatic experience came upon me yesterday because of a conversation I had with the thoughtful, surprising art historian Claudia Cage.  We drifted sideways into the question about our power and ability to perceive (and thus inhabit) our lives.  Some people can’t help but view their saga as tragic, and often they have very solid evidence to support this darkness.  But others — like Claudia and myself — choose to look for joy, for laughter, as salvations.

Those who know my turn of mind might not be surprised at the music that I sent her, then the Beloved, my friend Gretchen, and now you.  It is that most wondrous expression of art and power, a performance that makes me cry — with joy, with exultation, a whole complexity of emotions — every time I hear it.

WHEN YOU’RE SMILING is fairly thin melodic material, and jazz groups tend to romp through it faster and faster, as if to conceal how little there is to work with.  But not our hero, who understood its deep message and the operatic possibilities of those long held notes.  I would love it if every singer or everyone who wanted to sing was able to study the vocal chorus (which begins with a scatted version of the trumpet break — talk about beautiful structures!) — its warmth, its casual seriousness, its great human compassion.  Louis isn’t insisting that his moral message is the only one; he is not up in the pulpit.  Rather, his is a gentle arm around the listener’s shoulder, saying sweetly, “Hey, man, I know this world is hard.  It can wear you down to nothing.  But if you welcome joy and live it, then — who knows? — things will get easier.  You have nothing to lose by smiling, man.”

And then the trumpet solo, an angel from on high sending us his golden clarion message: do your best to be happy, and all will be well.  Amazing music out of a deep, wise, jubilant soul.

For anyone who still holds to the tired view that Louis Armstrong’s creative life sputtered and died after 1928, I prescribe a course of repeated listening.  And, rather like antibiotics, you can’t stop taking the joy-medicine even if you feel better.

On that note, I will say that I live in a Long Island suburb; my apartment windows face a four-lane main road.  Across the street from me, a new exercise studio opened a few months ago, and they feature Zumba to music so loud that I feel it in my socks; it makes the windows vibrate.  I wish them no harm (although I do regularly ask them to turn it down a bit) but I secretly wish I had a cosmos-rattling sound system in my apartment.  I would open my windows, duck down where I could not be seen, and play this version of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING so that everyone’s windows rattled . . . but with joy, with delight, with the feeling that it is better to be alive while you have the chance.  (Once a day only, and my goal would be that I would then pass people on the street and some more of them would be smiling, perhaps some one even humming the song.)

In this very unpredictable century, I find it comforting that this video has been seen nearly four million times on YouTube.  Send it to someone you love; it beats anything that comes in a box and it is much easier than a trip to the mall.  I wish with all my heart that someone could play this performance for the Dalai Lama — who already knows its truths — as a loving embrace.

Love your life with all its imperfections and it will love you back.   It may not be possible to make the whole world smile with you, but you can spread joy as you go on your daily rounds.  Louis did, and modeling oneself on Louis is a pretty good choice.

May your happiness increase.