“Mainstream,” not “trad,” “nor “Dixieland.” From the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party (September 19, 2014): two songs by Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums. It’s visually dark but the music blazes through. Lyrical, not hackneyed; Loesser and Carmichael, not Oliver or the ODJB. Abandon those categories and enjoy:
That’s right. DARK EYES, published in 1843, has lyrics by the Ukrainian poet Yevhen Hrebinka, music by the German composer Florian Hermann. And here it is, served hot.
All of this splendid improvisation on the theme took place before 10 AM on a Saturday morning at Jazz at Chautauqua (September 15, 2007), a fact worth noting, since many jazz musicians are nocturnal beings. We have Bob Barnard, cornet (open) / leader; Duke Heitger, trumpet (muted); Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums. Everyone sounds splendid but I award the Palm to Bob . . . who just soars, as was his habit:
Jazz at Chautauqua (then the Allegheny Jazz Party and the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party) came only once a year, but I attended faithfully for fourteen years and am still living in the afterglow. My decade plus-one (2006-17) of performance audios and videos is a precious archive to me, and it is (as always) a joy to share it with you. There are more treasures unseen and unheard, so watch this space.
In yesterday’s post celebrating the extraordinary person and musician Bob Barnard, I referred to his delightful penchant for songs no one else was playing or improvising on. I suggested it was a love of melodies, but I think also it was a way of avoiding routine, sweetly challenging himself and the others on the stand, so the musical special for this evening wouldn’t be ROYAL GARDEN BLUES or SATIN DOLL, although he played them with ingenuity and fervor.
I wish I had had my recording equipment at Jazz at Chautauqua when Bob played A BROWN SLOUCH HAT, the patriotic Australian song from 1942 that I suspect few, if any in the audience had heard or heard of. But I was properly equipped in 2007 (although secretly) when he called this tune, from PINOCCHIO, by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, sung by Cliff Edwards as “Jiminy Cricket”:
So to celebrate Bob properly, as a bright beacon of joy, I offer this audio-only performance from the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. The other soloists are Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums. Performed on Friday, September 14, 2007 and recorded surreptitiously, of course:
A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.
Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.
The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.
Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):
Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.
Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.
Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!
I know it’s almost November, but the calendar is very forgiving when it comes to autumnal beauty, that is, until I have to take the snow shovel out of the closet.
Here, Kurt Weill’s gorgeous SEPTEMBER SONG is treated with love by this unusual trio: Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano — who performed at the 2014 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend in Chautauqua, New York:
Speaking of calendars, Bob Havens is 84 here: he’s a marvel.
Extra credit question: is SEPTEMBER SONG (lyrics by Maxwell Anderson) more memento mori or carpe diem? Show your work. Here’s the original version, sung by Walter Huston:
Archaeologists always exult over their discoveries — a bone-handled spoon, a bird-skeleton. Wonderful, I guess. But when I go back into my YouTube archives, I come up with Rebecca Kilgore and friends touching our hearts. I’ll trade that for any noseless bust or porcelain ornament.
So very touching: featuring one of the greatest singers I know in a September 21st late-night set with Duke Heitger’s Swing Band at Jazz at Chautauqua: the other members of the Band are Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, alto saxophone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Mike Greensill, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums:
And the next night, Becky sent the Fellows off so that she and Keith Ingham could perform IT’S ALWAYS YOU, a 1941 Jimmy Van Heusen – Johnny Burke song from THE ROAD TO ZANZIBAR, song — of course — by Mr. Crosby to Ms. Lamour:
Such lovely sounds — beyond compare for knowing sweetness.
For context, you need to hear the lyrics to this song before we proceed — sung by one of the most influential and perhaps least-credited singers ever. Incidentally, the personnel is not identified in my discography. If Brian Nalepka reads this, I wonder if he hears that strong bass as Joe Tarto’s:
If you want to play that again, I don’t mind. Go ahead: we’ll wait.
But here’s something only the people at Jazz at Chautauqua in September 19, 2009, got to hear and see. This amiably trotting performance, led by trombonist Dan Barrett, also features Tom Pletcher, cornet; Keith Ingham, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet, Frank Tate, string bass; Pete Siers, drums. Video by Michael sub rosa Steinman, lighting by Henry “Red” Allen:
I hope you go away humming this song, and that the affectionate hopeful music is good protection against all those nasty things we are reading about now. The music and the musicians are — seriously — lucky to us. (So, next time some players and singers offer their hearts and language “for free” online, toss something larger than an aging Oreo in the tip jar, please.)
With the frightening turmoil on land occupying my thought, the night sky seems a peaceful refuge, and Whitman’s WHEN I HEARD THE LEARN’D ASTRONOMER comes to mind:
When I heard the learn’d astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
Whitman approved of song — hence the title of his greatest work: I don’t think he would have turned away from the melodies I present here, delicious treasures from a vanished — but sweetly remembered — time and place. And the poem speaks of savoring experience deeply, which is what the musicians we love both accomplish and share with us.
Here are two lovely musical vignettes from Sunday morning at Jazz at Chautauqua. The first, Petra van Nuis and Andy Brown, dear friends, musing through the Burke-Van Heusen MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU:
Then, Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Chuck Wilson, so deeply missed, alto saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Arnie Kinsella, drums; Vince Giordano, looking up at the meteor shower that gave birth to STARS FELL ON ALABAMA:
Tonight, immerse yourself in the night sky if you can. Such vistas heal.
I am moderately accident-prone: I can trip over an uneven sidewalk; have the last bit of salad dressing adhere to my shirt; while driving, I may unsuccessfully avoid a pothole with an $800 repair bill as the result. I laugh about it.
So I admire those who see the looming catastrophe, however its size and shape, and step around it without spilling their tea. They aren’t Bojangles, Fred, or Gene — just people who sense the landmine and gracefully avoid it. Jazz musicians are especially good at fixing errors before they turn into train wrecks.
Two of these Masters — you could call them spiritual acrobats or merely veterans of the trade — are trombonist Bob Havens and guitarist / singer / arranger Marty Grosz. Both of these heroes are born in 1930, so when this brief interlude took place on September 16, 2011, they were 81. Decades of experience! The occasion was the yearly Jazz at Chautauqua, the beloved child of Joe Boughton, that was held at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York (ninety minutes from Buffalo). It was a memorable jazz weekend, with about thirty musicians playing and singing from Thursday evening to Sunday afternoon.
One of the particular delights of Chautauqua grew out of Joe’s love for beautiful semi-forgotten songs. Thus the weekend began and ended with a ballad medley. Four musicians were chosen as a skilled rhythm section, and from one side of the stage, everyone else walked on, indicated briefly to the rhythm section what song they had chosen and in what key, played or sang a chorus at a slow tempo, and walked offstage from the other side. Emotionally powerful, visually charming, full of surprises and sweet sensations.
For the 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua’s closing medley, the rhythm section was Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; Arnie Kinsella, drums. The complete medley ran perhaps twenty minutes: I’ve excerpted a segment I find particularly touching.
You’ll see at the start of this excerpt Bob Havens step onstage and explain by words and gestures that he plans to play — in seconds — LOVE LETTERS IN THE SAND, the nostalgic creation of Charles and Nick Kenny and Danny Coots’ great-uncle, J. Fred. It’s a favorite song of mine, first recorded in 1931 by (among others) Ruth Etting, then made into a huge success by Pat Boone. I won’t comment on what the trajectory from Ruth to Pat suggests to me, especially because it was one of Vic Dickenson’s favorites also (his medium-bounce version can be found on YouTube). In its homespun way, it’s a seventeenth-century poem: human love always loses the battle with nature and time, and tears are inevitable.
The opening phrase is familiar, the harmony simple, but unless my ears deceive me, there is a slight uncertainty in the rhythm section about the harmonies that follow, so Havens, used to this sort of thing for decades, “spells out” the harmony by emphasizing arpeggiated chords as he goes along — and the performance not only reaches its goal but our hearts as well.
Then Marty, who always goes his own way, thank goodness, asks everyone to be silent while he essays EMALINE. That in itself would be brave — the lyrics to the chorus are pure Waltons-Americana, but they might be fairly well known. No, our hero Martin Oliver Grosz begins with the verse and gets about one-third of the way before realizing his memory of the lyrics is incomplete: hear his inimitable rescue! And the chorus is just lovely. Incidentally, Frank Tate is someone I deeply admire: watch and listen to this clip again, and look at his facial expressions as Marty walks the thorny path he has chosen for himself.
For those who need to know (I had to look them up) the pretty although seriously hackneyed lyrics to the verse are: Ev’ning breezes hum a lullaby / There’s a million candles in the sky / I’ve put on my Sunday suit of blue / Emaline, just for you / Here I’m standing at your garden gate / While the village clock is striking eight / Hurry up! Hurry down! / Honey, don’t be late! (I especially like the “up” and “down,” but I’m a sentimentalist.)
The musicians on this stage (and their friends) are my role models. What does a brief error matter if you either head it off or make a joke out of it: in both cases, they not only avoid trouble but cover it up so stylishly that the result is even better than plain old competence. All hail!
There will be more previously unknown treasures from the Jazz at Chautauqua weekends — and then its successor, the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party — in months to come. “Too good to ignore,” said Eddie Condon, who spoke truth.
This song was a hit in 1931-2. YouTube offers many amiable dance-band recordings. Here I present four, two modern and two classic.
George Probert, soprano; Chris Tyle, cornet, vocal; Mike Owen, trombone; John Royen, piano; Lars Edegran, guitar; Bernie Attridge, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. 1998. (Thanks to Chris for singing and playing from the heart. And Hal keeps everyone pointed in the right direction, heartbreak or no.)
Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Keith Ingham, celeste; Hal Smith, drums. 1996.
THE performances, when the song was new, including the verbally treacherous verse, with Bing at one of his many peaks.
Finally, Louis and the Chicago band — with that muted lead. “Bring it out, saxophones!” And the final bridge, a history of jazz in itself:
If Valentine’s Day is to you just a celebration of commodified love, it will pass. When the stores close for the night, the tired sales help is already putting 50% OFF stickers on the candy boxes, but it would be gauche to bring some chocolate to the Love Object on the 15th.
The music, however, rings on wonderfully without interruption.
Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known
When you’ve shot as many videos as I have — over a decade’s worth — there’s a sizable treasure chest of the unseen. Sometimes videos are buried for good reason, the primary one being musicians’ unhappiness with the results. And since we aim to please, I don’t post what offends the creators.
But a few weeks ago, during an atypical tussle with insomnia, I was sitting at my computer at 3:30 AM, looking at unlisted videos stored safely on YouTube, and I found this rousing delight. The musicians who like to approve of my postings have approved, so I can share it with you. It’s a hot half-hour with Marty Grosz and his Cellar Boys, from Jazz at Chautauqua, probably a Sunday morning, the exact date noted above.
That’s Marty on guitar, vocal, commentary (yes, he does like to expound, but commenters who complain will be teleported to another blog); Andy Schumm, cornet and miscellaneous instrument; Scott Robinson, reeds and inventiveness; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.
The real breadstick, as Marty would say.
Sucrose, no corn syrup:
Don’t tell me different — I know I’m right! Watch Andy and Scott do magic:
And a series of wonderful hot surprises:
Once, when I was in Dublin, I found the Oxfam charity shop (as they would call it) and sniffed out the small shelf of recordings. Very little of interest, but there was one jazz lp — autographed by the band, and the band had Keith Ingham in it. I clutched it to my chest, fearful that someone would steal it away, and when I approached the cash register, the gracious woman volunteer looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, YOU’VE found a treasure, haven’t you?”
That’s how I feel about these videos. Blessings on the musicians and of course on Nancy Hancock Griffith, who made it all possible.
Marian McPartland and Monk Rowe, photo by Val DeVisser
A the end of the preceding century, while many of us were standing at Tower Records, considering which CD to buy, Monk Rowe — musician and scholar — was busy doing good work in the land of jazz.
Monk is a modest fellow, so he will probably protest all this praise aimed at him and say, “It’s not me . . . it’s the Filius Jazz Archiveat Hamilton College,” but he will have to put up with the adulation for the time being. Monk’s ongoing gift to is a series of video interviews done with jazz artists and luminaries from 1995 on. More than 300 interviews have been conducted, and they are appearing — almost daily — on the Archive’s YouTube channel. Most of the interviews run an hour, which is a wonderful visit with people you and I haven’t had the opportunity for such sustained conversations with.
I confess that I have been slow in alerting JAZZ LIVES’ readers to this magic toybox, because I feared for the collective health. The interviews are wonderfully informative in a low-key, friendly way — Rowe does not obsess over musicological details but is interested in letting the artist speak — and they are devilishly addictive. I’ve lost hours in front of the computer because of them, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And the interview subjects often are people who have not been fussed over in public — at all or in such gratifying ways. Here are a dozen names: Manny Albam, Eddie Bert, Bill Charlap, Benny Waters, Keith Ingham, Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, Sherrie Maricle, Stanley Kay, Grover Mitchell, Rossano Sportiello, Ron Carter — and those interviews have been posted on YouTube in the past month. Let that sink in.
Here’s Monk himself — in under two minutes — introducing the channel. You can see how low-key and amiably focused he is. He mentions the book that he co-authored, drawn from the interviews: I’ve written about it here.
Here are several interviews that will fascinate JAZZ LIVES’ readers. prepare to be entranced, amused, moved, informed.
Monk talks to Tom Baker — someone we miss seriously — in 1997: it amuses me that this interview was recorded in a corner of the Hotel Athenaeum at Chautauqua, New York — the fabled home of Jazz at Chautauqua:
and the illustrious Marty Grosz in 1995:
Kenny Davern, Part One, in conversation with Dr. Michael Woods:
and Part Two:
and “just one more,” Nicki Parrott in 2010:
Set aside a few weeks: this is much more rewarding than several semesters deep in the Jazz Studies curriculum, I assure you. And I haven’t even included Helen and Stanley Dance, Vi Redd, Ruth Brown, Jean Bach, Jerry Jerome, Chubby and Duffy Jackson, Ralph Sutton, Bob Wilber, Joe Wilder, Sweets Edison . . . . that you can do for yourself.
Westoverledingen, Germany, a city with an imposing name, is not known worldwide as the cradle of jazz, but memorable music has been created there for the past thirty years and more by Manfred Selchow. Manfred doesn’t play an instrument, but I feel secure in writing that he has done more for jazz than many people who do play.
I first encountered Manfred, or Mannie, as people call him, as a jazz scholar, because of his splendid documentation of clarinetist Edmond Hall’s life, performances, and recordings in a substantial book, PROFOUNDLY BLUE. Then he did the same thing for another hero of mine, trombonist Vic Dickenson, in a book he called, properly DING! DING!.
But Manfred likes the real thing, created on the spot, as much as he adores recordings — so he has invented and produced concert tours and festivals of some of the greatest musicians of this era. (Many of his concerts have been recorded and the results issued on the Nagel-Heyer label.)
I first met Manfred and his wife Renate in 2007, when I also had the distinctive pleasure of encountering Menno Daams, Frank Roberscheuten, Colin T. Dawson, Oliver Mewes, Chris Hopkins, Shaunette Hildabrand, Bernd Lhotzky, and others. At the time I didn’t have a blog or a video camera, so perhaps I only documented those evenings for the much-missed The Mississippi Rag.
Here’s a wonderful example of what takes place under Mannie’s amiable direction — a 1992 romp by Marty Grosz, Peter Ecklund, Dick Meldonian, Keith Ingham, Bob Haggart, Chuck Riggs (video by Helge Lorenz):
and more recently, a 2013 session with Menno Daams, Nicki Parrott, Bert Boeren, Antti Sarpila, Engelbert Wrobel, Joep Peeters, Chris Hopkins, Helge Lorenz, Jan Lorenz:
And since I gather that “Jazz im Rathaus” means roughly “Jazz at the Town Hall,” the shades of Louis and Eddie Condon are properly approving.
The haunting waltz BEAUTIFUL LOVE was composed in 1931, music credited to Wayne King, Victor Young, and Egbert Van Alstyne; lyrics to Haven Gillespie. That is an eminent group of artists. I don’t know whether King insisted that his name be put on the music (thus, he would receive royalties) before he would perform the song. On no evidence whatsoever, I think Victor Young might be most responsible for this melody.
I do know that I first became aware of BEAUTIFUL LOVE through one or another 1934 Art Tatum recording. Here is his early Decca improvisation, characteristically with everything imaginable offered, including a vivid digression into RUSSIAN LULLABY:
There are, of course, many improvisations on it by Bill Evans, by Helen Merrill, Anita O’Day, Benny Carter, Joe Pass, Kenny Dorham, Lee Konitz, Shirley Horn, George Shearing, and a sweet, intent one by Bing Crosby.
What other song can you think of that has been recorded by both Donald Lambert and Chick Corea?
In this century, the song retains its popularity among improvisers, if YouTube videos are a measure of that. Here is a sheet music cover from 1959 with the UK pop singer Edna Savage posing inexplicably:
But my new favorite performance of BEAUTIFUL LOVE is this, which took place at the Allegheny Jazz Party on September 19, 2014 —
That’s our Rebecca, Becky Kilgore, and Keith Ingham — in one of their duets in a Victor Young tribute set. I so admire the varied textures and shadings Becky brings to individual words and to those words, made into tapestries of sound and feeling. The most modest of stars, she is a great understated dramatic actress who seems never to act; she is possessed by the song and rides its great arching wings.
Love is of course the great mystery, whether it is gratified or if it remains elusive. How the great artists touch us so deeply is perhaps mysterious. But what we feel and perceive is not — whether we experience it in person or on a recording or a video performance.
To experience an unforgettable weekend of music by Becky and friends, one need only visit here to find out all one needs to know about the Allegheny Jazz Party, taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, September 10-13, 2015.
In my deepest jazz self, I hold to what I would call the Condon aesthetic: that nothing beats a group of like-minded musicians assembling for a common purpose — creating swinging lyrical improvisations — on the spot, with no arrangements, nothing more formal than a mutually agreed-upon song, tempo, key, and perhaps someone volunteering to play lead in the first chorus. After that, the players live utterly in the moment. Sometimes this freedom makes for collisions, but more often it results in the kind of pleasure one lives for, the moments when the tight collars have been unbuttoned, the painfully fashionable shoes have been kicked off.
Last September, at the Allegheny Jazz Party (debuting with great success in Cleveland, Ohio) these impromptu delights happened many times in the three-day banquet of sounds. But one session has remained in my mind as a high point of playful unfettered collective improvisation — a trio set led by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor, with two of The Singular Elders, Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano. The combination of a reed instrument and trombone works beautifully but isn’t often attempted these days. There were bebop precursors and swing ones, but the tonal ranges of the two instruments are delightfully complementary. The trio of piano and two horns requires a certain orchestral approach to the piano, although I am sure that Monk or Herbie Nichols would have done splendidly here, too — but Keith is a full band in himself.
With pleasure, then —
(WHAT CAN I SAY, DEAR ) AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY:
A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN:
Thank you, Messrs. Dan, Bob, and Keith.
And, although it’s only January, the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Partyis a sure thing for September 10-13, with a delightful lineup (although there is the asterisk that indicates “All programs subject to change”: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Andy Stein, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Faux Frenchmen. To keep up to date with what’s happening at the AJP, visit here.
One of our heroes, the indefatigable trombonist Bob Havens, out in the open — melodic and extravagant — playing Irving Berlin’s ALWAYS at the first Allegheny Jazz Party (September 19, 2014) with the brilliant fraternal help of Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums:
I especially admire Bob’s interplay with Frank about midway through. Don’t you wish we could have these gents playing ALWAYS? I know I do. “Meet you next year at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party” is what I say.
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 hereor 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.
If you wonder about the title, you have only to gaze at the splendid autumnal chrysanthemums onstage . . . but the music would be blooming even if no flowers were in evidence.
Here is an early set from the jazz weekend formerly known as “Jazz at Chautauqua,” now reborn as the Allegheny Jazz Party. The creative heroes on the stand for this short but intense gift are Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums.
Please notice how much music they offer in three extended performances — echoing the Swing Era but firmly rooted in timeless Mainstream jazz of this century, with nods to Edgar Sampson, Duke Ellington, and Cole Porter.
JUST SQUEEZE ME:
YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME:
See you at the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party! It will happen from Thursday, September 18, to Sunday, September 21, 2014, at the InterConental Cleveland Hotel (9801 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106). The hotel gets good reviews and is much easier to get to than the august lodgings of yore.
The creative participants will be Marty Grosz, Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, Wesla Whitfield, John Von Ohlen, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Frank Tate, Jon Burr, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Dan Levinson, Rossano Sportiello, Keith Ingham, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Howard Alden, Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Randy Reinhart. The proceedings will be supervised by the gently efficient Nancy Griffith, who has made sure of everyone’s happiness in years past at these parties.
There will be informal music on Thursday night, a solo piano session Friday afternoon, a seven-hour session with everyone joining in on Friday night, two more sessions on Saturday (more than eleven hours of music) and a Sunday afternoon finale (four hours). No one will go away thinking, “There wasn’t enough to hear.”
Details can be found here or — more colorfully — here. I made hotel reservations today — there’s a special discount for the AJP. But I learned that rooms are going quickly, and that’s no stage joke.
The ranks of the Elders are thinning: Bobby Gordon has left us. He died peacefully last night (December 31, 2013).
If you saw the outside only, Bobby was a frail-looking clarinetist and occasional vocalist. Hearing his playing, you might have thought, “lyric poet,” with unpredictable measures of tenderness, swing, and surprise.
But Bobby’s music was a matter of constantly shifting shadings — words would have been too coarse for him — so I think of him as a great painter, offering us in one chorus the quiet tints of a Turner watercolor, then shifting to the spiky abstractions of a Kandinsky.
Two choruses by Bobby could be a whole world of sound, echoing his mentors Joe Marsala and Pee Wee Russell, but with his own distinctive enthusiasms and investigations.
I had heard Bobby on record and private tapes from the early Seventies on, but had the good fortune to hear (and video-record) him in person at what was then Jazz at Chautauqua. We only had one conversation (instigated by him in an empty hotel lobby at 2 AM because he had noticed that I was living one suburban town away from his birthplace) but he sang his melodies with sweet intensity, the intensity of a man who knew full well that every note counts.
I wrote a brief biography for Bobby’s Chautauqua appearances:
I first heard Bobby Gordon play in the early 1970s – not in person, but on a tape which included his friend, the great New York drummer Mike Burgevin, where Bobby was teamed with that dynamo, Kenny Davern, in a two-horn quartet. Playing sweetly, quietly, and soulfully, Mr. Gordon cut the extrovert Mr. Davern decisively without having to exert himself. His art is a subtle one – but attentive listeners know just how hard it is to play melodies so simply, with such feeling, so many subtleties of tone and shading. Even when Bobby appears to be hewing closely to the notes we know, he is creating an impressionistic masterpiece. Happily, his quiet brilliance is no longer a secret, nor has it been for some time. Since he moved to San Diego in 1979, where he met his English-born wife, Sue – the reason Bobby often calls the tune “Sweet Sue” — and he began to record prolifically with Marty Grosz, Keith Ingham, Hal Smith, and Rebecca Kilgore among others, listeners have gotten tangible, permanent evidence of his warm musical individuality. We can’t have too many CDs that feature Bobby, but his performances make a reassuring section on anyone’s alphabetically-organized CD shelves. And the good news is that he continues to record regularly, still making San Diego his home base, although fans in England, Japan, and Scotland have showed their enthusiasm for his work as well. Arbors Records has recognized Bobby as a treasure, and his sessions have teamed him with everyone from Joe Marsala’s widow, the harpist Adele Girard Marsala, to Marty Grosz, Dave McKenna, and Bob Wilber: Don’t Let It End (1992), Pee Wee’s Song (1993), Bobby Gordon Plays Bing (996), Clarinet Blue (1999), and Yearnings (2003). But my favorite Gordon CD, I confess, is his JUMP trio with Keith Ingham and Hal Smith – such a popular issue that it is now only available on cassette. Bobby was born in Manhasset, New York, in 1941. Happily for him, his father worked for RCA and sold Tommy Dorsey records for them. Through these connections, young Bobby met the uniquely soulful clarinettist Joe Marsala, becoming what Marsala called his “most gifted student and protégé.” In 1957, Bobby won a scholarship to the Lenox School of Jazz in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, and continued his studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He’s been lucky to work with many of the original masters: Muggsy Spanier, Wild Bill Davison, Jimmy McPartland, Bobby Hackett, Pee Wee Russell. For a time, he was the house clarinetist at the last Eddie Condon’s on 54th Street in Manhattan, as well as working with Jim Cullum’s Jazz Band, The World’s Greatest Jazz Band, and varying Marty Grosz units, all with original names. One opportunity that didn’t materialize was his replacing Buster Bailey in the Louis Armstrong All Stars in 1968. Bobby remembers being measured for the band uniform and learning the repertoire. But Louis suffered a heart attack, “and I never got to play with him.” Bobby has ambitions to be a better songwriter and “to really let my influences come out more…to play like Hackett and Louis and Pee Wee and Marsala and Condon; and I’d like to be able to sing like Red McKenzie.” Audiences at Chautauqua have shown their approval of Bobby’s mastery in set after set.
Bobby’s music — the song not ended — is so much more affecting than my words:
MY MELANCHOLY BABY:
PEE WEE’S BLUES:
His melodies linger on, and Bobby Gordon taught us so much about the courage it takes to create beauty every time he played or sang. We thank him. We miss him.
For some, September means a new crop of apples, the end of summer, fall clothing, going back to school. All of these perceptions are deeply rooted in our genes! But for the last nine years, September has meant more than a new pencil box — it means Jazz at Chautauqua.
This weekend jazz party is a highlight of any year.
I’ve been attending these splendid parties since 2004, and have made new friends, heard excellent music, and had my spirits lifted.
This year, the 16th Jazz at Chautauqua will take place from September 19 to the 22nd. Details here.
For those who have never attended one of these weekends, it is marked by pleasures unique to that spot and that establishment. It’s held in a beautiful 1881 wooden hotel, the Athaeneum, efficiently run by Bruce Stanton and a very genial staff — the very opposite of an anonymous chain hotel.
Walking around the grounds (when you’re not observing the beauties of Lake Chautauqua — which might include Scott and Sharon Robinson, canoeing) you see immaculately kept houses and cottages, mounds of hydrangeas . . . picture-postcard territory. Inside, the guests enjoy substantial meals and an open bar, and music to dream about.
That music! It starts on Thursday night with informal jamming in a cozy room, then moves to the parlor for Friday afternoon piano and guitar recitals, then a full weekend of jazz, hot and sweet, in a large ballroom — with all the amenities a ten-second walk away.
The best musicians, too.
The 2013 players and singers are (in neat alphabetical order for a change) Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.
Something for everyone. Good men and women, loyal, faithful, and true.
Nancy Griffith, the Swing Sheriff, makes sure that the jazz train runs on time, that everyone is happy in Dodge, that the little dogies are swinging.
What makes the Chautauqua party different is its wide ecumenical range. It celebrates the great small group style of what many consider the first great period of improvised, swinging music — but as it is played, with great love and individuality, by the best living musicians. Its creator, Joe Boughton, was fiercely devoted to this music and to the great songs — often neglected — that were once everyone’s common property. So one of the great pleasures of a Chautauqua weekend is knowing that people will go home with a newly-discovered Harry Warren or Ralph Rainger song in a memorable performance — or something thrilling from Frank Melrose or Alex Hill.
If Jazz at Chautauqua is new to you, I propose that you type those magic words into the “Search” box of JAZZ LIVES — and you will see beautifully relaxed performances from the most recent five years . . . then go here and look into the details of tickets and prices and all that intriguing (but necessary) detail.
Here are two very delightful performances — to show you what happens there!
Rebecca Kilgore and John Sheridan, performing ‘TIS AUTUMN:
Harry Allen and Keith Ingham, playing MAYBE SEPTEMBER:
Try to move from MAYBE to CERTAINLY!
And a more somber postscript. I hesitate to turn JAZZ LIVES into the blog equivalent of public broadcasting or nonprofit media: “It’s our [insert season] fund drive! If you don’t send your 401K or 403B right away, station ABCD will go off the air!”
But the practical realities exist. The thrill of watching a video online is considerable. But live music — being part of the audience in the room, in the moment, as the artists take beautiful daring risks — cannot be conveyed in front of a computer monitor. And jazz festivals, parties, concerts, clubs require live audiences to survive. The people who put on such pleasures can’t continue them if musicians play to half-empty rooms. So, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt (herself a big fan of the Luis Russell Orchestra), “Better to write a check than complain that your favorite jazz experience isn’t there anymore.” So if you can join us, I urge you to.
I am writing this in high summer 2013. Pardon me if it seems ungrateful to say that I don’t usually look forward to September. Summer is over; I will need to make friends once again with my alarm clock.
But September means that Jazz at Chautauqua will be, once again, a great pleasure. For me, it’s getting to hear my heroes play and sing in the most comfortable surroundings, with the guarantee that great things will happen. That it takes place in the comfortable Athenaeum Hotel, with good food and drink, where one is surrounded by cottages, hydrangeas, and substantial views of a huge blue lake. Some jazz parties present uplifting music but once one ventures outside the ballrom, all is a manufactured cement void. Not at Chautauqua.
I’ve been going to Jazz at Chautauqua every year since 2004, and that weekend is a musical high point of the year.
Here’s some evidence — videos I shot last year. If you search “Jazz at Chautauqua” in my YouTube channel, swingyoucats, you’ll find dozens more.
WAITIN’ FOR KATY, with Andy Schumm, cornet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Bob Havens, trombone; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:
Something pretty: WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART? — a duet for Scott Robinson, taragoto, and Rossano Sportiello, piano:
Swinging and whimsical: Bob Reitmeier, clarinet, and Keith Ingham, piano, UMBRELLA MAN:
MOONGLOW, featuring Jon Burr, string bass; Howard Alden, guitar; Paul Patterson, violin:
Bill Evans’ FUNKALERRO, by Howard, Scott Robinson, Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums:
In keeping with the cosmological theme, Becky Kilgore, vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano, Frank, and Ricky perform I SAW STARS:
The Faux Frenchmen swing out on a theme from RHAPSODY IN BLUE:
Howard Alden’s Brazilian summit, with Duke Heitger, trumpet; Jon Burr, and Pete Siers rhapsodizing on DOCE DE COCO:
Jon-Erik Kellso, Rossano Sportiello, Alex Hoffman, and Kerry Lewis explore TOPSY:
Pianist Mike Greensill, Harry Allen, tenor; Randy Reinhart, cornet, suggest: WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:
Duke Heitger, Dan Block, Rossano Sportiello, Marty Grosz, Kerry Lewis, and Pete Siers offer WHEN DAY IS DONE and PENTHOUSE SERENADE:
That’s only a small sample of what happens at Jazz at Chautauqua.
This year, the players and singers will be Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.
Although it’s only the end of April, I am excited when I think about Jazz at Chautauqua, once again, which is a highlight of the musical year. I’ve been attending these splendid parties since 2004, and have made new friends, heard excellent music, and generally had my spirits lifted.
This year, the 16th Jazz at Chautauqua will take place from September 19 to the 22nd. For more information, click here. For those who have never attended one of these weekends, it is marked by pleasures unique to that spot and that establishment.
It’s held in a beautiful 1881 wooden hotel, the Athaeneum, efficiently run by Bruce Stanton and a very genial staff — the very opposite of an anonymous chain hotel. Walking around the grounds (when you’re not observing the beauties of Lake Chautauqua — which might include Scott and Sharon Robinson, canoeing) you see immaculately kept houses and cottages, mounds of hydrangeas . . . picture-postcard territory. Inside, the guests enjoy substantial meals and an open bar . . . and music to dream about, starting on Thursday night with informal jamming in a cozy room, then moving to the parlor for Friday afternoon piano and guitar recitals, then a full weekend of jazz, hot and sweet, in a large ballroom — with all the amenities a ten-second walk away.
The best musicians, too. The 2013 players and singers are (in neat alphabetical order for a change) Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield. Something for everyone. Good men and women, loyal, faithful, and true.
Nancy Griffith, the Swing Sheriff, makes sure that the jazz train runs on time, that everyone is happy in Dodge, that the little dogies are swinging.
If Jazz at Chautauqua is new to you, I propose that you type those magic words into the “Search” box of JAZZ LIVES — and you will see beautifully relaxed performances from the most recent five years . . . then you can go here and look into the details of tickets and prices and all that intriguing (but necessary) detail.
And as the video-soundtrack to such endeavors, let me offer two performances from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua — never seen before! — by a strolling group: Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Frank Tate, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums: