Tag Archives: Larry Wright

FIRST-RATE FROLICS: DAVE STUCKEY and the HOT HOUSE GANG: “HOW’M I DOIN’?!”

HOT HOUSE GANG two

These fellows mean business: to swing and to lift our spirits.  And unlike a good many bands who market themselves as “retro swing,” the Hot House Gang can really play.  Experience, not imitation via the iPhone 92S.

DAVE STUCKEY photos

Happiness is hearing new music that has an old-time feel with modern vivacity. May I present Dave Stuckey and the Hot House Gang?

Their new CD, HOW’M I DOIN’?!, is a delight.

HOT HOUSE GANG

Dave himself (guitar and vocals) has an infectious swing, and the musicians he’s gathered around him are some of the best in the West, or perhaps the known world.  I was immediately reminded of Fats Waller and the ebullience he created on his Victor discs . . . but Dave has an advantage here.  Where Fats often had to lampoon substandard material (I am thinking of ABERCROMBIE HAD A ZOMBIE, where the last word refers to a particularly potent drink, not the night creature), Dave writes many of his own songs, words and music, and they have a jaunty, side-of-the-mouth comic flair: I found myself listening several times to each track — for the band, for Dave’s singing, for the lyrics.  In a different era, these would be hit singles — although they might be too hip for the room.  And although Dave urges the band on a la Waller, he can also be tender — on a rhythmic performance of GHOST OF A CHANCE or a romping I NEVER KNEW.

I knew this was a fine band and a fine CD about ninety seconds into the first track because I was smiling and bobbing my head — sure signs of swing pleasure. Dave’s ebullient singing caught me instantaneously, and I thought, “This is a song that would have fit right in on a 1936 Bluebird, although the lyrics are as hip as Mercer and the band has more room to rock.”

About those originals — they are new but seem immediately familiar (and the CD includes a lyric sheet for those readers on long car trips) — and each one rocks in its own fashion.  I worry about CDs that are entirely composed of the leader’s originals, but Dave is a triple threat: singer, rocking guitarist, and songwriter. Dave also has done the clever trick so beloved of Thirties songwriters: to base the conceit of his lyrics on a familiar phrase: LET’S GET HOT AND GO, STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE, WHAT WILL IT TAKE?, MAYBE IT’S THE BLUES, and two oddities, SISTER KATE (The Potentate of Harlem) and OPTIMISTICIZE.

And there is a pleasing sheaf of jazz classics that will never grow old: I NEVER KNEW, LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, I DON’T STAND A GHOST OF A CHANCE WITH YOU, ‘T’AIN’T NO USE.

Dave has two overlapping bands, each one filled with stars who can create mellow sermons — as soloists or as an ensemble playing Dan Barrett’s charts, which grace seven songs):  Corey Gemme, cornet, trombone, clarinet; Dan Barrett, trombone, trumpet; Nate Ketner, alto, clarinet; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Wally Hersom, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums — or Corey; Josh “Mooch” Petrojvic, piano; Larry Wright, alto, soprano, clarinet; Wally, Josh.

I confess to a surge of pleasure that the CDBaby page devoted to this CD says you will like it if you like Clarence Williams, Fats Waller, and Wingy Manone.  Someone’s got the best intentions, and someone’s been listening closely: mid-Thirties joy without any museum dustiness.  And that page offers a chance to buy the disc (how twentieth-century of us!) or to download the music.

Just to whet your appetite for the CD — or to pass the time until it arrives — here are a few videos of the band in their natural habitat:

TOO  BUSY, from December 2014, with Carl Sonny Leyland, Corey Gemme, Rob Hardt, Jeff Hamilton and Marquis Howell:

SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, from October 2015, shot by JediJen7:

and BLUE LOU from the same evening:

Here’s Dave’s Facebook page, for those people fortunate enough to live in Southern California, where the band currently romps; you can also see and hear more and even find out how to purchase the CD.

The CD asks the question — even though the song is not one of the twelve titles — HOW’M I DOIN’?!  I can answer in the enthusiastic affirmative for Dave and his band.  Long may they swing and cheer us.

May your happiness increase!

Advertisements

IT’S TOO HOT FOR WORDS: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at SWEET AND HOT 2011 (Sept. 4, 2011)

I was very happy at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, if my postings haven’t made that obvious.

But initially I was not terribly happy to watch the Reynolds Brothers in this outdoor venue — called RAMPART STREET because it seemed to be under a freeway ramp, which is either black humor or making the best of things.

A few minutes into the set I realized why the Brothers were playing outdoors.  I had seen various members of the Los Angeles Fire Department outside, and several parked trucks were there (with quietly observant firemen and women in uniform taking in the scene).  It made sense.

The people who operated the hotel had become aware that this band generated so much heat that it was thought better for all concerned if they performed outside.  I asked one of the firefighters and she agreed, but asked me not to tell people because there might be panic . . . but I can let the secret out now.

The Brothers, as always, lived up to their name — by featuring two men related by blood and parentage.  John (with the less effusive mustache) on National steel guitar, a tiny National ukulele, banjo, vocals, and whistling; brother Ralf on washboard and exhortation; Marc Caparone on cornet and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal; guest star Larry Wright on alto sax, ocarina, and “vocal”; the gloriously down-in-the-gutter (only metaphorically) Clint Baker on trombone and vocal.

Here’s what they sounded like.  You might want to make sure that you know where your fire extinguisher is, or have a glass of water near the computer.

They began with CHINA BOY:

Then Clint was featured on I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME — dig the wonderful J. C. Higginbotham birdge he creates:

John sang I COVER THE WATERFRONT — so stylishly:

SAN (which always brings memories of Bix) had a whistling interlude from John, a “vocal” and ocarina display from Larry, and a wonderful duet for Marc and John:

Katie (having a good time) stepped forward for the pretty Walter Donaldson AT SUNDOWN:

And John offered CRAZY RHYTHM:

Marc, honoring Mister Armstrong, Mister Crosby, and indirectly Jones and Smith, gave out on a sweet, intense SHOE SHINE BOY:

John changed over to banjo for a hot lament about the BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME:

Note Marc’s beautiful lead playing on I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, so lovely:

And the Brothers scorched the stage with their closing HINDUSTAN:

Everyone thanked the firemen and women — who were wiping the sweat out of their eyes — for protecting us from what might have been a jazz inferno.  Our heroes on the stage, our heroes in uniforms outside.

SUNDAY MORNING with THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS, ED POLCER, and DAWN LAMBETH at SWEET AND HOT 2011

Depending on your habits and pleasures, Sunday morning might be a time to sleep in, to curl up with the metropolitan paper and your Beloved, to have a leisurely breakfast, to go to church, to visit friends and relatives . . . . all of them fine responses to a day of rest.  (All, that is, except for heading to the mall.)

But I propose one activity more singular and much more gratifying: spending Sunday morning with the Reynolds Brothers, those irrepressible rhythm rascals, and their friends.  I don’t know if the Brothers do house calls, so you will have to bask in the music they made on Sunday, September 4, 2011, at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival.

The Brothers were reliably themselves: Ralf on washboard and rulebook; John on guitar, vocal, and whistling; Marc Caparone on cornet and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal; Larry Wright on alto saxophone and ocarina, with guest artists Ed Polcer, cornet and vocal; Dawn Lambeth, vocal . . . and a special (although unseen) member of the audience in his stroller, James Arden Caparone, the happy child of Marc and Dawn.

Just to be perverse, perhaps, Ed called FROM MONDAY ON as an opening selection (possibly preparing the audience for the idea of having to go back to work, even though that Monday was Labor Day) — playing and singing it:

It was just after breakfast, so in other hands a beef dish might have seemed too heavy to tolerate, but with the Brothers, PEPPER STEAK went down very easily:

Katie Cavera sweetly and wistfully asked the question raised by the Boswell Sisters and the Washboard Rhythm Kings– a plea to the somewhat hard-hearted lover in question: WAS THAT THE HUMAN THING TO DO?

After such knowledge, nothing but a rouser would suffice, so the band offered NAGASAKI.  By jingo, it was worth the price:

SUNDAY was appropriate in mood as well as on the calendar, and it offered Dawn Lambeth a too-brief chance to serenade us.  And the serenade took place off the bandstand as well, as Ed strolled over to James in his stroller to blow a chorus just for him.  I was sitting there and saw James grin — a baby in jazz bliss!

Who gathers all the talk of the town?  Why, DR. HECKLE AND MR. JIBE, according to Johnny Mercer:

With James in the audience, Papa Marc decided to sing a chorus of the Louis Dunlap – Charlie Carpenter song YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME — the lyrics don’t always fit, but the sentiment comes right from the heart:

I don’t think John Reynolds was following up on some subliminal associative strain by calling for PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY, but one never knows:

And — as is their habit — the Brothers ended with a truly hot AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

Keeping live music alive!

THE CURE FOR WHAT AILS YOU: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at SWEET AND HOT 2011

Feeling blue?  Grumpy?  Old Man Existential Dread got you this morning?  Well, hope is at hand; there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  Begone, dull care!

The Reynolds Brothers are back to banish strife and ennui, something they do so splendidly.  Here they are at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival (recorded on an astonishing day for hot music, September 3, 2011).  The collective cast of characters (a term I don’t use lightly here) is John Reynolds, guitar, vocals, wryness; Ralf Reynolds, washboard, refereeing, vocals, asides; Marc Caparone, cornet, passion; Katie Cavera, all manner of stringed instruments, vocals, charm; guests Clint Baker, trombone, vocal; Westy Westenhofer, tuba, vocals; Chris Calabrese, piano, fatherhood; Larry Wright, alto saxophone, ocarina, kazoo, quotations, vocals; Doug Mattocks, banjo.  Wardrobe by Edith Head.  Empathy by Lorna Sass.

Here’s SOME OF THESE DAYS (you’ll be lonely if you abandon me, son!):

And my favorite Buddhist song — more to come on that subject soon — NEVER SWAT A FLY:

JUBILEE features one of the few singing tubaists I know, and a good one in Westy:

Got those SAINT LOUIS BLUES, the rocking embodiment of what Dicky Wells called (and Jim Leigh celebrates), “fuzz”:

Katie has a hectic schedule all the time — but TOO BUSY is about another subject.  Her joy comes through even when she’s hidden behind that forest of microphone stands:

Where’d she go?  SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, mercy:

And the set closes with an inducement to dance, or perhaps an incitement, in HAPPY FEET:

Feeling better?  It works every time.

“SWING, BROTHERS, SWING!”: MORE FROM THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS, ED POLCER and FRIENDS at the 2011 SWEET AND HOT MUSIC FESTIVAL

When I was happily whirling around the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, over the long Labor Day weekend, I circled every Reynolds Brothers set on the schedule.  Happily for us, there were nine . . . and I was only sorry the schedule didn’t break out into double-digit territory.

If you’ve been following my entirely understandable devotion to this sublimely hot band, you don’t need an explanation.  If you’re new to the Reynolds Brothers, latch on, as Fats Waller would say.  They are Ralf on washboard, refereeing, and exhortations; John on guitar, vocals, whistling, and commentary; Marc Caparone on incendiary cornet; Katie Cavera on string bass and sweet-hot singing; Larry Wright on alto saxophone, ocarina, and interpolations.

For this set, the Brothers were joined by their friend and ours, Ed Polcer, who turned up the flame right away for this September 3 set.  He wasn’t the only surprise guest, as you will see.  The Brothers began with something logical: the evergreen and always-delightful LADY BE GOOD:

The next selection suggests that the lady in question is very, very good — WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

The swinging pianist David Boeddinghaus, who loves to sit in with the Brothers, did just that on ALL GOD’S CHILDREN GOT RHYTHM, proving the song’s title true:

The sweet singer Molly Ryan, who (legend has it) sat in with the Brothers when she was very young, joined the throng for MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS:

And Dawn Lambeth, having settled young James Arden down for a moment in congenial hands, came aboard to sing one of her classic numbers, BLUE ROOM.  The fellow on clarinet to Ed’s left?  Allan Vache, of course:

And the set closed off with a too-brief but also accurately-titled I GOT RHYTHM, with Marc taking over the string bass and Katie picking up her National steel guitar:

“Deep rhythm capitivates me,” whenever the Brothers take the stand.  Don’t you agree?

UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and BOB DRAGA at SWEET AND HOT 2011

The Reynolds Brothers bring it in a gratifying hot, witty way.  More from these Swing Masters and clarinetist Bob Draga, recorded outdoors at “Rampart Street” at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival.  (“Rampart Street” is something of a joke born of necessity: sharp-eyed viewers will see that the imagined ceiling of this outdoors stage is a highway ramp.) 

For this set, the Brothers were Ralf (washboard, vocal); John (guitar, banjo, vocal, whistling); Marc Caparone (cornet), Katie Cavera (string bass, vocal); Larry Wright (alto sax, ocarina), with the nimble lines of Bob Draga weaving in and out.

Is there anything finer than DINAH?

The band that has Katie Cavera in it is doubly or triply gifted — instrumentally and vocally, as she demonstrates on DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?

Nothing but BLUE SKIES do I see:

Perhaps because the odd stage, John came up with OUT OF NOWHERE for his homage to Harry Lillis Crosby:

Translate the lyrics to the Fields-McHugh DIGA DIGA DOO without being politically incorrect and win a prize — or just get swept along by the fine momentum here:

SADIE GREEN (The Vamp of New Orleans) . . . was a hot mama, and this tune is a heated improvisation in her honor — half vaudeville, half rocking jazz:

I have a special fondness for OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN — one of those 1931 songs designed to make the homeless and unemployed feel that their lot was endurable . . . but the sentiments it espouses (a love of Nature, freedom from materialism, and a Thoreau-like simplicity mixed with a hip socialism) touch a responsive chord, as do the Brothers in this performance:

I’m as happy as I can be (even though my heart feels a chill) when the Reynolds Brothers SWING THAT MUSIC.  And Marc’s singing is just grand:

Yeah, man!

P.S.  A reader wrote in, “I love the Reynolds Brothers, but why does the one with the washboard [that’s Ralf] keep blowing that whistle?”  Youth wants to know: Ralf blows that whistle when a member of the band creates a particularly hoary “quotation” from another song — it’s in the interest of fairness, a referee calling FOUL.  Now you know.

P.P.S.  Connee Boswell’s rendition of the beautifully sad song UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES should be better known, especially in perilous economic times.

CHAMPIONS: THE RETURN OF THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS AND FRIENDS (Sept. 2, 2011)

A friend who reads JAZZ LIVES teasingly emailed me, “Hey, Michael, looks like your blog is now the Official Reynolds Brothers Fan Club site.”  Sounds like a good thing to me: maybe we can commission Katie Cavera to design a button to be sold at gigs.

Until that day, when we have a clubhouse and hold meetings, here’s more evidence: the set played by the Brothers (and friends) at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival on September 2, 2011.  It took place in Champions, the appropriately-named sports bar in the LAX Marriott — where beautiful music, subtle and hot, sprang forth among trays of hot chicken wings and the local IPA. 

For the occasion, the Brothers were there: that’s Ralf Reynolds (washboard, vocals); John Reynolds (guitar, whistling, vocals); Katie Cavera (string bass, vocals); Marc Caparone (cornet, vocals) — with friendly assistance from Carl Sonny Leyland (piano), and Larry Wright (alto sax, ocarina).  Later on our friend Dan Levinson (clarinet) came to bask in the sublime heat.

Showing a divine willingness to please, the Brothers offered I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

Honoring Mister Crosby and Mister Condon (who were friends), John whistles us into LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:

In honor of Israel Baline, here’s some genuine optimism in BLUE SKIES:

Marc Caparone makes Henry “Red” Allen come alive again — maintaing his individuality in the process, which Red always did, on ROSETTA:

Carl Sonny Leyland likes to play SONG OF THE WANDERER (always a good thing) at a very quick rocking tempo — I  imagine the Reno Club version!  What a fine jazz pianist he is, and how he sparks this already searing group (joined by Dan Levinson):

I don’t know if the Marriott parking lot had extra-large spaces for desert caravans (in Los Angeles, that would surprise no one) but the Brothers closed their rocking set with HINDUSTAN:

Thank you, Ralf, John, Marc, Katie, Carl, Larry, and Dan . . . for keeping live music alive!