Jim Dapogny, September 2, 2018, photograph by Laura Beth Wyman (Wyman Video)
He answered to various names. Jim Dapogny, James Dapogny, Professor Dapogny, “American musicologist,” as an online source calls him. I prefer to think of him as admired artist, departed friend.
Jim would have turned eighty today, September 3, 2020. He didn’t make it that far, moving somewhere undefined and inaccessible on March 6, 2019. I have not gotten used to his absence, and I am not alone. Others knew him better, longer, at closer range, but his absence is something tangible.
I promised myself I would not write a post on the metaphysics of bereavement, but rather offer evidence so those who never heard Jim in person would understand more deeply why he is so missed.
I can’t reproduce here the pleasure of having him speak knowledgeably yet without pretension about the dishes of brightly-colored ethnic food spread in front of us. Nor can I convey to you his gleaming eyes as he spoke of a favorite dog or the mysterious voicings of a Thirties Ellington record. And it is beyond my powers to summon up the way he would nearly collapse into giggles while retelling a cherished interlude of stand-up comedy — not a joke, but a presentation — by someone none of us had heard of.
Those who were there will understand the serious yet easy pleasure of his company, the way he was always himself, wise but never insisting that we bow down to his wisdom. I can only write that he was was boyish in his joys but modest about his own accomplishments, and so gracious in his eager openness to different perspectives. Those who never had the good fortune of seeing him plain — counting off a tempo by clapping his hands in mid-air, crossing one leg over the other when particularly happy at the keyboard — should know that they missed someone extraordinary.
Jim and I communicated more by email than in any other way, but I did meet him once a year at Jazz at Chautauqua, then the Allegheny Jazz Party, then the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party, from 2004 to 2016, with a year out when he couldn’t join us because of illness. I made a point of going from New York to Maryland to hear his “East Coast Chicagoans” in 2012, and visited him and dear friends in Ann Arbor a few years later. It is one of my greatest regrets, on a substantial list, that I never made it back for a return engagement.
Our remarkable friend Laura Beth Wyman caught Jim explaining something to me in the informal classroom of a parking lot at the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival, and I treasure this moment:
But let us move out of the parking lot before darkness falls.
Here is Jim, with Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass, performing his own FIREFLY (blessedly captured by Wyman Video):
Jim loved the blues, and enjoyed window-shopping in their apparently austere structure, peering in at unusual angles, so what was expected — nothing more than three chords repeating over twelve bars — was all of a sudden a hand-knit tapestry, subtle but ornamented, full of dips and whorls.
I caught him “warming up the piano” at the 2014 Jazz at Chautauqua, in what I think of as full reverie, monarch of an emotional landscape where he and the blues were the only inhabitants, where he could ignore people walking by, and also ignore my camera. This, dear readers, is the quiet triumph of thought, of feeling, of beauty:
Here he and beloved colleagues create and recreate the TIN ROOF BLUES (al fresco, in rain or post-rain, at the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival): Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Russ Whitman, tenor saxophone; Rod McDonald, guitar; Dean Ross, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:
Jim was thoughtful but not morose. He delighted in swing and stomp, so here’s COME EASY, GO EASY LOVE, from the same weekend:
One of his set pieces not only was a rousing jam on more austere themes but also a nod to his love of comic surprise, WASHINGTON POST MARCH:
There is much more that could be said, more that can be seen and heard.
But the important thing is this: he remains a model for me and others. Quietly and without affectation, Jim lived so deeply and generously that we will not forget him nor stop missing him.
James Dapogny, 2016, photograph by Laura Wyman. The show went on even with Prof’s injured hand.
I have a theory about death that even people who love me cock an eyebrow at its “sentimentality.” I believe that the spirit continues . . . not a radical idea, but I envision it as those who “die” simply move to another cosmic neighborhood, where they can visit us when they choose to. It’s a fiction, of course, but it comforts me as much as any fiction can.
The thought that I won’t see the people I love again is too painful otherwise. That I can’t email James Dapogny, make plans for an ethnic meal with him, discuss piano and music and recordings and gigs with him — or even get corrected for some grammatical error — makes me catch my breath. In two days, I will be on my way to the Evergreen Jazz Festival, where Jim and his Chicago Jazz Band played so gloriously in July 2014. The joy of being there and the sadness that he won’t be are simultaneous in my mind.
But he lives . . . not even “lives on” in music, and in our dear thoughts of him and his absence in the temporal realm.
I am proud that I stood next to Jim on more than one occasion. Here, August 2016, captured by that same Laura Wyman.
Some of his finest music of his later years was captured by my and Jim’s dear friend Laura Wyman, sole proprietor of Wyman Video — pictured here at a Dawn Giblin Trio gig — Laura sitting in on flute with Jim and Mike Karoub.
Photograph by Jeff Dunn
And here’s some particularly inspired music from Jim, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Kurt Krahnke, string bass; Pete Siers, drums., at what was his last great concert.
HINDUSTAN, changing keys as the spirit moves everyone:
WHEN IN DOUBT, PLAY THE BLUES — a Dapogny rumination on deep things:
Some precious Thirties Ellingtonia, KISSIN’ MY BABY GOODNIGHT:
I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY:
Except for rare instances, Jim half-hid his sentimentality behind a mask of comedy, but I felt it come through several unforgettable times. And it might be presumptuous to think of someone who’s departed reading this blogpost, but I believe that Jim knows how deeply we miss him. . . . which makes my customary closing line seem inappropriate.
James Dapogny died yesterday. He was 78 and had been keeping cancer at bay for nine years until he could do it no longer.
Because the absence of people I love is deeply painful, I have embraced the notion that the dead don’t go away, that their temporal selves leave us but they merely move into other neighborhoods. With Jim’s death, I cannot keep that illusion afloat. There is a void much larger than his human form that will never be filled. No parade of clicked-on Facebook sad emojis can express this. And this sorrow isn’t unique to me: ask anyone who knew him, who learned from him, who savored his creativity and his company.
Prof. and still-active cellist Mike Karoub to Prof’s left. Photograph by Laura Beth Wyman, 2014.
An expansive, restlessly diligent and curious person, he had several names. When I first met him (at Jazz at Chautauqua, 2004) I timidly called him “Mr. Dapogny,” and because I was shy, my voice was low and he referred to me — just once — as “soft-voiced Professor Steinman” while we were both leafing through Thirties sheet music. Later, I bought all his records and CDs, where he was “James,” but I summoned up the courage to call him “Jim” to his face and — referring to him in the third person, I took on the affectionate coinage that Laura Beth Wyman, whom he called “my best student in thirty years,” and his dear friend, had created: “Prof.”
I will hand off to Prof.’s friend Kim Cusack for his memories:
Jim was puckish, never morose, so my first musical example is a jam-session rouser. Keep your ears on the pianist, who explodes into a solo at 4:14:
Although he was characterized as a stride pianist and he loved the music of Fats Waller and Alex Hill, he dismissed that categorization, and told me that his mentors were Stacy, Sullivan, and Morton. In the fashion of those three great individualists, his playing was full of spiky surprises — arresting commentaries that could woo and distract in the ensemble or when he accompanied a soloist. I think he found stride conventions constricting, possibly monotonous, so I hear him as a Pee Wee Russell of the piano: going his own completely recognizable ways while uplifting all around him, creating bright-sounding treble lines but also providing solidly original harmonic support and rhythmic propulsion. He was never predictable but always heroically satisfying.
But LADY BE GOOD, because it was impromptu (rain and wind made reading charts impossible) was not what Prof. liked best. He delighted in “paper,” that is, arrangements — but they were charts with plenty of breathing room for the splendid soloists he hired and nurtured. Here’s his powerfully blue version of the Ellington-Stewart MOBILE BAY, also from Evergreen 2014:
and another 2014 romper — this time, because the weather was better, the band could use Prof.’s charts:
Here is Prof. and a band in 2012 — note his dry whimsical introduction:
and a piano solo on one of the most familiar jazz ballads, uniquely Dapogny:
Jim (I have shifted to the non-academic because it feels warmer) was also terribly funny, in person and in print. David Sager says he had “a sly and delicious wit,” which all of us experienced. He was a wordsmith, a jester, a stand-up comedian, a sharp-edged deflater, a Michigan S.J. Perelman. A deadpan improvising comedian, he didn’t mug and pander on the stand, preferring to let the heartfelt music speak.
He and I exchanged emails from 2011 to October 2018: a coda from one of his:
P.S. I don’t know if you ever read the columns of humorist Dave Barry, but I did because Wayne Jones used to send me bundles of them. The ones I liked best were those entitled “Ask Mr. Language Person,” in which Barry answered usage questions ostensibly sent in by readers. One asked about rules for the use of quotation marks in small-business signs. Barry answered that quotation marks were to be used on words chosen at random. Then he gave three examples. Try Our “Pies” Try “Our” Pies “Try” Our Pies To me this is absolutely hilarious. It still makes me laugh.
My relationship with Jim grew and deepened. When I first met him, I was intimidated by his comic rapier, and when I got to know him a little better, I asked him to put it down, which he did without fuss. The more I encountered him, the more I admired him. And finally I — like everyone else who knew him — loved him.
I took him on as one of my not-so-secret spiritual fathers, even though he was only a dozen years my senior. The blend of humor and toughness (he could have shown up in a 1935 Warner Brothers picture, although not as the gangster lead) reminded me of my own father, so he was dear to me. I originally wrote, “I hope I didn’t embarrass him too much with my direct affection,” but on second thought I hope I did embarrass him: that way I would know he had received the message I was sending.
He was extremely kind, superbly generous. I had asked him to write a letter for me in support of a sabbatical I was hoping for, and I dare not read that letter now because I would not be able to write through tears. And every so often he would praise something I’d written, which would make me feel like a peculiarly graceful colossus of words and insights. (Of course, now and again, he corrected my wayward grammar, which made me wince and then rush to fix the lapse.)
Although he knew his own worth, he was infuriatingly modest. I, and then Laura, shot videos of him in performance at Jazz at Chautauqua, the Evergreen Jazz Festival, and the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party. The last email response I got from Jim — late October 2018 — concerned a trio video I had sent him to see if he would agree to my posting it. (Sometimes when I sent him videos, the answer was silence, which I could never tell whether it was “God, no!” or “I am too busy doing other things more important than considering my own performances.) His response, the names redacted in true CIA fashion, was, “OK with me, but this doesn’t scream out for preservation except by being documentation that I once weaseled my way into the company of H- and R-.”
He was always busy transcribing charts for PORK, researching new old music, and more. But I think his secret passion was in what we call, for want of a more gracious term, mentoring. Ask any musician who played or sang with him: Jon-Erik Kellso to Dawn Giblin to Mike Karoub to Erin Morris to the members of his bands. Like Ellington, he saw very clearly what strengths we had, and worked tirelessly to bolster us — offering the most gentle helping hand to make people more glorious versions of their natural selves.
One of my great pleasures, was my being able to visit him and Laura and Erin for a few days in 2016. Yes, Jim was a scholar of all things musical — not just Jelly Roll Morton and James P. Johnson’s operas — and his range was broad. When I visited Ann Arbor, the plan was that I would stay in a quietly nondescript motel, and work on my blog over breakfast (instant oatmeal from paper envelopes, and coffee) and then Jim and I, sometimes Laura along as well, would eat deliriously good ethnic food in some restaurant that only Jim knew — Indian, Korean, Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese — and the conversation would become expertly culinary as well, because he could cook, away from the piano. He was truly insightful but ready to applaud others’ insights.
I dreamed of visiting him again, but missed my chance, just as I missed the opportunity to help bring Jim’s band once again to the Evergreen Jazz Festival in Colorado.
It would please me immensely if others who knew Prof., or James, or Jim, would add their voices to this post. I will close with one of the great beautiful moments captured by video. I am particularly proud of this 2015 performance because of the lovely music and that it was recorded by my friend Laura Beth Wyman. Jim’s own FIREFLY:
The moral that James Dapogny’s life and art and generous friendship offers us is very simple. We are fireflies. At our best, we are brilliant: we trace paths along the summer night sky. But we are fragile. What can we do but live our lives so that when we depart, we are irrevocably missed? As he is.
I will eschew my usual closing — consider it here but unsaid — to send love and sorrow to Jim’s wife, Gail, to his family, to his friends, to all the people he touched.
My dear friend Laura Beth Wyman, Sole Proprietor of Wyman Videoand head of the Michigan branch of JAZZ LIVES, has been busy capturing Hot for us these days. In Ohio, no less. Here are two versions of the same jazz classic for your perusal and pleasure.
CAKEWALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME is an invitation to rumble when most jazz bands play it, because of the early pugilism of young Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet on the two Clarence Williams recordings of the song.
On Saturday, February 25, 2017, Laura captured the Original Downhome Jass Band at “Ye Olde Durty Bird” in Toledo, Ohio. For this performance, the ODJB (yes, you noticed!) was Dave Kosmyna, cornet and leader; Christopher Smith, trombone; Ray Heitger, clarinet and vocal; James Dapogny, piano; Pete Siers, drums; Nicole Heitger, vocal. Hot and exuberant:
A day later, without Nicole, alas, the band had donned tuxedos (and an altered band name) to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the first jazz recordings in concert at Freed Auditorium, Ohio Northern University. Ada, Ohio. In this version, the band rocks through many more ensemble interludes. Better? No, just different:
Unlike cake, hot music never gets stale. Thanks to the players and to Laura for making these otherwise evanescent beauties permanent and accessible, even for those of us who have never visited Ada, Ohio.
How beautiful: a quietly impassioned reading of IF I HAD YOU by Dawn Giblin, voice; James Dapogny, pianoforte; Mike Karoub, violincello. Recorded for us by Laura Beth Wyman of Wyman Video on January 30, 2017. The sharp-eared will catch admiring echoes of WILLOW TREE and IF THE MOON TURNS GREEN, but these evocations are created with the most subtle art.
Beautifully in balance, in sound and emotion — this is one of those rare deeply egalitarian ensembles where the three players are supportive, emotive, and generous — no star turns here but sweet feeling shared and intensified. You’ve already heard a good deal (although not enough) from Professors Dapogny and Karoub on this blog, but I predict you will hear more, and admire more, of the lovely singing of Ms. Giblin.
And serious gratitude to Laura Wyman of Wyman Video, videographer to the Stars. Without her, this would have been a moving interlude, remembered only by the people performing and watching. Now we have it to enjoy more than once.
No, I didn’t hear any shouts in the night, “The British are coming!” (Or, for that matter, “The British are going!”)
But if Paul Revere had been well and truly hip, he might have shouted, “Hot jazz in Ypsilanti! Thursday nights! Cultivate!” and that would have gotten me out of bed for sure.
Here are three truly entrancing performances recorded on June 16 and 23, 2016, by Laura Wyman of Wyman Video— yes, she deserves her own place in the personnel roster). The leader of this morphing band of creators is Erin Morris, tuba. Yes, I know you know Erin as a unique dancer and choreographer, but she is also a wonderful low-brass player, able to entrance us when she’s just sitting still.
I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING with Erin; James Dapogny, keyboard (“He makes that new piano sound exactly like old,” to paraphrase Johnny Mercer); Rod McDonald, guitar; Chris Tabaczynski, C-melody saxophone. Where? Cultivate Coffee & Tap House, Ypsilanti, Michigan:
That’s the very definition of Mellow to me, what I think of as the music the great artists make for themselves when the lights aren’t shining in their faces. Not morose nor a let’s-show-the-people-this-is-jazz romp, but pretty and moving. And Erin plays the tuba with gentleness; at times in the ensemble it sounds like a sweet bass saxophone heard from far away. And Chris Tabaczynski is my new Youngblood Hero. Dapogny and McDonald have been Heroes of mine for years.
Now, let’s add a little Americana to the mix, as Bonnie Smith sings CARELESS LOVE in an unaffected, heartfelt way, with her father, Christopher, on trombone; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Erin and Jim:
Finally, what my dear friend Mike Burgevin used to call a “Bingie” — one of those songs that we hear through a sacred veil of Crosby — WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, performed by Christopher, Alex, Jim, and Erin:
All I can say about this scene is that it does my heart good to know that a small group of secular saints is bringing lyricism into the world. Cultivate Joy. And for my part, I’ve got my plane ticket to Ann Arbor.
Since 1971, July 6 is always a mournful date for me, since Louis Armstrong departed this temporal neighborhood (“made the transition,” “passed into Spirit,” or what you will) on that day.
Because of the beautiful post Ricky Riccardi wrote about the last music Louis listened to before he died (here) I was ready to write about an emotional vortex that hit me hard.
On the last tape Louis made for himself, he led off with SATCHMO IN STYLE, the life-enhancing music he and Gordon Jenkins made from 1949-52). That’s important to me, because eight of those performances are the music that made me absolutely devoted to Louis — this is more than a half-century ago.
But then I thought of the tradition where you rejoice at the funeral, and that Louis would not have wanted us to weep, but to hear good music with a strong lead and wonderful melodies. I think he would also have approved of seeing buoyant young swing dancers move around, for this was the way (in a backwards fashion) that he fell in love with Lucille Wilson, his fourth wife.
So here we are, rhythm and miracles conjoined, which is also appropriate.
I GOT RHYTHM:
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (with the verse and at a gorgeous tempo):
These videos come to us through the generosity of the musicians and dancers, but also because of videographer Laura Beth Wyman of Wyman Video, who did a splendid job in capturing that most difficult situation: a room full of dancers with musicians playing for them. The musicians! James Dapogny, piano; Mike Jones, clarinet; Roderick McDonald, guitar; Joe Fee, string bass. This performance took place during the properly named Plenty Rhythm Weekend. Filmed at Gretchen’s House, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on December 5, 2015. For more rhythmic miracles, visit here.
It was recorded on September 12, 2015, at the Allegheny Jazz Party — now the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party. (Prudent jazz types among us will want to know that this year’s party is happening from Sept. 15-18, 2016.)
I have a special fondness for small jazz groups that don’t follow anyone’s idea of “standard instrumentation,” which is often trumpet / trombone / clarinet / piano / string bass / drums — or other familiar permutations. This is one of the happiest examples of quiet unorthodoxy. I didn’t miss a trombone or a set of drums.
The warm videos that follow are thanks to Laura Wyman of Wyman Video. Together — sound and picture, invention and accuracy — they seem just perfect to me, and I hope to you, with some of the sweet joy and majesty I’d associate with a Ruby Braff group.
“Something’s happening every minute,” a friend said while observing this band in action, and that was both correct and an understatement.
Here are the three leisurely performances, full of individual glory and ensemble cooperation — swing synergy at its best. Instant classics, I think.
ON THE ALAMO:
WHO’S SORRY NOW?:
I attended this delightful jazz weekend (I’ve been a regular since September 2004) and those of you who have seen me from the back will notice that I am sitting center — or left of center, which suits me better. The back of my head gleams; the little rectangle of my camera’s viewfinder gleams even more.
Why, then, aren’t you watching my videos? Did an accident happen to my camera? Did it fall into the salad (as it once did) or did I drop it?
No, Laura’s videos are much better than mine — especially in the sound, which is what counts — so I present them with friendly pride and pleasure. (All of this has been verified through independent studies done at major universities.)
And I suggest to you that if you are in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area — or even if you aren’t — and you need first-rate videography, make a straight line to Wyman Videofor truly superb work. She doesn’t limit herself to jazz concerts, but has done remarkable documenting dance recitals, family gatherings, and other happy occasions. I don’t think she does funerals, and she leaves divorce-case surveillance to others . . . but anything else you can think of she can accomplish.
And if it’s music you’r after, music that will remind you of life’s high-toned joys, I’ll see you at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Partywhere such marvels blossom as easily as inhaling and exhaling.
On October 17, 2015, my friend and fellow videographer Laura Beth Wyman took her nimble camera to the Kerrytown Concert House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to record a rewarding constellation of musicians. (They all happen to be people I like as well as admire, which makes these videos a pleasure doubled and tripled). Laura, if her name is new to you, is sole proprietor of Wyman Video.
The participants? The delightful singer Petra van Nuis (enjoy her singular phrasing!); her husband, the eloquent guitarist Andy Brown; the wondrous James Dapogny, piano; the nifty string bassist Paul Keller; the irrepressible Pete Siers, drums.
I NEVER KNEW (Andy, Jim, Paul, Pete):
I GO FOR THAT (Petra, Andy, Jim, Paul, Pete) — remembering Mildred Bailey, but somehow I think the verse is new . . . courtesy of Petra:
I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME (Petra, Andy, Jim, Paul, Pete):
COME IN OUT OF THE RAIN (Petra, Andy):
IF YOU WERE MINE (Petra, Jim):
SEPTEMBER SONG (Petra, Paul):
How nice to have all my friends — now, I hope, yours too! — making light-hearted yet deep music in the same place, with the invaluable work of Laura Wyman to preserve it all for us. Bravo! Encore!
Laura Wyman, completely focused on the task at hand
WYMAN VIDEO is the new brainchild and business venture of Laura Wyman, whom you should know as the CEO and head videographer of JAZZ LIVES’ Michigan Bureau, headquartered in Ann Arbor. She has taste and a dilligent perfectionism.
Before there was a WYMAN VIDEO, Laura was bringing us video of such wonders as this:
ST. LOUIS BLUES (W.C.Handy; arr James Dapogny) – Erin Morris, Brittany Armstrong Morton, Sarah Campbell, Rachel Bomphray & Hayden Nickel (dancers). Tom Bogardus (cl), Paul Finkbeiner (tpt), Chris Smith (tbn), James Dapogny (pno), Shannon Wade (bass), Rod McDonald (bjo) & Van Hunsberger (drms). Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Mich. 6-21-15.
and this gorgeous interlude:
FIREFLY (James Dapogny) – The James Dapogny Quartet. James Dapogny (pno), Mike Karoub (cello), Rod McDonald (gtr) & Kurt Krahnke (bass). Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor, Mich. 1-10-15.
But WYMAN VIDEOreally came in to its own at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, with evidence right here:
CHERRY (Don Redman) – Dan Block (cl & bass cl), Andy Stein (vln), Scott Robinson (bari sax & tarogato), James Dapogny (pno), Marty Grosz (gtr & leader) & Hal Smith (drms). Allegheny Jazz Party, Cleveland, Ohio. 9-11-15. Filmed by Laura Beth Wyman for Wyman Video.
I AIN’T GOT NOBODY from the same session:
All of this would suggest that WYMAN VIDEOis rather like JAZZ LIVES, and it is true that Laura is deeply involved in hot music and swing dance. But her range is far broader than mine: Laura has been capturing speakers, readings, weddings, and other occasions. I don’t think she goes to traffic court or other gloomy events, but I know she’s captured for posterity graduations, parties, swing dances, and other occasions where people gather happily.
So I urge you — if you live in or near Ann Arbor, Michigan, or if you want an expert videographer, contact Laura Wymanfor videography that will help you have swinging memories. And if you are not on Facebook, you can certainly contact her at email@example.com.
In some states, possession of even a small amount of forbidden substance is a crime. But — thankfully — few regimes have currently criminalized RHYTHM, so the James Dapogny Quartet is safe to swing out. It’s delightful to hear a group of improvisers take on I GOT RHYTHM in its natural plumage, since the chord changes have become “adapted” and “adopted” for so many swing originals. The only problem here is that the Gershwin title is singular. For this group, it has to be WE’VE GOT RHYTHM, and they are decisive about the ownership of same.
James Dapogny, piano; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass. Recorded by Laura Beth Wyman at the Glacier Hills Senior Living Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on June 26, 2015. Two other marvels from this session can be marvelled at here.
Laura has set up a Facebook page for her video efforts celled simply Wyman Video. If you admire her generous efforts, why not “like” the page?
It could be the best slightly-under-three-minutes you will spend this year. And Hank Duncan sends his love.
Though it’s a fickle age, beauty can always rescue us if we know where to look. And how to listen. This spiritual panacea is brought to us by James Dapogny, piano; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Kurt Krahnke, string bass. Recorded by Laura Beth Wymanon June 26, 2015, at Glacier Hills Senior Living Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fats Waller’s declaration of high fidelity:
Irving Berlin’s celebration of bliss (here with a little DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM nuance at the start and a little Spanish binge on the bridge):
I had to post this. It’s so inspiring. Watching Cammie (brave, willing, shy) try to shed her downy feathers on the dance floor — with the inspiring guidance of Erin Morris and the equally inspiring sounds of James Dapogny’s Jazz Band . . . well, anything is possible. Even Peckin’:
For this occasion, June 21, 2015, at the Zal Gaz Grotto in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the JDJB is James Dapogny, piano; Tom Bogardus, clarinet; Paul Finkbeiner, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; Shannon Wade, string bass; Rod McDonald, banjo; Van Hunsberger, drums.
Brought to us by the nimble lens, microphone, and tripod of Laura Beth Wyman (“Better living through cinematography.”)
Sing on! Dance on! Play on!
P.S. A medical note. Erin Morris and her Ragdollsnow have over 500 “likes,” so I am sleeping better. But have you done your part? I haven’t verified this yet, but the thousandth person to “like” them, once verified, will receive a free lesson in Peckin’ from Erin herself.
Somehow I don’t think that a troupe of young women dancers should have gone into The Jungle dressed the way they are in the video below. Do I worry too much? No reflection on their handmade costumes, mind you, but they don’t strike me as adequate protection. Where are the machetes, first aid kits, tropical chocolate, water distilling gear, bug repellent?
But they braved The Jungle, they entranced their audience, and we can now see the results of Erin Morris and her Ragdolls, supported by James Dapogny’s Jazz Band, mutually creating something slithery to Jelly Roll Morton’s JUNGLE BLUES:
I especially like the way the quintet keeps subdividing into a trio and a duo: watch the most vivid embodiment of this at 2:58 and again at 3:16: music reflected in physical grace.
Thanks to James Dapognyand his Jazz Band: Tom Bogardus, clarinet; Paul Finkbeiner, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; James Dapogny, piano / arrangements; Shannon Wade, string bass; Rod McDonald, banjo; Van Hunsberger, drums.
Thanks to Laura Beth Wyman, who filmed this delight at the Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Michigan on June 21, 2015.
Thanks to James Dapognyand his Jazz Band: Tom Bogardus, clarinet; Paul Finkbeiner, trumpet; Chris Smith, trombone; James Dapogny, piano / arrangements; Shannon Wade, string bass; Rod McDonald, banjo; Van Hunsberger, drums.
Thanks to Laura Beth Wyman, who filmed this delight at the Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Michigan on June 21, 2015.
And a few muttering comments. One refers to the asterisk above, which leads the righteous among us to the Facebook page of Ms. Morris and her Ragdolls. I’ve done my best — leaving aside threats and whinging as unseemly — but so far only 495 people have “liked” the Ragdolls. Is this what Bill Robinson would have us do? Or Walter Page? Knute Rockne? Joan Blondell? William Carlos Williams? Reginald Marsh?
I ask you. Please, so that I sleep longer and happier, “like” them tonight. Now.
I spent several hours in a waiting room today — for boring reasons, nothing serious — where there was the inevitable cable television on, bolted to the wall above our heads. The E! cable channel. I despair, when I think that there is no Dapogny – Morris channel, yet the E! channel blathers on. Well, instead of succumbing to darkness and bleakness, I will watch the video of ST. LOUIS BLUES again. It occurs to me that this package — band and dancers — could be wooed out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for someone willing to uplift the rest of the country. Anyone daring reading this post?
My title comes from a story Joe Bushkin told about being on the bill in 1940 with Fats Waller at the Panther Room of the Hotel Sherman in Chicago. Bushkin was then appearing as part of Muggsy Spanier’s band. He remembered that Fats would “get off a perfectly beautiful run,” look at him, grin, and say, “It’s so easy when you know how!”
I thought of this comment while watching new videos of Paul Klinger’s Easy Street Jazz Band — videos so generously created by my dear friend and videographer Laura Beth Wyman. The ESJB (for this June 9 gig) featured the delightful singer Kerry Price, Paul Klinger, cornet and soprano saxophone; Mike Jones, clarinet; Terry Kimura, trombone; James Dapogny, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Rod McDonald, guitar; Pete Siers, drums. All of this goodness took place at Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Zal Gaz Grotto.
JELLY ROLL (with the verse, which was a delight, new to me):
SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA, a Dapogny arrangement:
I am not a student of the dance (ask my former ballroom dance instructor) so I cannot annotate the various gestures and motives that Erin Morris and Nathan Bugh so sweetly and nimbly offer us on their exploration of MY DADDY ROCKS ME — performed with the James Dapogny Quartet.
I know it’s hard work to look so casual. But for me, while I am admiring their hilarious slinky grace, their obvious joy in movement, I see an entire emotional drama, the subtle shifts that take place within and through a pairing, the way two individuals become a couple, echoing, mimicking, mirroring, delighting. This too-brief interlude seems a novel without pages, an opera without words. A play about play. Visual and mobile purring.
Details? MY DADDY ROCKS ME (J. Bernie Barbour; arr James Dapogny) – Erin Morris (dance), Nathan Bugh (dance), Mike Karoub (cello), James Dapogny (piano), Rod McDonald (guitar), Joe Fee (bass). Improvised social dance from Erin Morris & Her Ragdolls’ JASSAFRASS show. College Theater, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Michigan, May 8, 2015. Filmed by Laura Beth Wyman.
I find it also very touching that this dear interlude is described as “Improvised social dance,” for isn’t that what we are doing every moment of our lives on the planet? If only we could perform our various curlicues with as much grace as Erin and Nathan do here, this world would blissfully swing, and grinning would be the rule rather than the exception. I hail them — and James, Rod, Mike, and Joe — as uncredentialed spiritual teachers — the best ones, teaching us by example that existence is too gorgeously large to be put in to words.
Parenthetically, a friend affectionately needled me, “Hey, Michael, JAZZ LIVES is becoming the Official Erin Morris Lovefest Site, isn’t it?” And I immediately said, “Wow, you say the nicest things!”
As a postscript, a laginappe, an amuse-bouche or what you will, here’s everybody’s rollicking get-off-the-stage to music adapted liberally from a Fats Waller song:
The Felons of Swing, in addition to the Band, are Erin Morris (dance/choreography), Nathan Bugh, Brittany Armstrong-Morton, Sarah Campbell, Rachel Bomphray, Hayden Nickel.
To set the mood, Bessie Smith singing NEW ORLEANS HOP SCOP BLUES, from where I take my title. (It’s especially appropriate because of the welcome attention paid Miss Bessie, and this track counteracts the prevailing impression of her as an artist who lived in darkness and sadness.)
She sings most convincingly about the joys of gliding, sliding, prancing, dancing. But that’s only sound. We need more.
Let’s have some thrilling audio-visual evidence here from Erin Morris and friends, performed and recorded on May 8, 2015.
AIN’T ‘CHA GOT MUSIC? (by James P. Johnson) performed by Erin Morris and Brittany Armstrong with vocal by Nathan Bugh. Instrumental support by James Dapogny, piano; Mike Karoub, cello; Rod McDonald, guitar; Joe Fee, string bass. And they offer the verse:
LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, by Erin and Nathan, a performance that is clearly more about dancing love than making exits:
and EXACTLY LIKE YOU, by Nathan and the Quartet:
I think of these performances — aurally, visually — as happiness in its purest form embodied. When I am sad ad I need an aural reassurance that the world is a generous place, I put on the music of Louis Armstrong and Gordon Jenkins.
When I want to look at something to remind me how joyously expansive life is, I look at the videos of Erin Morris and her Ragdolls / James Dapogny and friends. Works for me, and it can work for you too. These three videos come from Erin Morris & Her Ragdolls’ JASSAFRASS show: recorded for us by Laura Beth Wyman.
If you feel the spirit, why not truck on down to Erin Morris and Her Ragdollsand click the button marked “Like.” Costs nothing; no obligation; it makes these hard-working joy-spreaders happier. And you can see more life-affirming videos there as well.
Has today been surprisingly rough, friend? Did you turn away from the milk you were heating on the stove to find it had taken on new life as Vesuvius? Are your ears still hurting from what someone said to you last night? Did the Havanese puppy you bent down to pat on the street nip your hand? Is your performance rating 10 . . . but the scale is now 1 to 100? Are you being blamed for something you didn’t do? Did someone siphon out all your emotional energy while you were sleeping? Have all the treats been moved to a shelf higher than you can reach? Have the rules of the board game been changed while you went to get the popcorn?
You know the feelings. No over-the-counter cream has yet been invented to take away those stings.
But at JAZZ LIVES, we offer an infallible transfusion of joy. Two, in fact. Created by skilled practitioners. One tincture is in honor of an ancient dance; the other celebrates a noted explorer (and Chu Berry, let his name ne’er be forgot).
Healing tincture one:
And its counterpart:
Dancers: Erin Morris, Brittany Armstrong-Morton, Rachel Bomphray, Sarah Campbell. (For more information about Erin Morris and her Ragdolls, visithere, 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.
Those who feel properly moved are encouraged to “like” the Erin Morris and Her Ragdolls Facebook page. JAZZ LIVES readers who show proof of a properly completed “like” of this page will be entitled to a free lifetime subscription to JAZZ LIVES.
Musicians: , Mike Karoub (cello), James Dapogny (piano), Rod McDonald (guitar / banjo), and Joe Fee (bass). Nathan Bugh sings on BALLIN’. College Theater, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Michigan. May 8, 2015. Filmed by Laura Beth Wyman.
A first helping of joy can be experienced here. And more is promised, which is indeed joyous news.
The instructions on the prescription are very simple: REPEAT AS NEEDED. ay
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, visithere, 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.
You’ve heard the expression countless times, “Don’t try this at home”? I suppose you could attempt to play Jelly Roll Morton’s JUNGLE BLUES at home, but if you don’t have the proper equipment, I suggest you stick to your iPod.
Here’s the evidence. THE JUNGLE BLUES (Jelly Roll Morton; arr Doc Cook) – Phil Ogilvie’s Rhythm Kings aka PORK. Andrew Bishop (alto sax / clarinet), Chris Tabaczynski (tenor sax / clarinet), Bobby Streng (alto sax), Paul Finkbeiner (trumpet), Justin Walter (trumpet), Gene Bartley (trombone), James Dapogny (piano / co-leader), Chris Smith (sousaphone / co-leader), Rod McDonald (guitar), Van Hunsberger (drums and miscellaneous percussion):
This was recorded for our listening and dancing pleasure at the Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on April 5, 2015, by JAZZ LIVES’ Michigan Bureau Chief, Laura Beth Wyman, and her well-trained staff.
I think such things are best left to the professionals. Even if, by chance, you did have a gong in your basement, the rest of the ensemble is not easy to assemble and train. But the gong is paramount here.
I think of the small group of people who are so devoted to jazz that they become video archivists as a dear community. None of this “standing on the shoulders of giants” for me, because my balance is not so good when I am standing in that way. Merely envisioning this gives me vertigo.
No, my image is a small circle of people holding hands, close enough to look in each others’ eyes and grin, proud of their own work and happy that others are doing it as well. Here are a few friends I know personally, who have done so much to make the music accessible to people who can’t be everywhere.
My first role model was — and continues to be — the diligent Rae Ann Hopkins Berry, the reigning monarch of California Hot. Since March 2008, she’s kept up a steady flow of videos on her YouTube channel. I was inspired by her and continue to be so, even though I am no longer in California. The people I first thought as the dear heroes of music I saw on her videos.
I started videoing on YouTube a bit later, and my first videos were of David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band / Louis Armstrong Centennial Band / Louis Armstrong Eternity Band in October 2008. And I upload while you are sleeping, often while I, too, am sleeping.
New friends and videographers came along. Eric Devine, the master of multiple cameras, who’s known as CineDevine, creates very polished videos at concerts, parties, and festivals from New England to Florida. He started in 2008, too, although we continue to have an older brother – younger brother relationship when we talk shop.
A few years later, the Michigander flautist and friend of jazz Laura Beth Wymanset up shop in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, and has provided JAZZ LIVES with so many gorgeous videos of Professor James Dapogny and friends that she was asked to be the Chief of the Michigan Bureau, a task she accepted with great grace.
The newest member of the hand-holding video community is very welcome: her name is Kelley Randand although her first videos have only shown up on Facebook about a week ago, her work is astonishing. For one thing, she is getting splendid results with her iPhone (which means that, unlike me, she is not carrying an eighteen-pound knapsack of cameras) and she has made about a half-dozen astonishing videos in New Orleans. Several feature the ever-astonishing Dick Hyman and the melodic wonder Tim Laughlin in duet: WHO’S SORRY NOW, ONE HOUR, A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, and Hyman solos on JITTERBUG WALTZ and S’WONDERFUL. She’s also captured Tim and the brilliant young pianist Kris Tokarski in performance at the Bombay Club: IF DREAMS COME TRUE, LOVE NEST, OH DADDY BLUES, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE.
Since I am in New Orleans once a year, so far, at most, I have appointed her the Chief of the Louisiana Bureau. She will only find this out when she reads this far, and I hope she agrees. The health benefits are not delineated in any contract: they simply mean that more people will get to know her, thank her, and appreciate her diligence and generosities.
The nicest part of all this is that we all respect each other, make subtle courteous agreements not to step on each others’ turf, get in each others’ shots, and so on. We are united in the name of MUSIC, and the deep notion that as many people should get to enjoy it as possible. And we capture the evanescent and make it tangible, even eternal.
And — as an afterthought — I know there are many people videoing at clubs and concerts around the world, and I mean them no offense by not including them here. But these four people are dear to me, and I am proud to know them.