Tag Archives: Leah Bezin

VANESSA TAGLIABUE YORKE: “THE RACINE CONNECTION”

What it looked like at the 2012 Bix Fest, thanks to Tom Warner, Phil Pospychala, Andy Schumm, Dalton Ridenhour, Josh Duffee, and the engaging singer Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke:

This performance and ten others are now available on a Rivermont Records CD called “Vanessa Tagliabue Yorke: The Racine Connection,” and it’s a thorough pleasure.

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When most people go to a jam session, club, concert, or festival, if the music is superb, there’s often the regret mixed with the joy: “Wow, that was wonderful. Wish I could hear that again!” The new Rivermont Records CD makes it possible, and a delight.  For one thing, Vanessa isn’t simply a record-copyist (although she does a very effective Annette Hanshaw homage on IF YOU WANT THE RAINBOW).  Rather, she comes to this music with a winning combination of heartfelt emotions and deep understanding.

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She has a rangy, eloquent voice — no squeaky-girl Betty Boopisms for her — and at times she evokes the raw yet controlled passion of Piaf.  And her musical range is equally spacious, as evident in the songs selected: BLUE RIVER / WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE / THOU SWELL / BACK WATER BLUES / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU / IF YOU WANT THE RAINBOW / BLACK BOTTOM / LOVELESS LOVE / PETITE FLEUR / IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING / THEM THERE EYES / NEBBIA.  That three or four of those songs go beyond what one might expect at a Bix Festival — and that they are rendered with great feeling and depth — is tribute to Vanessa’s artistic honesty and breadth.

And when this earnest swinging singer is accompanied by great musicians Andy Schumm, Dalton Ridenhour, Yves Francois, John Otto, Dave Bock, Frank Gualtieri, Jason Goldsmith, Leah Bezin, MIke Waldbridge, and Josh Duffee, you know there is fine playing in solo, ensemble, and accompaniment to go along with Vanessa’s voice.  Ten of the twelve selections were recorded “live,” in performance, which is all to the good: I’ll choose that “live” sound, which makes a listener feel as if (s)he is right there, over the pure — and sometimes tense — acoustic environment of a studio any day.

You can find this CD — and many more refreshing ones, present and historical — here.  I predict that Vanessa is at the start of a long and rewarding series of performances and CDs.

May your happiness increase!

VIDEOGRAPHERS THREE!

What do Rae Ann Berry, Elin Smith, and Lisa (Mook) Ryan have in common?  They’re all women who have a deep involvement in jazz, even though they don’t play instruments.  Nor are they married to instrumentalists or players. 

All three are very creative members of the jazz audience — which is often more male than female.  But they do more than sit and applaud: they are improvisers behind the camera, video artists. 

Rae Ann is known to many by her YouTube channel name — SFRaeAnn — and she takes her camera to jazz happenings on the West Coast: regularly, she finds Clint Baker and his band at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, or a solo piano recital by the esteemed Ray Skjelbred at Pier 23 in San Francisco, as well as regularly videorecording jazz fetival performances.  Here are two of her most recent captures:

From July 20, 2010, here’s Ray working his deep-blue way through KMH DRAG, an impromptu blues line created by Max Kaminsky, Freddie Moore, and Art Hodes for a memorable Blue Note record date in (I believe) 1944:

And ten days later, Rae Ann recorded Clint and friends at Cafe Borrone, playing HINDUSTAN.  That’s Clint, clarinet; Leon Oakley, trumpet and necktie; Jim Klippert, trombone; Jason Vanderford, guitar; Bill Reinhart, bass; Steve Apple, drums; and Robert Young, banjo.  There’s good rocking tonight, New Orleans-style:

Elin Smith lives in England, and it was my good fortune to meet her and Ron, her husband, last year at Whitley Bay and again this year.

Elin loves to record jazz performances, but also is fascinated by composing films: her YouTube channel is “elinshouse,” and here she’s trained her lens on two performances by Thomas Winteler, who sounds more like Sidney Bechet than anyone I’ve ever  heard.  These songs are from the most recent Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, where Thomas was joined by my hero Bent Persson on trumpet, Michel Bard on reeds, Lou Laprete on piano, Henri Lamaire on bass, and Ron Houghton on drums for ALLIGATOR CRAWL:

And a triumphant POTATO HEAD BLUES.  Like its predecessor, it suggests what might have happened if Sidney had brought his clarinet into the OKeh studios while Louis and his Hot Seven were recording:

Finally, there’s Lisa (Mook) Ryan, another Californian. 

Lisa is intrigued not only by the music of Bix Beiderbecke but by the people who continue to investigate it, play it, and keep his legacy alive.  She’s done wonderfully atmospheric films set to Bix’s music.  Here’s IN THE DARK (as played by Dick Hyman) which she’s used atmospherically — creating juxtapositions of slowly-observed still photographs — to muse on what Bix experienced and felt in the year 1928, all seen as shades of light, shadow, and blackness.  Other impressionistic creations of Lisa’s can be seen on her “MookRyan” channel:

 Most recently, under the heading of “MookCam,” she’s captured cornetist Andy Schumm in performance.  Although youthful, Andy has so many fans with video cameras (including myself) that he might be the most-documented jazz musician of the last two or three years — a singular tribute to his talent and the affection it inspires! 

Here are Andy and His Gang at the Putnam Museum, on July 22, 2010.  Andy is playing Bix’s cornet, John Otto on clarinet and sax, Vince Giordano on bass sax/tuba/string bass, Dave Bock on trombone, David Boeddinghaus on the Beiderbecke family piano, Leah Bezin on banjo, and Josh Duffee on drums for a merging of CLARINET MARMALADE and SINGIN’ THE BLUES:

The generous creativity of RaeAnn, Elin, and Lisa inspires us!

NEW OLD SONGS (by ANDY AND HIS GANG, March 2010)

Although it’s always a pleasure to hear JAZZ ME BLUES, for instance, listeners like to be surprised as well — not by mere novelty (playing the theme from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE in hot style, for instance) but by songs in the idiom that aren’t overly familiar.  Here are two such performances from the 2010 Tribute to Bix, played by Andy Schumm and his Gang (Andy, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, reeds / vocal; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Vince Giordano, bass sax, tuba, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums). 

The first is WHAT A DAY, taken from a post-Bix session done by Frank Trumbauer:

It’s not the most inventive song — the three-note motif gets repeated cheerfully, almost without letup, but it bounces along.

The second, DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM, is more obscure (Abel Baer-Mabel Wayne) and has a certain oblique similarity to GOOD LITTLE, BAD LITTLE YOU — but it, too, gets a jaunty performance.  In this version, Vince got to take a much-needed breather and his place was taken by Mike Walbridge on tuba.  And Andy pounces on the melody from out of the ensemble in fine Goldkette style!

We have the intrepid Flemming Thorbye to thank for these videos: from the back of the hall, but steady and in clear sound — all that anyone could want and more!

BIX FEST 2010: GALS and RIVERS and MONDAY

These videos were taken by the multi-talented Jamaica Knauer at Phil Pospychala’s “Tribute to Bix,” the most recent celebration of Bix Beiderbecke’s life and art.  Cornetist Andy Schumm and his Gang — that’s Dave Bock (trombone), John Otto (reeds), Leah Bezin (banjo / guitar), David Boeddinghaus (piano), Vince Giordano (bass sax, string bass, tuba, vocals), and Josh Duffee (drums) performed a number of selections either recorded by Bix or evoking him.  Appropriately, the music was played on Bix’s birthday — at the Bavarian Inn in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

There are perhaps unintentional thematic connections here, easy to find.

MY GAL SAL (written by Paul Dresser, brother of novelist Theodore Dreiser):

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL (was it a pal of Sal or another gal?):

SLOW RIVER (harking back to the Goldkette band):

RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (for the Wolverines and the 1927 recording with Frank Trumbauer):

Finally, because it’s Thursday, here’s the very antidote to Blue Monday, a cheerful FROM MONDAY ON:

Anyone who’s paying attention won’t need me to point to the special pleasures — the ringing playing of the front line, relaxed and hot; the rocking rhythm section, and the wonderfully steady tempos — but these performances will please over and over.  This band knows the records and the idiom inside-out but no one feels compelled to copy the famous solos.  And the smile on Josh Duffee’s face sums it all up for me.

ANDY AND HIS GANG (Racine Bix Tribute, March 2009)

Thanks to Thorbye Flemming (www.thorbye.net) — our Danish hot-jazz benefactor — for posting these jubilant performances on YouTube — featuring cornetist and youthful icon Andy Schumm leaping into solos, his sidekick Dave Bock on trombone, John  Otto on alto sax and clarinet, Leah Bezin on banjo, Striding Paul Asaro on the piano (he’s bathed in an otherworldly blue light, but it doesn’t get in the way of his Waller-Morton-James P. capers), Vince Giordano, rocking the band on his aluminum string bass, and Josh Duffee on drums.  Neither IDOLIZING nor BABY FACE is a sophisticated tune, but their wide-open spaces bring out the best in the Bixians.

JAZZ TRANSPORTS!

Like most Americans, I commute to work by car, even though I know that my choice has huge adverse effects on the planet.  When I can, I take the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan, but the train is at best inconvenient.  Even when I bring my iPod or The New Yorker, the LIRR is tedium on wheels.

Here’s the ideal solution to the problem.  If my train ride could be like this, morning and evening, I swear I would sell my car:

This catches the West End Jazz Band (with friends) on the South Shore train line, recorded May 31, 2009, on their way to the annual Hudson Lake celebration.  (Hudson Lake, as you know, is a sacred site that connects Bix Beiderbecke, Pee Wee Russell, and other kindred spirits.)  You hear and see Mike Bezin and Sue Fischer on washboards; John Otto on clarinet; Frank Gualtieri on trombone; Andy Schumm and Mike Walbridge on cornets; Leah Bezin on banjo; Dave Bock on tuba; Josh Duffee on drums, performing LOUISIANA.  And a slightly smaller version of the group offers a spirited SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL. 

These clips are courtesy of “manidig” on YouTube — a fellow after my own heart.  I subscribed to his channel about two minutes into LOUISIANA.  Thanks, Mr. Dig!

What time will the next jazz train arrive?

SWEET MUSIC, WITH FEELING

Jamaica Knauer, who seems to bring her video camera along whenever there’s good music, captured this performance for us: the West End Jazz Band performing at the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks Fans’ Bash on May 16, 2009 in Huntington, West Virginia.  The WEJB features Leah Bezin, guitar and vocal; Mike Bezin, trumpet; John Otto, alto sax; Frank Gualtieri, trombone; Mike Walbridge, tuba; Andy Schumm, covering the drum chair rather than his usual cornet or piano. 

This song, OUT WHERE THE LITTLE MOONBEAMS ARE BORN, recorded by George Olsen and other bands in 1929, was new to me.  I couldn’t find its composer credits in the ASCAP database, so I would be interested in knowing who wrote it. 

Experienced listeners with good memories might find phrases in it reminiscent (forwards as well as backwards) of more famous songs, but all of that fades away in this sweetly earnest performance.  And it passed my tests: I found myself humming it and had to play the clip several times in a row before moving on.  Maybe it’s perfect music for all of our yearnings to get away to a magical place where no one can intrude on our romances.  See if it doesn’t become part of your mental musical library, too!  

Heartfelt thanks to the WEJB and to Jamaica for preserving this sweet moment.

OGDEN, UTAH / RED AND MIFF VISIT THE 21st CENTURY

Yesterday the Beloved and I drove through Ogden, Utah.  That town is quite removed from our usual route, but we are here so that she can teach three classes in pressure cooking at the amiable Love to Cook / Kitchen Kneads (!) store in Logan . . . and then we can drink in the natural beauty that so characterizes the state — snow-topped mountains so astonishing that on first glance they look unreal, and the wondrous birds who casually inhabit the Wild Bird Refuge at Bear River. 

All right, what has any of this to do with jazz?

A good deal, by luck and serendipity.  Ogden, as some of you might know, is the birthplace of Loring “Red” Nichols, the cornetist and bandleader whose name, nearly forty-five years after his death — still has the power to stir up ideological controversy among jazz fans.  Some of his best “Five Pennies” recordings feature the revolutionary-for-his-time trombonist Miff Mole, who was born in Freeport, Long Island, a community not far from the one where I spent my childhood.  Red and Miff favored a kind of jazz that was “modern,” harmonically sophisticated, and complex . . . but their performances have always been mildly condescended to by those who prefer their jazz scalding Hot — those who listened to the Five Pennies recordings for the solos of Teagarden, Goodman, Lang, or Teschmacher, the rhythmic support of Sullivan, Krupa, Vic Berton, or Tough.  Next to the hot players of his generation, Nichols can — on occasion — sound a bit mannered, and one might hear the echoes of “Carnival of Venice,” which he played as a boy, coming through.  But he was a better-than-average player, he employed the best players he could find, and he gave them solo space.  And, unlike Ted Lewis, he didn’t sing or talk over anyone else’s solos.  I think the bad things said about Nichols have to do with the unconscious or conscious Marxism that hovers over jazz.  Nichols had the bad taste to be Caucasian, middle-class, prosperous — someone who made a living from jazz and lived a long comfortable life.  Had Nichols died of tuberculosis, or had he frozen to death on a Harlem doorstep, would he be held in higher esteem among the jazz purists? 

Miff Mole is somewhat of a different story.  The trombone requires so much from the person behind the mouthpiece, that there are very few trombonists who keep their initial style intact (I think of Morton, Teagarden, and Vic Dickenson as a celestial trio) — but Mole’s early solos are acrobatic and graceful.  It’s impossible to imagine that Teagarden, Jimmy Harrison, and Charlie Green didn’t notice what Miff was doing, quietly, in the early Twenties.

One of the wonderful things about this music is that younger players can look back to the past, honor it, and then give their homage its own individuality. 

While we were driving through Ogden, Utah, Jamaica Knauer was posting one of her delightful videos from the 2009 Bix Fest — Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, Kim Cusack, Paul Asaro, Leah Bezin, John Otto, and Josh Duffee, “Bix and his Chicago Gang,” here payting tribute to Miff’s recording (from 1928, I think) of ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND.  Initially, it sounds ragtime-and-brass band flavored, but the boys (then and now) take themselves to the land of jazz, in a lovely manner.

“YEAH, MAN!” (BIX 2009)

Jamaica Knauer, the patron saint of Midwestern Hot Jazz on video (now there‘s a mouthful of Homeric epithet) very generously uploaded two more of her videos from the 2009 Bix Beiderbecke Festival on YouTube for our collective joy and enlightenment.  To quote Milt Hinton, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like broccoli!”*

Here are “Bix and His Chicago Gang,” fervent and expert, captured live at Fitzgerald’s — in tuxedos, no less.  They are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Kim Cusack, clarinet; John Otto, bass sax; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Josh Duffee, drums.  First, one of the affectionate songs of the late Twenties, MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.  (Cutty Cutshall, that Condon stalwart, used to call it MAHONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS.) 

There are too many delightful details to absorb in one viewing, but the band does the very pleasing thing of returning to the verse several times during this performance, making the most of the possibilities of changing from verse to chorus more than once.  It’s a lovely idea, now abandoned in favor of playing chorus after chorus on the theme, which can (I write this in a whisper) become monotonous.  Notice also how many times one of the musicians is grinning because of something another player has just created, and you know that those smiles aren’t “counterfeited glee” for the benefit of the audience.  This band rocks without raising its voice or accelerating its pace. 

The second performance has nothing to apologize for, even though the source material is the tune SORRY.  Jamaica had to switch from one memory card to another in mid-performance, cutting off a bit of Paul Asaro’s striding solo, but I’m so glad she caught what she did.  And the gap in the middle is in itself nostalgic, reminding all of us of those radio airshots captured on 10″ 78 rpm blanks that have a chorus or two we have to imagine — while the diligent recordist tried to turn the acetate over as quickly as possible or put another blank on the turntable.  Heroically done, Jamaica; romping hot jazz, O you Bixians! 

And my title is more than just a Twenties and Thirties exultation, although it would do just fine on that basis: in 1933, Bing Crosby was asked to fill out a questionnaire — favorite color, music, books, and the like.  When it got to “favorite expression,” that’s the one he thought of.  “Yeah, man!” indeed!

 *And if you don’t like broccoli, perhaps it’s because someone’s been overcooking it: try removing it from the heat when it’s still got some life in it.  Late-life culinary conversions are both possible and uplifting!

ONE HOT BABY!

More from the Bixians: Andy Schumm, Dave Bock, John Otto,Paul Asaro, Leah Bezin, Josh Duffee — plus homeboy Vince Giordano — swinging irresistibly through Bill Challis’ arrangement for the Jean Goldkette Orchestra of BABY FACE.  An exultant soundtrack!  Thanks again to Jamaica Knauer and her trusty “little camera,” which captured wondrous encounters. 

MORE FROM THE BIX FEST (RACINE, March 2009)!

These videos are here (and on YouTube) through the generosity of Jamaica Knauer and her “little camera,”  suitably attired, “running around in the gaudy 1920’s outfit, and Cleopatra headpiece.  Anywhere Andy Schumm and Dave Bock were playing, I was somewhere around, filming them. Ha! Ha!”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and we owe Jamaica and the Bixians a great deal: they are, besides Andy and Dave, John Otto, Paul Asaro, Vince Giordano, Leah Bezin, and Josh Duffee.  Here they are at Fitzgerald’s, with a truly rocking NOBODY’S SWEETHEART:

A little calmer, but still enthusiastic, is THAT’S THE GOOD OLD SUNNY SOUTH:

And a steady BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? at one of the many “right” tempos, with a soulful vocal by Vince:

Walter Donaldson’s pretty AT SUNDOWN, again at a wonderful tempo, not too fast:

Finally, an exuberant FRESHMAN HOP (which I associate with Jack Pettis, Irving Mills, the Hotsy Totsy Gang, and Jack Teagarden), with Otto on bass sax and Kim Cusack on clarinet:

There are more delights on YouTube.  Everyone here is a wonderfully enthusiastic, gifted soloist, but one of the rare pleasures of these performances is the way the ensembles work together — Asaro’s striding piano behind a horn soloist, Vince, Leah, and Josh working together as a unit, the horn players trading phrases and humming behind one another.  Yes, “Bix lives!” but we shouldn’t forget just how alive and lively these players are — thanks to Jamaica!

SIX FOR BIX: A JAM SESSION

Six minutes, that is.

Two trumpets, two trombones, two banjos, one piano, one drummer, eager happy dancers, “Some of These Days,” sheer pleasure.  I recognize Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; Paul Asaro, piano, Leah Bezin, banjo, and Josh Duffee, drums, but would like help with the other gifted players.  Do you think they would come to my apartment and jam if I asked nicely and had canned drinks for everyone?

P.S.  Mike Durham came to the rescue: “Other players in Six for Bix are Brad Kay, trumpet, Frank Galtieri, trombone and Jacob Ullberger, banjo (visiting from Sweden).”

SCENES FROM RACINE: THE BIX FEST, MARCH 2009

These clips aren’t nearly as good as being there, but they are wonderful experiences created by Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, sax and clarinet; Paul Asaro, piano; Leah Bezin, banjo; Vince Giordano, bass and bass sax; Josh Duffee, percussion.

Here, the Gang rocks through the Goldkette favorite “Idolizing,” without embarking on a vocal tribute, though:

And another version of the ODJB / Bix classic “Clarinet Marmalade,” which has the right exuberant spirit without rushing:

A privilege and a pleasure to see and share these clips!