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.