Tag Archives: Leopold Stokowski

“GOOD OLD GOOD ONES” at MANASSAS: BILLY BUTTERFIELD, PEE WEE ERWIN, LARRY EANET, SPENCER CLARK, BUTCH HALL, PAUL LANGOSCH, BARRETT DEEMS (February 6, 1980)

Leopold Stokowski said, “There is no exhausted repertoire. There are only exhausted musicians.”

It applies to the session you are about to indulge in, from the Manassas Jazz Festival, featuring Billy Butterfield and Pee Wee Erwin, trumpet; Larry Eanet, piano; Spencer Clark, bass saxophone; Butch Hall, guitar; Paul Langosch, string bass; Barrett Deems, drums. The songs are familiar: INDIANA / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA / JADA / an excerpt from I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE / SALT PEANUTS jocularly leading into I FOUND A NEW BABY: twenty-six minutes of expert joy-making. None of the players would have said, “For goodness’ sake, I’ve played INDIANA too many times. Could we take out charts for an obscure Cole Porter tune, instead?” No, they enjoyed the freedom of familiar repertoire, which was in itself comforting and giving them freedom to take chances . . . while pleasing an audience that was both comforted and excited by the familiar. So everyone was happy, and I hope that happiness of forty years ago is vividly transferred to you all in 2021:

Of the brilliant incendiaries above, Billy Pee Wee, Larry, Spencer, Butch, and Barrett have moved to other neighborhoods. I am happy to report that bassist Paul Langosch (who’s also played with Tony Bennett) is very much alive and well, and giving a presentation on April 28: details here.

The fellow I do want to commemorate is trumpeter / archivist / all-around gentleman Joe Shepherd, who left us this month. I don’t know details, except that Joe was over ninety, and more generous than I could imagine. I encountered him some years ago because of the one-song magical videos he had offered on his YouTube channel, “Sflair,” videos that featured Vic Dickenson, Don Ewell, and others. I wrote to him and he made me parcel after parcel of DVD transfers, most of which you have seen on JAZZ LIVES. And until very recently, he was practicing the horn at home. A true hero, and not just because of the parcels: when I asked him what I could do in return, his answer was always that he was so happy people were enjoying the music. A resonant gentle kindness I won’t forget, nor will anyone who knew him.

May your happiness increase!

TOMMY DORSEY, POP STAR, MEETS THE SYMPHONY (“CONCERTO for TROMBONE and ORCHESTRA,” NATHANIEL SHILKRET, conducted by LEOPOLD STOKOWSKI, WNYC, February 15, 1945)

Seventy-six years after this premiere performance, it might be difficult to envision Tommy Dorsey as a pop star of such magnitude, but the audience’s enthusiasm is more than enough proof. And I salute the young woman who, at 2:30, yells, “Frankie!” We know who that is. But Maestro Stokowski has to lecture the young men and women — an audience of 2300 schoolchildren, I have read — sternly at first, and again at the end of the second movement.

Please listen to the very end, where the announcer oh-so-calmly concludes that the audience’s excitement at the rhythmic nature of the final movement must have come from our civilization’s roots in “the jungle.” Dorsey was Caucasian of Irish descent; I wonder what would have been said were he African-American?

I’d gather than the work was written with Dorsey in mind — as the pre-eminent popular American trombonist, for Shilkret’s score has sly nods to Dorsey’s theme, I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, his hit SONG OF INDIA, and the third movement’s BOOGIE WOOGIE, at least rhythmically.  Dorsey and Shilkret had a long history: Tommy played on a recording of the All Star Orchestra, directed by Nat, in 1928, and they would have encountered each other frequently in radio orchestras Nat directed.

I think most readers will have encountered Shilkret as a name on a Victor 78, but if the Concerto has hints of film music, he also worked for RKO and MGM from 1935 to the middle Fifties.  And of course there is the pleasing shadow of Gershwin, someone whose path crossed Shilkret’s early as well.  His biography can be found here, and it’s fascinating.  He had a long life — 1889-1982 — and I am amused to find that he lived with his son for the last twenty-five years of his life in Franklin Square, New York, a suburb not far from me.

This performance of Shilkret’s CONCERTO FOR TROMBONE AND ORCHESTRA (occasionally noted with MODERN preceding the title) took place at City Center in New York City on February 15, 1945, with Leopold Stokowski conducting. And this archival recording was rebroadcast, thanks to John Schaefer, over New York public radio, WNYC-FM, here in 1989:

May your happiness increase!