Tag Archives: live jazz

FEED THE KITTY

I feel bicoastal gloom at the cancelling of the Sweet and Hot Music Festival, the closing of the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel.  Both of these sad events can be understood in economic terms, but these news stories are not new. 

I was speaking to a jazz musician two nights ago about his arrival in new York City in the mid-Eighties, and invariably our conversation became a litany of jazz clubs and restaurants that featured live music — all gone now.  Another musician reminded me of the magical decade of Fifty-Second Street: a block full of jazz clubs and nightspots that are now office buildings and chain pharmacies.  A few months ago I asked a young musician how she was faring and she told me of taking a job in Whole Foods to be able to get by.   

I understand that the “hospitality” business — restaurants, clubs, and other sites providing entertainment, food, and drink in return for profit — cannot be philanthropic.  When a club owner hires musicians, (s)he will want to see more money in the cash register (archaic terms these days) to offset the expense of the music.  In an era when bar patrons turn to their iPhones and to the multiple television screens for their entertainment, does live music, creative improvised music, stand a chance? 

The other factor is the machine we are all utilizing at the moment, and I acknowledge my responsibility in the problem.  “Why get dressed up in the cold to travel to a jazz club when there is so much to see and hear online?  Who needs to leave the monitor?  Besides, there’s that wall of CDs my spouse says I hardly ever listen to.” 

But I am talking about art and individuals that have more depth — and more fragility — than the moving images on the computer.  Jazz musicians are more than mp3s. 

One can find true community from listening to living people create art for other living people: like minds assembled to share joy.   

But too often, jazz listeners think they are supporting the music by having a bumper sticker or a seat cushion that proclaims their allegiance to jazz.  Writing BIRD LIVES on a wall won’t bring him back, and wearing a sparkly hat that says I LOVE DIXIELAND doesn’t help any player to pay the rent.  Buying another CD is always a good thing, but ask any musician how much money (s)he has received from the sale. 

Jazz Studies Programs have their place, as do vast online collections of “free” music, but do any of these activities benefit the musicians and their families?     

So I propose, not for the first time, an individual, active commitment to the art form.  If you are financially able and physically healthy, why not pay your debt to jazz by visiting a place where live jazz musicians are playing?  Buy a drink or a meal.  Listen attentively.  Put something in the tip jar.  Tell the manager / owner that you have made a special trip to this restaurant or club to hear ______ and her Hooligans (invent your own appropriate name).

Yes, I know that (in my father’s words) things are tough all over.  Sometimes the situation seems so bleak that one wants to retreat from those people — real and figurative — who have their hands outstretched to us.  What I am proposing costs money, takes time, is occasionally inconvenient.  But offering support to the people and music we love is a better use of our energies than mourning the losses after the sad news has registered.  And being generous to jazz may help insure that we can hear and see it, live, in the future.       

The generous people I know write checks to worthy charities, institutions that do good.   

What have you done for jazz this month?  It has done so much for you.

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SWING / DANCE! — JAKE SANDERS QUINTET (May 18, 2011)

Professor Jim Fryer tells his students, “Dancing is what music looks like; music is what dancing sounds like.”  A swinging mantra if ever there was one, and the videos below prove his points.

I’ve been admiring the swinging banjo / mandolin playing of Jake Sanders for some time now — but it didn’t prepare me for the groovy jazz he and his Quintet offered a room full of dancers on May 18, 2011. 

The occasion was a swing dance extravaganza, “White Heat,” sponsored by Dance Manhattan on a perilously rainy night.  But the music dried my clothing and lifted my spirits in four bars.  You’ll see and hear what I mean.

Jake’s colleagues were bassist Ian Riggs (whom I’d met at Teddy’s), guitarist Michael Gomez (new to me, but a wizard), Will Anderson (a young swinger who’s seen all over town), Gordon Au (one of my heroes, here on cornet).  They were tucked away in the corner of a small gymnasium-like room (with pillars) where a small number of intrepid dancers swirled around. 

The fine photographer Lynn Redmile was herself one of the dancers, and she tells me that the other twirlers and dippers included Caroline Ruda, Eli Charne, Sam Huang, Eve Polich, Tina Micic, Pauline Pechin, Kathy Stokes, Steve Rekhler, Richard Kurtzer, Neal Groothuis, Charles Herold, Nina Galilcheva, Marty Visconti, Sallie Stutz.  (If you were there and haven’t been included in this list, do let me know.)

Here’s I WONDER WHERE MY BABY IS TONIGHT, a Twenties tune (known more widely because Django and Stephane took it up in the late Thirties).  The lyrics tell us that a dancing fool who could do the Charleston took the singer’s Baby away, and the singer is both morose and homicidal (“I’d like to kill the man who made the Charleston,” which I hope wasn’t meant for the sainted James P. Johnson) while the music has a Charleston-interlude at regular intervals – – – an early postmodern episode in Twenties pop:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:  what other jazz classic brings together the 1940-1 Goodman Sextet, Bix, Louis, Basie, Eddie Condon, and is still being swung in 2011?  Jake’s tempo is in the groove: they’re solid senders!

A straight-ahead reading of BRAZIL, which rocks:

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL (with or without the apostrophe) is one of those songs that’s usually played too fast — perhaps as homage to dancing off both (y)our shoes.  Here it’s “very groovy, very mellow,” to quote Mr. Gaillard:

Want to see and hear more?  I’ve posted seven other videos at my YouTube channel — http://www.youtube.com/user/swingyoucats — which (as the old record jackets used to proclaim), “You’re sure to enjoy.”  I hope so!

A ROBOTIC REMINDER, or DON’T MISS THESE GIGS!

If the mechanical men know about Michael Kanan, Joel Press, Joe Hunt, Lee Hudson, Sean Smith, and the wonderful jazz they will be creating this weekend at Smalls (138 West 10th Street, New York City, Friday night, May 13) and at Sofia’s (211 West 46th Street, NYC, Saturday night, May 14), shouldn’t you?

There will be room for everyone — interplanetary and terrestrial — I guarantee.  Bring your Beloved!

THE HOT JAZZ ALLIANCE SWINGS OUT (April 20, 2011)

When my learned and hot Australian friend Michael McQuaid (clarinet, alto sax, cornet, and leader of the Late Hour Boys) told me sometime last year about a tour he and his colleagues intended to do, I badly wanted to join them as an aging roadie, carrying the cases and music stands, finding places to recharge my video camera’s batteries, recording every second for posterity.  I would have worn a cap and held the door open.

My idea was one whose time had not yet come.  But thanks to fellow reed wizard Jason Downes, we now have eighteen video performances to thrill us.  Michael and Jason on their own are — to quote the late Pee Wee Erwin, “hotter than a depot stove” (you could look it up) . . . and here they are joined by guitarist / banjoist John Scurry, bassist Leigh Barker, and two Americans whose names will be familiar to JAZZ LIVES: Andy Schumm on cornet and Josh Duffee on drums.  The results are nearly incendiary, and would be so even if the surroundings didn’t suggest Hades reborn as a speakeasy in color and decor.

I think I am performing a public service by alerting my readers of these clips.  See if you don’t agree.  And I can’t wait for the double CD-DVD set.  (Yes, one of the titles below is DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM, but any causal connection here is incidental, of course.)

Wow!  As we say in the States.

This session was recorded on April 20, 2011, in Club Cursley, Near Cobargo, NSW, Australia.  I was told that this lavish interior is inside a generous host’s country house . . . one with its own stage.  Some people know how to live.

How about a searing WILD MAN BLUES, styled after Johnny Dodds’ Black Bottom Stompers — and hear young Mister Schumm get into his 1927 Louis-regalia in the most convincing way:

Here is the aforementioned request (or command?), DON’T WAKE ME UP, LET ME DREAM (which has a chorus-ending tag that sounds like a thousand other tunes — I thought of WHY COULDN’T IT BE POOR LITTLE ME and GOOD LITTLE, BAD LITTLE YOU but might be mistaken in both counts).  From the title, I would have expected a snoozy sweet composition, so this romper is a delightful surprise.  The closing chorus is superheated:

And a slow-drag, almost melancholy BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? (in keeping with the yearning lyrics):

And a nearly ominous reading of BLACK SNAKE BLUES:

I have purposely left the remaining fourteen videos unposted: visit “jasondownes” on YouTube and enjoy yourselves.  If you are measured in your enjoyment, that’s two weeks of joy at breakfast.  I still wish with all my heart that I had been along on this tour — maybe next year if I buy a cap that has THE HOT JAZZ ALLIANCE embroidered on it in gold braid, the fellows will make room for me in the band bus?

GIGS TO GET TO!

I’ve written at length about the luxury of Regular Gigs in New York City: the EarRegulars (The Ear Inn) on Sunday; Terry Waldo’s regular sessions at Fat Cat; Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks at Club Cache (Hotel Edison) on Monday and Tuesday; the Grove Street Stompers (Arthur’s Tavern) on Monday; David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band (Birdland) on Wednesdays.  All those bands and venues have much to offer and I hope JAZZ LIVES readers in the vicinity.

But in the middle of this coming week there is a trio of gigs that aren’t everyday (or night) events.  And they all begin reasonably early — important to someone like me whose alarm goes off before 6 AM.  I hope to go to all three!

The first is on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 from 7:30 to 9:15.  It features the engaging singer MARTY ELKINS with the reliably surprising pianist EHUD ASHERIE at Smalls, 183 West 10th Street, New York, NY  10014.  $20 gets you in and you can stay.  And perhaps Minnow will leap in, again. 

On Wednesday, the 30th, the GRAND STREET STOMPERS will be appearing at the Radegast Bierhall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — beginning at 9 and probably going until midnight.  Wonderful food, fizzy blond(e) beer, no cover charge — a tip basket circulates — and lots of informal dancing.  It’s at 113 North 3rd Street (I believe the intersection is Berry Street).

Did I mention the music?  Trumpeter / composer / arranger GORDON AU will be there — and usually his colleagues are ROB ADKINS on bass, NICK RUSSO on banjo / guitar, EMILY ASHER on trombone, DENNIS LICHTMAN on clarinet — a lovely swinging compact inventive group.  And for the Brooklyn-timid, Radegast isn’t more than a few minutes walk from the Bedford Ave. stop on the L, although Doug Pomeroy says there are other ways to arrive at Jazz Paradise.

On Thursday, the inspiring pianist MICHAEL KANAN will be joined by the emotionally deep guitarist PETER BERNSTEIN for a series of duets at Smalls — again 7:30 to 9:15.  Come early but leave two seats in the front for the Beloved and her beau, please!

As Ralf Reynolds says, “Thank you for keeping LIVE JAZZ . . . . ALIVE!”

BRAD LINDE and TED BROWN and FRIENDS at TOMI JAZZ (Feb. 5, 2011)

The musical intelligence of youthful saxophonist Brad Linde continues to impress me.  Brad also has good taste in friends: Lee Konitz and Ted Brown. 

One of the high points of seeing Ted Brown and friends live at Sofia’s in January 2011 was the impromptu pairing of Ted and Brad, eminence and youthful star, musing over the chord changes, having a lovely empathic dialogue.  Affectionate, thoughtful collaboration, not competition. 

So when Brad told me that he and Ted would be leading a quartet (with Joe Solomon, bass, and Taro Okamoto, drums) at Tomi Jazz on East 53rd Street in New York City, I was there . . . quite early, as always, to document the good sounds I knew would be created. 

Tomi Jazz is very cozy (you could pass right by it on the street) and for much of the evening the audience was made up of intent listeners.  

Here are some of the songs that Brad, Ted, Joe, and Taro (with surprise guests) reinvented that night.  Obviously they are honoring their own creative impulses and going their own way, but they also do honor to the Masters: Pres and Bird, Lee and Lennie.  And the contrasts of pure sound are so revealing here: Ted often has a particularly focused, intense sound on his tenor that suggests a double-reed instrument (an English horn, perhaps?) while Brad’s sound is more orthodox, more furry, broader.  (Not meaning to be taken seriously, I told Brad that at points they reminded me of Herschel and Pres in the Basie band . . . and we both laughed.)  Joe Solomon’s bass sonority is big and warm, and Taro Okamoto knows just what to play, when, and when not to!  I’ll let you discover Jim, Sarah, and Lena as we go along . . .

From the first set, here’s Ted’s improvisation on the changes of THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER YOU — celebrating perhaps more than a little ruefully what it was like in Los Angeles — SMOG EYES:

Here’s the tender, winding SWEET AND LOVELY.  I always wonder where the more “modern” musicians picked this one up from.  Bing?  Ed Hall?  Hawkins?  Whatever the source, it is a song that lives up to its title:

Not too fast, but truly exuberant — one for Lester Willis Young from Woodville, Mississippi — LESTER LEAPS IN (I believe a title created by John Hammond, someone Lester came to abhor):

Still on a 1939-40 Basie kick — always a good idea!  Here’s BROADWAY:

Since Lester’s spirit was at Tomi Jazz and is always in the room — delicately but tangibly — I should point out that the eminent Chris Albertson has just posted on his STOMP OFF IN C site a recording of the 1958 interview he did with Lester: click here to hear it: http://stomp-off.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-interview-with-lester-young.html

Joined by trumpeter Jim Ketch, the band launches into a song honoring that Parker fellow and his early creation.  Jim Ketch, by the way, is Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Here’s his website: http://www.jimketch.com/index.html.  And here’s YARDBIRD SUITE:

Another song with unusual chord changes was the Ned Washington – Victor Young I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, which Tommy Dorsey took as his theme song:

Two songs about memory and memories:

I REMEMBER YOU:

and I’LL REMEMBER APRIL:

The young, gifted altoist Sarah Hughes joined the quartet for a romp on Lee Konitz’s SUBCONSCIOUS-LEE, based on WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? changes:

Another song with subtle, unusual harmonies is YOU STEPPED OUT OF A DREAM:

The very fine player Lena Bloch came on board, tenor at the ready, for Harold Arlen’s exhortation GET HAPPY.  (The ding-dong at the start is Tomi Jazz’s doorbell rather than an aesthetic comment from extraterrestrials.):

A very rewarding evening — even for a man standing up through three sets with a video camera.

For those who, like me, enjoy reading what the musicians have to say, there’s a wonderful interview with Ted done by Clifford Allen: read it here:

http://cliffordallen.blogspot.com/2011/01/ear-conditioning-with-tenor-saxophonist.html?showComment=1297609944573#c7835830240652120113.

REMEMBER THE MUSICIANS!  ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM, SO CLICK HERE (EVERY NICKEL HELPS A LOT):

https://.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQASwww

And a possibly superfluous postscript.  I celebrate what some listeners call “OKOM” (Our Kind Of Music) although I also love other styles — with melodies and swing.  I hope that listeners with more firmly defined preferences don’t reject performances such as the ones above because they don’t fit expected formulas: I bow low before the Blue Note Jazzmen of 1943-44, say, but there are worlds and worlds of creativity.  Stretching isn’t just confined to yoga!  End of sermon.  

I WISH I WERE TWINS (For Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010)

Only hypothetically.  Think of the grocery bill doubled, the attendant clutter in the apartment if there were two of me . . . and so on.  But this coming Sunday night (December 12, 2010) I have two gigs I badly want to go to — and videorecord — and the only way to hear them both from start to finish is by way of Frank Loesser’s song.

The first gig is (not surprisingly) a special edition of The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) which runs from 8-11.  Jon-Erik Kellso will be doing that remarkable thing, sharing the stage with one of his trumpet-playing pals, the esteemed Randy Reinhart.  Matt Munisteri and Joel Forbes will be doing what they do wonderfully on guitar and bass.  I swear on a stack of Adrian Rollini autographs that Huge Fun is in the offing.

But wait!  There’s more!

Dan Block and Friends are playing the lovely (and sometimes little-known) music of Ellington and Strayhorn that night at the Brooklyn Lyceum — 227 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, New York.  But the good news is that there are two sets, one at 9 and the other at 10:30.  Dan will be joined by Lee Hudson, bass; James Chirillo, guitar; Michael Kanan, piano; Tom Melito, drums; Mark Sherman, vibes.  Admission is $10. 

So I have a plan: the first set at The Ear, offer a libation to Phillup DeBucket, get in the car, reposition the GPS on the windshield, and drive to Brooklyn.  It gets my blood moving even thinking about it.  No need to be twins here.  I hope to see some of the faithful at either / both gigs: you’ll recognize me by my intent look, my videocamera, my tripod, and my delight at being alive to hear and witness such wonderful events.

P.S.  If you don’t know Fats Waller’s recording of Frank Loesser’s I WISH I WERE TWINS, you haven’t lived.  Then there’s Red Allen’s.  And Marty Grosz’s.  The world is not only wide but delightful . . .