Tag Archives: Louis Armstrong

PISMO JOYS (Part Four): “WOMEN OF THE BLUES”: CREOLE SYNCOPATORS featuring VALERIE JOHNSON (October 27, 2018, Jazz Jubilee by the Sea)

The Creole Syncopators is a well-established sturdy hot band, full of grit and drive.  They have their boots  laced all the way up, if you know that idiom.  Legend has it that tourists photographing flowers in the woods have come charging out of the forest, cameras dangling around their necks, after the first twelve-bar choruses have been played.  The flowers, sad to say, had to stay where they were.

But I’d never heard them before the 2018 Pismo Jazz Jubilee by the Sea, which is my loss.  Marc Caparone, cornetist, singer, and dear friend, said, “Want to hear the band I played with when I was fifteen?” and I certainly did.  Here are some highlights of the band’s “Women of the Blues,” led by reedman Jeff Beaumont, and featuring vocals by Valerie Johnson, who digs deep.  I knew Marc’s father, the wonderful trombonist Dave Caparone, Katie Cavera on string bass, and Carl Sonny Leyland on piano.  Shirley Beaumont, Jeff’s wife, is playing washboard; the plectrum banjoist is Todd Temanson; Al Ingram is on tenor banjo.

SEE SEE RIDER, graphic, funny, and heartfelt:

Valerie explains it all with the Ida Cox composition, WILD WOMEN DON’T HAVE THE BLUES, and the band hits a groove:

WAS I DRUNK? — a song whose pedigree I investigated: written by Chick Endor and Charlie Farrell, popularized in the Ziegfeld Follies by Dorothy Dell and later recorded by Georgia White.  Valerie suggests that the night’s activities were worth the hangover and the stern lecture:

an authentic duet for piano and vocal, TROUBLE IN MIND:

PAPA DIP, in honor of Little Louis, written by Lil Hardin:

and a closing JELLY BEAN BLUES:

What follows might be unsubtle, but with several of the most venerable bands deciding to retire, I hope that festival promoters listen closely to the Creole Syncopators.  They’ve done their homework; they put on a good show without being in the least inauthentic.  And — if it’s not obvious — I delighted in them.  I hope to see them at California festivals in 2019 and beyond.

May your happiness increase!

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“eddie condin racist”

On this blog, WordPress has kindly provided a feature “Search Engine Terms,” which lists the ways that anonymous web-searchers have landed on JAZZ LIVES.  Sometimes it’s edifying, sometimes amusing.  The title of this post is copied directly from a search I find infuriating.

I am going to assume that the question — translated into a literate full sentence — is “Was Eddie Condon a racist?”  If one were to deal in stereotypes, it might be a plausible question.  Condon, a Caucasian born in the Middle West in 1905, might have been expected to have the racial attitudes of his time.  But the assumption, like all stereotypes, is insulting and wrong.

Consider this, first:

The web-inquirer wouldn’t know that Mr. Condon was the only White man in this band of Black musicians, that he is responsible for getting the session recorded.  Without him it would not have happened.  (Eddie’s story of how this happened is hilarious, but it also highlights his friendship with Fats Waller and his devotion to the music.)

Jump forward twenty years: Eddie had a television show in 1948-50, with live jazz and “mixed bands”: here is just over a minute of music (transferred slightly fast) featuring Hot Lips Page, a Black trumpeter, singing a celebratory blues:

I could keep on offering musical examples, but now it’s time for words.  Condon was as far from being a racist as one can be.  From the start of his fifty-year career in the music to the end, he continually sought out, played with, hired, and celebrated musicians of color.  He speaks in print of youthful experiences watching and hearing King Oliver, Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters.  When he had a club, gave concerts, made records, appeared on radio and television — his bands were race-blind.

A list of the Black musicians Eddie worked with goes something like this: Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Hot Lips Page, Buck Clayton, Rex Stewart, Benny Morton, Herb Hall, Edmond Hall, Leonard Gaskin, Vic Dickenson, Billie Holiday, Charlie Shavers, Sarah Vaughan, Lionel Hampton, Kansas Fields, Al Morgan, the 1929 Luis Russell Orchestra, Sidney Bechet, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Sidney DeParis, Sidney Catlett, Jonah Jones, Teddy Hale, Leonard Davis, Happy Caldwell, George Stafford, Pops Foster, Henry “Red” Allen, Coleman Hawkins, Zutty Singleton,  Grachan Moncur, Cozy Cole, Wilson Myers, Clyde Hart, John Kirby, Oscar Pettiford, Billy Taylor, Sr., Joe Thomas, Johnny Williams, James P. Johnson, Jimmy Rushing, Sonny Greer, Cliff Jackson, Lord Buckley, Earl Hines, Albert Nicholas, Arvell Shaw, Hank Duncan, Thelma Carpenter, Ruth Brown, Horace Henderson, Jimmy Archey, Walter Page, Al Hall, Sir Charles Thompson, Maxine Sullivan, Sandy Williams, Roy Eldridge . . . and there must be others not covered by discographies.

(No, the singer above is not Lee Wiley.  But the trumpeter to the left is Roy Eldridge.)

And another story.  In 1946, after a series of very successful concerts (1943-5) that were broadcast and sent overseas to the Armed Forces, Eddie decided to give a concert in Washington, D.C., at Constitution Hall, owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who balked at his bringing a racially-mixed band because it might draw “undesirable” elements — draw your own conclusion.  Happily, Eddie moved the concert to the Willard Hotel, where it was a huge success.

None of this sounds like racism to me.  Rather, it sounds like someone who valued what human beings were, what they could create, over skin pigment. A hero to me, and to many others.

So, dear anonymous web-searcher, I hope you find this posting, that it expands your narrow vision, and that you learn to spell.

May your happiness increase!

STATE OF THE ART: DALTON RIDENHOUR and EVAN ARNTZEN (Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, Sedalia, Missouri: June 2, 2018)

Dalton Ridenhour, photograph by Aidan Grant

Duet playing in any genre is difficult — making two into one while keeping the individuals’ individualities afloat.  Improvised duet playing, as you can imagine, might be the most wonderful soaring dance of all but it is fraught with the possibility of disaster.  Can we agree on a tempo?  Is one of us rushing or dragging?  Do we agree on the changes?  Do we play the tag at the end of every chorus?  Do we change key for the final chorus?  Or, as Vic Dickenson said, “How do you want to distribute the bounces?”

Evan Arntzen, photograph by Tim Cheeney

But I am sure that some of my most enthralling moments have been as an open-mouthed spectator at some duets: Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines or Buck Washington, Al Cohn and Jimmie Rowles; Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins; Ruby and Dick Hyman; Vic and Ralph Sutton; Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson; Zoot Sims and Bucky Pizzarelli, Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow, Marc Caparone and Ray Skjelbred . . . . and and and.  Now I add to that list the two fellows photographed above . . . on the basis of two songs in concert.

Here are two lovely examples of how improvised duet playing — by two people, expert and intuitive — can touch our hearts while we marvel at the risks taken and the immense rewards.  Pianist Dalton Ridenhour was playing a solo set at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, and gave us a surprise by inviting his colleague and neighbor, clarinetist Evan Arntzen, to the stage for a dozen memorable minutes.

The tender and evocative THAT OLD FEELING:

The song I call CHANGES MADE (and then someone insists that THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE is the properly pious title . . . . what-ever):

I dream of a venue and an occasion where Dalton and Evan could play as long as they wanted . . .

May your happiness increase!

“A SENSE OF HOME, A SENSE OF PLACE”: MARC CAPARONE, DAWN LAMBETH, CONAL FOWKES at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 24, 2017)

For most of us, home is a tangible place: the room you are in now, the place where you spent your childhood, or the woods across the street, a friend’s basement, the house you now have the mortgage on.

Cape Cod house, Levittown, New York, 1947

But the real definition is broader: home is the place where people you love and who love you gather, the place you feel warmed and protected and seen, where you hug and are hugged.  And home can be portable: the hotel room with the little Christmas tree.

The definitions shift depending on one’s needs at the moment, but one of my homes is, perhaps oddly, a place I visit for a long weekend once a year, the San Diego Jazz Fest, which I’ve described most recently here.

At this gathering, I know I will hear and witness the music that speaks most directly to my heart.  Here are two examples of that music — recorded at the 2017 Fest — featuring Marc Caparone, cornet; Dawn Lambeth, vocal; Conal Fowkes, piano.  It would be an impudence to describe it.  You must experience it for yourself.

HOME (When Shadows Fall) by Marc and Conal:

WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD by the trio:

This music — and the people connected to it — make me feel embraced by the world, a rare and memorable feeling, one I savor and invite you to savor as well.

And since I’ve buried the lede, the 2018 San Diego Jazz Fest starts this Wednesday, November 21, and goes to Sunday, November 25.  You can find out all you need to know in the link above.  And there’s a turkey dinner, should you find yourself terrified that you won’t have had your holiday fiesta.  But the feast is in the music.

May your happiness increase!

OUR MAN DAN: DAN MORGENSTERN TELLS TALES of COZY COLE, BENNY CARTER, MILT HINTON, LOUIS ARMSTRONG, TEDDY WILSON, COUNT BASIE, JOHN COLTRANE, ROY ELDRIDGE, JOE WILDER, ED BERGER, and PERRY COMO (June 8, 2018)

Dan Morgenstern, now 89, is so full of wonderful stories — sharply-realized, hilarious, sad — that my job as a visitor with a camera has usually been to set up the video equipment, do a sound check, ask a leading question, and sit back in bliss.  Here’s the first half of my June 2018 visit to Dan’s nest.  Beautiful narratives are all nicely set out for us.

I’d already posted the first one — a total surprise, a heroic reaction to injustice — but I would like more people to hear and see it:

More about Cozy Cole and friends, including Milt Hinton, Cab Calloway, and a hungry Benny Carter:

More about Milt Hinton, with wonderful anecdotes about Louis and Joe Glaser, Dizzy Gillespie, Cozy Cole, and Mel Lewis:

And some beautiful stories about Count Basie — including Dan’s attendance at a Town Hall concert with Basie, Roy Eldridge, and John Coltrane:

Finally (for this posting — there will be a continuation) memories of Joe Wilder, Ed Berger, with a comment about Roy Eldridge:

That we have Dan Morgenstern with us to tell such tales is a wonderful thing.  As Louis said to the King, “This one’s for you, Rex!”

May your happiness increase!

OF COURSE, THEY WEREN’T “TRAINED SINGERS”!

Anna Moffo, one of my mother’s favorite sopranos: my definition of a “trained singer.”

Everyone of us has pet theories: there’s a secret way to fold fitted sheets; day-old bagels, toasted, are better than fresh, and so on.  You, no doubt, have yours.

One of mine that is relevant to JAZZ LIVES is that often, singers who never sing because they are busy playing are the best singers of all.  I don’t mean those who are clearly identified as singers — Louis, Jelly, Teagarden, Cleo Brown — but those instrumentalists who have recorded once or twice only.  So I assembled a host of my favorites, leaving out scat choruses.  Some recordings were inaccessible: Sid Catlett’s OUT OF MY WAY, Basie’s HARVARD BLUES (where he, not Jimmy, takes the vocal) Ed Hall’s ALL I GOT WAS SYMPATHY — but this is, I hope, a pleasing, perhaps odd offering.  I present them in no particular order, except for Lester being the last, because that recording so touches me.

James P. Johnson, 1944 (with Frank Newton, Al Casey, Pops Foster, Eddie Dougherty).  The story is that Alan Lomax thought that James P. was a blues pianist when he interviewed him for the Library of Congress — and compelled him to sing this.  I don’t know: James P. is having a good time:

Coleman Hawkins, 1936, highly impassioned (when was he not?):

Vic Dickenson, crooning in 1931 with the Luis Russell Orchestra:

Vic — nearly fifty years later — singing his own composition with Ralph Sutton:

Benny Carter, aiming for Bing and having a dear good time in the process, 1933.  (This has been one of my favorite records since 1974.  Catch Benny’s trumpet solo and clarinet solo.  And Sid Catlett pleases.)  Those clever lyrics aren’t easy to sing at that tempo: ask Dan Barrett:

And another helping of Benny-does-Bing, gliding upwards into those notes.  Another favorite:

Yes, Art Tatum could sing the blues.  Uptown, 1941:

I save this for last, because it leaves me in tears.  Lester Young, 1941, and since this is the only copy of a much-played acetate, there’s a lot of surface noise.  Be patient and listen deeply:

Little is known about that recording, but I remember learning that one side of it was a dub of SHOE SHINE BOY by Jones-Smith, Inc., and this — a current pop tune with glee-club embroideries — was the other.  It’s been surmised that this was a demo disc for Lester’s new small band that he hoped to make flourish after leaving Basie.  Some of the sadness, to me, is that the attempt worked poorly, and although Lester loved to sing, there is only one other recording (the 1953 IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO) that exists.

These singers go right to my heart.

May your happiness increase!

A NOTE FOR THE BURGLARS, 2018

Dear Gentlemen or Ladies Who Might Enter My Apartment, Uninvited, During My Absence,

Some thoughts to make your lives easier.

  1.  Please watch your step.  There are cardboard boxes of Louis buttons all through the living room.
  2.  If you accidentally knock over a pile of CDs or books, I would take it as a great kindness if you would — to the best of your ability, and time permitting — put it back as it was.  Nothing upsets a homeowner more than an ungracious burglar.
  3.  On that same note, please put the seat down when you are through.
  4.  Help yourself to whatever you like in the refrigerator, but (again, time permitting) please wash whatever plates and utensils you might use.
  5.  There is very little of monetary value in the apartment, so if you look in my sock drawer for stacks of currency or gold coins, I fear you will be disappointed.  There are quarters on the kitchen counter, for laundry and the parking meters.  Feel free.
  6.  I would very much appreciate if you would leave me the autographed jazz photos on the wall.  You don’t want the avenging ghost of Sidney Catlett to plague you, do you?
  7.  There is a Banner 78 of BELIEVE IT, BELOVED, by Henry Red Allen on one of the turntables.  Please, only take it if you have a turntable yourself and a proper stylus.  Otherwise it is not worth the effort of properly wrapping it in bubble paper for your getaway.

Why am I writing this?

I will indeed be away from my apartment from October 25 to 29, more or less, at the Jazz Jubilee by the Sea in Pismo, California.  Why?  To enjoy the festival, to meet new friends, and to hear and see my beloved friends make music.  (I’ll have a video camera or two as well, should you worry about such things.)

I know that I will be showing up to enjoy the work of Larry Scala, Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, Dave Caparone, Carl Sonny Leyland, Steve Pikal, Danny Coots, the Au Brothers, Three Blue Guitars, the Creole Syncopators, Chloe Feoranzo, Bob Schulz, Katie Cavera, the Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band, and more.  I might pay a call on a few others, although if people reading this post expect me to make a full longitudinal video survey of the festival, neither my legs nor my aesthetic inclinations allow for such breadth.  (At any point in the festival, five groups are playing simultaneously in five locations.  Choices must be made.)

You’ll have to get out of your chair and be there in person your ownself — a radical thought for those of us accustomed to having the world come to us through cyberspace and for free.

For more information, click Pismo Jazz Jubilee by the Sea.

And a postscript for the burglars, or at least the one portrayed above.  I admire the striped shirt, but once one attains a certain girth, perhaps a nice paisley?  Horizontal stripes, alas, are not slimming at all, even if they are traditional.

Here’s the Red Allen 78 (or at least the music) I’d like to keep:

Here’s the flip side (now a completely archaic phrase):

May your happiness increase!