Tag Archives: Louis Metcalfe

TWO JAZZ NIGHTS (APRIL 2010)

My jazz friend Stompy Jones wrote to see if I was feeling well . . . he noted that blogging had slowed for a few days.  Never fear: I was on the prowl with a new video camera — whose fancy innards are still mysterious — to capture some Hot jazz.

On Wednesday, April 28, the Beloved and I went to that midtown oasis, Birdland, to catch the early evening set led by David Ostwald — his band being the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band, a group that will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in May.  This edition of the LACB had, in addition to David, Kevin Dorn, Ehud Asherie, Dan Block (on alto as well as clarinet), Wycliffe Gordon, and Gordon Au.  Here they perform a stately version of Fats Waller’s BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU, homage to Louis’s mid-Fifties tribute, SATCH PLAYS FATS:

And here’s a song no one sings anymore, for good reason — but Louis, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman and others found it good material to improvise on — SHINE or S-H-I-N-E, take your pick:

The next night, I went to Shanghai Jazz, David Niu’s cozy restaurant-with-music in Madison, New Jersey, to hear Dan Levinson’s Palomar Trio.  It was supposed to be Dan, pianist Mark Shane, and Kevin Dorn, but Kevin (rare for him) fell ill — with an able replacement found in young vibes wizard Matt Hoffmann, who began his career as a drummer.  Here’s the trio on A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT, recorded by both Billie Holiday and Johnny Hodges:

And a jaunty version of I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

I offer two postscripts as evidence that sometimes the real fun happens off the bandstand with people who don’t play instruments or sing for a living. 

There was a time-honored tradition of musicians walking around the room, playing or singing softly at each table (for tips or for pleasure).  I was telling someone recently about hearing the trumpeter Louis Metcalfe do just this at Jimmy Ryan’s, moving from table to table, playing a medium-tempo soft ROSETTA, putting his Harmon-muted horn almost in my ear — a brief unforgettable experience. 

Birdland isn’t set up for “strolling violins,” but the Jazz Acupuncturist, Marcia Salter, paid us a visit between sets on Wednesday.  When the conversation turned for a moment away from music, I told Marcia that the Beloved’s back was hurting her.  Without so much as a “May I see your insurance card?” Marcia was showing both of us acupressure points to relieve pain.  It was a characteristically generous display (Marcia, of course, operates on the principle of “What would Louis do?”) and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a medical house call in a jazz club.  Marcia’s hours, for the moment, are Wednesday from 5:30 – 7:15, but you can catch her at other venues. 

The next night, at Shanghai Jazz, I was seated next to the jazz enthusiast and amateur tenor saxophonist Ray Cerino, someone I haven’t seen in some time.  Midway during the evening, Dan asked the audience for requests, and Ray suggested MY FOOLISH HEART.  (Aside from being an all-around Good Fellow, he is also a Deep Romantic.)  Dan played it beautifully, and then Ray delivered a brief impromptu disquistion on the lyrics, the only man I’ve ever heard use the literary term “conceit” in a jazz club.  And Ray knew what he  meant!

Reasons to be thankful!

Advertisements

“ANOTHER ROAD POST FROM LOX COUNTRY”

I can’t take credit for the witty title, invented by Marc Myers, Mister Jazz Wax (www.jazzwax.com).  More about his site’s latest treasures later.  “Lox country” refers to Nova Scotia, from whence this posting comes.   

I could happily discourse about Montreal bagels — reminiscent of those of my youth.  Thin, dense, chewy, although the hole in the middle seems much too large.  The Montreal bagel company runs six shops in that city, all open twenty-four hours.  My kind of metropolis! 

If I chose to be more grim, I could describe my becoming an all-you-can-bite mosquito buffet, but I will forego such grotesqueries. 

My text for today is a jazz book purchased in a Halifax shop, SUCH MELODIOUS RACKET: THE LOST HISTORY OF JAZZ IN CANADA, 1914-1949, by Mark Miller (Mercury Press, 1997) tracing that subject from the Creole Band’s 1914 tour to Oscar Peterson’s 1949 Carnegie Hall debut.  A perceptive historian, Miller is a diligent researcher of newspapers and oral histories who doesn’t get bogged down in details, and a sharp-eyed writer with no particular ideological position.  Since the first half of the book takes him only up to the early Twenties, much of his research seems social history — because the musical evidence is so limited and the records are not always convincing evidence of what jazz did get played.   

The book is full of fascinating snippets of information about American performers visiting Canada: Freddie Keppard, the Six Brown Brothers, Jelly Roll Morton, James “Slap Rags” White, Ada “Bricktop” Smith, Mamie Smith, Wilbur Sweatman, Hollis Peavy and his Jazz Bandits (featuring a young Eddie Condon), Lloyd and Cecil Scott, Bill Coleman, Dicky Wells, the Casa Loma Orchestra, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Alphonso Trent, Stuff Smith, J.C. Higginbotham, Billie Holiday, Louis Metcalfe, even Sonny Rollins.  As a sidelight, it contains the only portrait photograph I have ever seen of pianist Dave Bowman (1914-1964), born to Canadian parents in Buffalo, New York — a beautifully subtle player, reminiscent of Jess Stacy, who often appeared with Condon, Hackett, Bud Freeman, the Summa Cum Laude Orchestra, and George Wettling. 

MiIller’s book is most interesting in his thorough overview of Canadian jazz orchestras and soloists who escaped the attention of American historians: the Original Winnipeg Jazz Babies, Shirley K. Oliver, Andy Tipaldi and his Melody Kings, the Canadian Ambassadors, Trump Davidson, Bert Niosi (“Canada’s King of Swing”), Sandy De Santis (“The Benny Goodman of Canada”), Irving Laing, Al McLeod (“The White Tatum”), and better-known Canadians: Kenny Kersey, Al Lucas, Buster Harding, George Auld, Maynard Ferguson, and Louis Hooper.  Equally intriguing are passages drawn from interviews with Black players about racism in Montreal and elsewhere.   

My only regret is that this book did not come with an accompanying CD.  Is there one or a comparable anthology?  Can any Canadian reader enlighten me in this?

Back to JazzWax for a moment, to conclude.  Marc has embarked on a series of interviews with George Wein, impresario and pianist.  I have always been prejudiced against Wein as a player of limited gifts whose accompaniments held back Ruby Braff, PeeWee Russell, and others — but jazz would have been much poorer if he had become the doctor his parents wanted.  And Marc has offered pictures of Wein with two of my heroes.  In the first, the trumpeter to Wein’s left is Frankie Newton (the bassist Joe Palermino); in the second, taken by Robert Parent, the recognizable constellation of stars at Storyville, 1950, is Sidney Catlett and Hoagy Carmichael.  These two photographs make me feel much more generous towards Wein, for we are indeed known by the company we keep.