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!