Tag Archives: Martin Litton

HOMAGE TO HUGHES: MENNO DAAMS and his ORCHESTRA at the MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 7, 2015)

Before there was any discussion of “Third Stream Music,” jazz and classical shaking hands congenially, before Gil Evans or Gunther Schuller, there was Patrick “Spike” Hughes — British writer, composer, bassist — who visited the United States in 1933 for a memorable series of recordings that used the Benny Carter orchestra with guest stars Henry “Red” Allen and Coleman Hawkins.

SPIKE HUGHES

John Wright’s wonderfully detailed (and lively) biographical sketch of Spike can be found here.

FIREBIRD

Many of us have marveled at Spike’s 1933 recordings, which blend European compositional ideas with hot solos.  But it waited until 2015 for someone to put together an expert jazz orchestra to play transcriptions of those sides.  That someone is the magnificently talented Menno Daams.  (Bent Persson, Menno’s diligent trumpet colleague, also transcribed the Red Allen solos — as arduous as task as one could imagine).

ARABESQUE

This orchestra offered its tribute to Spike’s 1933 music at the November 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, and I was fortunate enough to be sitting in front of this eloquent band.  Here are seven performances from this set: notice the shifting textures behind the soloists, and the soloists themselves.  If these compositions are new to you, notice their charming and surprising mixture of 1933 hot dance music, fervent soloing, and advanced harmonies: before we are a whole chorus into NOCTURNE, for example, we have the sense of a landscape both familiar and unsettling — even when absorbing this music in 2016.  There’s beautiful lyricism and a rocking 4/4 beat, but it’s as if, while you slept, someone has painted the walls of your living room different colors and nailed the kitchen cutlery to the ceiling.

I salute Menno for bringing this modernistic music to us, and the band for rendering it so superbly.  They are: Menno Daams, cornet; Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Michael McQuaid, Claus Jacobi, Matthias Seuffert, Lars Frank, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, Alistair Allan, Graham Hughes, trombone; Martin Litton, piano; Spats Langham, guitar / vocal; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

NOCTURNE:

AIR IN D FLAT:

SWEET SORROW BLUES:

FIREBIRD:

ARABESQUE:

DONEGAL CRADLE SONG:

SOMEONE STOLE GABRIEL’S  HORN (vocal Spats):

A personal note: I first heard the Spike Hughes sides in 1972, and they struck me as beautifully ambitious music.  The impression hasn’t faded.  But viewing and re-hearing Menno’s precise, swinging transcriptions and the band’s playing, I heard aspects of the music I’d not heard before, and even the listener new to this can find a thousand delights that grow more pleasing each time.  I think this set a magnificent accomplishment.  Only at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party could such marvelous undertakings find a home and an appreciative audience.  Join me there this November.

May your happiness increase!

FOUR FOR ARTIE: RICHARD PITE’S CHAMBER JAZZ at the MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 7, 2015)

Shaw Granercy 5

When we think of the great small bands of the Swing Era, early and late, Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five is both memorable and overshadowed . . . perhaps because (unlike the Goodman small groups, the Crosby Bobcats, and others I can’t call to mind) it was a studio aggregation, so we don’t have a large history of live performances in concert or recorded off the radio.  (I’ve seen a photograph of the 1945 group with Roy Eldridge and Dodo Marmarosa, apparently performing as part of the Shaw big band presentation, but I don’t think the 1941 group existed outside the Victor studios.)

It was a superb — and quirky — group, with an affectionate kinship to the Raymond Scott and Alec Wilder small bands.  Its instrumentation accounted for much of that — pianist Johnny Guarnieri on harpsichord — but its very tight arrangements were also remarkable.  Al Hendrickson was an excellent electric guitarist — in the dawn of that era; Billy Butterfield, Nick Fatool, and Jud deNaut were also brilliant.

I was delighted to see and capture this four-song evocation at the 2015. Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, where such heartfelt expertise is the main dish.  Led by the masterful drummer Richard Pite, this new Gramercy 5 — what would that be on your smartphone? — soared and rocked.  The noble participants: the brilliant clarinetist Lars Frank, Martin Litton, harpsichord; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Martin Wheatley, electric guitar; Henry Lemaire, string bass.  And they perform four classics: SUMMIT RIDGE DRIVE, KEEPIN’ MYSELF FOR YOU, SCUTTLEBUTT, and SPECIAL DELIVERY STOMP.  A quarter-hour of compact pleasure:

Hot modernism in its own way, and it hasn’t aged.  Try to make your way to the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — where such good surprises proliferate.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN TECHNOLOGY MET ROMANCE (1929): SPATS LANGHAM, ROBERT FOWLER, MARTIN LITTON, MALCOLM SKED at the MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 6, 2015)

Before Facebook, before Instagram, before online dating apps that said YES or NO with a simple movement of one’s finger, technology and romance were always allied — perhaps uneasily, but connected.  Imagine the impact of inexpensive quick mail, or the telephone.  And then, the photograph.  And the moving image.  Hence this imaginative conceit:

TALKING PICTURES

Here’s a delightful version from the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — with Spats Langham, banjo and vocal; Robert Fowler, clarinet; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, brass bass:

The bounce and optimism of the song might make us forget, for a moment, that the singer is sitting alone in his room, adoringly contemplating a photograph of the Love Object, wishing that he could move closer to an actual encounter — but the closest he can get is an imagined sound film of the one he yearns for, speaking from the screen.  And bliss?  Being able to run the film over and over.

I hope that the imagined lovers get to move from the realm of image into tangible reality, and that this song is “their” song —  now that they’ve been able to shut off the projector.

If you were there at this year’s Party, you’ll remember this delightful musical cameo.  If not, make plans for 2016 . . . I will share details when I know them. And for those keeping track: in the start of this video, we see and hear Thomas Winteler, preparing for the next set, and the many-talented Joshua Wyborn, who made the live sound come across to us so clearly.

May your happiness increase!

WHERE I’VE BEEN, AND WHAT I HEARD (November 5, 2015)

There won’t be much prose in this blogpost: a seventeen-hour travel day has a way of overpowering ordinary cognition (Newcastle to Amsterdam to New York to home, including a taxi, two planes, two airports, a shuttle, and a drive home in rush hour).

But I wanted to let the JAZZ LIVES faithful know that I hadn’t decided to abandon them or the blog.   I will have something to say about the glorious cabaret evening that singer Janice Day and pianist Martin Litton put on in Hay-on-Wye.  And I assure you I will have much more to say about the Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, which is still ringing beautifully in my ears.

Nick Ball and Josh Duffee in the Victory Pub, November 2015, at the Party

Nick Ball and Josh Duffee in the Victory Pub, November 2015, at the Party

But music speaks louder than words, as Charlie Parker reminded Earl Wilson. So here’s a sample from the Thursday, November 5, 2015, after-hours jam session at the Victory Pub in the Village Hotel Newcastle . . . on RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE.

The energized participants are Torstein Kubban, cornet; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Thomas Winteler, clarinet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Nick Ball, drums:

The Party will go on in 2016, but it needs you to survive and flourish.  So do make a note of that, in honor of hot jazz, in honor of Hoagy and Bix too.

May your happiness increase!

WHAT YOU’LL HEAR WHEN YOU’RE THERE: THE MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 5 – 8, 2015)

TWO DEUCES! Bent Persson and Enrico Tomasso at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party

TWO DEUCES! Bent Persson and Enrico Tomasso at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party

“Fine! Wonderful! Perfect!” to quote Fats.  I’m referring to the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — coming soon to the Village Hotel Newcastle in the UK.

I mean no offense or slight to my friends and heroes who organize Parties, Stomps, Fests, and other weekend galas, but the MDCJP (the Party formerly known as the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party) is special.  Many musicians simply want to get up on the stand and sing or play among their friends and peers, and this is standard — often exhilarating — fare at most jazz weekends.  And the MDCJP encourages such frolic with a nightly jam session in the Victory Pub. But many musicians devoted to the sounds of the Twenties and Thirties and beyond want to pay reverent homage to their forbears while having their own say — so this Party is organized into small concerts, each celebrating a band, a sound, a leader: it becomes a wondrous living evocation of where we’ve all come from.

First, a list of who’s going to be there on the bandstand — an illustrious lot for sure:

Janice Day, Mellow Baku (vocal); Emma Fisk (violin); Andy Schumm, Menno Daams, Duke Heitger, Bent Persson, Enrico Tomasso (trumpet); Kris Kompen, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan (trombone); Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, Thomas Winteler, Claus Jacobi (reeds); Martin Litton, David Boeddinghaus, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols (piano); Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, Martin Wheatley (banjo, guitar); Phil Rutherford, John Hallam, Malcolm Sked (bass, brass bass); Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone); Henry Lemaire (bass, guitar, banjo); Richard Pite (drums, bass); Josh Duffee (drums, vibraphone); Nicholas Ball (drums, washboard)

(If I have left anyone out, I apologize.)

And a brief listing of the concert themes: the Union Rhythm Kings; a tribute to Mike Durham; the Original Memphis Five; the Quintette of the Hot Club of France; Jelly Roll Morton; Bunny Berigan; the “avant-garde” of Red Nichols and Miff Mole; Spats Langham’s Hot Combination; Lu Watters; solo piano recitals; Teddy Brown; the Dixie Stompers; Dance Band Divas; Thirties small-group sessions; Louis (featuring Bent and Enrico); the 1938 Morton Library of Congress recordings; Black New Orleans; chamber jazz; Western Swing; Spike Hughes; Chicago South Side; the Cotton Club; Casa Loma Orchestra; more unrecorded Bix; Bechet; Duke Heitger; California Ramblers; Eddie Condon; the Nichols-Duffee Orchestra . . . and more.

And two highlights of the 2104 Festival — moments to remember!

HOT.

SWEET.

It’s a musical feast.  Don’t miss out on this Party.

May your happiness increase!

THE JOHNNY DODDS JUBILEE, PART TWO at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 8, 2014)

This is the final portion of an ecstatic set of music devoted to the clarinet master Johnny Dodds — as created on November 8, 2014, at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.  The participants: Thomas Winteler, Matthias Seuffert, Claus Jacobi, reeds; Rico Tomasso, cornet; Emma Fisk, violin; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Martin Wheatley, Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Nick Ball, washboard.  The other postings from this set can be found here and here.

MELANCHOLY (featuring Martin Litton, piano; Claus Jacobi, reeds, Matthias Seuffert, clarinet; Malcolm Sked, bass; Thomas Winteler, clarinet; Rico Tomasso, cornet; Martin Wheatley, banjo):

MY BABY (add Nick Ball*, washboard; Spats Langham, banjo, replaces Martin Wheatley):

HEN PARTY BLUES (add Emma Fisk, violin):

MEMPHIS SHAKE (as HEN PARTY):

Frank Melrose’s FORTY AND TIGHT (tout ensemble, posted once, but it should be posted evermore):

These hot ecstasies have been a hallmark of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party for decades; now renamed the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party in honor of its beloved founder. This year it will be held from November 6-8, and it will be delightful.  (*If you want to know my feelings about being there, you have only to watch Nick’s face — joy and surprise tumbling on one another constantly.)

May your happiness increase!

THE JOHNNY DODDS JUBILEE, PART ONE: WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 8, 2014)

This was a truly delightful set, balancing neatly between uproarious riot and precise tribute, where the participants paid tribute to New Orleans / Chicago clarinetist Johnny Dodds by evoking some of his less famous recordings.  Those expert participants were Claus Jacobi, reeds; Matthias Seuffert and Thomas Winteler, clarinet; Rico Tomasso, cornet; Martin Litton, piano; Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, Martin Wheatley, banjo; Malcolm Sked, bass; Nicholas Ball, washboard. (That’s the collective personnel: you’ll see / hear who is playing on each number.)

Here’s the first part, as captured at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party on November 8, 2014.

I note with pleasure how happy the musicians look — and that’s no stage joke. The most accurate emotional barometer on this little stage is the visage of one Nick Ball, percussionist supreme: he looks as if he’s going to explode with rhythmic joy.  You can imagine how happy I was from behind my camera.

IDLE HOUR SPECIAL (with an unexpected cameo by a t-shirted jazz fan at 4:00, who momentarily blocked the view but thankfully not the sound — I knew he was a “jazz fan” because it was written on his shirt, thus saving me the need to speculate):

ORIENTAL MAN:

39TH AND DEARBORN:

CARPET ALLEY BREAKDOWN:

More to come.  And you might want to investigate this year’s Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party.  It’s a place where such things happen — beautifully — throughout a long weekend.

May your happiness increase!