Tag Archives: Martin Litton

“CLAYTONIA” IN BLOSSOM: THE BUCK CLAYTON LEGACY BAND

Claytonia-sibirica

I’m serious.  Rarely have I had a CD that made me so earnestly want to turn up the volume and dance around the kitchen — with the Beloved or solo.  It’s amazing music.

CLAYTONIA cover

I shall stop dancing (even metaphorically) and explain.  CLAYTONIA is the first disc issued by the UK-based Buck Clayton Legacy Band.

When I was a young jazz record collector, I sought out every record Buck played on, and I don’t remember ever being disappointed.  His Columbia JAM SESSIONS are (to me) among the most gratifying musical experiences ever put on record.  By the time I began to see jazz performances live, Buck had stopped playing — although I saw him once in a “comeback” concert tribute to Billie. But he was resilient, and channeled his energies into writing, arranging, and directing a small big band for the rest of his life — a wonderful unit in which some of my friends and heroes played.

There the story might have ended if it hadn’t been for the very special British writer, string bassist, and jazz broadcaster Alyn Shipton.  You might know Alyn in any of his roles, but I first encountered him as someone helping Buck finish and expand BUCK CLAYTON’S JAZZ WORLD — a very rewarding book, Buck’s candid and charming autobiography, written with Nancy Miller Elliott.  In his notes, Alyn recalls, “Just after Buck died in 1991, Nancy Miller Elliott contacted me, and handed over a box of his music, with a message from Buck saying, ‘You kept my memory alive with the book, maybe you can do the same with my music?'”

In 2004 Alyn and the brilliant reedman / arranger / composer Matthias Seuffert assembled this great band, and CLAYTONIA was recorded during their first British tour in 2011.

It’s a humming band — these fellows know deep in their souls how to swing, and the easeful yet intense performances tick along like well-tuned engines, hinting at great strength but never relying on volume to get their point across. Alyn and Matthias (tenor saxophone, clarinet, arrangements) are co-leaders; Norman Emberson, drums; Martin Wheatley, acoustic guitar; Martin Litton, piano, make up a splendid rhythm section — nothing artificial, nothing self-consciously “old school,” just hitting on all cylinders with sweet style.  There are no efforts to imitate anyone: they simply Rock.  And Wheatley’s single-string solos are delicious interludes . . . rather like finding a clump of ripe blackberries on your morning walk.  The rest of the band is equally stellar: soloists who have something to say but know how to say it concisely / great supportive ensemble players: Menno Daams and Ian Smith, trumpet; Adrian Fry, trombone; Alan Barnes, alto saxophone, clarinet.

CLAYTONIA has none of the “all-star” nature of some recorded gatherings, where you feel the impatience of Soloist 4 while Soloist 3 is playing.  This, dearly beloved children of all ages, sounds like a working band — and is there anything better?

And they play Buck’s compositions — which have a built-in momentum: OUTER DRIVE (memorable from the SONGS FOR SWINGERS album and 1961 live performances); I’LL MAKE BELIEVE (a priceless rhythm ballad); PARTY TIME; HORN OF PLENTY; SCORPIO; CLAYTONIA (a gritty blues, first recorded by Buck and friends for Vanguard); SMOOTHIE; SIR HUMPHREY (for Buck’s dear friend and trumpet colleague Humph).

And the sound is great, too — recorded at The Sage Gateshead by Hywel Jones for BBC 3.

CLAYTONIA is an irresistible musical offering.  You can follow the band and buy the CD here.  And the flowers at the top?  They’re Claytonia, too.

May your happiness increase! 

“LIVE SPORT”: A JAM SESSION AFTER HOURS IN THE VICTORY PUB, NEWCASTLE (Oct. 28-29, 2012) with the STARS of THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Once more . . . if “Mister Mike” isn’t someone recognizable to you, would you kindly take a minute and read this?  It would mean a great deal to many people, and, to paraphrase Dizzy Gillespie, “No him, no this.”

“This” turns out to be my video record of the closing notes of the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — a jam session on Sunday night held in the Victory Pub of the Village Newcastle.  Some of the details are indistinct — I would have made a very bad spy — because a video camera, even on a tripod, is an ungainly dance partner.  I wrote down personnels on the back of two JAZZ LIVES cards, which have now vanished into that place where Things That Vanish go.  So if I’ve left out the name of a noble participant, email me at swingyoucats@gmail.com. and tell me.

Or you can simply observe musicians brilliantly at play in the dark.

LONESOME BLUES (from the Hot Five book) Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Litton, keyboard — he deserves a grand piano! — ; Roly Veitch, guitar; Josh Duffee, drums):

AFTER YOU’VE GONE (Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Litton, keyboard; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Josh Duffee, drums):

I NEVER KNEW Andy Schumm, cornet; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Thomas Winteler, Michael McQuaid, Norman Field, reeds; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone, and others):   

ONCE IN A WHILE (for Louis and the Hot Five — performed by Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Thomas Winteler, Michael McQuaid, Norman Field, reeds; Spats Langham, guitar; Manu Hagmann, bass; Josh Duffee, drums, and others):

MY MELANCHOLY BABY (traditionally the dreaded request by inebriated patrons in the bar, but Spats Langham turns it into a masterpiece of tender swing here, aided by Andy Schumm, cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone, Josh Duffee, drums. The admiring watchers include Frans Sjostrom, Martin Wheatley, Stephane Gillot):

I SAW STARS (which I associate with the 1934 debut of Django and Stephane on Ultraphone — here rendered with sweet fervor by Roly Veitch, guitar / vocal; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

Then, as if by magic, the scene shifted . . . suddenly it was 1941; we were at Minton’s (or someplace north of 125th Street in Harlem, New York City; I had turned into Jerry Newman, recording swing-to-bop for posterity . . . you’ll hear what I mean.

LESTER LEAPS IN (Martin Litton, keyboard; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone; Rico Tomasso, Andy Schumm, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

TOPSY (Martin Litton, keyboard; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

After those last notes had stopped echoing, I (and some others) made our weary, happy way to bed . . . rocking gently on what we had heard, dreaming sweetly of the 2013 Party.

For Mister Mike.

And, as always, tickets are on sale to the 2013 Party, the best-organized high-spirited living jazz museum, here.

May your happiness increase.

BEAU KOO LOUIS: BENT PERSSON’S SAVOY BALLROOM FIVE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (October 28, 2012)

The music that Louis Armstrong and colleagues made in 1928 Chicago remains vivid.  But aside from WEST END BLUES and NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (the latter a song Ruby Braff particularly liked) the repertoire hasn’t been explored all that much, perhaps because the Don Redman arrangements are complex.

BEAU KOO JACK was once a famous showpiece, a way to honor Louis: hear the 1929 Earl Hines band’s recording for Victor, with the trumpet section doing a splendid job of becoming the Master in triplicate:

Thus, the idea of Bent Persson and his noble colleagues playing this music in front of me at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was something I looked forward to with great eagerness.  And I was not disappointed.  You won’t be either.

Bent’s Savoy Ballroom Five (but who’s counting?) are Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Michael McQuaid, Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Martin Litton, piano; Spats Langham, banjo and guitar; Nick Ward, drums (including the delightfully idiomatic and rare “bockety-bock” cymbals in honor of Zutty Singleton); Rico Tomasso, vocal and trumpet.

FIREWORKS (aptly titled):

SKIP THE GUTTER:

KNEE DROPS (what are knee drops?  A dance maneuver, something to eat, or an ailment?):

TWO DEUCES (celebrating the friendship of Louis and Earl, I assume):

NO, PAPA, NO (or simply NO), by Victoria Spivey:

NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (Rico on trumpet for Bent):

ST. JAMES INFIRMARY (with an atmospheric vocal by Rico):

GRANDPA’S SPELLS (a duet for Bent and Martin Litton, with a solo taken from the Hot Chorus book):

SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (vocalizing by the romantic Mr. Tomassi):

BEAU KOO JACK (“lots of money,” you dig?):

Beaucoup jazz!  And this one’s for Mister Mike.  Visit here to find out more about the 2013 Party, where marvels like this blossom.

May your happiness increase.

“DOOZY”!: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT SALUTES BENNY CARTER at the 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (October 28, 2012): MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, RENE HAGMANN, ALISTAIR ALLAN, MARTIN LITTON, SPATS LANGHAM, HENRI LEMAIRE, RICHARD PITE

Matthias Seuffert, that splendid chameleon so adept at becoming others while retaining his own shining identity, did it yet again at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — honoring Benny Carter in swinging, eloquent ways.  If you go back to the earliest and latest recordings in this set, it covers a thirty-year period beginning in 1931 . . . and looks fondly at memorable sessions with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, Sidney Catlett, Coleman Hawkins, Jo Jones, Roy Eldridge, and other luminaries.

Matthias’ swinging cohorts here are Rene Hagmann, cornet (summoning up Carter’s elegantly astonishing trumpet work), Martin Litton, who had easily become Teddy Wilson earlier in the Party; Alistair Allan, nimbly filling out the ensembles and adding a fine Swing Era flavor; Spats Langham, guitar; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, marshaling forces in subtle unity.

JUST A MOOD — on paper, just a simple line, but the results are so elegant, living up to the title:

SMACK — evoking the 1940 “Chocolate Dandies” Fletcher Henderson-alumni session for Commodore Records.  Matthias wasn’t looking at me while I was behind the camera, but the grin on his face during Martin Litton’s solo must have mirrored mine:

BLUE INTERLUDE — going back to the 1933 “Dandies” session, tenderly, with sweetly heroic playing from Rene and Martin over a delicious rhythm section sweep, leading up to a marvelous evocation of The King by Matthias:

DOOZY — a swinging blues created at the 1961 “Further Definitions” session.  A “doozy” is defined as something extraordinary — true enough here:

BLUES IN MY HEART — a lyrical masterpiece Carter returned to often, and this version summons up a divine trio of Benny, Art Tatum, and Louis Bellson, with Martin Litton and Richard Pite hailing the departed giants:

WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW — with the correct changes for the bridge — great swinging fun:

This set was a great highlight — not only of the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — but of the year.  A tribute to The King by some of his most regal subjects!

And, not incidentally, tickets are still available here for the 2013 Party . . . but I can’t guarantee that this will always be the case.

May your happiness increase.

“FORTY YEARS OF JAZZ”: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, ORIGINAL THINKER — at the 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (October 28, 2012)

Many of the most admired jazz improvisers don’t sit down and “compose” music on manuscript paper; rather, they invent new compositions on the spot while playing.

The reed master Matthias Seuffert is a heartening exception, and this set at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, “Forty Years of Jazz,” allowed him to show off more of his considerable talents.  The premise was remarkable in itself: Matthias presented original compositions that evoked the first four decades of jazz and paid tribute to the great figures.

The set also displayed the marvelous professionalism of the players, for I suspect that some of them were seeing these scores for the second time in their lives.  The music would have been more polished had there been several long rehearsals, but it exuberantly got to the heart of things.

The players are Matthias, reeds and a surprise vocal; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Martin Litton, piano; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums.

For Louis and Earl, circa 1928 — SATCHELMOUTH STRUT:

Mr. Beiderbecke, meet Mr. Trumbauer — TAKE A TRAM TO BIXVILLE:

For Fats Waller and his Rhythm — a special tribute to Mike Durham, the generous genius of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, with a heartfelt vocal by Matthias — WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT YOU?:

The one, the only Coleman Hawkins — FOR THE BEAN (or TO FATHER BEAN):

Ditto for Edward Kennedy Ellington — SOPHISTICATED EDDIE:

For BG, Teddy, and Gene — OPUS 5/6 or 7/8:

And a mid-Forties reconsideration of “I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA,” in which she definitely has a new outfit — VIRGINIA BOP:

What an imagination!

May your happiness increase.

MR. LANGHAM CELEBRATES MR. BOWLLY at WHITLEY BAY: ENRICO TOMASSO, JENS LINDGREN, NORMAN FIELD, EMMA FISK, MARTIN LITTON, MANU HAGMANN, RICHARD PITE (Oct. 27, 2012)

Al Bowlly was a memorable singer and guitarist.  Thomas “Spats” Langham is a memorable singer and guitarist.  Does anyone see a pattern here?

The musical connections were warmly evident at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, when Spats took to the little bandstand to celebrate Al — with the best friendly assistance from Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Norman Field, reeds; Emma Fisk, violin; Martin Litton, piano; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

Spats crooned sweetly, earnestly, and with lovely humor — and the band rocked or serenaded around him.  On the first tune (and others) I thought, “My goodness, this is how Al Bowlly might have sounded if he had ended up in the (U.S.) Brunswick Records studios in 1936 with a Teddy Wilson small band,” and the combination was inspiring.

GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL:

THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN:

THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (oh, so sweet):

MY SWEET VIRGINIA:

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? (Readers, I apologize for the missing eight bars at the end.  It is possible that unintentionally shut the camera off because I was trying too hard to hold back tears, and I am serious):

One other selection, performed beautifully, GUILTY, will show up in another form.  Immensely touching music.

I write this post with my father in mind.  Born in 1915, this was his music — and I learned the lyrics to BROTHER from him, very early.  He would have admired Spats very much.

May your happiness increase.

ELEGANCE, FLYING: MARTIN LITTON PLAYS TEDDY WILSON at WHITLEY BAY (October 27, 2012)

Whenever I have seen Martin Litton perform, I have always hoped that I would have the opportunity to hear him play solo.  And this year at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, my hopes took shape in a Saturday-morning recital by Martin of music associated with Teddy Wilson.

Martin is exceedingly articulate and well-versed in jazz history, so his introductions to the songs are poised and informative.  And he’s introduced by the man who imagined this Party and makes it spring to life year after year, Mike Durham.

MEMORIES OF YOU:

AIR MAIL SPECIAL:

LIZA:

Wilson’s playing was properly described as impeccable.  I think the adjective well applies to Mr. Litton.

May your happiness increase.

THEY’RE THROUGH WITH LOVE: CECILE McLORIN SALVANT, SPATS LANGHAM, DUKE HEITGER, ALISTAIR ALLAN, NORMAN FIELD, EMMA FISK, MARTIN LITTON, HENRI LEMAIRE, RICHARD PITE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 26, 2012)

Music for the lovelorn, the hopeful, the despairing, the wistful . . .all in swingtime, performed at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by singers Cecile McLorin Salvant and Spats Langham (who has a guitar or banjo in his hands most of the time), with instrumental backing from trumpeter Duke Heitger, trombonist Alistair Allan, reed hero Norman Field, violinist Emma Fisk, pianist Martin Litton, bassist Henri Lemaire, and drummer Richard Pite.

There’s a long tradition in jazz of taking the most mournful popular songs (and I think there have always been more downcast songs than elated ones, although I haven’t counted) at swinging tempos. Even the saddest Crosby and Columbo laments had some rhythm in them, and if you consider Billie’s I’M GONNA LOCK MY HEART for one example, you’ll see the possibilities of the juxtaposition.

But until Cecile’s romp on the final song, much of this set was sadness or yearning in a lightly mobile 4 / 4.

Spats began with Fud Livingston’s sadly serious I’M THROUGH WITH LOVE:

YOU’VE GOT ME CRYIN’ AGAIN was recorded in 1933 by both Bing Crosby and a young Lee Wiley:

Cecile tells the imaginary lover I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL:

Spats goes back to Bing and Eddie Lang — at the same time — for a song I love dearly, PLEASE:

Evoking the jazz tradition of fifteen years later (I thought of Sarah Vaughan), Cecile swings out with LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

I don’t know what this music would do for the genuinely lovelorn (in the audience or on the stand) but I appreciate every turn.

May your happiness increase.

MARTIN LITTON and HIS RED HOT PEPPERS PLAY JELLY ROLL MORTON at WHITLEY BAY 2012: ENRICO TOMASSO, KRISTOFFER KOMPEN, MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, MICHAEL McQUAID, MARTIN WHEATLEY, MALCOLM SKED, NICK WARD (October 26, 2012)

Perhaps more than any other composer / performer / arranger / imaginative figure in the history of pre-1950 jazz, Fredinand “Jelly Roll” Morton left us with very strong — even severe — conceptions of how his music should be played.

Although he advocated for “sweet, soft, plenty rhythm,” many latter-day bands approach Morton in an almost militaristic manner, as if the lessons of the Master were to hit those beats hard and play the recorded solos exactly as they were done in the Victor studios.  James Dapogny shows a more expansive approach to Morton’s music, and — in this rewarding set of music at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — so does the soft-spoken Martin Litton.

Martin never superimposes his own vision on Morton’s so that the original is obliterated, but one hears him treating the music with an easy curiosity, as if the “originals” were so durable that they could stand a little experimentation.  At times it seems that Litton’s reimaginings are floating alongside the recordings we knows so well — alternate takes in a parallel universe.  And completely delightful.

Given the musicians he assembled — Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert and Michael McQuaid, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Maetin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Malcolm Sked, brass bass; Nick Ward, drums — how could we be blue?

KING PORTER STOMP:

BEALE STREET BLUES:

OIL WELL:

MILENBERG JOYS:

BILLY GOAT STOMP (animal effects courtesy of the very gracious Mr. Ward, hardly seen but certainly heard here):

WOLVERINE BLUES:

Mister Morton, very strict, would have been pleased.  No doubt.

May your happiness increase. 

STILL MORE HOT NOTES FROM THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Sunday, October 28, 2012)

Sunday was the final official day of this year’s Classic Jazz Party at Whitley Bay, but it wasn’t a disappointment, even given the heights hit on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Impatient readers may scroll down to the bottom, although you’ll lose points on the final examination.

The first set of the day was especially ambitious — a history of jazz (at least the middle Twenties to the middle Forties) that was gleaming and inventive —  because it didn’t traverse the ground from HIGH SOCIETY to ANTHROPOLOGY, but delineated the journey in seven original compositions and arrangements by Matthias Seuffert — one evoking the Hot Five, another Bix and Tram, tributes and sly homages to Basie and Hawkins, to Ellington and a Goodman small group . . . ending up with Matthias’ brilliant rewriting of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA as a 1945 boppish small group.  I  hope the startling swerve into Modernism upset no one: it kept me enthralled.

An hour-long consideration of Louis, Bechet, and Clarence Williams followed — with strong playing and singing by Bent Persson, Jens Lingren, Thomas Winteler, and Cecile McLorin Salvant — in addition to a scorching two-reed extravagana (Stephane Gillot and Winteler) on CANDY LIPS.

Just as fine — although different — was Matthias Seuffert’s bow to Benny Carter, with Rene Hagmann on trumpet, Alistair Allan, trombone, and a rocking rhythm section of Richard Pite, Martin Litton, Henry Lemaire — with versions of BLUES IN MY HEART, DOOZY, WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW, BLUE INTERLUDE, SMACK, JUST A MOOD, and I’M IN THE MOOD FOR SWING.  (My notes read “lovely” and “just perfect.”)

What could follow that?  How about Bent Persson, Kristoffer Kompen, Michael McQuaid, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Spats Langham, Martin Litton, Nick Ward, and Rico Tomasso (vocal and trumpet) bringing us a superior version of the Armstrong – Hines Savoy Ballroom Five?  The set began with FIREWORKS, which turned out to be truth in advertising.  Then — just as good as much more rare — an hour spent with the music of King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators circa 1926 — including a riotous WA WA WA and a chart the band was seeing for the first time, SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT.  Topping that was a genuinely exact and ecstatic reincarnation of the Halfway House Orchestra, with glorious playing from Andy Schumm, Michael McQuaid, Stephane Gillot, and Nick Ward — drumming as if possessed by the great spirits of savage grace.

Sunday concluded 9officially) with a stand-up-and-cheer 1937 Goodman concert with masterful playing, ensemble and solo . . . my room one story above was rocking!

After the Goodman tribute ended, sedate souls went to bed.

But I went to the Victory Pub for a jam session that began with Andy Schumm (now informally attired) romping through his favorite late-Twenties repoertoire . . . before friends came along: Rico Tomasso, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Thomas Winteler, Frans Sjostrom, Jens Lindgren, Josh Duffee, Malcolm Sked, Alistair Allan, Michael McQuaid, Matthias Seuffert, and other gifted roisterers.  I needed my sleep but stayed there until two in the morning (and you will see some of the reason I couldn’t leave!).  Extravagant creativity in near-darkness including sweet leisurely versions of TOPSY, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, AFTER YOU’VE GONE, I NEVER KNEW, ONCE IN A WHILE (the Hot Five version), I SAW STARS and LESTER LEAPS IN . . . Minton’s comes to Newcastle, as lit by Edward Hopper, recorded by Jerry Newman with a video camera.

Because of the “storm” or Hurricane Sandy, my flight to New York was cancelled.  But I was given the chance to make the most sublime jazz lemonade.  Paul Adams, of Lake Records, was creating a Vintage Recording Session with a Jazz-Age big band of Whitley Bay superstars: Duke Heitger, Rico Tomasso, Andy Schumm, Alistair Allan, Kristoffer Kompen, Stephane Gillot, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, Keith Nichols, Malcolm Sked, Spats Langham, Josh Duffee, and a guest appearance by Bent Persson.  I couldn’t stay for the whole session, but I heard them play POTATO HEAD BLUES (with the Louis and Dodds solos scored for brass and reeds, respectively), JAZZNOCHRACY, AWFUL SAD, HOT AND BOTHERED, CHANT OF THE WEED, ONE MORE TIME, THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, MANDY (MAKE UP YOUR MIND), WHEN THE FOLKS HIGH UP DO THAT MEAN LOWDOWN (a Berlin tune introduced by Bing in the film REACHING FOR THE MOON), STAMPEDE, MY PRETTY GIRL, and they were part-way through MILENBERG JOYS when I had to leave to make a train . . .   It will be a profoundly stirring recording — and the project needs subscribers.  Paul and Linda were asking for jazz-lovers to become patrons at a minimum of thirty pounds apiece, for which they would get their names in the CD booklet and a copy of the CD itself.  More information to come — but you can click fellside    for details.

I will post videos from this year’s extravaganza in a week or so — but take it from me.  The 2012 CJP was a sustained explosion of joy, and the 2013 promises to scrape the clouds — with appearances by Les Red Hot Reedwarmers (with Aurelie Tropez) and the Union Rhythm Kings (with Bent Persson, Frans Sojstrom, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Jacob Ullberger, Kristoffer Kompen, and others).

November 1-3, 2013.   If you are able to attend and you don’t, you’ll have missed something very special.  And if you don’t mind whispering a fact in your ears, the 2012 party was sold out.  People had to be turned away.

Check whitleybay for detials.

The musicians invited for the 2013 party include:

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Enrico Tomasso (UK), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Andy Woon (UK)

Trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK), Graham Hughes (UK)

Reeds: Aurélie Tropez (France), Stéphane Gillot (France), Claus Jacobi (Germany) , Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Mauro Porro (Italy)

Piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Jeff Barnhart (USA), Morten Gunnar Larssen (Norway), Martin Seck (Germany)

Banjo/Guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Martin Wheatley (UK), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Keith Stephen (UK)

String Bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Malcolm Sked (UK)

Brass Bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Jean-Philippe Palma (France)

Drums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Julien Richard (France), Nick Ward (UK)

Bass Sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden)

Violin: Mike Piggott (UK)

Vocals: Daryl Sherman (USA), Caroline Irwin (UK), Spats Langham (UK)

Here’s something both sweet and hot from Friday, October 26 — part of a tribute to Lovie Austin enacted by Rene Hagmann, Jens Lindgren, Thomas Winteler, Martin Litton, Roly VEitch, and Josh Duffee:

And here’s a valuable lesson in swinging animal husbandry from a JElly Roll Morton tribute (featuring Enrico Tomasso, Kristoffer Kompen, Matthias Seuffert, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Nick Ward, Michael McQuaid — BILLY GOAT STOMP — with the ordinarily quite evolved Nick doing the convincing animal imitations (and making the band laugh in the process):

And — the lovely sound you hear in those videos is in no small part because of the sensitive hard work of Chris and Veronica Perrin — who made sure the music sounded like music.

May your happiness increase.

MORE HOT NOTES (Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, Oct. 27, 2013)

More random impressions from the second day of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party:

The elegant Martin Litton merging himself and Teddy Wilson for the first set of the day, a solo recital of pretty songs (BODY AND SOUL) and more energetic ones (LIZA);

a ferocious evocation of the New Orleans Bootblacks and Wanderers (recording aliases with not a little of the expected condescension of the time featuring Lillian Hardin Armstrong, George Mitchell, Johnny Dodds) — by Bent Persson, Jens Lindgren, Stephane Gillot, Matthias Seuffert, Martin Seck, Martin Wheatley, and Malcolm Sked — music that nearly unsettled the foundations of the Village Hotel Newcastle (PAPA DIP, DROP THAT SACK, TOO TIGHT, GEORGIA BO BO, MY BABY, and two others).  Down-home exuberance!  I was delighted by Gillot’s alto playing, which (from my perch) made the band echo the late-Twenties Sam Morgan recordings . . . with magnificent ensemble and solo work from the others;

a tribute to Red Nichols from 1926-30, with Andy Schumm stepping into the role masterfully, Alistair Allan summoning up the Master Miff Mole (shoes off or on), Michael McQuaid reminding us, once again, how much Lester Young must have learned from Jimmy Dorsey, Frans Sjostrom singing pretty songs through his bass saxophone, and Nick Ward creating hot castles in the air.  That would have been sufficient pleasure for anyone, but when Rico Tomasso and Duke Heitger joined for the trumpet trio on ECCENTRIC, it was nearly too much pleasure to bear;

reed wizard Thomas Winteler sitting close to the bandstand, smiling;

Rene Hagmann, on cornet; Jean-Froncois Bonnel, soprano, giving their own individualistic version of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four — the expected songs, but full of surprising light and shade — the landscape we expected but seen anew, with Hagmann suggesting not Muggsy but Cootie, marvelously;

Spats Langham singing the songs of Al Bowlly (accompanying himself on guitar) so tenderly that I thought I saw tears in many eyes — but also suggesting that Bowlly could easily have visited the ARC studios in 1937 and made himself at home with a small elegant hot band;

a wonderfully romping evocation of the Graeme Bell-Humphrey Lyttelton collaborations led by Michael McQuaid, with fires stoked by Duke Heitger, Bent Persson, and Nick Ward;

Josh Duffee’s loving and energized McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (all new songs) with vocal refrains by Mike Durham, Spats Langham, and Keith Nichols — reminding us that there are rainbows around our shoulders when we know how to do the ZONKY;

trombone hero Kris Kompen donning the mantle of Jack Teagarden — for a sweetly swinging DIANE and a BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME that truly cut loose;

Cecile McLorin Salvant, Bent Persson, Thomas Winteler, Keith Nichols, and Martin Wheatley suggesting that the 1928 OKeh studios had moved right next to the local Marks and Spencer, with visits from Lille Delk Christian and Little Louis;

I missed the tributes to Mary Lou Williams (at the head of the Andy Kirk band) and the Missourians, as well as what I was told was an exuberant jam session in the Victory Pub — video-recording and note-taking can be draining, too — but what I did see was choice and more.

A continued pleasure was the beautiful natural sound provided by Chris and Veronica Perrin — I’d hire them for every jazz party!

People are already reserving their places for 2013.  You come, too.

May your happiness increase.

HOT NOTES (Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, Oct. 26, 2012)

Random impressions of the first day at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party . . .

the wonderfully agile and focused violinist Emma Fisk filling in for Joe Venuti, who had other commitments;

Nick Ward, adjusting his gong for the best auditory efficiency, so that he could reach over and hit it (affectionately) at the proper moments — and his castanet work during a dark soulful reading of Jelly Roll Morton’s JUNGLE BLUES (led by Martin Litton);

Andy Schumm’s blue-blowing, luminous cornet, first-rate alto playing;

the same Andy leading a romping rendition of BEND DOWN, SISTER . . . I asked if he would consider a vocal rendition next year;

two magnificent trombonists, Kristoffer Kompen and Alistair Allan;

Bent Persson making Louis come alive on CAFE CAPERS and SPANISH SHAWL  as well as HOT NOTES;

Cecile McLorin Salvant making her way sadly through I GET ALONG WITHOUT YOU VERY WELL;

Spats Langham being both Bing Crosby and Eddie Lang on PLEASE;

Thomas Winteler throwing his head back slightly to show us how the soprano saxophone should sound;

Jean-Francois Bonnel and Rene Hagmann, giants roaming the earth, ennobling the air;

the quietly eloquent Michael McQuaid, making his alto sing;

Norman Field with a rack of reed instruments, making the twenties and Thirties come alive — “That’s Fud Livingston!” I heard someone near me say);

Duke Heitger, muted, playing a tender obbligato;

a hilariously incendiary rendition of HELLO, LOLA (with or without comma);

Keith Nichols being anecdotal from the piano bench;

Josh Duffee getting more music out of one cymbal than Zildian ever imagined;

and more, and more . . .

Beautiful natural sound provided by Chris and Veronica Perrin — I’d hire them for every jazz party!

The Classic Jazz Party will continue on in 2013.

May your happiness increase.

BUCK CLAYTON’S JAZZ WORLD

People who listen to jazz, read about it, write about it, seem to be entranced by drama.  So many of them are drawn to artists whose careers and lives are boldly delineated: the arc of early promise and a life cut short through self-destructive behavior or illness; the narrative of great achievement that tails off into stark decline.  Early Fame, Great Decline.  Clifford Brown, Charlie Parker, Jimmie Blanton, Billie Holiday, Charlie Christian, Bix Beiderbecke, Lester Young . . . the list is long.

But what of those musicians who had long careers, functioned at a high level of creativity, were undramatic in their professionalism?  They get less media attention in life and in death; their sheer reliability makes them almost shadowy figures.  (Of course, if they happen to live long lives — Doc Cheatham, Benny Waters, Eubie Blake, Hank Jones, Lionel Ferbos — then they may get a story in the paper.  But that’s another subject.)

One of the greatest trumpet players — also a wonderful composer and arranger — doesn’t get the attention he should: Buck Clayton from Parsons, Kansas, whose recordings over a thirty-year span are exceptional but not always celebrated as they should be.  Anyone familiar with the best music of that period can call to mind a dozen sessions that Buck not only plays on, but elevates: consider the dates with Basie, the Kansas City Five and Six and Seven, Billie, Mildred, Teddy and Ben, Hawkins on Keynote, Ike Quebec on Blue Note, his own dates for HRS, the Jam Sessions for Columbia and the later ones for Hank O’Neal’s Chiaroscuro label, his recordings with Mel Powell at Carnegie Hall, the Vanguard sessions, a Verve date with Harry Edison, his own small band (circa 1961), recordings with Jimmy Rushing and Ada Moore and Mae Barnes, with Earl Hines, Bill Coleman, Don Byas, Flip Phillips, Horace Henderson, Sir Charles Thompson, Charlie Parker, Ed Hall, Alex Combelle, Joe Turner, Big Joe Turner, “Jazz From A Swinging Era,” Humphrey Lyttelton, Eddie Condon, J. J. Johnson, Benny Goodman . . . and I am sure I am leaving out many sessions.

Shanghai, 1934

Even though Buck was playing jazz in Shanghai in 1934, before he came home and stopped off in Kansas City, he seems to have been a rather undramatic man for all his exploits.  He showed up on time for the gig; he could talk to the audience; he wrote excellent charts and swinging originals; he was beautifully dressed; he transcended late-in-life health problems to launch a new career as a bandleader when the trumpet no longer responded to his urgings.  How unfortunate to be so bourgeois.

I only encountered him in person once: in 1971, there was a New York Jazz Museum Christmas party (if I have this right) where he was among a large number of musicians advertised as performing.  Buck was there, not playing, but splendidly dressed and very polite to a young fan who asked for his autograph.  (A side story: the musicians who actually did play, beautifully, were Chuck Folds, Gene Ramey, and Jackie Williams.  Someone requested MISTY and Ramey, upon hearing the song title, said, quietly, “I don’t play that shit,” and leaned his bass against the wall for the next three minutes, returning when the music was more to his liking.)

I also saw Buck — perhaps in 1980 — at a Newport in New York concert possibly paying tribute to Billie, with musicians including Zoot Sims and Harry Edison — attempting to return to playing.  His beautiful tone was intact on a fairly fast SUGAR, but he was having trouble hitting the notes one could sense he was aiming for . . . heroic but painful.)

Let’s listen to Buck again.

Here are the two takes of WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS from the 1938 Kansas City Six session for Commodore — with Lester Young, Eddie Durham, Walter Page, Freddie Green, Jo Jones.  It’s hard not to focus on Lester — but it can be done. Hear Buck, golden, easeful, and lithe . . . the only trumpet player I know who approaches his sly mobility is Bill Coleman of the same period.  Like Louis, he constructs his solos logically, one phrase building on its predecessors and looking forward to the next, each one acting as a small melodic building block in a larger arching structure — melodic embellishment with a larger purpose:

Any improvising musician would say that Buck’s solo choruses are not the work of an immature musician and not easy to do; his graceful ensemble playing is the work of a master.  But it sounds so easy, as if he were singing through his horn.  And that tone!

Here he is in a 1954 session that few know of — a Mel Powell-led jam session at Carnegie Hall, with Ruby Braff, Jay Brower (trumpet), Vernon Brown, Urbie Green (trombone), Tony Scott (clarinet), Lem Davis (alto sax), Buddy Tate, Eddie Shu (tenor sax), Romeo Penque (baritone sax), Mel Powell (piano), Steve Jordan (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Jo Jones, Gene Krupa (drums):

Buck appears near the end –just before Gene and Jo trade phrases.  And, yes, you read that correctly.  A marvel!

Here’s Buck with Ben Webster, Vic Dickenson, Hank Jones, George Duvivier, and Jo Jones in C JAM BLUES (1959):

And after his playing days had ended, as leader / composer / arranger of his own Swing Band, captured in France (1991) on RAMPAGE IN G MINOR:

The other swingers on that stage are Gerry Dodgion, alto; James Chirillo, guitar; Joe Temperley, baritone sax; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Matt Finders, trombone; Doug Lawrence and Arthur “Babe” Clarke, tenor saxophones; Phillipe Combell, drums.; Dick Katz, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Bobby Pring, trombone; John Eckert, Greg Gisbert; trumpet.

Someone who hasn’t forgotten Buck Clayton is the UK bassist / writer / radio host Alyn Shipton, who has performed often with Buck’s compositions and arrangements as the Buck Clayton Legacy Band.  Here they are in this century performing Buck’s tribute to his friend and fellow brassman Humph, SIR HUMPHREY:

That band is full of people who understand Buck and his music (some of them heroes of mine): Menno Daams, Ian Smith, Adrian Fry, Alan Barnes, Matthias Seuffert, Martin Litton, Martin Wheatley, Alyn Shipton and Norman Emberson.

I would encourage anyone reading this post to go to his or her shelves and take down a recording by Buck and revel in its glories.  Milt Hinton used to have a memo pad with this heading (because of his nickname “The Judge”):”You are hereby sentenced to thirty days of listening to good music.”  If you were to explore and re-explore Buck Clayton’s jazz world, you would have more than a month of pleasure.

He never provoked controversy; I doubt he will ever have his own online forum with vigorous acrimonious discussion of the minutiae of his life . . . but he created beauty whenever he raised his trumpet, composed a melody, or led a band.

May your happiness increase.

YES, IT’S THE LAST TIME! WHITLEY BAY 2012

It’s true.  Festival Director – Hot Trumpeter – Singer – Mike Durham tells me that the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (beginning October 25, 2012, with a curtain-raising Thursday night concert at The Sage Gateshead and continuing through Sunday night / early Monday morning, October 28-29, depending) is THE LAST TIME.  (Honey babe.)

And for once, the race is absolutely to the swift: attendance is strictly limited to the first 280 patrons to book online.  The price is £125 (for those outside the United Kingdom, that translated into $140 when I booked a ticket two days ago).  You can purchase your seat through PayPal — or use a credit card — by visiting here.

The lineup of musicians and singers is spectacular: consider these names —

Duke Heitger (USA), Spats Langham (UK), Bent Persson (Sweden), Keith Nichols (UK), Matthias Seuffert Germany), Cecile McLorin Salvant (USA), Michael McQuaid (Australia), Caroline Irwin (UK), Stéphane Gillot (France), Emma Fisk (UK), René Hagmann (Switzerland), Martin Litton (UK), Andy Schumm USA), Rico Tomasso (UK), Jean-François Bonnel (France), Norman Field (UK), Thomas Winteler (Switzerland), Malcolm Sked (UK), Michel Bescont (France), Alistair Allan (UK), Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Richard Pite (UK), Martin Seck (Germany), Jens Lindgren (Sweden), Martin Wheatley (UK), Josh Duffee (USA), Keith Stephen (UK), Manu Hagmann (Switzerland), Phil Rutherford (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Frans Sjöström (Sweden), Nick Ward (UK) – and Mike Durham (West Jesmond).

And the party is like no other.  Here’s what Mike tells us, “All concerts will take place in the four-star Village Hotel’s Inspiration Suite, with cabaret seating: a new band or solo artist brought to you at the comfort of your table every 60 minutes (or less!) from midday to midnight (with a break for dinner).  All properly themed – no disorganised “let’s just get together and blow” sessions….. except for the late-night jam-session in the hotel’s Victory Pub.”

Here’s some music to order your seats!

NOW IS THE TIME . . .

Calling all cats!

I wrote some weeks ago about Mike Durham’s plans for a new version of the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — a Classic Jazz Party to be held at the same location (the comfortable Village Newcastle Hotel) for three days in November 2011  — Friday to Sunday, November 4-6. 

Mike’s musician list is once again stellar: Bent Persson, Michel Bastide, Keith Nichols, Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Kristoffer Kompen, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Frans Sjostrom, Spats Langham, Martn Wheatley, Nick Ward, Josh Duffee, Debbie Arthurs, Cecile Salvant, and more.  They would create three days of jazz — from midday to midnight, with each band presenting an hour-long set. 

The Classic Jazz Party needs YOU!

To be precise, Mike needs a deposit from fifty more of the faithful to proceed.  This translates to a check (or “cheque”) for a hundred pounds, made out to CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, and sent to him at 60 Highbury, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3LN.  Along with the money, he asks that you send your name and full address, phone number and email address.  

If you don’t have a U.K. bank account, you can send the required £100 per person over the internet, via PayPal: log on to the Paypal website and send the money to Mike’s email address, mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com – quick, easy, secure, and free. 

And Mike says, “Also, just to reiterate, all funds will be instantly refunded in full if I decide not to go ahead at the end of September, but I devoutly hope that enough people will rally round to render that unneccessary.”   

The Village Hotel promises to offer three nights of dinner, bed, and breakfast for 175 pounds total, which is a bargain.  More details to follow.

Don’t be left out!

MIKE DURHAM’S BRILLIANT IDEA (ANOTHER ONE!)

Mike Durham is not only a fine trumpet player and soulful man.  He’s also the embodiment of musical generosity — with his wife Patti (herself inimitable) he has given the world twenty Whitley Bay International Jazz Festivals.  The 2010 one was announced as the final one, and I think all the musicians and listeners had their joy tinged by a certain melancholy: to paraphrase Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Whitley Bay?”

Yes and no.  Of course.

There will be no WBIJF in May 2011.  That is the bad news.

However, Mike has an idea — a Classic Jazz Party to be held at the same location (the comfortable Village Newcastle Hotel) for three days in November 2011  — Friday to Sunday, November 4-6. 

It would be a long weekend filled to the brim with hot music from the artists who have so enlivened Whitley Bay.  Bent Persson, Michel Bastide, Keith Nichols, Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Kristoffer Kompen, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Frans Sjostrom, Spats Langham, Martn Wheatley, Nick Ward, Josh Duffee, Debbie Arthurs, and more. 

As he envisions it, it would be three days of jazz — from midday to midnight, with each band presenting an hour-long set. 

But jazz parties are expensive endeavors, so Mike cannnot go ahead with this one without some funding up front from the faithful.  The principle of subscriptions is, I think, as old as publishing in the eighteenth century and as new as CD production in this century.  What Mike is asking from people is a check (or “cheque”) for a hundred pounds, made out to CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, and sent to him at 60 Highbury, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3LN.  Along with the money, he asks that you send your name and full address, phone number and email address. 

If too few people send their money (alas, alack, and woe) Mike promises to return every penny.  I don’t know what arrangement he might make for those of us who don’t have UK pounds at the ready, but he can be emailed at mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com.  And, for my part, before Whitley Bay 2010 had ended, I’d made sure to give Mike some coin of the realm, so that I could do my part . . . in hopes to sit with my pals Elin and Ron Smith and Honor and Richard and Robin and and . . . listening to the best jazz I can imagine. 

And if enough people subscribe, the Village Hotel (very comfortable) promises to offer three nights of dinner, bed, and breakfast for 175 pounds total, which is a bargain.  More details to follow.

Don’t be late! 

Don’t be left out! 

You come too!

JAZZ CORNUCOPIA! (Whitley Bay, July 2010)

Mike Durham, the fine trumpet player, festival organizer, and wit, sent along the following list.  For those who have never been to the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — and 2010 is THE FINAL ONE — this list will be both enticing and mysterious.  This is the schedule of which bands will be playing at what times during what is sure to be a thrillingly music-packed weekend.  It takes place in a well-appointed hotel, and the “Cotton Club,” the “Sunset Cafe,” “Kelly’s Stables,” and the “One Cent Club” are rooms of varying sizes in the hotel. 

The schedule both exalts and terrifies.  I was saying to my first class the other morning (we are concluding MACBETH) that the universe is limitless, but the first choice, no matter how small, that one makes, renders other choices impossible.  So it is at Whitley Bay: if I want to  hear The Four Pods of Pepper (Spats Langham, Frans Sjostrom, and Norman Field) joined by Rico Tomasso, that makes it impossible, according to Newtonian physics, for me to be at “Kings of Stride” at the same time.  Of course, I could hear the first set of the Pods and then scamper in for some Stride after the break.  One must have a plan!  Or I could do what I did last time: stay where my heart led me and then wander . . .

I’ll have my video camera, of course, and Elin Smith will have hers, but it isn’t the same thing as being there.  Consider yourself encouraged to join in the fun, even if you don’t have a camera. 

Find out more at http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/

 
WHITLEY BAY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2010 – DAY BY DAY, ROOM BY ROOM, HOUR BY HOUR (OR JUST ABOUT!)
 
FRIDAY
 
                             Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                              7.00-9.00                                          9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club         Hot Antic Jazz Band                                   Blue Devils                                    New Century Ragtime Orch           Les Rois du Foxtrot

Sunset Café         La Retaguardia J B                                      N ew Orleans Rascals                      Bohem Ragtime J B                     Red Hot Peppers

Kelly’s Stables     Late Hour Boys                                          Schumm’s Bixologists                     Hot Antics                                   Bent Persson’s N Y Orch

One Cent             Jeff & Anne Barnhart                                West Jesmond R Kings           Kings of Stride                              Four Pods + Rico Tomasso
 
 
SATURDAY
 
                            Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                              7.00-9.00                                              9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club        Blue Devils                                                    Les Rois du Foxtrot                          New Orleans Rascals                              La Retaguardia
Sunset Café        Bohem Ragtime J B                             Flaming Reeds                                  Red Hot Peppers                                   Winteler’s Serenaders
Kelly’s Stables   Schumm’s Bixologists                       Hot Antics                                           Spats & Rhythm Boys                               Cecile Salvant 
One Cent           K Stephen’s Hot Club Trio                 Litton & Nichols – Ragtime          Late Hour Boys + Rico Tomasso           Doc Bastide’s Owls
 
 
SUNDAY
 
                              Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                      7.00-9.00                                           9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club        Chalumeau Serenaders                                 Bohem Ragtime J B                         Les Rois du Foxtrot                              Hot Antics (Grand Finale)
Sunset Café        Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders                          New Orleans Rascals                   La Retaguardia                            Schumm’s Bixologists
Kelly’s Stables   Late Hr Boys/Cecile Salvant (Billie H)        Field’s Novelty Orch                  M Seuffert Sextet             Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders
One Cent            Jeff & Anne Barnhart/Boogie Piano         Banjorama/Fidgety Fingers         Hot Jazz Trio

“BLUE BLOOD BLUES”: SPENCER’S NIGHTHAWKS

I’ve been listening to a five-disc set called JAZZ MAGIC featuring cornetist Carl Spencer and his bands.  Between 1964 and 1972, Spencer led a small hot group called the Washboard Kings which devoted itself to a wide range of music — from early pop and jazz to the earliest Thirties.  After an extended hiatus, Spencer reformed his band as Carl Spencer’s Nighthawks Orchestra and it’s continuing to gig as I write this. 

Spencer’s bands have impresssed me both by their wide range (the musicians are comfortable playing the repertoire of the Creole Jazz Band, Bix Beiderbecke, Luis Russell, and pop music of the day — TAKE YOUR GIRLIE TO THE MOVIES IF YOU CAN’T MAKE LOVE AT HOME for one example) and their relaxed authenticity.  They know the Twenties styles well and can improvise within these idioms. 

Here’s a YouTube clip of two of Spencer’s star reed players working their way through Morton’s BLUE BLOOD BLUES.  This was recorded at the 2001 Bude Jazz Festival and features Brian Hills and Mac White, clarinets; Henry Davis, piano; Mike Parle, banjo; Roger Graham,  tuba; Tim Philips, drums.

JAZZ MAGIC contains 122 tracks, drawn from studio sessions and live performances, with guest features for pianists Martin Litton and Neville Dickie, banjoist / singer Spats Langham, and others — a delightfully varied assortment that deserves to be better known.  Visit  www.spencersnighthawks.com for more information on the band and on JAZZ MAGIC.

“ACHIN’ HEARTED BLUES,” 1999

When I saw that “jazze1947” had uncovered another video by the Swedish Jazz Kings from 1999 (at the Akersunds Jazz Festival) featuring Bent Persson, cornet; Tom Baker, trombone; Tomas Ornberg, soprano sax; Martin Litton, piano; Bo Juhlin, tuba; Olle Nyman, banjo, I was excited. But then I saw the title ACHIN’ HEARTED BLUES and thought the video might be five minutes of slow-drag melancholy. 

Obviously I need to take a remedial semester in early Sidney Bechet and Clarence Williams, because both the song and the performance fly.  Not in tempo but in intensity.  This is particularly evident in Litton’s solo — two choruses of Hines-fireworks, in the second choruses by Bent and Tom, and the way Tomas flies around in the closing ensemble.  If ever a song seemed to have the wrong title, this is it:

In my country, we say, “Wow!”

SWEDISH JAZZ KINGS 1999 (Tom Baker, Bent Persson, Martin Litton, Joep Peeters, Tomas Ornberg, Olle Nyman, Bo Juhlin)!

 These videos by the Swedish Jazz Kings were recorded at the 1999 Akersunds Jazz Festival.  And they are, as they used to say, just my thing.  Thanks to “jazze1947” for posting them on YouTube: I became an instant subscriber!

That’s Bent Persson on trumpet or cornet; Tom Baker on trombone, tenor sax, and vocal; Tomas Ornberg and Joep Peeters on reeds; Martin Litton on piano; Olle Nyman, banjo and guitar; Bo Juhlin, tuba.  I could write a good deal about the passionate intensity of the soloists, their individualized reflections of Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and more – – – but I’d rather let my readers skip the analysis and jump in neck-deep into the music.  What music it is!

Here’s APEX BLUES.  Sometimes long performances become wearisome, but I think six-and-a-half minutes of this wasn’t enough:

MANDY LEE BLUES:

Here’s KNEE DROPS (which I assume refers to a dance move — but, more importantly, refers to Louis and Earl in 1928):

And the theme song of our century, MONEY BLUES (with the verse as only Bent can do it):

and something tender: a duet on STARDUST by Tom Baker (now on tenor — in a Webster vein) with Martin Litton:

Thanks to jazz scholar Bill Haessler from Australia, I now know that the next song is “What Makes Me Love You So?”:

Here’s a lovely OLD FASHIONED LOVE, which is regrettably incomplete (just when Tom is singing so beautifully):

And a concert-ending performance of PAPA DIP (thanks to Bill Lowden for telling me this!):

Thanks to the musicians, the promoter, the videographer, “jazze1947,” and more.  Wow!

WE’LL BE THERE!

Where? 

At the twentieth — and last — Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  The theme this year — appropriately — is FROM AFRICA TO THE WORLD, and the bands come from all across the globe. 

It’s taking place this year (that’s 2010) 9-11 July, Friday-Sunday, with a pre-festival concert at the beautiful Sage Gateshead called MIDNIGHT IN MAYFAIR — a tribute by Keith Nichols to the British dance and jazz bands of the Thirties (with Rico Tomasso in that band)!  Once the festival begins, it will be non-stop jazz.  With these bands and players, how could it be otherwise?

La Retaguardia Jazz Band (Chile)

New Orleans Rascals (Japan)

Andy Schumm’s Bixologists (USA)

Les Rois du Fox-Trot (France)

Bohém Ragime Orchestra (Hungary)

Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys (Australia)

Hot Antic Jazz Band (France)

Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (UK)

Hot Jazz Trio (Sweden)

Thomas Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders (Switzerland)

Cecile McLorin Salvant (France) with Jean-Francois Bonnel’s Swing Septet

Chalumeau Serenaders (Germany/Sweden/UK)

Jeff Barnhart’s Ivory & Gold (USA)

Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers

Bent Persson’s New York Orchestra (Red Allen Tribute)

Fidgety Fingers with Langham, Wheatley and Stephen

Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra

Barrelhouse & Boogie/ Kings of Harlem Stride/Ragtime Piano Summit

Spats & His Rhythm Boys

New Century Ragtime Orchestra

West Jesmond Rhythm Kings

Keith Stephen’s Hot Club Trio with Caroline (Irwin)

Flaming Reeds

Don’t be the last one on your block!

Visit http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/home.htm for all sorts of useful details — pictures of the musicians, hotel information, and (of course) ticket prices.

I hear tell that Bob Cox, John Whithorn, Elin and Ron Smith will be there — as well as the Beloved and your humble correspondent.

WHITLEY BAY 2010 IS COMING!

It’s never too early to look at plane fares, to see how many euro you might have saved from the last trip — or to start a jazz piggy bank.  The 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival is on its way . . . !

It will begin with pianist / trombonist / singer Keith Nichols’s tribute to the Great British Dance Bands — a concert at the Sage Gateshead, a wonderful 1,800 seat hall — on Thursday evening, July 8.

Then the festival begins!  From Friday afternoon to Sunday night, July 9-11, the musical cornucopia (at the Village Newcastle, a comfortable hotel) will be overflowing.  I’ll let Mike Durham, trumpeter, occasional singer, arranger, collector of brass instruments — and Festival Director, tell you himself:

“The Festival’s title is “From New Orleans to the World – the Jazz Diaspora”.  Bands invited include the West End Jazz Band from Chicago, La Retaguardia Jazz Band from Santiago de Chile, The Late Hour Boys from Melbourne, Jeff Barnhart of Mystic, Connecticut, and the New Orleans Rascals from Osaka.  The European contingent includes the Red Hot Reedwarmers, Bent Persson, Frans Sjöström, the Bohém Ragtime Orchestra (Hungary), Papa Morel’s Hot Seven (France), South Side Serenaders (Switzerland), the Hot Antic Jazz Band (France), Chalumeau Serenaders (UK/Germany with Matthias Seuffert), Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (10-piece orch), Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers (you won’t hear a more faithful recreation of 1926 Jelly), Spats Langham, New Century Ragtime Orchestra and Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra!”