Here’s a location in space and time where the past and present embrace, each retaining all their distinguishing features. That is, Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, and erudition, leading an ensemble at the 2014 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party in the song first introduced by Ethel Waters, SUGAR, that was then taken up by the Austin High Gang for their 1927 record date as “McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans.”
The noble creators are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, taragoto; James Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.
It’s clearly impromptu (but all the great performances were in some part) from Marty’s heartfelt rubato solo chorus to the split-chorus solos with special reverence for James Dapogny’s piano in glittering solo and supportive ensemble. It’s confectionary. And memorable.
Incidentally, if, after enjoying Marty and his pals, you need more sugar in your bowl, try Ethel’s version, Louis’, and the Lee Wiley – Muggsy Spanier – Jess Stacy one. And of course the McKenzie-Condon version, which is playing in my mental jukebox as I type. Then follow your own impulses to heated sweetness.
I could write a long introduction about the music and scene that follows, but I will say only that it was thrilling in the moment and it is even more thrilling now. This was a Saturday afternoon session at the Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, New York, during the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend created by Joe Boughton for his own pleasure and ours.
It seems a blessing to have been there and even more of one to have been allowed to video-record the music, especially since in June 2022, some of the participants have moved to other neighborhoods and others seem to have chosen more relaxing ways of passing the time. I will only say that a few nights ago I was speaking to a person I’d not met before — she and her husband live in Ann Arbor — of how much I miss Jim Dapogny and I had to turn away to control myself.
The heroes are Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; James Dapogny, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Vince Giordano, tuba, string bass; Arnie Kinsella, drums, and the song is the venerable BEALE STREET BLUES, with Marty’s three vocal choruses deeply rooted in Jack Teagarden, which is a lovely thing.
Chris Smith calls this “a joyous and soulful happy blues.” I hope you delight in it as I do:
Yes, these moments of collective ecstasy — and I don’t exaggerate — happen now. I’ve been there and witnessed them. But this assemblage of dear intent artists is not coming our way again, so these minutes are precious. And I would think so even if someone else had held the camera. Bless these fellows all.
Usually in tributes to Bix Beiderbecke, the cornetist gets the bright lights and paparazzi, and this is not to take anything from the brilliant and much-missed Richard M. Sudhalter — but the star here, for me, is George Barnes, whose love of Bix shines through every lucent phrase, every intent hornlike line, every nickel-bright chordal accent. Hear him leaping in on SUNDAY, dressing SWEET SUE in blue, jousting with Signor Joe and giving no quarter, becoming a supportive orchestra on SINGIN’ THE BLUES and then bending notes in his solo the way a master sculptor would, creating an audacious double-time break worthy of young Louis, shining the way on SAN (and chording delightfully behind Marty!).
The fidelity is low but the music is glorious.
Thanks to Derek Coller, the great biographer and enthusiast, we have a precious audience-recording from the Nice Jazz Festival (Grande Parade du Jazz) July 23, 1975: Dick Sudhalter, cornet; George Barnes, electric guitar; Joe Venuti, violin; Marty Grosz, guitar; Michael Moore, string bass; Ray Mosca, drums. SUNDAY / BLUE RIVER (Sudhalter-Grosz) / SWEET SUE (Barnes, Venuti, Grosz, Moore, Mosca) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / SAN:
If this is your first introduction to the many worlds of George Barnes, learn more and hear more at https://georgebarneslegacy.com/. You’ll be charmed and amazed.
In 1975, I was in graduate school, making no money, living at home through the indulgence of my parents . . . but I could also take a commuter train into New York City and end up at Jack Bradley’s New York Jazz Museum on 55th Street, a cassette recorder at my feet, capturing two hours of some of the most inventive small-band swing ever. (No one stopped me, either. Bless you for your tolerance.)
Even at the time, I knew that recordings like this were precious, so now, forty-seven years later, it pleases me to share them with you. Bob Wilber, clarinet and curved soprano saxophone; Kenny Davern, clarinet and straight soprano saxophone; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Mickey Golizio, string bass; Cliff Leeman, drums.
I was in the presence of heroic figures even then; the decades have only increased their stature.
Part One: MEET ME TONIGHT IN DREAMLAND / SONG OF SONGS / CRAZY RHYTHM / HOW CAN YOU FACE ME? (MG, vocal) / OL’ STACK O’LEE BLUES / THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE / BIG BUTTER AND EGG MAN / THE MOOCHE / ONCE IN A WHILE //
Part Two: ISN’T LOVE THE STRANGEST THING? (MG) / OUR MONDAY DATE (MG) / WININ’ BOY BLUES / CHINA BOY // I LET A SONG GO OUT OF MY HEART – DON’T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE / SWEET LORRAINE / FIDGETY FEET / I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU (MG) / INDIAN SUMMER / SOME OF THESE DAYS //
In 2022, I could wish to have been born later, to take the stairs at the pace I once did, but that would mean I’d never been able to hear and see these hot deities a few feet away from me. It wouldn’t be worth it.
I hope this music brings you all joy. (Marty Grosz’s graceful ad-lib in ISN’T LOVE THE STRANGEST THING, “You never know . . . what the lyrics will bring,” still makes me laugh.)
Marty Grosz, or Martin Oliver Grosz, is 92 today. Although he would probably have some derisive comment to make about his birthday or the people who celebrate it — his candor can be a little startling — we are glad he is here to be derisive. And even if he doesn’t want to celebrate the day, we always celebrate him.
Ah, Marty: the surprisingly tender balladeer, the sophisticated orchestral guitarist summoning up Kress and McDonough, the hot vaudevillian rocking (and mocking) the ballad in the best Fats manner. We are blessed by his multiple musical personalities. This tape comes from the collection of the late John L. Fell, and traces its provenance back to John Steiner (who recorded it) and Joe Boughton (who saved it). I treasure it.
When this tape was played for Marty in 2021, thanks to his friend and musical colleague Jim Gicking, he remembered going to a room above Steiner’s garage for what he called “clowning around” that was preserved on tape.
There’s comedy here but also swing and romance: the gifts of Grosz.
In 1956, POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS, by Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, had been a popular standard — first recorded in 1940 by Frank Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey — and was also part of the jazz repertoire. Did Marty hear it on the radio or was it a request at a gig, and did he want to both address its sweetness (think Red McKenzie) and loosen its structure (think Fats Waller) in his own way?
Whatever he was thinking, he and Bob Saltmarsh made an impromptu performance that to me summons up his essence: a Venn diagram of so many overlapping spheres, too intricate to analyze . . . but so rich in pleasure.
All in less than five minutes. And Marty was 26.
In researching this post, I looked into the song itself — even when its lyrics take chances, I’ve always found it charming, and the cyberworld yielded up this gem that would have pleased both Ed Beach and S.J. Perelman. It’s from Wikipedia, so help me: The song has a notable lyric: the man discovers love at a country dance by accidentally bumping into a woman who has a pug nose. The others at the dance are looking strange at this, since her nose makes her someone they wouldn’t think romantically about. But he has the last laugh: she becomes the love of his life, and he settles down with her.
And here’s the brief verse, which I’ve never heard sung or played.
Happy birthday, Marty! We love you, even if you don’t want to hear about it.
I could have called what follows HOT MUSIC FROM DEEP CHICAGO and it would have been equally true: intense improvised readings of two popular songs of the late Twenties by Marty Grosz, guitar; Frank Chace, clarinet; Joe Benge, drums . . . privately recorded, probably by John Steiner, on October 25, 1956. (Source material from Joe Boughton or Wayne Jones, preserved and edited by Hal Smith.)
Marty, of course, is internationally renowned; Frank deserves to be equally celebrated. (Frank called Marty, reverently, “a one-man rhythm gang,” and that’s still true, but I think neither man gets full credit for a lovely yearning lyricism.)
Drummer Joe Benge is almost unknown in jazz circles; he was an Amherst College alumnus at the time of this session, and a member of the college’s Delta Five, which also included the late and much-missed cornetist John Bucher. But he led a fascinating life: he went to Evanston High School, which probably led to his connection with this group; he studied German at Amherst and Northwestern, and worked in advertising: he’s responsible for the “Maytag repairman” ads. In 1972, he became a manager for a canoe outfitter in Ontario; he was an ecological activist and naturalist, also teaching native children. He lived until 2016. Clearly a remarkable person.
Back to my hero (and once-upon-a-time phone conversationalist) Frank Chace. The reflex reaction of the first-time listener is to say, “He sounds just like Pee Wee Russell!” to which I would say, “He revered Pee Wee, but he also revered Omer Simeon, Frank Teschemacher, Jimmie Noone . . . and he folded all these influences into a shape uniquely his.” Close listening will reveal his own sweet-strange inventiveness, which continues to reward, elate, and surprise.
Music, then. CHERRY, from the McKinney’s Cotton Pickers’ book:
and Rodgers and Hart’s BLUE MOON:
As memorable as Casals -Thibaud – Cortot, and hotter. Bless these cats. Forevermore.
Since I’ve been collecting recordings of jazz music in every conceivable form for over fifty years, I don’t always know what I have — which makes for a certain disorganization. (Some people I know have spreadsheets, indices, notebooks of their holdings: not me.) But it also makes for delirious surprises, one of which I will share with you.
The eminent (and generous-spirited) jazz writer and historian Derek Coller was at the 1975 Nice Jazz Festival, an experience I envy. But he also brought along a portable cassette recorder, and sent me copies for me of the tapes he achieved. Wonderful gifts. The sound isn’t recording-studio, and there is talk from enthusiastic fans, but the results are priceless.
Here is the last set of July 23, 1975: Dick Sudhalter, cornet; George Barnes, electric guitar; Joe Venuti, violin; Marty Grosz, guitar; Michael Moore, string bass; Ray Mosca, drums, paying tribute to the dear boy from Davenport, Iowa. Everyone is in wonderful form — even though Joe is characteristically a little overbearing — but the hero of this set is George Barnes, leaping in at wonderfully odd angles, honoring a musician and an inspiration.
JAZZ ME BLUES / SUNDAY [a few measures missing, possibly the tape being turned over] / BLUE RIVER (Sudhalter-Grosz) / SWEET SUE (Sudhalter out) / SINGIN’ THE BLUES / SAN //
Somewhere, Bix is grinning, because these noble creatures had the right idea: follow their impulses, and who knows what’s coming next? — rather than bowing down to the past. I hope you agree.
One of Marty Grosz’s favorite vaudeville bits is to announce the next number, and say “. . . performed with dispatch and vigor,” and then motion to two musicians near him, saying, “That’s Dispatch, and that’s Vigor.” How old it is I don’t know, but it still provokes a laugh from me and the audience. (The expression goes back to the eighteenth century and before: it crops up in a letter from George Washington, which would please Marty if he doesn’t already know it.)
Perhaps the earliest recording we have of Marty (then playing a four-string guitar) and his miraculous colleague Frank Chace dates from 1951, issued on a limited edition 10″lp by THE INTENSELY VIGOROUS JAZZ BAND. The personnel is John Dengler, cornet; Marty Ill, trombone; Frank Chace, clarinet; Hal Cabot, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Stan Bergen, drums. Princeton, New Jersey, May 1951. I have a copy here somewhere, but it proves elusive. From what I remember of the liner notes, Marty and Frank were ringers, added to the Princeton students’ band of the time.
Through the good offices of the very generous collector Hot Jazz 78rpms — who shares marvels regularly on his YouTube channel — I can offer you all of this rather grainy but certainly precious disc. But before you leap into auditory splendor, may I caution you: not everyone on this session is at the same level, but it would be wrong to give it only a passing grade as “semi-pro college Dixieland.” Close listening will reveal subtleties, even in the perhaps overfamiliar repertoire. Marty, Frank, and John shine. And the three Princetonians, none of whom went on to jazz fame, play their roles. With dispatch and vigor.
NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:
BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (a memorable Chace chorus):
I FOUND A NEW BABY:
THE SHEIK OF ARABY (my favorite):
BASIN STREET BLUES:
AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:
and, yes, WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN with some of its original luster intact:
Intense, vigorous, and joyous too. And if you hear echoes of Eddie, Charles Ellsworth, Bix, and their friends, that’s not a bad thing.
The jazz I grew up listening could be pure harmonic improvisation — Coleman Hawkins was a powerful example — but many of the musicians I idolized then and still do: Louis, Jack, Teddy, Ed Hall, Buck, Bobby, and two hundred others, had such love for the melody, which they had grown up with, that they ornamented and embellished it. They put earrings or a scarf on it, a bold bow tie or a cloak, but you always knew it was there. Hearing one of these embellishers play a solo, you could hum the melody alongside (or underneath) and the two lines would gently trot down the same road — not hand-in-hand, but in the same direction and arriving at the same good place.
Some performances dazzle and amaze me; others warm and embrace me. Here’s a gently leisurely example of the latter kind.
It’s a group trotting happily through ROSE ROOM at the Grande Parade du Jazz: Barney Bigard, clarinet, Vic Dickenson, trombone; Dick Sudhalter, cornet; Art Hodes, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Placide Adams, string bass; Panama Francis, drums.
Some small ruminations, first. ROSE ROOM — in its original 1920 form, a love song — was one of Bigard’s features for years, but it’s pleasing to hear he doesn’t revert to his set solo. Listening to his late work is always a joy for me because age had slowed him down just a touch, so his phrases were more varied, and you listened for his tone. (YouTube commenters, vinegary in their recliners, have been mean-spirited about Barney; I wonder how many of them run at the same speed they did thirty-seven years ago.)
Vic Dickenson fit in anywhere as long as the tempo wasn’t punishingly fast, or the band too loud. He didn’t like backgrounds, one of which appears in his second chorus, but he is playing something so delightful that even Bigard and Sudhalter don’t unsettle him. Somewhere I read that Barney and Buster Bailey were two of Vic’s favorite clarinetists; I wish I could remember the third, but it was a mild surprise. Unlike Barney, Vic retained much of his phrase-making fluidity to the end of his life, but his tones, and I emphasize the plural, were marvels in themselves.
Dick Sudhalter was the new boy in the group, but he plays with wonderful style and variety — not reverting to the Bix-phrases some demanded of him, but being comfortable in a kind of easy Mainstream. I’ve highlighted his photograph because — aside from Placide Adams — I think he in this group is most in danger of being forgotten, and he plays so nobly here.
The rhythm section has the diversity (or oddity?) one finds at festivals, where producers delight in assembling people who don’t play together “to see what happens”: Placide Adams, from New Orleans, might have seemed out of his element in this late-Swing context, but he had played and recorded often with Paul Barbarin, so he knew about time; Panama Francis, unlike many of the famous drummers at Nice, also knew time: his steadiness is so comforting. Marty Grosz — a wonderfully fluid rhythmic cushion, filling in all the spaces the other three might have left. Art Hodes, the patriarch, could be unsettlingly spare and percussive, but he is happy in this context in ways that suggest Basie more than anyone else, perhaps resting comfortably on Marty’s eloquent swing support. He takes his time. They all do. There is a tiny train-wreck at the start — confusion that is more on the scale of a model train set — but it repairs itself quickly, and they are off: masters of melody, in solo and ensemble. I, too, find the fidgety multi-camera approach very distracting, but it is part of the particular package — perhaps an emblem of that time and style.
I find it a very sweet performance.
And it says certain things to me about the comfort of a common language, the wisdom and joy that comes from decades of experience in a congenial community. Masters of Melody, so endearing, so durable, who know that ROSE ROOM is more than a set of chord changes:
I wish this band had recorded hours of music, and I think of the times I saw some of its members (bless Marty Grosz for hanging out with us still!) — those sounds are translucent gold in my memory and ears.
Masters of the soprano saxophone Kenny Davern (straight soprano) and Bob Wilber (curved soprano) plus Claude Luter, clarinet, who played alongside Sidney Bechet on dozens of recordings and live performances, pay homage to the Master, with Marty Grosz, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums, at the Grande Parade du Jazz in Nice, France, on July 20, 1975.
SOME OF THESE DAYS / Wilber talks / THE FISH VENDOR / Wilber introduces Claude Luter / PETITE FLEUR (Wilber and Davern out) / ST. LOUIS BLUES (Wilber and Davern return) / DEAR OLD SOUTHLAND (Luter) /CHINA BOY (Wilber and Davern return):
Passion, control, romanticism, swing. You can hear it all.
Some nine years after this performance, I think of my immense good fortune at being “there,” and being able to document these moments. In those nine years, I thought now and again, “I’m going to save these for my retirement,” and now I can say, “Hey, I’m retired! Let the joys commence.”
These two performances — perhaps from a SONGS OF 1928 set? — are accomplished, joyous, and hilarious — created by musicians who can Play while they are Playing and nothing gets lost, nothing is un-swung. For instance: the bass clarinet and taragoto figures created on the spot by Scott Robinson and Dan Block behind Dan Barrett’s DIGA solo — Louis and Duke applaud, but so does Mack Sennett. The jubilant expert Joy-Spreaders are Marty Grosz, guitar and arrangements; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, taragoto; Dan Block, clarinet, bass clarinet.
Ask yourself, “Who’s wonderful? Who’s marvelous?” and the answer is of course MISS ANNABELLE LEE:
and another hit (I hear Irving Mills’ vocalizing) DIGA DIGA DOO:
I feel better than I did ten minutes ago. You, too, I hope. Marty and everyone else in these performances are still with us: talk about good fortune, doubled and tripled.
Do consider. What could be better than an unpublished Fats Waller composition arranged twice for all-star hot jazz band — the arrangers being Marty Grosz and James Dapogny — with the arrangements (different moods, tempi, and keys) played in sequence? I know my question is rhetorical, but you will have the evidence to delight in: a jewel of an extended performance from 2007.
CAUGHT is an almost-unknown Fats Waller composition (first recorded by James Dapogny) presented in two versions, one after the other, at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua, first Marty Grosz’s ominous music-for-strippers, then Dapogny’s romp. One can imagine the many possible circumstances that might have led to this title . . . perhaps unpaid alimony, or other mischief?
The alchemists here are James Dapogny, piano; Marty Grosz, banjo and explanations; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, alto saxophone, clarinet; Scott Robinson, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Vince Giordano, tuba, string bass, bass saxophone; Arnie Kinsella, drums.
Note to meticulous consumers of sounds: this track begins with immense extraneous noise, and Arnie’s accents explode in the listeners’ ears. The perils of criminality: I had a digital recorder in my jacket pocket, so if and when I moved, the sound of clothing is intrusive. I apologize for imperfections, but I am proud of my wickedness; otherwise you wouldn’t have this to complain about:
I have been captivated by this performance for years — the simple line, so developed and lifted to the skies by the performers, the arrangements: the generous music given unstintingly to us. You might say I’ve been CAUGHT.
A wonderful evening! Marty, guitar, vocal, badinage, repartee, stories, insults; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; tuba; string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums.
Let the impatient consumers of pure music be warned: I’ve retained large chunks of Marty’s introductory screeds. Yes, you can scroll forward . . . but in some decades, should we all be around, hearing Marty’s voice and comedy will seem a great gift. (Wouldn’t you like to hear Omer Simeon introducing the next number? I certainly would.) Thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig for making all this happen.
BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?
Later in the evening . . . the light had changed, but the hot-jazz spirits were still in attendance, for this cheerfully homemade performance — not the perfection of recording studio, but full of life.
My adolescent self demands that I point out that Benny Hill used to announce this song as EVERY BABY LOVES MY BODY, which for some, might be true. However, most know it as EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:
There’s more to come from this concert, blessedly. Marty would say mockingly, “Isn’t that interesting?” but this music rises above mockery.
From 2004 until its end in 2017, under a new name, the Jazz at Chautauqua weekend jazz party provided some of the best happy musical moments of my life. I didn’t always have a video camera, nor was I always allowed or encouraged to record the musical proceedings. (Joe Boughton was always kind to me, but stories of his fierce response to disobedience had preceded him.) But I did have a pocket, and in it I hid a Sony digital recorder, which captured some uplifting moments. If you shut your eyes and imagine being there, transcendent hot sounds will transform the next twenty minutes, recorded during the informal Thursday-night session. You’ll hear some rustling (the penalty of sub rosa recording) and the splendid drum accents explode, but shouldn’t they?
The joys are created by Bob Barnard, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Jim Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass; Marty Grosz, guitar; Kevin Dorn, drums: OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT? / DIPPERMOUTH BLUES / SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:
I do hope Carl saved a piece of cake for Marty. These three performances are like a whole bakery to me, and they haven’t become stale after fifteen years.
I confess that a few days ago the Scottish pianist Brian Kellock was not known to me. Yet in under an hour of listening, I’ve become a fan, an advocate, an enthusiast. Some evidence for this burst of feeling: here’s Brian playing Richard Rodgers’ WAIT ‘TIL YOU SEE HER on his 2019 solo CD, BIDIN’ MY TIME:
What I hear first is a kind of clarity: Brian is a sensitive player but someone who’s definite, deeply into The Song and committed to letting its glories be heard. But he is not simply a curator of melody, someone handing the linen-wrapped relic to us to adore. He has imagination and scope; he takes chances. He has a beautiful touch, with technique and power in reserve. And did I say that he swings? Consider this:
Obviously someone to admire, who’s listened but doesn’t copy, who goes his own delightful ways. He’s deep into the only worthwhile activity: absorbing all the influences and stirring them together to come up with himself.
But wait! There’s more . . . let me tell you some things you haven’t heard yet.
Scottish jazz star Brian Kellock has put together a brand-new line-up to celebrate the music and spirit of one of the living legends of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival: the American rhythm guitarist, vocalist, and raconteur Marty Grosz, who recently turned 91.
Brian Kellock (piano), Ross Milligan (guitar) & Roy Percy (bass) are all fans who relished every opportunity to catch Marty when he visited the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in the 1990s and 2000s.
Indeed, 2021 marks the 30th anniversary ofMarty’s very first visit to Edinburgh. And who did he play with duringthat first visit? A young Brian Kellock.
The joy of a Marty Grosz gig is that it is fun. Jazz shouldn’t – in his view – be po-faced or serious. It should be entertaining – just as it was when he was growing up and his favourite musicians included Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, all of whom knew how to put on a show.
His selection of tunes has always been highly distinctive and original: whereas other musicians pull the same old numbers out of the bag wherever they play, Marty – also known as a member of 1970s supergroup Soprano Summit – built an international solo career on the tunes that jazz had forgotten. And then he put his own imaginative twist on them. If he had a small group, he would dream up a memorable arrangement, often on the spot, and if he was playing solo, there would be so much colour in his playing that you’d forget you were only listening to one guy.
At the Marty Party, Brian will – as Marty often has – play 20 minutes as a soloist before Ross and Roy join him onstage. This will be an affectionate and fun homage to a longstanding Edinburgh Jazz Festival favourite; a musician who, although he no longer travels to Scotland, continues to delight aficionados (and the rest of their households) with his generous back catalogue of recordings, by a range of bands with such witty names as the Orphan Newsboys, the Paswonky Serenaders, Marty Grosz and His Swinging Fools, and Marty Grosz and His Hot Puppies.
Brian Kellock says: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be playing music associated with Marty Grosz at my first ‘live’ gig since before the pandemic. Marty’s records have boosted my spirits many times over the last 18 months, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the joy of playing jazz in front of an audience again. I’m delighted to be introducing a new line-up, with Roy and Ross, and hoping that this core combo will be joined by a horn player or two for future Marty-inspired gigs.”
Brian Kellock’s Marty Party, Assembly Roxy, Wednesday July 21 at 2pm – live and online. Tickets from edinburghjazzfestival.com
As a former college professor of mine used to say, most endearingly, “I commend this to you.”
Here’s the music I’ve already posted from this fine funny festive evening:
Perhaps after ST. LOUIS BLUES, I GOT RHYTHM, and STARDUST, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE is the most famous song (or famous set of chord changes) in jazz. Tom Lord’s online jazz discography lists 1561 recorded versions beginning in 1929. This one won’t be listed there, but we can enjoy it anyway.
There’s more to come from this summery evening where friends gathered to celebrate Marty, singing and playing, of course with Dispatch and Vigor at his side.
Marty Grosz has long had an affinity for the music of Fats Waller, which is only right. Here, at his June 23 concert, he offers two Waller classics for our pleasure and enlightenment, with an autobiographical interlude in between. The Members of the Ensemble, who so nobly support Martin Oliver Grosz on his Quest for Swing, are Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal.
KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW:
“I HAVE TO TELL YOU A LITTLE HISTORY”:
HOW CAN YOU FACE ME?:
Once again, immense thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig for making this evening’s festivities happen. There are more treats to come . . .
I am very pleased to be able to report that the Second Marty Party happened, that I attended same, and that I can share delightful video evidence with those of you who didn’t get to sit under the tent in the blissful night air. Immense thanks are due Barry Wahrhaftig for his inspired persistence and devotion to the art.
The band — dubbed “Marty Grosz and the Self-Preservation Orchestra,” is Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, badinage; Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn, Jack Saint Clair, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Jim Gicking, trombone; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, string bass, tuba; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal. Here they perform LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, which bows to Bing Crosby, Eddie Condon, Milt Gabler, and Pee Wee Russell. Shades of Fifty-Second Street under the tent, among the trees:
A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.
Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.
The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.
Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):
Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.
Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.
Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!
Here’s almost an hour of late-period Condonia, presented by Johnson “Fat Cat” McRee as a simulation of one of Eddie’s Town Hall / Ritz Theatre / Carnegie Hall concerts or broadcasts, circa 1944-5. By 1989, few people who had actually played with Eddie were still doing it, but the people on this stand knew their roles well and they offered heartfelt hot music. They are or were John Jensen, Art Poncheri, tbn, Brooks Tegler, Johnny Blowers, d; Marty Grosz, Steve Jordan, g; Kenny Davern, Tommy Gwaltney, Bobby Gordon, cl; Connie Jones, Tommy Saunders, cnt; Clyde Hunt, tp; Betty Comora, voc; Al Stevens, p; Johnny Williams, b.
CHINA BOY Stevens, Davern, Saunders, Poncheri, Hunt, Johnny Williams, Jordan, Brooks / SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES Poncheri, Stevens, Williams / UNDECIDED Jensen-Poncheri, Stevens, Jordan, Williams, Brooks / [RIALTO RIPPLES Stevens] / AT SUNDOWN Saunders, Hunt, Davern, Gordon, Gwaltney, Jensen, Poncheri, rhythm / Blowers in for Brooks, add Connie NEW ORLEANS / Betty DON’T BLAME ME / add Marty Grosz et al. SHEIK – OLE MISS [McRee, kazoo] //
Here’s the flyer for the series, thanks to JAZZ LIVES’ friend, Mr. McGown: obviously printed well in advance, because not everyone announced was able to make the concerts — but those who could brought their best selves:
Beautiful music, embracing the past but wholly alive in 1989.
I am sorry to report that the concert by Marty Grosz and Friends (presented by Barry Wahrhaftig for the Hot Club of Philadelphia) scheduled for this evening at the Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia has been postponed because of the threat of thunderstorms. But it will happen on Wednesday, June 23rd and I believe there are a few seats left.
Disappointing news. But we wouldn’t want the sounds of the band “drowned out” by rain on the roof. And here is a consolation, I hope — Marty and the Collector’s Item Cats performing IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN (IN CHERRY BLOSSOM LANE) which is meteorologically appropriate. The Cats — recorded by our hero Doug Pomeroy in 1993 — are Peter Ecklund, Scott Robinson, and Greg Cohen:
I am sorry that YouTube doesn’t offer Marty playing INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL, but you get the idea. See you on the 23rd!
I find it amazing and wonderful when my jazz heroes actually inhabit the same planet that I am on, that they are not only sounds coming out of a speaker but people I can see and hear in 2021. One such remarkably durable fellow, born in 1930, is Martin Oliver Grosz, MOG to some, Marty Grosz, guitarist, singer, banjoist, monologist, vaudeville star, writer (have you read his autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE?).
Marty will be appearing (yes!) in concert at the Awbury Arboretum in Philadelphia, on Wednesday, May 26, from 6:30 – 8:30, with Vince Giordano, Danny Tobias, and Jack Saint Clair, all of this presented by the Barry Wahrhaftig and the Hot Club of Philadelphia: details here. Tickets here. But it’s a small venue, so I wouldn’t wait until Wednesday to attempt to get a seat.
Writing about Marty without providing evidence of his musical life-force would be mingy. So here’s a half-hour of multicolored joys from the past. It was recorded on 1/29/84, at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago: Frank Chace, clarinet; Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; Dan Shapera, string bass. The songs are OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT? / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU / LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY (MG vocal) / SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME. Possibly recorded by Joe Boughton; details thanks to Hal Smith:
Two other things, very briefly. The wonderful string bassist heard here, Dan Shapera, is still with us. Blessings and thanks to you, Sir! And my Homeric epithet for Marty, “a one-man rhythm gang,” was the coinage of Frank Chace, who valued Marty more than words could and can say. For all the hot hi-jinks on this tape, it’s Frank’s two ballads that go right to my heart.
Enjoy the past — but get you to the Arboretum to savor the present. And the presents.