Tag Archives: Marty Grosz

IT MUST BE JELLY: ANDREW OLIVER and DAVID HORNIBLOW PLAY MORTON

The COMPLETE MORTON PROJECT keeps on rolling along, which is lovely.  We know there isn’t an infinite supply of Morton compositions — which makes me a little nervous, thinking of the end — but their steady progress, song by song, is more than uplifting.

And since I am always a little behind the best runners, here are four more.  IF YOU KNEW comes from the late sessions for the General label (“Tavern Tunes” — for the jukebox market in places where people drank alcohol?) but my thought is that if you knew how good this music was, and you surely do, you would spread the word:

and the beautifully tender love song, SWEET SUBSTITUTE, here with equal time given to the yearning verse.

I think I first heard Henry “Red” Allen’s 1965 version — he had been on the original session — and then other heroes, Rebecca Kilgore and Marty Grosz, did it also.  But this version is just as heartfelt:

and this week’s basket of Jelly!

Beginning with a wild romp that is either near to or right on top of FAREWELL BLUES, Jelly’s BURNIN’ THE ICEBERG, a title that makes me uncomfortable in the face of global warming / climate change / welcome, O Doom / whatever you’d like to call it:

and finally, the spectacularly evocative WININ’ BOY BLUES, which has as many interpretations attached to it as you can imagine.  Looking around online for the record label below, I found someone reproducing the lyrics as “whining boy.”  For goodness’ sake.  Morton never whined, nor does his music.

Perhaps the truth lies in between the Library of Congress lyrics and the idea of someone bringing wine to resuscitate hard-working women:

Yes, it MUST be Jelly when Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow get together, no matter which side of the room the piano nestles, although they can and do play many more beautiful songs.  Wonderfully.

P.S.  And. . . . have you heard the Vitality Five’s latest e-78, which pairs LAND OF COTTON BLUES and THAT’S NO BARGAIN?  Check it out (as they used to say on the Forty-Second Street of my adolescence — New Yorkers will get the reference — here.

May your happiness increase!

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I CALL ON KIM CUSACK (Part One): MARCH 27, 2018

Paul Asaro, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet

I admire the reedman and occasional vocalist Kim Cusack immensely and had done so through recordings for a long time before we met in person.  When we exchanged courtesies and compliments at a California festival — perhaps the San Diego Jazz Fest in 2011? — I was thrilled by his music as it was created on the spot, and I liked the man holding the clarinet a great deal.

A hero-worshiper, I found occasions to stand at the edge of a small circle when Kim was telling a story.  And what he had to tell us was plenty.  He never tells jokes but he’s hilarious with a polished deadpan delivery and the eye for detail of a great writer.

I had said to another hero, Marc Caparone, “I wish I could get Kim to sit for a video interview,” and Marc — ever the pragmatist — said, “Ask him!” I did, and the result was a visit to Kim and the endearing Ailene Cusack (she’s camera-shy but has her own stories) in their Wisconsin nest.

The results are a dozen vignettes: illuminating, sharply observed, and genuine.  Kim’s stories are about the lively, sometimes eccentric people he knows and has known.  I am honored to have had the opportunity, and I hope you enjoy the videos.  I know I did and do.

I’ve prefaced each video with a very brief sketch of what it contains.

Early days, going back to fifth grade, and early influences, including Spike Jones, moving up to high school and a paying gig, with side-glances at rock ‘n’ roll and the Salty Dogs:

From Career Day at Kim’s high school to early adulthood, and a seven-year stint teaching, with Eddy Davis, Darnell Howard, Mike Walbridge, James Dapogny, the Chicago Stompers, the Salty Dogs, Frank Chace, Marty Grosz, Lew Green, Wayne Jones, and the saga of Paul’s Roast Round:

From the Chicago Stompers and union conflicts to Art Hodes and Ted Butterman and Wayne Jones to Kim’s secret career as a piano player . . . and the elusive piano recording, and a mention of Davey Jones of Empirical Records:

Kim’s portraits of distinctive personalities Ted Butterman, Bob Sundstrom, Little Brother Montgomery, Booker T. Washington, Rail Wilson, Peter Nygaard, Phyllis Diller and her husband “Fang,” the Salty Dogs, Eddy Davis, George Brunis, Stepin Fetchit and OL’ MAN RIVER in Ab. Work with Gene Mayl and “Jack the Bear” on trumpet. And Barrett Deems!  (More Deems stories to come.)

More portraits, including Gene Mayl, Monte Mountjoy, Gus Johnson, the legendary George Brunis, Nappy Trottier, who “could really play,” Wild Bill Davison, Johnson McRee. And a playing trip to Alaska for three weeks with Donny McDonald and later Ernie Carson:

Scary airplane trips with the Gene Mayl band over Alaska, and a glance at the splendid pianist John Ulrich, a happy tourist:

I have six more vignettes to share, with memories of Norm Murphy, Frank Chace, Barrett Deems, Bob Skiver, Little Brother Montgomery, and more.  My gratitude to Kim and Ailene Cusack, for making this pilgrimage not only possible but sweet, rewarding fun.

May your happiness increase!

“FUTURISTIC RHYTHMS: IMAGINING THE LATER BIX BEIDERBECKE,” by ANDY SCHUMM AND HIS SINK-O-PATORS”

Even to the casual viewer, this CD, just out on Rivermont Records, is immediately enticing.  For one thing, and it cannot be undervalued, it has The Name on its cover — the dear boy from Iowa.  Catnip to many.  Then, Joe Busam’s lovely funny cover, perfectly evoking Jim Flora’s work — as well as presenting a band led by the splendid Andy Schumm.  It also (in that band name) has an inside joke for the cognoscenti, who turn hot and cold on request.  Some will delight in the concept, jazz time-travel, brought to us by the erudite Julio Schwarz Andrade, imagining what Bix would have played in a variety of contexts had he lived longer.  The conceit does nothing for me (I think the dead have the right to be left alone, not dressed up for Halloween) but I love the music, thrilling in its ease and subtlety.

Hearing Andy Schumm, cornet; Ewan Bleach, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Andrew Oliver, piano; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Tom Wheatley, string bass; Nicholas D. Ball, drums — now, that’s a rare pleasure.  You can see the song titles below, and the Musical Offering is neatly divided between a scattering of familiar tunes and some deeply lyrical ones that have become obscure.  (I hadn’t heard THINGS and OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY before, and WHY CAN’T YOU BEHAVE is memorable to me only because of a wondrous recording by Spike Mackintosh.)  The first ten songs were meant to be the official recording session, with the last two — hot “warm-up” performances added as a delightful bonus: we’re lucky the recording equipment was switched on.

Back to the music.  There are lovely little touches.  MOTEN SWING uses the riffs from the 1932 Victor recording, and the lyrical numbers still retain the slight bounce one would have heard in Thirties “rhythm ballads.”  Indeed, the whole session has the delightful motion of, perhaps, a Marty Grosz session from the end of the previous century.  This, of course, is helped along considerably by the wonderful Martin Wheatley — hear him on RAIN and elsewhere.  The CD also reminded me most happily of sessions by Marty and by Ruby Braff because of the cheering variety of approaches within each performance.  I offer the rubato Oliver-Schumm verse to  THE NEARNESS OF YOU as a heartening example, followed by a poignant Bleach tenor solo.  There’s none of the usual tedium that results from a surfeit of ensemble-solos-ensemble.  (I think of certain live sessions in the Seventies I attended where after the requisite single ensemble chorus, the clarinet always took the first solo.  Routine of this sort has a chilling effect.)

The members of the rhythm section, Messrs. Oliver, Wheatley, and Ball, add their own special bounce to the music.  I know Andrew Oliver these days as a Mortonist and have known Nick Ball as a scholar of pre-Swing drumming, but they aren’t antique in any way.  And the two Wheatleys, father and son, are a wonderful team: the right notes in the right places.  As fine as Andy and Ewan are, one could listen to any track on this disc solely to revel in, and learn from, this rhythm team.  As an example, OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY.

Ewan Bleach is new to me and delightful: his work on either horn is floating and supple, and I never felt he was reaching for a particular phrase that someone had recorded eighty years ago.  His solos have their own lithe charm and his ensemble playing is the great work of an intuitive conversationalist who knows when to add a few notes and when to be still.  I looked in Tom Lord’s discography and found that I’d already admired his work with the Basin Street Brawlers.  I hope the reaction to this CD is such that Mr. Bleach gets a chance to record a horn-with-rhythm session of his own.

And Andy Schumm.  Yes.  I just heard him in person in my Wisconsin jaunt, and he hasn’t ceased to amaze and please, whether leaping in to his solo, playing a wistful coda, or lyrically purling his way through one of the rhythm ballads I’ve mentioned above.  To my ears — here comes another heresy — he isn’t Bix, nor is he the reincarnation of Bix.  He is Andy Schumm, and that’s a wonderful thing, with its own joyous surprises.

Buy it here.  I did.  You won’t regret it.

May your happiness increase!

UNEARTHED TREASURES: MARTY GROSZ, DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JON BURR, RICKY MALICHI at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (September 22, 2012)

A few more previously unseen beauties from the September 2012 appearance of Marty Grosz and his Sentient Stompers at the much-missed Jazz at Chautauqua, held at the Hotel Athenaeum.

Faithful readers will know I and my team of Oxford University-trained archaeologists have been uncovering marvels this year, featuring (collectively) Marty, Andy Schumm, Scott Robinson, John Sheridan, Kerry Lewis, Pete Siers, Jon-Erik Kellso, and Bob Havens.  The findings are on view here, and here,  and here.  Don’t push; don’t crowd.  All of them, including this post, come with great gratitude to Nancy Hancock Griffith, and those of us who were there know why.

And now, three more marvels by the gentlemen listed in the post’s title.  For the uninitiated, Marty Grosz, guitar and occasional banter; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, taragoto, tenor saxophone; Dan Block, clarinet, bass clarinet, and trumpet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.  And you’ll notice that these splendid improvisers are also sight-reading Marty’s arrangements, another thing to admire them for.

First a very Ellingtonian approach to the theme of erotic expertise:

Then, a swinging arrangement of TOO MARVELOUS FOR WORDS, with an intro that sounds like BIG CHIEF DE SOTA (also circa 1937) and with room for a wonderful surprise: Dan Block on trumpet:

Musical savagery from the early Thirties, with Dan Block’s bass clarinet solo:

What treasures!  To me, worth more than unearthed Troy.  But that’s just me.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURES, CONTINUED: MARTY GROSZ, ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, PETE SIERS: JAZZ at CHAUTAUQUA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

Jazz groups often choose well-established formats: the piano trio; the bebop quintet; the trad or swing sextet.  But “unorthodox” bands offer wonderful surprises.

“Tell us a story, Mister Grosz!” Photo by Lynn Redmile

Marty Grosz likes such original assemblages: two  horns, guitar and string bass, for instance, all unamplified.  And in the case of this morning set at Jazz at Chautauqua, not so long ago, Marty assembled two especially nimble horn players, a pianist, himself, and a very sensitive drummer who used snare and wire brushes only.  It happened in this century, but it felt like a dream of the old days, thanks to Andy Schumm, Scott Robinson, John Sheridan, and Pete Siers.  Now, thanks to the glories of teleportation, and thanks to Nancy Hancock Griffith, we can go there also.

Calling Mr. Berlin!

Marty without Fats just wouldn’t be Marty:

and a homage to the esteemed and elusive Horace Gerlach and his co-composer, Mister Strong:

Marty turned 88 — yes, eighty-eight — a few days ago.  He probably won’t see this post, but it is a deeply admiring salute to his delightful selves.  This place wouldn’t be the same without him.  And here’s a 2013 missive from MOG:

May your happiness increase!

THEY DO THE THING, AND SPLENDIDLY: ETHAN LEINWAND / VALERIE KIRCHHOFF

If you don’t get to St. Louis often, these two people may be unfamiliar to you.  But they make excellent music.

You say you’d like to hear some?  Consider this — a short film by Bill Streeter:

and this, which pairs Ethan with Valerie Kirschhoff:

A friend told me about Ethan and Valerie, and I’ve been listening to their CDs with great pleasure.  I know that comparisons are not only odious, but they cause one to lose friends, but Ethan and Valerie, together or singly, have got it.  By “it” I mean a certain easy authority and authenticity: when they perform their special music — the low-down St. Louis blues, rags, and pop of the time — I don’t feel as if they are children playing at being adults, nor do I feel that I am listening to copies of 78s.  (However, if they’d been born a century ago, you would, I am sure, know them from their recordings on Paramount, Bluebird, and Decca.  They’re that much in the groove.)

Ethan and Valerie have a certain brash tenderness that is very much appealing, and although I hear echoes of certain performers (famous and obscure) I hear the personalities of these two — in this century — coming right at me.  This is rare and delicious, and even when they perform songs that are by today’s standards “ancient,” they seem full of emotion and fun.

And they are not shallow: by that I mean that certain young “stride” pianists have taught themselves AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ and four other tunes; certain young singers know GOD BLESS THE CHILD and FINE AND MELLOW . . . and then it’s time for a break.  One of the pleasures of the three CDs I have on hand: THE ST. LOUIS STEADY GRINDERS, MISS JUBILEE: “THROW ME IN THE ALLEY,” and Ethan’s solo piano offering, THE LOW-DOWN PIANO, is the scholarly breadth of their chosen repertoire.  It’s not simply a non-stop parade of twelve-bar blues (incidentally, the closing video of this blog shows Valerie, with ukulele and friends, including Marty Eggers, making a meal of MURDER IN THE MOONLIGHT, which belongs to Mound City hero Red McKenzie, although Marty Grosz has brought it back in recent times).

In his solo recital, Ethan plays compositions by Romeo Nelson, Little Brother Montgomery, Jabo Williams, Montana Taylor, and others in addition to the expected heroes; I was familiar with two of the sixteen compositions on the GRINDERS CD, and MISS JUBILEE dips happily into Thirties ephemera, including THE DUCK’S YAS YAS YAS and JERRY THE JUNKER.  (In fact, on that CD — with friends — the overall effect is somewhere between Clarence Williams and the Lil Hardin Armstrong small groups, with a dash of the Washboard Rhythm Kings, and completely refreshing — a kind of hot elegant rawness, a wild oxymoron that will make sense with the first listening.)

I am not writing as much as I might, because I’d rather listeners go to the videos and sound samples to enjoy for themselves.  Ethan and Valerie have put up many videos on YouTube, and they have an expansive online presence, as one must these days.

Here is Ethan’s website. And here is the site for MISS JUBILEE — the aptly-named group Valerie and Ethan co-lead.  And the Facebook page for the ST. LOUIS STEADY GRINDERS — who also live up to their proud title, never faltering or hesitating.

You can listen to excerpts from and buy MISS JUBILEE’s CDs here and the same is true for Ethan’s solo piano CD  here.

They are very welcome: they make the best noises, and they spread joy in all directions.

May your happiness increase!

HIDDEN TREASURE: MARTY GROSZ and THE CELLAR BOYS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 22, 2012): ANDY SCHUMM, SCOTT ROBINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, KERRY LEWIS, PETE SIERS

Marty Grosz and Bob Haggart, date and location not known

When you’ve shot as many videos as I have — over a decade’s worth — there’s a sizable treasure chest of the unseen.  Sometimes videos are buried for good reason, the primary one being musicians’ unhappiness with the results.  And since we aim to please, I don’t post what offends the creators.

But a few weeks ago, during an atypical tussle with insomnia, I was sitting at my computer at 3:30 AM, looking at unlisted videos stored safely on YouTube, and I found this rousing delight.  The musicians who like to approve of my postings have approved, so I can share it with you.  It’s a hot half-hour with Marty Grosz and his Cellar Boys, from Jazz at Chautauqua, probably a Sunday morning, the exact date noted above.

That’s Marty on guitar, vocal, commentary (yes, he does like to expound, but commenters who complain will be teleported to another blog); Andy Schumm, cornet and miscellaneous instrument; Scott Robinson, reeds and inventiveness; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.

The real breadstick, as Marty would say.

Sucrose, no corn syrup:

Don’t tell me different — I know I’m right!  Watch Andy and Scott do magic:

And a series of wonderful hot surprises:

Once, when I was in Dublin, I found the Oxfam charity shop (as they would call it) and sniffed out the small shelf of recordings.  Very little of interest, but there was one jazz lp — autographed by the band, and the band had Keith Ingham in it. I clutched it to my chest, fearful that someone would steal it away, and when I approached the cash register, the gracious woman volunteer looked at me, smiled, and said, “Well, YOU’VE found a treasure, haven’t you?”

That’s how I feel about these videos.  Blessings on the musicians and of course on Nancy Hancock Griffith, who made it all possible.

May your happiness increase!