Tag Archives: Marx Brothers

THREE BY THREE: GABRIELE DONATI, EHUD ASHERIE, JASON BROWN at CLUB 75 (May 21, 2019)

We begin with John McCormack.  “Why?” you ask.  It’s not because of my Irish Studies connections . . . the link is musical.

Ler’s move to a more assertive improvisation — created at the 75 Club on May 21, 2019, by Gabriele Donati, string bass; Ehud Asherie, piano; Jason Brown, drums:

Brilliance without ostentation.  And then . . . .

the even more obscure song, the 1930 SO BEATS MY HEART FOR YOU:

Finally, a film song with a solid place in the jazz repertoire:

and this wonderful breakneck performance:

The erudite among us will note associations to Art Tatum, who recorded all three songs.  Art Farmer, Bud Powell, Ivie Anderson, the Marx Brothers, Barry Harris, Lee Morse, Marty Grosz and more, have improvised on these themes.  I hope all listeners will admire the music and the 75 Club, on 75 Murray Street, New York City — close to the Chambers Street stop, with a multitude of trains.

A postscript: this post is for the energetic Maureen Murphy, a dear friend whom I first knew as a world-renowned Irish scholar (this was in 1970): she also loves jazz piano.

May your happiness increase!

TEN EASY LESSONS: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS, CLINT BAKER, and PIETER MEIJERS at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 25, 2012)

I could easily have titled this blogpost ‘S’WONDERFUL, the title tune and an apt capsule review of this performance by the Reynolds Brothers.  In case you’ve just come to this party, the Reynolds Brothers are John Reynolds (guitar, banjo, vocal, whistling); Ralf Reynolds (washboard, vocal, keeper of the peace); Marc Caparone (cornet, vocal); Katie Cavera (string bass, vocal); guests and friends Clint Baker (trombone); Pieter Meijers (clarinet).  Here they are at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival, spreading all kinds of joy.

‘S’WONDERFUL:

GOT A BRAN’ NEW SUIT, that sweetly joyous 1935 song recorded by both Fats and Louis.  And it’s a “Tecla pearl” in the lyrics, something that I need more information about:

“Fetch me that gin, son.”  Hoagy’s ROCKIN’ CHAIR:

NEVER SWAT A FLY (with lyrics that should be common knowledge in most educational endeavors):

OUT OF NOWHERE (thanks to Bing, Russ, Don Byas, and many others):

Feeling peckish? Beans and cabbage, but I like PEPPER STEAK:

Having eaten, we feel remorse.  And the question becomes WAS THAT THE HUMAN THING TO DO?:

Carpe diem, Sisters and Brothers — grab someone while you’re still YOUNG AND HEALTHY:

Even if you’re no longer young and healthy, LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:

And to close, this swing affirmation, ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM:

If you were to ask, “Ten easy lessons in what, Michael?” the answers come out in a rush: How to swing.  How to let the heroes of the past live through you.  How to create a warm sound and a warm rapport with the audience.  How to make people feel happier than they were an hour earlier.  How to play and sing with heart, mixing precision and abandon.  But you can add your own responses to my list.

May your happiness increase.

HAVE YOU HEARD?

Upon hearing the news, Chloe Lang (the West Coast JAZZ LIVES mascot) was suddenly wide awake and wanted to know more!

What news?

How about a new CD compilation of live recordings  featuring pianist Ray Skjelbred and hot cornetist Jim Goodwin from Port Costa, CA gigs?  The CD is called — simply — RAY SKJELBRED ABD JIM GOODWIN / RECORDED LIVE IN PORT COSTA, and it’s issued on Ray’s own label, “Orangapoid,” number 104.  All the music was recorded at the Bull Valley Inn.

So far it’s available only at Ray’s gigs — which is a good thing: you get to see him and take this home, too! — but I wonder if he would be willing to sell it to those not likely to get to the West Coast soon.  Postage and packing are a nuisance, but you could ask — sweetly — at http://www.rayskjelbred.com.

Lovely songs: SLEEPY TIME GAL, PLEASE BE KIND, THE DAY YOU CAME ALONG, RUSSIAN LULLABY, THE RIVER’S TAKING CARE OF ME, LAZY BONES, EVERYONE SAYS “I LOVE YOU,” CHARLESTON, TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE, BLACK AND TAN FANTASY, SWEET SUE, MY DADDY ROCKS ME, LIVIN’ IN A GREAT BIG WAY, HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON?

You’ll notice some lovely ballads and rhythm ballads, early Ellingtonia, rocking dance music, nods to the Marx Brothers, Red Allen, Bing Crosby, Fats Waller, the blues, Bill Robinson . . . good bones, as they say!

The players — of course Ray and Jim, but also Mike Duffy, string bass; Tom Keats, rhythm guitar; Brett Runkle, washboard, Lueder Ohlwein, banjo; Dan Barrett, trombone; John “Butch” Smith, soprano sax; Norvin Armstrong, piano.  Ray sings — wonderfully — on EVERYONE and IN A GREAT BIG WAY.

What’s so special about this disc, all sixty-nine minutes of it?

This is the kind of music that great jazz players create for themselves when there is a congenial audience or none at all: relaxed, swinging, small intense masterpieces of hot architecture where the second chorus builds in elegantly rough-hewn ways upon the first.  It’s the kind of music that rarely makes it whole into the recording studio — and since the Bull Valley Inn is no longer anyone’s music mecca (we drove serendipitously through Port Costa in the summer of 2011: it looked like the set for a Western that hadn’t been completed) . . . . and since Jim is dead, this CD is priceless evidence of days gone by.  And the past leaps to life in our speakers!

Even Chloe thought so.

For Goodwin in searing hot form, here’s the Sunset Music Company from 1979 romping through I NEVER KNEW with

The band was led by banjoist Ohlwein, with Goodwin, Barrett, clarinetist Bill Carter (temporarily filling in for John Smith), bassist Mike Fay, drummer Jeff Hamilton: every one of their recordings on Dan’s BLUE SWING FINE RECORDINGS is worth hearing.

And in case you’ve never seen or heard the eloquent Mr. Skjelbred, here’s a sample, TISHOMINGO BLUES, recorded by Rae Ann Berry in 2009:

Imagine them together — musing, cracking private musical jokes, digging deep into the songs they are playing.  Heart-stirring music from the first note to the last.

P.S.  I count myself very lucky: having met and / or heard Barrett, Hamilton, Smith, Fay, Carter. Norvin Armstrong – – – and I’ll get to shake Ray Skjelbred’s hand at the Jazz Bash by the Bay this March 2.  Wow!

FAMILIES THAT PLAY TOGETHER (at DIXIELAND MONTEREY, March 5, 2011)

They stay together, if you hadn’t noticed.

Here’s more rollicking joy from Dixieland Monterey (the Jazz Bash by the Bay) that I attended in March 2011.

(“Attended” isn’t really the right word — too formal — but I can’t find a really good way to say “floated.”  I’m still floating, and if you wonder why you need only to sit down in front of the videos below.)

This was a session held at the Wharf Theatre.  It wasn’t billed as FAMILY REUNION, but it might as well have been. 

First, the Reynolds Brothers (and they are!): John Reynolds on National steel guitar, vocals, and sweet whistling, and brother Ralf on washboard, whistle, emotional uplift, and traffic control. 

Then there’s the Caparone Family.  Marc on cornet; his father Dave (the fellow over to the left of your screen, looking very serious, sounding like Benny Morton — in fact, sounding like Don Redman’s trombone section of 1932-3 with an occasional nod to Dicky Wells — a real prize!), and daughter-in-law Dawn Lambeth (vocals, piano, and cheer). 

Observant eyes will catch that Dawn is about to become a Jazz Mommy (Marc had something to do with this, it was told to me) so there’s another generation of Caparone onstage.  And baby does make three! 

The sole non-relative was the sweetly leafy Katie Cavera (string bass and vocals) . . . but everyone who meets Katie adopts her within the first few minutes, so she’s not an outsider.

Free-range and locally sourced, too!  She’s NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW (for the dancers):

Jazz scholars will note so many wonderful influences floating through these performance: Bing, the QHCF, Louis, Basie, Steve Brown, Red Allen, Billie Holiday, Teddy Wilson, Bobby Hackett, Lee Wiley, the Marx Brothers, Brunswick Records, the Washboard Rhythm Kings, Steve Washington, and more.

Time for something deeply satisfying in its sweetness: and watch everyone’s face as they feel the love on that stand, just as we do.  What tenderness as Dawn, Dave, and Marc celebrate SUGAR!

Something exultant — from the man who wrote the brooding ON GREEN DOLPHIN STREET — a song from A DAY AT THE RACES (originally sung by Ivie Anderson).  How they rock it here!  And at the end, Marc reminds us of a song from another 1937 movie.  Hint: “Mister Gloom won’t be about / Music always knocks him out.”  Here’s ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM:

Dawn had a cold — a great problem for a singer! — but her natural swinging heart, her spirited earnestness comes through complete . . . and no one bends and slides into notes as she does.  Here, MY BLUE HEAVEN, the perfectly appropriate song for the moment, with the verse.  And Marc suggests what might have happened if Louis and the Mills Brothers had recorded this one for Decca, before Papa Dave and John show what they can do:

One of the great delights is being introduced to a “new” “old” song — from 1922 or 1923 . . . a song Vic Dickenson loved (although I never heard him play it), TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME.  Isn’t it wonderful how lovely / hilariously comfortable Whislin’ John Reynolds is in front of an audience!  He’s a thrill and a hoot all in one.  And the brass section — worth another watching.  Like father, like son.  More below*:

Finally, something sweet and tenderly nostalgic — Dawn sings BLUE ROOM, which has very endearing lyrics (although the position the lovers find themselves in — an innocent one — might lead to neck pain, whether your head is wee or not):

“Every day’s a holiday” with a band like this, for sure!

While watching these videos, I keep thinking of Baby Lambeth-Caparone, who’s going to greet the new day at the end of March 2011.  Someday that Baby is going to be able to see these clips and say, “There’s Mommy, and Daddy, and Grandpa, and I was there, too!”  Yes, Baby — you were swinging with your families.

CLICK HERE TO GIVE BACK TO THE MUSICIANS IN THE VIDEOS (ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM):

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FOR BIX BEIDERBECKE (The Ear Inn, March 13, 2011)

I do not know what memories Bix Beiderbecke had of New York.  Aside from that terrible apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, where he died, I think that many of them were good: recording for OKeh, jamming in Harlem, playing against the Henderson band, drinking at Plunkett’s.  Bixians can, I am sure, supply more.

Although Bix has been gone a long time, New Yorkers still celebrate him in many ways: a vigil on the anniversary of his death; WKCR-FM plays his music on his birthday, and (this year) the EarRegulars devoted an evening to honoring him.

The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Matt Munisteri (guitar), founding members, with Pete Martinez (Albert system clarinet) and Greg Cohen (string bass).  And they played as if Bix was seated at the bar, grinning appreciatively — which, in a way, he always is.

Here’s Hoagy’s FREE WHEELING — later named RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, a wondrous way to start things off.  Catch Jon-Erik’s clarion, flexible lines, Greg’s fervent support.  Pete’s quotation early in his first chorus is a delicious in-joke.  As ALONE, it is the romantic number in the Marx Brothers’ A NIGHT AT THE OPERA.  And his second chorus — only Matt could follow something like that, and how nimbly he does!  Jon-Erik soars; Greg stomps, and the closing ensemble is a triumphant paradox: searing hot and cool to the touch at the same time:

It took me several choruses to recall the name of the next selection — it’s THERE’LL COME A TIME and it’s a tribute to the deep affection and deeper recall that all the editions of the EarRegulars show — not in an academic or pretentious way, but with love.  This version, deliciously, has an easy stroll to it — it could be a 1938 Basie-inspired small group recording for Commodore, couldn’t it?  (Think of Buck, Lester, Durham, Page.)  And wait until the very end — the equine commentary is here and intact:

Pianist and wit Jeff Barnhart says that SAN has the distinction of being the Dixieland tune with the shortest title.  I wouldn’t deny that, but it’s also a rocking composition — especially the way the EarRegulars launch into it, with quartet telepathy all around:

Finally, a song I take as a tribute to my serene and well-establish standing in academia — the JAZZ ME BLUES — which has the immortal line, worthy of Keats, “Professor, come on and jazz me!”  I would have responded but it would have required that I put my camera down, so I couldn’t:

Bix thanks you.  We all thank you, gentlemen of the ensemble!

DON’T BE IN A MIST!  CLICK HERE TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE MUSICIANS IN THE VIDEOS (ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM):

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FIRST-HAND: KEITH INGHAM AND THE JAZZ MASTERS

Happily for me, I have written the liner notes for pianist Keith Ingham’s new CD for Arbors — with Frank Tate and Steve Little, aptly called ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM. 

Keith invited me to his Manhattan apartment to talk about the songs he’d chosen for the date.  But once we had finished our official business, he was delighted to tell stories about the American jazz masters he had played alongside when he was a young pianist in England, before coming to New York in 1978.   

The first person Keith spoke of was the inimitable Henry “Red” Allen, someone not as well-remembered today as he should be, perhaps because he was having too good a time:

Oh, Red Allen was too upbeat.  There wasn’t that aura of tragedy about Red.  He was probably my first jazz gig in London, where I got a chance to play this stuff.  He had a quartet, and he heard me and said he wanted me to play.  I knew his tunes – SWEET SUBSTITUTE and a thing from a Tony Newley show, THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT, something called FEELING GOOD.  I knew that song – a bluesy, lovely gospelly song . . . so when he had to guest with another band, it was very embarrassing, because he’d be guesting with one of the name bands like Humphrey Lyttelton, and he would insist that I play the piano when he was on.  So there was this awkward business of asking the regular piano player if he wouldn’t mind. 

You have to do it courteously.  I remember Dill Jones told me that he was playing somewhere and Martial Solal came in and just pushed him off the piano bench, just shoved him.  And Dill, in his inimitable way, said, “He doesn’t have to be so bloody rude!  He could ask me!” 

Red was a larger-than-life character.  When he came up on the bandstand, he wouldn’t count off a number with “One, two,” but it would be “WHAM! WHAM!” with his foot, and there it was!  And what a player – what technique and what chops.  I remember he had this wonderful red brocade jacket on, always a showman, and he looked great. 

Once he was with a band – no names – and the rhythm section thought he was a bit of a throwback, a ham.  And they wanted to be laid-back and play cool – and I remember Red actually getting down on his knees and put his hands together, almost imploring them, “Please!  Swing!”  They finally got the message. 

He loved Higginbotham, too.  I remember Red singing, in a wonderfully sad voice, Higgy’s chorus on FEELING DROWSY, that beautiful minor-key thing.  He loved Buster Bailey, too – was always on the phone to Buster, and he told me that Buster was a superb clarinet player who, but for being black, could have gone into the symphony, which was what he wanted to do, really.  Listen to Buster’s playing on Bessie Smith’s JAZZBO BROWN FROM MEMPHIS TOWN: his clarinet is pure and gorgeous, a wonderful sound. 

Touring with Red was wonderful: he was such a generous soul.  Like Roy Eldridge, the same sort of guy.  Great characters and human beings. 

Roy was over to the UK accompanying Ella, but he got some gigs on his own and I was lucky enough to be part of them, just a quartet.  He was still playing then, and fabulous. 

Roy loved hot food, and he said to me, “Hey, anywhere we can go for curry?”  There was an Indian restaurant, and when we got there, he said, “What’s the hottest thing on the menu,” and they told him.  He said, “I’ve got to have that.”  It was a chicken dish and when it came out it was violently red with peppers.  Then he went into his trumpet case and brought out the hot sauces he had with him, and threw them all over the dish.  Well, for three days he couldn’t play because he came out in blisters on his lips! 

I have happy memories of those days.  I was fortunate enough to play with Benny Carter – now, that was an experience!  I’d done my little bit of homework: he’d made a lovely record with mostly his compositions on it.  So I’d taken them off the record and came prepared – would he like to play any of those, as well as WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW?  And he still played some trumpet!  There was another guy – you couldn’t pick up a tab when Benny was around, any time you went out, he was that generous.  I asked him to tell me how he’d broken into the Hollywood scene, writing scores for movies.  I asked him about some of the other writers – Bronislav Kaper, who wrote INVITATION, ON GREEN DOLPHIN STREET, and ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM – for Ivie Anderson in that Marx Brothers movie – and Benny said, “Oh, Bronnie?  Yes, I’ll tell you about Bronnie!” 

What a great arranger – those things he did with Coleman Hawkins in Paris, amazing.  And I knew people in England who had played in that big band, the one that recorded SWINGING AT MAIDA VALE, and they said Benny played every instrument in the band better than anyone – except perhaps the piano and the double bass.  He could play chords on the guitar.  One of the ultimate geniuses of the music.  Wonderful to have that experience.

When Pee Wee Russell came over to tour, he was quite eccentric.  People didn’t quite know what to make of him.  Then, of course, everybody associated him with Eddie Condon, and he hated that – he said, “Condon was always making fun of me, making me out to be a fool or a clown.”  The sound he got on the clarinet in the low register was just wonderful – he just projected across a big basement club like the Manchester Sporting Club.  He didn’t need a microphone.  He was just remarkable. 

He took a liking to me, and I was very pleased.  “Chum, meet me in the bar tomorrow around noon.  I want to talk to you.”  I was down there in the bar at lunchtime and somebody had hijacked him – they wanted Pee Wee so they went and collected him from the bar, and of course he wouldn’t say no – so before I got there, he’d disappeared with this bunch of characters, who took him to see the sights in Manchester, the fancy sights.  Later he came back and found me, and I asked, “Well, what was the day like?”  Terrible,” he snorted.  “I’m glad to be back on concrete again.  I saw a lot of leaves!”  That was the last thing he wanted.

Everybody has a Ruby Braff story, but this one the wonderful clarinetist Sandy Brown in it.  Ruby had no sense of humor about himself – he had almost no sense of humor at all, unless he was knocking someone or something.  We were playing in the 100 Club, a basement club in Oxford Street, quite a big space downstairs, just a quartet.  I was lucky enough to be on piano, with Dave Green on bass and Alan Ganley on drums.  And Ruby was always perfect on the stand – excellent! 

But when he got off, the club owner, at intermission, decided he’d put on some music.  He pressed the button and on came the Woody Herman band – the First Herd with Dave Tough and Bill Harris, APPLE HONEY and that sort of thing, the trumpets shouting.  And Ruby goes over to the owner and says, “What’d you put that fucking shit on for?  It has nothing to do with what I play!  I hate big bands!”  And he started to go on and on, how he hated every big band except Duke’s and Basie’s. 

Once you got him on a roll he would just keep going – a torrent of abuse would come out.  So Sandy was standing there, listening to all this, and finally he said, in his Scottish accent, after Ruby finally got finished spitting out all his venom, “Hey, Rooby,” he said, “Why don’t you eat some of those chips instead of stackin’ ‘em up on your shoulder?” 

Sammy Margolis, the great clarinet and tenor player, Ruby’s friend from Boston, would tell me things that Ruby said that would curl your hair.  The two of them shared a house at one point – each of them had one floor, but there was only one phone line with an extension.  One day the phone rang and it was Joe Glaser.  Ruby had picked up the phone but Sammy was silently listening in.  This would have been in 1957 or so, and it was something to do with a tour.  Max Kaminsky didn’t want to do it, and would Ruby do it?  And that set him off.  “I’m not subbing for that son-of-a-bitch.  He can’t play anyway.  And who else is in the band?”  And Glaser said, “Well, there’s Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines.”  “They can’t play either!”  And then he started to attack Glaser.  “Well, you don’t know anything about jazz,” and Sammy said that was very dangerous.  Ruby didn’t always work, and Glaser was not a man you’d cross. 

I remember one story about Sammy.  We’d gotten a trio gig at — of all places — Aqueduct Racetrack in the winter.  Myself, Sammy, and a drummer named Nat who used to work with Eddie Condon.  (Nat had terrible time, and Condon used to say, “Where you AT, Nat?”)  But Nat was a genuine guy, a real New Yorker.

I arranged to meet Sammy, who used to live on the West Side in the Forties.  And he’d been to the dentist that morning, had a shot of Novocain, and couldn’t feel anything — which must have bugged him.  We got in the car and we’re about halfway there, and suddenly Sammy wants us to stop — he hadn’t remembered putting his tenor sax in the car.  And it wasn’t there.  So we went all the way back to his apartment.  And there’s the case with the tenor, still on the sidewalk!  Wonderful. 

We get to the gig, and start playing away.  All of a sudden, there’s this terrible commotion, people shouting, “Shut the fuck up!”  The guys were watching the racing, but it was so cold that they’re watching it on television.  They can’t hear the odds on the horses, because we’re playing too loud.  So we had to play in between their calling the odds.  Every time the intercom would come on, they’d holler, “Shut UP!” and we’d stop.  We’d play forty seconds and have to stop, and we’d hear, “Rosebud.  Twenty to one,” and then we could start up again.  It was the funniest gig. 

The greatest thrill was when I got the gig with Benny Goodman.  We were playing a gig in Vermont, an open-air thing, and they wouldn’t let the bass on the plane, leaving New York.  So it was just Benny, Chuck Riggs, Chris Flory, and me.  And Benny wasn’t happy.  So what I did was give him those chords in the left hand, paddling, you know — and he was happy.  I had the room before we went on, and I was listening to him warming up — what a master musician!  It was like listening to Horowitz playing scales. 

So at the end of it, I wish I’d had a tape recorder, because he asked me to sit with him while he visited with his two sisters — they were pretty old ladies by that time.  So he was talking to me, “I’m going to be calling you, Keith.”  And I said, “May I ask you something?” And Benny said, “Ask me anything you like!”  So I said, “Can I ask you about Chicago?  Did you like Johnny Dodds?”  And he said, “I loved Johnny Dodds.  I used to go and hear him with King Oliver’s band at the Lincoln Gardens.  That band was fabulous!  But one thing you won’t know.  They played a lot of waltzes.  For the dancers.”  He loved Kid Ory.  They were people who weren’t perhaps of his stature technically, but he loved them.  I wasn’t able to work more with Benny, because I had a steady gig at the Regency — security was important — but I’ve never forgotten this time with him.