Certain phrases evoke an instantaneous positive reaction: “on the beach in Maui,” “No school today,” “Friday after work,” “hand in hand in the park.” You can certainly invent those that make for happy vibrations.
A new one to add to my personal lexicon is “Sunday, by the pool, in Los Angeles.” It needs some clarification: I don’t swim well and Los Angeles is not the California city closest to my heart . . . but when these words connect with the Sweet and Hot Music Festival (as they did in September 2011), what could possibly go wrong?
Nothing, as far as I am concerned. And the measure of this swing session is that even with the bright light, the early hour, and the wind gusts, the music was sweetly triumphant. The participants were Dan Levinson, his phrasing so easy and comfortable on clarinet and tenor sax; Mark Shane, a pianist who has a real problem in that he finds it impossible not to swing; the tenderly compelling singer (and solid rhythm guitarist) Molly Ryan; the invaluable Katie Cavera on guitar. (Scientific studies, for what it’s worth, say that “multi-tasking” is a sham, that we can’t do more than one thing at once well: I would like to say, “Science, meet Katie Cavera.”) And then some guests — one an Eminence, one a Newcomer, showed up and made us even happier.
Myabe because the sun was out, they began with SHINE:
Poolside, unfortunately, is not the best place for a singer with a microphone — the Weather Channel could explain the prevalence of gusty winds. But Molly Ryan, who is a resilient performer used to transcending larger obstacles than this, absolutely triumphed with a heartbreaking rendition of the Ink Spots’ hit, IF I DIDN’T CARE. Molly cares! And her swinging empathy comes through in every note — a performance that was one of the highlights of Sweet and Hot 2011 for me. No, it’s not a 1938 Vocalion or Victor — it’s happening now:
And here comes the Eminence — not His Holiness, but the Prince of the Washboard, the Sultan of Hot, Mister Ralf Reynolds, to join in the fun. I don’t know if Ralf is essentially an optimist, but he spreads joy copiously — so he suggested WHEN YOU’RE SMILING (rather than GLOOMY SUNDAY):
Then Dan invited a young woman up from the crowd and asked her to sing something. She really can and does — I introduce you to Miss Rebecca Zoe Leigh, having a good time with BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? (She knows the verse: extra credit on the final):
The sky is dark and stormy: I wish we were back at poolside right now. And if that’s not possible, I’ll immerse myself in these delightful performances.