Tag Archives: McKinney’s Cotton Pickers

THE FAT BABIES: “UPTOWN” (Delmark Records): ANDY SCHUMM, JOHN OTTO, JONATHAN DOYLE, DAVE BOCK, PAUL ASARO, JOHNNY DONATOWICZ, BEAU SAMPLE, ALEX HALL

To my ears, modern bands don’t find it easy to reproduce the music of Twenties and early Thirties medium-sized ensembles beyond playing the notes, although I commend their attempts.  The most pleasing exceptions have been Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, still doing the thing regularly in New York and elsewhere; I’ve also delighted in some ad hoc ensembles put together at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Festival.  (Listeners have other favorites, I know: I am not compiling a list here.)

But most recently, the Chicago-based FAT BABIES are are a consistent pleasure.

Here’s UPTOWN, performed at the July 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival:

UPTOWN is also the name of the Babies’ latest CD, their fourth for Delmark, beautifully thought-out, played, and recorded.

Visit here to buy the disc and hear samples, or vice versa.

The band on this disc is the 2016-18 version, with Andy Schumm, cornet, alto saxophone, clarinet; Dave Bock, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet, tenor, soprano; John Otto, clarinet, tenor; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, tenor banjo, tenor guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums, percussion.  They deeply understand the music without being stuffy.

Of the thirteen selections, UPTOWN and THAT GAL OF MINE are originals by Andy Schumm; SWEET IS THE NIGHT by Jonathan Doyle.  The arrangements and transcriptions are by Schumm, Doyle, and Paul Asaro, who also sings on five tracks with proper period flourishes.  The rest of the repertoire — venerable songs — EDNA, HARMONY BLUES, THE BATHING BEAUTY BLUES, RUFF SCUFFLIN’, OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY, THUMPIN’ AND BUMPIN’, THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, TRAVELIN’ THAT ROCKY ROAD, THE SOPHOMORE, HARLEM RHYTHM DANCE — have noble associations with King Oliver, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Eubie Blake, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Bing Crosby, the Dorsey Brothers, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Clarence Williams, Claude Hopkins, and others.  But you’ll notice that the song selection, although deep and genuine, is not The Same Old Thing (you know: the same two Ellingtons, one Bix, DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, MOTEN SWING, and so on): even scholars of the period might not be used to hearing some of these compositions.

What makes this band so delightful?  The answers come thick and fast.  They are a working band, so their section work is beautifully polished but never stiff.  The solos caress or explode, depending on what the song requires.  There’s also a refreshing variety in tempo and mood: the Babies do not need to play racetrack tempos all the time, and they know that hot is best served with with nicely seasoned side dishes of sweet.  This is music for dancers as well as listeners.  I’ve seen other ensembles do creditable work with charts they are seeing for the first or second time, but nothing can replace the comfortable familiarity that comes with playing a song twenty times in a month.

“Authenticity” is always a slippery subject, but the Babies manifest it in every note and phrase: they’ve lived with this music long enough and intensely enough to have the rhythmic feel of this period as part of their individual and collective nervous systems, so there is no self-conscious “going backwards,” but the band feels as if they’ve immersed themselves in the conventions of the style — which go beyond slapped bass and choked cymbal.  It doesn’t feel as if they are acting, pretending to be ancient: their joy in being comes through.  And the solos are stylistically gratifying without being museum-pieces.  It’s been said before, but if the Babies were to be dropped in Harlem in 1931, they would cause a sensation and be welcomed at the Rhythm Club, the dance halls, and after-hours clubs.

It’s joyous music, joyously played.  And my only reservation about this Delmark CD (which, again, I point out, is beautifully recorded) is that it’s not a three-disc set.  Maybe next time.

May your happiness increase!

LONDON’S HOTTEST RHYTHM JUGGLERS: THE VITALITY FIVE, “SYNCOPATION GONE MAD”

I’ve had an alarm clock / clock radio at the side of my bed for decades now, and its message is unvarying and irritating. Time to go to school!  Time to go to work! Time to move the car to avoid a ticket! 

But playing the new CD by The Vitality Five, its title noted above, I thought if I could rig up a musical machine that would, at first softly, play one of their glorious lively evocations of a vanished time, I would be much more willing to get out of bed and face the world.

The Vitality 5 is inherently not the same as many other bands performing Twenties hot repertoire.  For one thing, the 5’s reach is informed and deep: of the seventeen songs on this disc, perhaps four will be well-known to people who “like older jazz.”  Be assured that even the most “obscure” tunes are melodic and memorable.  More important to me is the 5’s perhaps unstated philosophy in action.  Many bands so worship the originals that they strive to create reverent copies of the original discs, and in performance this can be stunning.  But the 5 realizes something in their performances and arrangements that, to me, is immensely valuable: the people who made the original records were animated by joyous exuberance.

The players we venerate were “making it up as they went along,” as if their lives depended on it.  Theirs did, and perhaps ours do as well.

So these performances are splendidly animated by vivacious personality: they leap off the disc.  I don’t mean that the 5 is louder or faster, but they are energized.  You can’t help but hear and feel it.

Facts.  The band has been together since 2015, and it is that rare and wonderful entity — a working band.  Two of its members should be intimate pals to JAZZ LIVES readers: David Horniblow, reeds, and Andrew Oliver, piano — they are the one and only Complete Morton Project.  The other three members who complete the arithmetic are special heroes of mine, people I’ve admired at the Whitley Bay / Mike Durham jazz parties: Michael McQuaid, reeds and cornet; Martin Wheatley, banjo; Nicholas D. Ball, drums.

And they are superb players — not only star soloists, but wonderful in ensemble, making the 5 seem much more a flexible orchestra than the single digit would suggest.  They are, as Louis would say, Top Men On Their Instruments.  Each performance has its own rhythmic surge, the arrangements are varied without being “clever,” and the band is wise enough to choose material that has a deep melodic center — memorable lines that range in performance from sweetly lyrical to incendiary.  The back cover proclaims that there are “17 CERTAIN DANCE HITS!” and it’s true.

A final word about repertoire — a subject whose narrowing I find upsetting, as some “Twenties” groups play and replay the same dozen songs: this disc offers songs I’d either never heard before (JI-JI BOO) or not in decades (THE SPHINX) as well as classics that aren’t simply transcriptions from the OKeh (FIREWORKS, EVERY EVENING, COPENHAGEN) — across the spectrum from Nichols-Mole to Clarence Williams to McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and more.

I know it’s heresy to some, but the Vitality 5 performs at a level that is not only equal to the great recordings, but superior to them.  A substantial claim, but the disc supports it.

Visit here to hear their hot rendition of COPENHAGEN — also, here you can buy an actual disc or download their music.  Convinced?  I hope so.

And to the Gentlemen of the Ensemble: if you perfect the Vitality Five Rise-and-Shine machine, suitable for all electric currents, do let me know.  I’ll be your first purchaser.  Failing that, please prosper, have many gigs, and make many CDs!

May your happiness increase!

THE SKIES WILL CLEAR UP: BARBARA ROSENE / EHUD ASHERIE at MEZZROW

Barbara Rosene EhudBarbara Rosene is a great, subtly emotive singer.  Her warm voice caresses the melody and lyrics, and her deep feeling takes us inside each song, making each composition its own small drama or comedy.  New Yorkers like myself have known this for more than a decade; if you’ve heard Barbara with the Harry James Orchestra, you know it as well.

Barbara and the splendid pianist Ehud Asherie performed two sets at Mezzrow (West Tenth Street, New York City) a week ago, on May 17, 2016.  Early in the evening, Barbara and Ehud offered one of my favorite songs, LAUGHING AT LIFE.  As she points out, most people know the song from Billie Holiday’s rollicking version — with elating assistance from Lester Young and Roy Eldridge — but it goes back to 1930, with recordings by Ruth Etting and McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.  (My guess is that John Hammond, who loved the older songs, suggested it to Billie, although the Goodman band was playing it on broadcasts a few years earlier.)

Laughing_at_Life_FilmPoster

A sidelight: I had not known about this 1933 pre-Code film, which might not even have the song included, but who can pass up a poster like this?

To get back to our subject: I was instantly moved by Barbara’s rendition of the song — which could be sweetly maudlin in less subtle hands or sped up to “swing it.”  The tempo is perfect, and her delivery is sweetly, endearingly convincingly.  The rich textures of her voice are marvelous in themselves.

I don’t think anyone will be guffawing or chortling in empathy once the video has left its mark, but I know that Barbara and Ehud add to our collective happiness, as they always do.  (Ehud’s medium tempos are a wonderful education in themselves.)

And Barbara always has my permission to sit down.

Here’s the relevant evidence.  And there will be more music from this delightful evening at Mezzrow.  (A word about that club: it is comfortable in every possible way, and the music is lovingly the center of attention, as it should be.)

May your happiness increase!

PROPINQUITY COULD BE BLISS, AND AFTER THE FIRST SIXTY MINUTES ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

IF I COULD BE WITH YOU

A short series of blissful interludes, courtesy of James P. Johnson and Henry Creamer (1930).  First, Bobby Hackett floating over an orchestra “conducted” by Jackie Gleason:

Ruby Braff, cornet; Dick Hyman, Baldwin organ — with a closing chorus of great majesty:

and for the historians among us, where it all started, with thanks to Red McKenzie, Coleman Hawkins, Pee Wee Russell, and Glenn Miller (note that the label of the Bluebird reissue credits the song to “McKenzie-Kruppa”: when asked, did one of them tell the recording supervisor that the composition, ONE HOUR, was theirs?):

and the 1930 recording by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, with vocal refrain by one of my favorite singers, George Thomas:

Eva Taylor’s very tender version:

Near the end of Vic Dickenson’s life, he created this touching performance — holding up TWO fingers:

And — at the end  because nothing could follow it — Louis, explicated by our very own Ricky Riccardi here.

Who knew that the state of yearning, of wanting a complete love and not yet attaining it, could be the source of such healing music?

May your happiness increase!

SWING FOR ROMANTICS (1931)

When the conversation turns to the great swinging bands before “the Swing Era,” the names that are mentioned are usually the Luis Russell Orchestra and Bennie Moten’s Kansas City aggregations, Henderson, Ellington, Goldkette, Calloway, and Kirk.  Each of these bands deserves recognition.  But who speaks of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers?  (Is it the name that so embarrasses us these days?)

mckinneyscottonpickers

The song and performance that so enthralls me is from their last record date in September 1931 — DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE AT SIGHT? — composed by Ted Fio Rito and Gus Kahn. I am assuming that it was originally meant as a love ballad, given its title and world-view, but the band takes it at a romping tempo. (Was it played on one of their “coast to coast radio presentations”?  I hope so.) Several other marvelous features of this recording have not worn thin: the gorgeous melody statement by Doc Cheatham; the incredible hot chorus by Rex Stewart; the charming vocal by Quentin Jackson; the tenor saxophone solo by Prince Robinson, the arrangement by Benny Carter, and the wondrous sound of the band as a whole — swinging without a letup.

The personnel is listed as Benny Carter, clarinet, alto saxophone, arranger / leader: Rex Stewart, cornet; Buddy Lee, Doc Cheatham, trumpet;  Ed Cuffee, trombone; Quentin Jackson, trombone, vocal; Joe Moxley, Hilton Jefferson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Prince Robinson, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Todd Rhodes, piano, celeste; Dave Wilborn, guitar; Billy Taylor, brass bass; Cuba Austin, drums. Camden, New Jersey, September 8, 1931.  (The personnel offered by Tom Lord differs, but I think this one is more accurate.)

Here, thanks to our friend Atticus Jazz — real name available on request! — who creates one gratifying multi-media gift after another on YouTube — is one of the two takes of DO YOU BELIEVE IN LOVE AT SIGHT?:

I love Doc Cheatham’s high, plaintive sound, somewhat in the style of his predecessor, Joe Smith — and how the first chorus builds architecturally: strong ensemble introduction, trumpet with rhythm only (let no one tell you that tuba / guitar doesn’t work as a pairing), then the Carter-led sax section — imagine a section with Carter, Hilton Jefferson, and Prince Robinson — merging with the brass.  By the end of the first chorus, you know this is A BAND. (I’m always amused by the ending of the chorus, which exactly mimics the end and tag of THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.  Nothing new under the sun.) And whose idea — Carter’s? — was it to so neatly use orchestra bells throughout this chart?  Lemon zest to the ear.

But then there’s Rex Stewart’s expert and hilarious solo — he wants to let you know he is here, immediately.  I always think of him as one of those bold trumpeters who, as the tempo speeded up, he played even more notes to the bar, rather than taking it easy and playing whole and half notes.  In this chorus, he seems like the most insistent fast-talker, who has so much to say and only thirty-two bars in which to say it.  Something else: at :56 there is a small exultant sound. It can’t be Rex taking a breath and congratulating himself (as he does in WILD MAN BLUES on THE SOUND OF JAZZ) so I believe it was one of his colleagues in the band saying without the words, “Yeah, man!”

Then a gloriously “old-fashioned” vocal from Quentin Jackson, but one that no one should deride.  He told Stanley Dance that he learned to sing before there were microphones, so that you had to open your mouth and sing — which he does so splendidly here.  He’s no Bing or Columbo, wooing the microphone: this is tenor singing in the grand tradition, projecting every word and note to the back of the room.

The final chorus balances brass shouts and the roiling, tumbling Prince Robinson, who cuts his own way amidst Hawkins and Cecil Scott and two dozen others: an ebullient, forceful style.  And by this chorus, I always find myself rocking along with the recording — yes, so “antiquated,” with tuba prominent, but what a gratifying ensemble.  Yes, I believe!

Here is what was to me the less familiar take one:

It is structurally the same, with the only substantial difference that Rex continues to play a rather forceful obbligato to Quentin’s vocal — almost competing for space, and I suspect that the recording director at Camden might have suggested (or insisted on) another take where the vocalist was not being interfered with.  How marvelous that two takes exist, and that they were recorded in Victor’s studios in Camden — a converted church with fine open acoustics.

There is a third version of this song, recorded in 1996 by Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton — sixty-five years later, but for me it is a descent from the heights.  You can find it on YouTube on your own.

Whether or not you believe in love at sight (that’s a philosophical / emotional / practical discussion too large for JAZZ LIVES) I encourage you to believe in the singular blending of hot and sweet, of solo and ensemble, that is McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.  One has to believe in something.

May your happiness increase!

JANICE DAY IS OPTIMISTIC AND RIGHTLY SO

And in a few seconds more than three minutes — the length of a 78 — she makes us all feel more optimistic.  Janice can affect us in many ways, but at her core is a gentle winsomeness, which comes through so easily here.

This performance of LAUGHING AT LIFE — at its 1930 tempo — comes from the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and Janice’s accompanists are Keith Nichols, piano; Menno Daams, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Wheatley, guitar /banjo; Malcolm Sked, bass; Emma Fisk, violin; Richard Pite, drums:

“Why not grin?” indeed.  We have Janice Day and Her Gang to inspire us.  And this November, there will be another Party — celebrating a quarter-century of the best hot music, November 6-8, 2015.

May your happiness increase!

WHEREVER THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY

Let me begin with a jubilant piece of music from the 1929 McKinney’s Cotton Pickers — featuring a wistful vocal by Don Redman, rousing solos from Coleman Hawkins and Fats Waller and beautiful ensemble playing from Joe Smith, Leonard Davis, Sidney De Paris, Claude Jones, Benny Carter, Ted McCord, Dave Wilborn, Billy Taylor, Kaiser Marshall:

That cheerful recording will seem an odd introduction to my topic, which is Death.

I think about that subject a great deal — not in a terrified way — because I am surrounded by reminders of those dear ones who have moved on (or away) and the Things that people leave behind.

When I go to an estate sale and I learn that the beautiful shirt I am wearing belonged to a man who is now dead, it is a spiritual lesson — intense and to the point.  When I go to Amoeba Music or the Down Home Music Store and find a dozen records all autographed to the same person — let us call him Dewey — I can safely guess that Dewey is no longer here, listening to those discs.

I feel grateful to be the recipient of objects that people cherished so when they were alive, yet sad that they are no longer here to enjoy them, and of course it makes me think of the finite shape of our lives.

So let us assume you have — as many jazz-lovers have — amassed a hoard, large or small, of objects related to the music you love.  Maybe they are records (cylinder to CD), autographs, photographs, ephemera (DOWN BEAT from 1939, a necktie that once belonged to _____): there are a thousand possibilities.

I wish no one of my readers of JAZZ LIVES to vanish, but I must ask them, collectively and singly, to imagine the possibility, and then to ask the question, “What will happen to my Treasures when I’m not here?”

For those who are prepared, the answer is easy.  “I’ve made a will.  I have an executor.  I have another name should that executor not be able to do what I’ve asked.  My executors have copies of the will; we have discussed what I have asked them to do. The will is recent; it was witnessed, notarized, and is properly done.  I do not like to think of my own death, but I have Taken Care of Business.”

Others say, “Oh, this is such a dreadful topic.  I don’t want to think about it today [this month, this year, ever, ever].  I know I should do something but I find it so depressing.  Besides, I have great plans for my collection of Tiny Parham Victors. And I think my infant grandchild Parham will want them when she grows up.  I’ll take care of it.”

I understand this.  It is very difficult for some of us to imagine the universe without us. But it will happen.

In my most kind voice, may I suggest that this pretending it will not happen is not wise. When the jazz collector dies, if (s)he dies without a will, the collection and all the deceased’s possessions have to be appraised — which costs money — before an item can be given away, disposed of, sold. This process isn’t quick, and establishing the value of anyone’s things — unless the dead person was a true minimalist — takes time and costs money.

If you have a partner or children, do you wish to add to their grief the burden of this legal and economic maze?  Or, if you have no one close to you, what will happen to your precious collection of deep-groove blue label Riversides?  My guess is that the landlord will haul them out to the curb or perhaps sell them to the local record store (not the worst thing).

Let me suggest an alternative, although I am not a lawyer nor do I pretend to be offering legal advice.  One can find an online form to create one’s own will.  Make it as specific as possible.  If you want your magazines to go to Clement, your 78s to go to Marjorie, and so on, put it in writing.  Such directions will not take the place of a will, but wills themselves need not be complicated, and I believe you can name someone (preferably somewhat younger and in good health) to be your executor, and then give that person a clear idea of what you would like.  “When I die, please check my email to see whom I have corresponded most frequently about the music.  Since we have spoken, you know the names of the people involved in jazz of whom I am most fond.  Invite them to the house; let them take home what they want.  Have a little party in my honor.  Save a thousand dollars from my savings.  Hire my favorite band.  Have they play FLEE AS A BIRD TO THE MOUNTAIN . . . and then DIDN’T HE RAMBLE.”

Of late, I am observing the partners of several friends who did not write wills, and their troubles are truly painful.  I am not talking about, “My goodness, I hear that all of Joe’s Paramounts went to Goodwill!  It was horrific!”  I am talking about the bereaved partner who not only has to deal with loss, but has to deal with The Stuff.

It is all too easy to say, “Oh, I think it should all go to this jazz institution or the other. They will want my Harry James and Benny Goodman 78s.”  Don’t be too sure. Libraries and institutions do not have infinitely expanding budgets, and to collect your beloved records, catalog them, store them in the proper fashion . . . all of this requires money and a staff.  Be sure to be sure — before saying, “I’d like my collection to go to ______,” that they really want it and will want it in some time in the future.

All this will sound too grim to some readers, and I apologize.

It was not easy for me to write a will, nor is it pleasant dinner conversation to discuss such things with the Beloved.

But benign neglect is a terrible — even a selfish — burden on the people who live on, and if you care about them, if you care about your Things, you might want to take what I am writing seriously.  (For me, my concern is with the people: once I am dead, I hope that my cherished objects go away in the most easy manner — ideally in to the hands of people I love and admire, but if my records go to Goodwill, it’s no disaster, since I bought many of them there.)

And I’m not just writing this to jazz collectors. Please pass this blogpost on to anyone you know who has more than a few of Anything — whether it’s copies of MARTHA STEWART LIVING in MSL binders or first editions or swizzle sticks.

Please do consider this yourself, though, and act on it, promptly.  I write these paternalistic nagging words with love.

May your happiness increase! 

A JAZZ VALENTINE, 1931

Yes, I know it’s about five weeks early.  But Emrah has provided us with a double delight — a great romantic ballad in swingtime, beautifully sung by Quentin Jackson, with solos by Doc Cheatham, Rex Stewart, and Benny Carter . . . as well as a Carter reed-section passage and rollicking piano accompaniment from Todd Rhodes.

The whole band — McKinney’s Cotton Pickers in their last sides for Victor, although the band went on for a few more years — is Benny Carter, clarinet, alto saxophone, director; Rex Stewart, cornet; Buddy Lee, Doc Cheatham, trumpet; Ed Cuffee, trombone; Quentin Jackson, trombone, vocal; Joe Moxley, Hilton Jefferson, clarinet, alto saxophone; Prince Robinson, clarinet, tenor saxophone; Todd Rhodes, piano, celeste; Dave Wilborn, banjo, guitar; Billy Taylor, brass bass; Cuba Austin, drums. Recorded in Camden, New Jersey, September 8, 1931:

The delights of this performance are many, and they grow with repeated listenings.  The supple, fluid sweetness of Doc Cheatham’s melody statement; the vigorous “I will play a note or two to every beat” solo chorus, so flavorful and personal, by Rex Stewart; the lusciously slippery Carter reeds; the dashing vocal chorus by Quentin Jackson (play this for everyone who insists that before Crosby, all male singers sounded insufficiently masculine), and the rocking motion of this ensemble, thanks to Wilborn, Taylor, and Austin, refuting another canard, that jazz musicians were waiting to get rid of banjo and brass bass so that Modernity could burst forth.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all you lovers. Start your romantic engines early.  Work on becoming just as swoony and loving as the men and women portrayed on Emrah’s photographs and postcards.

May your happiness increase!

FEELIN’ THE SPIRIT: MEMORIES OF THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY 2012

I’ve had a great deal of hot jazz pleasure and enlightenment in my annual trips to Whitley Bay for the late Mike Durham’s International Jazz Festival and Classic Jazz Parties.  And another one is on the way for November 7-9, 2014, thanks to Patti Durham and diligent friends.

I don’t mean to rush away the time until then, but I offer five more previously unseen delights from the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (recorded October 27-28) — honoring King Oliver, Benny Carter, Louis and Bechet, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Graeme Bell, and the magnificent contemporary / traditional jazz musicians at work here.

WA WA WA, a tribute to the Oliver Dixie Syncopators of the second half of the Twenties, led by Keith Nichols (piano), with Duke Heitger (trumpet), Andy Schumm (cornet); Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Gavin Lee, Matthias Seuffert, Rene Hagmann, (reeds); Martin Wheatley (banjo); Phil Rutherford (brass bass), Josh Duffee (drums):

I’M IN THE MOOD FOR SWING, Matthias Seuffert’s buoyant embodiment of the spirit and music of Benny Carter, with Matthias (alto); Rene Hagmann (cornet); Alistair Allan (trombone); Martin Litton (piano); Spats Langham (guitar); Henru Lemaire (string bass); Richard Pite (drums):

DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN, for Louis and Sidney, in whichever incarnation you prefer (1924-5 or 1940), with Bent Persson (cornet); Thomas Winteler (soprano saxophone); Stephane Gillot (baritone saxophone); Jens Lindgren (trombone); Martin Seck (piano); Henri Lemaire (banjo / string bass):

ZONKY, from drummer Josh Duffee’s ambitious evocation of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, with Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Andy Schumm (trumpet / cornet); Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Matthias Seuffert, Gavin Lee, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Michael McQuaid (reeds); Keith Nichols (piano / vocal); Martin Wheatley (banjo / guitar); Richard Pite (string bass); Josh (drums / leader):

UGLY DUCKLING, a hidden treasure from the Graeme Bell repertoire, here served up beautifully by multi-instrumentalist Michael McQuaid, and Duke Heitger, Bent Persson (trumpets); Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Michael, Stephane Gillot, Thomas Winteler (reeds); Martin Seck (piano); Henri Lemaire (banjo / guitar); Malcolm Sked (brass bass / string bass [off-camera but indispensable]); Nick Ward (drums):

The Classic Jazz Party site hasn’t offered a full roster for the November 7-9 party, which will be held, once again, at the Village Hotel Newcastle, but here is the contact information, and I will post details as they emerge.

As Josh Duffee says, “It’s like Christmas to us.” I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I do believe in the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

May your happiness increase!

PRETTY / HOT: THE NICHOLS – DUFFEE INTERNATIONAL JAZZ ORCHESTRA: “ONE MORE TIME”: THE VINTAGE RECORDING PROJECT (October 29, 2012)

Here are some names you might know: Duke Heitger, Andy Schumm, Enrico Tomasso (trumpet); Alistair Allan, Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Jean-Francois Bonnel, Stephane Gillot, Michael McQuaid, Matthias Seuffert (reeds); Keith Nichols (piano); Spats Langham (banjo, guitar, vocal); Malcolm Sked (string bass, sousaphone); Josh Duffee (drums).

These splendid musicians — from the UK, the US, Australia, and Europe, gathered in a small room on October 29, 2012 — the day after the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party had ended — for a recording session, now available on Paul Adams’ Lake Records (LACD321).  It is appropriately dedicated to Mike Durham, who did so much for so long for hot music and did not live to see this CD project completed.

NICHOLS-DUFFEE

Here’s a sample of what they did on that rainy day — the Jean Goldkette rouser, MY PRETTY GIRL:

For the rest, you’ll have to purchase the handsome CD package (which comes with two discs — mono and stereo) — glorious music played and recorded authentically.  The other selections are HOT AND BOTHERED / THE STAMPEDE / CHANT OF THE WEED / MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND / POTATO HEAD BLUES / EASE ON DOWN / UNDER THE SPELL OF THE BLUES / SKINNER’S SOCK / WHEN THE FOLKS HIGH UP DO THE MEAN LOWDOWN / MILENBERG JOYS / ONE MORE TIME / AWFUL SAD / JAZZNOCRACY.

JAZZ LIVES’ readers will of course note the homages to Ellington, Luis Russell, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Bing Crosby, Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, Don Redman, the Dorsey Brothers, Coon-Sanders, Gus Arnheim, Jimmie Lunceford, and their glorious soloists.  Wonderful ensemble playing — exact without being stiff — and the pleasure these musicians had in playing this repertoire comes through on every note of the CD.  For information on this and other LAKE issues, click here.

(The music is also available in download form from the usual suspects — iTunes and Amazon.com, although I note with amusement that the latter purveyor has labeled one of the songs SKINNER’S SOCKS, which I suppose makes a certain kind of sense.)

It’s one of those joyous CDs that I always want to play at a substantial volume in my car, with the windows open — to let the joy and enlightenment bubble out, come what may.  And I like greatly the idea that the c0-leaders, Keith Nichols and Josh Duffee, are theoretically separated by decades and continents, but they are on the same path — hot and sweet music played joyously, accurately, and splendidly.

May your happiness increase!

“I’LL MAKE FUN FOR YOU”: THE MUSIC OF McKINNEY’S COTTON PICKERS as RECREATED BY JOSH DUFFEE and COMPANY at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Oct. 27, 2012)

What could be better than another small concert — led by drummer / historian / raconteur Josh Duffee — bringing McKinney’s Cotton Pickers “back” for us in the twenty-first century?

I thought you’d say that.

Here’s romping and sweet big band jazz at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — thanks to Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Andy Schumm, trumpet / cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Gavin Lee, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Michael McQuaid, reeds; Keith Nichols, piano / vocal; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Richard Pite, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums / leader; Mike Durham, vocal.

I’LL MAKE FUN FOR YOU:

I WANT A LITTLE GIRL:

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?:

MISS HANNAH:

GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU?:

THERE’S A RAINBOW ‘ROUND MY SHOULDER:

IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT:

SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA:

(A hot performance of ZONKY exists but for the moment it is hidden under my bed for safe-keeping.)

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.

THEMES AND VARIATIONS: THE 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Now that I have posted about eighty video performances here — thanks to Flemming Thorbye, Elin Smith, Jonathan David Holmes, and Michael Stevens — I can write a few lines about the Classic Jazz Party in general, and why it was such a remarkable experience.

It wasn’t a formal occasion by any means — in fact, it was distinguished by the friendly, comfortable interplay between musicians and listeners, sitting down to breakfast with one another.  But the CJP was the result of a good deal of behind-the-scenes planning that blossomed forth in music.

All jazz parties and festivals require a great deal of work that the person listening to the bands is rarely aware of — planning that begins more than a year in advance and continues well after the particular party is over: lining up musicians, agreeing with them on times and dates and payment, making sure that they can get to the party and have suitable accomodations, taking care of last-minute crises and more.  When you see the person in charge of one of these events and wonder why (s)he has no time to stop and chat, to say nothing of sitting down for a meal or a set of music, these are some of the reasons.

But the CJP has a thematic underpinning — which is to say Mike Durham likes jam sessions, and one happened each night in the Victory Pub, but he has a deep emotional commitment to the arching history of jazz and an equal desire to see that no one is forgotten.  So rather than grouping six or seven able players and singers on the stand with no organizing principle in mind (thus, the blues in Bb, RHYTHM changes, and a series of solo features), Mike Durham has created — with the help of his equally enthusiastic and scholarly players — a series of small thematic concert tributes.

I will only list the names so that you can understand the scope of the CJP: Clarence Williams, Bix Beiderbecke, novelty piano, Jelly Roll Morton, Bennie Moten, territory bands, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelly, Lionel Hampton, Adrian Rollini, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Annette Hanshaw, naughty songs, multi-lingual pop songs, Chicago reedmen, Billie Holiday, percussion, the ukulele, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, King Oliver, stride piano, the tenor saxophone, Bessie Smith, the Rhythmic Eight, John Kirby, Jabbo Smith, Valaida Snow, the Rhythmakers.

You can thus understand why the weekend was both great fun and educational without ever being academic or pedantic.  An immersion in living jazz history — reaching back one hundred years but so firmly grounded in the present moment — loving evocations without any hint of the museum about them.

And there are more sets like those being planned for 2012.

Here is the estimable Flemming Thorbye’s tribute to the whole weekend — his evocative still photographs capturing aspects of thirty-three varied sets — with an Ellingtonian background recorded on the spot.  And don’t give up before it’s through, because Flemming has a delicious surprise at the end: a segment of the Friday night jam session in the Victory Pub, with Andy Schumm leading the troops ably through CRAZY RHYTHM, with Ms. Calzaretta shaking that thing to the beat:

Learn more about the delights in store this year here.

WE LOVED IT: JOSH DUFFEE HONORS McKINNEY’S COTTON PICKERS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

On November 5, 2011, at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, percussionist and jazz scholar Josh Duffee brought together this all-star crew to make the music of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers come alive — and it certainly did.  The brass section was Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, and Rico Tomasso, trumpets; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, Mauro Porro, reeds; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone.  I won’t annotate these performances except to say that any history of swinging jazz ensembles that omits McKinney’s Cotton Pickers is surely mistaken — for their overall balance between inspired solos and imaginative arrangements — and that Josh and his all-star gang do the MKCP proud.

PEGGY (Thorbye):

A PRECIOUS LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE (Elin):

WILL YOU, WON’T YOU BE MY BABY? (Thorbye):

JUST A SHADE CORN (Thorbye):

I’D LOVE IT (Thorbye):

CRYING AND SIGHING (Thorbye):

MILENBERG JOYS (Thorbye):

CHERRY (Elin):

I FOUND A NEW BABY (Elin):

Thanks, as always, to the generous Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith for these videos: see more at “elinshouse” and “thorbye” on YouTube! And we all hope this project gets the widest possible exposure — a great mixture of respect for the originals and enthusiastic twentieth-century playing.

KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Jonathan David Holmes)

Thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Jonathan David Holmes* for the quartet of hot performances that follow — by Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils in a tribute to the territory bands of the late Twenties — going on into the next decade.

Keith had a wonderful complement of swinging sight readers and jazz scholars for this set, as he led from the piano and occasionally burst into song.  They were Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, trumpets; Steve Andrews, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Richard Pite, string bass; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Nick Ward, drums.  This band has a wonderfully rich sound and a deep idiomatic approach, turning this hotel ballroom into a simulation of a local dance hall: you can see some dancers off to the right.

We begin with SPRINGFIELD STOMP (Jonathan), recorded by Lloyd Scott’s Bright Boys, a band based in Springfield, Ohio — that at various times had Bill Coleman, Frank Newton, brother Cecil Scott, and Dicky Wells on the stand :

Early Bennie Moten, before Eddie Durham revolutionized Kansas City jazz, can be heard in the THICK LIP STOMP (Jonathan):

SIX OR SEVEN TIMES (Thorbye) comes from a small group out of the Don Redman / McKinney’s Cotton Pickers group; the familiar opening riff surfaces again, at twice the tempo, in ONE O’CLOCK JUMP:

SOME OF THESE DAYS features Steve Andrews, paying tribute to Coleman Hawkins and the recordings he made with the Ramblers in Holland:

*A few lines about Jonathan — he lives in Lincoln, Lancashire, has studied journalism.  At twenty, he’s a new but dedicated collector and restorer of hot and dance band 78s, a man with his own YouTube channel, and is busily teaching himself both the trumpet and the Charleston.

JAZZ LIVES salutes him and encourages you to visit him on YouTube: mojoman4147 and facebook.com

HOT NOTES IN THE PARLOR WITH MARTY GROSZ AND FRIENDS at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2011

All I will say about the 2011 Jazz at Chautauqua is that Western New York State was rocking as it probably hadn’t rocked since the mastodons held an Ice Age party.  The music started off wonderfully — after a sweet warmup set by the Faux Fenchmen, we were into serious rhythm business with Marty Grosz.

Marty hadn’t had time to invent a new band name for this informal Thursday-night session, but you can think up your own.  They were Randy Reinhart on cornet; Scott Robinson and Dan Levinson on reeds; Jim Dapogny on piano; Jon Burr (for the first two songs) and Frank Tate (for the next) on string bass; Pete Siers on drums.  As always, Marty was in charge of repertoire, tempos, vocalizing, guitar, and badinage.

To start things off in the best Hot manner, he chose CRAZY RHYTHM:

Then, a song associated with (among others) McKinney’s Cotton Pickers — not played enough these days — CHERRY:

The eternal question, perhaps unanswerable: HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?

And to close out, a Louis-associated romper, I DOUBLE DARE YOU:

We were off to a splendid start that Thursday night (Sept. 15, 2011) in the parlor of the Hotel Athaeneum.

DAN LEVINSON, CHRIS DAWSON, HAL SMITH, COREY GEMME, DAVID SAGER at SWEET AND HOT 2011

Call it what you like — “Chicago style,” “Fifty-Second Street,” “small-band swing.” Perhaps you’d prefer to name the heroic echoes heard — traces of Bud Freeman, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Rowles, Jess Stacy, Dave Tough, George Wettling, Marty Marsala, Max Kaminsky, George Lugg, Vernon Brown . . . the list could continue. 

But I prefer to admire the music for itself.

This little band, an impromptu aggregation, has a wonderful nimbleness.  Although its repertoire, except for the 1937 SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN, predated Goodman at the Palomar, there was nothing archaic about their session of the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival (September 2, 2011).

The players:  Dan Levinson (clarinet, tenor sax); Chris Dawson (piano); Hal Smith (drums); Corey Gemme (cornet), and the Mystery Guest for the last two performances, trombonist David Sager.

SEPTEMBER IN THE RAIN, for many of us, recalls the 1944 Commodore record by Muggsy Spanier’s Ragtimers.  Dan and friends took a lighter approach:

THEM THERE EYES was a hit record in 1930 and continues to be one of the tunes all the musicians in the world love to play:

CHERRY harks back to McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and the wonderful shouting yet polite vocalizing of George “Fathead” Thomas:

MY MONDAY DATE (or A MONDAY DATE) comes from Earl Hines, whose playful spirit imbued the proceedings:

SORRY owes its endurance in our memories to Bix Beiderbecke and Don Murray:

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE brought on the agile David Sager:

And the set ended with the 1925 classic, DINAH:

“Excuse me, sir, can you direct me to the Commodore Music Shop?”

“STOMP OFF, LET’S GO!”: MIKE DURHAM’S CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY 2011

Mike Durham’s Classic Jazz Party is the successor to the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, and will be held in the comfortable Village Hotel Newcastle from Friday, November 4, 2011, to Sunday (no doubt Monday morning), November 6-7, 2o11.

(In an earlier version of this posting, I had the incorrect dates — the party begins on the fourth, not the eleventh.  Apologies for any confusion this might have caused.)

Here’s the jazz cornucopia to end all . . . hour-long concert sessions beginning at noon, then a break for dinner, and more music until midnight, followed by jam sessions in the Victory Pub.  I’m already thinking of the inflatable cushion, the tea flask and sandwiches, the extra batteries, and more . . . be prepared!

Friday (11/4):

Clarence Williams Lives! The Hot Antic Jazz Band with guests Kristoffer Kompen (trombone) and Raymond Graisier (vibraphone)

The Jelly Roll Morton Trios:  Keith Nichols (piano), Matthias Seuffert (clarinet), and Nick Ward (drums) salute Mr Jelly Lord

Teasin’ the Ivories: Mauro Porro (piano) salutes Arthur Schutt, Rube Bloom, and Seger Ellis

Dear Bix: Andy Schumm and His Gang

Benny Moten’s Music: Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils Orchestra explore Kansas City

Djangology: Philippe Guignier and Henri Lemaire, Mike Piggott (violin), Norman Field (reeds)

The Ellington Small Bands: Matthias Seuffert, Rico Tomasso (trumpet)

Dishin’ the Dirt: Caroline Irwin sings saucy songs – oooh!

Benny, Fud, Pee Wee, and Tesch: Norman Field, Keith Nichols, and Nick Ward laud some of the tough clarinets

Dallas Blues: Bent Persson and his Orchestra explore mid-30s Armstrong

A Gardenia for Lady Day: Cecile McLorin sings Billie Holiday

Andy’s Midnight Ramblers: Kristoffer Kompen, Andy Schumm and Co. – Twenties Chicago in the Victory Pub

Saturday (11/5):

Jazz Goes To The Movies: Film rarities from the collection of Mike Hazeldine

Syncopated Paraphernalia: Richard Pite’s amazing one-man percussion show

Cornet Chop Suey: Bent Persson’s Hot Five recall the glory days of 1925-1926

Vibraphonia:  Raymond Graisier’s tribute to Lionel Hampton

The Magic Ukulele Show: Professor Martin Wheatley tells us everything we need to know about the “jumping flea”

Singing In Tongues: Caroline Irwin displays her linguistic capabilities

Pickin’ Cotton: Josh Duffee (USA) and 11-piece band recreate McKinney’s music

Lincoln Gardens Stomp: Mike (Durham) and Doc (Bastide)’s Creole Jazz Band: six nationalities go back to 1923!

Three Pods of Pepper: Frans Sjöström, Norman Field, and Martin Wheatley muse over some jazz byways

Tellin’ it to the Daisies: Debbie Arthurs’ Sweet Music and the world of Annette Hanshaw

Snowy Morning Blues: Paul Asaro’s solo recital of James P Johnson’s works

East St Louis Toodle-Oo: Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils Orchestra play early Ellington

The Three Tenors: Steve Andrews, Jean-François Bonnel, and Matthias Seuffert with an all-star rhythm section

Doc’s Night Owls: The Hot Antic Jazz Band and guests play music for insomniacs in the Victory Pub

Sunday (11/6):

Encore! Encore!: More movie magic from Mr Hazeldine’s archives

The Lion & the Lamb: Willie “The Lion” Smith and Donald “The Lamb” Lambert tribute from Nichols & Asaro

Potato Head Blues: More Louis-worship from Bent Persson’s Hot Seven

From A-flat to C: Rico Tomasso & friends play the music of the John Kirby Sextet

Sau Sha Stomp: The Hot Antics & special guest David Sager (trombone) recall trumpet ace Jabbo Smith

Got the World in a Jug:  Cecile McLorin sings Bessie Smith

Zonophone Stomp: Mauro Porro’s international band tip their hat to Bert Firman’s Rhythmic Eight

Humpty Dumpty: More Bixiana from Andy Schumm and the Gang

High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm: Cecile McLorin pays tribute to the legendary Valaida Snow, with Rico Tomasso (trumpet)

Venuti, Rollini & Lang:  Mike Piggott (violin), Frans Sjöström (bass saxophone), Martin Wheatley (guitar), Keith Nichols, Norman Field, Raymond Graisier, Josh Duffee

The Rhythmakers: Bent Persson, Matthias Seuffert, and Co. recall the great 1932 Billy Banks sessions with Red Allen and Pee Wee Russell

The Small-Hours Swingers: Andy Woon leads a hand-picked group deep into the morning in the Victory Pub

For more information, visit http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/concerts.html.  Mike tells me that there are some seats — not many — left . . . so don’t be left out!

CAUTION! HOT! THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and FRIENDS at DIXIELAND MONTEREY (March 5, 2011)

Looking back on it, I believe my parents were over-cautious: the air was full of BE CAREFUL!  But perhaps they knew more than I gave them credit for at the time.

It is in their spirit that I post the following warning before my latest jazz videos, and I think you should take it very seriously:

The Reynolds Brothers could singe your fingers, your clothing, or anything else available.  They are dangerous!  I was driving home from work about ten days ago with one of their CDs in the player — it was on a seven-minute plus romp on HAPPY FEET featuring Scott Black, Dan Levinson, Allan Vache, and others — and I couldn’t help myself.  I am only glad that no police officer saw me joyously whacking my head into the headrest (what else is it there for?) on 2 and 4.  And then I played the track again.  Ecstatic jive!

By the Reynolds Brothers, I mean John (guitar, vocal, scat, whistling); Ralf (washboard, commentary, whistle-blowing); Marc Caparone (cornet); Katie Cavera (string bass); and special guest pianist Marc Allen Jones.  This set was recorded at Dixieland Monterey (the Jazz Bash by the Bay) on March 5. 2011.

Here we go!  And you can put the boys in white dinner jackets and bow ties, but you can’t stop them from swinging like mad.  How about a little FUTURISTIC JUNGLEISM to scare the next-door neighbors?

In the mood for something Asian?  Here’s CHINA BOY:

Be kind to all living creatures (say McKinney’s Cotton Pickers), so NEVER SWAT A FLY (and Ralf tells about Grandma ZaSu Pitts):

Something familiar — LADY BE GOOD in the key of love:

And Katie comes out to do her winsomely naughty-but-innocent DO SOMETHING.  (She’s happily married, though, fellows, so sit back down.):

I don’t know what the subconscious link between Katie’s song and the Boswell Sisters’ classic SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA is, but if anyone could “do something” to relax those jangled nerves it would be this Southern swain:

Shelley Burns joins in for that sweet tune — Louis and Fats both loved it! — I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED:

In the name of geography, and for all the women named Merry in the audience, here’s CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS:

Homage to Jack Teagarden and Johnny Mercer, DR. HECKLE AND MR. JIBE (Mercer loved such wordpplay — a later song is DR. WATSON AND MR. HOLMES):

And, to finish, an ecstatic HAPPY FEET — which ours were!

Jazz ecstasy — or have I said that already?

WHAT HAPPINESS LOOKS and SOUNDS LIKE (at DIXIELAND MONTEREY): March 5, 2011

More from Dixieland Monterey 2011 (the Jazz Bash by the Bay)!

On paper, this was advertised as simply another session by the Reynolds Brothers, which was good enough for me: I had been following them around, a dazed and grinning hero-worshipper.  They’re John (National steel guitar, vocals, whistling), Ralf (washboard), Katie Cavera (string bass, vocal), Marc Caparone (cornet).  More than enough for anyone!

But when I saw their friends — Jeff Barnhart (piano), Dan Barrett (trombone), Bryan Shaw (trumpet), I settled into my seat knowing that great things — a jazz colloquy on Olympus — would come.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

They began with I NEVER KNEW (homage to that wonderful recording by Benny Carter, Floyd O’Brien, Teddy Wilson, Chu Berry, Ernest Hill, Sidney Catlett, and Max Kaminsky, as “The Chocolate Dandies”).  Their reimagining has stunning brass playing and a delightfully weird harmonic interlude by Jeff — picked up by the horns — before they rock on out:

I adjusted my camera’s white balance so the scene looked less like a Vincent Price film in time for the second number, I WANT A LITTLE GIRL.  Originally recorded in 1930 by McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (with a vocal by George Thomas, if I remember correctly), it was rediscovered in 1945-6 by Buck Clayton and Louis.

The spirits of Mr. Strong and Mr. Clayton — tender yet annunciatory — permeate this performance.  And look at the faces of the musicians!  Watch Dan listening to Marc and Bryan!  Catch the dreamy don’t-wake-me-now look on Katie’s face!  It’s thrilling to see musicians afloat on mutual love for beautiful sounds:

I don’t know who suggested the next tune — a wonderful one, almost forgotten, by Harry Warren from FORTY-SECOND STREET, recorded by Bing Crosby and (much later) by Ruby Braff — another jazz carpe diem for the ages.  The clever lyrics are by Al Dubin.  This version has the approving ghosts of Bing and Putney Dandridge hovering around it — with the brass section discoursing in the happiest way on the beauties of Thirties and Forties swing epigrams.  And Jeff’s performance (swinging, hilarious, sweet) suggests what Fats might have done with the song:

Because I had made dinner plans with the irrepressible Jack Rothstein, I had to leave at this point, but I turned to my dear friend Rae Ann Berry and begged her in an insistent whisper, “Please.  Please tape the rest of this?  I have to go but I can’t stand missing the rest.”  And Rae Ann, truly a good sport, took over.  So the remaining videos exist because of her generosity.

And they are generous!

Katie asks the lover’s question — DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?  Oh, we do, Katie.  Her sweetly unaffected vocal gives way to a brass fantasy (who needs clarinets?) in solos and riffs.  And in the middle, there is a perfectly astonishing piano solo — try this at home.  I dare you!  And catch Jeff watching John in delighted amazement while John scrolls through one of his amazing solos (Jeff is chording with his left hand).  Another Katie chorus, and then Brass Ecstasy — circa 1933 (I think), with everyone shouting for joy to the heavens:

Then something beautiful and rare — a Bryan Shaw ballad feature!  It’s I’M CONFESSIN’ (with the bridge of his first solo loving embodiment of Buck Clayton) — again embodying the tradition of singing trumpets born from Louis.  (I’ve heard that Bryan has completed a new Arbors CD with Dan Barrett and friends, coming soon!)  Then a weirdly sweet Jeff Barnhart piano interlude before Bryan offers his own mixture of drama and sweetness:

Back to Louis and Fats (what could be wrong?) for the 1935 GOT A BRAN’ NEW SUIT — in the key of G, by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz.  About a minute into this performance, you’ll hear that delicious sound of a band locking into swing — a swing that some bands reach only in the last chorus and some never reach at all!  John’s sweet, flying vocal is appropriate for this song and for a man so beautifully dressed:

I’ve already written encomia for Becky Kilgore’s guest appearance with this band on WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA — but I’m including this video because I think it cannot be seen too many times:

And to close — a simple Louis blues, MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, absolutely exultant:

This music gave and gives so much pleasure that I had trouble finding a title for this posting.  I am content with mine — see the smiles on the faces of the musicians! — but have to share another story, with apologies for the dropping of names.  When I was fortunate enough to chat with clarinetist Frank Chace (now more than a decade ago), he remembered that he and Marty Grosz had listened, rapt, to Pee Wee Russell’s solo on SWEET SUE with the Muggsy Spanier Ragtimers.  Marty’s comment was, “Well, if that doesn’t scrape the clouds . . . !” which is as good a summation of what artistic bliss feels like.

Thank you, Jeff, Dan, Marc, Ralf, Bryan, Katie, John, and Rae Ann — for keeping Beautiful Music Alive!

FOUR MORE FROM SOFIA’S (June 1, 2010)

For your listening and dancing pleasure, JAZZ LIVES is delighted to present another four performances by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks from their inaugural Tuesday night appearance at “Club Cache” in Sofia’s on the lower level of the Hotel Edison (221 West 46th Street) in New York City.

The heroic (and victorious) creators are Vince himself, Arnie Kinsella, Ken Salvo, Peter Yarin, Andy Stein, Dennis Joseph, Dan Block, Andy Farber, Jim Fryer, Mike Ponella, and Jon-Erik Kellso.  They honor the great tradition of twentieth-century American pop / jazz / dance music, staying true to the original intent of the composers and arrangers while creating something new and fresh in every bar.

Bandleaders please note: everyone gets a chance to speak his piece in the course of a set: this is a happily democratic band.

DON’T BE LIKE THAT, a Sammy Fain tune designed to coax a reluctant love object into happy erotic compliance:

SINGIN’ THE BLUES, Mark Lopeman’s transcription of the irreplaceable Bix Beiderbecke – Frank Trumbauer – Eddie Lang classic:

PEGGY, from the book of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, courtesy of Don Redman, John Nesbitt, and our own John Wriggle:

A hot dance extravaganza: WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA, featuring beautiful work by Andy Farber:

As I write this, it’s truly hot in New York City.  I prescribe a proven homeopathic cure — Hot jazz and hot dance music at Sofia’s, now twice a week.

THE CHEERFUL MR. GOODMAN / THE ELUSIVE MR. McKINNEY

The Columbia Records studio, August 6, 1946: Mitchell Ayres, Benny, guitarist Mike Bryan. 

A poster for McKinney’s Cotton Pickers — appearing at a “Roseland” on the Merrimack, autographed to “Bob Page” by William McKinney.  The perpetual calendar tells me that Friday, May 25, would have occurred in 1928 or 1934.  Hard to tell more from the poster, except for the violently stereotypical drawings below.

 

And a detail of the autograph:

eBay, of course.  Where else?