Tag Archives: medium tempo

“FESTINA LENTE”: RAY SKJELBRED, CLINT BAKER, RILEY BAKER at BIRD and BECKETT (July 11, 2019)

σπεῦδε βραδέως.  “Make haste slowly.” 

Yes, this post begins with classical Greek and a photograph of Louis Armstrong singing to a horse — all relevant to the performances below, recorded just ten days ago at the remarkable cultural shrine of San Francisco, Bird and Beckett Books and Records (653 Chenery Street).  Thanks, as always, to the faithful Rae Ann Berry for documenting this facet of Ray Skjelbred’s California tour.

As bands play familiar repertoire over the decades, tempos speed up.  Perhaps it’s to stimulate the audience; perhaps it’s a yearning to show off virtuosity . . . there are certainly other reasons, conscious as well as unexamined, that are part of this phenomenon.  But Medium Tempo remains a lush meadow for musicians to stroll in, and it’s always pleasing to me when they count off a familiar song at a groovy slower-than-expected tempo.  I present two particularly gratifying examples, created by Ray Skjelbred, piano; Clint Baker, trumpet; Riley Baker, drums.  Here, JEEPERS CREEPERS is taken at the Vic Dickenson Showcase tempo, or near to it, reminding us that it’s a love song, even if sung to a horse:

and a nice slow drag for AFTER YOU’VE GONE, in keeping with the lyrics:

I don’t know how many people have seen the film clip below from the 1938 Bing Crosby film GOING PLACES, where Louis Armstrong introduced the Harry Warren – Johnny Mercer song JEEPERS CREEPERS.  (There is a brief interruption in the video: the music will resume.)

For the full story of Louis, the horse (a mean one), and the movie, you’ll have to wait for Ricky Riccardi’s splendid book on Louis’s “middle years,” 1929-47, HEART FULL OF RHYTHM.  For now, who knows the uncredited rhythm section on this clip?. I imagine it to be Joe Sullivan and Bobby Sherwood, but that may be a fantasy, one I happily indulge myself in.

And what Eric Whittington makes happen at Bird and Beckett Books is no fantasy: he deserves our heartfelt thanks, whether in classical Greek or the San Francisco demotic of 2019.

May your happiness increase!

FOR THE LOVE OF SWING (AND THE SWING OF LOVE): DANIEL BARDA, LOUIS MAZETIER, JERÔME ETCHEBERRY, CHARLES PRÉVOST: JANUARY 30, 2015

This delightful swing aubade came to me — and I hope many others — through Facebook, and I learned that this is trombonist Daniel Barda’s Super Swing Project, “Hommage à Fats Waller,” performed on January 30 of this year at Jazzclub Ja-ZZ Rheinfelden (www.ja-zz.ch).

I also must thank the recordist, Peter Gutzwiller, for making this delightful effusion both permanent and accessible to us.

Aside from Monsieur Barda, whom we know from Paris Washboard, there is the superb trumpeter Jerôme Etcheberry (of Les Swingberries), the most honored Louis Mazetier, a stride monarch, and the swinging washboardist Charles Prévost.

They pay tribute to Mister Waller in a charming and convincing way — not by offering their own faster-than-light improvisations on his compositions, not by singing YOUR FEETS TOO BIG, but by jamming in medium-tempo and a little faster on three lovely early-Thirties songs that have swing built in to them.  “Here’s another good old good one that all the musicians in the house love to jam,” as Louis would say.

I think it’s no accident that all three of these songs — if you consider their lyrics, which musicians used to do — are love songs.  One declares that they eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, and both entities entranced the singer; one wishes for a more perfect union of the singer and the Love Object; one expresses delighted incredulity that the blissful union has come to pass.  It just reinforces that love is an inexhaustible subject, and that the best music is love in action. Swing out, you lovers!

I dream of a time when one would give one’s Beloved some Commodore discs for a birthday present, for Valentine’s Day.

THEM THERE EYES:

IF DREAMS COME TRUE:

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

It makes me very happy to experience these videos, and to be reassured that such beauty is taking place all around the world.  Blessings on these four gentlemen and also on the man behind the camera.

May your happiness increase! 

THREE MOODS, NO WAITING: JON-ERIK KELLSO, ANDY FARBER, CHRIS FLORY, MICHAEL KARN, DAVE GROSS, GARY FOSTER (The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, September 8, 2013)

This trio of selections from another memorable Sunday-night party at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) reminds us again of a great band’s ability to move freely around in a variety of tempos, and of the beauties of melodic improvisation.

Tempo: in the last thirty years, the speed at which familiar jazz material is approached has steadily accelerated, until (to my ears) some groups have only two speeds, Fast and Faster (with an occasional ballad or slithering mood piece / blues).  The EarRegulars are intimately familiar with the glories of Medium Tempo and Rhythm Ballads.

Melody: although the musicians may chat delightedly about the harmonic feats of daring accomplished during a solo, most of us warm to the sweet melodies we know.  This doesn’t mean that they have to be replicated precisely according to the sheet music, but it does mean that BODY AND SOUL, for example, is more than a shift from one key center to another.

That’s enough aesthetic sermonizing for anyone.  To the music — which proves once again that classic standards still have enough resilience to be fascinating material for improvisers in this century — three songs written before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term.

The players are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Andy Farber, tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, electric guitar; Michael Karn, string bass:

A romp on TEA FOR TWO:

A very sweetly evocative slither through LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

With Dave Gross, acoustic guitar, and Gary Foster, wirebrushes on paper “tablecloth,” the band took it easy on ROSE ROOM (a sweetly pastoral song in its first incarnation):

You’ve never been to The Ear Inn for a Sunday-night Frolic?  They begin about 8 PM and end sometime shortly after 11.  And they’re memorable — larger than my videos, even in HD, can contain.  (These sessions have been going on for six years now, which makes them a New York institution — but plan to show up before the EarRegulars celebrate their tenth, or their twenty-fifth anniversary.  In New York, even monuments have a habit of disappearing.  Ask any New Yorker.)

May your happiness increase!