Tag Archives: Meredith Axelrod

(CAFE) DIVINE MUSIC (Part Two): LEON OAKLEY and CRAIG VENTRESCO (with MISS MEREDITH AXELROD)

Just beautiful.  Leon, cornet; Craig, guitar; guest star Meredith, vocals — at Cafe Divine (a fine restaurant at 1600 Stockton Street in San Francisco). Leon Oakley and Craig Ventresco play there on the third Sunday of every month, and this session — in two parts — took place on May 18, 2014.

A caveat to start.  Leon and Craig play without amplification, and Cafe Divine is a restaurant, not a concert hall, so you will hear the conversation of the diners. I don’t think that the Savoy Ballroom was reverently still, or the dinners at which Bach and Mozart swung out with their latest compositions.

Their intoxicating music soars.  I told Craig after the first set that he and Leon had performed time-and-space-warping magic: they had made 2014 North Beach into 1928 Chicago, and he agreed: that was their intention!

Here is the second of two tasting menus offered for your delectation. (And here is the first, in case it passed you by.)

SEE SEE RIDER:

TOO BUSY (with Meredith evoking Lillie Delk Christian):

A sweet KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW at the most sweetly romantic tempo imaginable:

The rarely played CHERRY:

Meredith goes south with I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA:
And I ask you.  Did you ever hear the story of WILLIE THE WEEPER?
I look forward to sessions in the months to come.
May your happiness increase!

(CAFE) DIVINE MUSIC (Part One): LEON OAKLEY and CRAIG VENTRESCO (with MISS MEREDITH AXELROD)

Just beautiful.  Leon, cornet; Craig, guitar; guest star Meredith, vocals — at Cafe Divine (a fine restaurant at 1600 Stockton Street in San Francisco). Leon Oakley and Craig Ventresco play there on the third Sunday of every month, and this session — in two parts — took place on May 18, 2014.

A caveat to start.  Leon and Craig play without amplification, and Cafe Divine is a restaurant, not a concert hall, so you will hear the conversation of the diners. I don’t think that the Savoy Ballroom was reverently still, or the dinners at which Bach and Mozart swung out with their latest compositions.

Their intoxicating music soars.  I told Craig after the first set that he and Leon had performed time-and-space-warping magic: they had made 2014 North Beach into 1928 Chicago, and he agreed: that was their intention!

Here is the first of two tasting menus offered for your delectation.

The Hot Five’s ONCE IN A WHILE:

A very moving MEMORIES OF YOU:

Robert Johnson’s HOT TAMALES (THEY’RE RED HOT) which at first I mistook for HOW’M I DOIN’? — being more familiar with Redman than Johnson:

A song I didn’t know, from Amanda Randoph’s repertoire, here sung by Meredith, HONEY, DON’T YOU TURN YOUR BACK ON ME:

A highlight: MABEL’S DREAM:

Meredith offers I’M A LITTLE BLACKBIRD from the Clarence Williams book:

And we close with a spicy MESSIN’ AROUND:

Other bands are playing these songs, and beautifully, too, but no one else is making music quite like this in 2014, I propose. I’ve marked my calendar for the Oakley-Ventresco magical appearances at Cafe Divine, a place that lives up to its name.

May your happiness increase!

May your happiness increase!

FROM EAST TO WEST, EMILY ASHER BRINGS GOOD SOUNDS (Cafe Divine, February 17, 2014)

Trombonist, singer, composer, arranger Emily Asher is so blissfully bicoastal that she makes the rest of us seem as if we’re glued to our recliners.  She flies from Hither to Yon, whisking back and forth from Seattle to Brooklyn, making friends for the music wherever she goes, a marathon runner for good music.

Here’s a very recent sample, from an intriguing gig at Cafe Divine in San Francisco — which began as a duo of trombone (Emily) and accordion (Rob Reich) but expanded in the most graceful way.  The first Special Guest was string bassist Daniel Fabricant, who joined in for a romping ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

Daniel had to go off to make a gig with Gaucho (those spreaders of joy) so Emily and Rob asked the sweet but pointed question, WHY DON’T YOU GO DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS?:

I think Frank Loesser’s imagined ship would be too sluggish for our Ms. Asher, but she likes the tune ON A SLOW BOAT TO CHINA:

BLUE SKIES featured an Impromptu but Expert Girl Trio — An Historic Moment — Emily, Meredith Axelrod, and Kally Price, with Rob and the esteemed Craig Ventresco, guitar:

Meredith showed us the way to MY BLUE HEAVEN:

Now, if you’re reading this on the East Coast and feeling deprived, there is Good News Tonight.  On Saturday, March 1, Emily Asher’s Endangered Species Trio (yes!) will begin New Brunswick Jazz Project’s Women in Jazz month.  They will play at the Alfa Art Gallery in New Brunswick, New Jersey, immediately following a viewing of the very fine film THE GIRLS IN THE BAND.

Details here and here.  The event begins at 6:30; the film screening will be from about 7:20-8:45, and the band will play from 9-11 PM: with Emily, the EST is Tom Abbott, bass saxophone; Rob Reich, accordion.  I’d be there if I could.

May your happiness increase!

AT PLAY IN SONG: MEREDITH AXELROD and TAMAR KORN at CAFE ATLAS (August 10, 2013)

Generous and expert, they filled the air with song.

Here are the final five magical explorations by two brave sweet improvisers, Meredith Axelrod and Tamar Korn, at San Francisco’s Cafe Atlas on August 10, 2013.

LONESOME AND SORRY:

I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING:

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

WHILE THEY WERE DANCING AROUND:

WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP:

When I was finished watching and editing these videos for the blog, I kept thinking, “This isn’t the only kind of music I love, but it’s entirely real.  How lovely to see their pleasure, given freely to us.”

Two other notes.  The previous postings from this cheering afternoon of song can be found here and here.  The series of postings are, of course, for the Beloved, Confetta and Anatol, Louise and Jay.  They know why!

May your happiness increase!

FOUR MORE BEAUTIES BY MEREDITH AXELROD and TAMAR KORN at CAFE ATLAS (August 10, 2013)

Here are four more magical explorations into the deep heart of song by two wonderful singers and improvisers — Meredith Axelrod and Tamar Korn, flying free at San Francisco’s Cafe Atlas on August 10, 2013.

Not only did they use their voices to sing the lyrics and chart the melodies in most harmonious ways; they became a small orchestra of trumpets without brass or mouthpieces, a violin of the soul — needing no strings, rosin, or bow, and tweeting ensemble of airborne birdcalls.

I thought of the words that appeared on the label of the Mills Brothers’ early Decca records:  No musical instruments or mechanical devices used on this recording other than one guitar.

Who needs more?

And fittingly, here’s a song the Mills Brothers recorded early on — NOBODY’S SWEETHEART:

The 1920 classic, MARGIE, with a verse that explains it all:

For Bing and Louis and all the dreamers, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

And Tamar lets us know it with JEALOUS HEARTED ME:

Thank you once more, Meredith and Tamar, for reminding us how light-hearted yet how deep beauty really is, and for encouraging us to be as free in our lives as you are in your song.

May your happiness increase!

MAKING NEW MEMORIES: TAMAR KORN and MEREDITH AXELROD at CAFE ATLAS, AUGUST 10, 2013

One of my favorite stories, not just in jazz, comes from Jess Stacy’s oral history — a book I’ve commended on this blog.  He is lost and unhappy.  He is sitting on the edge of his bed, weighing his miseries yet vowing that he will not drink himself to death.  Eventually, Stacy tires of the introspection and hauls himself upright, telling himself, “Come on, Stacy!  Time to make some new memories!”  And he does.

The story bubbled back to me because of the performance I will share with you.  In it, two young women, one with a guitar, sing and offer deep feelings in a San Francisco eatery on August 10, 2013.

The women?

Eloquently deep-voiced Meredith Axelrod, who also plays guitar in a charming early-twentieth-century manner: she is a strolling troubadour who doesn’t need to roam boulevards.  And Tamar Korn, mistress of soulful explorations.

The song?  Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle’s MEMORIES OF YOU.

Thank you so, Meredith and Tamar, Eubie and Noble, for a new memory I will not forget. My “rosary of tears” while listening and watching comes from joy and admiration.  Music should always come to us with such sweet, grave power.

May your happiness increase!

“PERFECT!”: THE EARREGULARS “COAST TO COAST” (May 1, 2011)

My title comes from a wonderful Bobby Hackett Capitol record date where Bobby (New York by profession, Massachusetts by birth) went out to California with one Jack Teagarden and played with the West Coast boys — COAST CONCERT or COAST TO COAST.  Years ago, such sessions were both novel and fashionable — one side of a Columbia lp devoted to Eddie Condon, the other to the Rampart Street Paraders, or “battles” between East and West Coast players.

No battle here, no head-cutting or manicuring, just beauty.

Last Sunday, the EarRegulars were having a wonderful time at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) — they were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Frank Tate, bass.  They devoted their first set to GREAT JAZZ CITIES OF THE WORLD (without saying a word): thus, CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME; ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS; a slow-drag CHICAGO; ST. LOUIS BLUES; MEMPHIS BLUES, and a few others.  Exquisite soloing, interplay, and creativity.

But I had noticed two familiar faces who nearly surprised me off my barstool — the great San Francisco acoustic guitarist Craig Ventresco and the singer Meredith Axelrod.  They were in town for a flying unannounced family visit — celebrating Craig’s parents’ fiftieth anniversary (hooray for Mr. and Mrs. Ventresco of Maine, hooray!).

Matt Munisteri, bless him, had known Craig was coming . . . so he brought a second guitar for Craig to play.  And lovely things happened.  I knew Craig from my jazz rebirth in 2005 — he played with the Red Onion Jazz Band as well as other floating ensembles (often in the noble company of Kevin Dorn, Jesse Gelber, Barbara Rosene, Michael Bank): he is the poet of archaic music that should never be forgotten — waltzes, stomps, blues, rags, tangos, pop songs — but he also brings depth and richness to any ensemble he’s in.  And Meredith is an unusual combination of demure and passionate, as you’ll hear.

After the set break, everyone settled in for four long sweet performances, which I present here with great delight and pride.  You’ll hear musical jokes, echoes of Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang, the Mississippi Delta coming to Soho, and a great ocean-swell rocking swing . . . music to live for!

They began with the seductively rolling WABASH BLUES — its climbing and descending lines gaining momentum although never getting louder or faster.  Jon-Erik preached through his plunger mute (his sermons are secular but compelling); Pete Martinez showed himself a wonderful dramatic actor on the clarinet, alternating between the primitive and serene; Matt’s lines rang and chimed; Frank brought forth his own brand of casual eloquence.  And Craig played as if sitting on the porch, with all the time in the world:

“Perfect!” you can hear Terry Waldo say — the only thing anyone could say!

After some discussion, the quintet arrived at ROSE ROOM (was it a memory of Charlie Christian or just a good tune to jam on): I savor the conversation between Jon-Erik and Pete in the second chorus, followed by the string section and Pete.  Then there’s Mister Tate, the Abraham Lincoln of the string bass — every note resonating with joy and seriousness.  He knows how to do it, he does!  And then the band, led by Slidin’ Jon Kellso, eases into a rocking motion that would have made the Goodman Sextet of 1941 happy.  (I thought also of the way Ruby Braff slid and danced over his two guitars and bass viol in 1974-5, not a bad memory to have.)  Matt winds and sways in his own fashion — it’s like observing a championship skater improvising on the ice, isn’t it?  And those deliciously playful conversations between Pete and Jon-Erik, then Matt and Craig . . . then some powerful riffing and jiving.  Wow, as we say!

Charlie Levenson, patron saint of informal jazz, suggested SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, and although it was late and ordinary circumstances a closing hot tune would have been the only choice, it was clear that the EarRegulars were having such a good time that no one wanted to end the music a moment too soon.  The EarRegulars and Craig immediately settle into a kind of well-oiled glide that summons up Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Jack Teagarden, and Benny Goodman — or perhaps an imagined Vanguard Records session — swaying sweetly for a good long time.  Soulful is the word for this performance:

For the closing song, Jon-Erik brought Meredith up for MY BLUE HEAVEN — that pastoral / domestic celebration.  Only a very few singers are invited to sit in at The Ear, but Meredith stepped right into the role!  Celebration was what I felt, and I daresay that my joy was shared by many people at The Ear — with more to come because of these videos.  And — since I love cats — Pete’s solo reminds me so much of a kitten with a toy furry mouse, turning it over and batting it around.  He is at the very apex — ask another clarinetist, such as Dan Block!  While the fellows were playing, the political news was on the television above — and Jon-Erik wove DING, DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD! and YOU RASCAL YOU into his solo — although JAZZ LIVES isn’t about politics but sharing beauty:

This is what Fifty-Second Street must have sounded like.  Only better!  And it exists here and now.  What blessings!