Tag Archives: Michael Groh

GAUCHO GOES TO BRENDA’S (June 9, 2013)

The gypsy jazz group GAUCHO is flexible — it is often a trio of guitarist / composer / singer Dave Ricketts, string bassist Ari Munkres, and accordionist / pianist Rob Reich.  Then it can expand to a sextet, with guitarist Michael Groh, reedman Ralph Carney, and percussionist Elizabeth Goodfellow — or other permutations I haven’t yet witnessed.

On Sunday, June 9, the trio of Ricketts, Munkres, and Reich shared the stage with Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, and Jared Engel at    Brenda’s, an estimable “French soul food restaurant” in San Francisco: 652 Polk Street (at Eddy).  Brenda’s deserves applause not only because GAUCHO has a regular Sunday afternoon-into-night gig there, but because its “French soul food” translates as their version of New Orleans food in substantial well-seasoned portions.  (My muffaletta hero came with a small dish of spicy watermelon rind pickle — five stars’ plus — and all around me people were happily devouring their food.  And Brenda’s blog even provides the recipe for the pickles!)

Here are two performances by GAUCHO from that night.  I would have stayed for more, but we had a recording session to go to — the results of which, I hope, will emerge sooner rather than later.

DOUBLE BARREL, Dave’s composition — using the KING OF THE ZULUS vamp as a starting point — rocks:

SHINE, the old favorite:

Come to Brenda’s on a Sunday (5-8) for hot food and hotter jazz.  And to keep up with GAUCHO, click here.

May your happiness increase!

SWEETLY INTIMATE SWING: MICHAEL GROH and NED BOYNTON at AMNESIA (June 2, 2013)

One of the pleasures of this 2013 California summer has been discovering this intimate, swinging duo — Michael Groh (whom I knew and admired from GAUCHO) on guitar and vocal, and Ned Boynton (new to me) on guitar.  Learn more about Ned here. They played a lovely varied set at Amnesia in San Francisco on Sunday, June 2, offering the kind of relaxed, creative music that we always imagine musicians play when there’s a small audience of people on the same wavelength.

Here are three highlights:

BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (or I THOUGHT I HEARD BUDDY BOLDEN SAY), containing useful information for dancers and lovers of fresh breezes:

A sweetly mobile reading of FOR ALL WE KNOW:

W.C. Handy’s ever-relevant lament about duplicity on all levels, LOVELESS LOVE:

Michael somewhat whimsically called this duo — a compact, intimate band — THE NEW EXCELSIOR RHYTHM BABIES, a spinoff from a larger unit.  To get the full story, ask him on a set break.

May your happiness increase!

GAUCHO and TAMAR KORN CELEBRATE at AMNESIA (Aug. 29, 2012)

The cheerfully flexible gypsy-jazz organization known as GAUCHO celebrated its tenth anniversary at Amnesia (853 Valencia Street, San Francisco:  amnesia) on August 29, 2012.  Traditionally a tenth anniversary is celebrated with gifts of tin or aluminum . . . I hope that the tip basket brimming with bills stood in successfully for “tin.”  But the crowd at Amnesia gave GAUCHO and Tamar Korn an even better present — a warm reception.

And the videos that follow prove how deeply GAUCHO and Tamar were welcomed in San Francisco.  Occasionally the warmth proved physically exuberant: I and my tripod and camera were in fairly constant danger of being treated like Dorothy Gale by some positively athletic dancing couples.  But everyone survived.

For this celebration, GAUCHO consisted of leader – guitarist – composer Dave Ricketts and the eminent swing guitarist Michael Groh in tandem, with the vigorous reedman Ralph Carney, the wily Rob Reich on accordion and piano, the ingenious Ari Munkres on string bass.

They began the evening with an energized I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

Then one of Dave’s compositions that has reached a larger audience through the cinema, DOUBLE BARREL:

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA was anything but wistful Midwestern nostalgia:

Then Tamar joined them for the cautionary yet swinging COMES LOVE:

She followed with a romping DINAH:

And harking back to what I perceive as her roots, Berlin’s RUSSIAN LULLABY:

Finally, she offered two Ricketts (melody) – Korn (lyrics) collaborations:

PEARL:

SING ON:

This party also served to announce once again Gaucho’s new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART (all originals by Dave) with contributions from Leon Oakley, cornet; Clint Baker, various instruments; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums; Marty Eggers, tuba; Dave and Michael.  Look for it wherever better music is sold — in this case, gauchojazz.

May your happiness increase.

SWINGING WITH GAUCHO at YOSHI’S (July 9, 2012)

A little more than a month ago, the Beloved and I were invited to the very beautiful jazz club Yoshi’s in Oakland, California, for an evening with the singular Gypsy jazz group GAUCHO — in celebration of their newest CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART.  For this performance, GAUCHO was a sextet of Dave Ricketts, guitar and composer; Michael Groh, rhythm guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Rob Reich, piano and accordion; Ralph Carney, saxophone and clarinet; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums.  And there were special guests: Leon Oakley, trumpet; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Marty Eggers, tuba.

You’ll hear instantly that GAUCHO, although paying homage to Django Reinhardt, goes its own engaging way with deep feeling, never offering speed-of-light copies of treasured Thirties records in lieu of inventiveness.

COQUETTE:

MISS MYSTERY / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

SOME OF THESE DAYS:

PART-TIME SWEETHEART:

NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT:

TIN MAN WALTZ:

To find out more about this fine band, both swinging and subtle, visit gauchojazz.  And to buy their new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART, you can have the double pleasure of hearing them in person, or you can find Dave on Facebook here.

What a delightful band!

May your happiness increase.

A TRIP TO AVALON with TAMAR KORN and GAUCHO

Suitcases not required.  And you won’t have to show your driver’s license to the pleasant TSA man or woman . . . simply let these superb musicians take you to an ideal place (care of Puccini, Al Jolson, and Benny Goodman).

The travel agent-magicians in charge here are Gaucho, the wondrous swing / gypsy ensemble that has been certified one hundred percent cliche-free by the FDA.  Seen here are guitarists Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh; accordionist Rob Reich; reedman Ralph Carney; cornetist Leon Oakley; string bassist Ari Munkres; percussionist Pete Devine; vocalist Tamar Korn.  This video (beautifully done, thanks to Porto Franco Records) was recorded in 2010 as part of Gaucho’s album PEARL, featuring Tamar. The band is now raising money for their fifth CD, which will feature another great young vocalist – Georgia English, who has studied music with Gaucho’s bandleader since she was 8 years old, and is now a student at Berklee School of Music.  The CD is on its way: I believe it will be out in the first part of July.

See you in Avalon . . .

May your happiness increase.

“PEARL”: TAMAR KORN and GAUCHO

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, here is a fascinating video documentary of the musical meeting of the San Francisco band GAUCHO with Tamar Korn and friends.  Tamar sings “PEARL,” (music by Dave Ricketts, lyrics by Tamar) aided by Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion, Pete Devine, drums, Ari Munkres, bass; Leon Oakley, cornet.

The session happened on January 24, 2010, and is captured here in lovely black and white.  It took place at Cafe Amnesia on Valencia Street in San Francisco, where Gaucho has been appearing for nine years.

Music from this session can be found on the Porto Franco CD of the same name: details available at  http://www.portofrancorecords.com.

GAUCHO, TAMAR KORN, LEON OAKLEY

Courtesy of Porto Franco Records, recorded on October 16, 2010, COMES LOVE featuring the wonderfully diversified group GAUCHO — Dave Ricketts (solo guitar), Michael Groh (rhythm guitar), Ralph Carney (slide clarinet), Rob Reich (accordion), Ari Munkres (bass), Pete Devine (drums) and guests Leon Oakley (trumpet), and Tamar Korn (vocal):

Again courtesy of PFR — a new CD by Gaucho with guest appearances by Tamar and Leon (and guitarist Vic Wong)!  This is, I believe, Gaucho’s fourth disc, and they’re a wonderful group, mixing elements of New Orleans collective improvisation, French musette / grypsy swing, and unclassifiable down-home rocking. 

And where other “Hot Club” groups have dug themselves a comfortable chugging rut, Gaucho is not stuck with its collective head in the Djangocological past.  Ten of the twelve compositions on this disc are Dave Ricketts originals, with lyrics by Tamar and Pete Devine, and the songs have their own flavor and depth. 

Tamar sings on five tracks, and it’s fascinating to hear her in a different environment — reaching, inventing, finding corners that we didn’t know were there and then turning them in style.  She’s also written lyrics for three (SING ON, LITTLE SWEETIE, and PEARL) and I’m happy to report that her lyrics are heartfelt and graceful without being slick.  Rob Reich adds his own unusual flavorings and Leon (as is his habit) heats the place up in four bars. 

The songs are Sing On (Odessa Sing On)  (5:07) / Little Sweetie  (3:19)  /  Doublebarrel  (4:31)  /  Waiting  (3:25)  /  Pazzo  (3:10)  /   Maripoza Waltz  (3:33)  /  Pearl  (6:30)  /  Sergei Stomp  (2:50)  /  Angel  (5:00)  /  Amnesia  (4:13)  /  Lover, Come Back to Me  (6:08) //

I can’t write (even in jest), “Look for it wherever better books and records are sold,” but it is available as a CD or download through http://www.portofrancorecords.com.

FIFTY-SECOND STREET WEST (Cafe Borrone, Oct. 15, 2010)

Because of the wonderful photographs that Charles Peterson and others took, some of my readers will be able to visualize the bandstand at Jimmy Ryan’s sixty-five years ago — crowded with hot musicians jamming on, say, BUGLE CALL RAG, with every luminary in New York City eagerly improvising at the peak of their powers.

Now imagine that scene with additions.  A wondrous singer — let’s say Connee Boswell, Lee Wiley, or Mildred Bailey is joining in for a few numbers. 

And, if your imagination can hold this, Django Reinhardt and some members of his group are also there, off to the side, having a fine time.  Bob Wills is coming through the door, too. 

Did this happen?  If it did — in New York City, circa 1945 — it hasn’t been documented.  But something very much like it happened last Friday, October 15, 2010, in Cafe Borrone, which sits happily in Menlo Park, California.

Cafe Borrone has — through the generosity and prescience of its owner, Roy Borrone — having Clint Baker’s All-Stars as its Friday night jazz band.  For twenty years of Fridays, mind you.  And the 15th was a twentieth-anniversary party.

And “SFRaeAnn,” who is Rae Ann Berry on her driver’s license, was there to record this occasion.  Clint’s regulars were in attendance, but so were some instrumentally-minded friends.  As was the eloquently hot Gypsy-tinged small group Gaucho, and New York’s own wonder, Tamar Korn.  The musicians (collectively) are Clint Baker, playing everything expertly; Robert Young, saxophone; Leon Oakley, cornet; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar; Tom Wilson, trombone; Jim Klippert, trombone; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion; Mike Groh, guitar; Ari Munkres, bass, J. Hansen, drums, Riley Baker, drums.

A word about GAUCHO — a group I’ve seen in San Francisco (and I’ve also listened happily to their recordings): many “Gypsy swing” groups that loosely resemble this one specialize in superhero-speedy readings of the Reinhart-Grappelly repertoire.  In such cases, I agree with my friend Anthony Barnett when he proposes a moratorium on such endeavors.  In my case, all I want is not to be pummelled with notes.  But GAUCHO is superbly different.  The overall affect is superficially of music you’d hear on the porch or in the living room, but that feeling is undercut by the instant awareness that no amateur musicians ever, ever sounded this good.  Its two guitarists play and swap roles with grace and a stylish casualness.  Rob Reich makes the accordion an instrument I would happily listen to, as he spins out wandering lines (I was traumatized by an accordion as a child.)  And Ari Munkeres brings together Pops Foster and Paul Chambers very adeptly.  The overall feeling brings together Teddy Bunn and Western swing and a whole host of refreshing improvisations on various subtle, profound models.   

Here’s part of a delightful EXACTLY LIKE YOU, where Tamar and Leon converse:

And a full-fledged YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY — where Tamar’s eyes and facial expressions reveal a great comic actress, singing the twisty lyrics at a rapid clip.  (Not only that: she sings the verse twice!)  This performance becomes a series of witty conversations and overlapping monologues, most fetchingly: 

How about SOME OF THESE DAYS, with an incredible outchorus where instruments and Tamar (the Mills Sister) blend so exuberantly:

Here’s a  delicate, unaffected I’M CONFESSIN’ — a performance where Ari’s arco bass, Leon’s Ziggy Elman – Harry James emoting, Robert’s sweet alto, and more theoretically disparate elements come together to create something terribly moving:

The simplistic philosophy of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING remains true — complain too much and even the dog walks out of the room — but what catches my eye in the first minute of this performance is that an audience member has asked Tamar to dance (unless I am missing the essential subtext).  At what other site do band members dance with the audience?  I ask you!  And don’t miss the vocal duet between Tamar and Jim Klippert, a man who is having just too much fun to keep it to himself:

Tamar sat out PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE (perhaps the jitterbugging had worn her out for the moment?) and Clint took the vocal, with solos from everyone: 

And the evening ended with a romp nothing short of ecstatic on BILL BAILEY (or, as Joe Wilder calls it, THE RETURN OF WILLIAM BAILEY), which should have you grinning for days:

I’m thrilled that this music was created and that the apparently tireless Rae Ann Berry saved it for us and for posterity.  Bless Roy Borrone, all the musicians, and our own devoted videographer, too.

P.S.  And I have it from good authority that GAUCHO’s new CD has Miss Korn and Mister Oakley in attendance — with some songs that Tamar has written lyrics for.  I check the mailbox every day . . . and will let you know when it arrives!

TAMAR KORN / “GAUCHO” IN SAN FRANCISCO

In the jazz world, new “Gypsy Swing” groups seem to proliferate.  Gaucho is one of the best of the Django-inspired small swing groups, a San Francisco staple, inventive and rocking.  They’ve recorded three CDs, each one delightfully consistent.  They are Dave Ricketts, Michael Groh, g; Rob Reich, acc; Ralph Carney, reeds; Ari Munkres, b; Pete Devine – d, perc, and Cheek-O-Phone (TM) — the last something you’ll have to see and hear in person.  “Gaucho,” incidentally, is the band’s version of “gadjo,” the term a Gypsy would bestow on a non-Gypsy.   

Here are two neat video clips that I just found out about, recorded in atmospheric black and white and HD at AMNESIA in San Francisco a few months back.  The YouTube channel is “PortoFrancoRecords,” a label that will be issuing a new Gaucho CD in the fall. 

AND these two videos (and the CD to come) feature the eloquent and always surprising TAMAR KORN.  Need I say more?    

I associate “The Anniversary Song” with a lugubrious reading in waltz-time, and it has always been credited to Al Jolson, who (not surprisingly) did little to create it aside from recording it.  Here it’s offered in a lilting swing four-four, with Tamar singing, dancing (to the accompaniment of Ralph’s adventurous clarinet solo) and improvising with soprano riffs to conclude:

“I Surrender Dear” comes from Mr. Crosby and Mr. Armstrong, but Tamar makes it her own, as always, floating on Gaucho’s impasioned pulse and invention:

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, whose new website will have a variety of independent music from swing jazz to modern permutations: http://www.portofrancorecords.com/videoblog.  Peter tells me that many musical things are happening quite fast, so there will be more to come very soon!  And energetic YouTube surfers will a number of other clips of Tamar and Gaucho in performance from “charlestonalley,” a friend of swing jazz and swing dance.