Tag Archives: Michael Steinman

A FEW MUSICAL NOUNS AND VERBS FROM CURTIS FULLER (1934-2021) with JIMMIE ROWLES, BARNEY WILEN, RED MITCHELL, BOBBY ROSENGARDEN (July 13, 1978)

The cold facts. Trombonist / composer / bandleader Curtis Fuller, born December 15, 1934, left us on May 8, 2021.

In Michael J. West’s farewell piece in Jazz Times, he wrote this, “Asked in a 2012 interview by writer Mark Stryker about the keys to a good solo, Fuller replied, ‘Humor and dialogue. … Music is English composition. Each song should have a subject, and phrases should have a noun, a verb, and like that. It should be expressive. Exclamation points: Bap!’”

I knew there were reasons I admired this man. And although I was initially excited about the music you will hear because of the presence of my hero Jimmie Rowles, I celebrate Curtis Fuller as well. This session from the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 13, 1978 — audio only — presents Curtis Fuller, trombone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Barney WIlen, tenor saxophone; Red Mitchell, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums, playing a repertoire that I would call sophisticated Mainstream: SOFTLY, AS IN A MORNING SUNRISE / ALL OF YOU / THESE FOOLISH THINGS (Mitchell) / STELLA BY STARLIGHT with Fuller cadenza / JITTERBUG WALTZ (Rowles, Mitchell, Rosengarden).

I know some of my more “traditional” readers might feel that jazz trombone begins and ends with Jack Teagarden, and I revere Jack, Vic, Bennie, Dicky, their ancestors and their modern heirs, but I urge them to give Curtis Fuller an open-eared hearing. He is a great vocal player; he speaks to us; he has things to say. Fuller is technically adept but he is more interested in telling us his very vocal stories. Hear him out. And you can, on a second hearing, absorb Rowles’ subversive beauties, and the way the rest of the band — apparently an unusual mixture of players — settles in to swing:

Thank you, Curtis, for your energy, humor, and open-heartedness.

May your happiness increase!

“THERE IS DELIGHT, DOING THINGS RIGHT”: THE HOT ANTIC JAZZ BAND TAKES SCOTLAND (BBC-TV, Glasgow, August 20, 1989)

I believe that the wondrous Hot Antic Jazz Band is a working band no more. But their sounds (and sights) continue to delight us, thanks to the generous technological skills of their leader, Michael Bastide, and we can enjoy their performances of FOUR OR FIVE TIMES and THE STORY BOOK BALL from Scottish television. (I love the former especially: McKinney’s Cotton Pickers coming to life amid greenery.)

These masters of Hot are Michel Bastide, cornet, valve-trombone, vocal; Virginie Bonnel, alto saxophone, clarinet, vocal; Jean-François Bonnel, tenor alto saxopone, clarinet, trumpet, vocal; Stéphane Matthey, piano; Jean-Pierre Dubois, banjo; Christian Lefèvre, tuba, marching trombone:

Delightful: authentic but not musty, full of expert fun.

As I write this, Michel Bastide‘s YouTube channel has a very small number of subscribers. I ask JAZZ LIVES’ readers to make sure the eminent Doctor Bastide does not feel that his efforts are in vain. Subscribe, s’il vous plait. (Or, as Red Allen would shout, “Make him happy!”)

May your happiness increase!

https://syncopatedtimes.com

WE’RE CRAZY ‘BOUT THEM: The EarRegulars, featuring JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, SCOTT ROBINSON, PAT O’LEARY (May 2, 2021, outside The Ear Inn)

What could be better? — sunshine, friends, The EarRegulars, swinging rebirth outside The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, C-melody and tenor saxophones, Eb tuba; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass, Fats Waller’s I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, complete with verse:

And here’s the JAZZ LIVES Official Mobius Strip: I am posting this video on Sunday, May 16, 2021, and IF IT ISN’T RAINING (caps essential here) I will be outside The Ear Inn, digging the sounds created by Jon-Erik, John Allred, trombone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass . . . while you might be reading this post and listening to the sounds created on May 2. Don’t think too much about it: just enjoy. It’s Newton’s Law — Frank, not Isaac — “With swing, all things are possible.”

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S BEEN SO LONG,” or DOWNSTAIRS UPROAR: JON-ERIK KELLSO, JOHN ALLRED, MATT MUNISTERI, TAL RONEN (Cafe Bohemia, January 16, 2020)

Walter Donaldson’s IT’S BEEN SO LONG could have been the theme song of the pandemic. But this performance, two months before the lights went out, is cheerful, rambunctious, uplifting.

These celestial noises were created below stairs at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, at one of their Thursday-night revels, this one featuring Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. Apologies to John for not including him in the frame: I recall trying to do so and being blocked by someone’s head, never a great accomplishment in cinematography:

Cafe Bohemia has not resumed its revels, although we live in hope. But — did you know — Jon-Erik, John, Joe Cohn, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass, will be playing outside The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York, tomorrow, Sunday, May 15, from 1 to 3:30?

Now you know.

May your happiness increase!

THREE TIMES AROUND THE FLOOR: BOBBY HACKETT, VIC DICKENSON, MAXINE SULLIVAN, LOU FORESTIERI, TITO RUSSO, JOE BRANCATO (January-February 1969)

Imagine that, slightly more than fifty years ago, you could take your partner out for dinner and dancing not a long walk from New York City’s Pennsylvania Station — the Riverboat, in the lower level of the Empire State Building. There, you could dance to the music of the Bobby Hackett Quartet plus Vic Dickenson, with vocals by Maxine Sullivan. A dream, no? And if you simply saw the listings of songs performed on any given night, you could utter the usual implausible requests for a time machine. But for once, the government of a major nation made art accessible, and the programs (about fifteen minutes long) were not only broadcast on CBS Radio in good sound, but were transcribed by the U.S. Treasury Department for service personnel overseas, and here, for everyone, as an inducement to buy U.S. Savings Bonds.

Bobby, listening to Vic at Childs Paramount, October 1952 (photograph by Robert Parent).
A very young Maxine Sullivan.

Dreams come true, and I can offer you just under an hour of varied, inventive, danceable music by Bobby, Vic, Maxine (I’ve noted her performances by *), Lou Forestieri, piano; Tito Russo, string bass; Joe Brancato, drums: three programs in all.

Friday, 1.17.69: TIN ROOF BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES / JOANNA (Vic out) / SILVER MOON (Bobby out — a Vic original?) / HARLEM BUTTERFLY* / I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER* / SAINTS //

Friday, 1.31.69: TIN ROOF BLUES / LET’S FALL IN LOVE / EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME* / THE LADY IS A TRAMP* / I’LL TRY (Bobby out – a Vic original for sure) / MUSKRAT RAMBLE / TIN ROOF BLUES //

Friday, 2.14.69: TIN ROOF BLUES / UNDECIDED / I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU* / LOCH LOMOND* / A STRING OF PEARLS //

I don’t always celebrate birthdays, but Maxine’s was yesterday, May 13, and it’s wonderful to hear her easy, floating way with a song — a splendid match for Bobby and Vic. And I think with deep nostalgia of the days (1969 seems both near and far) when such lovely sounds could come out of the radio, as they were happening, and then be preserved for us, decades later.

And a splendid side note: I was meandering along on Facebook, as some of us do, before posting this blog, and I saw the name “Lou Forestieri,” as someone I might know. I’d never encountered Lou in person, and he and I are now a continent apart, but when I asked if he was THE Lou Forestieri who had played with Bobby — at the start of his career, when he was not yet 25 — he responded happily and said he was. Lou has gone on to a distinguished career as composer, arranger, orchestrator for television and films. JAZZ LIVES salutes him.

May your happiness increase!

“FINDING ANOTHER WORLD”: RAY SKJELBRED and his CUBS ASK A DEEP QUESTION (KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, KATIE CAVERA, JEFF HAMILTON, Sacramento, May 25, 2014)

Ray Skjelbred is more than comfortable with taking risks — not hang-gliding or sky-diving, but performing new songs in front of an audience, as he does here. The clues are simple: “Three choruses.” “My favorite Gershwin song,” and he and his Cubs — Jeff Hamilton, drums; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar — take us to another world:

Those of us who follow Ray, and Ray and his Cubs, might quickly associate them with the bedrock of Chicago jazz: dark-blue musings and skyrocket exuberance, and all that would be true. But their deep soulfulness comes out on a quiet but eloquent ballad performance such as this one.

The question is asked, and asked with feeling, leaving listeners to invent their own answers. Bless Ray, and all his friends.

May your happiness increase!

MR. RUSSELL FELT BETTER ALREADY: EDDIE CONDON, WILD BILL DAVISON, CUTTY CUTSHALL, EDMOND HALL, GENE SCHROEDER, BOB CASEY, BUZZY DROOTIN, RALPH SUTTON, ERNIE CACERES, AL HALL, JOE BUSHKIN, RAY McKINLEY (Town Hall, New York, February 21, 1951)

Pee Wee Russell hadn’t taken good care of himself, and his body had rebelled in 1951. Thank goodness for the medical acumen of the times that enabled him to live almost twenty years more. But I also think that knowing that he was so loved — Jack Teagarden and Louis Armstrong visiting him in the hospital — and events such as this concert must have helped. Music and love were so intertwined that it would be silly to ask where one starts and the other one ends, because neither one of them ends.

Pee Wee, distorted, by Weegee, c. 1955.

It’s odd to write that good things came out of the Cold War. But the belief that one of the best ways to exhibit the happiness possible under capitalism was to share hot music as an emblem of freedom may seem naive now, but it had sweet results. The Voice of America, an active propaganda medium, beamed live American jazz “behind the Iron Curtain,” hoping for conversion experiences.

In 2021, those of us old enough to remember Khruschev’s shoe and the Bay of Pigs, hiding under our desks, terrified of a thermonuclear device, can listen to some rich “Americondon” music. And for those who have no idea what those historical references might mean are encouraged to learn a little history and listen to the joys.

Here’s the menu:

JAZZ CLUB USA (Voice of America): from Town Hall, New York City, February 21, 1951: Tribute to Pee Wee Russell.

FIDGETY FEET / I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Ed Hall, Gene Schroeder, Eddie Condon, Bob Casey, Buzzy Drootin / UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE Ernie Caceres, Schroeder, Al Hall, Buzzy / I CAN’T GET STARTED – HALLELUJAH! Joe Bushkin, Ray McKinley / IN A MIST Ralph Sutton / BASIN STREET BLUES as FIDGETY FEET:

And Pee Wee got better. Isn’t that lovely?

May your happiness increase!

GROOVING WITH FREDDY COLE, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, RANDY NAPOLEON, PAUL KELLER, EDDIE METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 25, 2014)

I am delighted to be able to share these two deeply swinging performances (talk about “being in the pocket”!) by Freddy Cole, piano and vocal; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Eddie Metz, drums — performed and recorded at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

Freddy Cole, 2018. Photograph by Jason Getz.

The Groove here is quite remarkable — as is the ensemble teamwork. Please notice the immaculate empathy among these musicians, with Paul and Ed acting as one but with discrete personalities, Freddy an orchestra in himself, and the wonderful rocking created by Bucky and Randy. Two other things I would call to your attention: the way Maestro Bucky, the senior member of the ad hoc aggregation, takes it upon himself — and why not? — to direct traffic, and does so with decades of experience. Also, the smile on Randy’s face: if we could harness that glowing energy, we could abandon fossil fuel.

What swing feels like, if you believe in it:

and “the highway that’s the best”:

May your happiness increase!

SOME SPLENDID NEWS: THE RETURN OF THE REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL (Sept. 30 – Oct. 3, 2021)

Given the landscape we have been traveling through, when good news shows up, it’s almost a shock. So brace yourself: I have some, as spelled out in the title of this post.

The Redwood Coast Music Festival is going ahead, energetically and intelligently, for 2021.

I did not take the pandemic lightly, and I spent a good deal of last year scared to bits . . . but I’m going. And I hope you will also, if you can.

Details here — but I know you want more than just details.

Although for those who like it very plain, some elementary-school math: four days, more than a hundred sets performed at eight stages, from intimate to huge. Dance floors. And the festival is wonderfully varied, presenting every kind of “roots music” you can imagine: “jazz, swing, blues, zydeco, rockabilly, Americana, Western Swing, country.”

Off the top of my head — when I was there in 2019, I heard the music of Charlie Christian, Moon Mullican, Pee Wee Russell, Kid Ory, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Hodges, Pete Johnson, Billie Holiday, and much more. Bob Wills said howdy to Walter Donaldson, which was very sweet.

And here are some of the jazz and blues artists who will be there: Carl Sonny Leyland, Duke Robillard, Dave Stuckey, Hal Smith, Andy Schumm, Dan Barrett, Jonathan Doyle, Jacob Zimmerman, Dan Walton, Marc Caparone, Joe Goldberg, Bill Reinhart, Joshua Gouzy, Joel Patterson, Katie Cavera, Dawn Lambeth, Clint Baker, Kris Tokarski, Nate Ketner, Brian Casserly, Josh Collazo, Ryan Calloway, and two dozen other worthies whose names don’t yet appear on the site. And of course, bands — ad hoc units and working ones.

For the justifiably anxious among us, here is the RCMF’s Covid update: several things stand out. First, California has mandated that ticket sales must be in advance. And understandably, there will be fewer people allowed in any space . . . so this translates for you, dear reader, as a double incentive to buy tickets early. I know that festivals always urge attendees to do this, but you can see these are atypical reasons.

How about some musical evidence?

CASTLE ROCK, by the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet:

WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, by Dawn Lambeth and her Quartet:

REACHING FOR SOMEONE, by the Doyle-Zimmerman Sextet:

HELLO, LOLA! by Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL:

SAN ANTONIO ROSE, by Dave Stuckey – Hal Smith’s Western Swing All-Stars:

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN, by Marc Caparone and his “Louis Armstrong All-Stars”:

If the videos don’t act as proof, my words may be superfluous. But to paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog and I’ll write if I want to.”

I come to this festival-jazz party circuit late — both late for me and for the phenomenon — September 2004. Chautauqua, California, Connecticut, Newcastle, Westoverledingen, and others. I’ve attended a hundred of them. Meaning no offense to any festival organizer, I think Redwood Coast delivers such quality and such range that it is astonishing. I told Mark Jansen that it was the SUPERMARKET SWEEP of festivals: so much to pick up on in so short a time. And readers will understand that my range is narrow: there is much music on the list of genres above that doesn’t stir me, although it might be excellent.

However: in 2019 I came home with over 150 videos in four days of enthusiastic observation-participation. I slept as if drugged on the plane ride home. I’d been perforated by music of the finest kind.

I also need to write a few darker sentences.

There is a blessed influx of younger people — dancers, often — to music festivals like this one. But festivals are large enterprises, costly to stage and exhausting to supervise. Those of us who want to be able to see and hear live music must know that this phenomenon needs what realistic promoters call Asses in Seats.

So if you say, “Well, I’ll come in a few years when I’m retired,” that’s understandable. But Asses at Home mean that this festival, and others, might not wait for you. Grim, but true.

So I hope to see you there. There are a million reasons to stay at home. But who will come in and dust you?

May your happiness increase!

CHANGES WERE MADE: THE RETURN OF THE EarRegulars, May 2, 2021 – THE FUTURE

Some small history: The EarRegulars ceased playing their restorative Sunday-night gig at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) more than a year ago, in March 2020. About a month later, I decided to do what I could to assuage the collective grief and absence by creating a Sunday-night post where I offered video performances by the EarRegulars going back to 2009. It was a ceremonial offering of hope and joy — reminding us of the glories of past Sundays and keeping alive the idea that these communal explosions of life would come again. But my tone was elegiac, because no one could confidently say, “We’ll be right back after this brief pause.”

As of Sunday, May 2, a dream came true when the EarRegulars — Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor and C-melody saxophones, Eb tuba, and Pat O’Leary, string bass, performed “at” The Ear Inn, out on the sidewalk, in the sunshine, to a happy crowd.

Nothing is certain in this life, but optimism has taken the place of mourning, so the Sunday-night mood at JAZZ LIVES will no longer be a wistful look into the past but a celebration of what is happening NOW.

In the past few days, I’ve shared videos from that May 2 performance: I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY, DON’T BLAME ME, CHINATOWN, An EDDY DAVIS ENDING, HINDUSTAN, and GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU? — which you can visit easily by going backwards through the postings. Today, however, the most appropriate piece of music to the theme (perhaps not exactly death and rebirth, more like induced-coma-and-bringing-the-patient-back?) is the venerable Chicagoan THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

The May 9 performance was cancelled beforehand because of rain, but I expect to have more joyous sidewalk-phenomena to share with you. Dreams do come true, and wonders never cease. Welcome back, heroes.

May your happiness increase!

“LOVE MAKES ME TREAT YOU THE WAY THAT I DO”: The EarRegulars Show Us Love (Outside at The Ear Inn: Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Scott Robinson, Pat O’Leary, May 2, 2021)

Wise humor by Maria Traversa.

I’ve always felt Don Redman’s plaintive love song deeply — posed as a question, explaining devotion to someone who needs an explanation, which makes it more poignant (“Don’t you understand why I do these things for you, my dear?”) — GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU?

Hot Lips Page, Jimmy Rushing, Billie Holiday, and Nat Cole sang it . . . but even if you know only the title, you get the feeling. And the EarRegulars specialize in feeling.

Here they are, laying it on us, outside the Ear Inn, on May 2, 2021:

Delightfully, this is not meant to be a single remarkable occasion, like the appearance of Halley’s Comet in the night sky. No, the EarRegulars have plans — pray for no rain! — for Sunday, May 9, 2021, with Kellso, Munisteri, O’Leary, and John Allred, trombone. What’s that? “It’s Mother’s Day, Michael!” “Doesn’t Mom deserve the best?

Did you miss the joys of May 2 that I’ve posted so far? Get comfortable and let yourself be pleased here. And if you understand the significance of this event and the promise of Sundays to come, you will notice more people grinning as you get closer to Spring Street.

May your happiness increase!

“TOO GOOD TO IGNORE”: THE EarRegulars REVIVE MANHATTAN: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, SCOTT ROBINSON, PAT O’LEARY (Outside THE EAR INN, May 2, 2021)

Yes, the stories you’ve heard are true. “It happened. I felt it happen.” Last Sunday, from 1-3:30, the EarRegulars (Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone, tenor saxophone, Eb tuba; Pat O’Leary, string bass) brought color to the cheeks of a moribund city — resuscitation or resurrection, you choose — and it was wonderful. Skeptical? See and hear more here.

And they will be doing it again on Sunday, May 9, same time, same place, only with John Allred in for Scott.

Energized whimsy by Maria Traversa.

Here’s a wondrous journey to the Exotic East — HINDUSTAN, with key changes from C to Eb on every chorus. Romping is what I call it:

This Sunday, from 1 to 3:30, at 326 Spring Street. No dress code, but expect to help the Ear by purchasing something to eat. Bring cash for the musicians, please. Good tipping is good karma. And decorous behavior: no capers in the street with your beer sloshing. But otherwise . . . bring open hearts and ears.

May your happiness increase!

SKIP THE MASS-PRODUCED MOTHER’S DAY DINNER AND BRING MOM HERE FOR BOTTOMLESS SERVINGS OF JOY (The EarRegulars Return — Outside — to The Ear Inn!)

I’m not being facetious at all. Last Sunday, May 2, a kind of spiritual rebirth took place outside 326 Spring Street from 1 to 3:30, when that blessed little band of swing creators, the EarRegulars, played two uplifting sets to a happy audience. They were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, C-melody and tenor saxophone, Eb tuba; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

They will return on Sunday, May 9. Details below.

Inventive art by Maria Traversa.

Here are a few of the savory performances I captured — in a small puddle (at least metaphorically) of bliss.

Because family relations between children and parents can be fraught, how about I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY?:

On a similar thread of contrition, DON’T BLAME ME:

After the music has ended, you and the family can do the right thing and take Mom to Chinatown for really good food — no fruit cup or green salad with walnuts and dried cranberries, but all sorts of delicacies. Hester Street, Mott Street, and more. Here’s the music to inspire you all:

Probably everyone sentient in the audience knew and loved Eddy Davis, and I know the band certainly did. So Scott launched them in to one of Eddy’s surprise-false-second endings, a kind of Hallelujah! Appropriate to spiritual gatherings:

So, Sunday, May 9. Mother’s Day. Celebrate it with these four mothers of inventiveness: Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, and Pat O’Leary.

Choose wisely. Tell Mom a remarkable treat awaits. You won’t be telling a lie.

However (and this is serious) please tell her that outdoor gatherings have their own set of rules: patrons need to be aware of the laws as far as spilling over beyond the Ear property, and standing around drinking outside, not bringing their own chairs and beverages, etc., or blocking the sidewalk or street. If Mom stands in the middle of the street with her open IPA or blocks traffic, these gatherings will not continue. But she’s reasonable, I know.

May your happiness increase!

“THE REBECCA KILGORE TRIO, Vol. 1”: REBECCA KILGORE, RANDY PORTER, TOM WAKELING, and DICK TITTERINGTON (Heavywood Records)

For those of you who live in my aesthetic neighborhood, the sentence “Rebecca Kilgore has a new CD out,” will require no explanation. Cheering, high-fiving, messaging friends, but no explanation.

This is the magic doorway through which you can snag this fine music.

The CD was recorded in 2020, with Becky’s long-time friends and musical partners Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Dick Titterington, cornet (on SOMEBODY and STAR only). Here are two samples, for anyone who needs to be reminded of Ms. Kilgore’s ethereal yet solid magic. SOMEBODY JUST LIKE YOU, music by Meredith D’Ambrosio, words by Dan Davis:

and the melancholy BECAUSE WE’RE KIDS, music by Fredrick Hollander, music by “Dr. Seuss”:

Characteristically — our Rebecca lives for song-treasures — much of the repertoire is a series of small surprises, delicate but powerful. Only a handful will be familiar: DEAR BIX, THE GENTLEMAN IS A DOPE, THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL, AZURE, and DAY IN, DAY OUT. The rest are “strangers” that become musical dear friends right off: RUN, LITTLE RAINDROP, RUN / TALKING TO MYSELF ABOUT YOU / OLD SOFT SHOE / I WANNA GET MARRIED / LIKE THE BRIGHTEST STAR / THAT SUNDAY, THAT SUMMER //

Messrs. Porter, Wakeling, and Titterington are sensitive musicians who listen and react — with empathy and intuition. The air is friendly rather than competitive, and their accompaniment is generous, pointing up the beauties of the song and of Rebecca’s interpretation, changing from chorus to chorus but always sustaining the mood. And their solos are wise and sweet: each track feels both spontaneous and composed. This trio’s been working together for ten years, and their working-band intimacy is rare and wonderful. (Beautiful recording by Randy Porter, as well, who knows how to do it.)

I’ve left Ms. Kilgore to last, because no one can follow her. (Except her cat.) She doesn’t shout or howl or stamp to convince you that she is, in fact, a Jazz Singer. No tricks, no gimmicks, no straining. And hers is a mature artistry. The listener never feels that she is in a hurry to get to the next rhyme to land on it with a thump; when there are emotional highs or lows in the lyrics, she doesn’t announce them in capital letters. Her voice remains warm, clear, and unaffected (with casual yet clear diction that other singers could well study). Her swing is easy and unforced, like the companion who walks next to you with a pace unhurried yet never draggy. Most of all , she knows what the song means: there’s never anything mechanical, nor is there High Drama.

Rebecca’s been at The Singing Game for a few years now, and she has a substantial and varied discography. But where other artists begin to repeat themselves: “I had a hit with ________________, so let me find a song that has some of the same mood as ____________,” Rebecca is living anew as she sings. She doesn’t want to repeat herself, for to do so would be to bore herself as well as us. So where, early in her career, she specialized in Light and Bright and Sparkling, she continues to reach out both in repertoire and interpretation so that her performances have the ring of deep authenticity. And I don’t know anyone else singing now who so convincingly can be thoughtful and playful at the same time.

Some singers work very hard to convince you of their Sincerity and to sell each phrase as Memorable. Rebecca doesn’t have to. When she sings, it’s as if a dear friend is sharing a deeply felt story without artifice. Her voice has a speaking lightness: we lean forward to catch the nuances and are happy we did. Like Rebecca, Randy and Tom are lightness and shade, swing and feeling.

The cover says “Vol. One”: I hope for many more!

May your happiness increase!

COMING SOON, A SECOND MARTY PARTY! (MARTY GROSZ, DANNY TOBIAS, VINCE GIORDANO, JACK SAINT CLAIR: Awlbury Arboretum, Germantown, Philadelphia, May 26, 2021)

Marty in full swing. Photograph by Lynn Redmile.

Mark it down. Marty Grosz and friends will be playing an outdoor gig on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at a lovely arboretum. Tickets are $25; the venue is small (around 70 seats) and seats are going quickly. Socially distanced and all those necessary details as well. The friends are Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn and other brasses; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, tuba, string bass; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone and clarinet. This will be Marty’s first gig since the famous ninetieth-birthday parties of March 2020. All this thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig, guitarist, musical sparkplug, and leader of the Hot Club of Philadelphia.

I don’t want to be more tactless than usual, but a Marty Grosz gig is a living reason to Carpe the __________ Diem.

Here‘s where you can get details and order tickets.

And here’s a characteristic Marty-and-friends performance from his ninetieth birthday party at the World Cafe, March 4, 2020. He picks up “the riverboat violin” for the venerable WABASH BLUES — alongside Vince Giordano, tuba; Jack Saint Clair, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, reeds; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Jim Lawlor, drums; Danny Tobias, trumpet. The impatient among you should be warned that Marty, as he is wont to do, tells a tale before the music starts at 7:50. Myself, I think Marty-narratives are valuable (have you read his autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE: MY LIFE IN JAZZ, published by Golden Valley Press?) and the music that follows is of course also.

See you there.

May your happiness increase!

JOAN MAR SAUQUÉ’S BRIGHT SOUNDS: “GONE WITH THE WIND”

I confess I can be guilty of the parochialism that burdens many jazz fans.  Some listen with their eyes (you know what I mean) and some listen for the Name: “I never heard of __________,” translates tacitly to dismissal, based on an unspoken egotism: “I am wise in the ways of The Jazz, and if I haven’t heard of ____________, (s)he cannot be up to my standards.” 

But when a friend whose taste is unquestionably good (in this case, the erudite and friendly Fernando Ortiz de Urbina) says, “You might like this,” I put my impatience and snobbery aside and listen.

And in the case of the young trumpeter Joan Mar Sauqué, I’m seriously convinced.  You can quote me: “Everybody from Barcelona can really do that thing!”

 

But don’t depend on me.  Hear some brilliant evidence:

and some Jerome Kern:

You can decide for yourself who Joan “Sounds Like,” and I have my own short list of eminent names, but what he sounds like to be is delightful: lyrical but fluent, fast on his feet with every note ringing chime-like.  Airborne but serious.  He’s heard many people but — hooray! — he sounds like himself.  Joan is comfortable simply playing the melody — that great art — or embellishing it, making it shine even more.  His improvisations are harmonically wise but he never aims strings of notes at the listener as if he were firing bullets.  He makes music that “comes in the ear like honey,” but it’s never sticky or trite.  And his colleagues, guitarist Josep Traver and bassist Giuseppe Campisi, are empathic swinging partners, making music both translucent and memorable. 

If you must — does the mental algorithm demand such things now? — I’m reminded of Warren Vaché, Tony Fruscella, Ruby Braff, Shorty Baker . . . but my hope is that someday soon I will hear an unannounced track on the radio and think, “Wow, that’s Joan Mar Sauqué!  I’ve never heard that before: I hope it’s another new CD.”

The songs are BITTY DITTY / MY DREAM / RAY’S IDEA / I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU / IN THE LAND OF OO-BLA-DEE, I COVER THE WATERFRONT / KITCHENETTE ACROSS THE HALL / BILL / SHABOZZ / STRICTLY ROMANTIC / STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY — a pleasing mix of venerable but sometimes less-played standards and rare tunes from early bebop.  Completely melodic, easy and graceful.  

And here are Fernando’s lyrical, pointed liner notes for this CD: 

From Algeciras to Istanbul, the Mediterranean coasts are a trove of landscapes, people, good food and
good wine. They brim with beauty and history. And winds, winds so old and pervasive that they have
names, depending on their direction. In and around tiny Garrigoles, not far from the Spanish-French
border, they call the nasty, cold air coming down from the mountains, Tramuntana.

Maybe it was the Tramuntana what took trumpeter Joan Mar Sauqué (b. 1996) from Garrigoles on to
the wider world. These days, that means Barcelona, one of the main jazz hubs in southern Europe,
where his sojourn in Joan Chamorroʼs Sant Andreu Jazz Band was a stepping stone. This turned out to be
a valuable stage in terms of pure learning and the particular camaraderie that big band playing has given
generations of musicians, as well as the chance to play with visiting stars, and a particular aesthetic
outlook.

That outlook rides on the quiet waves made by the writing of Tadd Dameron, Gigi Gryce and the early
Quincy Jones, the sound of Art Farmer and Kenny Dorham, the short-lived whirlpool that was Oscar
Pettiford… what might be mapped through tired old beacons as “East-Coast Black Cool jazz”. Whatever
we call it, this is where Joan Mar feels at home, firm ground from where he can soar.

In jazz circles, adopting an aesthetic framework from the past, will raise the alarm of purist revivalism or
inane imitation, but this is not the case. Despite several precedents for this kind of trio, from Chet
Bakerʼs in Europe, Nicholas Paytonʼs on Fingerpainting (Verve, 1997), or even saxophonist Lucky
Thompsonʼs with Oscar Pettiford (ABC-Paramount, 1956) Sauquéʼs main motive is not a model from
without, but a decision from within: heʼs seeking clarity in sound, an easy, uncluttered way for the
listener to appreciate the music.

With that vision in mind, aided by guitarist Josep Traver (b. 1968) and bassist Giuseppe Campisi
(b. 1991), braving the pandemic together, with no headphones, Sauqué has produced a classic-style
album—12 tracks clocking at 40ʼ—of tunes mostly from the 1940s. Beyond his instrumental skills,
Sauqué happens to be quite the scholar regarding the music he loves, which explains the rather unusual
selection of repertoire, where melodies rule.

These songs speak for themselves, but a few pointers may be needed. With the melody prevailing over
soloistsʼ egos, the trio takes one minute sharp to dispatch Thad Jonesʼs Bitty Ditty, a brief appetizer,
preceding one of the cornerstones of the session: as far as we can tell, this is only the second recording
of My Dream, after the Harlan Leonard orchestraʼs in 1940, where its composer, Tadd Dameron, served
as principal arranger. Hearing the result, one wonders why no one else had thought of this. And this is
no happenstance: Sauqué scores another goal when he unearths another Dameron gem, Kitchenette
Across the Hall from 1948, which its author never got around to record commercially. In-depth
knowledge of the past is not the cause of Real-Book fatigue, but its remedy.

A “rhythm changes” with a different bridge, originally recorded by Dizzy Gillespie and his band in 1946,
Rayʼs Idea turns the spotlight on Campisiʼs bass, fittingly, given that “Ray” was Brown, a king of the
instrument. Traver, a versatile and forceful accompanist, has a chance to shine under the spotlight too.
Both sidemen take the floor again on another Dizzy big band staple, In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee, where

Sauqué manages to sound fresh and innocent with the cup mute. That sound returns in the lyrical
highlight of the record, Gigi Gryceʼs Strictly Romantic, one of those tunes which had the composer and
his young compatriots in the Lionel Hampton band literally sneaking out through windows in order to
put them on record.

Of the more common titles, two stand out as the opposite ends of Sauquéʼs range: Stompinʼ at the
Savoy is a showcase for his ability with the pixie+plunger combo—echoes from Ellingtonian jungles—,
while on Gone with the Wind he follows the routes opened by the second generation of boppers like Art
Farmer, no screaming or screeching, with a warm tone and some double-time flying.

As an art form where excellence is a long game, jazz may not the most suitable endeavour for this day
and age. Unless, of course, it is what you feel you have to do. This is the case for Sauqué, a man with a
clear idea of what needs to be done.

And for those who can’t get enough, here is Marc Myers’ March piece on Joan, complete with interview.   But the music is what matters, so you can purchase the music as a digital download or a CD here.

Wonderful unfussy music, classic but not archaic.  And now that you’ve “heard of” these players, be sure to show off your new wisdom to your friends!

May your happiness increase!

A HALF-HOUR WITH BING (JOE BUSHKIN, MILT HINTON, HERB ELLIS, and JAKE HANNA: Uris Theatre, December 7-19, 1976)

Bing Crosby was born on this date in 1903. In December 1976, he took his family, Rosemary Clooney, and a jazz quartet to the Uris Theatre for a short run of what was called BING ON BROADWAY. I’d been a devout fan for more than a decade by then, and when my dear friend Mike Burgevin suggested that he, his wife Patti, and I go, we went. We couldn’t afford the better seats, so Bing was this tiny figure below us, but we’d seen him up close in films and television, so it wasn’t a problem. And the amplification system was both kind and accurate. This wasn’t the Bing of 1931, but it certainly was Bing. From the first note.

The show was long, with a good deal of variety-television built in. What we’d read about, and were waiting for, was THE MEDLEY: where Bing and friends Joe Bushkin, piano and occasional trumpet; Milt Hinton, string bass; Herb Ellis, guitar; Jake Hanna, drums, would meander through his hits. I don’t know the exact date of this performance, but the result is both casual and polished. And terribly moving in all kinds of ways. We didn’t know that Bing would leave our neighborhood for another less than a year later, so this vision of a perfectly poised yet completely loose artist is even more precious.

Did I mention that I’d brought my cassette recorder?

I SURRENDER, DEAR / SWINGING ON A STAR / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE / TRUE LOVE (and Kathryn Crosby?) / DON’T FENCE ME IN / PENNIES FROM HEAVEN with verse, Ellis acc.; Bushkin, tpt., on chorus / BLUE HAWAII / SWEET LEILANI / TOO-RA-LOO-RA / JUST ONE MORE CHANCE / THEM THERE EYES / MOONLIGHT BECOMES YOU / YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE / I’LL BE SEEING YOU / BASIN STREET BLUES / AC-CEN-TCHU-ATE THE POSITIVE / PLEASE / BABY FACE / SOUTH OF THE BORDER / GALWAY BAY / DINAH / SAN FERNANDO VALLEY / I FOUND A MILLION-DOLLAR BABY / SAN ANTONIO ROSE / I’M AN OLD COWHAND / IN A LITTLE SPANISH TOWN / WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE (with Kathryn?) / IT’S EASY TO REMEMBER / IT’S BEEN A LONG, LONG TIME / BLUE SKIES / WHITE CHRISTMAS (with verse) / OL’ MAN RIVER :

Notice that under the 1970s photograph of Bing in the show’s PLAYBILL — with pipe and hat — there’s an advertisement for the Algonquin Hotel, “Great Last Act.” That it certainly was. Happy birthday, Bing. We’ll never forget you.

Care to join in on the chorus?

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-Seven) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

Today the image is different, surprising, but I think appropriate:

That’s Janus, the Roman god of doorways and thresholds — the icon with two faces, one contemplating the past, one looking into the future.

Why has JAZZ LIVES descended into mythology? This post looks both ways as well. For nearly a year, I’ve been reminding viewers / listeners of the heroically uplifting music made at The Ear Inn by the EarRegulars — to keep our sprits up in the darkness of inertia and isolation. Today, May 2, 2021, perhaps while some of you are reading this, I hope to be at 326 Spring Street — live and in person, surrounded by other mortals — enjoying the playing of the EarRegulars for the first of a series of Sunday-afternoon outdoor concerts (1-3:30 PM). They will be Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Scott Robinson, and Pat O’Leary.)

So that is the three-dimensional non-virtual future, soon to be the present, yet I couldn’t leave you in silence and darkness: although this post is short (I have to run), it still celebrates what has been created.

From January 23, 2011, the EarRegulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Tad Shull, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass:

May 2, 2021, will bring its own joys and surprises. I am certain of this.

Postscript: IT HAPPENED. And it was wonderful. Those four heroes swung, soared, played, traded phrases in the most delightful way, and those who know the EarRegulars and the Ear Inn had tears in their eyes. Of relief, of joy, of a return to blissful possibilities. The Fellas (as Nan Irwin calls them) played two sets of long leisurely performances, eleven of them. Who knows? You might be able to see some of what happened. And perhaps . . . .

May your happiness increase!

CENTRAL HEATING: KEITH NICHOLS, SPATS LANGHAM, RICO TOMASSO, THOMAS WINTELER, ALISTAIR ALLAN, PHIL RUTHERFORD, RICHARD PITE (Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, November 4, 2016)

You never know what you find when you look. And I hope it’s not a stray piece of carrot on the floor or checks that you should have cashed more than 180 days ago and are now invalid. Sometimes the results of the most aimless search are uplifting.

I went prowling through the archives of videos I’ve shot and not shared (many for reasons that have nothing to do with musical performance) and found this incendiary bit of music. It comes from the first set at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, held at the Village Hotel in Newcastle, UK. (It’s now Mike Durham’s International Classic Jazz Party and the pleasing news is that it is scheduled for November 5-7, 2021: see the site for details.)

The premise of the set was a tribute to the much-missed Mike, trumpeter, singer, and man with plans — a really admirable man with more than one vision — who had not only thought of this jazz party but had made it work, year after year. You can hear from Spats Langham’s address to the audience how much Mike was missed and is admired.

Another reason to share this with you is because Keith Nichols, at the piano, is no longer with us, and although he is not miked as well as he might have been, his ebullient presence is all there. Here’s the band: Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Keith, piano and vocal; Spats, banjo; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone; Richard Pite, drums, storming through a brief but heated tribute to Louis and Bechet as well as Mike, CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME:

2016 was the last year I was able to attend the Party, which happily and resiliently continued on until the pandemic. I hope, and I know I am not alone, that it goes on heatedly in November, with everyone safe and well.

And — just to keep you all comfortably warm, here are two other numbers I did post from that set of hot music:

and . . .

May your happiness increase!

A PORK CHOP IS A GOLD BRICK NOW, or THE BROADCAST IS ENDED, BUT HOT LIPS PAGE LINGERS ON (with Tommy O’Brien’s Ragtime Band, January 19, 1948)

One.

“Very Blowingly.” I think Jimmy Ryan’s, a Sunday afternoon jam session, with Jack Bland, guitar; Kenny Hollon, tenor saxophone; Pete Brown, alto saxophone; Marty Marsala, cornet.

Two.

Three.

Our text for today is either SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI or THE SONG IS ENDED (BUT THE MELODY LINGERS ON) — why not both at once?

Live music of the highest order — thanks to trumpeter, bandleader, jazz scholar Yves Francois of Chicago — from January 19, 1948, Phil’s Restaurant and Grill in Waterbury, Connecticut . . . that had a house jazz band and a radio wire.

The splendors of the past!

The house band was Tom O’Brien’s Ragtime Band, and on this broadcast their guest was Hot Lips Page, who talked and played SUNDAY, BLUES, and ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET. O’Brien’s musicians were Chick Chachetti, trombone; Bill Lucard, clarinet; Eddie Boyd, piano; Nick Montello, banjo; Tommy O’Brien, drums:

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Phil’s Restaurant became Phil’s Steak and Lobster, then a used car lot, then . . . .?

And, as Lips tells us, a porkchop is a gold brick now. But his sound and warmth live on.

If you missed yesterday’s explosion of joy from Mr. Page, don’t be the last one on your block to have your mood enhanced without pharmaceuticals here. The password is BLOWINGLY.

May your happiness increase!

BLOWINGLY, 1948

At JAZZ LIVES, we don’t much care what cola — if any — that you drink. But we do care about our affection and worship of Oran Thaddeus Page, of Corsicana, Texas, who lit up so many rooms and stages in his short life.

And we care about generous friends, such as trumpeter / bandleader / kind imaginative fellow Yves Francois — who dug down into his collection to share a treasure with us, something I’d not heard before. . . . a 1948 recording from a television program — Lips backed by a band fully in synch with him, although they are unidentified (I believe the pianist is Ralph Sutton), performing a novelty he’d recorded with Artie Shaw some seven years earlier. I like that TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, BABY, is a fantasy of Lips and the sympathetic young lady running off to a kind of Big Rock Candy Mountain world. I also like that a prerequisite is that she be barefoot, although I hope the terrain is welcoming. Pay close attention to Lips’ heroic momentum as he moves into his second chorus: “Atlas,” as Marc Caparone calls him. Here’s the neatly-done label (bless you, unknown archivist!) and below is the music.

Lips shows us the way to Paradise:

“Blowingly”? Lips sometimes signed autographs with his own coinage — a witty variation on “Sincerely,” just right.

May your happiness increase!

ISLANDS OF WISTFUL CALM: TEDDY WILSON ASKS COLE PORTER’S QUESTION

This is not the most famous of Cole Porter’s songs, nor the most heralded of Teddy Wilson’s performances. But I found myself humming it — silently — the past few days, and thought I would remind myself and you of these moments of beauty. The three-note downward motif is not complex, but it ensnares the listener, and the bridge is so lyrical that it startles on first hearing or rehearing. The version I have permanently embossed on my brain is Lee Wiley’s, but when I turned to the solo piano inventions here — Teddy at his thoughtful best — I was entranced.

Here, from a 1939-40 transcription session:

Here, for Musicraft Records, in 1946:

It’s easy to caricature the most obvious facets of Wilson’s style: the rapid tempos, walking-tenths basslines, the magnificent right-hand arpeggios, but at this tempo, the beauties of his style — sedate, grave, respectful but rhythmic — are evident. Teddy, like his colleagues of the early Thirties, knew how to honor the melody while spelling out the harmonies, and to create new melodies from those harmonies. Elegance, grace, and feeling, all in place from his introduction to Louis’ I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING. The ease of his performance, less violent than Hines, or room-filling like Tatum, could lead someone to believe that it was easy to do, but having spent some time attempting to reproduce four measures of his introduction to I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS from the 1928 “School for Pianists” recordings, I assure you that even when he simplified his style, he was creating magic. And these two performances, exploring Porter’s melody without the “smart” lyrics, have a wistful grace.

And, just because Miss Wiley’s version didn’t leave my mental soundtrack either, here she is at an Eddie Condon concert (Ritz Theatre, March 17, 1945) with Joe Bushkin, piano; Sid Weiss, string bass. That the top notes are slightly beyond her reach only adds to the poignancy of her rendition):

“Why shouldn’t I”? indeed. And not just me.

May your happiness increase!