Tag Archives: Mike Durham

Part One: ANDY SCHUMM’S BIXOLOGISTS (Whitley Bay, July 9, 2010)

Cornetist Andy Schumm was having the time of his life at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  Not that Andy doesn’t have fun and spread joy wherever he goes — but here he was with a band of players who knew the music intimately, knew the subtle dimensions of the styles by heart.  So Andy and his Bixologists were an immense hit, and I caught every session (missing perhaps three songs) and I am very glad of it.  The band for this initial meeting on Friday, July 9, was Norman Field on a variety of reeds and amusing scholarly digressions; Paul Munnery on trombone; Jeff Barnhart on piano; Jacob Ullberger on banjo and guitar; Frans Sjostrom, the heroic, on the bass saxophone; Josh Duffee on his minimalist and very swinging drums. 

I will not explicate these performances, because they don’t need my pointing out their delights.  However, they are so much more than pale recreations of records: they are living creative hot music!

AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:

LOUISIANA:

AT SUNDOWN:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED:

OH, BABY!:

BIG BOY:

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?:

And more to come on the other side . . .

NOW IS THE TIME . . .

Calling all cats!

I wrote some weeks ago about Mike Durham’s plans for a new version of the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — a Classic Jazz Party to be held at the same location (the comfortable Village Newcastle Hotel) for three days in November 2011  — Friday to Sunday, November 4-6. 

Mike’s musician list is once again stellar: Bent Persson, Michel Bastide, Keith Nichols, Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Kristoffer Kompen, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Frans Sjostrom, Spats Langham, Martn Wheatley, Nick Ward, Josh Duffee, Debbie Arthurs, Cecile Salvant, and more.  They would create three days of jazz — from midday to midnight, with each band presenting an hour-long set. 

The Classic Jazz Party needs YOU!

To be precise, Mike needs a deposit from fifty more of the faithful to proceed.  This translates to a check (or “cheque”) for a hundred pounds, made out to CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, and sent to him at 60 Highbury, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3LN.  Along with the money, he asks that you send your name and full address, phone number and email address.  

If you don’t have a U.K. bank account, you can send the required £100 per person over the internet, via PayPal: log on to the Paypal website and send the money to Mike’s email address, mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com – quick, easy, secure, and free. 

And Mike says, “Also, just to reiterate, all funds will be instantly refunded in full if I decide not to go ahead at the end of September, but I devoutly hope that enough people will rally round to render that unneccessary.”   

The Village Hotel promises to offer three nights of dinner, bed, and breakfast for 175 pounds total, which is a bargain.  More details to follow.

Don’t be left out!

MIKE DURHAM’S BRILLIANT IDEA (ANOTHER ONE!)

Mike Durham is not only a fine trumpet player and soulful man.  He’s also the embodiment of musical generosity — with his wife Patti (herself inimitable) he has given the world twenty Whitley Bay International Jazz Festivals.  The 2010 one was announced as the final one, and I think all the musicians and listeners had their joy tinged by a certain melancholy: to paraphrase Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, “Mother of Mercy, is this the end of Whitley Bay?”

Yes and no.  Of course.

There will be no WBIJF in May 2011.  That is the bad news.

However, Mike has an idea — a Classic Jazz Party to be held at the same location (the comfortable Village Newcastle Hotel) for three days in November 2011  — Friday to Sunday, November 4-6. 

It would be a long weekend filled to the brim with hot music from the artists who have so enlivened Whitley Bay.  Bent Persson, Michel Bastide, Keith Nichols, Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Kristoffer Kompen, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Frans Sjostrom, Spats Langham, Martn Wheatley, Nick Ward, Josh Duffee, Debbie Arthurs, and more. 

As he envisions it, it would be three days of jazz — from midday to midnight, with each band presenting an hour-long set. 

But jazz parties are expensive endeavors, so Mike cannnot go ahead with this one without some funding up front from the faithful.  The principle of subscriptions is, I think, as old as publishing in the eighteenth century and as new as CD production in this century.  What Mike is asking from people is a check (or “cheque”) for a hundred pounds, made out to CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY, and sent to him at 60 Highbury, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 3LN.  Along with the money, he asks that you send your name and full address, phone number and email address. 

If too few people send their money (alas, alack, and woe) Mike promises to return every penny.  I don’t know what arrangement he might make for those of us who don’t have UK pounds at the ready, but he can be emailed at mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com.  And, for my part, before Whitley Bay 2010 had ended, I’d made sure to give Mike some coin of the realm, so that I could do my part . . . in hopes to sit with my pals Elin and Ron Smith and Honor and Richard and Robin and and . . . listening to the best jazz I can imagine. 

And if enough people subscribe, the Village Hotel (very comfortable) promises to offer three nights of dinner, bed, and breakfast for 175 pounds total, which is a bargain.  More details to follow.

Don’t be late! 

Don’t be left out! 

You come too!

JAZZ CORNUCOPIA! (Whitley Bay, July 2010)

Mike Durham, the fine trumpet player, festival organizer, and wit, sent along the following list.  For those who have never been to the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival — and 2010 is THE FINAL ONE — this list will be both enticing and mysterious.  This is the schedule of which bands will be playing at what times during what is sure to be a thrillingly music-packed weekend.  It takes place in a well-appointed hotel, and the “Cotton Club,” the “Sunset Cafe,” “Kelly’s Stables,” and the “One Cent Club” are rooms of varying sizes in the hotel. 

The schedule both exalts and terrifies.  I was saying to my first class the other morning (we are concluding MACBETH) that the universe is limitless, but the first choice, no matter how small, that one makes, renders other choices impossible.  So it is at Whitley Bay: if I want to  hear The Four Pods of Pepper (Spats Langham, Frans Sjostrom, and Norman Field) joined by Rico Tomasso, that makes it impossible, according to Newtonian physics, for me to be at “Kings of Stride” at the same time.  Of course, I could hear the first set of the Pods and then scamper in for some Stride after the break.  One must have a plan!  Or I could do what I did last time: stay where my heart led me and then wander . . .

I’ll have my video camera, of course, and Elin Smith will have hers, but it isn’t the same thing as being there.  Consider yourself encouraged to join in the fun, even if you don’t have a camera. 

Find out more at http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/

 
WHITLEY BAY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2010 – DAY BY DAY, ROOM BY ROOM, HOUR BY HOUR (OR JUST ABOUT!)
 
FRIDAY
 
                             Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                              7.00-9.00                                          9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club         Hot Antic Jazz Band                                   Blue Devils                                    New Century Ragtime Orch           Les Rois du Foxtrot

Sunset Café         La Retaguardia J B                                      N ew Orleans Rascals                      Bohem Ragtime J B                     Red Hot Peppers

Kelly’s Stables     Late Hour Boys                                          Schumm’s Bixologists                     Hot Antics                                   Bent Persson’s N Y Orch

One Cent             Jeff & Anne Barnhart                                West Jesmond R Kings           Kings of Stride                              Four Pods + Rico Tomasso
 
 
SATURDAY
 
                            Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                              7.00-9.00                                              9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club        Blue Devils                                                    Les Rois du Foxtrot                          New Orleans Rascals                              La Retaguardia
Sunset Café        Bohem Ragtime J B                             Flaming Reeds                                  Red Hot Peppers                                   Winteler’s Serenaders
Kelly’s Stables   Schumm’s Bixologists                       Hot Antics                                           Spats & Rhythm Boys                               Cecile Salvant 
One Cent           K Stephen’s Hot Club Trio                 Litton & Nichols – Ragtime          Late Hour Boys + Rico Tomasso           Doc Bastide’s Owls
 
 
SUNDAY
 
                              Noon-3.00                                                           3.00-6.00                                      7.00-9.00                                           9.00-Midnight
 
Cotton Club        Chalumeau Serenaders                                 Bohem Ragtime J B                         Les Rois du Foxtrot                              Hot Antics (Grand Finale)
Sunset Café        Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders                          New Orleans Rascals                   La Retaguardia                            Schumm’s Bixologists
Kelly’s Stables   Late Hr Boys/Cecile Salvant (Billie H)        Field’s Novelty Orch                  M Seuffert Sextet             Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders
One Cent            Jeff & Anne Barnhart/Boogie Piano         Banjorama/Fidgety Fingers         Hot Jazz Trio

WE’LL BE THERE!

Where? 

At the twentieth — and last — Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  The theme this year — appropriately — is FROM AFRICA TO THE WORLD, and the bands come from all across the globe. 

It’s taking place this year (that’s 2010) 9-11 July, Friday-Sunday, with a pre-festival concert at the beautiful Sage Gateshead called MIDNIGHT IN MAYFAIR — a tribute by Keith Nichols to the British dance and jazz bands of the Thirties (with Rico Tomasso in that band)!  Once the festival begins, it will be non-stop jazz.  With these bands and players, how could it be otherwise?

La Retaguardia Jazz Band (Chile)

New Orleans Rascals (Japan)

Andy Schumm’s Bixologists (USA)

Les Rois du Fox-Trot (France)

Bohém Ragime Orchestra (Hungary)

Michael McQuaid’s Late Hour Boys (Australia)

Hot Antic Jazz Band (France)

Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (UK)

Hot Jazz Trio (Sweden)

Thomas Winteler’s Jazz Serenaders (Switzerland)

Cecile McLorin Salvant (France) with Jean-Francois Bonnel’s Swing Septet

Chalumeau Serenaders (Germany/Sweden/UK)

Jeff Barnhart’s Ivory & Gold (USA)

Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers

Bent Persson’s New York Orchestra (Red Allen Tribute)

Fidgety Fingers with Langham, Wheatley and Stephen

Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra

Barrelhouse & Boogie/ Kings of Harlem Stride/Ragtime Piano Summit

Spats & His Rhythm Boys

New Century Ragtime Orchestra

West Jesmond Rhythm Kings

Keith Stephen’s Hot Club Trio with Caroline (Irwin)

Flaming Reeds

Don’t be the last one on your block!

Visit http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/home.htm for all sorts of useful details — pictures of the musicians, hotel information, and (of course) ticket prices.

I hear tell that Bob Cox, John Whithorn, Elin and Ron Smith will be there — as well as the Beloved and your humble correspondent.

WHITLEY BAY 2010 IS COMING!

It’s never too early to look at plane fares, to see how many euro you might have saved from the last trip — or to start a jazz piggy bank.  The 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival is on its way . . . !

It will begin with pianist / trombonist / singer Keith Nichols’s tribute to the Great British Dance Bands — a concert at the Sage Gateshead, a wonderful 1,800 seat hall — on Thursday evening, July 8.

Then the festival begins!  From Friday afternoon to Sunday night, July 9-11, the musical cornucopia (at the Village Newcastle, a comfortable hotel) will be overflowing.  I’ll let Mike Durham, trumpeter, occasional singer, arranger, collector of brass instruments — and Festival Director, tell you himself:

“The Festival’s title is “From New Orleans to the World – the Jazz Diaspora”.  Bands invited include the West End Jazz Band from Chicago, La Retaguardia Jazz Band from Santiago de Chile, The Late Hour Boys from Melbourne, Jeff Barnhart of Mystic, Connecticut, and the New Orleans Rascals from Osaka.  The European contingent includes the Red Hot Reedwarmers, Bent Persson, Frans Sjöström, the Bohém Ragtime Orchestra (Hungary), Papa Morel’s Hot Seven (France), South Side Serenaders (Switzerland), the Hot Antic Jazz Band (France), Chalumeau Serenaders (UK/Germany with Matthias Seuffert), Keith Nichols’ Blue Devils (10-piece orch), Martin Litton’s Red Hot Peppers (you won’t hear a more faithful recreation of 1926 Jelly), Spats Langham, New Century Ragtime Orchestra and Norman Field’s Novelty Recording Orchestra!”

DANCE, SIN, and HEAT

 no sinUsing Walter Donaldson’s melody and Edgar Leslie’s lyrics, Spats Langham, Mike Durham, Paul Munnery, Norman Field, Martin Litton, Frans Sjostrom, and Debbie Arthurs explain this trio of concepts to the crowd at Whitley Bay, even though it was pleasantly cool in the room. 

But two pairs of dancers — one of them stride wizard Paul Asaro (in the checked shirt) and the energetic Bridget Calzaretta — didn’t need the song’s lyrics to encourage them.  (If the other couple sees this and wants to identify themselves, they can have their names immortalized here, too.)

And for those of you who’d like to have something to sing to yourself as you mop your brow, here are the lyrics, both verse and chorus:

Verse: Dancing may do this and that, and help you take off lots of fat.

But I’m no friend of dancing when it’s hot.

So if you are a dancing fool, who loves to dance but can’t keep cool,

Bear in mind the idea that I’ve got.

Chorus: When it gets too hot for comfort, and you can’t get ice cream cones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When the lazy syncopation of the music softly moans,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

The polar bears aren’t green up in Greenland, they’ve got the right idea.

They think it’s great to refrigerate while we all cremate down here.

Just be like those Bamboo Babies, in the South Sea tropic zones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Chorus: When you’re calling up your sweetie in those hot house telephones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When you’re on a crowded dance floor, near those red hot saxophones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Just take a look at the girls while they’re dancing. Notice the way that they’re dressed.

They wear silken clothes without any hose and nobody knows the rest.

If a gal wears X-ray dresses, and shows everything she owns,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

HOT AND BLUE AT WHITLEY BAY (July 10, 2009)

For your listening, viewing, and dancing pleasure — Spats Langham and his Rhythm Persons!

This gender-neutral appellation was created to include the lovely and talented Ms. Debbie Arthurs on percussion and vocals.  The other members of this ensemble are Spats himself, on vocal, banjo, guitar, and ukulele; Mike Durham on trumpet and vocal; Paul Munnery on trombone; Norman Field on clarinet, C-melody saxophone and other reeds; Frans Sjostrom on bass saxophone; Martin Litton on piano; John Carstairs Hallam on bass and tuba. 

I was also entranced by the utterly impassive woman sitting near the bandstand, watching everything intently but from some metaphysical distance, who clapped her hands above her head at the end of each selection.  I’m sure she was having a fine time, too.

Here are a few selections from their afternoon program:

I wouldn’t ordinarily post banjo spectaculars, but this one’s splendid: a Langham-Litton romp on the 1925 Harry Reser song, LOLLIPOPS.  Spats lets us know that the key of A is “horrible,” but Mike Durham speaks up for it in a truly egalitarian way.  The tempo direction, “as fast as you can,” also needed to be preserved for posterity:

Incidentally, Spats and Martin have also recorded a duet CD — with the same title — for Lake Records.  Even better! 

Debbie Arthurs is a wonderful percussionist with an infectious beat; she’s a wow on the temple blocks, snare drum, and choke cymbal.  Her steady bass-drum four also drives the band.  She’s also a fine, winsome singer, as her version of AM I BLUE? proves.  Hear her on her new Lake CD, “THANK YOU, MISTER MOON,” which is a consistent delight:

Mike Durham delivered the Ted Lewis recitative, I’M THE MEDICINE MAN FOR THE BLUES, mixing deadpan satire and seriousness:

IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN (IN CHERRY BLOSSOM LANE) is a tepid tune — but it was recorded once, memorably, by the journeyman vocalist Dick Robertson on one of his by-the-book Deccas (1937?) with lustrous playing by a very young Bobby Hackett.  Here it is, in tribute:

Finally, every jazz set needs a pseudo-religious song, and SING YOU SINNERS was the one that the Persons chose — my video camera kept wandering off to the dancing feet of Bridget Calzaretta and her ad hoc partner, who just might be a musician with the Chicago Stompers.  If anyone knows . . .

HOT JAZZ TRIO, July 11, 2009

The name is simple, accurate, not the slightest bit hyperbolic.  They’re a compact, thrifty jazz orchestra, getting the maximum of variety and orchestral scope — not to mention a plunging swing on hot tunes, a delicate depth on slow ones — out of this apparently-improbable combination of instruments.  Bent Persson plays trumpet, cornet, occasionally Eb alto horn (at Whitley Bay, he borrowed a valve trombone from Mike Durham); Frans Sjostrom is majestic yet mobile on the bass sax; Jacob Ullberger holds it all together on banjo and guitar.  Sadly, their schedules keep them from playing together: Frans said that they have sessions like this only once a year, so I was delighted to be able to capture this one on video.  But they did record an extraordinarily fine CD on Gosta Hagglof’s Kenneth label under this title: look for it wherever better books and records are sold!

The critical viewer might catch a fluffed note or a missed cue — but I have chosen to post their entire hour-long set because this group gets together to play so infrequently.  And I think that the without-a-net quality of these performances makes them irreplaceable. 

Their Whitley Bay program alternated between Jelly Roll Morton, early Ellington, and Bix — to great effect.  Here they are on KANSAS CITY STOMPS, summoning up a seven or eight piece band.  I didn’t miss any of the Red Hot Peppers in this version:

Early Ellington followed, the pretty but moving BLACK BEAUTY:

Bix was all around us, so the Hot Jazz Trio took off on SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL:

Sidney Bechet’s pretty SOUTHERN SUNSET (WHEN THE SUN SETS DOWN SOUTH):

Bix and Company again (as well as Eddie Condon) on Hoagy Carmichael’s RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE:

Their adaptation of Frank Trumbauer’s take on JAPANESE SANDMAN:

PEE WEE’S BLUES featured Frans and Jacob, while Bent rested his lip for a few minutes:

STEAMBOAT STOMP, complete with whistle, returned to the world of Jelly Roll Morton, with the Hot Jazz Trio becoming a whole roomful of Red Hot Peppers:

On DUSK, they magically evoked the 1940-1 Ellington band, with Bent picking up a valve trombone he had borrowed from Mike Durham for the occasion:

MOVE OVER returned to an earlier Ellington Era:

CLARINET MARMALADE for Bix, Tram, and Lang:

Finally, a jubilant BLACK BOTTOM STOMP to conclude the hour:

Is it hot in here ot is it just the Trio?

I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED! (Whitley Bay, July 10, 2009)

The Three Pods of Pepper (reedman Norman Field, plectrist and singer Spats Langham, and bass saxophonist Frans Sjostrom — hot wizards all!) got together at the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival just a few days ago.  Gracious hosts, they invited my hero Bent Persson to join them for a set.  I originally thought of calling this post THE PEERLESS QUARTET, and you’ll see why.  They were in a Bixish mood, with four of their six performances songs he recorded, and the other two related by many degrees of separation.

They began their set with an easy, Rollini-flavored SOMEBODY LOVES ME:

And the first of the Bix-related classic Twenties songs, which I first heard in a live performance by Dick Sudhalter, WAIT TILL YOU SEE ‘MA CHERIE,’ its French conclusion perhaps being something coming from the First World War.  (Was she a pretty war bride?):

Usually the requests (bidden or unbidden) come from the audience: the next  song was one Norman Field wanted to play — a good old good one from the repertoire of the Louis Armstrong Hot Seven, WEARY BLUES, in a performance that easily gave the lie to the title:

After an erudite discussion of the original recording (I didn’t know that the 78 played in the wrong key — too fast!) the band took up the self-imposed challenge of making the entire 1927 Paul Whiteman band (with vocal chorus by a young, exuberant Bing Crosby) occupy the “One Cent Club,” a cozy room in the Newcastle Village Hotel with room for forty — on YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME, courtesy of Rodgers and Hart.  Norman, by the way, shows himself a reed master of the most humble of instruments, the penny whistle:

If they could do Whiteman, why not Jean Goldkette?  CLEMENTINE (FROM NEW ORLEANS) — and I was thrilled when Norman launched into the lyrics, which I’d never heard before, including the saga of “a boy named James,” who, when Clementine kissed him, “his roman collar burst into flames.”  Worth a trip from anywhere!  I had known that the lady’s name didn’t rhyme with “lemon thyme,” but let everyone now know it:

Finally, this wonderful quartet decided to play that rarity, a Fats Waller composition recorded by Bix and Tram (as “The Chicago Loopers”) in 1927, which I’ve taken as the title of this post, I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED:

P.S.  About my chosen title: it wholly conveys my feelings about the Whitley Bay experience: people listened intently to the music, and the atmosphere was jubilant without being raucous.  The festival made it possible for me to hear musicians I never knew existed, and to meet and admire those I had known only through recordings.  All of this was created by trumpeter Mike Durham and his wife Patti — people you’d like and celebrate even if there was no music involved.  Festival promoters put their emotional stamp on the proceedings, and the Durhams are witty, diligent, and perceptive folks.  “More than satisfied” is vigorous understatement.

P.P.S.  the Three Pods of Pepper have their own marvelous CD — HOT STUFF! — on the WVR label (1003) which also features guest appearances by pianist Keith Nichols and Mike Durham  Unabashedly recommended!

PORTRAITS: WHITLEY BAY, 2009

Whose honey are you?  In the hotel breakfast bar, Billie oversees the butter, buttery spread, jam, and honey

Whose honey are you? In the hotel breakfast bar, Billie oversees the butter, buttery spread, jam, and honey

I’ve just returned from the nineteenth Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, which was delightful.  I didn’t take as many still pictures as I should have, perhaps because I had my video camera glued to my eye . . . the results will, I hope, emerge soon.  But here are some portraits from the three days of elation and emotion:

Mike Durham's bass sax waits for true fulfillment -- to be played majestically by Frans Sjostrom

Mike Durham's bass sax waits for true fulfillment -- to be played majestically by Frans Sjostrom

Warming up before a rehearsal

Warming up before a rehearsal

Warming up with long tones

Warming up with long tones

Bent Persson listens

Bent Persson listens

Martin Litton

Martin Litton

Elena P. Paynes, vocalist with the Chicago Stompers, at rehearsal

Elena P. Paynes, vocalist with the Chicago Stompers, at rehearsal

Nick Ward, having a ball

Nick Ward, having a ball

John Carstairs Hallam, thinking it through

John Carstairs Hallam, thinking it through

In the brass section

In the brass section

Cousin Bob

Cousin Bob

Cousin John

Cousin John

On Bent Persson's music stand

On Bent Persson's music stand

Mike Durham (left) and Rene Hagmann listen intently to jazz erudition from an off-camera Norman Field

Mike Durham (left) and Rene Hagmann listen intently to jazz erudition from an off-camera Norman Field

Elena, onstage

Elena, onstage

Elena, successfully wooing the crowd

Elena, successfully wooing the crowd

Once more!

Once more!

Anna Lyttle (trumpet), Michael McQuaid (reeds)

Anna Lyttle (trumpet), Michael McQuaid (reeds)

O RARE BENT PERSSON (and FRIENDS)!

Last night — Thursday, July 9, 2009 —  I witnessed the kind of jazz creativity and bravery that at times left me with tears in my eyes. 

The occasion was a concert organized by the Swedish trumpeter / cornetist / Louis Armstrong scholar Bent Persson, one of my heroes, in tribute to his hero Louis: “YOUNG LOUIS,” which — in two hour-long sets — demonstrated much about Louis’s first six years of recordings as well as the majesty of players now alive. 

The band was a stellar international crew: Mike Durham, tpt, joining Bent at the start and finish, as well as being a most adept and witty master of ceremonies; the gruff trombonist Paul Munnery; the brilliant reedman (clarinet and alto this time) Matthias Seuffert; the nimble pianist Martin Litton; the remarkable plectrist (banjos and guitar) Jacob Ullberger; the very fine brass bassist Phil Rutherford; the frankly astonishing percussionist Nick Ward.  The concert took place at the very modern Sage Gateshead in Newcastle, UK — lovely acoustics and a sound engineer at the back who was truly paying attention!  I attempted to videotape the whole thing (being a man of daring but not much discretion) but was stopped by an usher who whispered ferociously that there was NO photography of any kind allowed and I would have to leave if I continued . . . so I stopped.  But I did capture the band’s second song, a stately rock through King Joe Oliver’s WHERE DID YOU STAY LAST NIGHT? — much as it might have sounded in Chicago, 1922-23.  My video doesn’t capture everything — but you can see the graceful arcs of Nick Ward’s arms behind his drum set: I had a hard time taking my eyes off of him.   

Lovely as it is, that performance can’t summon up all of what I found so moving in this concert.  It wasn’t a pure repertory performance, where musicians strive to reproduce old records “live”; no, what was fascinating was the fervent interplay between the Past and Now, between the Great Figures and the living players onstage.  Everyone in this band knew the original records, but they were encouraged to dance back and forth between honoring the past by playing it note-for-note and by going for themselves.  Thus, Bent created solos that sounded like ones Louis might have — should have! — recorded, and his bravery and risk-taking were more than heartening.  I have never seen him in person, and he would give the most timid of us courage to learn the craft, to shut our eyes, and to make something new.  His playing on POTATO HEAD BLUES was immensely moving — watching him dare the Fates and declare his love for Louis in front of our eyes.  Bent also sang in several performances — mostly scatting, but once or twice delivering the lyrics in a sweetly earnest way — another example of an artist going beyond the amazing things we’ve already come to expect.  It was also delightful to watch the musicians grin broadly at each other as the beautiful solos and ensemble work unfolded.   

The concert moved briskly from Louis’s sojourn with Oliver to his work with Clarence Williams small groups, his own Hot Five and Seven, an evocation of Jimmy Bertrand’s Washboard Wizards, Louis’s duet with Earl Hines, his Hot Choruses (as reimagined by Bent over a thirty-year period), with more than a few surprises.  One of them — gloriously — was the appearance of bass saxophone titan Frans Sjostrom for a version of BEAU KOO JACK by the trio called, so correctly, the Hot Jazz Trio (their one CD is under that name on the Kenneth label): Bent, Jacob, and Frans.  Wonderful both in itself and as a reinvention of that brightly ornate recording.  Sjostrom stayed around for the final ensemble celebration on HIGH SOCIETY, which brought tears to my eyes.   

I am posting this on Friday morning, hours before the Whitley Bay extravaganza — some 130 bands playing in rotation for three days in four simultaneous locations — is scheduled to begin.  There’ll be more magnificent, moving jazz, I am sure!  It promises to be both uplifting and overwhelming.  (And, as an extra delight, I am joined here by two of my three Official British Cousins — Bob Cox and John Whitehorn — men of great humor, generosity, and sensibility — whom I first met at Westoverledingen, Germany, in 2007, when we were rapt attendees at another Manfred Selchow jazz festival.  Always nice to have friends nearby!)

A postscript: at the concert, copies of an otherwise unknown compact disc were for sale — a recording of a similar YOUNG LOUIS concert from 2002, with many of the same players.  I snapped up one copy (paying for it, of course) and by the end of the concert, the CDs were all gone.  Let us hope that Bent and Co. choose to reissue that one and other versions.  I’m going to treasure it, as well as my memories of the concert I experienced.

NEW FAVORITES!

Since I am old-fashioned and like my recorded music in tangible form (no liner notes on a mp3 download) I surround myself with compact discs in arrangements both vertical and horizontal.  However, this post is not about Jazz Decor, but to celebrate three new discs that readers should know about.  And, even better, they are performances by living musicians, people you could actually see and hear in person. 

chasing_shadowsThe first is CHASING SHADOWS, by “Spats and his Rhythm Boys.”  (WVR 1005) “Spats,” of course, is singer / plectrist Spats Langham, who’s appeared on this site in a video clip.  On this disc, he’s accompanied by trumpeter Mike Durham, trombonist Paul Munnery, reed wizard Norman Field, Keith Nichols on piano and accordion, John Carstairs Hallam, string bass, Frans Sjostrom, bass sax, Nick Ward, drums, and Mike Piggott, violin.  The sessions were recorded in November 2008, and a glance at the tune listing will tell all: Spats and friends are thoroughly steeped in the “hot jazz with vocal refrain” of the late Twenties, extended forward into the late Thirties (from Cliff Edwards and Bing Crosby to Jimmy Rushing and Putney Dandridge): CRAZY WORDS, CRAZY TUNE / CHASING SHADOWS / I’M IN THE SEVENTH HEAVEN / CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS / HANG ON TO ME / ME AND THE MOON / ACCORDION JOE / SOMEDAY SWEETHEART / BROWN BOTTLE BLUES / WHAT DO I CARE WHAT SOMEBODY SAID? / HALFWAY TO HEAVEN / SMILIN’ SAM / OH, IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN / HIAWATHA’S LULLABY / YOU DO THE DARNEDEST THINGS, BABY / SWING BRIDGE STOMP.

Like Barbara Rosene and a very few other singers, Spats isn’t trying to offer CD-quality imitations of the original recordings.  Rather, he gets inside the idiom, so that you hear the sound of the period, the rhythmic energy, the delicate ornamentations — but it’s all new.  And hugely entertaining!  He has a light tenor voice, but he has listened thoroughly to Crosby and post-Crosby as well.  On this disc, his singing is thoroughly integrated into a hot improvising ensemble.  I would have wanted this CD because of Sjostrom, Field, Nichols, and Ward — but the best surprise is the playing of trumpeter Mike Durham.  Many trumpeters are in love with the sheer power of their instrument; they shout and carry on.  Mike can, of course, do this capably — leading an ensemble majestically.  But his more usual mode of expression is tender, inquiring, almost pleading.  You need to hear him if you haven’t already!  And his composition SMILIN’ SAM (dedicated to his happy grandson) is a wonderful mood piece with Norman Field on bass clarinet — instantly memorable. 

For information about ordering this CD, visit http://uk.geocities.com/mdurham@btinternet.com/wjrk/recordings.htm.  By email, contact mikedurham_jazz@hotmail.com., or (the old-fashioned way) write to WVR Records at 60 Highbury, Newcatle upon Tyne, NE2 2LN. 

Ray Skjelbred CDI’ve been listening to pianist Ray Skjelbred and drummer Hal Smith for some time in a variety of settings — Ray, playing Frank Melrose songs or cowboy ballads, Hal, rocking every band he’s ever been with.  Ray’s new CD, GREETINGS FROM CHICAGO (Jazzology Records, recorded August 2008), is a real winner, featuring delectable hot jazz from Ray, Hal, clarinetist Kim Cusack, guitarist Katie Cavera, and Clint Baker on a variety of songs, familiar and rare, each one with deep associations: OH, BABY (DON’T SAY NO, SAY “MAYBE”) / SUGAR / MY GALVESTON GAL / IT’S BEEN SO LONG / I LOST MY GAL FROM MEMPHIS / BULL FROG BLUES / THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE / IDOLIZING / I’LL BET YOU TELL THAT TO ALL THE GIRLS / FRIARS POINT SHUFFLE / DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL / SINCE MY BEST GAL TURNED ME DOWN / SHANGHAI HONEYMOON / I MUST HAVE THAT MAN / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW / YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME / UP A LAZY RIVER / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE / AM I BLUE? / LAUGHING AT YOU / RING DEM BELLS.  This group knows how, through long playing experience, to approach each song on its own terms — wistful or fiery — and the down-home vocals by each member of the quintet are charming.  I have a special fondness for the repertoire of the early Red Allen Vocalions, and my hunger has been satisfied by this band’s versions of MY GALVESTON GAL and I’LL BET YOU TELL THAT TO ALL THE GIRLS.  (But it sure sounds good to me!)  This one’s available through Jazzology and perhaps other places online: for information, visit   http://www.jazzology.com/index.php.

GILL 3Finally, a sentimental favorite.  When I encountered guitarist / singer / multi-instrumentalist John Gill in a club in 2007, he casually told me that he was planning to record a tribute to Bing Crosby, focusing on the dreamy (and often swinging) repertoire of 1931-35.  As politely as I could, I beseeched John to let me be part of this project: Crosby is one of my heroes, and that period of Crosbyana is a consistent delight.  John, most graciously, invited me to the sessions and I ended up writing the notes for the CD, which was immensely rewarding.  The performances on this disc are sweet evocations with a pulsing jazz heart — accompaniment and solos by Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet and trumpet), Jim Fryer (trombone), Matt Munisteri (guitar and banjo), Orange Kellin, Dan Levinson, Marc Phaneuf (reeds), Conal Fowkes (piano), Kevin Dorn (drums), Brian Nalepka (bass and tuba), Andy Stein, Matt Szemela (violins).  The songs are beautiful and well-chosen: DID YOU EVER SEE A DREAM WALKING? / HAPPY-GO-LUCKY YOU / A FADED SUMMER LOVE / STAR DUST / I SURRENDER, DEAR / I FOUND A MILLION-DOLLAR BABY / IF I HAD YOU / PENNIES FROM HEAVEN / STREET OF DREAMS / BABY – OH WHERE CAN YOU BE? / SWEET LEILANI – BLUE HAWAII / WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS / MUDDY WATER / I’M THROUGH WITH LOVE / PLEASE / WERE YOU SINCERE? / WHEN THE FOLKS HIGH UP DO THE MEAN LOW-DOWN / RED SAILS IN THE SUNSET / WHERE THE BLUE OF THE NIGHT MEETS THE GOLD OF THE DAY / JUST ONE MORE CHANCE / LEARN TO CROON / OUT OF NOWHERE.

I managed to make two of the three sessions, and when I walked into the first one and the band was running through DID YOU EVER SEE A DREAM WALKING? — well, I was transported.  John’s vocals are touching; the band is sensitive and danceable; the session is a priceless tribute.  The CD is available at a variety of online sources (Jazz By Mail, Worlds Records) but the nicest thing would be to buy a copy directly from John himself at a New York gig.  He’ll be happy to sign it, too.  (And he has enough material for another volume or two: I hope to hear him record RIDIN’ ROUND IN THE RAIN someday.)

P.S.  I know all about the economy, and if your restaurant has closed or you are looking for work, I apologize for suggesting that you buy things that are perhaps less essential than coffee or shoes.  But if you’re managing to limp along with some degree of optimism, if you’ve decided that your aging car can hold out another year or that you don’t really need a new suit to go with the others in the closet, then you might consider one or all of these new CDs.  For less than the cost of a prix-fixe dinner, they lift the spirits.

NEXT STOP, WHITLEY BAY!

suitcaseFor someone who spent the better part of his life venturing no more than a hundred miles from his birthplace, I’ve traveled a great deal since 2004, most of my peregrinations courtesy of and beside the Beloved, the world’s finest travel companion.

And we’d already made plans to go to the 2009 Jazz at Chautauqua in September (where we’ll hear and meet Dan Barrett, Marty Grosz, Duke Heiger, Becky Kilgore, Andy Brown, Petra van Nuis, Jon-Erik Kellso, James Dapogny, Bob Reitmeier . . . need I say more) — that delightful party situated amidst the lovely leaf-strewn walks and cottages of Chautauqua, New York.

But as my faithful readers know, I have never been to a British jazz party, although some of the jazz musicians I revere are European.  So when I read about July’s Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, run by trumpeter Mike Durham, my pulse rate increased and I began to fantasize.  Bent Persson, Frans Sjostrom, Matthias Seuffert, Spats Langham, Nick Ward, Martin Wheatley, Jacob Ullberger, Michael McQuaid, the Red Hot Reedwarmers, Rene Hagmann, Norman Field, the West Jesmond Rhythm Kings . . .people I’ve admired so much on Stomp Off, Kenneth, and other CDs.

Initially I simply wanted to go in the way that people would like to do something.  Wouldn’t it be nice to hear all these musicians I’ve only heard on record and CD?  But it would be so far away.  It would be inconvenient (flying is not my passion); it would cost a great deal; the Beloved had larger plans for a UK tour — involving things beyond staying in a hotel for four days listening to jazz from noon to midnight.  So I put it aside in the corner of my mind where the things I want to do but have some doubts about aleep at night.

Then it hit me — I can’t say I sat up in bed or had to pull over to the side of the road on the way to work.  I wasn’t knocked out of my saddle.  But I have been teasingly saying to friends for the past two years that the Beloved and I have incorporated to form the CARPE DIEM TRAVEL AGENCY (deep discounts, experienced planning, an easy payment plan).

But the nagging question formed itself over and over in my mind: “What if I should die and never have heard the Hot Jazz Trio (Persson, Sjostrom, and Ullberger) live, not on CDs?”  It was too painful to envision.  Two days ago, I booked my flight — an extravaganza of airplanes and airports beyond belief — and I just gave the Village Newcastle (the hotel where the festival takes place) my credit card information.

I’m coming!  And my head surely isn’t bending low.  If any blog-readers are going to be at Whitley Bay (and I cannot, for the life of me, see how anyone could resist the lineup), please let me know.  Perhaps you can guide me to a portion of fish and chips that won’t stop my heart by the second bite, perhaps I can find some American CDs you’ve been searching for.  Or something equally friendly and enlivening.

That lineup and more is posted at http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org

HOT REUNION! THE UNION RHYTHM KINGS on CD

On April 17, when I wrote a few lines about this wonderful hot band (see UNION RHYTHM KINGS) I had already had the pleasure of hearing several tracks from their debut CD on their MySpace page.  Now, through the kindness of Trygve Hernaes, the CD’s executive producer, I’ve heard the disc, called A HOT REUNION.  That it is!  Astonishing music, precise yet abandoned, fierce yet relaxed — the qualities that characterizes the best jazz, perhaps the finest art.  And the band’s “heat” is not a matter of speed and volume; most of the performances on this disc are at at medium tempos, but they swing and stomp remarkably.

The band title, I now know, harks back to the peaceable union of Norway and Sweden (1814-1905), and it’s not a history lesson.  Three members of the URK (Bent Persson, cornet / trumpet;  Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Jacob Ullberger, banjo/guitar) are Swedish; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Lars Frank, reeds, and Morten Gunnar Larsen, piano, are Norwegian.  A most equitable balance, giving new meaning to the idea of a “mixed band.”  Kristoffer and Lars are stars of the Jazzin’ Babies; Bent, Frans, and Jacob play and record as the Hot Jazz Trio, and Morten is an institution unto himself.

The CD pays tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, and (by extension) Bing Crosby with AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL, THE LOVE NEST, YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME, WA-DA-DA, RHYTHM KING, JAZZ ME BLUES, and ROYAL GARDEN BLUES; it honors Louis and King Oliver with KEYHOLE BLUES and CHATTANOOGA STOMP; Jelly Roll Morton has his moments with THE CHANT, KANSAS CITY STOMPS, THE PEARLS, and BLACK BOTTOM STOMP.  That would be enough for anyone — but this band has a particular fondness for the music that Red Allen and J.C. Higginbotham made while members of the Luis Russell Orchestra, perhaps the hottest band on record in 1929-30: the URK revisits DOCTOR BLUES and HIGGINBOTHAM BLUES.

Some readers might think, “Do I really need another version of ROYAL GARDEN BLUES”?

Yes, when the Union Rhythm Kings play it.

Much of the repertoire above from 1923-30 has already been explored by “traditional” bands all over the world.  And if you were to listen to all those recordings, an arduous task, you would note many “recreations” and many “improvisations.”  Some bands feel that the only way to pay our ancestors proper homage is to treat the Victors, OKehs, and Gennetts as sacred text to be copied note for note.  Although this can be electrifying when done expertly in concert, for example, it has serious philosophical limitations.  And simply “jamming” on ROYAL GARDEN BLUES, for instance, means that once the players are through the first two strains, it’s a medium-tempo blues, perhaps characterless.

The URK steer between these two extremes: their performances take inspiration, shape, and often tempos from the originals, but the solos are fresh, inventive.  And the results are glorious.  Hearing CHATTANOOGA STOMP, I thought, for the first time, “This must have been what the Creole Jazz Band really sounded like.”  Now, it didn’t hurt that each man here is a brilliant soloist, “tops on his instrument for tonation and phrasing,” and that each soloist knows the repertoire intimately.  But they all are brilliant team players.  Often, collections of “all-stars” turn out to be exercises in ego, muted or open, with the players less concerned about creating a band than about playing their solo.  Nothere.

And the CD is brimful with additional delights: on-target notes by trumpeter Mike Durham (who really can write!), and beautiful SACD Surround Sound.

I originally wanted to title this post THE STUFF IS HERE AND IT’S MELLOW, but I thought my esoteric reference to the marijuana culture of the Thirties might be too arcane.  But mellow the music is, indeed.

You can purchase this CD by contacting the producer, Trygve Hernaes, at Sonor as/Herman Records, Postbox 4275, NO-7436 Trondheim, Norway, or via email: sonoras@online.no., or trygve.hernes@bntv.no.  A CD costs $25, and payments can be made only by MasterCard or Visa, but this hot music is worth the effort.  I look forward to many more such reunions!

WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS JULY 9-12?

 I’ve read about this festival . . . but always after it’s ended.  I want to go to Whitley Bay!  (That’s a sentence I haven’t said before, but when the words came out of my mouth yesterday, they felt like the truth.)  Details below!  More details at www.whitleybayjazzfest.org.

 

 

 

 WHITLEY BAY INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 2009
Friday 10th – Sunday 12th JulyThe nineteenth annual Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival will feature as always the very best in classic jazz, from Ragtime to Swing. This year we feature no less than twenty-nine hot bands made up of more than 140 musicians from nine different countries – see list on right. And we are again at our new and very welcoming venue, the Village Hotel & Leisure Centre, Cobalt Park – see Booking Details page.

If you’ve been before, you’ll know what to expect. If not, here are some of the nice (unsolicited!) things people have said about the Festival:

“As we Yanks say, it was a smasheroo! – the new venue worked out fine, despite packed rooms. I’m so glad I made the trip; the best jazz festival in Great Britain!” – Kathy Lewis, Chicago

“I think sincerely it’s the best festival in Europe for organisation, standard of musicians and general atmosphere (spontaneous jam sessions)” – Henry Lemaire, MaMa & the Kids, Switzerland

“Four days of pure inspiration, and I wouldn’t have missed one second of it – congratulations, a triumph!” – Frank van Nus, bandleader & arranger, Twente, Holland

“The UK’s pre-eminent classic jazz festival” – Jazz Review Magazine, Edinburgh, Scotland

“Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival – the classic jazz fan’s Mecca!” – Trygve Hernæs, producer, Herman Records, Norway

“Thanks for the Festival, it knocks every other one into a cocked hat – sheer unadulterated quality!” – David Kimmins, a happy punter!

“As usual, I have only one complaint – there were too many good bands, so I couldn’t listen to them all: if I could only attend one jazz festival a year, Whitley Bay would be it” – Norrie Thompson, Edinburgh

“As a musician, I spent three marvellous days because your festival is the BEST in Europe: it’s a huge pleasure to perform there, and it takes me a week or two to come down off my little cloud!” – Stéphane Gillot, Red Hot Reedwarmers, France

“A vintage year for an exceptional jazz festival – certainly the best in the world for the music we love: bravo!” – Michel Bastide, Hot Antic Jazz Band, France

“I don’t know how you do it, but it gets better every year! We’ll be there again next year, as will the four friends we brought along this time” – Laurie Wright, discographer and jazz author, Storyville Magazine

“Probably the best Festival of its kind in the world – if I could only go to one, this would be it” – Bob Erdos, owner, Stomp Off Records, USA

“The best classic jazz festival in the world, and I have played at most of them” – Bent Persson (trumpet), Stockholm, Sweden

“This is the best jazz festival I’ve attended since the New Orleans and Ascona festivals of the 1980’s – and they take some beating” – Mike Hazeldine, New Orleans Music

“Whitley Bay is an exceptionally fine event – despite increasing airline costs and declining dollars, we intend to return next year” – Andy & Kathy Wittenborn, The Mississippi Rag, USA

 

 

 

Complete Band list:

  • The Charleston Chasers (UK’s premier 1920’s hot dance outfit)
  • Chicago Stompers (Italy – hot young ten-piece orchestra )
  • Swiss Yerba Buena Jazzband (Switzerland, with Jean-François Bonnel and René Hagmann)
  • Ten Doctors of Syncopation (Sweden – Henderson and more)
  • Hot Five Jazzmakers (canada – joyous sounds of New Orleans)
  • Matthias Seuffert’s South Side Special (Germany/UK Dodds tribute)
  • Bent Persson & his Orchestra (international, 1930’s Armstrong)
  • les Red Hot Reedwarmers (France – back to the Apex Club!)
  • Michael McQuaid’s Late-hour Boys (Australia and the world!)
  • The Hot Jazz Trio (Sweden’s masters of the real classic stuff)
  • Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra (Scotland’s finest)
  • Spats Langham & his Rhythm Boys (“with vocal refrain”)
  • New Century Ragtime Orchestra (Tyneside – ragtime to hot dance)
  • Wheatley’s Arcadians (string-band music extraordinaire)
  • The Three Tenors (saxes, that is – France/Germany/UK)
  • Four on the Frets (the finest in jazz guitar)
  • Debbie Arthurs’ Sweet Rhythm (sweet & hot, actually!)
  • Keith Stephen’s Hot Club Trio with Caroline Irwin
  • The 1955 band (saluting Chris Barber & Ken Colyer) The
  • Three Pods of Pepper (hot, hot, hot!) Clarinet Crescendo (international reed extravaganza)
  • Norman Field’s Happy Harmonists (Brum & points west)
  • Sjöström’s Tap Room Gang (Adrian Rollini rules, ok?)
  • Paul Munnery’s Kansas City Jazz (from Moten to modern)
  • Swing City Trio with Steve Andrews (Cumbria)
  • River City Jazzmen (the band which discovered Sting!)
  • Rae Brothers New Orleans Jazzband (Gatesheed)
  • West Jesmond Rhythm Kings (West Jesmond, where else?)
  • International Banjorama! (international)

SPECIAL EXTRA EVENT FOR 2009!

THE SAGE GATESHEAD presents
“YOUNG LOUIS”
in association with Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival

The first five years of Louis Armstrong’s brilliant recording career
recreated by Bent Persson and a hand-picked band of International stars

Hall Two, Thursday 9th July at 8.00pm: see separate page for details

 “I’d like to say how much I enjoyed Whitley Bay this year. There was some amazing music to listen to and some lovely things to play. Congratulations!” – James Evans, sax and clarinet

“Possibly the biggest and most prestigious celebration of classic jazz anywhere in Europe” – Paul Bream, Jazz Alert

“Nice bands, nice people, perfect organisation – one of the best experiences of our musical life” – Jean Amy, leader, Steamboat Band, France

“A jazz festival for connoisseurs” – Chris Yates, Jazz North East