What better way to honor a beloved jazz friend, now gone, than with the music he loved so much? And played so eloquently by the people he admired so deeply.
The man: John Pendleton, whom you’ll hear spoken of in the videos that follow.
The musicians: Hal Smith’s International Sextet, recorded on May 27 at the 2011 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. That’s Hal (drums), Katie Cavera (guitar / vocals), Clint Baker (string bass / vocals), Anita Thomas (clarinet, alto, vocals), Kim Cusack (clarinet, tenor, vocals), Carl Sonny Leyland (piano, vocals).
“Music speaks louder than words,” Charlie Parker told condescending Earl Wilson in that famous film clip, and Bird was right, so I won’t elaborate the virtues of this rocking group at length: viewers can find their own pleasures for themselves.
But I would point out that Hal, Katie, Sonny, and Clint make a peerless rhythm section, with their four sonorities weaving together, their pulses aligned without their individualities being flattened for some specious idea of the common good. Hear the ripe-fruit sound of Katie’s guitar; the swish and flow of Hal’s cymbals, the deep commentaries of Clint’s bass, the down-home rock of Carl’s piano. And the horns intertwine with each other and float over this sweet propulsion: Kim, bringing his own perspective to Bud Freeman, Eddie Miller, Joe Marsala, Pee Wee Russell, and Frank Chace; Anita, completely in control but entirely fearless, following her impulses in the best self-reliant way. And the vocalizing is wonderful (jazz instrumentalists make the best singers!) neither slick nor amateurish.
Watch everyone on the stand smiling — always a guarantee of heartfelt music and deep gratifications being spread all around.
Katie and Anita tell us all about the new dance craze that everyone’s doing — or should be doing — that’s TRUCKIN’:
RIDIN’ ON THE L&N celebrates a train that ran between Louisville and Nashville, according to Brother Hal, who knows these things:
John loved baseball and swing. Hence this funny, surprising TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME:
A hot one! RUNNIN’ WILD (hear Clint’s bass behind Kim):
SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY is such a simple song, but it works so well on our deepest impulses to go home, or some imagined version of it. Katie and Anita remind us that Doris Day had a great hit with this song; the rest of the band says (implicitly), “Hey, remember the great Buck Clayton Jam Session?” Works perfectly:
Here’s Carl’s version of the 1949 hit by Sticks McGhee (younger brother of Brownie), DRINKIN’ WINE (SPO-DEE-O-DEE). Original lyrics — according to Nick Tosches and Wikipedia — reprinted below, definitely unvarnished and unsanitized.*
Katie is not salacious in person, but she loves songs about Twenties flirtation — perhaps she was a naughty flapper in a past life? Here’s MA! (HE’S MAKING EYES AT ME):
I couldn’t abide THIS OLD HOUSE even when I owned one (no real-life workmen were ever such models of decorum and skill) but I love LOUISIANA FAIRY TALE, and it’s clear that Anita does too. Music by J. Fred Coots, Danny’s uncle:
And a little Basie is always good for the soul, as Hal reminds us with JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE:
I never met John Pendleton, but he must have been what the Irish call a grand fellow to have these candid people so deeply devoted to him. And to have such wonderful music played in his memory!
*”Drinkin’ that mess is our delight, And when we get drunk, start fightin’ all night. Knockin’ out windows and learnin’ down doors, Drinkin’ half-gallons and callin’ for more. Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Pass that bottle to me!”