Tag Archives: NPR

RUBY BRAFF and MARIAN McPARTLAND PLAY, TALK, and LAUGH (1991)

RUBY portrait

Thanks to National Public Radio, here is a rebroadcast of Marian McPartland’s PIANO JAZZ featuring the one, the only Ruby Braff, in a mellow mood, here.

MARIAN McPARTLAND

There’s delicious music — both players in exquisite form — THOU SWELL, THESE FOOLISH THINGS, THIS YEAR’S KISSES (with Ruby at the piano), THIS IS ALL I ASK, BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL (a piano duet), SINGIN’ THE BLUES (Marian, solo), BY MYSELF, AS TIME GOES BY, LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, and an extra bit of holiday laginappe, WHITE CHRISTMAS, as well as commentary on Vic Dickenson and Buster Bailey, the “Laws of Comping,” Mel Powell, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, the Boston jazz scene in the Fifties, George Barnes, Frank Tate, Dave McKenna, a CD that never emerged, the Braff-Hyman GIRL CRAZY, Tony Bennett, the value of caring and having standards, Benny Goodman, Herschel Evans, picking songs and making records, Maurice Chevalier, Bix Beiderbecke, and more.

The authority on all things Braff, Tom Hustad, thinks that the program was recorded in fall 1991 — as he notes in his invaluable book, BORN TO PLAY: THE RUBY BRAFF DISCOGRAPHY AND DIRECTORY OF PERFORMANCES.  Hear the music; buy the book; remember Ruby and Marian and the music they made always.

May your happiness increase!

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THE ARTIST, THE AUDIENCE: CHICAGO 1948

This picture just turned up on an NPR blogpost about the contemporary guise of the “hipster” as opposed to “hep cat” and people who were genuinely “hip.” I have my own — perhaps acerbic — thoughts on the current phenomenon of hipsterdom as practiced by comfortably affluent urban young men, but I will not inflict them on you.  (Here is the original post.)

Rather, I offer this portrait of someone I admire: Mister Strong, surrounded by fans, presumably after playing a set at Chicago’s Blue Note in 1948 (photograph by Edward S. Kitch for the Associated Press):

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My first reaction to this photo was, “Goodness, he looks furious,” but I was wrong.

What I see here now is the absolute intent focus on a task — in this case, making sure that he is in touch with the people who have come to see and hear him create music. “Playing for the people” didn’t stop with the final notes of WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH; these fans must be honored.  And those last notes have sounded so close to this picture that he still has trumpet and handkerchief at the ready — no time to go back to the dressing room.

The fans are equally intent: what is this, for them, but approaching a deity at close range and going home with something he has touched?  In 1948, young men and women still dressed to go out; perhaps they are all too young to have suits, but they know something about “dressing up,” and their clothing is anything but ironic.

And, although I am in a wholly life-enhancing relationship, I would like to time-travel back to 1948 — not only to hear the music, but to ask the diminutive young woman who is peering in at the scene if she will go with me for an ice-cream soda sometime. Or to a movie.

Louis, COME BACK! This world needs you so.

Thoughts on a snowy New York morning.

May your happiness increase!

WOW! DECEMBER 29, 1940: LESTER YOUNG, SHAD COLLINS, J.C. HIGGINBOTHAM, SAMMY PRICE, HAROLD “DOC” WEST

Here’s the good news.  What many of us have only read about in discographies exists: discs preserving thirty minutes of a Village Vanguard jam session, overseen by Ralph Berton, then broadcasting jazz on the air on New York City’s municipal radio station, WNYC.

And thanks to the Library of Congress, National Public Radio, and the tireless Franz Hoffmann, we can hear two minutes and thirty-six seconds of a jump blues, caught in the middle of Lester’s solo.  The sound is good; the discs were well-preserved.

The less good news is that the NPR commentator (perhaps unconsciously modeling himself on Alistair Cooke) talks over the music at the start and it is such a brief excerpt.  But it gives one hope for more glorious jazz archaeology:

Thank you, Lester, Shad (trumpet); Higgy (trombone); Sammy Price (piano); Doc West (drums); Ralph Berton; anonymous WNYC engineer / recordist; the Library of Congress; National Public Radio; Franz Hoffmann.

May your happiness increase.

SINGULAR, REMARKABLE: MATT MUNISTERI EXPLORES THE LOST MUSIC OF WILLARD ROBISON — at JOE’S PUB (July 10, 2012)

Sometimes there is a perfect marriage of an artist and the material (s)he chooses or stumbles upon.  I think of Lester Young and the slow blues; Louis Armstrong and the songs of Harold Arlen; Lee Wiley and SUGAR . . . you can continue my list or compile your own.

One such remarkable pairing — lively and sad, wry and deeply ethical, sardonic and hopeful — is that of guitarist / singer / improviser Matt Munisteri and the body of work composed and sung by Willard Robison.  Serious songhounds know Robison immediately for OLD FOLKS, A COTTAGE FOR SALE, ‘T’AIN’T SO, HONEY, ‘T’AIN’T SO, and several others, but it took Munisteri to bring him back to life for us in all his multi-faceted surprising glory.  Robison is simultaneously philosophical and goofy, spiritual and naughty . . . and his playful, profound spirit animates his music and lyrics.  He has found the perfect person to levitate his art from the flat surfaces of sheet music and shellac discs in Munisteri, whose art is anything but one-dimensional.

I’ve written enthusiastically about Matt’s new Robison CD — the one we’ve been waiting for! — here.

And NPR got it, too — npr.

But right now what I am suggesting is that anyone within reach of downtown Manhattan saddle up the pony, rent a car, hitch a ride, get on the bus . . . and go to Joe’s Pub for the official CD release show in slightly over a week — that’s Tuesday, July 10.  I’ve heard Matt perform the Robison material live, and he is brilliantly cutting his own new paths through this surprising world.

Here are the details!  JOE’S PUB is at 425 Lafayette Street in New York City — easy to reach by public transit.  The show begins at 7:30 PM.  Tickets are $20 on the day of the show and $18 in advance.  Joe’s Pub now has assigned seating and I expect the show to sell out, so don’t be caught short with a mournful look . . . stuck outside while the sweet music happens within.  And this is the link to Buy Tickets

May your happiness increase.

“FOUR ON THE FLOOR,” or “IT ALL GOES BACK TO DISCO”

1930 Ludwig Streaked Opal drum set: visit http://www.olympicdrums.com for more information

In the late afternoon of December 31, 2011, the Beloved and I were in the car, heading from Novato to Napa in California.  The car radio was set to NPR — not a bad thing — and an ingenuous young woman reporter for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED came on to ask the pressing question: what sound was prevalent in all the pop music hits of 2011?  I heard a throbbing beat that was soon drowned out by some version of electronic thrumming and whining . . . and then she came on the air to answer her own question: four beats on the bass drum.  Here’s the transcription of what she said:

There’s one sound that pretty much dominated pop music this year. Monster hits by LMFAO, Adele, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears and more all relied on the hammering beat known as “four-on-the-floor.”

“You feel it in your whole body, just on every beat: boom, boom, boom, boom,” says Jordan Roseman. “It’s so easy to understand, it’s almost hard not to move to it.”

Roseman, better known as DJ Earworm, is intimately familiar with these songs and their matching beats. He mixed them all together in his annual mashup of the year’s biggest pop hits, a series he calls “The United State of Pop.” He says that four-on-the-floor, while not a new sensation, dominated the radio dial in 2011.

“It goes back to disco. Right when these big speakers came along, all of a sudden the kick drum took this new prominence in music because you could really feel it,” Roseman says. “It’s definitely peaking right now.”

You can download Roseman’s 2011 mashup, “World Go Boom,” at the DJ Earworm website.

Call me a nostalgia-addled dinosaur, a Swing Era relic (I’ve been called worse) but I thought “four on the floor” was cherished standard practice in all jazz performance until the very early Forties when (let’s say) Kenny Clarke started dropping bombs.

Before then, a drummer who couldn’t keep time — not necessarily loud — on the bass drum was considered inept, rather like the novice waitperson who has to ask each of the two diners, “Who gets the Greek omelet?”

I wish that the NPR story created a rush to study the recordings and videos of the masters: Krupa, Dodds, Jones, Catlett, Tough, Wettling, Marshall, Stafford, King, Berton,Morehouse, Singleton, Hanna, Bauduc, Leeman, Rich, Drootin, Dougherty, Walter Johnson, Spencer, Webb, Bellson, Shadow Wilson, Best, and a hundred more — or to sit at the feet of the contemporary percussion masters Smith, Burgevin, Hamilton, Dorn, Tyle, Baker, Siers . . . but somehow I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Because, as you know, “It all goes back to disco,” and our contemporary awareness of the past can be measured with a micrometer.

“HEY! HEY!” or “OH, TURN THAT DIAL!”

This song chronicles elation, although I suspect that the song is not one of James P.’s most lasting, and Bob Hayes looks more dour than thrilled.  But no matter.

What’s the reason for the cheer?

Carl Sonny Leyland, pianist extraordinaire, also has his own radio show.  He creates it from his home and relies on his large collection of jazz, pop, and blues rarities, so it is worth tuning in to.

Marc Caparone tells me that it’s on the Paso Robles NPR radio station, KCBX, which streams it live on the web as well.  Sonny broadcasts live on Friday nights  at 8pm Pacific time.  The link for the station: http://www.kcbx.org/ and the link for streaming:
http://www.kcbx.org/Pages/Programming/listen_live.html.

Hey! Hey!  Listen your cares away!

FLOATING: A MASTER CLASS (The Ear Inn, Nov. 8, 2010)

NPR wasn’t there.  PBS was off covering something else.  Too bad for them.

But last Sunday night, The EarRegulars offered a master class at The Ear Inn.  Anyone could attend. 

Their subject?  Duke Ellington called it “bouncing buoyancy,” his definition for the irresistible levitation that swinging jazz could produce.  I call it floating — the deep mastery of rhythm, line, and invention that one hears in Louis, Lester, Benny Carter, Jack Teagarden, Jo Jones, Teddy Wilson, Sidney Catlett, and on and on. 

The audience at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street in Soho, New York City) may not have known what they were hearing, but I am sure it was absorbed osmotically into their very cells.   

And who are these masters, teaching by example?  The co-founders of The EarRegulars, Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri, on trumpet and guitar, joined by bassist Neal Miner and someone I’d only heard about, tenor saxophonist Alex Hoffman, a young man who’s already playing splendidly.  (Look him up at http://www.alexhoffman.com.) 

Later in the evening a whole reed section dropped by, one by one: Andy Faber, tenor; Dan Block, alto; Pete Martinez, clarinet.

Here are a few highlights.  Check yourself to find that you’re still touching the chair seat:

I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU, that pretty rhythm ballad — most of us know it as “I TOOK A TRIP ON A TRAIN,” and so on:

MY WALKING STICK is a wonderful minor-rock with the best pedigree — an Irving Berlin song recorded once by Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers, then, forty years later, by Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins.  This version is the twenty-first century’s delightful continuation, with Professor Kellso walking with his plunger mute:

Another pretty song that rarely gets played is UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE — the ballad Frank Chace loved.  I know it from versions by Louis, Hawkins, and Connee Boswell, not a meek triumvirate:

Caffeine always helps focus and energize, as does this version of TEA FOR TWO, with Andy Farber joining in.  I don’t quite understand the initial standing-up-and-sitting-down, but perhaps it was The EarRegulars Remember Jimmie Lunceford:

How about some blues?  Better yet, how about a greasy Gene Ammons blues?  Here’s RED TOP, Dan Block leaping in (top right).  Matt Munisteri’s dark excavations made me think of Tiny Grimes, but Matt goes beyond the Master here:

And here’s the rocking conclusion:

Finally, those singers and players who take on HOW AM I TO KNOW often do it at the Billie Holiday Commodore tempo, stretching out the long notes.  But it works even better as a medium-tempo romper: Pete Martinez, seated on a barstool to my left, adds his particular tart flavorings:

And the final tasty minute and twenty-six seconds:

Seminars held every Sunday, 8 – 11 PM . . . no course prerequisites!