Tag Archives: NPR

“HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS”: BARBARA ROSENE and JON DAVIS at MEZZROW (Dec. 8, 2019)

Barbara Rosene puts her heart into her songs.

She continues to be a great singer — not only because of her gorgeous resonant supple voice, but because she knows what the lyrics mean, phrases them so that we feel them too.  No tricks, no melodrama, no “acting,” just heartfelt communication.  And her art is so touching because she so beautifully conceals the hard work beneath it.

You can see and hear it in this lovely performance, with pianist Jon Davis, recorded at Mezzrow on December 8, 2019.

And here , thanks to Terry Gross and NPR, is the story of how Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine came to write this song for Judy Garland in 1944.

I will have more performances from Barbara’s recent Mezzrow appearance to share with you in future.  And, should you be wondering who painted the quirky portrait of that club and its inhabitants, it is the painter Barbara Rosene — who also has her own beautiful styles — from jazz clubs to starlit scenes to beloved pets to abstracts.

May your happiness increase!

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!

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):

ap480401072

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!

WOW! MORE SAVORY SNIPPETS

Last Tuesday night at the Jazz Museum in Harlem, Loren Schoenberg played us Teddy Wilson, Bob Zurke, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie recordings we had never heard before (and he’s going to keep it up for three more Tuesday evenings in a row).  And today he and Michael Cogswell, director of the Louis Armstrong Archive at Queens College (a most inviting and convivial place) did a radio show for NPR’s WBUR.  Click on the link below and hear these tantalizing excerpts —

a searing passionate blues chorus by Bunny Berigan which will astound you, followed by Slam Stewart creating the blues in his own image (this from a Martin Block radio program);

a version of SING SING SING by the 1939 Benny Goodman band;

almost all of a very famous and brief HONEYSUCKLE ROSE from another Block show, featuring Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Jack Teagarden, Bud Freeman, Al Casey, and George Wettling;

and a sweetly charging medium-tempo chorus of ROSETTA for Gene Krupa and an unknown clarinetist who might be Joe Marsala, again from 1938.

WOW! might be the only possible response.  Visit http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/09/new-jazz-gems and you’ll say it, too!

EVEN MORE SAVORY: “NEVER BEFORE HEARD CLIPS”

I find the media coverage of the discovery of the Bill Savory jazz collection simply amazing — and am both grateful and astonished. 

It would appear that the world has gone jazz crazy now, at least for a minute. 

Here’s the latest story from NEWSWEEK,  complete with music from Mildred Bailey, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett, Vernon Brown, George Wettling, Herschel Evans, Lester Young, Jo Jones, Lionel Hampton, Joe Marsala, John Kirby, Roy Eldridge, and more!  (The music itself is amazing, but I am particularly delighted by the sound that audio wizard Doug Pomeroy has brought out of those grooves.)

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/25/audio-exclusive-eight-never-before-heard-clips-from-america-s-jazz-greats.html

And . . .

From the “But wait!  There’s more!” department, how about a thirty-minute NPR feature with director of the Jazz Museum of Harlem Loren Schoenberg and Bill Savory’s son Eugene Desavouret:

http://beta.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/2010/aug/24/savory-recordings/

I will let my readers ponder the larger implications of this media exuberance: right now, I am once again going to listen to half a minute of Mildred singing TRUCKIN’, which is balm for even the most skeptical observer, or I would hope so.  (Even a reader like myself who sees the whole explosion of interest as something out of a 1933 newspaper film, with the hard-bitten editor, fedora pushed back on his head, shouting, “Stop the presses!  Get me rewrite!  Don’t you know this is the biggest scoop anyone has ever seen?  Why, it’ll blow this town wide open . . . !”)

WHAT THE GROUNDHOG WHISPERED: A VIGNETTE

groundhog-dayIn case you weren’t paying close attention, last Monday was Groundhog Day.

Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow, saw his shadow, the news cameras, the reporters . . . and went back in, an omen of six more weeks of winter — to say nothing of acid indigestion, sinking investments, tinnitus, poor cellphone reception, and more.

But I am patient and Phil and I go back a long time.  I waited until all the media went home, amused myself by draining my thermos of Trader Joe’s coffee, and waited.  Then Phil gingerly came out again, after I’d assured him that it was safe: even PBS and NPR had gone home.

He looked weary; he always does after these appearances.  But he gestured to me to come closer.  After we’d exchanged hellos and I’d asked about the family (they’re all fine), he whispered, “Look.  Of course the news is bad.  There’s going to be bankruptcies and not enough hot water in the kitchen sink.  But don’t despair.  Hope is in sight.”

“What do you mean, Phil?” I asked.

“I’m getting out of here — hitching a ride with two jazz-loving woodchucks I know — in time to be in Manhattan on Thursday, February 19, at 8 PM.  We’re going to sneak in to Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights in Jazz concert downtown.  It’s his 36th anniversary!  And Jack is so caught up in the music he never notices us.  It’s where these concerts always take place: the Borough of Manhattan Community College at 199 Chambers Street, www.tribecapac.org.  David Ostwald and his Louis Armstrong Centennial Band will be there — David on tuba, Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Anat Cohen on clarinet, Kevin Dorn on drums.  And two of the music’s most memorable players will be there — Dick Hyman and Joe Wilder!  Maybe they’ll even do ‘Seventy-Six Trombones,’ my favorite!”

“Dick Hyman, Joe Wilder, Kevin Dorn, Jon-Erik Kellso, Wycliffe Gordon, Anat Cohen, and David Ostwald?” I repeated incredulously.

“You humans have difficulty with good news, don’t you?” Phil hissed.  “And, knowing Jack, there might be a surprise guest or two.”

The moral of the story: don’t crawl into your own personal burrow just because the news is rotten and the winds are cold.  Be sure to join us on February 19: I think the Beloved and I are in row H.

“Hasta luego!” as Phil always says — even though his Spanish accent is execrable.

Tickets for individual concerts may be ordered for $35.00, students $32.50.  Make checks payable to: Highlights in Jazz – Mail to: Highlights in Jazz, 7 Peter Cooper Rd., New York, NY 10010
(Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope, which I usually ALMOST forget to do.)

TRIBECA Performing Arts Center
Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street
TRIBECA Box Office at (212) 220-1460
http://www.tribecapac.org/music.htm

For Interviews, photos and general Highlights In Jazz information, contact:
Jim Eigo Jazz Promo Services
269 S Route 94 Warwick, NY 10990
T: 845-986-1677 / F: 845-986-1699
E-Mail: jazzpromo@earthlink.net
Web Site: http://www.jazzpromoservices.com/

NOTHING BUT THE BLUES!

When you travel far from urban centers, you meet wonderful new people and see sights and sites you wouldn’t otherwise.  All quite exciting and often rewarding.  And I don’t miss the wild proliferation of cellphone stores and nail salons of my native New York.  But I must be a born homebody, for I miss so many things while on the road, mostly food — spicy cuisine, the easy availability of goods I’m used to (tasty wholegrain bread, bagels, Martin’s pretzels).  You can make your own list.  Johnny Hodges, who knew about life on the road, wrote a song, THE THINGS YOU MISS.   

And I miss hip FM radio, especially jazz radio.  (I know I could pay for Sirius or XM, but I’m not ready: remember that I still have cassettes at home and have only recently begun to covet an Ipod and you will know how far behind the curve I am.  But I digress, unapologetically.)  Driving from Maine into Canada, I’ve been struck, once again, by how lucky people are who can hear NPR — to say nothing of the joys of idiosyncratic college radio stations. 

In Canada, I heard some reassuring Dvorak and Bach, but much more generic pop-rock and a good deal of local newsbreaks about the man who died after police used a stun gun on him . . . .

So it was a soul-stirring pleasure today to hear the strains of a later-period Goodman-Sextet style ROYAL GARDEN BLUES come out of the car speakers, without fanfare.  The guitar soloist went on indefatigably, in the manner of the late Charlie Christian, leading me to suspect that it might be Herb Ellis, bluesy, profane, profound.  When he was followed for a few choruses by two of the most recognizable soloists in jazz — Stan Getz and Roy Eldridge — I thanked the Fates for this six-minute interlude.  And to hear the announcer then render the album title as RIEN MAIS LES BLUES or some such was an added treat.  (My faux-French shouldn’t obscure that what I heard came from a Verve CD reissue of a Herb Ellis session, NOTHING BUT THE BLUES, truly worth searching out.)