For relief from my attempts to tidy my apartment (think Sisyphus with myopia and a short attention span) I turn to the more cheerful task of tidying my YouTube archives.
I have preserved somewhere around eight thousand videos, recorded from 2007 to this summer, and some of them are labeled in ways that make them elusive. But you and I benefit from my disorder, since wonders emerge and can be shared.
March 2019 seems like decades ago, but it wasn’t — in calendar time. Because of kind invitations from the Juvae Jazz Society, I found myself in Decatur, Illinois, for a one-day jazz festival that also featured Petra van Nuis and her Recession Seven and local hero Bob Havens. I video-recorded several sets by the Chicago Cellar Boys, and I think four posts on JAZZ LIVES resulted. But here are some you ain’t tuned in to yet. The CCB are Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, saxophones, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Dave Bock, tuba; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo and guitar.
GULF COAST BLUES:
I FOUND A NEW BABY:
WILD MAN BLUES:
BEER GARDEN BLUES comes from 1933, and celebrates the end of Prohibition: Clarence Williams gave it new lyrics and it became SWING, BROTHER, SWING a few years later:
I understand the CCB played splendidly at the most recent Bix Festival — may they once again delight us at many venues. Until then, I have posted nearly sixty performances by this flexible, inventive hot group, so there’s much more to delight you.
A homeopathic practitioner would tell us that “like cures like”: if you’re suffering from an excess of X, take a tincture of more X. I don’t know how it works, but allium cepa works on my allergies. You heard it here first. Many people I encounter these days are unhappy as can be — for a multiplicity of reasons that I don’t need to explore here. So I offer some mournful music by Andy Schumm, clarinet; Paul Asaro, piano; John Donatowicz, banjo, performed at last year’s San Diego Jazz Fest on November 30, 2019. (This trio is a band-within-a-band from the esteemed Chicago Cellar Boys, whom I’ve praised and posted often here.) And Andy is working in and around Johnny Dodds’ choruses on the Louis Armstrong Hot Five recording — the composition is by Lil Hardin:
Feeling better? I thought not. Tune in tomorrow for more attempts at spiritual rescue.
To my ears, modern bands don’t find it easy to reproduce the music of Twenties and early Thirties medium-sized ensembles beyond playing the notes, although I commend their attempts. The most pleasing exceptions have been Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, still doing the thing regularly in New York and elsewhere; I’ve also delighted in some ad hoc ensembles put together at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Festival. (Listeners have other favorites, I know: I am not compiling a list here.)
But most recently, the Chicago-based FAT BABIES are are a consistent pleasure.
Here’s UPTOWN, performed at the July 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival:
UPTOWN is also the name of the Babies’ latest CD, their fourth for Delmark, beautifully thought-out, played, and recorded.
Visit here to buy the disc and hear samples, or vice versa.
The band on this disc is the 2016-18 version, with Andy Schumm, cornet, alto saxophone, clarinet; Dave Bock, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, clarinet, tenor, soprano; John Otto, clarinet, tenor; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, tenor banjo, tenor guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums, percussion. They deeply understand the music without being stuffy.
Of the thirteen selections, UPTOWN and THAT GAL OF MINE are originals by Andy Schumm; SWEET IS THE NIGHT by Jonathan Doyle. The arrangements and transcriptions are by Schumm, Doyle, and Paul Asaro, who also sings on five tracks with proper period flourishes. The rest of the repertoire — venerable songs — EDNA, HARMONY BLUES, THE BATHING BEAUTY BLUES, RUFF SCUFFLIN’, OUT OF A CLEAR BLUE SKY, THUMPIN’ AND BUMPIN’, THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, TRAVELIN’ THAT ROCKY ROAD, THE SOPHOMORE, HARLEM RHYTHM DANCE — have noble associations with King Oliver, Bennie Moten, Andy Kirk, Eubie Blake, Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, Bing Crosby, the Dorsey Brothers, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Clarence Williams, Claude Hopkins, and others. But you’ll notice that the song selection, although deep and genuine, is not The Same Old Thing (you know: the same two Ellingtons, one Bix, DIPPER MOUTH BLUES, MOTEN SWING, and so on): even scholars of the period might not be used to hearing some of these compositions.
What makes this band so delightful? The answers come thick and fast. They are a working band, so their section work is beautifully polished but never stiff. The solos caress or explode, depending on what the song requires. There’s also a refreshing variety in tempo and mood: the Babies do not need to play racetrack tempos all the time, and they know that hot is best served with with nicely seasoned side dishes of sweet. This is music for dancers as well as listeners. I’ve seen other ensembles do creditable work with charts they are seeing for the first or second time, but nothing can replace the comfortable familiarity that comes with playing a song twenty times in a month.
“Authenticity” is always a slippery subject, but the Babies manifest it in every note and phrase: they’ve lived with this music long enough and intensely enough to have the rhythmic feel of this period as part of their individual and collective nervous systems, so there is no self-conscious “going backwards,” but the band feels as if they’ve immersed themselves in the conventions of the style — which go beyond slapped bass and choked cymbal. It doesn’t feel as if they are acting, pretending to be ancient: their joy in being comes through. And the solos are stylistically gratifying without being museum-pieces. It’s been said before, but if the Babies were to be dropped in Harlem in 1931, they would cause a sensation and be welcomed at the Rhythm Club, the dance halls, and after-hours clubs.
It’s joyous music, joyously played. And my only reservation about this Delmark CD (which, again, I point out, is beautifully recorded) is that it’s not a three-disc set. Maybe next time.
The 1932 best-seller (with a Will Rogers movie a few years later):
Even before I was 40, I was slightly suspicious of the idea, even though it came from better health and thus longer life expectancy. Was it an insult to the years that came before? And now that I’m past forty . . . .
The bands and soloists who will be featured include John Royen, Katie Cavera, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Grand Dominion, John Gill, On the Levee Jazz Band, the Mad Hat Hucksters, Carl Sonny Leyland, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Chicago Cellar Boys, Titanic Jazz Band, the Night Blooming Jazzmen, and more than twenty others, with youth bands, sets for amateur jammers, and the Saturday-night dance extravaganza featuring On The Levee and the Mad Hat Hucksters.
The Festival is also greatly comfortable, because it is one of those divine ventures where the music is a two-to-five minute walk from the rooms at the Town and Country Convention Center.
is the “almost final” band schedule for Wednesday night through Sunday. I will wait until the “final” schedule comes out before I start circling sets in pen and highlighting them — but already I feel woozy with an abundance of anticipated and sometimes conflicting pleasures.
For most of the audience, one of the pleasures of the festival circuit is returning to the familiar. Is your trad heartthrob the duo Itch and Scratch, or the Seven Stolen Sugar Packets? At a festival, you can greet old friends both on the bandstand and in the halls. But there’s also the pleasure of new groups, and the special pleasure of getting to meet and hear someone like John Royen, whom I’ve admired on records for years but have never gotten a chance to meet.
Here’s John, playing Jelly:
And here are a few previously unseen videos from my visits to the Jazz Fest. First, one of my favorite bands ever, the band that Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones co-led, here with Doug Finke, Katie Cavera, Hal Smith, Chris Dawson, and Marty Eggers — in a 2014 performance of a Fats classic:
and the Chicago Cellar Boys — who will be at this year’s fest — in 2018. The CCB is or are Andy Schumm, John Otto, Paul Asaro, Johnny Donatowicz, and Dave Bock:
and for those deep in nostalgia for traditional jazz on a cosmic scale, how about High Sierra plus guests Justin Au and Doug Finke in 2014:
Pick the bands you like, explore those new to you, but I hope you can make it to this jolly explosion of music and friendship: it is worth the trip (and I’m flying from New York). You’ll have an unabridged experience and lose your anxieties!
I read recently that the Chicago Cellar Boys were celebrating being a band for two years: I don’t know whether we should wish them HAPPY BIRTHDAY or HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, but my impulse is to celebrate them: their wonderful mixture of exactitude and abandon is so very inspiring, so hot, so sweet. How do we celebrate here at JAZZ LIVES? We share video that you haven’t seen before unless you were at the gig. That’s what we do!
KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE, not only a good song but a fine life-maxim, performed in the style of the Apex Club Orchestra, with its verse as well:
ROSY CHEEKS, with an idiomatic vocal chorus by Paul Asaro:
Clarence Williams’ BOTTOMLAND, played at a yearning tempo:
A word about husbands who suffer; take it seriously or not, POOR PAPA:
Another song related to Jimmie Noone’s small band, which performed at the El Dorado Club — I read that EL RADO SCUFFLE was named because some of the lighting on the club’s sign was not working:
SO TIRED, which is obviously not the Cellar Boys’ theme song:
SWEET EMMALINE, recorded in 1928 by Clarence Williams. Is there any truth to the rumor, half-remembered, which has Clarence saying, late in life, that he wrote none of the music for which he took credit?
A great band!
Incidentally, parents in the JAZZ LIVES audience are surely familiar with “the terrible twos,” where the toddler says NO to everything, dramatically. The CCB say NO to many things: inauthentic music, badly played music, striped vests, stuffed pets on the gig, poor-quality snacks in the musicians’ room, too-tight polo shirts. To wonderful music they say YES, as do we.
Two other bits of relevant information. The Cellar Boys will be back at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest, and they will have copies of their debut CD, BUSY ‘TIL ELEVEN, which is a Rivermont Records production. Also for Rivermont, they’ve recorded a microgroove 78 rpm record (four songs) if it isn’t sold out by now.
And if you’ve never seen a copy of THE SYNCOPATED TIMES, you owe it to yourself to click on the bright-blue rectangle below, which is there for some good reasons.
These Boys don’t disappoint in their hot and sweet renditions of Twenties and Thirties Chicago-style jazz and pop music. The CCB are Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Dave Bock, tuba. I recorded these performances on November 15, 2018, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.
BLUES IN A MINOR honors the Blue Ribbon Syncopators, a reasonably obscure territory band from Buffalo, New York, who recorded this song in 1925 for OKeh. It’s not a blues; it’s not in A minor. An error in labeling? You’re on your own:
Jelly Roll Morton’s dark lesson in keeping your own counsel, BIG LIP BLUES:
Clarence Williams’ rousing CUSHION FOOT STOMP (and I need a good answer about the etymology of the title):
The very pretty melody, A GARDEN IN THE RAIN:
Cliff Jackson’s (stride pianist with intriguing bass patterns, also leading the “Krazy Kats”) THE TERROR:
I have more video of the CCB in various places, but you should also know about their debut CD for Rivermont Records, BUSY ‘TIL ELEVEN, and that wonderful new oddity, a 10″ 78 rpm microgroove stereo vinyl record — a limited edition of 550 copies — that plays four songs in lovely fidelity while its ornate label rotates at the reassuringly high speed of a vanished time and place. Learn more, hear more, and buy more here.
This started out as a video post — a sharing of platefuls of joy — of music from one of my favorite bands, the Chicago Cellar Boys — and then their wonderful debut CD, BUSY ‘TIL ELEVEN, landed in my mailbox. So it’s now a CD review also. You can learn more about the Rivermont Records CD here. And in that same place you can hear some convincing sound samples as well. For once, words seem superfluous.
If you like Twenties music, hot and sweet, expertly played, wonderfully recorded, thoroughly annotated, you will delight in this disc: twenty-one songs, many thoroughly rare, all uplifting and varied. The band is thoroughly playful (the title is not a song in itself, but a line from one of the songs performed by pianist-vocalist Paul Asaro).
Perhaps you’ve sat long enough. In the mood for vigorous aerobics?
Before you delight in the Chicago Cellar Boys performing at the Juvae Jazz Mini-Fest last March 30, here’s some relevant dance instruction:
The hot music that follows was performed in Decatur, Illinois, by the Boys: Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Dave Bock, tuba. Now, roll up the carpets and put the pets outside.
Here’s one for Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra and Sammut of Malta:
And a statement of intent, courtesy of Coon-Sanders:
Willie “the Lion” Smith’s particular brand of uptown hedonism:
A rare Fats Waller tune describing someone entranced by the dance:
Finally, Cliff Jackson’s THE TERROR (which is only scary for those who choose to play it):
I feel thinner already, and I’ve only intermittently left my chair. May the Boys flourish; nay they have so many lucrative gigs that they have to turn some down; may their CD sell out (if it hasn’t already).
More of the good stuff, Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra-style, by the Chicago Cellar Boys: Andy Schumm, clarinet, cornet, and tenor saxophone; John Otto, alto saxophone and clarinet; Paul Asaro, piano and vocal; Dave Bock, tuba; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo and guitar . . . recorded at the delightful one-day jazz extravaganza put on by the Juvae Jazz Society in Decatur, Illinois.
A tune all the musicians in the world like to jam (more fun than brother Ted’s AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY), Paul Dresser’s MY GAL SAL:
and that Oriental romance, SAN:
and another I-want-to-go-home-to-the-Southland song:
finally, the rousing Youmans I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW:
Postscript: I originally entertained thoughts of calling this post NOONE CARES, but realized that would be wrong on so many levels: these musicians care deeply, and I am sure that you — if you are reading this post — do, too.
I had a wonderful time last weekend at the one-day jazz festival — the little party thrown by the Juvae Jazz Society in Decatur, Illinois. Friendly kind people, hot music, sweet sounds, and good feelings in the Flatland.
The two bands I made the trek to hear are Petra van Nuis’ Recession Seven (more about them soon) and the Chicago Cellar Boys: Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Dave Bock, tuba; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar.
Andy made his name with most jazz audiences (I saw him, with Dave Bock, first in 2007, alongside Dan Barrett at Jazz at Chautauqua) as a hot cornetist, the closest thing to “the dear boy” possible. But in the intervening years, he’s branched out to embody a whole variety of cornet styles, and he’s also shown himself to be a fine tenor player in the Jack Pettis mold, and a spectacular clarinetist, evoking Tesch, Mezz, and Jimmie. That’s Teschemacher, Mezzrow, and Noone for the newcomers.
The last fellow on that list — facetiously called “Jimmie No-One” by Kenny Davern, who loved his playing, is our subject today. Noone’s little Apex Club band featured himself on clarinet, Doc Poston on alto, Earl Hines on piano, Bud Scott on banjo, Johnny Wells on drums, and Lawson Buford or Bill Newton on tuba. This little band’s most remarkable trademark was the interplay between Noone and Poston, who had worked with Freddie Keppard and Doc Cook earlier. Incidentally, I’m told that the Apex Club was at 330 East 35th Street on the South Side of Chicago. Here is a current view of that address, not inspiring. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Even though the architecture is obliterated, the music remains, so here are the Chicago Cellar Boys becoming the Apex Club Orchestra on two selections — one unrelated to Noone, the other a direct hit.
EL RADO SCUFFLE was in the band’s book, and I read somewhere that the club Noone’s group was working at was the El Dorado, but some letters were missing from the sign or some lights didn’t function. If that was the Scuffle or something larger I can’t know: create your own stories to this soundtrack:
I associate KEEP SMILING AT TROUBLE with Bunny Berigan, Bud Freeman, Joe Marsala, Vic Lewis, Eddie Condon, Jim Goodwin and Ray Skjelbred, Marty Grosz, Bobby Gordon, Dan Levinson — so it is a song with a wonderful pedigree. Here the Cellar Boys are already grinning, and Trouble has left the building — Trouble don’t like verses:
I admire the Chicago Cellar Boys immensely, as JAZZ LIVES readers have seen since their inception in 2017, and I’ve been privileged to see and hear them in person (the most recent time just a day ago at the Juvae Jazz Mini-Fest in Decatur, Illinois . . . more from that occasion soon). I also hear that their debut CD is on the way.
Their virtues are considerable. They are that most glorious entity, a working band with beautiful arrangements, hot or sweet, wonderful solo and ensemble playing. But something that may not catch the listeners’ attention quickly is the breadth of their repertoire — visible in the thick black binders brought to the stage. Every CCB set has several tunes in it that I’ve known only as obscure recordings or ones I’ve never heard at all, and when they perform a “chestnut,” it is beautifully alive in its own idiomatic shape. They are: Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor saxophone, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto saxophone; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Dave Bock, tuba. And here are six delights from the 39th San Diego Jazz Fest, performed on November 25, 2018.
First, a charming 1929 exclamation of delight:
and something cosmological from the same year, by Phil Baxter. Feel free to sing the special aviation-themed lyrics as the Cellar Boys soar lyrically:
Here’s Andy’s superbly indefatigable reading of the Johnny Dodds showcase, LITTLE BITS:
and a reading of THE SHEIK OF ARABY that owes more to Rudolph Valentino than to Hot Lips Page, but I don’t mind at all:
I’ve already posted the two videos below, but these exercises in spontaneous combustion, Chicago-style, deserve multiple watchings. Don’t be afraid to cheer! (As I write this, the first video has been seen 591 times. One person took the trouble to “dislike” it. What a pity, Sir!) Here the youthful multi-instrumentalist Colin Hancock sits in on cornet with the Cellar Boys (Andy switches to clarinet) and the results are ferocious:
Finally, a rousing WEARY BLUES:
I promise you there will be more of the Chicago Cellar Boys “while breath lasts,” as my dear benefactor Harriet Sheehy used to say. For now, enjoy the sweet heat.
They’re back! And below I’ll have news of their appearance at a one-day Midwest festival on March 30, 2019.
The Chicago Cellar Boys made beautiful music at the 2018 San Diego Jazz Fest, and I caught as much of it as I could. (Type in CELLAR on the search bar and see for yourself.)
Here is part of a set that I recorded on November 24. The CCB are Andy Schumm, cornet, tenor saxophone, clarinet; John Otto, alto saxophone, clarinet; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, guitar, banjo; Dave Bock, tuba. Dee-lightful.
INDIAN CRADLE SONG (in honor of the Dorsey Brothers and, faintly, Louis Armstrong). Andy told me that he had hidden another song in the “chorale” section, but he’s too smart for me. Maybe you’ll recognize it?:
BOSTON SKUFFLE (something for and by Jabbo Smith):
HOME, CRADLE OF HAPPINESS (a song popular in the early Twenties, recorded by a Sam Lanin group and by Ethel Waters):
FIDGETY FEET (a tribute to Bix and the Wolverines):
KING PORTER STOMP (the CCB’s homage to the 1924 Autograph duet session by King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton — also the band-within-the-band):
Aside from their inspiring playing and singing, hot and sweet, there are the marvelous arrangements that make this two-horn quintet sound like a large group, and the positively exciting repertoire. I know the music of this period fairly well, but I always go away from even one CCB set saying to myself, “I’ve never heard that wonderful tune before.”
And here — because listeners need to get away from their computers now and again (it’s good for us!) — is the festival they will be illuminating at the end of this month, along with Petra’s Recession Seven (featuring Petra van Nuis, Andy Brown, Russ Phillips, and other luminaries):
Here’s something for the intellectual puzzle-solvers in the JAZZ LIVES audience.
Kenny Davern, Yank Lawson, Connie Jones, Pee Wee Erwin, Doc Cheatham, Chuck Folds, George Masso, Don Goldie, Johnny Varro, Jon-Erik Kellso, Paul Keller, Ed Polcer, Eddie Higgins, Marty Grosz, Bill Allred, Bob Schulz, Bobby Rosengarden, Milt Hinton, Brian Torff, Johnny Frigo, Peter Ecklund, John Sheridan, Brian Holland, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Eddie Erickson, Ken Peplowski, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, the Fat Babies, and more.
Figured it out? The answers, although indirect, are below, and they relate to the Juvae Jazz Society and the Central Illinois Jazz Festival: the story of their inception is here.
I confess that Decatur, Illinois has really never loomed large in my vision of bucket-list places. But I have been terribly myopic about this for the past quarter-century. Consider the poster below, please:
The Juvae Jazz Society is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and rather than expecting people to bring them silver plates and candelabra, they are throwing a one-day jazz party, which you might have understood from the poster above. (The list of musicians is just some of the notables who have played and sung for them in the last quarter-century.)
Although I admire Petra van Nuis and Andy Brown immensely, I’ve never had a chance to hear Petra and the Recession Seven live. The Chicago Cellar Boys are one of my favorite bands and would even be so if Dave Bock wore a more sedate bow tie. Other surprises are possible as well.
The Chicago Cellar Boys are a lovely band — not only the easy swing, the ringing solos, the choice of material, the consistent lyricism, the faith that melody, played with feeling, is essential — but they have an ensemble conception, so that something pleasing is always going on. Five pieces make a wonderful portable orchestra, where sweet and hot balance and show each other off by contrast. People unfamiliar with this group might think it landlocked — a quintet devoting itself to Twenties and very early-Thirties music — but they would be wrong, because this is one of the most versatile groups I know: tempo, approach, arrangements, instrument-switching, and more. They give great value!
I suggest that any listener who is deeply involved in creative improvisation, not only solos but ensemble timbres, the possibilities of a small group that transcend soloist-plus-rhythm, and the beauty of imaginative arrangements could study any one of these performances with the attention normally given to a hallowed OKeh or Oriole disc and be both enthralled and enlightened.
I’ve posted other videos of them here, here, and (with Colin Hancock sitting in) here.
The individual heroes are Andy Schumm, cornet, tenor, clarinet, arrangements; John Otto, clarinet, alto; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Dave Bock, tuba. Here they are at the 29th San Diego Jazz Fest, in a set performed on November 24, 2018. They began with one of the classic late-Twenties songs about the glory to be found below the Mason-Dixon line:
and from the Clarence Williams book, by Maceo Pinkard, PILE OF LOGS AND STONE, another song glorifying the joys of rustic home life:
Thanks to Irving Berlin, Bing, and Ethel Waters:
Bless Don Redman is what I say:
LET’S DO THINGS is one of those songs I’d never known before (typically, I go away from a CCB set with new discoveries). I was unable to find the composers, but I did stumble into a 1931 Hal Roach comedy of the same name starring ZaSu Pitts and Thelma Todd, in which the then new song THEM THERE EYES figures happily and prominently. Here is the link to the film. Now, the ingenious song (is it a Schumm concoction? Youth wants to know):
Another song I associate with Clarence Williams, NOBODY BUT MY BABY (IS GETTING MY LOVE):
Finally, James P. Johnson’s GUESS WHO’S IN TOWN — beloved of Ethel Waters and Max Kaminsky on Commodore:
There are many CCB videos (about thirty — yes!) still for me to share with you: I think I missed at most one and one-half of their sets at this jazz weekend. So watch this space for more good news.
It’s January, and the temperatures are, shall we say, brisk. Let’s assume your house has drafts — air pours through windows and air-conditioners — or it’s simply not that warm inside. You could buy this to solve the problem:
or, in honor of the King of Swing, you could put on a sweater (credit to CLEO of Kildare Street, Dublin, Ireland):
But I have a more immediate solution, one that won’t require you to wait several days for a product to be shipped. That is, you could invite — through cyberspace — Colin Hancock and the Chicago Cellar Boys over for a visit. You can learn more about Colin, a tremendously gifted multi-instrumentalist, arranger, vocalist, bandleader, and scholar here, or on this blog here. Colin was at the 39th San Diego Jazz Fest this past November with the Original Cornell Syncopators, and you will see some videos from their performances shortly. But the Chicago Cellar Boys were also there — Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, saxophone; John Otto, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano, vocal; Johnny Donatowicz, guitar, banjo; Dave Bock, tuba. Learn more about them here or on the blog herealso.
At the San Diego Jazz Fest, there were two bright shining moments — Hot Camelot, if you will — when Colin sat in with the Chicago Cellar Boys and magic ensued. See if the room temperature doesn’t rise.
SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, for the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and the Chicagoans (and https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2016/05/26/the-latest-prance-words-and-music/ is the music and lyrics for that intoxicating 1917 melody):
WEARY BLUES, for Johnny Dodds and Louis and generations to come:
It feels like May now, thanks to these great hot spirits.
Here’s the good news. I took as many opportunities as I could, without slighting other much-loved bands, to hear and video the Chicago Cellar Boysat the 2018 San Diego Jazz Fest. Although I had some technical difficulties with my camera, I came home with over forty performances captured on video. Here’s the second installment (the first offering is here).
There is no bad news.
LOVIN’ SAM FROM ALABAM’ (one of those songs particular to that decade that celebrates the amorous magic of a legendary figure — in some versions, Sam is also a Sheik, thus getting double credit):
THE THINGS THAT WERE MADE FOR LOVE:
WHO’S SIT? (originally recorded by the Hot Five, and some bright person suggested recently that the title we see here was missing a letter, but I propose that Mr. Fearn would not let that title be printed on an OKeh label):
APEX BLUES (for Messrs. Noone and Poston):
BLUE BLACK BOTTOM (homage to Fats, piano solo by Paul Asaro):
TIA JUANA (thinking of the Wolverines):
BEER GARDEN BLUES (a 1933 Clarence Williams song that I am sure celebrates the end of Prohibition, with a group vocal — later, Clarence, always industrious, gave it new lyrics as SWING, BROTHER, SWING, predating the Basie / Billie song of the same title, which had a different set of composers — one of them Walter Bishop Sr., whom my father worked with at Movietone News:
If you’ve listened closely to any of these performances, perhaps these words will be superfluous. Although the CCB is (are?) young in terms of the calendar — born in 2017 — they are a glorious working band: yes, their solos are magnificently realized, sweet or hot; they are masters of Tonation and Phrasing — but they are a band, with gratifying ensemble telepathy.
Add to that their love of unusual repertoire, from the deeply sentimental to the searing, from love songs to dark blues; add to that the orchestrally-wise arrangements where something beautiful is always going on, the instrumental doubling that makes this quintet seem like a whole host of bands . . . may they go on and prosper for a long long time. Each set was full of surprises, songs I’d never heard or heard of before, and songs I knew but heard for their first time — played with such conviction, intelligence, and joyous expertise. Yes, there are homages to Noone, the Wolverines, and the Hot Five, but nothing’s hackneyed: this band loves later Clarence Williams and obscure territory bands, as well as songs possibly never recorded but still full of melodic substance.
They bring me (and others, of course) so much joy.
You can, as they say, find the CCB here on Facebook. And two other bits of relevant information: the CCB is a smaller version of the delightful band, the Fat Babies, and the CCB has a steady Sunday-night gig here in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. I’ve never been, but Charles has promised to take me. And I hear that a CD of the band is in the making.
For the historians among us — here is the Blessed Antecedent:
Even in the midst of darkness there are always reasons to be thankful. Here is a detail from the classic Norman Rockwell portrait of a late-November American celebration, make of it and its assumptions (culinary, sociological, political) what you will.
But this post is about another ritual of communal gratitude, another place to give thanks: the thirty-ninth San Diego Jazz Fest, held this year from November 21 through the 25th. My update (as of late November 11) is to offer the flyer below, and to point out something I didn’t know when I’d written this blogpost — that the Saturday night Swing Extravaganza will also feature the wonderful band Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders with the wonderful singer Laura Windley. Add that piece of news into your computations.
I’m sitting here with the band schedule in front of me, and can narrate my own pleasure-map of delights for the weekend. How about dance lessons, opportunities for “jammers” to play with others of their ilk, a Saturday night swing extravaganza? Ongoing solo piano recitals featuring Kris Tokarski, Vinnie Armstrong, Stephanie Trick, Carl Sonny Leyland, Conal Fowkes, Paolo Alderighi, Paul Asaro, Marty Eggers, Virginia Tichenor? Then sets by the Dawn Lambeth Trio featuring Marc Caparone, High Sierra, Grand Dominion, the Chicago Cellar Boys, the On the Levee Jazz Band, the Original Cornell Syncopators, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, Katie Cavera, Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Yerba Buena Stompers, Titanic, Colin Hancock, Charlie Halloran, Ben Polcer, Joe Goldberg, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Andy Schumm, John Otto, Leon Oakley, Tom Bartlett, and more.
And more. At any given moment at the fest, let us say on a Saturday, the music goes from breakfast to wooziness — 9 AM to near midnight — in six separate locations. Using my right index finger (the highly-skilled instrument for such computations) I counted sixty-six sets of music on Saturday, sets either 45 minutes or an hour.
At other festivals, that would make for transportation difficulties (a euphemism for “How am I going to get to that other building before the band starts?) but since all the action is contained in one building, even people with limited mobility make it in before the music starts.
Did I mention that everyone I’ve ever dealt with at San Diego has been terribly nice, including such luminaries of cheer and comfort as Paul Daspit and Gretchen Haugen? This is no small thing.
And for those of you who think you will be deprived of Thanksgiving edibles (which means “too much food”) as depicted by Mr. Rockwell above, take heart. There is a splendiferous buffet served on Thursday from 2 to 6 — you can reserve a place there, with a discount for those who do so before November 15: details here. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll still totter out of there, quite stuffed.
I am a late adopter who hasn’t made all 38 festivals (to explain why would tax all your five wits) but when I did make my way to the Fest, of course it was video camera at the ready. And here are three sets that pleased me greatly. I have shot several hundred videos, and that’s no stage joke, but I don’t feel right about using videos of X if X isn’t at this year’s festival. But the three sets below feature people who are alive and well for this year. First, hereare the Cornell Syncopators featuring Katie Cavera in 2017. Then, hereare the Yerba Buena Stompers in 2016, and hereare Marc Caparone and Conal Fowkes paying tribute to Louism also in 2017.
Going back to 2009, I remember when I first started this blog, I used Rae Ann Berry’s videos as glimpses of the Promised Land. Here, for example, is John Gill paying tribute, beautifully, to Mister Crosby, in 2009:
Why am I concluding this post with PENNIES FROM HEAVEN and John’s beautiful rendition? It seems an obvious message as far as the San Diego Jazz Fest is concerned, this year or in years to come. Good things are coming, the lyrics say, but you can’t hide under a tree. If you bestir yourself on Monday, November 26, you’ll have to wait a whole year for this opportunity to be grateful amidst friends and lovely heated music. Take a look here and you will be glad you did. See you there.
Sometimes it feels lonely up here on the mountaintop — as if I’m the only one doing what I do, proselytizing and broadcasting heartfelt improvised music (modern-traditional-lyrical-Hot-call-it-whatever-you-like). But I know that’s not true, and I am always getting reassuring surprises from the cyber-world.
It’s a long, beautifully video-ed and recorded live session by the Chicago Cellar Boys (the link is to their new website) — the more recent band-within-a-band of The Fat Babies, at Studio 5. (They appear every Sunday night at the Honly Tonk BBQ in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.)
The Chicago Cellar Boys take their name from a 1930 group that had Frank Melrose, Wingy Manone, Frank Teschemacher, Bud Freeman, George Wettling. (Now Tom Lord says that the accordionist is Charles Magnante, which makes so much more sense than “Charles Melrose” — but I digress.)
The CCB are Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, tenor sax; John Otto, clarinet, alto sax; John Donatowicz, banjo, guitar; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Dave Bock, tuba. And they are a wonderful mix of hot music, dance tunes, pop hilarity, arranged passages and “charts,” and delicious improvisations.
I won’t list the songs played — you can find the blisses and surprises for yourself — because I want to be sure to get this boon out to as many people as I can right now. Thanks to the band, to Steve Rashid, and to Studio 5 for making such a wonderful explosion of art accessible to all of us:
The CCB will also be at this November’s San Diego Jazz Fest, so if I can fight my way to a seat in the front, there might be other videos. And I understand they have made their first recording. “Wow wow wow!” as my friend and role model Anna Katsavos still says.
I first encountered Jake Sanders almost a decade ago at Banjo Jim’s, when he was the leader of the Cangelosi Cards, the group that had Tamar Korn as its vocal improvising genius. Later I followed him to other Cards gigs and an especially wonderful rainy evening in a dance studio where he swung like mad, Charlie Christian style, on electric guitar. When he moved to Chicago, I saw and heard him with the Fat Babies in person, on record, and on video, and now he is blazing his own paths. (Most recently for me, in a trio with Dennis Lichtman and Jared Engel which appeared at The Django in New York City — lovely eloquent music.)
His new CD is what we used to call a doozy, precisely because it follows no narrow formula. Here’s a sample of the music Jake loves and plays with great feeling — captured at the February 2018 CD release party in Mexico City:
And hereyou can buy an actual disc or download the music (each for the low price of $10 USD) or hear four of the thirteen tracks, in case you need convincing.
and here is the prose (not by me) that accompanies the music:
Estrellas de Radio features the sounds of acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, violin, piano, and upright bass. The songs and styles range across a broad spectrum of traditions, drawing from or expanding upon the roots of American jazz. The album features beautiful waltzes, rags, blues, and band arrangements of four guitar solos originally published in the 30’s which have never been previously recorded. Three of these rare and unique compositions are credited to guitar legend Nick Lucas.
Recorded over a two year period by Alex Hall at Reliable Records in Chicago, the album features a host of musicians from New York, Chicago and Detroit; these include: Jared Engel, Dalton Ridenhour, Dennis Lichtman, Aaron Jonah Lewis, Beau Sample, Paul Asaro, and Patrick Donley.
Three tracks feature the exceptional sounds of Fraulini Guitars hand-crafted by the esteemed luthier Todd Cambio. (Jake Sanders plays an Annunziata on Serate Primaverili, Speranze Perdute, and Flappers Trot; Patrick Donley plays an Angie on Speranze Perdute).
While the early Italian pioneers of the jazz guitar Nick Lucas and Eddie Lang made their mark on 20th century music, an earlier generation of Italian string virtuoso were also recording in America. Masters such as Giovanni Gioviale and Giovanni Vicari brought old world sounds to the new world. L’Ultimo and Serate Primaverili are adaptations of Giovale’s brilliant compositions originally conceived for mandolin. Speranze Perdute was inspired by a recording by Giovanni Vicari, as was the mazurka Mia Carina, which he recorded with The Continental Trio.
While Nick Lucas is famous amongst jazz aficionados both as a vocalist and for his early recorded guitar solos (Picking the Guitar and Teasing the Frets), he is also credited with composing numerous guitar solos which were never recorded, but appeared in folios and early flat-picking method books. Bootlegger’s Blues, Flappers Trot, and Gold Diggers are all examples of Lucas guitar solos which exist as sheet music, but have not been recorded until now.
The exquisite waltz, Margaret, that appears as a piece in The Nick Lucas Guitar Method Vol. 1, however, was composed by J. Nicomede. Sanders’ unique conception and arrangements of these songs are drawn from his nearly 20 years of playing roots music. (Flappers Trot, guitar and piano) (Bootlegger’s Blues, Gold Diggers, Margaret, guitar, violin, piano, bass).
Let Me Call You Sweetheart and Wang Wang Blues are classically-styled guitar and mandolin duets arranged in studio. Charleston Rag, known as a piano solo, is heard here uniquely arranged for piano, guitar, and upright bass. The Memphis Shakedown, made famous by the Memphis Jug band, is a common tune for old-time and jug bands performing today. However on Estrellas de Radio the tune becomes something altogether different, achieving new sounds in old music. The Sunset Blues is the album’s one original composition. Like any blues it borrows from the past, however its spare style, unusual form, and crafted melody give it a sound all its own.
ABOUT JAKE SANDERS:
Jake Sanders is a guitarist, bandleader, and arranger, whose musical career began in New York City at the end of the last century. After years as a street performer, playing jazz and American traditional music, Sanders formed the popular roots band, The Cangelosi Cards. They performed nightly in the back rooms and bars of the East Village, but soon traveled well beyond Manhattan, playing shows from Shanghai to Stockholm. After years with the Cards, Jake joined The Fat Babies, an acclaimed hot jazz band which continues to perform weekly at Chicago’s world famous Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. His last album with the group, Solid Gassuh (Delmark Records), made DownBeat Magazine’s “Best of 2017” list – a rare feat for a traditional jazz band in modern times.
A long time musical collaborator with vocalist and world-renowned Lindy hop champion, Naomi Uyama, Jake both plays guitar and arranges for her swing outfit, Naomi & Her Handsome Devils. Sanders has recorded with the great stride and ragtime piano player Paul Asaro, and has been featured on record and stage with the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet.
Jake Sanders has performed at The Chicago Jazz Festival, The Detroit Jazz Festival and The Brooklyn Folk Festival as well as countless clubs, dance halls and theaters throughout North America. Jake’s guitar playing has brought him across Europe and Asia and he is a regular performer in-residence at Cracovia 32, home of the emerging swing scene in Mexico City. As a solo performer or with the Handsome Devils, The Dotted Halves trio or with the quintet, The Lovestruck Balladeers, Jake Sanders is a consummate traveling musician who can be heard far and wide.
A few words from me, on behalf of JAZZ LIVES. I trust Jake’s taste completely, so even though some of the compositions on this disc are not Hot Music in the established sense, I fell in love with the sounds here at first playing. The only reason this post is written at the end of May rather than a few months earlier is because I wanted actual discs to play in the car. I’ve amazed a number of unsuspecting passengers with ESTRELLAS DE RADIO, and one even said, “Michael, I didn’t know you liked beautiful music like this!” I do, and you will.
It’s no doubt very archaic of me, but I like music to sound good: to paraphrase Eddie Condon, to come in the ear like honey rather than broken glass. And this duet recital by Kim Cusack, clarinet, and Paul Asaro, piano and vocal, is just the thing. I hadn’t known of it when it was new, so I hope it will be a pleasant surprise to others: recorded at the PianoForte studios in Chicago, introduced by Neil Tesser of the Chicago Jazz Institute.
Kim and Paul gently explore a dozen songs, with roots in Waller, Morton, James P. Johnson, Isham Jones, and Walter Donaldson, Maceo Pinkard. It’s a set list that would have been perfectly apropos in 1940, but there’s nothing antiquarian about this hour-long session . . . just two colleagues and friends in tune with one another making music.
For those keeping score, that’s A MONDAY DATE; SUGAR; I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING; I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY (vocal, Paul); OLD FASHIONED LOVE; RIFFS (Paul, solo); ON THE ALAMO; MISTER JELLY LORD (vocal, Paul); WOLVERINE BLUES; YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY; BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU; BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME. All standards of “the repertoire,” but played and sung with subtlety, charm, and life.
Postscript: PianoForte Studios was also home to another wonderful duet recital, guitarist Andy Brown and pianist Jeremy Kahn in 2017, which you can enjoy here.
What follows seems — very reassuringly — like a tour through the landscape in which Bix Beiderbecke lived, and the ways in which he created it to his own dimensions. It’s a leisurely concert given by The Fat Babies, who are Andy Schumm, cornet; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo / guitar; Beau Sample, string bass, leader; Alex Hall — taking place at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, as part of the 2017 Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival.
The nice video is yet another gift from “CANDC,” or “Chris-and-Chris,” who’ve also given us this delight — ninety minutes, two sets of the Babies, from the next day’s performances.
The songs are FIDGETY FEET / SUSIE / BLUE RIVER /RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE / WHEN / OUR BUNGALOW OF DREAMS / OH, BABY! / SINGIN’ THE BLUES featuring a Whiteman coda / WOLVERINE BLUES (in the Wolverine Orchestra style, arranged by Andy Schumm) / I’LL BE A FRIEND “WITH PLEASURE” [vocal by Paul Asaro]/ FUTURISTIC RHYTHM / SLOW RIVER / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA / MY PRETTY GIRL.
For no particular medical reason aside from age-based entropy, I’ve slowed down the mad pace of recent years. At my most passionate peak of obsession and love, I flew or drove to seven or eight jazz festivals or parties in twelve months. I haven’t given up, just slowed down. One of the festivals I was sorry to miss was the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival held in Davenport, Iowa, at the start of this August. I knew that — unlike the tree in the metaphysical forest — that the bands I love would play even if I were not there to video them — but still.
So I was very glad that “jazzmanjoe100” recorded the wonderful music that Hal Smith’s SWING CENTRAL performed at that festival. And I am delighted that “CANDC” did the same for several sets: the one most pleasing being by The Fat Babies. “CANDC” isn’t an impossible-to-pronounce word; rather, it stands for “Chris-and-Chris,” (pronounced as a rapid triplet) a Swedish pair, immaculately dressed as if going out for a carriage ride c. 1917: he videos; she dances. In general, they both light up the place.
As do The Fat Babies, the beloved brainchild (b. 2010) of string bassist Beau Sample; featuring Andy Schumm, cornet, clarinet, and other instruments; Dave Bock, trombone and tuba; John Otto, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano and vocals; Johnny Donatowicz, banjo and guitar; Alex Hall, drums. For this set, alumnus and guest Jonathan Doyle joined in on clarinet and tenor.
For this set, they offered their usually varied program that leans towards the esoteric, which is always a nice change. They began with a hot CHANGES MADE, and then summoned up 1926 Luis Russell (in Chicago, before the incandescent days of Red and Higgy) with SWEET MUMTAZ.
I must ask: is MUMTAZ another slang word for muggles, muta, or pot? Google has not been terribly forthcoming.
Then, SHE’S CRYING FOR ME from old New Orleans, Jon Doyle’s evocative SWEET IS THE NIGHT, and a heady — c. 1925 Henerson — MANDY, MAKE UP YOUR MIND.
Paul Asaro sings THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, which I associate with 1928 Bing; WILL YOU, WON’T YOU BE MY BABE? — splitting its associations between McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and 1934 Louis. It’s followed by Tiny Parham’s ROCK BOTTOM, a reed feature on THE BATHING BEAUTY BLUES, a sweet LAZY WEATHER (do I correctly think of the underrated 1936 Don Redman band here?) and a closing romp with Clarence Williams 1933 HARLEM RHYTHM DANCE.
And another wonderful helping.
Paul starts things off with I DON’T CARE (obviously not the case!), and then they move to the Nichols-associated SALLY OF MY DREAMS. Then Walter Donaldson’s SAY YES TODAY (memorable in the Roger Wolfe Kahn version), followed by the Tiny Parham CLARICE — a wonderful hot rhythm ballad with a tango interlude. Then, Ellington’s BIRMINGHAM BREAKDOWN; Paul and Johnny Donatowicz summon up Bing and Eddie Lang on DID YOU EVER SEE A DREAM WALKING? — always a good question to ask.
Next, Willard Robison’s DEEP ELM, and Frank Bunch’s FUZZY WUZZY — talk about obscure yet delightful. Then, FOR MY BABY, a 1927 hit, mixing hot dance and romance; Paul essays TEA FOR TWO all by himself, and beautifully, echoing Don Lambert’s habit of mixing tunes with THINKING OF YOU, APRIL SHOWERS, I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW, FRENESI, and a few whose title proved elusive, for a wonderfully low-key display of virtuosity — where he resists the temptation to triple the tempo.
Finally MONA, thanks to Harold Austin’s New Yorkers (a double obscurity to me), and Benny Carter’s KRAZY KAPERS, based on DIGA DIGA DOO — precious to me in its 1933 incarnation and in its 2017 one: the final chorus is my idea of jubliation.
Quite a good deal of beautifully played hot and sweet music indeed. What makes this band notable, for me, is their mastery of the late Twenties – mid Thirties hot dance sound (with arrangements that summon up the original records and in some cases, build on their glories), soloists who are convincing on a jungle romp or a danceable ballad. But the band as a whole sounds so good: their intonation, their voicings, so people used to listening for the hot sixteen bars also find themselves admiring the ensemble. As I do, as you will.
Yes! Even more from one of the most gratifying jazz bands — and working bands — on the planet. THE FAT BABIEScan offer electrifying transcriptions of recordings both familiar and obscure, but they can wonderfully “go for themselves” in convincing solos and hot ensemble playing. In the videos below, you’ll hear idiomatic and swinging evocations of Benny Carter, Joe Robichaux, Jelly Roll Morton, Andy Kirk, Jabbo Smith, and Bing Crosby (is that Nat W. Finston and the Paramount Orchestra I hear in the hills?) — beautifully done with no museum archaisms or modern “innovations.” Just good fun — created by Beau Sample, string bass and leader; Alex Hall, drums; Jake Sanders, guitar and banjo; Paul Asaro, piano and an ANIMULE vocal; Jonathan Doyle, John Otto, saxophones; Dave Bock, trombone; Andy Schumm, cornet.
I’ve posted a goodly number of Fat Babies videos from the Evergreen Jazz Festival here, here, here, and here— so no one can go to the larder and find it bare of salutary Fat. But my videos (I’m proud of them) are nothing compared to the experience of hearing and seeing this band live, so the message should be clear.
THE ANIMULE DANCE:
KING KONG STOMP:
Check their websiteto see their schedule, learn about their new CD, and more. I see they will be back at the Evergreen Jazz Festivalat the end of July 2017.