Tag Archives: Paul Daspit

WE SAVOR THE RITUALS (WITH A SMALL UPDATE): THANKSGIVING at THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 21-25, 2018)

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, here are the Cornell Syncopators featuring Katie Cavera in 2017.  Then, here are the Yerba Buena Stompers in 2016, and here are 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 treeIf 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.

May your happiness increase!

FOUR DAYS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 24-27, 2016)

san-diego-jazz-fest-stock-photo

THINGS I LEARNED (OR RE-LEARNED) AT THE 2016 SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST:

1. Never set up a travel schedule that gets you home (after a long weekend of life-changing music) at 5:20 AM Monday.  Not “sleeping” on a plane is worth a higher fare.

2. Music is best experienced in the company of friends — those on the bandstand, those in the audience.  The former, a partial list: Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Ray Skjelbred, Conal Fowkes, Kris Tokarski, Clint Baker, John Gill, Duke Heitger, Jeff Hamilton, Kevin Dorn, Orange Kellin, Leon Oakley, Dan Barrett, Tom Bartlett, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Katie Cavera, Josh Duffee, Andy Schumm, John Otto, Dave Stuckey, Dan Barrett, Larry Scala, David Boeddinghaus, Nobu Ozaki, Virginia Tichenor, Marty Eggers, Mike Davis.

Off the stand: John Ochs, Pamela Ochs, Donna Feoranzo, Allene Harding, Rae Ann Berry, Barbara L. Sully, Judith Navoy, Mary (“The Ambassador of Fun”) and her twin, Chris and Chris, Paul Daspit, Jim and Mary McNaughton, Gretchen Haugen, Patti Durham, Angelica, Carol Andersen, Bess Wade, Cat and Scotty Doggett, Ed Adams.

Much-missed and I await their return: Hal Smith, Janie McCue Lynch, Donna Courtney, Mary Cross.

I know those lists are incomplete, and I apologize to any reader I’ve accidentally omitted.

3. This festival is delightfully overwhelming.  At any given time, music was happening in seven rooms simultaneously.  There was a Wednesday night session, a Thursday night session, full days on Friday and Saturday (with approximately seventy offerings of music, most an hour long) and a full afternoon on Monday.  By six PM on Monday, I was full and sloshing.

4. I am a man of narrow, precisely defined “tastes.”  I didn’t grow up sitting in Turk Murphy’s lap — now there’s a picture! — I began my listening education with Forties and Fifties Louis, so I need lyricism and melody the way plants need sun and air.

Many of the bands so dear to my California friends strike me as perhaps over-exuberant.  And when a fellow listener, politely curious, asked me “When did you get into trad?” I had to consider that question for a moment before saying, “I didn’t start listening to ‘trad’ . . . ”  As I get older, I find my compass needle points much more to subtle, quiet, sweet, witty, delicate — rather than the Dixie-Apocalypse.  Each to his or her own, though.

5. Videos: I videoed approximately eighteen sets, and came home with perhaps ten times that number of individual videos.  They won’t all surface; the musicians have to approve.  And I probably didn’t video your favorite band, The New Orleans Pop Tarts.  Rather than mumble about the unfairness of it all, come to next year’s Fest and live in reality rather than virtually!  Or buy an RV and a good camera so that you can become an official NOPT groupie-roadie-archivist.

6.  For the first time in my life I helped sponsor a group.  It was extremely rewarding to think that I had helped some music to be heard in public that otherwise would not have.  I’ve offered to do it again for 2017.  And, not incidentally, sponsors get to sit in the very front row, a great boon for people like me who want to capture the music to share with you.  Videographers like myself want to be made welcome.

7.  Moral tradeoffs are always possible and sometimes happily inevitable.  At the San Diego Jazz Fest, one can share a large platter of tempura-batter-fried pickle slices and fresh jalapenos . . . because one is doing so much walking that the second activity outweighs the first.  Or one tells oneself this.

8.  On a darker note, odd public behavior is more pungently evident. People who call themselves jazz fans talk through a whole set about the new puppy (and I like puppies).  Years ago I would have blamed this on television and the way viewers have been able to forget the difference between private and public behavior.  Now I simply call it self-absorption, and look for a window that I can open.

Others stand up in front of a band to take iPhone photos of the musicians, pushing their phones into the faces of people who are playing and singing. Photographers have treasured costly cameras that beep, whir, and snap — we ignore these aberrations at many events (I think some photographers are secretly excited by such things) but at musical performances these noises are distracting.

I won’t say anything about those folks who fire off flash explosions in well-lit rooms.

I cannot be the only person who thinks of creatively improvised music as holy, a phenomenon not to be soiled by oblivious behavior.  As a friend of mine says, “You’re not the only person on the planet.”

9. The previous paragraph cannot overshadow the generosity of the people who put on the Fest and the extreme generosity of those who create the music.  Bless them.  And the nice young sound people who worked hard to make music sound as it should!

It’s appropriate that the Fest takes place at Thanksgiving: I feel so much gratitude as I write these words, upload videos, and look at my notes of the performances I attended.

More — including videos! — to come.  Start planning to come to the 2017 Fest, to bring your friends, to sponsor a band.  Any or all of these activities are so much more life-enhancing than Black Friday.

May your happiness increase!

KEYNOTE SPEECHES: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS (plus MARC CAPARONE) at SAN DIEGO, NOVEMBER 27, 2015

Don’t get worried.  JAZZ LIVES hasn’t suddenly turned political, nor will there be any mention of plenary sessions at the great JAZZ LIVES convention.  The “Keynote” I am thinking of, with great affection, is the record label run by Harry Lim in the Forties, which turned out classic after classic, often on longer-running 12″ 78s.  If you’re like me, this label should be immensely dear to you, even if this particular sacred artifact hadn’t been autographed by the leader:

Keynote WettlingAnd this flyer — a new cyber-discovery — evokes some of the same emotions, even for people like myself who now have all the records from that label. “Advanced Jazz” is also pleasing, reminding us that today’s Historical Sounds were once The New Thing:

KEYNOTE ad

Now, this isn’t a post mooning about records made seventy years ago.  I offer two performances created and captured on November 27, 2015, by a band of eminences . . . but the performances so reminded me of the Keynote label that it became a useful jumping-off point.  For one thing, the hot numbers that Lim supervised built up to an almost unbearable tension: after one of those sides, I feel depleted, exhausted, as if the whole band had been jamming in my apartment.  And when the session called for something slower — whether plaintive or a “rhythm ballad,” the time stretched out, as if the players had all the time in the world to tell their stories.

Consider these performances by Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, plus Marc Caparone on cornet.  That’s Ray on piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

The first song, ROCK AND RYE, a product of Earl Hines’ 1934 band, is indeed rocking: it refers to a combination of rye whiskey and rock candy / rock sugar. And since it pains me when people are reaching for information and not finding any of it there, here is a recipe for it.

RockCandyRyeWhiskeyHag

Not entirely tangentially, in a Whitney Balliett profile of Helen Humes, when she was appearing at The Cookery in New York, we hear Barney Josephson telling Helen that she has to drink some, that he had bought a whole case for her.

But enough stories.  Music, please!

And the second selection is a poignant journey through IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, that Thirties ballad about a broken relationship, a broken-off engagement.  Marc doesn’t imitate anyone, but I always think of this song in connection with trumpeter Joe Thomas (who liked to sing it as well as play it) and who was a particular favorite of Harry Lim’s, which is a blessing, since Joe’s Keynote recordings increase his discography by perhaps fifty percent.  Here’s a portrait of Joe by William Gottlieb, taken at the Pied Piper in New York City (which still stands although with no music) in late 1947:

JOE THOMAS

And here’s the 2015 rendering:

Blessings on the Cubs and on Ray and Marc, and on Paul Daspit, whose dear guidance makes such things happen.  Oh, and there are more videos from this session.  See you at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest (November 23-27, 2016).

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT OF 2015: THE DAWN LAMBETH TRIO (The Second Set, Concluded) at SAN DIEGO, NOVEMBER 28, 2015: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE

DAWN headshot

“Too good to ignore,” said Eddie Condon.  He didn’t live long enough to savor this trio — Dawn Lambeth, vocals; Ray Skjelbred, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet — but I feel his approving glance.  They appeared last November at the San Diego Jazz Fest (thanks to Hal Smith and Paul Daspit for such a marvel) and the music was glorious. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Here’s Part One; here’s Part Two; here’s Part Three.

And the closing five songs from the second set.

That tender request, relevant to all (not simply those in love), PLEASE BE KIND:

Walter Donaldson’s 1927 hit, MY BLUE HEAVEN:

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME, which I associate with Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, and Mildred Bailey:

CHLO-E (scored for cornet and piano) in  honor of Henry “Red” Allen:

And another Allen – J.C. Higginbotham classic (also performed much more respectably by Al Bowlly) ROLL ALONG, PRAIRIE MOON:

I don’t know whether this trio will be at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest, but I have strong hopes.  Also for the NPR, PBS coverage; the continental tour; the merchandise; the DVD and CD . . .

May your happiness increase!

RAINBOWS OF SOUND: MARC CAPARONE / RAY SKJELBRED at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 28, 2014)

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

To some, “expressing your gratitudes” is a cliche associated with a certain worldview, a reflex of a privileged class.  But there’s usually plenty to be grateful for.

I think of the words of a character, Chicken Number Two, a dying petty thief in John Cheever’s moving novel of life in prison, FALCONER: ” . . . it’s like a party, even in stir [prison] — even franks and rice taste good when you’re hungry, even an iron bar feels good to touch, it feels good to sleep” (199).

This passage is reverberating in my head because recently I encouraged a friend to read the novel and because Marc Caparone and Ray Skjelbred played THANKS A MILLION at the San Diego Jazz Fest on November 28, 2014.

THANKS A MILLION

I knew the song first through Louis Armstrong’s Decca recording, even though it was first made popular by Dick Powell in — as they used to say — “the movie of the same name”:

THANKS A MILLION 2

and Jon-Erik Kellso has kept the song alive in this century as well. But hearing Marc and Ray reminds me, as I hope it reminds you, of all the people who make beauty possible: not only Caparone and Skjelbred, but also Armstrong and Jack Kapp (who insisted that his artists record as wide a variety of music as possible) but also Bob Mielke, Dawn Lambeth, Hal Smith, and Paul Daspit.

Such people make rainbows, and double rainbows, of joy and feeling.  I thank them all.  And I have people in my life who don’t play instruments, who evoke such feelings, too.  I am sure my readers do also.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER HIGHLIGHT OF 2015: THE DAWN LAMBETH TRIO (The Second Set) at SAN DIEGO, NOVEMBER 28, 2015: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE

Delicious music, full of warm surprises.

DAWN headshot

The infinite varieties of love in swingtime — the lover bemoaning aloneness; proclamations of the highest fidelity; celebrations of the lover’s sweetness; love couched as the wish for an extended life span . . . with gentle nods to Bix, to Lee Wiley, to Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, to Louis, to Bing, to Jim Goodwin — all of these tenderly and heatedly embodied by Dawn, Ray Skjelbred, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet, on the morning of November 28, 2015, at the San Diego Jazz Fest.

REACHING FOR SOMEONE (Ray and Marc):

ANYTIME, ANYDAY, ANYWHERE (the Trio):

SUGAR (the Trio):

AS LONG AS I LIVE (the Trio):

CABIN IN THE PINES (Marc and Ray):

(Let’s have a Billy Hill set by this band at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest.)

Here — for those who vibrate to such beauty — is the trio’s first set, on the preceding day.

Thanks again to Hal Smith and Paul Daspit for making such beauty not only possible but visible and audible.  I can’t wait to see what happens at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest.  And, as I pointed out, the Trio is setting up its touring schedule for this coming year, and might have a few dates available.  If you have a festival or a concert series . . . I’ll help you get in touch with them.

May your happiness increase!

A HIGHLIGHT OF 2015: THE DAWN LAMBETH TRIO at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (DAWN LAMBETH, MARC CAPARONE, RAY SKJELBRED, JEFF HAMILTON)

DAWN headshot

I think that any year where you’re breathing for twelve months is a banner year, and 2015 felt good to me, even with potholes and road repairs.  A wonderful musical highlight was the double appearance of the Dawn Lambeth Trio at the San Diego Jazz Fest.  Initially, the trio was Dawn, vocals; Marc Caparone, cornet; Ray Skjelbred, piano; then they were joined for the final numbers by Jeff Hamilton, drums.  I will — as a present to myself as well as you — repost the first selections of the set:

Eddie Condon’s LIZA (Ray and Marc):

GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE (the Trio):

I MUST HAVE THAT MAN:

WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

THE RIVER’S TAKING CARE OF ME (Marc, Ray):

EV’RYONE SAYS ‘I LOVE YOU’ (Marc, Ray):

and four new highlights —

THE ONE I LOVE (BELONGS TO SOMEBODY ELSE):

IF I HAD YOU:

I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED (Marc, Ray, Jeff):

THREE LITTLE WORDS (the Quartet):

The Trio (and Quartet) is setting up its touring schedule for 2016.  Club-owners, party-givers, and festival promoters take heed!

Thanks again to Paul Daspit and Hal Smith for making this wonderful dream come true.

May your happiness increase!

GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE: The DAWN LAMBETH TRIO at the 2015 San Diego Jazz Fest (Part One)

DAWN headshot

Recently, I had an experience of warm intelligent swinging musical creativity that still brings a smile to my face: two sets by the Dawn Lambeth Trio at the San Diego Jazz Fest (November 27-29, 2015).  The trio is Dawn, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Ray Skjelbred, piano — and the music they create is both earthy and ethereal, down-home and in the clouds.  Intelligent expert frolic.

Hear and see for yourself.  Perhaps, like me, you will think of Eddie Condon’s dichotomy, dividing music that comes in the ear like broken glass or the rarer kind that comes in like honey:

GETTING SOME FUN OUT OF LIFE:

I MUST HAVE THAT MAN (truncated because someone stood in front of my camera for the first chorus — probably transfixed by the sounds):

Please notice that although those two songs are forever associated with Billie Holiday, Dawn is not in the imitation-business: she sings them because they are durable engaging songs, and she sounds like herself.

WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

THE RIVER’S TAKIN’ CARE OF ME (in honor of Red Allen):

More to come.  And I know that this Trio is planning a touring schedule, so I must check and see how many frequent flyer miles I have amassed.  Thanks to Paul Daspit and Hal Smith for making this possible.

May your happiness increase!

LIZA VISITS THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST, THANKS TO MARC CAPARONE and RAY SKJELBRED (Nov. 27, 2015)

I’m getting to like flying less and less — not anxiety, but the feeling of being too big for a plane seat — but I am delighted I made it to this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest.  I had wonderful evidence that I’d made the right choice on Friday morning: this set featuring the delightful singer Dawn Lambeth, with Marc Caparone, cornet; Ray Skjelbred, piano, and later on a guest appearance by Jeff Hamilton, drums:

DAWN MARC RAY San Diego 11 27

I have not yet mastered the art of smartphone photography, so that is my own wide-angle lens, bottom right, but it gives you some idea. The very first performance went right to my heart: Marc and Ray, in duet, performed Eddie Condon’s LIZA:

And for those of you (like me) who find this song entrancing in its sweet late-Twenties way, here are the lyrics, reproduced by modern technology from the irreplaceable book EDDIE CONDON’S SCRAPBOOK OF JAZZ, created by Eddie and Hank O’Neal:

LIZA

I will be posting more video (subject to musicians’ approval) from the SDJF  — the 39th, I believe — masterfully orchestrated by Paul Daspit and his many associates, chief among them the thoughtful percussionist Hal Smith. What a pleasure it was and is.

May your happiness increase!

SOLAR POWER: RAY SKJELBRED, MARC CAPARONE, JIM BUCHMANN, HAL SMITH, KATIE CAVERA, BEAU SAMPLE (San Diego Jazz Fest, Nov. 30, 2014)

Sunrise

Beauty is all around us.

In this case, six creative musicians took the stand at the 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest to show us what Swing is, what Hot Music is.  Note my choice of tense: wholly the present.  And thanks to the magic of video, the future as well.

Before Benny Goodman and Les Paul got to this song, it was a 1919 waltz.  But I think of it as a Chicagoan hot classic, which is the way Ray Skjelbred, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jim Buchmann, clarinet / saxello; Hal Smith, drums; Beau Sample, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar, approach it here.  And please don’t turn away to look at Facebook before it’s all over — you’ll miss a two-chorus Rhythm Seminar conducted by Professors Hal Smith and Beau Sample: a graduate degree in Hot.

There are more performances to come from this wonderful sextet, but let me remind you of those I’ve already posted here, and here, and here, and even here.

Aren’t we lucky?  These wonderful manifestations of joy and solar power aren’t restricted to San Diego, but I will say that the 2015 San Diego Jazz Fest is going to happen this Thanksgiving weekend, November 25-29, 2015.

Find out more here and here.  I know that Ray, Marc, Katie, Dawn Lambeth, Clint Baker, the Yerba Buena Stompers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Nicki Parrott, Rossano Sportiello, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Miss Ida Blue, Molly Ryan, Dan Levinson, Jonathan Stout, Bob Schulz, Chloe Feoranzo, and many others will be making music there.  I’ll be there.  You should consider it!

May your happiness increase!

LIVING ABUNDANTLY (Nov. 27, 2014)

The 2014 San Diego Jazz Fest was the living embodiment of jazz abundance (an overwhelming assortment of choices!) so it’s appropriate that it featured one of my favorite bands — the truly abundant Yerba Buena Stompers, here closing a jubilant set with a song that speaks of overflowing largesse. The Stompers are Leon Oakley, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Conal Fowkes, piano; John Gill, banjo; Clint Baker, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums.  Everyone can be heard — I find the two-trumpet conversation thrilling, but the band rocks. But that’s no surprise:

May your happiness increase!

RED HOT! THE FAT BABIES at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 28, 2014)

Authentic Mexican food, hot Chicago Twenties jazz, the warmth of the San Diego Jazz Fest . . . what more could anyone want?

Tamale_Basket

Here’s just a taste.  The Fat Babies take on the Doc Cooke / Freddie Keppard classic at the San Diego Jazz Fest (Nov. 28, 2014): they are Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums; Paul Asaro, piano; Jake Sanders, guitar / banjo; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Andy Schumm, cornet.

And that tamale is filled with good things: idiomatic but loose ensemble playing, hot horn solos, bass-drum accents, stride piano, Charleston rhythms, ensemble shouts . . . a very satisfying plateful:

More to come.  And should the Fat Babies be new to you, look for their two Delmark CDs, CHICAGO HOT and 18th AND RACINE — each a delight.

May your happiness increase! 

A CELESTIAL PHENOMENON: MARC CAPARONE, RAY SKJELBRED, JIM BUCHMANN, KATIE CAVERA, BEAU SAMPLE, HAL SMITH at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST, November 29, 2014)

The National Weather Service noted a discernable increase in MOONGLOW around 10:15 PM in Southern California.  The reason is clear.

When this group took the stand on Saturday night, November 29, at the 35th San Diego Jazz Fest, we knew that celestial events were going to happen.

The leader, pianist / singer / composer Ray Skjelbred, is known to transcend the earthly realm, and he had colleagues of the same mind with him: Marc Caparone, cornet; Jim Buchmann, clarinet and saxello; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Beau Sample, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

Together they made the room glow:

Was it their evocation of the Ellingtonian roots (with some Basie-Stacy touches) of this song?  Or a fond dream of some vanished Fifty-Second Street?  Or their unspoken assertion that jazz music must be “sweet, soft, plenty rhythm”?  Or were they simply delighting in the music and sharing that delight with us?  I can’t pinpoint the origins of this remarkable phenomenon — clouds of romance floating by in swingtime, the musicians making old stories new without a cliche anywhere.  But this performance lifts me up to the celestial realm.  I hope you enjoy it, too.

This group doesn’t have its own CD, a record contract, a concert tour — all evidence of this century’s slight attention to beauty.  But there will be more videos.  You can depend on it.

May your happiness increase!

“OLD-FASHIONED LOVE”: GIVING THANKS at the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (Nov. 27-30, 2014)

I had a wonderful time at the San Diego Jazz Fest, but that is nothing new.  Paul Daspit, like the jazz patriarch of a very widespread family, treats us to one savory dish after another.  I resigned myself to hard choices but enjoyed all that I saw and heard, beginning with the Yerba Buena Stompers and their new sensation, Miss Ida Blue; the Fat Babies; Ray Skjelbred; Chris Dawson; Jonathan Doyle; Musician of the Year “Gentleman Jim” Buchmann; High Sierra; the New Orleans All Stars of Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones; Hal Smith, Beau Sample; Marc Caparone; Katie Cavera, and other notables.

The band co-led by Tim Laughlin (clarinet) and Connie Jones (cornet, vocal) continues to be very dear to me — swinging, heartfelt, always lyrical.  They were joined by trombonist Doug Finke, pianist Chris Dawson, guitarist Katie Cavera, string bassist Marty Eggers, and drummer Hal Smith.

Here’s a James P. Johnson classic — which always sounds like a hymn to traditional monogamous devotion to me — OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

These players know all one can know about sweet melodic improvisation over a gently infallible rhythm section: I hear Thirties Teddy Wilson small groups, the Vanguard sessions, a dream meeting of Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett, and Count Basie.  But it’s not a dream: it happened in front of our eyes and ears. That’s something to be truly thankful for!

I’m grateful to the musicians, to Paul, Myrna Beach Goodwin, Jim McNaughton, Gretchen Haugen, the volunteers, and the gracious people at the Town and Country — for helping us all have such an uplifting experience.

More joy and more videos to come.

May your happiness increase! 

“IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD” AT THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, MIKE PITTSLEY, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH

You don’t have to write Odes to Nightingales to be lyrically poetic. In this century, we have Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Hal Smith, drums, to prove this.

The song on which they wax poetic is IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD, performed at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest:

(Connie — a great unheralded singer — embodies a special optimism. Bless him and his colleagues.)

While you are basking in the good sounds and good feeling, think of this: Tim and Connie, with their New Orleans All Stars — Doug Finke, trombone; Chris, Marty, Katie, and Hal — will be playing more than a few sets at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest, November 26-30.

And they are certainly not the only band: click here.

If you can live joyously, it’s always a wonderful world.

May your happiness increase!

I WISH I WERE TWINS: AN OPEN LETTER TO PAUL DASPIT of the SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 26-30, 2014)

First, these musical introductions.

Coleman Hawkins, 1935, in Holland:

Henry “Red” Allen, Buster Bailey, Hilton Jefferson, 1934:

Art Tatum, 1937:

Dear Paul,

I know you as the witty, beautifully-dressed, generous organizer of that jazz banquet called the San Diego Jazz Fest. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend this Thanksgiving banquet of sounds every year since 2010, and I’ve found it more rewarding than any turkey dinner.  And I like turkey.

This year, as you well know, the Fest will start on Wednesday, November 26, and go rollicking straight on through Sunday afternoon / early evening, November 30.

I gather that you created the schedule — the reason you are receiving this letter.

On any day or night during that the 26th through the 30th, multiple opportunities for pleasure are bursting all around the listener or viewer.

I’m picking examples at random: at 4:00 on Friday, there’s a solo piano concert. At 3:30, three other bands are playing in separate rooms.  At 4:15, the same thing.

Now, a good number of “favorite bands and musicians” are performing at the SDJF.  I’ve been coming back to the schedule since it was created, always with a nearly-queasy feeling.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I must ask you in all seriousness, “Paul, are you trying to do us in through a surfeit of pleasure?”

I once read about an experiment conducted by researchers trying to analyze how people dealt with making choices. They assembled children around a table, empty cereal bowls in front of each.  The researchers offered the children two boxes of cereal from which they could choose.  They added another, different box of cereal.  And another.  And kept on increasing the number.  When there were a dozen boxes on the table, the children were sobbing.

I don’t need a tissue yet, but I understand this.

It’s not only the problem of choice-making.  (“If I go to see the Wildroot Sliders then I have to miss the Shearling Fleecers as well as not hearing Petite Priscilla and her Clawfoot Tub Band!”).

For me it’s also the added problem of trying to video-record everything I and others pine for so that I can share it on JAZZ LIVES.

True, I do now have two cameras and could bring two tripods, but where is the Second Assistant Cameraperson for this blog?  No fame, no health benefits, perhaps only a free breakfast. References and prior experience a must.

Paul, I thought we were friends.

What have you got to say for yourself?  Look closely here.  Is that fair?

Yours,

Michael

May your happiness increase!

A THANKSGIVING CORNUCOPIA OF JAZZ: SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 26-30, 2014)

You can always have turkey if that’s your pleasure, and I hope you will have many occasions to get together with your family, but the San Diego Jazz Fest — the generous creation of America’s Finest City Dixieland Jazz Society comes once a year.  This November will be the thirty-fifth such explosion of music, and it is not to be missed. The SDJF website can be found here, and the amount of good music offered during this long weekend is more than amazing.

Some of the wonderful musicians and bands who will be there are —

Connie Jones-Tim Laughlin New Orleans All Stars, Jim Buchmann, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Marc Caparone, Carl Sonny Leylnd, Marty Eggers, Virginia Tichenor, High Sierra Jazz Band, Josh Duffee’s Graystone Monarchs, the Fat Babies, Yerba Buena Stompers, Dave Bennett, Cornet Chop Suey, Katie Cavera, Titanic Jazz Band, Grand Dominion, Ellis Island Boys, Duke Heitger,Leon Oakley,Kevin Dorn, Conal Fowkes, Orange Kellin, Euphoria Brass Band, Andy Schumm, Chris Dawson, Jonathan Doyle, John Royen, High Society Jazz Band, Sweethearts of Swing, Night Blooming Jazzmen, Clint Baker, Hal Smith, Tom Bartlett, Chris Dawson, Mission Bay High School Preservationists, Sue Palmer and Motel Swing, the Memphis Speed Kings, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Corey’s Rolling Figs, Jazz Souffle, South Street Market Jazz Band Reunion, Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band,  Dixie Express Jazz Band, Dick Williams’ Jazzsea Jam, Hal and Georgia Myers’ Dance Classes, Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, Chloe Feoranzo, Uptown Rhythm Makers, San Fernando Valley Banjo Band, San Diego Banjo Band, Paragon Quartet, South Bay Jazz Ramblers.

If you can’t find some favorites, some people or groups you love to hear in that list, I would worry for your sake. Anhedonia is a terrible burden.

Paul Daspit, who runs the giant rollicking enterprise, clearly loves the music, and he is a good sort who wants to make sure everyone — musicians, guests, volunteers — is happy and fulfilled.  Full to the brim of fine hot music.

You can buy tickets online here and I urge you to do so soon.

The San Diego Jazz Fest is something to be thankful for.  Truly.

May your happiness increase!

WAILING SOULFULLY IN SAN DIEGO: RAY SKJELBRED AND HIS CUBS PLAY FRANK MELROSE

I had a wonderful time at the 34th annual San Diego Jazz Fest, held over Thanksgiving weekend 2013. Thanks must go to the diligent and generous Paul Daspit and his Pals, including the heroic Jim McNaughton and Myrna Beach Goodwin, who laid out a hearty spread for us.  Incidentally, the SDJF is ON for 2014: click here!  (The 2014 schedule isn’t posted yet, but I know that Andy Schumm and Josh Duffee will be joining the West Coast luminaries for some hot music.)

Here’s some auditory proof of the 2013 delights — one of the best small bands ever, pianist Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs . . . featuring Kim Cusack, clarinet / vocal; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar / vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums.

They played two delectable sets full of Chicago rhythm, something you don’t always hear these days in traditional circles — swing before Swing, hot without self-consciousness about it.

I offer one performance only (I want people to savor this!), WAILING BLUES, written by that vanished paragon of music, “Kansas City” Frank Melrose, whose music — performance and composition — always takes surprising turns, whether gutty or tender or both.

We miss him, and I am honored to have his surviving child, Ida Melrose Shoufler, as a devoted reader of JAZZ LIVES . . . so a little pre-Christmas present of her father’s particularly flavorful WAILING BLUES:

Now, that music exemplifies “tonation and phrasing.”  It gets in the gutter because from there you can really see the stars.

After this performance, Ray said, thoughtfully, “There was something dynamic and strange about everything that Frank Melrose did, which is very appealing to me.”

Frank’s physical self left the planet a long time ago in a death that has the frightening impact of Greek myth, but his spirit — whimsical, intense, curious, heartfelt — is with us today, embodied by these players and those who love him.

I hope you never have to wail, but if the spirit moves you in that direction, may this music guide and shelter you.

May your happiness increase!

HOT THANKSGIVING: SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST (November 27 – December 1, 2013)

“Thanksgiving” is a manufactured holiday.  In this century, you can have roast turkey whenever you like, and any dish with marshmallows should be eyed skeptically.

But being thankful among friends and fine jazz intensifies the pleasure.  It’s gratitude in swing.  One particularly nifty place to have this experience is at the San Diego Jazz Fest (once known as the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival — accurate but unwieldy) which is taking place this year between November 27 and December 1.

Many of my heroes and friends will be there!

Clint Baker, working hard at play, in the moment.

Clint Baker, working hard at play, in the moment.

How about Ray Skjelbred, Katie Cavera, John Gill, Marty Eggers, the Reynolds Brothers, Grand Dominion, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Kevin Dorn, Jeff Hamilton, Leon Oakley, Chris Tyle, Tom Bartlett, Orange Kellin, Conal Fowkes, Bob Schulz, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Glenn Crytzer, Bob Draga, and many others.  Because I know I’ve left out many favorites, be sure to visit here and check out the schedule.

San Diego presents so many choices that it will require some advance planning — seven venues, big and small, offering music almost simultaneously.  (One must choose: “Do I stay in one spot and take what’s offered me or do I prance from place to place in search of Elysian sounds?”  It’s not an easy choice.)

The festival offers a wide variety of swinging sounds — from ragtime and banjo sing-alongs (think George M. Cohan and SHINE ON HARVEST MOON) to “hot jazz,” “Dixieland,” “boogie woogie,” “blues,” “gypsy jazz,” “swing dance,” and other, less classifiable experiences.  And there are many special sets: clarinet extravaganzas, piano duets (Paolo and Stephanie, a special treat), and a Battle of the Bands between Glenn Crytzer’s Savoy Seven and Stompy Jones (the latter featuring John Cocuzzi as well).  Second Line parades, dance classes, tributes to Louis Armstrong, Irving Berlin, and Bob Scobey.

It won’t sway anyone who isn’t already interested, but the Beloved and I will be there.

Five-day badges are only $105: details here.  And the rooms at the Town and Country Convention Center are surely comfortable.  I’ve even learned, after three years of practice, how to get back to my room after the last set.  Good jazz sharpens one’s navigational skills!

Here’s a song that might be the festival’s theme song — in a wonderfully sweet performance from the 2012 Fest:

So I suggest, meaning no offense to your sweet-natured relatives, that you tell them you will be available for dinner and anecdotage any weekend of the year except this one.  Walk, drive, fly, hitch to San Diego for Thanksgiving! (And late November there is positively balmy . . . wool sweaters not needed.)

And as a postscript: if you were to search JAZZ LIVES by entering the words “San Diego” in the appropriate box, you would find more hot jazz videos than you could watch in a day and a night . . . evidence of the riches that have been offered and will go on, thanks to the musicians, to Paul Daspit, and to the enthusiastic volunteers and staff (including the enthusiastic Jim McNaughton).  San Diego Joys!

May your happiness increase!

“IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES ALL STARS at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 24, 2012)

Let me be candid.  This band impressed and moved me so much in person, and the videos continue to make me very happy — “tonation and phrasing” carried to the very apex of swinging beauty.

They are Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Hal Smith, drums — all recorded at the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival (this session on November 24, 2013).  This music emphasized the truth of this post’s title, I am positive.

I CRIED FOR YOU:

IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD:

TOGETHER:

WABASH BLUES:

IT’S BEEN SO LONG:

IF I HAD YOU:

LENA, THE QUEEN OF PALESTEENA:

SPAIN:

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?:

And, for the near future — the 34th Festival (now called The San Diego Jazz Festival) will take place from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1, with music by Bob Schulz, Ray Skjelbred, Glenn Crytzer, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Reynolds Brothers, High Sierra, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Jason Wanner, Bob Draga, Carl Sonny Leyland, Grand Dominion, Chloe Feoranzo, and much more.  For information, visit here.

May your happiness increase.

IN CELEBRATION! “WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 23, 2012)

Facebook, the cyber-world’s town crier, let me know this morning that today, March 6, is clarinetist / bandleader / composer Tim Laughlin’s birthday.  That is a major event, for Mr. Laughlin not only creates beautiful swirling melodies, but he surrounds himself with synergistic bands that uplift us all.  In celebration of this very notable day, I present another set that his All-Stars played at the November 2013 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival.  They are Connie Jones, cornet; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  And in their honor, I have changed the title of the first selection from the tentative to the more optimistically assertive, for this band made and makes dreams take tangible swinging shape.  (And the wonderful repertoire!)

WHEN DREAMS COME TRUE:

TEARS:

MY BUDDY:

A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY:

CHINA BOY (Hal kicks it off!):

TEA FOR TWO (featuring Chris, Marty, Katie, and Hal):

FOR ALL WE KNOW:

JUBILEE:

Happy birthday, Mr. Laughlin.  You and your friends increase our happiness more than you could imagine.  I’ve seen and heard it happen.

May your happiness increase.

“LOVE NEST”: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 23, 2012)

Yes, this set begins with a farewell — but a rather cheerful one despite the woebegone title.  Just a wonderful band, caught in action at the 2012 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival (thanks to Paul Daspit as well as the musicians!) — Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet and occasional vocal; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

MAMA’S GONE, GOOD-BYE:

AUNT HAGAR’S BLUES:

DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?:

IF YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD:

SOME OF THESE DAYS (a feature for that superb rhythm team):

LOVE NEST:

SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?:

Not exactly a Love Nest . . . more like a Love Fest.  I could go on at length about the virtues of the players and the delicious ensemble textures . . . but it’s all audible to anyone who cares to sit down and listen.  (It’s a Rolls-Royce of a band . . . but affordable!)

May your happiness increase.