Tag Archives: Paul Keller

“IT’S SO EASY WHEN YOU KNOW HOW”

My title comes from a story Joe Bushkin told about being on the bill in 1940 with Fats Waller at the Panther Room of the Hotel Sherman in Chicago.  Bushkin was then appearing as part of Muggsy Spanier’s band.  He remembered that Fats would “get off a perfectly beautiful run,” look at him, grin, and say, “It’s so easy when you know how!”

I thought of this comment while watching new videos of Paul Klinger’s Easy Street Jazz Band — videos so generously created by my dear friend and videographer Laura Beth Wyman.  The ESJB (for this June 9 gig) featured the delightful singer Kerry Price, Paul Klinger, cornet and soprano saxophone; Mike Jones, clarinet; Terry Kimura, trombone;  James Dapogny, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Rod McDonald, guitar; Pete Siers, drums.  All of this goodness took place at Ann Arbor, Michigan’s  Zal Gaz Grotto.

JELLY ROLL (with the verse, which was a delight, new to me):

SENTIMENTAL GENTLEMAN FROM GEORGIA, a Dapogny arrangement:

BABY DOLL:

YOU’VE GOT TO SEE MAMMA EVERY NIGHT:

CAUTION BLUES:

Yes, they do know how.

May your happiness increase!

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CONFESS YOUR FEARS AND THEY MAY BE TRANSFORMED: DUKE HEITGER, BEN POLCER, RUSS PHILLIPS, TOM FISCHER, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, DANNY COOTS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 17, 2015)

I’M CONFESSIN’ (a song with an unusual history — written in 1929 and published with another title and lyrics, then recreated a year later with the same melody, new lyrics, and an entirely different set of composers credited) is a lovely durable melody . . . of course, first made immortal by Louis Armstrong, who sang and played it for the next forty years.  I couldn’t find a copy of the first sheet music, but here is a later version:

I'M CONFESSIN'Many bands pick this as a reliable rhythm ballad — and some race through it as if on jazz cruise control, taking it as an interlude between one punishingly fast / loud number and the next.

Happily, this was not the case with Duke Heitger, Ben Polcer, trumpet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Tom Fischer, clarinet; John Cocuzzi, piano; Paul Keller, strig bass; Danny Coots, drums, at this year’s Atlanta Jazz Party (this performance was only the second song of the three-day marathon).  These master musicians created something frankly alchemical, transforming sadness into joy:

Everything about this performance entrances me: the sweet steady tread of the rhythm section (a wonderful team saying with every beat to the horn players, “Create whatever is in your heart and we will be there to support you, to make you feel safe”) to the compact singing utterances of the horns — how to make those instruments speak in such heartfelt ways in sixteen bars!  (Sixteen bars go by so quickly.)  The variety of sounds!

And just as a self-referential digression: inspired by the song, I stopped writing and went twenty feet to the other end of this long room, where a cherished cornet rests on blue velour in its ancient case.  I picked it up and “played” the first sixteen bars of I’M CONFESSIN’ and reminded myself only how incredibly difficult making an instrument sing is.  Mine sang, but I won’t describe how or what it was singing.

From the title alone, one would think that I’M CONFESSIN’ would be an exultant outpouring of love, with the Lover offering feelings openly.  And that is indeed the case.  But the Lover here is both frightened and self-aware, wondering if those feelings will be reciprocated or discarded.  And the Love Object — the source of power in this interlude — is both inscrutable and ambiguous: the eyes embody one “strange” message; the lips offer another.

I think that JAZZ LIVES readers might need to hear the lyrics as well as the melody. And thanks to my dear friend Austin Casey, here is THE version of the century: Louis on the Frank Sinatra Show.

Gorgeous, light-hearted, and heartfelt.  I offer this as evidence to those who think Louis didn’t care about the lyrics: here he offers each word as if it had been written by Keats.  Tonation and phrasing for the ages.  I also offer this performance not as a diminution of the one created on April 17, 2015, but to show that the two stand side-by-side, our heroes in this century so completely lit from within by Louis’ blessed spirit.

A last word about the alchemy of music, of candor.  The musicians in Atlanta did the impossible by transforming unease and anxiety into something beautiful, in the spirit of Louis.  This transformation is not always possible in what passes for real life, but it is worth attempting.  Keeping one’s terrors to oneself is what we have been trained to do.  Adults don’t talk about what scares them: they might terrify the children.  But I wonder if we said out loud to ourselves, “I am deeply afraid that ___________ might happen,” that the fear, put into syllables we can hear ourselves saying, might be more manageable.  Saying to the Love Object, “I’m afraid some day you’ll leave me / Saying ‘Can’t we still be friends?'” is a true act of courage, because the Love Object can always say back, “Indeed, that was just what I was thinking this very moment,” but [hence the MAY in my title] it could provoke reassurance.

JAZZ LIVES offers no advice in relationships, and hence is held harmless from any liability.  But speaking what you feel, embodying what you feel is always courageous, no matter what the result.

Keep CONFESSIN’, I say.

May your happiness increase! 

JOY TO THE TENTH POWER: A GLIMPSE OF THE 2015 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (DANNY COOTS, PAUL KELLER, DALTON RIDENHOUR, ALLAN VACHÉ, TOM FISCHER, DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, BRIA SKONBERG, BEN POLCER, RUSS PHILLIPS, April 18, 2015)

C.S. Lewis never wrote a book called EXHAUSTED BY JOY, but I could do it for him — having just returned from the Atlanta Jazz Party, which ran deliciously through the weekend of April 17 through 19, 2015.  I will spare you the exuberant descriptions (because I still don’t have the energy) and just offer this: the closer from Danny Coots’ Saturday-night extravaganza, a splendidly compact and ebullient PANAMA. I’ve named the alchemists above, but in case you missed a turn, they are Danny, drums and instant planning; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Allan Vaché, clarinet; Tom Fischer, tenor saxophone; Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, trombone; Ben Polcer, Bria Skonberg, Duke Heitger, trumpet:

All I know is that William H. Tyers just left a big LIKE on Facebook. If you find my title slightly inexplicable, just count the faces in the video.  And they were only part of the musical crowd.

You should have been there!  It’s happening next year on April 15-16-17.  Make plans.

May your happiness increase!

A REMINDER: THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY IS ALMOST HERE (April 17-19, 2015)

I am excited to be attending the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — a week away!  That’s April 17 through 19th in the very comfortable Grand Ballroom of the Westin Atlanta North at Perimeter.  It’s an incredibly lavish buffet of hot music: seven sets on Friday night, seven sets on Saturday afternoon, seven sets on Saturday night, and seven sets on Sunday. All performers are featured in each session. Atlanta Jazz Party Patrons and Guarantors get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch!

And there’s something new and exciting: the new Jazz Dinner Buffets featuring surprise special guest performers on Friday and Saturday Night, in the newly created “Johnny Mercer Room” right across from the Grand Ballroom. This change is important to the Party’s survival.  And I know — don’t ask me how — that one of the “surprise special guest performers” is someone legendary.

Who’s playing and singing?  Ben Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Allan Vaché, Tom Fischer, Eddie Erickson, Darian Douglas, Sean Cronin, Dalton Ridenhour, John Cocuzzi, Johnny Varro, Rossano Sportiello, Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, Nicki Parrott, Paul Keller, Danny Coots, Chuck Redd, Rebecca Kilgore.

Here’s Danny Coots and Ten at the 2014 AJP:

and since that sounds so good, let’s have another:

and the song that conveys the way I feel about the Party:

See you there, I hope.  It’s one of those enterprises that truly deserves your energetic support.

May your happiness increase!

“IN SWEET CONTENT, DREAMING AWAY”: REBECCA KILGORE, DAN BARRETT, DUKE HEITGER, DAN BLOCK, ED METZ, PAUL KELLER, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO at the 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

It might be impolite to ask someone “What did you dream last night?” unless you are on very intimate terms, but here’s a deeply swinging answer to that question.

It’s an ancient but durable pop classic done with great style by Rebecca Kilgore, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Paul Keller, bass; Ed Metz, drums.

This glowing performance took place on April 25, 2014, at the place where such things flourish — the Atlanta Jazz Party — which this year takes place from April 17 to April 19, which, like love, is just around the corner:

It would be nice to see you there, and you will get your money’s worth and more of music that makes you feel very good. Sweet content, in fact.

May your happiness increase!

 

GENTLY, THEY INQUIRE: ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, RANDY NAPOLEON, PAUL KELLER, DANNY COOTS at the 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

If you follow its lyrics, the 1929 song CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? describes the sorrow and the disillusionment of a failed relationship.  But as a piece of instrumental music, it’s pretty and lilting rather than morose — as in the performance below, from the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

The delightful inquirers on the bandstand are Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Danny Coots, drums:

Here is more information about this year’s Atlanta Jazz Party — the twenty-sixth — which will be held in a very comfortable hotel this coming April 17 through 19th.  And more information about practical matters.  I know many gentle questions will be asked, and will receive swinging, lyrical answers.

May your happiness increase!

SPORTIELLO-METZ, UNLIMITED (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 27, 2014)

Rossano Sportiello, piano, and Ed Metz, snare drum with wire brushes, made up a fully satisfying combo / band / orchestra in their morning set at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.  The music they made has resonated happily in my memory, and now I have the pleasure of sharing it with you.

Rossano began the set with a heartfelt BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL — which had a Strayhorn coloration at the start.  In an age of bright colors and high volumes, it is so reassuring to hear a Maestro like Rossano play a ballad — not in any hurry to get through, to speed it up:

From Basie to his teacher, Fats, for HANDFUL OF KEYS, joined by Ed:

Then, a long interlude-concert which allows both players to shine as soloists and as part of a wondrous duo.  The selections are MISTY, IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, CHINATOWN (with a hand-drum solo a la Jo Jones), LUCKY TO BE ME, Liszt’s CONSOLATION #3, SHOE SHINE BOY — a full circle back to Basie:

Throughout this morning serenade, I was reminded of the beautiful sound of Johnny Guarnieri and Sidney Catlett, and I marvel at Rossano’s beautiful precision and the astonishing variety of sounds and textures Ed gets out of this most minimalist drum kit — and the duo’s apparently indefatigable swing. Proof, once again, that you don’t need a lot of volume to swing.

All this happened at the April 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, and I have every expectation that equally beautiful music will be created there again this April. Details and registration information here.  And since — as is the custom in most parties — the earlier you register, the better your seating . . . carpe diem in a big way.

The players this year will be Ben Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Allan Vache, Tom Fischer, Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Johnny Varro, Dalton Ridenhour, Eddie Erickson, Nicki Parrott, Paul Keller, Sean Cronin, Danny Coots, Chuck Redd, Darrian Douglas, Rebecca Kilgore.  Quite a varied and energetic crew.

May your happiness increase!