Tag Archives: Paul Midiri

DANNY TOBIAS MAKES BEAUTIFUL MUSIC: “COMPLETE ABANDON”

Photograph by Lynn Redmile

Photograph by Lynn Redmile

One of the quietest of my heroes, lyrical brassman Danny Tobias, has a new CD.  It’s called COMPLETE ABANDON — but don’t panic, for it’s not a free-jazz bacchanal.  It could have been called COMPLETE WARMTH just as well. And it’s new in several ways: recorded before a live audience — although a very serene one — just last September, in the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing, New Jersey.

dannytobiasquintetThe CD presents a small group, captured with beautiful sound (thanks to Robert Bullington) “playing tunes,” always lyrical and always swinging.  The cover photograph here is small, but the music is endearingly expansive.  (Lynn Redmile, Danny’s very talented wife, took the photo of Mister T. at the top and designed the whole CD’s artwork.)

Danny is heard not only on trumpet, but also on the Eb alto horn (think of Dick Cary) and a light-hearted vocal on LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER.  He’s joined by his New Jersey friends, the very pleasing fellows Joe Holt, piano; Paul Midiri, vibraphone; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums.  And both in conception and recorded sound, this disc is that rarity — an accurate reflection of what musicians in a comfortable setting sound like.  The tunes are I WANT TO BE HAPPY; DANCING ON THE CEILING; MY ROMANCE; LOTUS BLOSSOM; COMPLETE ABANDON; THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU; THIS CAN’T BE LOVE; LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER; I’M CONFESSIN’; EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY; GIVE ME HE SIMPLE LIFE; THESE FOOLISH THINGS; PICK YOURSELF UP.

You can tell something about Danny’s musical orientations through the song titles: a fondness for melodies, a delight in compositions.  He isn’t someone who needs to put out a CD of “originals”; rather, he trusts Vincent Youmans, Billy Strayhorn, Richard Rodgers.  He believes in Count Basie, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong, whether they are being joyous or melancholy.  Danny has traveled long and happily in the sacred land of Medium Tempo, and he knows its most beautiful spots.

When I first met Danny — hearing and seeing him on the stand without having had the opportunity to talk with him (this was a decade ago, thanks to Kevin Dorn and the Traditional Jazz Collective at the Cajun) I delighted in the first set, and when he came off the stand, I introduced myself, and said, “Young man, you’ve been listening to Ruby Braff and Buck Clayton,” and young Mister Tobias heard and was gracious about the compliment.

Since then, I’ve understood that Danny has internalized the great swing players in his own fashion — I’m not the only one to hear Joe Thomas in his work — without fuss and without self-indulgence.  He doesn’t call attention to himself by volume or technique.  Rather, to use the cliche that is true, “He sings on that horn,” which is not at all easy.

Danny’s colleagues are, as I wrote above, his pals, so the CD has the easy communal feel of a group of long-time friends getting together: no competition, no vying for space, but the pleased kindness of musicians who are more interested in the band than in their own solos.  The vibraphone on this disc, expertly and calmly played by Paul Midiri, at times lends the session a George Shearing Quintet feel, reminding me of some Bobby Hackett or Ruby Braff sessions with a similar personnel.  And Messrs. Lawlor, Plowman, and Holt are generous swinging folks — catch Joe Holt’s feature on GIVE ME THE SIMPLE LIFE.

To purchase the CD and hear sound samples, visit here.  Or you can go directly to Danny’s website — where you can also enjoy videos of Danny in a variety of contexts.

CDBaby, not always the most accurate guide to musical aesthetics, offers this assessment: “Recommended if you like Bobby Hackett, Louis Armstrong, Warren Vache.”  I couldn’t agree more.  And I’m grateful that the forces of time, place, economics, and art came together to make this disc possible.  It is seriously rewarding, and it doesn’t get stale after one playing.

May your happiness increase!

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BROADWAY GOES BECHET (September 9, 2013)

It’s not exactly what you might think: David Merrick hasn’t returned from the Great Beyond to stage a musical autobiography of Sidney Bechet.  A pity, because Bechet’s life is dramatic in itself, even leaving aside his heroic music.

But we don’t have to wait for a Broadway producer to take this on, nor do we have to wait until the right actor is found.   (I suspect a modern producer would insist on calling the show SIDNEY!)

Symphony Space

What I’m referring to is the opening concert of the Fall 2013 season of the Sidney Bechet Society.  Once again, the SBS has collected some of New York’s finest hot players to celebrate Bechet’s sweeping talents: as musician, composer, bandleader.

The players span the generations, but they all have the same spirit: exuberant swing.  Leader Ed Polcer, cornet, knows how to kick a band along — as he’s proven so often.  Next to him in the front line are the Midiri Brothers, Paul (trombone / vibraphone); Joe (clarinet / soprano saxophone), making their debut at a Bechet Society concert.  The rhythm section is made up of Three Rhythm Men of Great Renown: Mark Shane, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums.

And the press release hints at evocations of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four, so you know the music will alternate between tenderness and dangerously incendiary.

Here’s one of the original 1940 masterworks, with Carmen Mastren, guitar, and Wellman Braud, string bass:

The concert will take place on Monday, September 9, 2013, beginning at 7:15, at Peter Norton Symphony Space (95th Street and Broadway, or 2537 Broadway) in Manhattan.  Tickets are $35 ($10 students / children) and can be purchased by visiting symphonyspace or calling 212-864-5400.

May your happiness increase!

HOTTER THAN THAT! JEFF AND JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY . . . ALMOST HERE!

Just a reminder . . . because there are only a few tickets left for this April 20-21 party / extravaganza / hot jazz retreat.  I guarantee you’ll hear delightful music from fifteen of the best in ever-shifting combinations: Armstrong, Ellington, Morton, “Dixieland,” “New Orleans,” “Chicago,” “Fifty-Second Street”: you name your pleasure.  It all takes place at Joel Schiavone’s 1805 farmhouse in Guilford for 3 sessions of music, food, and fun on Saturday and Sunday, April 20-21.

Under the direction of pianist / vocalist / instigator Jeff Barnhart, the musicians include: Lew Green and Gordon Au on trumpet, Noel Kaletsky and Joe Midiri on reeds, Craig Grant and Paul Midiri on trombone and vibraphone, Jeff Barnhart and Ian Frenkel on piano, Bob Price, John Gill, and Joel Schiavone on banjo and guitar, Frank Tate and Brian Nalepka on bass and tuba, Tom Palinko, Kevin Dorn and John Gill on drums.

Tickets for all 3 sessions – Saturday at 11 AM to 4 PM including lunch, 5 PM to 10 PM with dinner and Sunday 11 AM to 4 PM with brunch are $225, and for a single session $80 with setups provided for BYOB.

For information call 203-208-1481 or click here.

And here’s some evidence, courtesy of another bunch of merrymakers at the October 2012 party, caught for posterity by CineDevine:

May your happiness increase. 

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: JEFF AND JOEL’S HOUSE PARTY: October 2012, April 2013, and BEYOND

The word that comes to mind about Jeff and Joel’s House Party is a Yiddish one that has entered the common language in some places — haimisch — meaning “like home,” “comfortable,” “easy to love.”  All of these things apply to the rollicking weekend that Jeff Barnhart and Joel Schiavone have created in Joel and Donna’s beautiful farmhouse in Guilford, Connecticut.  I was a happy member of the group last October, and I will be there again for April 20-21, 2013.  (They are already veterans at this, having hosted a successful February 2012 party)

Continuing the secular-Hebraic theme, “Why is this jazz gathering different from all jazz gatherings,” the youngest son asks.

Even the most convivial jazz parties or festivals remind the listeners that they are not at home.  Most sets are played in large rooms; sometimes there is a raised stage.  Yes, the barriers between musicians and fans are less obvious than at, say, Carnegie Hall, but the illusion of welcome-to-my-house is impossible to sustain.

Not so at Jeff and Joel’s House Party, which is what it purports to be.  I think it might be exhausting for the musicians, but everyone hangs out in the same place — playing, listening, chatting, laughing, telling stories, snacking . . . for three sessions — a Saturday afternoon fiesta, one at night, and a Sunday afternoon cookout.

The other remarkable difference is that the musicians don’t play “sets,” which is standard practice elsewhere . . . half-hour or forty-five minute gatherings for anywhere from a duo to twelve or more players and singers.  At this House Party (again, possibly exhausting for the musicians but never ever dull for anyone) there is a constant changing of the guard, as musicians come and go for each new  performance.  Variety is the key, and no one yawns.

And without leaving anyone under-praised, I have to say that Jeff and Joel strike a remarkable balance.  Jeff — the most serious clown, the deepest philosophical trickster it has been my pleasure to know — is a splendid singer, pianist, bandleader, archivist of lost songs, sixty-second cousin of Thomas Waller you could imagine.  In fact, you can’t imagine Jeff.  He surpasses anything you could think up.  And Joel is making the world safe for sweet / hot banjo playing and group singing.  Don’t scoff: SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON softly sung by a roomful of sympathetic adults is worth decades of therapy or cholesterol-lowering drugs.  (The results of a study done using IF YOU KNEW SUSIE are inconclusive.  I will keep you informed.)

The April 2013 party will have many new faces — in the most gentle sense of that phrase, since many of them are heroic figures and friends to those of us in the tri-state area.  Consider this list (aside from Jeff and Joel): Lew Green, Gordon Au; cornet / trumpet; Craig Grant, Paul Midiri, trombone; Noel Kaletsky, Joe Midiri, reeds; Ian Frenkel, piano; Bob Price, banjo; John Gill, banjo / vocal / drums; Brian Nalepka, Frank Tate, string bass; Kevin Dorn, Tom Palinko, drums.

With that group, you just know that things will swing — and there will be interesting side-discussions about James Bond, James Whale, and other pressing philosophical matters.

The October party was an unusual one for me.  Usually, these days, I arrive with a camera, a tripod, batteries, a marble-covered notebook, and go away with an elevated sense of well-being, a stiff neck, drained batteries, and a hundred or more videos.  Not this time, and for the best reasons.  J&J HP already has its own videographer, Eric Devine (his YouTube channel is CineDevine), a very nice fellow and a splendid video professional.  Two cameras, no waiting; a good recording system.  And the fellow knows how to edit.  I must apprentice myself to Mr. Devine someday.  But I was free to roam around, to listen, to stand outside (the weather was lovely), to talk to people . . . knowing that Eric was on the job.  His videos are super-special, and he’s posted a goodly assortment.

Here are a nifty seven videos from that October weekend . . . to make some of you recall the pleasure of that time; to make others think, “Why did I miss that?”; to make others say, “Have to get there in April.”

Musical evidence, Maestro! The noble players who amused, elated, and delighted us for three sessions in October 2012 were pianist / singer / philosopher Jeff Barnhart, pianist Ross Petot; reed wizards John Clark, Noel Kaletsky; Renaissance man Vince Giordano; trombonist / singer / euphonist Jim Fryer, trombonist Craig Grant; trumpeter / tubaist Paul Monat, trumpeter Fred Vigorito, banjoist / singer Bob Barta, string bassist Genevieve Rose, banjoist / singer Joel Schiavone, drummers Sal Ranniello, C.H. “Pam” Pameijer.

SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE, as they used to do it in old Chicago — with the law firm of Clark and Kaletsky:

DARKNESS ON THE DELTA, featuring Bob Barta:

A serious exploration into romantic cosmology, Thirties-style — WHEN DID YOU LEAVE HEAVEN?:

A heroic STEVEDORE STOMP, romping:

YOUNG AND HEALTHY: a collaboration between Jeff, a somewhat bemused Joel, and yours truly (“our blog guy”) — not yet the Lorenz Hart of the blogosphere:

Jim Fryer shows off his remarkable talents on THE GYPSY:

JAZZ ME BLUES, properly Bix-and-Rollini-ish:

You can read what I wrote about the pleasures of that party here.

Here you can find out more information about the April 20-21, 2013 shindig.  You can email here or call Maureen at (203) 208-1481.  For those whose day isn’t complete without a soupcon of social networking, the Party has its very own Facebook page.  I know I “like” it.  Seriously.

And there might even be a few seats left.  But “a few” is no stage joke.

May your happiness increase.

“BENNY GOODMAN’S BOYS” (plus MOLLY RYAN) on July 11, 2010

    The PENNSYLVANIA JAZZ SOCIETY will present their annual JAZZFEST with a TRIBUTE TO BENNY GOODMAN on Sunday, July 11, 2010, from noon to 5:30 p.m. at the Plainfield Township Fire Company Hall, 6480 Sullivan Trail, Wind Gap, PA 18091.  The two bands featured that day are THE MIDIRI BROTHERS and DAN LEVINSON’S PALOMAR QUARTET.
    The Midiri Brothers will play from noon to 2:30 p.m.  Their group is Joe Midiri on clarinet, Paul Midiri on vibraphone, drums, and trombone, Dan Tobias on trumpet, Pat Mercuri on guitar, Steve Kramer on piano, Ed Wise on bass, and Jim Lawlor on drums.
    Dan Levinson’s Palomar Quartet will play from 3:00 – 5:30 p.m. and will feature Dan on clarinet, Mark Shane on piano, Matt Hoffmann on vibes, Kevin Dorn on drums, and Molly Ryan on vocals.  In addition, because Dan believes that “One Good Twin Deserves Another,” he has invited the Anderson twins (Will and Peter Anderson) to be part of his group, playing clarinet and saxophone.Advance Tickets are $ 20.00. (For advance tickets and directions, send SASE to Pennsylvania Jazz Society, P. O. Box 995, Easton, PA 18044.)  Tickets at the door are $ 25.00.  Student Admission is FREE!  For more information, phone 610-625-4640 or go online at pajazzsociety.org

MR. TOBIAS COMES ON!

THE BRONZE MESSENGER, by Ericka Midiri

I’m very happy to report that cornetist Danny Tobias has finally come out with his own CD, aptly called CHEERFUL LITTLE EARFUL — a subtle trio session, intimate yet propulsive.

I was fortunate enough to write the very brief notes for the CD:

Danny Tobias is an old-fashioned jazz player in the best modern way, at home in any swinging jazz context. Like his heroes Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, he loves melody, his improvisations have a beautiful shape, and he is always recognizably himself. Danny didn’t learn his jazz from a textbook but through experience – early gigs with Ed Metz, Jr., Paul Midiri, and Joe Holt, and a fifteen-year musical apprenticeship with drummer Tony Di Nicola and master clarinetist Kenny Davern.

Kenny was an inspiration. He taught me what not to play, how to play in an ensemble, and how to construct a solo. He could build a solo as well as anyone who has ever played. Period. Tony and Kenny were always willing to teach me and I loved every night that I had the privilege to work with them. Since those two passed away I’ve been traveling with the Midiri brothers to festivals all over the country and leading my own groups whenever possible. It’s funny but when I looked at the tunes I’d picked for this CD almost all of them were written between 1925 and1935. I don’t think of these songs as old. They speak to me and remind me of Tony and Kenny.

When I asked Danny about his original compositions, he said, The names of my tunes are rather silly. I rehearse with an organ trio once a week in Trenton saxophonist Dom DeFranco’s cellar. Hence the name DOMINIC’S BIG CELLAR, which is based on LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. When I brought up NO MATH, he just grinned. And the song with the most striking title has an intriguing explanation: HOW’S YOUR MOTHER was first written as a Christmas song for my three sons. The title comes from a gag of mine (with people I know very well): when someone mentions something off color or foul, I will say “How’s your mother?” as if the bawdy comment has jogged a memory.

Danny’s trio is completed by two very sympathetic and supportive players. Pianist Joe Holt is a fixture in jazz rooms along the Eastern Seaboard, and he and Danny have been playing together for years, often with the Midiri brothers. (You can see them on YouTube.) Gary Cattley has his Ph.D. from North Texas State University, plays tuba in addition to string bass, and appears with the Princeton Symphony as well as Marty Grosz.

This easy-going trio got together for sessions in summer 2009, with the head arrangements done by Danny. The results remind me of the finest sessions for Keynote Records in the Forties or the John Hammond sessions for Vanguard a decade later: neat but inspired. Each performance was completed in one or two takes. This CD captures the kind of jazz that musicians play for their own pleasure when only the attentive customers are in the club. It’s comfortable, late-evening music, from the sorrowing SAY IT ISN’T SO to the romping CHICAGO RHYTHM and the title tune, a perfect description of Danny Tobias’s jazz.

The disc is available from the modest, soft-spoken Mr. Tobias himself for $15.00.  Send check, cash, or other negotiable instruments to Danny at 38 Fenwood Avenue, Mercerville, New Jersey 08619.  More to come!

P.S.   When Dan Barrett started his New York City tour — sadly too brief — one of the first things he said to me was that he had played two concerts in New Jersey with a wonderful cornet player, Danny Tobias.  Did I know him?  (I murmured assent but Dan was so intent that I don’t know if it registered.)  That young Mr. Tobias was so good, so melodic that he reminded the elder Dan why he had taken up the cornet himself: to play the melody.  Dan (Barrett) continued, looking at me sternly, “You really ought to mention Danny in your blog,” and I happily said, “I have, at length, and he’s coming out with his own CD.  He’s a fine player and a fine person!”  All true!