Tag Archives: Paul Woltz

SEATTLE SUNSHINE: THE RAIN CITY BLUE BLOWERS (March 16, 2012)

Image courtesy of SWING FASHIONISTA (www.swingfashionista.com)

You’ll need these to watch the videos below.  Now, don’t fuss.  Put them on.  There!

I now have yet another Favorite Band.  In case you wonder, one can have a whole cornucopia of Favorites — and the Rain City Blue Blowers are just another example of what Roswell Rudd calls “playing your personality.”  The videos below come from their appearance at the Seattle Jazz Party on March 16, 2012.

Here they are, tenderly (but with a beat) exploring the possibly dark Jimmie Noone classic READY FOR THE RIVER:

Who ARE these gently brilliant folks?

Closest to us is the absurdly talented Steve Wright (cornet, trumpet, clarinet, vocal).  Hidden behind a forest of reeds is the delightful Paul Woltz (clarinet, soprano, tenor, alto, bass sax, vocal); the inquisitive Ray Skjelbred (piano); the unerringly rhythmic Candace Brown (banjo, guitar); the Swing Superhero Dave Brown (string bass, vocal); the rocking Mike Daugherty (drums, vocal).

An ebullient reading of one of my favorite songs — the happy shade of Louis stands behind it always — SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE, with the rhythm section romping like the Luis Russell band, 1929:

Since humility and a readiness to admit you’ve made an error are among the most prized virtues, how about a smoothly hot I MAY BE WRONG to keep us in the mood?  It was the theme song of the Apollo Theatre when it opened in 1934, and the RCBB bring us back there with no hint of museum-stuffiness:

MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS is or are the place I wish I was right now, even if her embrace would slightly impede my ability to type and blog.  Sing it, Mister Woltz!:

Truly wonderful!  In the groove, too: ARKANSAS BLUES:

I’ve been humming this tune all morning: no reason why you shouldn’t join in the cyber-chorus.  It’s MY SYNCOPATED MELODY MAN (think 1929, Lang, Venuti, and Red McKenzie, if you will):

One more — let the RCBB whisper swing in your shell-pink ears with WHISPERING.  (The front line knows the old trick of having one horn play a swinging version of the melody while the other horn dances around it — exhilarating!):

And just because we tend, naturally, to focus on the brilliance of the soloists — horns and reeds are shiny and catch our attention as if we were children in a toystore — may I quietly point out that the beauty of the RCBB starts in the rhythm section?  I have heard Paul and Steve generously and mightily lift bands where not everyone was on the same spiritual or rhythmic wavelength, so I greet them as epic heroes of hot jazz.

But what Candace, Dave, Mike, and Ray do on each number here is frankly magical.  “A house without a strong foundation cannot stand.”  It may be coarse of me to say that this rhythm section could “swing the dead,” but that is how I feel.  As an experiment in Rhythm, may I urge my readers to revisit the video they liked best — if they can make such hard choices — and listen hard, all through it, to The Groove that this foursome creates?  Better than a Master’s in Jazz Studies, I think.

The city that is home to such a band can’t be quite so damp and foreboding as popular myth would have it.  When the RCBB plays, the sun blazes.  A nice coat of sunscreen wouldn’t be a bad idea, either.

And there’s more!  Visit swr2408018 for more meteorological wonders.

P.S.  If I were in charge of a jazz festival, I would be tripping over myself in my eagerness to book this band . . . am I being sufficiently subtle?  Please consider it!

May your happiness increase.

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GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Six): THE UPTOWN LOWDOWN JAZZ BAND at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

Uptown and Lowdown . . . not only but also!  Recorded at the 2011 San Diego extravaganza on November 25, 2011.  Bert Barr, leader, cornet; Tom Jacobus, trombone; John Goodrich (on left), reeds; Paul Woltz, reeds; Rose Marie Barr, piano; Al Latourette, banjo; Paul Hagglund, tuba; Sue Fischer, drums.

The band has a diversified repertoire — and to prove it, here’s BOMBAY:

And how about a brisk BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA that begins with an adept exposition of the melody by Paul Hagglund:

Paul Woltz gives the rather vindictive lyrics of GO BACK TO WHERE YOU STAYED LAST NIGHT a very cheerful reading:

Finally, here’s the theme song for all the eager videographers (including myself) in the JAZZ LIVES audience, I MUST HAVE IT — a performance that has special pleasures in Paul’s bass sax solo and the muted cornet / tuba duet:

As always, thanks to Paul Daspit, who assembled these sets into a very rewarding weekend.  More of the same to our own “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, whose reverence for the music comes through in her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

GRATITUDE IN 4/4: THE 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING JAZZ FESTIVAL: TIM LAUGHLIN – CONNIE JONES NEW ORLEANS ALL STARS, Part One (with thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

It’s a long title, but the music and the experience justify it.

The 2011 San Diego Dixieland Jazz Festival combined a number of “firsts” for me — my first time at this rollicking festival, my first visit to San Diego, first meetings with many lovely people (Justin, Brandon, and Yvonne Au; Susie Miyata; Janie McCue and Kevin Lynch; Allene Harding, Paul Woltz, Sue Fischer, Stephanie Trick, and two dozen more) . . . .

And then there was the gloriously familiar: Connie Jones, Tim Laughlin, Bob Havens, Hal Smith, Chris Dawson, Katie Cavera, Jeff Hamilton, Clint Baker, Carl Sonny Leyland, Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Ralf and John Reynolds — reasons to be happily jet-lagged both coming and going.

Because of Paul Daspit and his friends, the festival was a happy and musical place no matter where you turned; things ran efficiently without pressure; the audiences listened intently to the music, and the musicians soared.

I would have been presenting JAZZ LIVES with more than a hundred videos — except for the combined forces of accident, gravity, and hubris, which I have detailed elsewhere — so I turned to one of my dear friends who also happens to be the Uncrowned Queen of Bay Area Jazz — which extends down to San Diego and up to Olympia, Washington, but who’s worrying about such details?

You will know Rae Ann Berry from her two thousand-plus videos on YouTube (as “SFRaeAnn”) and her twenty-five years of vigorous advocacy of the music and musicians she loves.  She maintains an up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and you can visit her YouTube channel here.

So with thanks to all concerned both behind and in front of the camera, let me offer a short — but exciting — tour of the 2011 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland frolic, beginning with four songs from a set recorded on November 25, 2011, by Tim Laughlin’s All-Stars: Tim, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Marty Eggers, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; Hal Smith, drums.

I won’t praise individual solos or the way the band sounds as a unit — but everything is precisely where it ought to be, and all the parts are in balance, with each player offering a beautiful tone combined with deep intensity.  At times I thought of the finest recordings of Eddie Condon, the Teddy Wilson small groups, the Vanguard recordings of the early Fifties, nicely seasoned — but this band is no spinning disc or mp3: it’s being created right in front of us.

PALESTEENA:

SUGAR (with a charming vocal from Connie):

WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

and an utterly rocking WANG WANG BLUES:

More to come!

I JUST FLEW IN FROM SAN DIEGO!

. . . and boy, are my arms tired!  But my ears are still full of wonderful music.  I don’t mean “San Diego” as a city, but the 32nd annual San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival, which began for me on last Thursday night and continued into the middle of Sunday afternoon.

Festivals and parties take on the personalities of their organizers, and this one benefited so much from Paul Daspit, who stepped in after the death of the much-loved trombonist Alan Adams.  Paul is tall, soft-spoken, carefully-dressed, usually sporting a nifty hat (no beanie with a propeller for this gent), and his demeanor is both calm and amused.  Even when he was dealing with a series of flooded hotel rooms, he seemed to know that getting all flurried would do him — and us — no good.  So it was a great delight to see Paul come in, savor the music with a quiet smile on his face, and move on to something else.  His generosity of spirit made it possible for me to attend, for the musicians to play their best.  By the way, when I asked Paul about this, he said he was only carrying on Alan’s philosophy: to establish a space where everyone would be so comfortable and easy that the music would flow out and around everyone.

And it did.  I am a devoted follower of a few bands — my heroes are the Reynolds Brothers and the Tim Laughlin-Connie Jones All-Stars, the Yerba Buena Stompers, High Sierra, as well as the individual musicians Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Sue Fischer, Bryan Shaw, Dawn Lambeth, Hal Smith, Carl Sonny Leyland, Marty Eggers, Kevin Dorn, Marc Caparone, the amazing Paul Woltz, and a dozen others . . . but I looked at the schedule more than a dozen times and figured that if I had been able to see all the sets I’d wanted to, the number would have been more than fifty . . . not possible for one person.  Because the festival was unashamedly a cornucopia, with six or more bands playing at once in different venues, I would have had to be willing to run from the middle of one set to the middle of another, which I wasn’t willing to do.

Too many highlights, and I won’t list them here for fear of leaving something out that was good, better, best.  I think I liked the surprises, though: being outside the main building, coming back from dinner, and hearing a band — it turned out to be Grand Dominion — and recognizing, “My goodness!  That’s Clint Baker — on trumpet — beating out JOE LOUIS STOMP!”  Or, again, hearing music from afar of a small group, around 9 AM, working its way through MUSKRAT RAMBLE — with an absolutely spine-tingling trombone solo . . . none other than tne Saint of Dixieland, Uncle Howie Miyata, playing that thing.  I also had my spirits lifted by people who don’t play instruments, at least not professionally: Jane Lynch and husband Kevin; Allene Harding; Frank Selman; Susie Miyata, Yvonne and Bill Au, Brandon and Justin of the same lineage.  I got to sit between Jane, Laurie Whitlock, and Carol Andersen . . . fun times in SoCal!

I’ll be posting my videos in a few weeks (I have Whitley Bay to share with you) but would point out that my newly-mobile West Coast doppelganger Rae Ann Berry had her video camera, her tripod, and many batteries . . . and she’s already posted a great many videos which would warm the coldest day.

But I’ll just say that there was a Reynolds-Brothers-plus jam session on Saturday night . . . where fourteen musicians got onto a tiny bandstand to wail — and I don’t use that word lightly — on MY LITTLE BIMBO and DIGA DIGA DOO.  You could hear the angels stomping.

More to come . . . . but I have already made a mental space for Thanksgiving 2012.

HARLEM MAD: GLENN CRYTZER AND HIS SYNCOPATORS

The stuff is here and it’s mellow!

Many jazz musicans present themselves not only as players but as composers, with varying results. 

Seattle-based Glenn Crytzer — guitarist, banjoist, singer — is one of those rare creative beings who beautifully fills both roles.  The evidence is on YouTube, and most recently on a new small-band CD, HARLEM MAD, which presents twenty (count ’em) originals by Glenn, with star turns by Meschiya Lake, Solomon Douglas, and Ray Skjelbred. 

Instead of brooding “compositions” that serve only as jumping-off places for long solos, or thirty-two bar borrowings that take their A section from something familiar and their B from something even more so, Glenn’s songs have real shape and authenticity. 

On HARLEM MAD, you’ll hear a broad variety of performances that could be taken from the archives — unissued takes and masters from 1926 to 1949, from Glenn’s own take on rough-hewn South Side Chicago of the Twenties (Jelly Roll Morton, Jimmy Bertrand) to cheerfully lopsided jump tunes that nod to Monk as well as Jacquet and Byas. 

And there are vocals as well — for the justly-praised Meschiya Lake, who comes through on this CD as a fully-developed star personality, whether moaning the blues or suggesting that we get rhythm and jump with her.  The songs romp, groove, and moan — there are paeans to getting frisky on the dance floor, as well as heartbroken blues and naughty laments about making love to the wrong woman in the dark . . . all genres are more than adequately spoken for!’

I thought of Rod Serling — a jazz fan wanders into a diner where he’s never been, in an unidentified time and place.  The coffee is hot; the apple pie is fine . . . . and the jukebox needs no coins and plays one wildly appealing yet unfamiliar song after another . . .  But this isn’t the Twilight Zone, and HARLEM MAD isn’t a science-fiction dreamlike artifact.  

Here are Glenn, Meschiya, and the Syncopators performing one of Glenn’s originals from HARLEM MAD, NEW YEAR BLUES.  (And, yes, who could mistake the trumpet player in the clip?  That’s our own Bria Skonberg.):

And TEN ‘TIL FIVE, which suggests both the 1941 Goodman Sextet with Charlie Christian and one of the Minton’s sessions recorded that same year by Jerry Newman:

See what I mean?  The compositions on HARLEM MAD are the title song / TEN ‘TIL FIVE / YOU DON’T SAY / WITCHING HOUR BLUES / FORTUNATE LOVE / BARNEY’S BOUNCE / PAYIN’ NO MIND / CENTURY STOMPS / NEW YEAR BLUES / WALLINGFORD WIGGLES / I GOT NOTHIN’ / LAZY / THE CLAWJAMMER / MR. RHYTHM / FUMBLIN’ AROUND / THE DEPRIVATION BLUES / RAINIER VALLEY RHYTHM / PARC ON SUMMIT / THE BEAVER BUMP / NICE AND SLOE. 

The multi-talented musicians on the CD are Steve Mostovoy, trumpet / cornet; Dave Loomis, trombone; Craig Flory, clarinet / tenor; Paul Woltz, alto / brass bass; Ray Skjelbred or Solomon Douglas, piano; Glenn Crytzer, guitar / banjo / vocal; Dave Brown or Matt Weiner, string bass; Mike Daugherty, drums / washboard; Meschiya Lake, vocals. 

It’s not nice to tease people, but if you’re feeling whimsical when one of your jazz pals is visiting, you might pick a track from this CD and put it on, unannounced and unidentified . . . when the eyebrows go up and the friend wants to know exactly what that music (newly encountered) is, see how far you can go with a straight face, “Oh, that’s an unissued 1930 Champion by an otherwise unknown Chicago band,” or “That’s something they dug out of the Savoy vaults from 1947.  Like it?” 

Glenn  Crytzer and the Syncopators are just that good, just that swinging. 

There’s a great interview with Glenn at SWUNGOVER: http://swungover.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/interview-with-glenn-crytzer-of-the-syncopators/

and for more information about HARLEM MAD, visit Glenn’s website: http://www.syncopators.com.  Mellow indeed.

TRULY WONDERFUL: THE RAIN CITY BLUE BLOWERS (May 7, 2011)

The post’s title isn’t hyperbole.  A friend sent me a few YouTube videos of this new band — holding forth on May 7, 2011, at the Bellingham Jazz Club (in Washington State).

I got through about fifteen seconds of the first clip before becoming so elated that I stopped the clip to make a few phone calls . . . their import being “You HAVE to see this band!  You won’t believe how wonderful they are!”

For a change, let’s begin with the rhythm section.  You can barely see Candace Brown, but you can hear her firm, flexible pulse — she’s playing a Thirties National steel guitar.  On her left is her husband Dave on string bass — strong yet fluid.  Closer to the camera is that monument of unaging swing, Ray Skjelbred on piano — the hero of the steady, varied left-hand and the splashing, striding right hand.  (His right hand knows what his left is doing: no worries!)  The front line is a mere duo but with multiple personalities — great for Jimmie Noone / Doc Poston ecstasies — of two gifted multi-instrumentalists.  On the left is Steve Wright — cornet, clarinet, soprano sax, vocal; to his right is Paul Woltz, bass, alto, soprano, tenor sax, and vocal.  Their repertoire moves from New Orleans / ancient pop classics to Bix and Tram to Condonite romps with a special emphasis on Noone’s Apex Club.

You’ll hear for yourself.  I began with MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (homage to Bing and to Cutty Cutshall, who called this tune MAHONEY’S . . . . ):

Pee Wee Russell had a girlfriend named Lola (this would have been in the late Twenties and onwards, before Mary came along); legend has it that Lola was violently jealous and when she got angry at Pee Wee, she’d take a big scissors and cut his clothes to bits.  The Mound City Blue Blowers (with Coleman Hawkins and Glenn Miller) recorded a wonderful song and called it HELLO LOLA — were they glad to see her or merely placating her, hoping she hadn’t brought her scissors along?  We’ll never know, but this version of HELLO, LOLA (with comma) has no sharp edges — at least none that would do anyone harm:

The young man from Davenport — forever young in our imaginations — is loved so intensely that the RCBB offer two evocations of his music.  Young Bix Beiderbecke is on everyone’s mind for a romping IDOLIZING (memories of those Goldkette Victors):

And we think of Bix at the end of his particular road — with I’LL BE A FRIEND (WITH PLEASURE):

Now do you understand why I find these performances so enlivening?  This band has tempo and swing, heart and soul, rhythm in its nursery rhymes!  Seriously — what lovely rocking ocean-motion, heartfelt soloing and ensemble playing.  This band knows and plays the verse and the tempos chosen are just right.  And that beat!

I want Ralph Peer or Tommy Rockwell to hear the RCBB and I want them to be under contract to Victor or OKeh right this minute!  I would invite John Hammond to hear them, but John tends to meddle so – – – he’d want to replace half the band with people he liked better.  And I can’t think of people I would prefer . . .

How about two more selections?

This one’s for Mister Strong — his composition, you know! It’s MUSKRAT RAMBLE at the nice Hot Five tempo:

And just for fun (and because Red McKenzie sang it so wonderfully), the DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL — with the verse:

By day and by profession, I am an academic — which explains the didactic streak in my character — but this is a suggestion aiming my readers towards happiness rather than a graded assignment.  You might want to consider visiting Steve Wright’s YouTube channel — “” and indulging yourself in the other performances by this band.  How about SWEET SUE, EVERY EVENING, KING JOE, ONE HOUR, STACK O’LEE, CHANGES MADE, GEORGIA CABIN, LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART, and I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY.

Multi-instrumentalist Steve Wright told me this about the band’s instant creation, gestation-while-you-wait:

“We pulled this together in a hurry.  Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Band was originally booked, but Chris got a call for some work in Europe and gave the gig to Dave and Candace (who play with him in Silver Leaf).  I play occasionally with the three of them in Candace’s Combo De Luxe, so I was looped in, and then we decided to pull in a second horn player (Paul) and Ray on piano.  I pulled together some leadsheets and two-reed arrangements from previous bands, and off we went.  Even the name was a rush job: I got a call from the Bellingham folks needing a band name for their publicity, and an hour to figure something out. Since I was already planning to use some Red McKenzie material from the First Thursday book (Hello Lola, for example), I thought of taking off from the Mound City Blue Blowers.”

Now . . . suppose the names of these players are new to you?  Ray Skjelbred has his own website — go there and feel good!

http://www.rayskjelbred.com/

— but Wright, Woltz, and the Browns might be less familiar to you.  Don’t fret.  Here are some facts for the factually-minded.

DAVE BROWN began his musical career decades ago, on banjo and guitar, later expanding his impressive talents to string bass.  He lays down solid rhythm with an energetic style influenced by Steve Brown and Pops Foster. Dave’s credits include membership in the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band, Stumptown, Louisiana Joymakers, Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Jazz Band, Combo de Luxe, Glenn Crytzer’s Syncopators, Ray Skjelbred’s First Thursday Band, Gerry Green’s Crescent City Shakers and others.  Many West Coast bands call Brown for gigs, including Simon Stribling’s New Orleans Ale Stars, Red Beans and Rice, Vancouver Classic, Solomon Douglas Sextet, and Jonathan Stout’s Campus Five.  Over the years he has appeared at national and international jazz festivals and has been privileged to play alongside jazz greats “Doc” Cheatham, Spiegle Willcox, Jim Goodwin, and others.

STEVE WRIGHT has been a sparkplug of many fine bands, including the Paramount Jazz of Boston, the Happy Feet Dance Orchestra, the Stomp Off “studio” band (The Back Bay Ramblers).  He’s even substituted a few times with the Black Eagles on clarinet.  After moving to Seattle in 1995, he  joined the Evergreen Jazz Band as a second reed player and then moved to mostly playing cornet as personnel changed.  In the last few years, he’s played a great deal with Candace’s and Ray’s bands, as well as with a local Lu Watters-style two-cornet band, Hume Street Jazz Band.

CANDACE BROWN is one-half of the Jazzstrings duo with husband Dave, Combo de Luxe, Louisiana Joymakers, and she has subbed in many other bands (including Simon Stribling’s Ale Stars and Mighty Aphrodite) as well as playing in the pit orchestra for musical theater. Candace has been heard at a number of festivals including the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, on an Alaskan jazz cruise, at several jazz society concerts, and in July of 2007 she was a member of the pit orchestra for a production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.”  Candace is also a splendid writer — if you haven’t read her inspiring blog, GOOD LIFE NORTHWEST, you’re missing out on deep pleasure:  http://goodlifenw.blogspot.com/

PAUL WOLTZ began playing music in his youth, in California.  He performed frequently at Disneyland for a decade, worked as a studio musician in Hollywood, and was a member of the Golden Eagle Jazz Band.  In the Seattle/Everett area, he is a member of the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band (with whom he has performed at countless jazz festivals and on jazz cruises) is principal bassoonist in the Cascade Symphony, occasionally performs with the 5th Ave Theater, and is called as a sub in numerous bands in the Puget Sound area and beyond — all over the United States and abroad.

TRULY WONDERFUL!