Tag Archives: Rae Ann Hopkins Berry

NINE BLOSSOMS ON THE BOUGH: RAY SKJELBRED, JACOB ZIMMERMAN, MATT WEINER IN CONCERT at KENYON HALL, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (April 20, 2019)

I’m thrilled that there are some people I know and hold dear who are doing what I do — documenting the jazz scene with video cameras and a respect for the music and musicians.  I may leave someone out, but first among them, Laura Wyman of Wyman Video and Eric Devine of CineDevine, and my esteemed California role model, Rae Ann Hopkins Berry.

To this list I now add the brilliant string bassist and very effective videographer Matt Weiner.  I’d heard and admired his playing on Jacob Zimmerman’s MORE OF THAT and I got to see him on video in a January 2019 performance here.  He may be mildly shocked by being the center of attention, but once you see the evidence you will understand why he deserves the bright lights and bouquets.

Going back a bit, I don’t recall seeing this announcement for a trio performance at Seattle’s Kenyon Hall:

My ignorance was all to the good, because I would have whined and sulked, “I can’t be there to hear or video this music.  How can they do this to me?” But Matt rescued me — and now you — from such dolorous utterances by not only recording nine selections by this wondrous trio but sending them to me, and thus to us.

Hence, delights.  If you don’t know the Masters here, Skjelbred and Zimmerman, you have fallen behind on your blog-homework and will be sent to blog-detention.  Matt is a noble member of this trio.  The videos below should unfold as a set of glories: lyrical, tender, hot, wise, and heartfelt.  A rare and lasting gift.

Blessings on these three fellows.  And gratitude.

May your happiness increase!

PAINTED LIPS, PAINTED EYES

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

One more from this delicious band — Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs — on their 2015 West Coast Tour.  I posted a life-affirming (no, life-improving) selection from their July 9, 2015 concert at the Rossmoor Jazz Club here, and you could do worse than watch it again.

This delight  — again thanks to SFRaeAnn  (who is known to the law as Rae Ann Hopkins Berry) — comes from the very next night, when Ray and his Cubs performed at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, California. For those who haven’t kept up, the band is Ray Skjelbred, piano / vocal; Kim Cusack, clarinet / vocal; Katie Cavera, guitar / vocal; Clint Baker, string bass / vocal; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

(About Cafe Borrone, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, were I there, I would be there.)

I pointed out in my previous post how much I enjoy Kim Cusack’s singing. Perhaps to the uninitiated, he sounds a little like a character in a good Warner Brothers film circa 1933, his phrases clipped, his delivery conversational (a useful corrective to so many singers orally swooning over their own long vowel movements).  But listen closely to how he lingers over a note here and a note there, how he swings, how he delivers the goods.

I belong to a small select group of people who not only delight in Kim’s singing, but who treasure his elongation of certain sounds, especially in this case — at the end of the chorus, what he often does to NOW, stretching it out so that it reminds me of the annoyed comment of a Siamese cat whose imperial will is being disregarded.  On this July 10 performance, it’s a little less cheerfully caustic than usual, but perhaps this was the last tune before a break and everyone was thinking of dinner.

I also adore — and I will stop shortly — his final hand gesture, amused yet charming: “Ladies, don’t rush the band.  Don’t knock me off my stool.  Form a single line and don’t push.  Thank you, my people!”

AND THE BAND ITSELF.  Swing made lucent and portable — the music stand on Ray’s keyboard was not the only thing rocking, I know.  The ripe-peach rhythm wave of Clint and Katie, and the beautifully melodic waves of sound that Jeff creates.

If you’re not smiling, I urge you — as a healing practitioner — to play the video again until it has its proper palliative effect.

May your happiness increase!

EXPANDING THE COMMUNITY, or WELCOME, KELLEY!

I think of the small group of people who are so devoted to jazz that they become video archivists as a dear community.  None of this “standing on the shoulders of giants” for me, because my balance is not so good when I am standing in that way.  Merely envisioning this gives me vertigo.

No, my image is a small circle of people holding hands, close enough to look in each others’ eyes and grin, proud of their own work and happy that others are doing it as well.  Here are a few friends I know personally, who have done so much to make the music accessible to people who can’t be everywhere.

My first role model was — and continues to be — the diligent Rae Ann Hopkins Berry, the reigning monarch of California Hot.  Since March 2008, she’s kept up a steady flow of videos on her YouTube channel.  I was inspired by her and continue to be so, even though I am no longer in California.  The people I first thought as the dear heroes of music I saw on her videos.

I started videoing on YouTube a bit later, and my first videos were of David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band / Louis Armstrong Centennial Band / Louis Armstrong Eternity Band in October 2008.  And I upload while you are sleeping, often while I, too, am sleeping.

New friends and videographers came along.  Eric Devine, the master of multiple cameras, who’s known as CineDevine, creates very polished videos at concerts, parties, and festivals from New England to Florida.  He started in 2008, too, although we continue to have an older brother – younger brother relationship when we talk shop.

A few years later, the Michigander flautist and friend of jazz Laura Beth Wyman set up shop in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area, and has provided JAZZ LIVES with so many gorgeous videos of Professor James Dapogny and friends that she was asked to be the Chief of the Michigan Bureau, a task she accepted with great grace.

The newest member of the hand-holding video community is very welcome: her name is Kelley Rand and although her first videos have only shown up on Facebook about a week ago, her work is astonishing.  For one thing, she is getting splendid results with her iPhone (which means that, unlike me, she is not carrying an eighteen-pound knapsack of cameras) and she has made about a half-dozen astonishing videos in New Orleans.  Several feature the ever-astonishing Dick Hyman and the melodic wonder Tim Laughlin in duet: WHO’S SORRY NOW, ONE HOUR, A NIGHTINGALE SANG IN BERKELEY SQUARE, and Hyman solos on JITTERBUG WALTZ and S’WONDERFUL.  She’s also captured Tim and the brilliant young pianist Kris Tokarski in performance at the Bombay Club: IF DREAMS COME TRUE, LOVE NEST, OH DADDY BLUES, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE.

Since I am in New Orleans once a year, so far, at most, I have appointed her the Chief of the Louisiana Bureau.  She will only find this out when she reads this far, and I hope she agrees.  The health benefits are not delineated in any contract: they simply mean that more people will get to know her, thank her, and appreciate her diligence and generosities.

The nicest part of all this is that we all respect each other, make subtle courteous agreements not to step on each others’ turf, get in each others’ shots, and so on. We are united in the name of MUSIC, and the deep notion that as many people should get to enjoy it as possible.  And we capture the evanescent and make it tangible, even eternal.

And — as an afterthought — I know there are many people videoing at clubs and concerts around the world, and I mean them no offense by not including them here.  But these four people are dear to me, and I am proud to know them.

May your happiness increase!

KATIE AND FRIENDS PLAY FATS AND FRIENDS! (KATIE CAVERA, CHRIS CALABRESE, MARC CAPARONE, CLINT BAKER, SAM ROCHA): Hot Jazz Jubilee, August 30, 2014)

FATS 1939 Howard Theatre Shep Allen Scurlock Studio

Fats Waller created joy.

In the 1939 photograph, he is with his manager Shep Allen at the Howard Theatre: credit to Scurlock Studios and thanks to Chuck Slate.

Although Fats has been elsewhere for almost sixty-five years, he continues to inspire. One example is this sweetly energetic session recorded by the ubiquitous, diligent Rae Ann Berry (all hail!  all hail!) at the second annual Hot Jazz Jubilee in Rancho Cordova, California.

This energized band — titled JUST KATIE AND FRIENDS — was, for this wonderful gathering, our Miss Cavera, guitar, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet, vocal; Clint Baker, trombone, clarinet, vocal; Chris Calabrese, piano; Sam Rocha, string bass, vocal.

Their repertoire for this set was primarily Fats — songs composed / featured by him — as well as by fellow pianists Claude Hopkins and Earl Hines. A ringer, WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, is by Irving Berlin — but both Fats and the Paul Whiteman band recorded it.

Notice that JK&F doesn’t aim to reproduce the Waller-Autrey-Sedric-Casey ambiance; there is a welcome absence of “Wallerisms,” either in rapid tempos or shouts by the ensemble. Chris Calabrese, bless him, can hold his own in any stride session, so the relaxed approach is everyone’s choice.

What you will experience is a congenial group of swinging pals, and you might hear echoes of Henry “Red” Allen, Mouse Randolph, J.C. Higginbotham, Al Morgan, Carmen Mastren, James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Count Basie, the Rhythmakers — an aesthetic roundtrip between 1936 and 2014 — but the individual resonances and loving nods coalesce into a joyous whole.

THAT RHYTHM MAN:

HOW CAN YOU FACE ME? (with Katie’s rather plaintive inquiry):

FAIR AND SQUARE (in memory of Lueder Ohlwein and the Sunset Music Company as well as Fats, with an egalitarian vocal by Marc):

UNTIL THE REAL THING COMES ALONG:

LONESOME ME (a feature for the extremely talented Mr. Calabrese):

WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD (with hopeful vocalizing by Clint):

ROSETTA (sung by our Sam, with echoes of THE SOUND OF JAZZ):

BABY BROWN (by Alex Hill, who is reputedly the true composer of the next tune as well):

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, an earnest assertion from Clint:

Fats gave us everything he had, and we are still smiling at what (Just) Katie and Friends have made from his inspirations.

We don’t have to wait for The Real Thing To Come Along. Surely it’s here.

Ms. Berry is essential to our edification, for here  is her regularly-updated list of San Francisco / Bay Area hot jazz attractions; here  is her YouTube channel, where she has nearly a thousand subscribers (she’s been posting videos since March 2008).

And she’s had a direct influence on my life, because I saw all there was to see of hot California jazz through her efforts, and you know the rest.  She’s also on Facebook, displaying the same energies as her improvising heroes.

May your happiness increase!