Tag Archives: Randy Napoleon

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!

FUN FOR ALL AGES: DANNY COOTS PLUS TEN at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 26, 2014)

Large groupings of musicians on the stand of a jazz  party look impressive but they don’t always come off as well as they might.

But this one was even better than the best I could have imagined — genial, melodic, and always inspired: led by Danny Coots, drums; with Paul Keller, string bass; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes; Dan Block, tenor sax; Allan Vache, clarinet; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Ed Polcer, cornet; Bria Skonberg, trumpet. All this delightful music was created at the 15th Atlanta Jazz Party, late in the evening of April 26, 2014.

The set began with a romping version of PANAMA, but my camera betrayed me. (Note to self: never change batteries in midstream.) So you will have to imagine it. But what followed was even better, WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

After the comedy by Allan Vache, Dan Barrett, and Danny himself, we move into a deeply satisfying series of “conversations,” starting with the two trombones.  If you want to go back into recorded history, this device reminds me of Red Nichols sessions where Jack Teagarden played a “hot” chorus while Glenn Miller played the melody sweetly — a delicious simultaneous mixing of tastes.  (I also recall, since Ed Polcer was on this session, nights at the last Eddie Condon’s where Ed and Ruby Braff would switch off — melody and improvisation — for a few choruses, always very inspiring.)  The device also solves the unstated problem — if each of the soloists takes the traditional two choruses, performances stretch out to amazing lengths.  This DREAM is about five minutes of music, but it feels filled to the very brim with melody and swing that floats through the conversations of Ed and Bria, of Dan and Allan (over the rhythm section’s rocking two-beat) — followed by sweet epistles by Randy, Rossano, Paul, and then the tidy but never constricted ensemble — a model of letting everyone have his / her say in a flexible, compact fashion.

I think everyone on the stand was elated by what they had created, and I know the audience was joyful.  Danny then (after more comedy) called for MY BABY JUST CARES FOR ME (another “ancient” pop tune that is rarely played — and if it is, not at this walking tempo) that reminds me of the best swing sessions I’ve ever heard, playful improvisation never flagging:

What could top that?  Well, nothing — but adding Rebecca Kilgore to the band to sing some Anita O’Day – Gene Krupa blues, DRUM BOOGIE / BOOGIE BLUES, which is closely related to SENT FOR YOU YESTERDAY, but we’ll let people who care about provenance argue over that.  Me, I simply love to hear Ms. Kilgore sing — and over this sweetly-Basie group, it is a treat:

Couldn’t be better. And I think it’s relevant to mention that another version of all this good feeling and good sounds will be taking place in April 2015.  I’ll be at the Atlanta Jazz Party (April 17-19) as will many of the brilliant players you see here — with some surprises.  Make plans!

May your happiness increase!

ROMBERG IN RHYTHM: A SWING INTERLUDE FROM THE 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 27, 2014): DANNY COOTS, ED POLCER, BRIA SKONBERG, DAN BARRETT, BOB HAVENS, ALLAN VACHE, DAN BLOCK, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, RANDY NAPOLEON, PAUL KELLER

I am still smiling because of the music I heard and the good feelings it engendered at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

If you were there, you need no convincing; if you weren’t able to attend, here is a soul-stirring example of the great jazz created consistently over the weekend.

This song (as explained by witty leader, drummer Danny Coots) is WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM.  Danny was in front of a group of serious individualists: Ed Polcer, cornet; Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass.

Now, that lineup glistens all by itself. But some JAZZ LIVES readers, veterans of jazz parties now and then, might expect what a musician I know calls, sadly, “jazz party jazz”: a session that features everyone taking two choruses after a single-chorus ensemble.  Competent playing, always, but long, formulaic solos.

The musicians at the AJP seemed exceedingly happy to be there, and their improvisations were delightfully on target, cheerful, inspiring. Listen for that often-forgotten device, the split chorus, where A plays the first half and B the second, or A plays everything but the bridge, leaving those harmonically fast-moving eight bars to B. Here, you’ll also note the musicians happily creating impromptu duets and conversations: lively and enlightening.

Some of the credit for this goes to our Mister Coots, but much of it comes from the musicians’ ingenuity and pleasure at being onstage at the AJP.

See and hear for yourself:

With deferential apologies to lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, you never grow too old to dream when music like that is being made! What a wonderful time we had!

The 26th Atlanta Jazz Party will take place on April 17-19, 2015. Thanks to Pualani and Philip Carroll for such a great party.

May your happiness increase!

LUCKY TO BE THERE: THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY NEARS! (April 25-27, 2014)

April is a-coming in, and so is the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.

I offer a beautiful interlude, recorded at the 2012 AJP, of Rossano Sportiello tenderly playing Leonard Bernstein — as a soundtrack while you read more.

At the Atlanta Jazz Party, good music flourishes over the course of a weekend. All the elements are in place before a note sounds: comfort, friendliness, ease, variety.  A well-lit room, good sound, good sight lines, easy access to high-quality food and drink in a clean, hospitable hotel.  Each player or singer gets to lead at least one set, and the stylistic range goes back to King Oliver and forward to the present day, with pleasing stops for up-tempo romps and pretty ballads.

This is the AJP’s twenty-fifth anniversary, proof that they understand the fine art of pleasing both patrons and musicians. I’ve joined the Party twice and found it a banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook page for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party are once again enthusiastic, swinging, and surprising:

Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

You can look forward to thirty sets of beautifully-conceived jazz: ballads, New Orleans, mainstream, small-band swing, offered in four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday afternoon. Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians. More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North) is exceedingly comfortable: it is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

JUST PEACHY: THE 2014 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY

I’m in the mood for the Atlanta Jazz Party, and it’s coming up — April 25 through 27, 2014.  Here’s the appropriate song from the 2012 Party (played by Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Richard Simon, and Ed Metz):

The Atlanta Jazz Party promises — and delivers — delightful music over the course of a weekend.  I’ll name the esteemed musicians in a few lines, but I want to say something about what goes on above and beyond.

A jazz party is more than a series of performances: for the party to satisfy, the patrons and musicians must be happy and comfortable.  The patrons need variety, comfortable seating, a well-lit room, good sound, good sight lines, easy access to high-quality food and drink in a clean, hospitable hotel.  The AJP provides all of this with great style. And as for the music: the musicians are not tied down by restrictions; each player or singer gets to lead at least one set, and the stylistic range goes back to CHIMES BLUES or KEEP OFF THE GRASS up to ANTHROPOLOGY or SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, with surprising digressions along the way.

This is the AJP’s twenty-fifth anniversary, so you know they understand the fine arts of pleasing both patrons and musicians.

I’ve joined the Party twice and found it a banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook site for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party (as always) are professionals, enthusiastic, swinging, and surprising: Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

I anticipate thirty sets of beautifully-conceived jazz: ballads, New Orleans, mainstream, small-band swing, offered in four sessions: Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday afternoon. Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians.

More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North*) is exceedingly comfortable.

*The hotel is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

Here are two examples of uplifting jazz I recorded at the 2012 AJP.

STEALIN’ APPLES, performed by Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Chuck Redd:

Bucky, solo, tenderly considering TRES PALABRAS:

As I;ve said before, if you need tres palabras from me, they could be “Mark your calendars,” or “Make your reservations,” or “Don’t miss this.”

May your happiness increase!

COME CELEBRATE APRIL IN ATLANTA at THE ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 25-27, 2014)

During the weekend of April 25-27, 2014, the Atlanta Jazz Party will celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary.  I’ve joined the Party twice and it was an extravagant banquet each time, supervised with generosity and common sense by Pualani and Philip Carroll.

Details! Here is  the Facebook site for the AJP.

The musicians at this year’s Party (as always) are a wonderful bunch, linked by a common urge to swing, to surprise us with new melodies, to play sweet, to get us all excited with the music: Ed Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, cornet / trumpet and an occasional vocal; Allan Vaché, Dan Block, reeds; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibes, piano, vocal; Freddy Cole, vocal, piano; Randy Napoleon, Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Frank Tate, Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz Jr., Danny Coots, drums; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

The music is beautifully conceived, with something for everyone: pretty ballads, rocking New Orleans, hot Goodman-style small groups; timeless Mainstream. And no one will go away hungry for music: I counted thirty sets in four sessions (Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday) Guarantors and Patrons get to attend all four sessions plus the exclusive Saturday morning jazz brunch just for patrons, guarantors and musicians.

More details can be found at the AJP site. You can sign up for a single session or for all four.  The hotel (the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North*) is exceedingly comfortable; the ballroom is also, with good sight lines and nice sound.  There is a pleasing democracy at work here: everyone gets to lead a session, and the results are nicely situated between Old Favorites and New Surprises.

*The hotel is located at 7 Concourse Pkwy. NE, Sandy Springs, Georgia, 30328 — about thirty minutes from downtown Atlanta. Be sure to mention the Party for the best room rate! Click here to reserve rooms.

Here are two examples of uplifting jazz I recorded at the 2012 AJP.

STEALIN’ APPLES, performed by Allan Vache, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Chuck Redd:

Bucky, solo, tenderly considering TRES PALABRAS:

If you need tres palabras from me, they could be “Mark your calendars,” or “Make your reservations,” or “Don’t miss this.”

May your happiness increase!

HILARY GARDNER SINGS: “THE GREAT CITY”

The-Great-City

In a city full of stirring, individualistic jazz singers, I invite you to welcome Hilary Gardner to the great stage.

This isn’t to presume her a new discovery — hardly!  But her debut CD is powerful, vivid, and emotionally varied.

She can sing, in short.

If you go immediately here (her homepage), two things will catch your attention.  One is the praise of Hilary written by Twyla Tharp — someone who knows music deeply.  The other is the sound of Hilary singing AUTUMN IN NEW YORK.

Delve a little deeper into her homepage (click on “music”) and you can hear more.

What I hear in THE GREAT CITY is a singer in full command of her lovely vocal instrument.  Hilary has a mature awareness of the bonding and bending that goes on between singer, melody, and words.  She offers us no melodrama, no vocal acrobatics; she honors the notes and the syllables, but she is not constrained by them.

She has chosen to retell the stories that the songs embody, each song a different story.  I hear an elegant restraint lit from within by feeling and understanding.  Hilary is wise enough to let the song carry her, wise enough to have absorbed great singers and instrumentalists, but especially wise enough to be herself.  No Billie, no Betty, no Sarah, no . . . .

The CD is a ripe pleasure — each track its own vignette, so the listener never feels bored by sameness or startled by rough jumps of subject and mood.  Hilary’s range is broad: there are the beautiful AUTUMN IN NEW YORK (verse and two choruses), WHEN THE WORLD WAS YOUNG, a jaunty BROOKLYN BRIDGE, and a swaying YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS.

But her imagination doesn’t limit itself to “the Classics of the Great American Songbook,” and she reaches for Leonard Cohen, Nellie McKay, Tom Waits, and Joni Mitchell, making this CD an appealing anthology of short tales.

Hilary also has a deep awareness of the music’s foundations — without turning the disc into a repertory project.  So her accompanists (and I mean that in the best sense of the word) include Tatum Greenblatt, trumpet; Jason Marshall, tenor saxophone, Jon Cowherd, organ; Randy Napoleon, guitar; Elias Bailey, string bass; Jerome Jennings, drums, and the invaluable Ehud Asherie, piano.  Often the prevailing mood is neo-Basie.  Could that be wrong?

It’s a wonderful debut from an artist who offers us a great deal.  And I predict she will continue to delight us.

If you live in the tri-state area, the news is even more exciting.  Hilary and Ehud will be performing in duet at Smalls (183 West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York) on Sunday, April 7, beginning at 7:30.  Details here.  I am looking forward to it . . . please leave a few seats for me in the front row!

May your happiness increase.