The jazz histories don’t tell us that jazz came up the river to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but it would have been more than delightfully plausible on the afternoon of Sunday, April 23, 2023, when the Pennsylvania Jazz Society put on a rewarding program at Congregation Beth Sholom in that city.
The Stars (or perhaps the Wise Men?) who came there were Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Arnt Arntzen, vocal, banjo, guitar; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium (or baritone horn); Vince Giordano, vocal, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone, lowboy cymbal.
I posted the first half-dozen performances from this session here. Delicious.
And here’s more!
Vince sings TAKE YOUR TOMORROW:
Berlin’s ALL BY MYSELF:
The Twenties roar again, with CRAZY RHYTHM:
WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM (I’ll have this band to remember):
For Bix, the ODJB, and Eddie, AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:
I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE, with our without BABY:
and finally (for this posting) a little educational interlude that I’ve titled (after Danny) SHOW AND TELL:
There will be a Part Three — just as lovely as this. Stay tuned. And thanks to the generous people of the Pennsylvania Jazz Society for making this happen.
Yes, the title of this post may seem a blasphemy. But it’s true.
On April 23, 2023, four musical stars came — thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society — to Congregation Brith Sholom on West Macada Road in, yes, Bethlehem Pennsylvania, and filled the room with lovely joyous sounds. They are Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Arnt Arntzen, vocal, banjo, guitar; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium (or baritone horn); Vince Giordano, vocal, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone, lowboy cymbal.
I caught all the sights and sounds in my video camera, and will share them with you in three installments. My hope is that you follow the pleasant activities of the Pennsylvania Jazz Society, and that you follow these eminent musicians.
Here are a half-dozen beauties.
AS LONG AS I LIVE:
LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME:
Arnt sings WHEN YOUR LOVER HAS GONE:
Randy’s feature, ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET:
And, to make a neat half-dozen, HAPPY FEET:
Unpretentious swinging music, whatever name you wish to hang on it (mostly the “Great American Songbook” treated with love and heat). And there will be more to come: watch this space.
I first heard the Louis Armstrong – Earl Hines duet on WEATHER BIRD about fifty years ago, and I write that as a point of pride, not as a marker of senescence. It is a marvel, and if you are unfamiliar with it, please take three minutes and hear it again on YouTube or whatever music-purveyor you use. We’ll wait. (There are at least ten versions on YouTube, one of them the 78 that was Mel Powell’s cherished copy.)
In the past decades, I’ve heard recreations of that recording, most notably the three-trumpet choir that Dick Hyman would assemble for this New York Jazz Repertory Company tributes to Louis. Once I saw them in person — Joe Newman, Pee Wee Erwin, and Mel Davis, with Hyman brilliantly playing Hines (November 4, 1974, Carnegie Hall, issued on an Atlantic Records lp called SATCHMO REVISITED). In 2020, Jerome Etcheberry’s SATCHMOCRACY performed it spectacularly on their first CD. (A second volume has just been issued, and you’ll hear more about it here soon.)
I also had the good fortune to be in the audience at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend, created by Joe Boughton, where pianist John Sheridan (also responsible for the transcription heard here) performed WEATHER BIRD with four brass masters: Randy Reinhart and Bob Barnard on cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso and Duke Heitger, trumpet. In 2007, Joe had not yet allowed me to bring my video camera, and he frowned upon recording by other people. So this is a surreptitious illicit bootleg (!) recording made with a digital recorder concealed in my jacket pocket. I trust listeners will forgive the occasional rustle of cloth or human sound. The music is worth it, I assure you.
The Pennsylvania Jazz Society will be presenting these four heroes in concert on Sunday, April 23, 2023, from 2 to 4:30, at Congregation Brith Sholom, 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18017. Admission is $15 for PJS members and first-timers; students always free. Cash and check, no credit cards. Snacks and beverages available.
Danny Tobias will bring his trumpet, Eb alto horn, and possibly his flugelhorn; Arnt Arntzen will bring his banjo and guitar and will sing; Vince Giordano will have his aluminum string bass and perhaps assorted instruments, and he may also be persuaded to sing . . . and they will bring an esteemed friend, Randy Reinhart, with trumpet and trombone.
It will be glorious. How do I know? Well, I’ve heard Danny, Randy, and Vince since 2004 and 2005; Arnt is a recent treasure but no less splendid. I don’t have evidence of this particular quartet, but you can extrapolate from the videos I offer here.
Arnt, Danny, and Vince have a working group — Arnie and his Rhythm — that performs in the tri-state area. I caught them at Giovanni’s Brooklyn Eats and brought back this lovely music.
This sunny multifaceted trio also has come out with its debut CD, so prepare yourself to go home with gifts that can be replayed many times.
Now, here’s Danny and Randy — at another PJS gig, with Mark Shane, Pat Mercuri, Joe Plowman, and Jim Lawlor. Great friends who complement each other so well:
TEA FOR TWO:
If you think you might have something better to do on Sunday, April 23, I leave you to your illusions. But you might want to reconsider.
“Mainstream,” not “trad,” “nor “Dixieland.” From the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party (September 19, 2014): two songs by Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums. It’s visually dark but the music blazes through. Lyrical, not hackneyed; Loesser and Carmichael, not Oliver or the ODJB. Abandon those categories and enjoy:
I’ve written elsewhere about the intense pleasures of the informal Thursday-night sessions at Jazz at Chautauqua. “Informal,” however, took on new meaning when the Emperor of Chautauqua, Joe Boughton, was involved and well: even in relaxed settings, he deplored the aimlessness sometimes prevalent at “jam sessions,” which would lead to his strongest aversion — musicians playing over-familiar repertoire. In my mind’s ear, I can hear Joe’s voice, although not on this, my sub rosa audio tape of one of several sets, and can envision him, a glass of Dewar’s in his hand, listening and observing with deep appreciation. As well he might . . .
Joe’s sterling idea was to have a quartet: trumpet, cornet, piano, drums — the sort of thing one might have heard at an after-hours session, but of course the intent was friendly rather than competitive, since Duke Heitger (trumpet) and Randy Reinhart (cornet) are allied in mutual admiration. Pete Siers rocked the room, as he always does, on the drums. And later Frank Tate set up his string bass and joined in. Yes, there are the usual extraneous noises (a few seconds of surrealistic “clapping along,” chatter, and some tubercular coughing) but if you were in the room you might have heard some of them.
I’m posting this now not only because it is both a wonderful memory and a wonderful experience, but in honor of the one musician who’s not around to enjoy the applause, the splendid pianist John Sheridan, who left us this year. He shines; he sparkles; he gets in no one’s way; he holds up the building by being his own multi-colored swing orchestra.
The songs are JAZZ ME BLUES / I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING / I FOUND A NEW BABY / A BRIEF ETUDE / JUST YOU, JUST ME:
Remembering that I was there is a great pleasure; being able to share this music with you is even greater.
They’re back! Direct from the Hellerstown Fire Department, thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society: Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb horn; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium; Mark Shane, piano; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums.
It was a lovely, friendly, swinging afternoon — and even if you have no idea how to get to Hellerstown, you can enjoy more of the inspired music. Thanks to Mike Kuehn, Pete Reichlin, and Joan Bauer for making us all feel so welcome.
Perhaps the most weighty interpersonal question, HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO?:
Danny and Mark honor Fats in this statement of faith, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES:
Time for the Horace Gerlach tribute, SWING THAT MUSIC:
Irving Berlin’s ALL BY MYSELF:
“They called her frivolous Sal,” immortalized in this classic, MY GAL SAL:
Something else from Indiana, WABASH BLUES, for Danny and Mark in duet:
Gather round, children, while Professor Shane explains THE POCKET . . . and then everyone plays COQUETTE:
Classic songs, played with expertise and feeling, by Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn; Jim Lawlor, drums; Mark Shane, piano; Randy Reinhart, trombone, euphonium; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; (guest) Mary Lou Newnam, tenor saxophone . . . thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society.
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (Randy) / BODY AND SOUL (Mary Lou) / MOOD INDIGO (Danny):
Charlie Shavers’ UNDECIDED:
ONE HOUR, or, for the pedantic among us, IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:
And a lovely swinging beverage, TEA FOR TWO, from which I draw my title:
A wonderfully rewarding afternoon . . . and you haven’t seen or heard all of it yet.
I was only fooling. No need to call 911 or hide the children. I’m celebrating the closing performance of Danny Tobias and the Safe Sextet at the Pennsylvania Jazz Society’s June 13, 2021 concert in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. The Safe Sextet is Danny, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Randy Reinhart, trombone and euphonium; Mark Shane, piano; Pat Mercuri, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums. And they play TIGER RAG — without devouring the song or the audience. This one’s for my friend / friend of the music Joan Bauer:
Anyway, should an escaped tiger have burst into the hall, we had our secret weapon / protector: Clyde Beauregard Redmile-Tobias, who would have pacified it with wags and licks:
More to come from this delightful afternoon, with no wild beasts in sight. (However, the photograph of the tiger caught my attention because of its lovely coat and shining teeth. Is there a Tiger Spa, and does this one floss?)
The reedman-raconteur Leroy “Sam” Parkins used to say that certain performers and performances “got” him “right in the gizzard.” I only know the gizzard from chickens, but I know what he meant: when a vocal or instrumental performance makes it hard to breathe because of an inrush of emotion. I feel that way when I hear Louis perform THAT’S MY HOME, or see the clip of Fred Astaire singing to soapily-coiffed Ginger Rogers THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT. Very quietly, I will begin to cry, because too much feeling is coursing through me.
WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS is a song I’ve had a long relationship with, through my early attachment to Bing Crosby, also because its optimistic lyrics suggest that travail is finite, that recovery is possible . . . if only we are able to envision a happier future. (I am also moved by Eddy Howard’s version where Bennie Morton caresses the melody as only he can.)
But when Danny Tobias looked at his song list last Sunday and called this as the next tune, I did not expect to be in tears. I was. I haven’t heard Jim Lawlor sing frequently enough to expect that he would “get” me as he did, but he did, as did everyone in this performance. Heartfelt, expert, plain, superb. Every note, every turn of phrase or nuance.
Lucky for me, I was sitting close to a doctor, who asked me if I was all right, and I could tearfully nod my head yes. See if you don’t feel emotions coursing through you. And I hope the performance reminds you that you might just “dream your troubles away”:
Dreams do come true, and the transformation from wish to reality can be expressed in music like this.
If you enjoyed this band — a silly rhetorical question, no? — there are more performances to be shared with you as well as this delicious plateful of sounds (where you can also learn more about the Pennsylvania Jazz Society and their upcoming jazz concerts):
I asked my friend, the most admired Danny Tobias, what he wanted the band name to be for me to write about the session and annotate the videos: quickly, he came up with what you see above. Just another reason to admire him!
This was glorious jazz on a Sunday afternoon: a wonderful post-pandemic concert sponsored by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society and presented in Hellertown, Pennsylvania, featuring Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn, Randy Reinhart, trombone and euphonium, Pat Mercuri, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Joe Plowman, string bass; Jim Lawlor, drums, vocal; Mary Lou Newnam, tenor saxophone (guest star).
Here are the first four selections from the concert. I apologize (as videographer) for giving Randy less than his due, visually, but he comes through loud and clear.
WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING:
What a delightful way to gather with the faithful and celebrate. You should know that the Safe Sextet has a mascot — Clyde Beauregard Redmile-Tobias, and he’s safe, too. In later videos, you will see a wagging tail bottom right: Mark Shane commented on what good time Clyde keeps. No surprise.
Future concerts for the Pennsylvania Jazz Society will be Sunday, July 25: Drew Nugent and the Midnight Society; September 12: Glenn Crytzer Quartet; October 10: Jazz Lobsters Big Band; November 21: Jam Session. All concerts are from 2-4:30 PM at the Dewey Hall, 502 Durham Street, Hellertown, Pennsylvania. Students may attend free; first-timers and PJS members pay $15; non-members, $20.
Here is their Facebook page; here is their webpage.
Immense thanks to Mike Kuehn, Joan Bauer, and Peter Reichlin of the PJS for their kindnesses.
I can’t speak for everyone, but the fourteen-month period after mid-March 2020 felt for me like a) being locked in the basement with very dim lighting; b) a dinner-theatre production of RIP VAN WINKLE; c) induced coma with meals, phone calls, and my computer; d) a long undefined stretch during which I could watch uplifting videos here; d) all of the above.
But I feel as if spiritual Reveille has sounded, and the way I know that is that live music has been more out-in-the-open than before. (I mean no offense to those gallant souls who swung out in the parks for months.) I’ve been to see and hear the EarRegulars three times in front of the Ear Inn on Sundays (1-3:30, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) and if the sun shines, I will be there this coming Sunday to say hello to heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, and Tal Ronen; I am going to the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 10, at 8 PM, to see Colin Hancock and his Red Hot Eight with Dan Levinson, Abanie Falletta, Arnt Arntzen, Vince Giordano, Mike Davis, Julian Johnson, and Troy Anderson (details here). On June 13 I am driving to Pennsylvania (thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society) to see and hear Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Joe Plowman, Pat Mercuri, and Jim Lawlor (details here).
And, one week later, June 17 — Evan Arntzen and Jon-Erik Kellso, with Dalton Ridenhour, Tal Ronen, and Mark McLean, playing music from the new Arntzen-Kellso dazzler, the CD COUNTERMELODY. Details here. Important, rewarding, exciting.
First, Bennie Moten’s 18th STREET STRUT:
and this, with the verse, no less:
Now, some words of encouragement. Some of you will understandably say, “I live too far away, the pandemic is not over, and Michael will go there in my stead and bring his video camera.” Some of that is true, although I am taking a busman’s holiday and do not expect to video Evan’s concert, for contractual reasons. (And even Michael knows, although he does not wallow in this truth, that a video is not the same thing as being there.)
I know it’s tactless to write these words, but wouldn’t you like to experience some music that isn’t on this lit rectangle? More fun, and everyone is larger. And you can, after the music is over, approach the musicians and say, “We love you. Thank you for continuing on your holy quest where we can be uplifted by it. Thank you for your devotion.” If this strikes you as presumptuous, I apologize, and the Customer Service Associate will be happy to refund your purchase price plus tax.
I hope to see you out and about. We need to celebrate the fact of our re-emergence into the sunshine.
In my little computer-centered burrow, I am snickering at myself. Pandemic-brain, interrupted sleep, failed multi-tasking? You name it, but I realized that I, who prize accuracy, already published “Part Thirty-Eight” here a week ago — skipping forward to January 16, 2011. I’m sorry if it caused anyone a psychic lurch, or if the room suddenly darkened and objects fell in the kitchen. The good news is that none of the severe Corrections Officials wrote in to rebuke me.
And I hope that this error will become as valuable as the “inverted Jenny” postage stamp . . . will the out-of-sequence blogpost be worth 1.5 million someday? A nice thought. But back to music that’s priceless, performed and recorded at The Ear Inn, a shrine that sells beer and chili.
The music from December 12, 2010, created by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass, is more than remarkable — even though that praise could be said of every Sunday night at the Ear Inn with the EarRegulars.
Starting from the back, the rhythm-and-solo team of Matt and Joel is truly beyond compare, no offense meant to other string players who have visited 326 Spring Street.
The front line — brass ecstasy — is unusual and unusually beautiful. You’ll notice it has none of the reek of Hollywood fakery, where the two trumpeters wage testosterone-war on one another, pointing their phalli upward until the one who can go higher [“He got up to P!” to quote Louis] wins and the loser slinks off, disgraced, to the bar. No, this is friendly brotherly conversation — rare and uplifting, a good model of community even for those who can’t yet push the first valve down.
ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:
JAZZ ME BLUES:
YOU CAN DEPEND ON ME:
Beautiful. Meet me next week (hold on to your chair arms) for Part Thirty-Nine. We can do it.
I am writing this on February 14, 2021 — Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!
From one Sunday to the next, it’s as if time rushes and drags at once. I look out of my window at my snow-encrusted car and consider the very slow pace of melting; I check my watch and three hours have passed. Thank goodness we have things to hang on to: for me and I hope for you, our mystical-magical-metaphysical Sunday nights at The Ear Inn are a landmark and a comfort.
The Ear Inn, 2012 Photograph by Alexandra Marks
This week, our comfort, uplift, and joy comes Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass. December 12, 2010.
Be honest. IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE:
Create intimacies. IF I COULD BE WITH YOU:
Realize that everything’s fluid. THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:
Now go out and apply what you’ve learned here. I’ll see you tomorrow.
Another of the wondrous ballad medleys that used to begin and end the splendid jazz weekend, Jazz at Chautauqua: here, from 2013. And, because it’s daylight, it was the medley that sent us all home, exhausted by pleasure, on a Sunday afternoon.
The roadmap: After a few of the usual hi-jinks, the rescue squad finds a second microphone for Marty Grosz, Harry Allen plays EASY LIVING; Dan Block, DAY DREAM; Bob Havens essays CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN; Duke Heitger finishes off this segment with I KNOW WHY (And So Do You):
I had to put a new battery in at this point, so I missed a few choruses (you’ll see Dan Levinson leaving the stage — my apologies to Dan and the other musicians I couldn’t capture).
Then, Randy Reiinhart plays MY FUNNY VALENTINE; Andy Schumm follows, politely, with PLEASE; Andy Stein calls for LAURA; Marty takes the stage by himself for the Horace Gerlach classic IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN; Rossano Sportiello plays SOPHISTICATED LADY, so beautifully:
Those would have been the closing notes of the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua: another unforgettable interlude of music and friendship. Bless the musicians, bless the shade of Joe Boughton and bless his living family, bless Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock. Those experiences are unforgettable evidence that once, such things were beautifully possible, and we witnessed them — me, with a video camera. How fortunate we were!
When someone you admire celebrates his ninetieth birthday (and the publication of his autobiography — published by Golden Valley Press) at a public gathering with music, it would be foolish to miss the festivities. That’s why I took the train to Philadelphia in March to help celebrate (and document) Marty Grosz and his friends rather than spend my remaining years kicking myself that I didn’t. Here are three posts, each with a performance from the Marty Party. WABASH BLUES, JAZZ ME BLUES, and IT DON’T MEAN A THING, for the curious.
But wait! There’s more! Marty essays the famous Alex Hill-Claude Hopkins song of complete romantic cooperation. The creators of mirth and hot music are Marty Grosz, guitar and vocal; Joe Plowman, string bass; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Brennen Ernst, piano; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone; Dan Block, clarinet; Danny Tobias, trumpet and Eb alto horn; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone and bass taragoto, Jim Lawlor, drums. Incidentally, the song has two titles: either I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU or the more-tempered I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU. Your call. My truncated title is because YouTube has a 100-character limit.
Marty Grosz and Joe Plowman, Philadelphia, June 2020.
Before the world we knew or thought we knew morphed terribly into the appalling shapes it is now in* — and you can add details as you like — Marty Grosz had a ninetieth-birthday party in his hometown of some years, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I had the good fortune to be there, and documented the joyous proceedings hereand here.
In my borough or perhaps burrow, it is only polite to inquire, “Will you have another?” so I offer just that.
At his party, where he gave us presents, Marty picks up “the riverboat violin” for the venerable WABASH BLUES — alongside Vince Giordano, tuba; Jack Saint Clair, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, reeds; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Jim Lawlor, drums; Danny Tobias, trumpet. The impatient among you — and you, along with the Corrections Officers and the Disapprovers, seem to proliferate — should be warned that Marty, as he is wont to do, tells a tale before the music starts at 7:50. Myself, I think Marty-narratives are valuable (have you read his autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE: MY LIFE IN JAZZ, published by Golden Valley Press?) and the music that follows is of course also. This burst of joy took place at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia on March 4, 2020.
The official JAZZ LIVES copy of one of the two discs. Peruse and admire.
Marty would call his first official recordings — two 78 discs recorded for the Jolly Roger label (2003 and 2004) “prentice work” at best . . . but they are jubilant explosions of youthful ardor, by Hugh McKay, trumpet; Ephie Resnick, trombone; Frank Chace, clarinet; Dick Wellstood, piano; Pops Foster, string bass; Tommy Benford, drums.
And here are the four performances, thanks to archive.org.
And a note about the asterisk above — for those who read what I write, and thank you for doing so. I have not felt much like blogging in the past few days: it seems trivial and even disrespectful to the people who suffer, who die and have died, to people who would like to breathe but find they are not permitted to, my peaceful friends who find themselves facing violence while bringing none, to post uplifting jazz music.
I won’t make any pompous claims about jazz being a bringer of peaceful relations. It hasn’t always been so, either for musicians or listeners. But I feel an obligation to spread joy in deep darkness, perhaps to remind ourselves that the human spirit is capable of acts that are generous and kind. I hope you feel this too.
And if my “politics” offend you, if you applaud what is happening in your neighborhood, if you think the current regime is the best there ever was, if you praise a deceased musician of color but recoil from an actual person of the same hue taking a walk, please feel encouraged to cancel your subscription to JAZZ LIVES and find another source for music. Kindly hold the door so it doesn’t slam, here and on Facebook. I will live through your defection. And so will the music.
More from the Marty Party! — music from Marty Grosz’s ninetieth birthday party, held at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia. The WCL was sold out, the audience was happy and attentive, and Marty enjoyed himself — he even picked up the banjo on several numbers.
Beginning with a classically elongated MOG introduction, here’s a song I’ve never heard him play, although he always embodies it, IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING). His colleagues are Joe Plowman, string bass and superpowers; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, taragoto; Dan Block, clarinet; Jim Lawlor, drums; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Danny Tobias, trumpet.
and before we get to the music, I will remind you that this party was not only a birthday jam but a celebration of Marty’s autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE: MY LIFE IN JAZZ, published by the Golden Alley Press. It’s a wonderful book — read more about it here. And here‘s JAZZ ME BLUES — with Marty on banjo — from the party.
And straight from the World Cafe Live, the manifesto we live by:
On April 1, Bucky Pizzarelli left us, and he is much in my and other people’s thoughts: see here. But as Gabriel Conroy says in Joyce’s The Dead,” referring to people we mourn, “Our path through life is strewn with many such sad memories: and were we to brood upon them always we could not find the heart to go on bravely with our work among the living.”
So let us also celebrate the living who continue to uplift our spirits.
Looks like fun. It was.
On February 28, Marty turned ninety, and on March 4, there was a party held in his honor (organized by Joe Plowman and Jim Gicking) at the World Cafe Live — in conjunction with the publication of Marty’s autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE (Golden Alley Press, thanks to Nancy J. Sayre) — which I’ve described here. Excellent reading material for those rediscovering books these days!
Marty’s glowering expression on the cover says, “You can listen to music for free, but buy the book, for Chrissake!”
But back to the music. The World Cafe Live was sold out, the audience was happy and attentive, and Marty enjoyed himself — he even picked up the banjo on several numbers, and here’s one (the last tune of the first set) JAZZ ME BLUES at a nice easy lope. His colleagues for this number are Vince Giordano, bass saxophone; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, sarrusophone; Dan Block, clarinet; Brennan Ernst, piano; Jim Lawlor, drums; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Danny Tobias, trumpet:
This post is more or less to amuse myself before the Jazz Bash by the Bay begins tomorrow, but you can come along as well. I have just completed, or perhaps begun, the most intense loop of jazz travel I can recall. It began with my happy viewing of Nancy Harrow and Will Pomerantz’s play, ABOUT LOVE, which is the subject of yesterday’s blogpost. (“Don’t miss it” is the edited version).
Yesterday, I went to Philadelphia (the World Cafe Live) to hear, witness, and record Marty Grosz’s ninetieth birthday party, and after that I flew to Monterey, California, to the Portola Hotel and Conference Center, where I write these words.
I am sorry that Dan Barrett isn’t attending the Bash this year — for many reasons, but were he to see me with that button and ribbon pinned to my shirt, he would walk over and put his palm on the ribbon and push. “It says PRESS.” But I shall go on.
On Thursday, at about 2 PM, I asked a favor of a neighbor who gave me — and my knapsack of video gear — a lift to the train station. Once there, I found Amtrak (twenty minutes late) and eventually got to Philadelphia, where (once again) I imposed on a friend — this time Joe Plowman, a stellar fellow whether playing the string bass or not — to take me to the World Cafe Live.
The Marty Party was a delight, and, yes, if the Tech Goddess favors me, there will be video evidence. I asked Danny Tobias and Lynn Redmile for a lift back to the 30th Street Station, and Dan Block and I rode back to New York City — arriving around 1:20 AM on Friday. Dan went off to his home, about four subway stops away, but the next train to my suburban Long Island town was two hours later, so I asked the first cabbie in a line of cabs what he would charge; we settled on a price, and we were off. (He had been a lawyer in Egypt, by the way). Around 2:15 I was home and went to sleep for what I knew would only be a brief interlude. My alarm went off, as planned, at 7; I did what was needed and got in my car to drive to parking for Kennedy Airport. At 11:30 we were airborne; I arrived in Monterey close to 6 PM. (I have adjusted none of this for New York and California time zones, but you can imagine that my eyelids are heavy.)
I really have no idea what time it actually is in my body clock, but will find out. I can tell you that this travel rhapsody will have cost me about fifteen hundred dollars when it is all through. I am blessedly fortunate to have that money, but the pleasure of seeing Marty Grosz, Vince Giordano, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Brennan Ernst, Joe Plowman, Jack Saint Clair, Jim Lawlor, meeting people in the flesh whom I’d only known in cyberspace — one night! — as well as receiving an autographed copy of Marty’s autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE: MY LIFE IN JAZZ (Golden Valley Press) . . . .and from tomorrow on, seeing Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Hal Smith, Le Jazz Hot, and more — that pleasure is and will be uncountable in mere currency. And unless you knew my past life well, the immense freedom to do what I want is bliss, a bliss I hadn’t always been able to have.
We know many people born on February 28th. However, we know a much smaller number born on that date in 1930. And there is only ONE Martin Oliver Grosz, who will thus turn ninety in a few days.
Marty won’t read this post, so I will spare him and all of us a lengthy explication of his particular virtues. But let me inform you about a few events related to his birthday . . . and then there will be a reward for those with high reading comprehension skills. “Three ways,” not chili . . . but a book and two parties. And patient readers will find another reward, of a particularly freakish nature, at the end of this post.
Marty has talked about writing his autobiography for years now (I was almost a collaborator, although not in the wartime sense) — he has stories! And the book has finally happened, thanks to the Golden Alley Press, with the really splendid editorship of Joe Plowman, whom we know more as a superb musician. Great photos, and it’s a pleasure to look at as well as read.
The book is entertaining, readable, funny, and revealing — with stories about people you wouldn’t expect (Chet Baker!). It sounds like Marty, because the first half is a tidied-up version of his own story, written in longhand — with elegant calligraphy — on yellow legal paper. I’m guessing that a few of the more libelous bits have been edited out, but we know there are severe laws about such things and paper is flammable.
The second part of the book, even more vividly, is a stylishly done series of interviews with Marty — a real and sometimes startlingly candid pleasure. I’ve followed Marty musically for more than twenty-five years and have had conversations with him for two decades . . . this, as he would say, is the real breadstick, and I learned a great deal I hadn’t already known. More informationhere and here. The official publication date is March 4, but you can pre-order the book from several of the usual sites — as noted above.
And two musical events — Marty encompasses multitudes, so he gets two parties.
One will take place at the Hopewell Valley Bistro, tomorrow at 6 PM, where Marty will be joined by Danny Tobias, Scott Robinson, and Gary Cattley, for an evening of swing and badinage, sometimes with the two combined. Details here. And on March 4, another extravaganza — at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, with what used to be called “an all-star cast”: Vince Giordano, Danny Tobias, Scott Robinson, Dan Block, Randy Reinhart, Joe Plowman, Jim Lawlor, Jack Saint Clair, and I would guess some surprise guests. Details here. Even though I am getting on a plane the next morning to fly to Monterey for the Jazz Bash by the Bay, I am going to this one. You should too!
Now, the unearthed treasure . . . for all the Freaks in the house, as Louis would say, a congregation in which I happily include myself. I’ve written elsewhere of taking sub rosa videos at the 2007 and 2008 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend ecstasies, and I recently dug out this spiritual explosion. The camerawork is shaky and vague (I was shooting into bright light), but the music is life-enhancing. Even the YouTube Disliker is quietly applauding:
Let us celebrate Marty Grosz. He continues to be completely Himself, which is a fine thing. With Dispatch and Vigor, Fats, Al Casey, and Red McKenzie looking on approvingly.
Warning for the timid and the finicky: the video that follows is unusually flawed and visually limited. But the sound is fine and the performance precious.
Some of you may recognize this now-obsolete piece of technology. In 2008, before I bought my first video camera, I tried out a Flip pocket video. It recorded sixty minutes; it had no controls aside from an on / off button and a rudimentary zoom function; it fit in a pocket.
I had shot some video with it, but remember only two instances: once at The Ear Inn, where a musician who shall be nameless expressed his displeasure by coming close to me and hissing, “Audio’s all right, but that video don’t do nothin’ for me, Pops,” to which I apologized, put it away, and later deleted the video. Pops hasn’t forgotten, you will notice, and in his dotage, he avoids that musician, even without a camera.
The other instance was in Mexico, where I recorded some vibrant street musicians, but I foolishly packed Flip (as I thought of him, like a cartoon character) in my checked luggage and he went on to a new life in someone else’s pocket. And I graduated to “real” video cameras, as you have probably seen.
The story of My Friend Flip would have remained a crumb in the breadbox of memory except that two days ago I started a rigorous — no, violent — apartment-tidying, in search of some things I knew I had but couldn’t find. You know the feeling. I found a once-blank CD with the puzzling notation, “Chau 2008 Flip.” At first I thought, “Did I see Flip Phillips at Jazz at Chautauqua?” but knew I hadn’t. I put the disc in the computer’s DVD tray, waited, and eventually discovered three video performances I had completely forgotten — but which made me joyous, as you will understand.
The late Joe Boughton, who ran Jazz at Chautauqua, was severe in the way I imagine a Roman emperor must have been. Oh, it was covered by friendliness . . . until you violated one of his strictures. Musicians can tell you the verbal assaults that resulted when someone played a song that was, to Joe, too common. SATIN DOLL or SWEET GEORGIA BROWN was punishable by exile: I WISH I WERE TWINS or HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH would make Joe happy and guarantee you’d be invited back.
Joe also recorded everything for his own pleasure (and those recordings, I am told, survive in a university collection) but he didn’t want anyone else recording anything.
Fast forward to 2011, when I’d had this blog for a few years and had Joe in my readership. I boldly brought my video camera with me and — expecting the worst — asked Joe if it was OK if I videoed a few tunes, for publicity, if I got the musicians’ permission. His response was positive but also imperial, “Who cares about their permission? Idon’t mind!: and I went ahead.
Before then, a shy criminal, I recorded as much audio as possible on a digital recorder I kept in my pocket (which means that some discs begin with the sound of me walking from my room to the ballroom) and in 2007 I took my point-and-shoot camera, stood at one side of the stage, and recorded two performances, which I have posted here. Joe didn’t notice, and the palace guards liked me, so I was able to return the next year.
On three separate occasions in 2008, I walked to one side of the stage (perhaps I pretended I was visiting the men’s room), turned on Flip, and recorded some wonderful music for posterity, for me, for you. Before you move on, I warn you that the video is as if seen through a dirty car windshield. I was shooting into a brightly lit window, so much is overexposed. The focus is variable, and there is a Thanksgiving Day Parade of slow-moving patrons who amble on their way, often standing in front of the man with a little white box to his eye. “Could it have been a camera that young fellow was holding, Marge? I don’t know, but don’t rush me, John!”
But the music comes right through. Some drum accents have the explosive power of small-arms fire, Flip was a simple camera. However, everyone shines: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Sheridan, piano; Vinc Giordano, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums, playing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:
Two more surprises will come along in time. Until then, bless Randy, Jon-Erik, John, Vince, and John. Joe, I apologize, but as Barney tells us, “Sharing is caring.” And thank you, Friend Flip . . . wherever you are now.