Tag Archives: Randy Reinhart

TRAVELS WITH MOLLY: “LET’S FLY AWAY”

Molly Ryan by Don Spiro

Molly Ryan by Don Spiro

I’ve been admiring Molly Ryan’s singing — and her instrumental bandmates — for almost a decade now.  Her latest CD, her third, LET’S FLY AWAY, is a beautifully elaborate production, consistently aloft.

Molly Ryan CD cover

Here are the details.  The CD features a theme (hooray!) — the delights of travel, with some ingenious choices of repertoire:  WANDERER / BEYOND THE BLUE HORIZON / FAR AWAY PLACES / LET’S FLY AWAY / FLYING DOWN TO RIO / A RAINY NIGHT IN RIO / SOUTH SEA ISLAND MAGIC / THE GYPSY IN MY SOUL / THE ROAD TO MOROCCO / UNDER PARIS SKIES / TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE / IT’S NICE TO GO TRAV’LIN’ / ANYWHERE I WANDER . . .

and alongside Molly (vocal and guitar) some of the finest jazz players on the planet:  Bria Skonberg, Randy Reinhart, Dan Barrett, Dan Levinson, Adrien Chevalier, John Reynolds, Joel Forbes, Mike Weatherly, Mark Shane, Dick Hyman, Kevin Dorn, Scott Kettner, Raphael McGregor, with arrangements by the two Dans, Levinson and Barrett.

When I first heard Molly — we were all much younger — I was immediately charmed by her voice, which in its youthful warmth and tenderness summoned up the beautiful Helen Ward.  But Molly, then and now, does more than imitate. She has a gorgeous sound but she also knows a good deal about unaffected swing, and in the years she’s been singing, her lyrical deftness has increased, and without dramatizing, she has become a fine singing actress, giving each song its proper emotional context.  She can be a blazing trumpet (evidence below) or a wistful yearner, on the edge of tears, or someone tart and wry.

The band, as you’d expect, is full of great soloists — everyone gets a taste, as they deserve, and I won’t spoil the surprises.  But what’s most notable is the care given to the arrangements.  Many CDs sound as if the fellows and gals are on a live club date — “Whaddaya want to play next, Marty?” “I don’t know.  How about X?” and those informal sessions often produce unbuttoned memorable sounds.  But a production like LET’S FLY AWAY is a happy throwback to the glory days of long-playing records of the Fifties and Sixties, where a singer — Teddi King, Lena Horne, Doris Day, Carmen McRae — was taken very good care of by Neal Hefti or Frank DeVol or Ralph Burns, creating a musical tapestry of rich sensations.

Now, below on this very same page, you can visit the page where LET’S FLY AWAY is for sale, and hear samples.  But Molly and friends have cooked up something far more hilariously gratifying — a short film with an oddly off-center plot, dancers, visual effects, hard to describe but a pleasure to experience:

Yes, it does make me think of Mildred Bailey’s WEEK-END OF A PRIVATE SECRETARY, but perhaps that association is my own personal problem.

And tomorrow — yes, tomorrow, Thursday, September 3, at 9:30 PM — Molly and friends are having a CD release show at Joe’s Pub, with Dan Levinson, Mike Davis, Vincent Gardner, Dalton Ridenhour, Brandi Disterheft, Kevin Dorn.  You may purchase tickets (they’re quite inexpensive) here.  Details about the show here, and Molly’s Facebook page.

Purchase a digital download of the CD (with two hidden tracks) OR the physical disc itself (with twenty pages of liner notes and wonderful art / photographs) OR hear sound samples here.

Airborne, delightful swing.  Why not FLY AWAY?  Let’s.

May your happiness increase!

TOMORROW (SOMETHING FOR MR. MURANYI) and THE FUTURE (SEPTEMBER IN CLEVELAND)

If you are reading this in the Northeast United States, you might be coming out of a sustained depression caused by several weeks of snow and cold.  It’s all melting, and I feel a thaw in my psyche.  There’s something about seeing the sidewalk that gives me hope.

What better way to celebrate our survival — that we didn’t have to break open the pemmican — than with some free heartfelt jazz coming tomorrow, Monday, March 9, at 7:30 PM, in New York City?

I said free. But you do have to RSVP them. The venue is the JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue, New York 10023, and the event is being put on by the Balassi Institute.

Here is the Facebook page for the event.

And here are the details:

FREE AND OPEN FOR THE PUBLIC
RSVP is required

Revisit the music of Louis Armstrong and Joe Murányi as interpreted by the cream of today’s trad jazz scene!
Joe Murányi (1928-2012), affectionately called “Hungarian Joe” by his bandleader, the great Louis Armstrong, was not just a traditional jazz clarinetist extraordinaire, but a record producer, activist and jazz writer. Born to Jewish Hungarian parents, his legacy is a testament to the cultural impact of immigrants of Hungary to the United States.

Joe Murányi was legendary for his skills and his kindness, no wonder that an all-star line-up of traditional jazz players has come together to commemorate him. Performing their tribute only once in New York, catch the great Scott Robinson, US Jazz Ambassador, collaborator on two Grammy-winning albums, Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri and Pat O’Leary with Béla Szalóky, standout trombone and trumpet player for the the world renowned Benkó Dixieland Band, one of the several “ambassadors” of Hungarian jazz making a visit to NYC.

The performance is free, seating guaranteed only with RSVP to the Eventbrite page.  (Here is the Eventbrite link.)

You will notice that the band is a version of our beloved EarRegulars, and it is a rare chance to hear them in a concert setting.

I’ll be there, but I take up only one seat — which means there might be room for more of the faithful.

Imagine an interval where the band plays that 1929 pop hit, LIVE FOR TODAY (But Think of Tomorrow).

To think too much of September 2015 would be to rush away the joys of spring and summer to come, but it’s always nice to make plans, to have something rare to look forward to.  So I urge you to make a small space in your thoughts for the second annual Allegheny Jazz Party — taking place September 10-13, at the Inter-Continental Hotel and Conference Center in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was a very happy audience member (and camera-operator) at last year’s event, which was just like the hallowed Jazz at Chautauqua . . . but even better — under the benignly serious guidance of Nancy Griffith and Nancy Hancock.

The musicians? How about Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Andy Stein, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, the Faux Frenchmen.  Our friend Phil Atteberry will be giving a morning talk on the music of Cole Porter.

For more information, visit the AJS website, or call 216-956-0886. And if you’re like me — an eager early adopter of such things, the Inter-Continental Cleveland Hotel is at 9801 Carnegie Avenue . . . and there is a special rate of $189 per night plus tax.  (It’s a very comfortable hotel, I assure you.)  Call 855-765-8709 and mention the Allegheny Jazz Party or Group Code YON to receive the special rate.

May your happiness increase!

 

BEAUTIFUL IMPROMPTUS: DAN LEVINSON, BOB HAVENS, KEITH INGHAM at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 20, 2014)

In my deepest jazz self, I hold to what I would call the Condon aesthetic: that nothing beats a group of like-minded musicians assembling for a common purpose — creating swinging lyrical improvisations — on the spot, with no arrangements, nothing more formal than a mutually agreed-upon song, tempo, key, and perhaps someone volunteering to play lead in the first chorus.  After that, the players live utterly in the moment.  Sometimes this freedom makes for collisions, but more often it results in the kind of pleasure one lives for, the moments when the tight collars have been unbuttoned, the painfully fashionable shoes have been kicked off.

Last September, at the Allegheny Jazz Party (debuting with great success in Cleveland, Ohio) these impromptu delights happened many times in the three-day banquet of sounds.  But one session has remained in my mind as a high point of playful unfettered collective improvisation — a trio set led by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor, with two of The Singular Elders, Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano.  The combination of a reed instrument and trombone works beautifully but isn’t often attempted these days.  There were bebop precursors and swing ones, but the tonal ranges of the two instruments are delightfully complementary.  The trio of piano and two horns requires a certain orchestral approach to the piano, although I am sure that Monk or Herbie Nichols would have done splendidly here, too — but Keith is a full band in himself.

With pleasure, then —

(WHAT CAN I SAY, DEAR ) AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY:

SEPTEMBER SONG:

A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN:

Thank you, Messrs. Dan, Bob, and Keith.

And, although it’s only January, the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party is a sure thing for September 10-13, with a delightful lineup (although there is the asterisk that indicates “All programs subject to change”: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Andy Stein, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Faux Frenchmen.  To keep up to date with what’s happening at the AJP, visit here.

May your happiness increase!

WITH LOUIS AND JACK IN MIND: DUKE HEITGER, RANDY REINHART, BOB HAVENS, HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, HOWARD ALDEN, NICKI PARROTT, JOHN VON OHLEN (ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY, September 18, 2014)

One could make the case that anyone can hear STARS FELL ON ALABAMA without thinking of Jack Teagarden or JEEPERS CREEPERS without recalling Louis Armstrong, but I would be somewhat skeptical.  For me, the first song is ever associated with Jack — for thirty years — and with Louis at Symphony Hall in 1947; the second one has been sung and played by many people including Billie  Holiday and Leo Watson, but for me it is always a Louis song — again, for thirty-five years.

But I know that for most musicians, this kind of nostalgic scholarship is, at most subliminal, and these two songs are just well-established parts of the common language, songs everyone of a certain persuasion knows and loves.  As do I.

These performances took place on September 18, 2014, at the Thursday night jam session that is a tradition for the Allegheny Jazz Party (formerly known, in a different location, as Jazz at Chautauqua).  I was sitting so close to the band, a position I favor, that it was impossible to capture everyone at once, but I think you will agree the sound and image are worth it.

The band for ALABAMA was Duke Heitger, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, guitar (hear his astonishing harmonics on the first song); Nicki Parrott, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums.  For JEEPERS, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone, joined in.

Here’s the leisurely STARS FELL ON ALABAMA:

And the romping JEEPERS CREEPERS:

What better advertisement for the good times and fine music to be had at the Allegheny Jazz Party?

May your happiness increase!

BALLADS BY HARRY ALLEN, DAN BLOCK, BOB HAVENS, DUKE HEITGER, JON-ERIK KELLSO, RANDY REINHART, ANDY SCHUMM, REBECCA KILGORE, DAN BARRETT, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, MARTY GROSZ, FRANK TATE, JOHN VON OHLEN (Jazz at Chautauqua, Sept. 22, 2013)

Norman Granz took credit for inventing what came to be called “the ballad medley” for his concert performances.  Rather than have everyone stand onstage and take solo choruses on what might be a fourteen-minute BODY AND SOUL, Granz proposed — for variety’s sake — that each of the musicians would emerge from the wings, hastily tell the rhythm section what (s)he had chosen, both song and key, and play or sing a chorus of it, then exit.

For the audience, it is a parade of small memorable delights. First, it reminds us what great players and singers can create within the space of one chorus of a song — note that, at their most leisurely, these performances are two minutes apiece. They offer us subtle embellishments on enduring melodies.  And the tempos!  Once upon a time, there was a precious little thing called the RHYTHM BALLAD, which meant that even if the lyrics said, “I am throwing myself out of the window because you don’t love me,” the rhythm ticked quietly underneath in medium tempo.  The ballad medley requires a perfectly attentive and wise rhythm section, especially a pianist who can respond in a second to something muttered, “WHEN DAY IS DONE, three flats,” modulate in to the proper key and be ready.

The late Joe Boughton, who delighted in jazz ballads, made sure that his jazz parties always included such interludes.

On September 22, 2013, at the closing set of Jazz at Chautauqua, a series of small miraculous evocations came and went in front of our eyes.  I am honored to have been there and privileged to capture much of the ballad medley for you.

The participants are Rossano Sportiello, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar / vocal; Frank Tate, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums; Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Randy Reinhart, Duke Heitger, trumpets; Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, trombones; Andy Stein, violin; Harry Allen, Dan Block, reeds; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal.

EASY LIVING (Harry Allen), DAY DREAM (Dan Block), CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ THAT MAN (Bob Havens), I KNOW WHY (Duke Heitger):

I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME (Jon-Erik Kellso):

MY FUNNY VALENTINE (Randy Reinhart); PLEASE (Andy Schumm); LAURA (Andy Stein); IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN (Marty Grosz); SOPHISTICATED LADY (Rossano Sportiello):

And a wonderful closing serenade, OHIO by Rebecca Kilgore and Dan Barrett:

OHIO offers a perfect transition.  Jazz at Chautauqua has changed its name and moved west — to Cleveland, Ohio — but I know its essential musical nature will not diminish or change.  It’s now the Allegheny Jazz Party, beginning on Thursday, September 18, and concluding (with a ballad medley) on Sunday, September 21.  I hope your life-path and travel plans allow you to be there!

May your happiness increase!

SEPTEMBER SONGS at the 2014 ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 18-21, 2014)

For the preceding nine years, I made the journey to Jazz at Chautauqua to hear the finest hot jazz and sweet ballads among friends — on the stand and off. Now, as many of you know, that party has moved west under a new name — the Allegheny Jazz Party, taking up residence in Cleveland, Ohio, for September 18-21. I found out that the discounted hotel rates will come to an end on August 19, so I wanted to encourage people to join in.  Details here. And the musicians who will be there this year are certainly an august crew: Randy Reinhart, Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Duke Heitger, Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Harry Allen, Dan Levinson, Rossano Sportiello, James Dapogny, John Sheridan, Keith Ingham, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, Kerry Lewis, Jon Burr, John Von Ohlen, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, The Faux Frenchmen.

I could tell you a good deal about the delights of this particular jazz weekend, but I think I will let the information  and the music — a small selection — do that for me. There are no jazz songs pertaining to making a move to Cleveland (why is this?) but two beautiful ones are relevant to September.

From September 2011, Harry Allen and Keith Ingham play Percy Faith’s MAYBE SEPTEMBER:

From September 2009, an informal session (somewhat informally captured) where Dan Block, Duke Heitger, Bob Havens, Ehud Asherie, Frank Tate, and Pete Siers play SEPTEMBER SONG:

But all is not melancholy or wistful at this party.  Far from it. Here’s a hot one, recorded in September 2012 — Marty Grosz, Dan Block, Andy Schumm, and Kerry Lewis romping through ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

And a living sweet evocation of Ella and Louis by Becky Kilgore and Duke Heitger, John Sheridan, Jon Burr, and John Von Ohlen, YOU WON’T BE SATISFIED:

JAZZ LIVES can’t offer guarantees — our legal staff frowns on such things — but I think if you go to the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party, satisfaction awaits. Find out more here or here.

And a postscript. I never liked fund-raising of any kind, nor the coercive tactics that are used to encourage people to support this or that enterprise. So perhaps I should not tell you about the festivals that have ended before their time due to lack of support. I will say that I have received a great deal of pleasure from Jazz at Chautauqua and look forward to even more when it emerges, pink and healthy, as the Allegheny Jazz Party. And the race is indeed to the swift — for tickets, for discounted hotel rooms, all those perks that make joyous experiences even better.

May your happiness increase!

DREAMING THE HOURS AWAY: WESLA WHITFIELD, MIKE GREENSILL, RANDY REINHART, HARRY ALLEN, JON BURR, PETE SIERS (September 22, 2013)

Here is a deliciously-shaded set of music from Wesla Whitfield and Mike Greensill, with the noble assistance of Randy Reinhart, cornet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums. Everyone from Cole Porter to Jean Goldkette to Al Cohn makes an approving, empathic appearance. Wesla and Mike offer deep emotions without ever dramatizing a note:

I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU:

GOODBYE, LITTLE DREAM, GOODBYE:

SUNDAY:

MORNING GLORIES:

I’M AN ERRAND GIRL FOR RHYTHM:

DREAMS Medley:

This set was recorded on September 22, 2013, at what was once called”Jazz at Chautauqua.” That jazz party has packed its tents and moved west — to Cleveland, where it will be flourishing as the Allegheny Jazz Party, this September 2014.  I hope you will follow me there.  Details at the AJP website and Facebook page and even here.

May your happiness increase!

LOOK OUT! STEAMBOAT COMIN’ ROUND THE BEND!

It is May. Yet I am making plans for November 14-16, 2014. That’s the kind of fellow I am, even if it goes against all the good advice about living in the moment.

I learned from Duke Heitger at last weekend’s jubilant Atlanta Jazz Party that the 2014 Steamboat Stomp — a three-day floating jazz festival held on the steamboat Natchez, floating up and down the Mississippi from New Orleans, is going to happen.

890_stomp2014

It was a glorious weekend in 2013.

steamboatnatchez-paddle

And Duke has some of the same people lined up — the Yerba Buena Stompers, Banu Gibson, and Topsy Chapman — with hints of other heroes and heroines to come.

Of course, much of my pleasure was in the glorious music. But some of it was deeper and harder to explicate. Maybe it was looking out at the Mississippi River flowing by after all those years of reading and teaching HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Maybe it was being on an actual steamboat listening to jazz — the way one might have heard it in 1921 when Fate Marable’s band swung out. Maybe it was getting to walk down the streets of New Orleans — those fabled streets — and try different varieties of gumbo. I can’t tell you exactly what parts of the experience made the strongest impact. But I will be there! And I hope some of my friends can join me.

Here’s some musical evidence of the New Orleans Joys available to people at the Stomp. I do not overstate, you will see.

Before:

Palm Court Cafe, Part One

Palm Court Cafe, Part Two

Oh, Sheik That Thing!

The Steamboat Stomp itself:

Ms. Gibson’s Singular Cardiological Rhythms

Mr. Thompson’s Indigos

Doctor Pistorius and the Worlds of Love

Rocking the River

Stomping for Joy

Joe Oliver  Is Pleased

If that doesn’t convince the hesitant, I don’t know what will.  For myself, the thought of it suddenly becoming November is terrifying. But as far as the 2014 Steamboat Stomp is concerned, I’m ready.

May your happiness increase!

MISS RYAN RECORDS!

I’ve been a fan of the sweet-voiced singer Molly Ryan since I first heard her, live and on recording, and she has only become more subtle and more affecting with each year.  Her natural warmth, her easy swing, and her friendly approach to the song are inspiring. Molly’s made two CDs with friends — SONGBIRD IN THE MOONLIGHT and SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER, both refreshing reminders of what swing singing was and can still be.

Now, she’s poised to make a third one, which is good news. But a self-produced recording is an expensive business. I’ve been reluctant to write fund-raising appeals here, lest JAZZ LIVES turn into JAZZ ASKS, but I make an exception in this case, since I look forward to the CD and to supporting Molly and her friends in making the world safe for music.

Those friends?  Dan Barrett, Adrien Chevalier, Kevin Dorn, Joel Forbes, Dick Hyman, Dan Levinson, Randy Reinhart, John Reynolds, Mark Shane, Bria Skonberg. And the sounds will be captured by the noted recording engineer Stewart Lerman.

Here you can find details of amounts one can pledge and the appropriate rewards; you can see Molly’s direct appeal in her own music video, and you can come away with the feeling that you have done something direct to support the music and musicians we admire so.

May your happiness increase!

JAZZ IN BLOOM: RANDY REINHART, BOB HAVENS, DAN BLOCK, HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, KERRY LEWIS, JOHN VON OHLEN at “JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA” (Sept. 20, 2013)

If you wonder about the title, you have only to gaze at the splendid autumnal chrysanthemums onstage . . . but the music would be blooming even if no flowers were in evidence.

Here is an early set from the jazz weekend formerly known as “Jazz at Chautauqua,” now reborn as the Allegheny Jazz Party.  The creative heroes on the stand for this short but intense gift are Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums.

Please notice how much music they offer in three extended performances — echoing the Swing Era but firmly rooted in timeless Mainstream jazz of this century, with nods to Edgar Sampson, Duke Ellington, and Cole Porter.

BLUE LOU:

JUST SQUEEZE ME:

YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME:

See you at the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party! It will happen from Thursday, September 18, to Sunday, September 21, 2014, at the InterConental Cleveland Hotel (9801 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106).  The hotel gets good reviews and is much easier to get to than the august lodgings of yore.

The creative participants will be Marty Grosz, Rebecca Kilgore, Nicki Parrott, Wesla Whitfield, John Von Ohlen, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Frank Tate, Jon Burr, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, Dan Levinson, Rossano Sportiello, Keith Ingham, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Howard Alden, Dan Barrett, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Randy Reinhart.  The proceedings will be supervised by the gently efficient Nancy Griffith, who has made sure of everyone’s happiness in years past at these parties.

There will be informal music on Thursday night, a solo piano session Friday afternoon, a seven-hour session with everyone joining in on Friday night, two more sessions on Saturday (more than eleven hours of music) and a Sunday afternoon finale (four hours).  No one will go away thinking, “There wasn’t enough to hear.”

Details can be found here or — more colorfully — here. I made hotel reservations today — there’s a special discount for the AJP.  But I learned that rooms are going quickly, and that’s no stage joke.

May your happiness increase!

GREAT NEWS: A NEW NEST FOR HOT JAZZ AND SWEET SWING: THE ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY FINDS ITS NEW HOME (Sept. 18-21, 2014)

All sorts of delicious transformations have been taking place in the past weeks. JAZZ LIVES readers already know that the weekend bash formerly known as Jazz at Chautauqua has renamed itself the Allegheny Jazz Party.

I like the new name better, myself, although I had no part in its invention: I can spell “Allegheny” with greater ease, and who among us wouldn’t prefer “Party” to “at”?

It will take place September 18 – 21, 2014: Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon.

But where?

Nancy Lynn Griffith just told me that the AJP will take wing at a new venue: the InterContinental Cleveland Hotel in Cleveland’s University Circle cultural district, just down the street from Severance Hall.  The hotel’s website is here.  Amenities proliferate!

Here’s the preliminary schedule and lineup, with some players to be added in the near future:

Cornet/Trumpet: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart

Reeds: Harry Allen, Dan Block, Dan Levinson, Scott Robinson

Trombone: Dan Barrett, Bob Havens

Guitar/Banjo: Howard Alden, Marty Grosz

Piano: Jim Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello

Bass: Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate

Drums: Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, John Von Ohlen

Vocals: Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield

And the schedule:

Thursday — meet and greet with friends and musicians. Details and pricing TBA.

Friday — Piano solos in the foyer 2:30-4:30, evening session 5:30 – 12:30.

Saturday — Matinee session 10-2:30, evening session 5:30-12:30.

Sunday Brunch — 9-1.

Music Tickets (Fri-Sun): $310. Single event tickets available for $100 each, space permitting.

For more information, contact Allegheny Jazz Society, 3 Pepper Creek Dr., Pepper Pike, OH 44124-5279.

Phone216-956-0886.

Emailnancylynngriffith@yahoo.com

Website: http://alleghenyjazz.org

What wonderful news!

May your happiness increase!

SHE’S GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM

Portions of this musical self-portrait are not entirely accurate.  The ebullient singer, improviser, and comedienne Banu Gibson has very fine shoes as well as something to eat. So the dramatic lyrics of the 1937 Louis Armstrong song I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM don’t apply in a self-pitying way.

But as this performance shows, the title is absolutely the truth, and Banu makes everyone feel comfortable in a matter of seconds: swing can do that!

Her Swing Band is on the same jubilant wavelength: Randy Reinhart, cornet; Mike Pittsley, trombone; Nick Ellman, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums. This brief life-enhancing experience took place on October 12, 2013, at Duke Heitger’s first Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans.

Vitamins for the soul:

May your happiness increase!

THE JAZZ BOOKSHELF: “JAZZ BEAT: NOTES ON CLASSIC JAZZ” and “MR. B”

A quarter-century ago, in actual bookstores, I could find shelves devoted to books on jazz.  That reassuring sight still exists (I saw it in the Strand in New York last week) but the great era of print publishing is, understandably, over. Thus it’s always a pleasure to encounter new books on jazz, and the two below are quite different but will both reward readers.

Jazz-Beat-review--195x300

JAZZ BEAT: NOTES ON CLASSIC JAZZ, by Lew Shaw (AZtold Publishing) is a very amiable collection of profiles written by an admiring, long-time fan and former sportswriter.

What makes these brief affectionate portraits different from the norm is that all (except one) the musicians in this book are living.  Not all of them are stars, but they have devoted followings — from the youthful Jonathan “Jazz” Russell, Pete and Will Anderson, Josh Duffee, Michael Kaeshammer, Ben Polcer, Molly Ryan, Bria Skonberg, Andy Schumm, Stephanie Trick, to the veterans Bill Allred, Jim Cullum, Bob Draga, Yve Evans, Chet Jeager, Flip Oakes, Bucky Pizzarelli, Richard Simon, Mike Vax, Pat Yankee, and Ed Polcer — the book’s inspiration, whose picture is on the cover.

Shaw also profiles other regulars on the festival circuit, Tom Rigney, the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Band, the Natural Gas Jazz Band, the New Black Eagles, Igor’s Jazz Cowboys.

His emphasis is on musicians exploring older jazz forms and repertoire, but the book is happily free from ideological bickering (with one exception, and the words aren’t the author’s*.  The book is comfortable and easy: I sense that the musicians are delighted to find someone sympathetic, interested, willing to get the facts right for publication.

I was pleased to find a number of my jazz friends and heroes profiled, among them Clint Baker, Kevin Dorn, Banu Gibson, Nicki Parrott, Carl Sonny Leyland, Randy Reinhart, Hal Smith, Rossano Sportiello, and the late Mat Domber.  I know I’ve left several people off this list, but readers will have fun seeing some of their favorites here.

Shaw’s method is simple: he establishes the musician’s place in the world of contemporary traditional jazz, constructs a brief biography — a story rather than a collection of dates and a listing of names and places.  Some comments from a writer or blogger offer different insights (I’m even quoted here a few times) and the musician speaks for him or herself.  The result is a fast-moving collection of short pieces (somewhere between journalistic features and extensive liner notes) that capture their subjects’ personalities in only a few pages.

Shaw is frankly admiring — from a literate fan’s perspective.  For instance (I picked this at random), the opening of his piece on Bob Draga: “Clarinetist Bob Draga is considered the consummate entertainer, having mastered the art of pleasing an audience with musical talent, classy appearance and entertaining repartee.”  That’s Bob, to the life.

One particularly moving episode in this book is the profile of drummer Joe Ascione — and his life with multiple sclerosis since 1997.  If Shaw had done nothing but allow Joe to speak for himself, JAZZ BEAT would still be well worth reading. Many fans come up to musicians at gigs, concerts, and festivals, and ask questions; it is reassuring to see that Lew Shaw has willingly shared his energies and research with us.  The 211-page book is nicely produced with many black-and-white photographs, and copies can be ordered here.

*Chet Jaeger, of the Night Blooming Jazzmen, told Shaw about playing in a Disneyland marching band when Dizzy Gillespie was also performing there, and his reaction: “I decided I would attend and try to learn something about modern jazz, but I gave up after a few numbers.  I always say that when I hit a bad note, everyone knows it’s a bad note. When Miles Davis hits a bad note, people will say, ‘Isn’t that creative.'”

MISTER B

Cary Ginell, author of a fine book on the Jazz Man Record Shop (reviewed here) and a rewarding biography of Cannonball Adderley (here) has produced another first-rate book in the same series: MR. B: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BILLY ECKSTINE (Hal Leonard, 228+ pages).  Ginell may turn out to be this generation’s model for jazz biography, for he doesn’t indulge in pathobiography (chronicling every time his subject is supposed to have left no tip for a waitperson or some other example of bad behavior) and he isn’t a secret Destroyer (appearing to write admiringly of the subject then deflating the Hero(ine) chapter after chapter).

His books are tidy, graceful, compact affairs — full of stories but never digressive, sticking to chronology but never mechanical.

Eckstine has been treated gingerly by the jazz community: yes, he was Earl Hines’ band vocalist, bringing the blues to a larger audience with JELLY, JELLY, then someone given credit for his “legendary” band featuring Dizzy, Bird, Fats Navarro, Art Blakey, and others . . . but once Eckstine comes to even greater prominence as an African-American balladeer (think of I APOLOGIZE), the jazz audience loses interest and the naughty word “commercialism” enters the dialogue.

Ginell doesn’t over-compensate, and he — unlike Mister B — doesn’t apologize, but he makes a serious case for Eckstine being one of the important figures in the slow struggle for White Americans to respect people of color.

One of Eckstine’s sons remembered, “Until the day he died, whenever he ordered a sandwich, he always separated the two pieces of bread and gently ran his fingers over the meat, because on a number of occasions while touring the South, they would send the band boy. . . to pick up food from a white restaurant. When they got the sandwiches, they would discover finely ground glass, or vermin feces mixed in with the tuna, chicken, egg, or potato salad.”  We also learn about the repercussions of a LIFE magazine photograph where Eckstine was captured amidst young White female fans — a horrifying example of racist attitudes in 1950. Stories such as that are invaluable, and make a book both readable and memorable, no matter who its subject might be.

The band business was difficult even when the enemy wasn’t trying to poison you so directly; Ed Eckstein also recalled that the critic Leonard Feather subtly attacked his father’s band because Eckstine refused to record Feather’s compositions.  Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie created a parody — sung to the tune STORMY WEATHER, with these lyrics:

I know why, we can’t get a gig on Friday night, / Leonard Feather / Keeps on makin’ it hard for me to keep this band together, / Talkin’ shit about us all the time . . .  

We learn about the relationship between June Eckstine and the promising young Swedish clarinetist Stan Hasselgard; we learn of Eckstine’s close friendship with Dr. King, his devotion to his fans, his generosities.  And as for Eckstine’s apparent “selling-out,” he had this to say, “Some creeps said I ‘forsook’ jazz in order to be commercial. So I saw one of these creeps, a jazz critic, and I said, ‘What are you, mad at me because I want to take care of my family?  Is that what pisses you off? You want me to end up in a goddamn hotel room with a bottle of gin in my pocket and a needle in my arm, and let them discover me laying there? Then I’ll be immortal, I guess, to you . . . It ain’t going to work that way with me, man. I want to take care of my family and give them the things that I think they deserve.'”

And we learn that Eckstine’s last word was “Basie,” which should go some distance in supporting his deep feeling for jazz.

It’s an admirable book.  Although nearly everyone who worked with Eckstine is dead, Ginell has had the cooperation of the singer’s family and friends; he has done thorough research without allowing minutiae to overwhelm the narrative, and the book moves along at a fine 4 / 4 pace.  With rare photographs, as well.

Ginell’s work — and this series in general — is very fine, and these books fill needed spaces in jazz history.  Who’s next?

May your happiness increase!

AT THE BALL, THAT’S ALL (THE ARMISTICE BALL 2013: November 2, Madison, New Jersey)

On November 2, 2013, you have another chance to travel back to a time and place not easily reached: America around a century ago.  It’s the Armstice Ball, a yearly affair held in New Jersey, with authentic Twenties music and dancing (even a lesson in the afternoon).  The band will be led by Dan Levinson, with jazz scholar Sue Fischer on drums; Jay Rattman on reeds; David Sager on trombone; Matt Tolentino on tuba (he’s the leader of the Dallas band “Singapore Slingers”; Mike Kuehn, banjo.  The Ball goes from 8 – 11 PM at the historic Madison Community House, 25 Cook Avenue, Madison, New Jersey.  Tickets are $30 in advance, $15 with a student ID, and $35 at the door ($20 for students).  (So it pays not to wait till the last minute!)

For details — everything you’d need to know about lodging, food, and fashions, click here.

I asked Sue about the repertoire and she told me that it will include some Morton — FROGGIE MOORE, KING JOE, some hot Chicago tunes related to Noone, Dodds, Hines: FORTY AND TIGHT, MY MONDAY DATE, OH SISTER AIN’T THAT HOT, I NEVER KNEW WHAT A GAL COULD DO, as well as waltzes I’M DRIFTING BACK TO DREAMLAND, and tangos CHALITA, ADIOS MUCHACHOS, and POR UNA CABEZA.  Among other surprises.  

Here’s a video from the 2011 Armistice Ball: different musicians, but you get the picture.  A classy affair, with one-steps for all!  (None of those artificially ripped jeans the youth of America now prefer, either.)  That’s David Boeddinghaus, piano; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Will Reardon Anderson, clarinet; Mike Kuehn, banjo; Johnny Peppers, bass sax; Sue Fischer, drums. And it looks like John Landry is ready to make sure there will be none of that indecent close-dancing here.  (I would be there, but I am going to be enjoying the Classic Jazz Party at Whitley Bay . . . too much distance from Newcastle to Madison, even for me.)

May your happiness increase!

SUMMER MIGHT BE OVER BUT JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2013 is READY!

For some, September means a new crop of apples, the end of summer, fall clothing, going back to school.  All of these perceptions are deeply rooted in our genes!  But for the last nine years, September has meant more than a new pencil box — it means Jazz at Chautauqua.

Athenaeum

This weekend jazz party is a highlight of any year.

I’ve been attending these splendid parties since 2004, and have made new friends, heard excellent music, and had my spirits lifted.

This year, the 16th Jazz at Chautauqua will take place from September 19 to the 22nd.  Details here.

For those who have never attended one of these weekends, it is marked by pleasures unique to that spot and that establishment. It’s held in a beautiful 1881 wooden hotel, the Athaeneum, efficiently run by Bruce Stanton and a very genial staff — the very opposite of an anonymous chain hotel.

Walking around the grounds (when you’re not observing the beauties of Lake Chautauqua — which might include Scott and Sharon Robinson, canoeing) you see immaculately kept houses and cottages, mounds of hydrangeas . . . picture-postcard territory. Inside, the guests enjoy substantial meals and an open bar, and music to dream about.

That music!  It starts on Thursday night with informal jamming in a cozy room, then moves to the parlor for Friday afternoon piano and guitar recitals, then a full weekend of jazz, hot and sweet, in a large ballroom — with all the amenities a ten-second walk away.

The best musicians, too.

The 2013 players and singers are (in neat alphabetical order for a change) Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.

Something for everyone. Good men and women, loyal, faithful, and true.

Nancy Griffith, the Swing Sheriff, makes sure that the jazz train runs on time, that everyone is happy in Dodge, that the little dogies are swinging.

What makes the Chautauqua party different is its wide ecumenical range.  It celebrates the great small group style of what many consider the first great period of improvised, swinging music — but as it is played, with great love and individuality, by the best living musicians.  Its creator, Joe Boughton, was fiercely devoted to this music and to the great songs — often neglected — that were once everyone’s common property.  So one of the great pleasures of a Chautauqua weekend is knowing that people will go home with a newly-discovered Harry Warren or Ralph Rainger song in a memorable performance — or something thrilling from Frank Melrose or Alex Hill.

If Jazz at Chautauqua is new to you, I propose that you type those magic words into the “Search” box of JAZZ LIVES — and you will see beautifully relaxed performances from the most recent five years . . . then go here and look into the details of tickets and prices and all that intriguing (but necessary) detail.

Here are two very delightful performances — to show you what happens there!

Rebecca Kilgore and John Sheridan, performing ‘TIS AUTUMN:

Harry Allen and Keith Ingham, playing MAYBE SEPTEMBER:

Try to move from MAYBE to CERTAINLY!

And a more somber postscript. I hesitate to turn JAZZ LIVES into the blog equivalent of public broadcasting or nonprofit media: “It’s our [insert season] fund drive!  If you don’t send your 401K or 403B right away, station ABCD will go off the air!”  

But the practical realities exist. The thrill of watching a video online is considerable.  But live music — being part of the audience in the room, in the moment, as the artists take beautiful daring risks — cannot be conveyed in front of a computer monitor.  And jazz festivals, parties, concerts, clubs require live audiences to survive.  The people who put on such pleasures can’t continue them if musicians play to half-empty rooms.  So, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt (herself a big fan of the Luis Russell Orchestra), “Better to write a check than complain that your favorite jazz experience isn’t there anymore.”  So if you can join us, I urge you to.

May your happiness increase.

CHAUTAUQUA JOYS: SEPTEMBER 19-22, 2013

I am writing this in high summer 2013.  Pardon me if it seems ungrateful to say that I don’t usually look forward to September. Summer is over; I will need to make friends once again with my alarm clock.

athenaeum_hotel

But September means that Jazz at Chautauqua will be, once again, a great pleasure.  For me, it’s getting to hear my heroes play and sing in the most comfortable surroundings, with the guarantee that great things will happen. That it takes place in the comfortable Athenaeum Hotel, with good food and drink, where one is surrounded by cottages, hydrangeas, and substantial views of a huge blue lake. Some jazz parties present uplifting music but once one ventures outside the ballrom, all is a manufactured cement void. Not at Chautauqua.

I’ve been going to Jazz at Chautauqua every year since 2004, and that weekend is a musical high point of the year.

You can find out all you need to know here.

Here’s some evidence — videos I shot last year. If you search “Jazz at Chautauqua” in my YouTube channel, swingyoucats, you’ll find dozens more.

WAITIN’ FOR KATY, with Andy Schumm, cornet; Marty Grosz, guitar; Bob Havens, trombone; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; John Sheridan, piano; Kerry Lewis, string bass; Pete Siers, drums:

Something pretty: WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART? — a duet for Scott Robinson, taragoto, and Rossano Sportiello, piano:

Swinging and whimsical: Bob Reitmeier, clarinet, and Keith Ingham, piano, UMBRELLA MAN:

MOONGLOW, featuring Jon Burr, string bass; Howard Alden, guitar; Paul Patterson, violin:

Bill Evans’ FUNKALERRO, by Howard, Scott Robinson, Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums:

In keeping with the cosmological theme, Becky Kilgore, vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano, Frank, and Ricky perform I SAW STARS:

The Faux Frenchmen swing out on a theme from RHAPSODY IN BLUE:

Howard Alden’s Brazilian summit, with Duke Heitger, trumpet; Jon Burr, and Pete Siers rhapsodizing on DOCE DE COCO:

Jon-Erik Kellso, Rossano Sportiello, Alex Hoffman, and Kerry Lewis explore TOPSY:

Pianist Mike Greensill, Harry Allen, tenor; Randy Reinhart, cornet, suggest: WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

Duke Heitger, Dan Block, Rossano Sportiello, Marty Grosz, Kerry Lewis, and Pete Siers offer WHEN DAY IS DONE and PENTHOUSE SERENADE:

That’s only a small sample of what happens at Jazz at Chautauqua.

This year, the players and singers will be Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.

Hope to see you there — September 19 to 22!

May your happiness increase!

MOLLY RYAN: “SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER”

When I first heard Molly Ryan sing, I thought, “That girl has such a beautiful voice!”  But she has more that that — innate connections to the music, to feeling, and to swing.  She knows what the records sound like, but she doesn’t imitate them: the music comes out of her essential self.

All of these lovely tendencies, fully realized, reverberate through her new CD, SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER! (with its very apropos exclamation point).

MOLLY RYAN

But first.  Something lovely for the ears: SAY IT WITH A KISS, sung so prettily by Molly, accompanied by husband Dan Levinson, clarinet; Mark Shane, piano; Connie Jones, cornet — recorded Sept. 4, 2011, at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival:

The good news about SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER! is that it is a new Molly Ryan – and Friends of the First Rank – CD.  That should be enough for anyone.

The even better news is that it is carefully thought out in every possible way, from the cheerful photos that adorn it, to the exuberant liner notes by Will Friedwald, to the varied and rewarding song choices, to the hot band and the Lady Friends who join in.

If there’s a way it could have been improved, it is beyond me to imagine it.

And all the careful planning hasn’t constricted the result — some CDs are so precise, so cautious, that they are audibly lifeless: morgue-music.  SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER! is beautifully planned but all the planning gives the musicians room to swing out, to do what they do so beautifully, to be their own precious selves as individuals and as a supportive community of swing pals.

The pals are — from the top — husband Dan Levinson, reeds, arrangements, and a vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone, arrangements; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Chris Flory and Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Vince Giordano, bass; Kevin Dorn, drums.  And Molly is joined by vocal swing stars Banu Gibson and Maude Maggart for one third of the eighteen tracks, more than once forming a divinely varied and subtle vocal trio.

And where some well-meant CDs bog down in a narrow or restrictive repertoire (seventy-five minutes of the same thing can get tiring quickly) this one bounces from surprise to surprise, evidence of Molly’s deep knowledge of and enthusiasm for the best music from all kinds of corners.  Here are a few of the composers: Harry Warren, Richard Whiting, Cole Porter, J. Russel Robinson, Ben Oakland, Richard Rodgers, Bronislaw Kaper, Eubie Blake, B.G. DeSylva, Jerome Kern, Victor Young — and HUSHABYE MOUNTAIN from the Sherman brothers’ 1968 film CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, no less.

You can purchase SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER here, or (better yet) you can find Molly at a live gig and ask her to sign one for you, which she will do gladly. To keep up with her musical adventures, click here.

She’s the real thing.  But you knew that already.

May your happiness increase!

APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH, or NEW YORK JOYS (2013)

Every time I get ready to declare, “OK, I will spend the rest of my life happily in California,” New York crooks a dainty finger at me and whispers, “Not so fast, fellow.  I have something for you.”

ny skyline

These are some of the musicians I was able to see, hear, and video during April 2013 — an incomplete list, in chronological order:

Svetlana Shmulyian, Tom Dempsey, Rob Garcia, Asako Takasaki, Michael Kanan, Michael Petrosino, Joel Press, Sean Smith, Tardo Hammer, Steve Little, Hilary Gardner, Ehud Asherie, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Kevin Dorn, James Chirillo, Brian Nalepka, Dan Block, Danny Tobias, Matt Munisteri, Neal Miner, Catherine Russell, Jon-Erik Kellso, Lee Hudson, Lena Bloch, Frank Carlberg, Dave Miller, Billy Mintz, Daryl Sherman, Scott Robinson, Harvie S, Jeff Barnhart, Gordon Au, John Gill, Ian Frenkel, Lew Green, Marianne Solivan, Mark McLean, Dennis Lichtman, Tamar Korn, Raphael McGregor, Skip Krevens, Andrew Hall, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Scott Robinson, Pat O’Leary, Andy Brown, Giancarlo Massu, Luciano Troja, Rossano Sportiello, Randy Sandke, Harry Allen, Dennis Mackrel, Joel Forbes.

And I saw them at the Back Room Speakeasy, the Metropolitan Room, Smalls, the Bickford Theatre, the Ear Inn, Symphony Space, the Finaldn Center, Jazz at Kitano, Jeff and Joel’s House Party, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jalopy Theatre, Casa Italiana, and Zankel Recital Hall.

T.S. Eliot had it wrong.  Just another average jazz-month in New York.

P.S.  This isn’t to slight my California heroes, nay nay — among them Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Chris Dawson, Marty Eggers, Katie Cavera, Kally Price, Leon Oakley, Mal Sharpe, Tom Schmidt, John Reynolds, Melissa Collard, Ari Munkres, GAUCHO, PANIQUE, Bill Carter, Jim Klippert, JasonVanderford, Bill Reinhart, Dan Barrett . . . .

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTY AT THE BICKFORD (Part Three): RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, JAMES CHIRILLO, BRIAN NALEPKA, KEVIN DORN (April 8, 2013)

Here’s Part One and here’s Part Two of this glorious — although understated — musical experience that we had at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey.  Thanks to Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, James Chirillo, Brian Nalepka, Kevin Dorn, and Bruce Gast for the good feelings and uplifting sounds.

ONE HOUR (a solo for Mark):

ATLANTA BLUES, also known as MAKE ME A PALLET ON (THE) YOUR FLOOR:

A very charming medley from MY FAIR LADY, delivered by our fair James:

CRAZY RHYTHM, where Brian shows us what that rhythm can do:

And a rousing closer — PANAMA:

My only regret is that there isn’t a Part Four, Five, onwards.  But I am grateful for the pleasures of this evening, and Bruce Gast has a number of fine jazz evenings planned for the future.  Check out the details in Part One or Two — worth the trip!

May your happiness increase.

A SWINGING WEEKEND IN THE COUNTRY: JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2013 (September 19-22, 2013)

It’s coming.

Although it’s only the end of April, I am excited when I think about Jazz at Chautauqua, once again, which is a highlight of the musical year.  I’ve been attending these splendid parties since 2004, and have made new friends, heard excellent music, and generally had my spirits lifted.

This year, the 16th Jazz at Chautauqua will take place from September 19 to the 22nd.  For more information, click here.  For those who have never attended one of these weekends, it is marked by pleasures unique to that spot and that establishment.

It’s held in a beautiful 1881 wooden hotel, the Athaeneum, efficiently run by Bruce Stanton and a very genial staff — the very opposite of an anonymous chain hotel.  Walking around the grounds (when you’re not observing the beauties of Lake Chautauqua — which might include Scott and Sharon Robinson, canoeing) you see immaculately kept houses and cottages, mounds of hydrangeas . . . picture-postcard territory.  Inside, the guests enjoy substantial meals and an open bar . . . and music to dream about, starting on Thursday night with informal jamming in a cozy room, then moving to the parlor for Friday afternoon piano and guitar recitals, then a full weekend of jazz, hot and sweet, in a large ballroom — with all the amenities a ten-second walk away.

The best musicians, too.  The 2013 players and singers are (in neat alphabetical order for a change) Howard Alden, Harry Allen, Dan Barrett, Dan Block, Jon Burr, James Dapogny, the Faux Frenchmen, Mike Greensill, Marty Grosz, Bob Havens, Duke Heitger, Keith Ingham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Becky Kilgore, Dan Levinson, Kerry Lewis, Ricky Malichi, Randy Reinhart, Scott Robinson, Andy Schumm, John Sheridan, Pete Siers, Rossano Sportiello, Andy Stein, Frank Tate, John Von Ohlen, Wesla Whitfield.  Something for everyone.  Good men and women, loyal, faithful, and true.

Nancy Griffith, the Swing Sheriff, makes sure that the jazz train runs on time, that everyone is happy in Dodge, that the little dogies are swinging.

If Jazz at Chautauqua is new to you, I propose that you type those magic words into the “Search” box of JAZZ LIVES — and you will see beautifully relaxed performances from the most recent five years . . . then you can go here and look into the details of tickets and prices and all that intriguing (but necessary) detail.

And as the video-soundtrack to such endeavors, let me offer two performances from the 2012 Jazz at Chautauqua — never seen before! — by a strolling group: Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Frank Tate, string bass; Bill Ransom, drums:

LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

CLOSE YOUR EYES:

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTY AT THE BICKFORD (Part Two): RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, JAMES CHIRILLO, BRIAN NALEPKA, KEVIN DORN (April 8, 2013)

Here’s the second part of the delightful concert I witnessed on April 8, 2013, at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, thanks to Bruce Gast and a stellar quartet: Randy Reinhart (cornet); Mark Shane (piano); James Chirillo (guitar); Brian Nalepka (string bass / vocal); Kevin Dorn (drums).

Randy is not only a fine brassman but a thoughtful leader in the Ruby Braff mold — given ninety minutes and a quintet, he encouraged the players to have solo features and he reinvented the quintet in a variety of even smaller bands, with wonderful results.

For ROCKIN’ CHAIR, at a nice medium tempo, we had a rockin’ trio of Randy, Mark, and Kevin:

MY GAL SAL moved speedily:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE was a solo feature for James (with Brian and Kevin) , who began by offering his own version of the famous Dick McDonough solo chorus:

Randy and James got very pretty with I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO HER FACE:

I associate DON’T TAKE YOUR LOVE FROM ME with pop-song melancholy (all that tearing and weeping and breaking), but Brian is constitutionally more cheerful than that, so his vocal / instrumental feature on this song is very lively, although no less heartfelt:

More to come!

The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown.  Near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 expressway. This is a 300-seat hall with generous parking on site.  Wheelchair access.  Weeknight concerts are one long set (8-9:30 p.m.). Tickets are generally $15 in advance, but $18 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at 973-971-3706.  The box office can also provide information, directions, or a simple “jazz map.”

You can keep up to date on brilliant concerts to come by emailing Jazzevents@aol.com.

For my part, I’ve made BICKFORD one of the “Favorites” on my GPS — evidence of my musical happiness.  And if you missed the first part of this concert, make yourself at home with another sample of delicious music in a wonderful environment here.  

May your happiness increase.

BEAUTY AT THE BICKFORD (Part One): RANDY REINHART, MARK SHANE, JAMES CHIRILLO, BRIAN NALEPKA, KEVIN DORN (April 8, 2013)

The concert I witnessed on April 8, 2013, was well worth the trip to Points Formerly Unknown (the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey).

Randy Reinhart (cornet); Mark Shane (piano); James Chirillo (guitar); Brian Nalepka (string bass / vocal); Kevin Dorn (drums) played beautifully — in solo and in ensemble.

Bruce Gast made everyone more than comfortable, and the Bickford itself is a truly congenial place to hear music.

Here’s a sample — with more to come!

The quintet urged us to LINGER AWHILE — no protests here!

The venerable but still blushing-pink ROSE ROOM:

Randy growls (but doesn’t bite) on DO NOTHIN’ TILL  YOU HEAR FROM ME:

Mark offers a lovely cosmological vista with MOONGLOW:

And congratulations to Brian Nalepka — this was his first gig back after a series of medical adventures . . . he sounds beautiful!

The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown.  Near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 expressway. This is a 300-seat hall with generous parking on site.  Wheelchair access.  Weeknight concerts are one long set (8-9:30 p.m.). Tickets are generally $15 in advance, but $18 at the door.  Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at 973-971-3706.  The box office can also provide information, directions, or a simple “jazz map.”

You can be kept up to date on brilliant concerts to come by emailing Jazzevents@aol.com.

For my part, I’ve made BICKFORD one of the “Favorites” on my GPS — evidence of my new courage and musical happiness.  

May your happiness increase.