Tag Archives: red beans and rice

A FRIENDLY BOOK: CLIVE WILSON’S “THE TIME OF MY LIFE: A JAZZ JOURNEY FROM LONDON TO NEW ORLEANS” (University Press of Mississippi, 2019)

Many memoirs have, at their center, trauma: abuse, addiction, imprisonment, death, disease, or more.  And many jazz books these days are indigestible: deadened by theoretical labyrinths or limited by the author’s narrow range or by inaccuracies.  Thus it’s a tremendous pleasure to celebrate trumpeter Clive Wilson‘s memoir, gentle, humane, and full of good stories.  It’s available from the usual online sources, and a good overview is here.

The facts first: Clive (you’ll understand why I do not call him by the more formal “Wilson”) heard traditional jazz in England in his youth — George Lewis, Kid Ory, Henry “Red” Allen and others — and was inspired to take up the trumpet.  Although he studied physics in college, he was emotionally connected to jazz, and he gigged at home with New Orleans-style bands before making the leap to visit in New Orleans in 1964.  There he met local musicians, and eventually settled in the city he now calls home.  The cover shows a youthful Clive next to Punch Miller . . . which says a great deal.

At this point, some aural evidence would be fitting: Clive and the Shotgun Jazz Band in 2014, playing WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE, alongside Marla Dixon, Twerk Thomson, and Tommy Sancton:

What makes this book so appealing is almost subliminal.  I love first-hand jazz experiences and anecdotes, and for me the three brief encounters Clive has with Henry “Red” Allen — the gradual incline from eager young fan to being seen as a musician — are worth the price of the book.  And the book is generously fleshed out by detailed gracious portraits of many New Orleans luminaries: Dick Allen, Dave “Fat Man” Williams, Barbara Reid, Punch Miller, Raymond Burke, Slow Drag, George Guesnon, Kid Howard, Kid Sheik, Kid Thomas (keep the Kids together!), Lewis James, Peter Bocage, De De Pierce, Herb Hall, Teddy Buckner (gently but decisively winning a nonverbal argument in music with a vindictive Leonard Feather), Buster Holmes, Harold Dejan, Percy Humphrey, Emilie Barnes, Manuel Manetta, and more.  There are brief glimpses of Louis Armstrong in New York and California and an actual Clayton “Sunshine” Duerr sighting — someone who was only a name in a discography.  (Between 1933 and 1936, Duerr played guitar in three New York sessions, alongside Benny Carter, Floyd O’Brien, Teddy Wilson, Pops Foster, Frank Froeba, Joe Marsala, Jack Purvis, Bunny Berigan, and Eddie Dougherty: someone should have recorded his recollections!)

Thus the book is full of close-ups, and since Clive is and was a practicing musician rather than simply a fan, the stories have substance — not only watching Harold Dejan in a street parade, but playing in one.  And Clive has a wonderful ear for the way people speak, which he shares with love rather than condescension.  Two examples: when he arrives at the New Orleans bus station — fifty dollars in his pocket — he hears two men arguing.  One says to the other: “Now tell me this.  What I did you that made you do that to me?!”  That’s memorable: I’ve been trying to work it into conversation since I read it.  Then there’s Tom Albert’s memory of hearing the Bolden band c. 1904: “I stood there with my mouth open so long, it got full of dirt!”

My copy has fifty or more page-corners turned down to remind me of where the irreplaceable stories, sights, and memories are.  And any reader will find his or her own memorable pages.  (There’s a lovely short piece at the end about what Louis means to him and to us.)  But this book is more than the record of someone who aimed for the right place and stayed there, more than a series of anecdotes (how much a plate of red beans and rice cost at Buster Holmes’ in the mid-Sixties and the secret of its deep flavor).

Clive does not fashion himself in a self-conscious way: the book is not a narcissist’s holiday or a diary.  He isn’t Holden Caulfield, Huckleberry Finn, or Stephen Dedalus.  But from the first pages of this narrative, it’s clear that he is someone on a quest — not simply to learn to play the trumpet as they do in New Orleans, but to answer the deep questions “Who am I?  Where do I belong?  What is my purpose on this earth?”  To me, Clive’s search for those answers — his journeys back and forth from the UK to NOLA — is the most rewarding part of this book, because we see him as serious in his introspective scrutiny, whether he is asking his rather rigid father a dangerous question across the dinner table or continuing the same deep inquiries as an adult.  In this way, the book has a resonance beyond his musical aspirations and realizations.  It becomes more than a “jazz book”; it feels, without pretensions, much like the chronicle of the development of a personality, an awareness, a developed consciousness.

Clive is modest both in his description of his endeavors, and there is no self-congratulation, but we see the growth of someone we can value for a kind of gentle honesty as well as for his trumpet playing.  And that makes TIME OF MY LIFE a book not only to enjoy, but to recommend to those who wouldn’t know Kid Howard from Kid Rock.

A soft-spoken, friendly, yet meaningful work of art, “ça c’est plein.”

And here’s a little taste:

I recommend it with pleasure.

May your happiness increase!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about two more selections?

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.rayskjelbred.com/

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

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

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

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

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

TRULY WONDERFUL!

LOUIS, GLUTEN-FREE

Thanks to Rich Liebman of Dallas, who writes, correctly, “Louis lives on!”

Serve with Morton’s Hot Peppers and Hawkins’ Red Beans . . . .

P.S.  Cook it all here: the kitchen of Louis and Lucille’s Corona, Queens house — the Louis Armstrong House Museum:

Photograph courtesy of Louis Armstrong House Museum

If you haven’t been to the house . . . don’t wait!  And when you get there, ask at the desk for the free red beans and rice recipe . . .to complete the circle.  Visit http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/ for details.  Happy cooking!

CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND: DIXIELAND MONTEREY, March 4, 2011

Clint Baker is an inspiring multi-instrumentalist (everything from brass to reeds to strings to drums to vocals) and here at Dixieland Monterey 2011, he contented himself with leading a small hot group from his drum set — he is a master of percussive sounds and propulsions.  With him were hot cornetist Marc Caparone, pianist / singer Dawn Lambeth (united in connubial bliss), trombonist and euphonist Howard Miyata (that’s Uncle Howie to Gordon, Brandon, and Justin Au), reedman Mike Baird, bassist Paul Mehling, and guitarist / banjoist Katie Cavera.

Oh, they did rock!

Their first selection was a request — from Dottie Baird, Mike’s wife, who always asks for WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME, on which Mike has to play saxophone.  A wonderful idea:

One law of performance is “Get the crowd involved: engage the audience!”  So here’s a bit of audience participation — feel free to join in at home in the HOLLER BLUES with shrieks or howls:

Dawn Lambeth (who is moderately pregnant — we wish her the world’s easiest delivery!) is also a spectacularly gifted singer.  Here she introduces IT HAPPENED IN MONTEREY, written by Mabel Wayne, as a song with a great deal of sentimental depth for Marc and herself — the sad lyrics notwithstanding.  Even with a terrible cold, Dawn sounds so fine:

A good old good one — what could be better than PANAMA by William H. Tyers, king of the Exotic Landscape (he also wrote MAORI):

And a tribute to Papa Joe Oliver, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong’s spiritual father, SNAG IT (An idle thought: where did the inspiration for that slang phrase come from?  I take it to mean “Oh, get it!”  From fishing?  From baseball?):

Finally, something personally pleasing.  SWEETHEARTS ON PARADE is one of my favorite songs — even though it’s not exactly harmonically taxing — perhaps because I heard Louis’s recording of it early in my life.  And I felt very much embraced at and by Dixieland Monterey (a weekend of many hugs, all given and received happily), no more so than when Marc asked me if I had any requests and then played this one.  You know you’ve arrived!  Two by two, they go marching through:

This band is the absolute equivalent of a big plate of down-home red beans and rice: spicy, colorful, hot, satisfying for a long time afterwards.  And look how happy they look!

A footnote: JAZZ LIVES readers who energetically watch “SFRaeAnn”‘s channel will see her videos of these performances.  She is Rae Ann Berry, a wonderful archivist and deep friend to me and to many musicians . . . and we were often sitting at the same concert in Monterey and videotaping.  Why, then, you might ask, why post my versions as well as hers?  I have this fantasy that someone more technically gifted than myself will find a way to screen both her video and mine on a particular song – – – synchronized, to provide something like Dixieland Cinerama, or Hot Technicolor.  Just imagine!

GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE LIVING MUSICIANS!  ALL MONEY COLLECTED GOES TO THEM:

https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=VBURVAWDMWQAS

WHAT WOULD LOUIS DO?

Note: I wrote this post nearly ten years ago, and it still rings true to me, and I hope to you.  I’ve added two or three lines that seem even more relevant today.

Louis Armstrong fascinates me as an icon as well as an artist.  In my admiration and awe, I can’t become him — which is fine, we were all meant to be ourselves — but I have been silently studying the man as well as the recordings.

And this is the post I’ve wanted to write about him as a spiritual ideal of how to live in the world.

Live your life as if it mattered: it’s the only one you’re getting.

Pay attention to other people.  If you ignore them, you will be alone someday.

Know your particular talents but wear them lightly: they will speak for themselves.

Be sure to floss your teeth.

Give everyone else a chance to solo.  They’ll be happier and it will be easier on you.  You don’t have to be the whole show even if your name is on the marquee.

Be kind to those who are struggling to reach their fullest potential, but acccept no mediocrity.  A B natural will never be a B flat, no matter how hard someone tries to make it so.

Spread joy.  Be proud of the joy you spread.  It is a rare gift to be happy and extend it to others. 

Wash your hands.  Eat some rye bread.

Smile and make other people smile, but don’t hide your feelings if they’re not joyous.

Actively seek out opportunities to be kind without looking for reciprocation.

Help out younger people whenever you can.  Give things away.

You don’t have to take Swiss Kriss if you really don’t want to, but it has its own lesson.  Get rid of your shit as soon as possible: don’t hang on to it. 

Cruelty, selfishness, vindictiveness will bounce right back on you.

Life is not going to get easier as you age, but be wise about your limtations.  Don’t try to hit 250 high Cs if you can’t do it any longer.

If someone tries to take advantage of you, don’t let it happen, but don’t make a career of being angry.

Be generous to people who haven’t yet understood generosity. 

Never forget those people who helped and guided you.  Tell everyone about your mentors and keep their memory alive.  

Be grateful for the simple things — a delicious plate of red beans and rice or a good Western on TV — and let everyone know that you are thankful.

Love your wife / husband / partner with all your heart. 

If it’s summer, buy the local kids ice-cream. 

Get high when you feel like it, but don’t hurt yourself or anyone else in the process.

Find opportunities to laugh often.  Tell good jokes, but realize that life itself is often a hilarious pageant.  Embrace the profane as well as the sacred.

Understand that all people, whether the King of England or Black Benny, have a common essence. 

Be a close observer of people, and observe yourself closely as well.  Learn from yourself, and improve what you see.

Spread joy.

Take risks when you know what you’re doing, and sometimes when you don’t.  What could possibly go wrong?

Don’t forget to mess around when you’re doing the Charleston.

Work very hard at what you have chosen to do, but try — this is not easy! — to make your work and pleasure the same thing. 

Teach by example, and let people hear the lead!

If you do some of these things with great joyous seriousness, even if you never play trumpet or sing, people will always be happy to see you, and when you die, people will say what a privilege it was to have lived in your century.  People will warm their hands at your generous spirit.

May your happiness increase!

“AM RICELY AND CHICKENLY YOURS”

Thanks to Will Friedwald for pointing this out — courtesy of “Letters of Note” (http://www.lettersofnote.com/search?updated-max=2010-09-28T14:18:00%2B01:00&max-results=6).   (Will told me that Nancy Franklin of THE NEW YORKER brought it to his attention, so thanks, Nancy!)

The original source was a Sotheby’s auction (http://www.sothebys.com/app/live/lot/LotDetail.jsp?lot_id=47TQW) where this and four other latters to the singer Gina Gardner sold for  £1440. 

‘Yea Man’ . . . . . . . . !

RED BEANS AND RICELY OURS

ostituba

David Ostwald, the tuba-playing, wise-cracking leader of the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band, has created a brand-new website: www.ostwaldjazz.com

You haven’t visited David’s new site yet to hear the free hot jazz, see the lively videos, read about the band and David’s own fine writing about Louis Armstrong?  Feel all right?  Your eyes look a little glassy.  Let me feel your forehead . . . .

Don’t be the last one on your block to be enlightened!