It’s been a wonderful day for swinging jazz — tender and hot — because I found these four performances on YouTube.
The peerless (and under-heralded) trumpeter, arranger, composer Menno Daams has started his own YouTube channel (“menno779”) and its videos include these four delightful performances by the “Daams-Lukacs Orchestra” of jazz classics — homages to Bix, to Louis, and Duke — that are evocations rather than copies even when they seem to be hewing closely to the originals.
The orchestra — well-rehearsed without being stiff — is composed of Menno on trumpet (and arrangements); David Lukacs on clarinet; Ronald Jansen Heijtmajer, alto saxophone; Frank Roberscheuten, tenor saxophone; Chris Hopkins, piano; Ton van Bergeyk, guitar; Jan Voogd – bass. Their website is www.myspace.com/daamslukacsorchestra
For the Bixians in the audience (among whom I number myself) here is a delicate reading of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA at just the right tempo (with Chris’s feathery commentary throughout, even suggesting Fats and Teddy, approvingly) before the streamlined closing chorus:
Taking on SINGIN’ THE BLUES is just as difficult, because the 1927 recording is so much a part of our shared history, but this version is just lovely, with its own room to breathe, echoing Berigan as well as Beiderbecke (with lovely work by Ronald on alto). That blissful chorus in the middle split between Chris and Frank sounded as if Teddy and Lester had decided to honor Bix in 1938:
SAVE IT PRETTY MAMA originally came from Don Redman but has been associated with Louis for nearly eighty years now, and for good reason. Menno shows just how well he knows that tradition, and the band is in the groove with him. The tiptoeing reed interlude that follows his solo suggests the Alec Wilder Octet, which is always a good thing, before Chris reminds us that Earl Hines liked this composition as well, and David has his say before a neat ensemble rocks this one to a sweet conclusion:
And, to end this too-brief program, a subtly intense reinvention of RING DEM BELLS which suggests the great Hampton recording as well as the Ellington originals. Catch Menno’s delighted grin at Chris’s interpolation of some Willie “the Lion” Smith in his solo. And then the band offers us (as an encore) an on-the-spot alternate take!
What a phenomenal small group — with a perfectly integrated subtle rhythm section as well.
To go back to the Twenties, I’d have to say, “The way this band rocks is just too bad.”
My title comes from a Lucky Thompson line, but it fits here: you don’t learn how to play like this overnight, and you don’t do it with such skill without having a deep passion for swinging jazz as part of your essential self.