Tag Archives: Retta Christie

“EVERYTHING IS ALL RIGHT DOWN AT MY END”: SOMETHING FOR JIM GOODWIN

I never had the good fortune to meet the “spitfire” cornetist Jim Goodwin, but he is very much alive in my aural memory.  If you ever heard him live or on records, you will know what I mean.  He was a daredevil with great passionate intensity, wit, and emotion — and it all came through his horn.

If Jim is new to you, it’s not too late to share in the experience: here is one place to start.  Another, more audible, is Retta Christie’s radio program — wishing Jim happiness on what would have been his birthday, March 19.  Retta (a wonderful forthright singer you also should know about) took loving care of Jim . . . and she treasures him, his music, and wants to make sure more people know him.

Retta writes, “On Monday, March 19th on my radio show the Noontime Jamboree I will be featuring the music of the late Mr. Goodwin. Tune in from 12 – 2 pm on KBOO Portland, 90.7 FM for this special.  Two new CDs with Jim playing horn have come out this last year.  They will be featured along with music that Jim enjoyed listening.”

And since only a few people reading this can pick up KBGO on their car radios, click here to listen online.

I think that no one is dead as long as he or she is remembered . . . so Jim Goodwin lives on.

May your happiness increase.

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ALL AROUND US on MAY 23, 2010

YouTube provided a very encouraging coincidence — two inspiring jazz events taking place on the same day, May 23, 2010 — one in Denmark, one in Arizona.  I always hope that Hot jazz is ubiquitous, that somewhere the Ghanian Revelers or the Croatian Wanderers are playing MABEL’S DREAM or DICKIE’S DREAM or SOLID OLD MAN — and these two clips suggest the truth might not be that far away. 

First, the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys on a Copenhagen canal boat — recorded in lovely HD by Thorbye Flemming.  Their choice is LOUIS-I-AN-I-A (by Joe Darensbourg, I think?) with a very lively and current impromptu set of lyrics by banjoist Michael Boving, who has a remarkable shouting style.  He’s joined here by Robert Hansson, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass sax; Ole Olsen; bass.  Sit down, you’re rocking the boat!

Rae Ann Berry went to the Arizona Classic Jazz Society’s May meeting (how lucky for us!) and had a hand in this concert appearance by Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, who are Ray on piano; Kim Cusack on reeds; Katie Cavera on guitar; Clint Baker on bass; Hal Smith on drums.  (Hal would have me tell you, in the spirit of full and frank disclosure, that he had a terrible cold and was filled to the gills with immobilizing medicine.  He sounds fine to me.)

Here’s their slow-burning take on IDOLIZING, which is entirely associated with Bix and Jean Goldkette, who took it at a much faster tempo:

And some Western Swing (I think of Retta Christie’s great version) on RIDIN’ DOWN THE CANYON, a special treat being Ray’s laconic but utterly idiomatic vocal:

And in honor of Lillie Delk Christian, Billie Holiday, and Benny Goodman, here’s I MUST HAVE THAT MAN:

This is only a sample: the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys also favored the passengers with CLARINET MARMALADE, and Ray and the Cubs performed about twenty more songs: enjoy what happened on May 23, 2010!

RETTA CHRISTIE SINGS! (Volume Two)

Retta Christie continues to delight. 

Some contemporary singers approach their material through an ironic, cool pose.  Retta faces her songs directly.  Without being sentimental, she conveys their emotional force, letting lyrics and melody pass through her, opening herself to emotions.  She doesn’t overact; she doesn’t linger on syllables for “dramatic effect,” but you hear her heart. 

But don’t take my word for it — here’s a review by Maxwell Chandler (February 15, 2010) that echoes my sentiments: http://www.jazzpolice.com/content/view/8850/79/.

Retta’s first CD continues to give me much pleasure.  Simple rather than fussy, it is a trio — Retta on vocals and discreet brushes-on-snare drum backing; David Evans on tenor and clarinet; the splendid Dave Frishberg on piano.  The trio’s approach is easy, relaxed without being sleepy.  And they animate a wide variety of material, from Thirties pops and ballads to a few country classics.  I was amazed and amused to find myself playing RIDIN’ DOWN THE CANYON as my getting-to-work theme song.  Evans is a potent, light-toned player (I thought of Al Cohn) and Frishberg remains my favorite piano accompanist — tender, apt, and humorous.  The music I heard reminded me, in equal measure, of the Mel Powell – Bobby Donaldson – Paul Quinichette Vanguard session; the Cohn – Jimmy Rowles duet, with Retta adding to the ambiance rather than intruding. 

The second volume of this group’s brave yet casual exploration is just as satisfying, and that’s saying a good deal.  Retta’s swinging candor is worth the price of the disc — so that when she sings I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS, I think that she actually does — no fooling, no pretense.  She is no amateur, someone who just decided on whim,  “Gee, it would be fun to sing!” but she conveys the freshness of someone enthusiastic rather than someone who has studied hard at seeming enthusiastic.  I have no particular love for the conventions of “country” music, but I find Retta’s approach to her material charming.  I could listen to Evans and Frishberg all day — or until the cows come home, whichever is later.  

Retta has a touch of quiet audacity — the courage to approach FOOLIN’ MYSELF and A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT on their own terms, so that the listener never thinks, “Oh, no, not another Little Billie.”  I found myself truly listening to the lyrics anew, hearing the song as if I hadn’t had Holiday’s records burned into my consciousness.  

This second session is openly a tribute to Retta’s great friend and musical mentor Jim Goodwin, a memorable cornetist, pianist, and life-force.  I would urge you to listen closely to her version of OLD FOLKS — a song she recorded specifically as a loving tribute to Goodwin, who died in 2009.  If you can listen to it without being moved by its peaceful sadness, by the love in eery turn of phrase, you are made of stern stuff.  

Retta also brings back I ONLY WANT A BUDDY, NOT A SWEETHEART (a song I know from the Dick Robertson Decca with Bobby Hackett) and she introduced me to ‘NEATH THE PURPLE ON THE HILLS, which has its own irresistible swaying motion, complete with “Yoo hoo”s at the right place.  I am very fond of the two instrumental tracks — ONLY A ROSE and SWEET AND SLOW — which showcase the two Davids, eloquently.  Doug Ramsey’s gently erudite liner notes are just right.  Like him, I am waiting for Volumes Three and Four and more.  Till that day, you should investigate One and Two.  Retta’s musical honesty is something I cherish.  Visit www.rettachristie.com. for more information.

JIM GOODWIN, HOT MAN

The much-loved jazzman Jim Goodwin died this year just shy of his sixty-fifth birthday.  I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about his talents, but what struck me when I first heard him on record was his surpassing heat, a pushing intensity that drove the musicians around him.  Red Allen had it, as did Roy Eldridge.  Think of Louis on HOTTER THAN THAT, or the closing choruses of I NEVER KNEW by the Chocolate Dandies, or Joe Sullivan in his prime. 

Jim always played — no matter what the context or the tempo — as if his life depended on it.  Not necessarily loud or high, not necessarily spattering the listener with fancy runs, but taking chances, never coasting.  Even when he playing the opening chorus of something like PLEASE BE KIND, you knew that the request wasn’t an idle one: he meant business!

Many of Jim’s vinyl recordings haven’t yet made it to compact disc, and there are private sessions treasured by those who have heard them.  But he and his friend Dave Frishberg made DOUBLE PLAY, an enlivening duet session for Arbors Records (they were both passionate baseball aficionados).  [As I write this, the CD and cassette versions are available at the Arbors site for reduced prices. ]

And, more recently, the Blue Swing label has issued two sets featuring an incendiary little band, the Sunset Music Company, recorded live in Europe, under the leadership of banjoist / singer Lueder Ohlwein, and featuring Jim alongside such notables as Dan Barrett, John Smith, Bill Carter, Mike Fay, and Jeff Hamilton.  Think of a cross between Fats Waller and his Rhythm circa 1935 and the Rhythmakers, and you’ve got the collective ambiance of these rewarding concert recordings.

Finally, Jim’s dear friend and musical colleague Retta Christie (whose singing is full of feeling and swing) has created a website to honor Jim — content and photographs provided by his friends, so it has a delightful, often hilarious candor not always found on the web.  And — there are audio clips for those for whom Jim was just a legendary name.   

Instead of reading the grim headlines in the newspaper or cyber-shopping, look and listen here.  I assure you that the experience will be uplifting.  And Hot.  http://jamesrgoodwin.com/

JIM GOODWIN, REMEMBERED

My friend Barb Hauser, the wise woman of San Francisco jazz, sent this along — an obituary notice for the brilliant, plunging cornetist (later pianist) Jim Goodwin, written by his friend — the justly renowned Dave Frishberg.

James R. (Jim) Goodwin, the son of Katherine and Robert Goodwin, was born March 16, 1944 in Portland, OR, and died April 19, 2009 in Portland.  Jim was a natural musician with no formal training.  Practitioners and admirers of traditional jazz on both sides of the Atlantic have long regarded him as somewhat of a legend, and his heroic cornet playing, influenced by Louis Armstrong and Wild Bill Davison, was warmly appreciated by his musical colleagues as well as by audiences who listened and loved it.

Jim was a star first baseman at Hillsboro High – a left-handed line-drive hitter.  After high school he served in the Oregon National Guard, then trained on Wall Street for a career in finance, returned to Portland, joined Walston & Co., and became for a time the nation’s youngest stockbroker.  Jim then put aside the financial career and began to devote his life to playing jazz on the cornet.

During his forty-year career as a cornetist and pianist, Jim had long residencies in Breda, Holland and Berkeley, California, as well as in his home town of Portland.  He played with many prominent musicians of the “old school,” including Joe Venuti, Manny Klein, Phil Harris, and Portland’s Monte Ballou (Jim’s godfather).  He toured extensively in Western Europe and became probably better known there than in the US.  During his long residence in the Bay Area he played regularly at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel and at Pier 23, as well as in three World Series with the Oakland A’s pep band.  Before his recent return to Portland, he spent several years living in rural Brownsmead, OR, near Astoria.

Jim became a pioneer in the Portland micro-brewing industry when, together with Fred Bowman and Art Larrance, he established the Portland Brewing Company.  During the 1990s he and Portland pianist Dave Frishberg played regular duet performances at the company’s Flanders Street Pub, and the two made an internationally acclaimed CD on the Arbors Jazz label.

In recent years Mr. Goodwin was on the Board of Directors of Congo Enterprises, and he served briefly as CFO of that company, leaving office months before the scandal became headline news.

**********************

Forest Park was very dear to Jim. He spent a lot of time there hiking and running.

Donations may be made to: Forest Park Conservancy

1507 NW 23rd Avenue

Portland, OR 97210

Tel: 503-223-5449

– Include a note stating that the donation is “in honor of James Goodwin.”

– Donations may be made online at http://www.forestparkconservancy.org

– A space is provided to enter the honoree’s name.

There will be a party honoring Jim on Saturday, September 19th, in Portland.

For more information contact, Retta Christie at ARChristie@aol.com.

JIM GOODWIN, 1943-2009

I have just learned that the brilliantly individualistic musician Jim Goodwin has died.  He had been ill for some time and had concentrated on the piano rather than his first love, the cornet.  On that instrument, he had much of the same surprising intensity and off-center majesty of Red Allen: you didn’t know where his phrases came from or where they were going, but they always fit.  An eloquent player, he knew how to drive a band!

His most accessible CD, perhaps, may be his Arbors Records duet session with Dave Frishberg, DOUBLE PLAY, but the Blue Swing Fine Recordings label has just reissued music from the Sunset Music Company (including Dan Barrett, Jeff Hamilton, and Bill Carter) at their 1979 concert in Dusseldorf.   Thanks to Bob Erwig for the Dailymotion video below.

This post is written in haste, so it’s not a full tribute to Jim — but he was a HOT jazz player, fervent and intense, someone who didn’t know what it was to coast through a chorus.  I never met him, but his death is a real loss.  I send condolences to Retta Christie and all of Jim’s family and friends.

The remarkable singer Melissa Collard said this of Jim: “I didn’t know him well but was just lucky to be around during some blessed moments when his playing seemed to make heavens open up and rain down beauty so clear it made you laugh.”