Forward to the 2022 Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.
CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN might have stayed as an obscure pop tune, its lyrics more than slightly suspect, if Louis Armstrong — who loved Asian cuisine — had not recorded it. You can find his versions and those of Red Nichols, Fletcher Henderson, and the Cambridge University Quinquaginta Ramblers online without wrinkling your clothing through exertion.
But as an appetizer to the delightful cuisine that follows, I offer a recording that not enough people have heard, Reginald Foresythe’s HOMAGE TO ARMSTRONG:
You can also chase down versions by Art Tatum, Jack Teagarden, the Georgia Washboard Stompers, Hot Lips Page with Eddie Condon, Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, Slim and Slam, Sidney Bechet, Teddy Wilson, Punch Miller, Kid Ory, Louis Prima, George Lewis.
But here’s a wonderful version from just a few days ago, captured at a night-time jam session at this year’s Mike Durham Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by Emrah Erken, he of the roving iPhone (his YouTube channel, a basket of marvels, is “Atticus Jazz”). The participants are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Michael McQuaid, clarinet; Lars Frank, tenor saxophone; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Felix Hunot, banjo; Harry Evans, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.
This music doesn’t come tepid in a little cardboard box. Thank you, all!
We live in an age of plenitude — for the fortunate entitled ones. I’m not even speaking of commodities we can buy online. I speak of the art we love. There’s more music on YouTube than one could absorb in ten lifetimes; it comes at us through download and streaming and twenty-five track compact discs. So I think we understandably might be both jaded and dazed by the proliferation.
I almost titled this post CHEW SLOWLY, because a story from the past kept nudging itself to the surface. Years ago, a friend of my then-family was a meticulous cook. She had worked many hours one day to perfect some dishes, and proudly served it to her husband and children, who inhaled the results in minutes. “I could have served them hot dogs and they would have been just as happy.”
It made me think of the many audiences I’ve been a part of, where one marvel after another is created for us — magic! the result of how many hundred-thousand hours of practice and experience, and we are just waiting for the next tune, the next hors d’oeuvre to be served.
This is especially true of audiences at jazz parties and festivals, who might hear eight hours of live improvisation in a day — fifty or sixty performances at least? — then shout MORE! MORE! at the end of the evening. What, I wonder, do they and we actually hear?
I think of the jazz fan of 1938 who bought one record a week and had that six minutes of art to study . . . unlike us.
Today, with the Swing Era love song GOT A DATE WITH AN ANGEL in my head, I wandered past this performance: I was in the audience; I had my video camera — double blessings, I think now. The performance is only three minutes, and perhaps to the very elegantly gifted artists on the stand it was only tune six out of eight in the Bowlly set: I can’t know. Those artists, not incidentally, are Thomas “Spats” Langham, guitar and vocal; Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Norman Field, reeds; Emma Fisk, violin; Martin Litton, piano; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.
But what they create, with no fuss, is just magnificent: a light-hearted blending of New York and London, as if Al Bowlly had been wooed by John Hammond into making records with Teddy Wilson and his colleagues — a true marriage of sweet and hot, with Martin Littton’s chimes, Spats’ sweet evocation and closing guitar arpeggio all included at no extra charge. V. fetching.
I wonder why the audience wasn’t on its feet, cheering. But we can make up for that now, at home:
The alternate title for this post is SLOW DOWN FOR BEAUTY. It won’t always be around, nor will we. So let us appreciate it, deeply and in a leisurely way, while we are able to.
You never know what you find when you look. And I hope it’s not a stray piece of carrot on the floor or checks that you should have cashed more than 180 days ago and are now invalid. Sometimes the results of the most aimless search are uplifting.
I went prowling through the archives of videos I’ve shot and not shared (many for reasons that have nothing to do with musical performance) and found this incendiary bit of music. It comes from the first set at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, held at the Village Hotel in Newcastle, UK. (It’s now Mike Durham’s International Classic Jazz Party and the pleasing news is that it is scheduled for November 5-7, 2021: see the site for details.)
The premise of the set was a tribute to the much-missed Mike, trumpeter, singer, and man with plans — a really admirable man with more than one vision — who had not only thought of this jazz party but had made it work, year after year. You can hear from Spats Langham’s address to the audience how much Mike was missed and is admired.
Another reason to share this with you is because Keith Nichols, at the piano, is no longer with us, and although he is not miked as well as he might have been, his ebullient presence is all there. Here’s the band: Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Keith, piano and vocal; Spats, banjo; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone; Richard Pite, drums, storming through a brief but heated tribute to Louis and Bechet as well as Mike, CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME:
2016 was the last year I was able to attend the Party, which happily and resiliently continued on until the pandemic. I hope, and I know I am not alone, that it goes on heatedly in November, with everyone safe and well.
And — just to keep you all comfortably warm, here are two other numbers I did post from that set of hot music:
Early on November 4, 2016, an august group of informally-attired gentlemen assembled within the Village Hotel in Newcastle, England, at what is now called Mike Durham’s Whitley bay Classic Jazz Partyto rehearse their set of songs and arrangements by the most-talented and most short-lived Alex Hill. Their aims: to have a jubilee and also do some needed functionizin’.
The truly all-star band was led by trumpeter / scholar / arranger Menno Daams, and was comprised of David Boeddinghaus, piano; Spats Langham, guitar and vocal; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums; Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, trumpets; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Richard Exall, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, reeds; Jim Fryer, Alistair Allan, trombones.
This was a rehearsal: thus, not everything had already been polished through focused playing and replaying, but the absence of an audience occasionally lets musicians cut loose and experiment. I’ve intentionally left in the pre-and-post comments to give listeners the experience of being there.
And although they knew I was there, they happily managed to ignore me, which was fine then and turned into a great boon for all of us. I had a wonderful view of the chairs, but one must sit far enough back in the room to capture everyone in the band. My focus wasn’t perfect, but at least you can blame the camera rather than its operator. The sound is clear, and the absence of an audience, bringing pint mugs back and forth and chatting, is a great boon, although sharp-eared video observers will hear some commentary which usually stops when the band begins.
About the band name: I don’t think Menno and Co. had an official collective sobriquet in the program, and many of the original Hill sessions were issued as “his Hollywood Sepians,” and no amount of linguistic immolation on my part could convert that to a group title both appropriate and inoffensive. I will leave the possible variations on that theme to you, and comments offering such names will, alas, never see the light of cyber-day.
On to the blessed music. LET’S HAVE A JUBILEE:
SONG OF THE PLOW:
AIN’T IT NICE?:
DISSONANCE (Mezz Mezzrow took credit, but it is a Hill composition and arrangement):
DELTA BOUND (with wonderful singing by Mr. Langham, typically):
FUNCTIONIZIN’, a close cousin of SQUEEZE ME:
KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL, wise advice:
One of the unannounced pleasures of this Party, held this November in the same space [the “v.snuggly” Village Hotel] is that well-behaved listeners are welcome to sit in on rehearsals — a rare pleasure. Blessings on Alex, Menno, and the wonderful musicians for their splendid work in keeping the good sounds alive.
And just so you know my enthusiasm is global, not local, this comment, relayed through my good friend Sir Robert Cox: “Tom [that’s Spats] said how brilliant Menno’s arrangements were and how much, to their astonishment, rehearsal had taken only 45 minutes. He said that, never in the history of the party, had a rehearsal lasted less than an hour.”
Our subjects today are the overlap of “madness” and “pleasure.” Please be prepared to take notes.
“But first, this,” as they used to say on public radio.
PLEASURE MAD, a Sidney Bechet composition, was recorded in 1924 but the vocal versions weren’t issued, except for this one. Did the record company find it too direct to be acceptable? Here’s Ethel Waters’ version, clear as a bell:
Perhaps the song continued to be performed with those lyrics, but I don’t have any evidence. However, it resurfaced in 1938 as VIPER MAD, new lyrics, as sung — memorably — by O’Neil Spencer:
There might be other ways to pose the rhetorical question, but at what moment in those fourteen years did sexual pleasure become a less interesting subject in popular song than smoking reefers?
While you consider that intriguing philosophical question, I have a new double-CD set (36 tracks! 12 pounds!) to share with you. A little personal history: I attended the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, then renamed Mike Durham’s International Classic Jazz Party, from 2009 to 2016, and had a fine time: the best American, European, Australian, and occasionally South American musicians turned loose for a long weekend of hot and sweet jazz, its spiritual center the late Twenties and early Thirties.
Here are three samples, videoed by me, songs and personnels named:
I ended with GOT BUTTER ON IT so that JAZZ LIVES readers can — as they say — get a flavor of the experience. The Party continues to do its special magic splendidly, a magic that videos only partially convey. This year it’s November 1-3, and details can be found here. And if you search JAZZ LIVES for “Whitley Bay” or “Durham,” you will find a deluge of posts and videos.
But this post isn’t exactly about the Party as such, nor is it about my videos. Its subject — now, pay attention — is a 2-CD set of live performances from the 2018 Party, which is just thrilling. It’s called PLEASURE MAD: ‘LIVE RECORDINGS FROM MIKE DURHAM’S INTERNATIONAL CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY 2017 (WVR RECORDS WVR1007). As I wrote above, 36 live performances in beautiful sound.
And the sound is worth noting, with delight. At the Party, some fans record the music from the audience with everything from ancient cassette recorders to digital ones; when I was there, I videoed as much as I could. But this CD issue has the benefit of superb sound, because of the young Norwegian trumpeter and recording engineer Torstein Kubban, who has recorded every session for the past six years. Torstein is a phenomenal player, so I may be permitted this digression:
He’s got it, for sure. And his recordings are wonderful.
Here are the songs performed — referencing Duke Ellington, Ben Pollack, Bennie Moten, the Halfway House Orchestra, Alex Hill, Rube Bloom, Jabbo Smith, Louis Armstrong,Eddie Condon, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Clarence Williams, Luis Russell, King Oliver, James P. Johnson, and more:
And the musicians: Mike Davis, Andy Schumm, Duke Heitger, Jamie Brownfield, Malo Mazurie, Kristoffer Kompen, Jim Fryer, Graham Hughes, Ewan Bleach, Michael McQuaid, Richard Exall, Claus Jacobi, Matthias Seuffert, Lars Frank, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Emma Fisk, David Boeddinghaus, Martin Litton, Keith Nichols, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Martin Wheatley, Spats Langham, Peter Beyerer, Henry Lemaire, Jacob Ullberger, Phil Rutherford, Elise Sut, Malcolm Sked, Josh Duffee, Richard Pite, Nick Ward, Nick Ball, Joan Viskant, Nicolle Rochelle. If I’ve left anyone out, let me know and I will impale myself on a cactus needle as penance, and video the event.
I think it’s taken me so long to write this post because every time I wanted to take the CDs into the house to write about them, I would start them up on the car player and there they would stay. A few highlights, deeply subjective: Martin Litton’s sensitive and tender solo LAURA; the riotous hot polyphony of CHATTANOOGA STOMP (which I recently played six times in the car, non-stop); the exuberant GIVE ME YOUR TELEPHONE NUMBER; Spats Langham’s NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE; a completely headlong RAILROAD MAN; a version of THE CHARLESTON that starts with Louis’ WEST END BLUES cadenza; SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE that rocks tremendously; I FOUND A NEW BABY that sounds as if Hines (in the guise of Boeddinghaus) visited a Condon jam session in 1933; SOBBIN’ BLUES with layers and textures as rich as great architecture. You will find your own favorites; those are mine of the moment.
My advice? If you can, get thee to the Party, where seats are going fast. Once there, buy several copies of this set — for yourself, national holidays, the birthdays of hip relatives — and enjoy for decades. If you can’t get to the UK, you can still purchase the set, which I urge you to do.
And when the authorities knock on your door to ask about the ecstatic sounds coming from within, you can simply show them this CD and say, “Well, Officers, I’m PLEASURE MAD! Would you like to come in?” And all will be well.
No disrespect to the other musicians, but my focus is on the name at top left: ENRICO TOMASSO: majestic, determined, hilarious, tender, indefatigable, joyous.
And here’s The Man Himself, in two performances from the November 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, one hot, the other sweet and hot.
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:
From November 4, 2016, a tribute to Mike Durham, the much-missed founder of what is now the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, the venerable EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, performed by Rico with Keith Nichols, piano / vocal; Spats Langham, banjo / vocal; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone; Richard Pite, drums; Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone. And here is Rico’s SWEET GEORGIA BROWN from the same set.
And a day later, Enrico honoring Louis, singing and playing IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:
Here, Rico is accompanied by Keith Nichols, Andy Schumm, Alistair Allan, Claus Jacobi, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Richard Exall, Emma Fisk, Martin Wheatley, Phil Rutherford, Nick Ball. And for those hoboes who missed the train, here is Rico’s SHINE from the same set.
Mr. Tomasso is our hero.
This post would not have been possible without Eric Devine’s generous technical expertise. (Eric is “Cine Devine” on Facebook and a world-class videographer.)
Sometimes the old songs still have surprising life in them, no matter how many decades of playing and singing they have gathered on themselves. This performance is in honor of Mike Durham, the much-missed founder of what is now the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party: it’s the venerable SWEET GEORGIA BROWN, performed by Keith Nichols, piano / vocal; Spats Langham, banjo / vocal; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone; Richard Pite, drums; Thomas Winteler, soprano Saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Enrico Tomasso, trumpet.
Mike Durham (left) and Rene Hagmann, pensive, at Whitley Bay, probably 2010. Photo by Michael Steinman
Jazz and fun are intertwined here — from the conversational scat duet by Keith and Spats to the hot ensemble playing and the tidy soaring solos. Nothing but lively creative music, which has always been a hallmark of the Classic Jazz Party:
The 2017 Party will take place in the last weekend of October at the Village Hotel Newcastle. You really should check it out here. It’s never too early to plan for such things.
I know Martin Wheatley as an astonishingly talented player of the guitar, banjo, electric guitar, ukulele. I’ve heard him on a variety of recordings as a wonderful rhythm player and striking soloist, and had the good fortune to see him in person at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (now the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party) from 2009 to 2015.
One facet of his talent is as a virtuosic ukulele player (and arranger for that instrument): a 2010 solo performance of THE STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER:
Here’s Martin on electric guitar from the November 2015 Party in a salute to Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five, with Lars Frank, Martin Litton, Enrico Tomasso, Richard Pite, Henry Lemaire:
From that same weekend, here are Emma Fisk, Spats Langham, Henry Lemaire, and Martin doing their own evocation of the Quintette of the Hot Club of France on J’ATTENDRAI:
Here’s Martin on banjo in 2010 with the Chalumeau Serenaders — Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Nick Ward, Keith Nichols, Malcolm Sked — performing A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:
And there’s more. But the point of this blogpost is to let you know that Martin has made a truly imaginative CD under his own name, called LUCKY STAR — a musical sample below:
Martin says of LUCKY STAR, “Quite a mixture of things, lots of my own compositions and some standards. Some solos – plenty of overdub extravaganzas. All me apart from Tom Wheatley (one of Martin’s sons) on bass.”
Solo efforts that have a good deal of overdubbing might suffer from sameness, because of the strength of the soloist’s personality, but not this CD: Martin is seriously and playfully imaginative. And when you open the disc and read the instruments he plays, you know the disc is expansive, not constricted: guitar, tenor guitar, Hawaiian guitar, lap steel guitar, soprano / tenor / baritone ukulele; tenor / five-string / fretless banjo; moonlute, mandolin, octophone, percussion, keyboard, vocals.
The five standards are IF DREAMS COME TRUE, ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM, YOU ARE MY LUCKY STAR, MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE, and MY SWEET. I couldn’t tell absolutely which instruments Martin is playing on any track, but I can say that DREAMS sounds like a one-man Spirits of Rhythm, with a swinging bass interlude by Tom after Martin’s absolutely charming vocal (think Bowlly crossed with McKenzie, Decca sunburst edition); CHILLUN is Pizzarelli-style with more of the same swing crooning intermingled with virtuosic playing — but no notes are smudged or harmed, and there’s a cameo for Hawaiian guitar at a rocking tempo. LUCKY STAR begins with harp-like ukulele chords and Martin picks up the never-heard verse, turning the corner into the sweet chorus in the most light-hearted sincere way, and MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE follows — a quiet instrumental masterpiece, a hymn to secular devotion. MY SWEET — beloved of Louis and Django — begins with serene chiming notes picking out the melody delicately and then builds into a rocking vocal / guitar production worthy of the QHCF — ending with waves rhythmically yet gently coming up the beach.
I’ve given these details because if I had heard one of those tracks I would want to know who the fine singer and the fine guitarists were, and I would buy the CD. They are that delightful.
But that survey would leave out the majority of the disc, Martin’s original compositions: STARGAZING / ON THE BANKS OF THE WINDRUSH, FAR AWAY / EPPING FOREST / GOLDEN HILL / THE OTTER / BRUNTCLIFFE / FOUND & LOST / COLONEL FAWCETT’S UKULELE / IN THE MERRY LAND OF UZ / X. They aren’t easy to describe, much less categorize. I hear lullabies, rhapsodies, inquiries, echoes of Hawaii, of Weill and Broadway shows, of Bach and modern classical, Forties film soundtracks, harp choirs, Scottish folk music, bluegrass, birdsong and forest sounds — all immaculately and warmly played. Words fail me here, but the journey through this CD is rather like reading short stories or being shown a series of watercolors — nothing harsh, but everything evocative.
Martin told me, “Over the last seven or eight years I’ve returned to writing music and wanted it to have an outlet, which it wouldn’t get on gigs. Although jazz is what I do, I have other musical interests and have played other sorts of music in the past. Without making any self-conscious attempts at ‘fusions’ I’ve tried to allow it all to come out – English folk tunes, Psychedelia, classical music – especially English 20th century, Hawaiian music, doubtless others. I don’t know how evident any of those is but they’re in there somewhere!
It probably is evident that most of it is romantic – Bruntcliffe, for example, I wrote as an organ piece to be played as entrance music for my wedding to Lindsay in 2011. Most of it is less specific. One piece with something of a programme is Colonel Fawcett’s Ukulele. Aside from punning on Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, it was inspired by reading about Colonel Percy Fawcett and his habit of playing his ukulele to the natives he encountered in the Amazon. What he played and how they reacted is unrecorded. It’s an amazing tale. The obvious conclusion is that he was deluded in his belief in the Lost City of Z and its civilization from which we could learn; however, we know that with no more certainty than we know what he played on his ukulele.”
A technical note: “Overdubs were done usually to a guide track which is not heard on the final mix (pulling up the ladder after climbing up!). This allows for a steady pulse and changes in tempo when required. Wayne McIntyre, the sound engineer, did a terrific job.”
“If anyone would like a copy please contact me. £10 incl p&. Hope you like it!”
Find Martin on Facebook here. If it’s not evident, I recommend this disc fervently. It’s original yet melodic, lyrical, sweet and rocking.
Before there was any discussion of “Third Stream Music,” jazz and classical shaking hands congenially, before Gil Evans or Gunther Schuller, there was Patrick “Spike” Hughes — British writer, composer, bassist — who visited the United States in 1933 for a memorable series of recordings that used the Benny Carter orchestra with guest stars Henry “Red” Allen and Coleman Hawkins.
John Wright’s wonderfully detailed (and lively) biographical sketch of Spike can be found here.
Many of us have marveled at Spike’s 1933 recordings, which blend European compositional ideas with hot solos. But it waited until 2015 for someone to put together an expert jazz orchestra to play transcriptions of those sides. That someone is the magnificently talented Menno Daams. (Bent Persson, Menno’s diligent trumpet colleague, also transcribed the Red Allen solos — as arduous as task as one could imagine).
This orchestra offered its tribute to Spike’s 1933 music at the November 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, and I was fortunate enough to be sitting in front of this eloquent band. Here are seven performances from this set: notice the shifting textures behind the soloists, and the soloists themselves. If these compositions are new to you, notice their charming and surprising mixture of 1933 hot dance music, fervent soloing, and advanced harmonies: before we are a whole chorus into NOCTURNE, for example, we have the sense of a landscape both familiar and unsettling — even when absorbing this music in 2016. There’s beautiful lyricism and a rocking 4/4 beat, but it’s as if, while you slept, someone has painted the walls of your living room different colors and nailed the kitchen cutlery to the ceiling.
I salute Menno for bringing this modernistic music to us, and the band for rendering it so superbly. They are: Menno Daams, cornet; Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Michael McQuaid, Claus Jacobi, Matthias Seuffert, Lars Frank, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, Alistair Allan, Graham Hughes, trombone; Martin Litton, piano; Spats Langham, guitar / vocal; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.
AIR IN D FLAT:
SWEET SORROW BLUES:
DONEGAL CRADLE SONG:
SOMEONE STOLE GABRIEL’S HORN (vocal Spats):
A personal note: I first heard the Spike Hughes sides in 1972, and they struck me as beautifully ambitious music. The impression hasn’t faded. But viewing and re-hearing Menno’s precise, swinging transcriptions and the band’s playing, I heard aspects of the music I’d not heard before, and even the listener new to this can find a thousand delights that grow more pleasing each time. I think this set a magnificent accomplishment. Only at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Partycouldsuch marvelous undertakings find a home and an appreciative audience. Join me therethis November.
When we think of the great small bands of the Swing Era, early and late, Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five is both memorable and overshadowed . . . perhaps because (unlike the Goodman small groups, the Crosby Bobcats, and others I can’t call to mind) it was a studio aggregation, so we don’t have a large history of live performances in concert or recorded off the radio. (I’ve seen a photograph of the 1945 group with Roy Eldridge and Dodo Marmarosa, apparently performing as part of the Shaw big band presentation, but I don’t think the 1941 group existed outside the Victor studios.)
It was a superb — and quirky — group, with an affectionate kinship to the Raymond Scott and Alec Wilder small bands. Its instrumentation accounted for much of that — pianist Johnny Guarnieri on harpsichord — but its very tight arrangements were also remarkable. Al Hendrickson was an excellent electric guitarist — in the dawn of that era; Billy Butterfield, Nick Fatool, and Jud deNaut were also brilliant.
I was delighted to see and capture this four-song evocation at the 2015. Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, where such heartfelt expertise is the main dish. Led by the masterful drummer Richard Pite, this new Gramercy 5 — what would that be on your smartphone? — soared and rocked. The noble participants: the brilliant clarinetist Lars Frank, Martin Litton, harpsichord; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Martin Wheatley, electric guitar; Henry Lemaire, string bass. And they perform four classics: SUMMIT RIDGE DRIVE, KEEPIN’ MYSELF FOR YOU, SCUTTLEBUTT, and SPECIAL DELIVERY STOMP. A quarter-hour of compact pleasure:
Hot modernism in its own way, and it hasn’t aged. Try to make your way to the 2016Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party— where such good surprises proliferate.
Here are two glorious performances from the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, held in the Village Hotel Newcastle (Whitley Bay) — on November 7 of that year. The creators are Menno Daams, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet / tenor saxophone; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, guitar / banjo; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.
First, the Benny Carter classic — so evocative of Louis — ONCE UPON A TIME:
Then, an incendiary romp through Tyers’ PANAMA:
Want more? Be sure to join us at the 2016 Party(November 4-6) with an opening concert / jam session featuring the Union Rhythm Kings, and enjoy an overflowing weekend of music and pleasures. Details http://www.whitleybayjazzfest.org/ as always.
One of the real pleasures of the 2014 and 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party is getting to hear the delightful song stylist Janice Day at length. She has her own style, and that’s a very good thing: a kind of delicate intensity that harks back to the girlish singers of the Twenties without being a copy of their most recognizable gestures. She’s instantly appealing — without trying too hard.
Here’s a sweet vignette from this year’s Party — with Janice in front of a small band: solos by Matthias Seuffert and Duke Heitger, over a rhythm section of Keith Nichols, Henry Lemaire, Richard Pite, and Nicholas Ball. The song is a 1938 pop hit by Johnny Burke and James V. Monaco, who wrote consistently for Bing Crosby’s films, ON THE SENTIMENTAL SIDE:
I think that Billie Holiday’s version has made the deepest impression, but for a song to have been recorded by Bing, Billie, and Louis (his version at a much brisker tempo) in the same year says something about its tender qualities. Here’s Janice’s sweet exploration — under three minutes, but she gets her sentimental message across with ease and clarity. Beneath the glamour, there’s a deeply engaging artist:
I will be sharing more of Janice’s music in the weeks to come — but you can also visit her Facebook pageand the website devoted to her collaborations with the wonderful pianist Martin Litton, here. On that site, you can see a number of charming videos of Janice and Martin in performance — several of which I was fortunate enough to record. More to come!
I mean no offense or slight to my friends and heroes who organize Parties, Stomps, Fests, and other weekend galas, but the MDCJP (the Party formerly known as the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party) is special. Many musicians simply want to get up on the stand and sing or play among their friends and peers, and this is standard — often exhilarating — fare at most jazz weekends. And the MDCJP encourages such frolic with a nightly jam session in the Victory Pub. But many musicians devoted to the sounds of the Twenties and Thirties and beyond want to pay reverent homage to their forbears while having their own say — so this Party is organized into small concerts, each celebrating a band, a sound, a leader: it becomes a wondrous living evocation of where we’ve all come from.
First, a list of who’s going to be there on the bandstand — an illustrious lot for sure:
Janice Day, Mellow Baku (vocal); Emma Fisk (violin); Andy Schumm, Menno Daams, Duke Heitger, Bent Persson, Enrico Tomasso (trumpet); Kris Kompen, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan (trombone); Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, Thomas Winteler, Claus Jacobi (reeds); Martin Litton, David Boeddinghaus, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols (piano); Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, Martin Wheatley (banjo, guitar); Phil Rutherford, John Hallam, Malcolm Sked (bass, brass bass); Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone); Henry Lemaire (bass, guitar, banjo); Richard Pite (drums, bass); Josh Duffee (drums, vibraphone); Nicholas Ball (drums, washboard)
(If I have left anyone out, I apologize.)
And a brief listing of the concert themes: the Union Rhythm Kings; a tribute to Mike Durham; the Original Memphis Five; the Quintette of the Hot Club of France; Jelly Roll Morton; Bunny Berigan; the “avant-garde” of Red Nichols and Miff Mole; Spats Langham’s Hot Combination; Lu Watters; solo piano recitals; Teddy Brown; the Dixie Stompers; Dance Band Divas; Thirties small-group sessions; Louis (featuring Bent and Enrico); the 1938 Morton Library of Congress recordings; Black New Orleans; chamber jazz; Western Swing; Spike Hughes; Chicago South Side; the Cotton Club; Casa Loma Orchestra; more unrecorded Bix; Bechet; Duke Heitger; California Ramblers; Eddie Condon; the Nichols-Duffee Orchestra . . . and more.
And two highlights of the 2104 Festival — moments to remember!
It’s a musical feast. Don’t miss out on this Party.
And in a few seconds more than three minutes — the length of a 78 — she makes us all feel more optimistic. Janice can affect us in many ways, but at her core is a gentle winsomeness, which comes through so easily here.
This performance of LAUGHING AT LIFE — at its 1930 tempo — comes from the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and Janice’s accompanists are Keith Nichols, piano; Menno Daams, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Wheatley, guitar /banjo; Malcolm Sked, bass; Emma Fisk, violin; Richard Pite, drums:
“Why not grin?” indeed. We have Janice Day and Her Gang to inspire us. And this November, there will be another Party — celebrating a quarter-century of the best hot music, November 6-8, 2015.
As a child, Enrico (“Rico”) Tomasso was full of music, a young member of the family band, someone whose epiphany through Louis Armstrong was a life-changing experience — a lightning-stroke of joy.
He had the immense good fortune to play his trumpet for Louis when the great man visited Britain. Louis was enthralled by young Rico, and they remained dear friends.
When I first heard Rico at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, I was moved to happy tears, and when I caught up with him later, I beamed at him and said, “The spirit of Louis shines through you,” words that pleased him.
A day ago Rico celebrated a birthday, but he is the kind of fellow who doesn’t stand with his hand out for his gift. Rather, he is a generous giver all the time — so here is his tribute to Louis and my tribute to both of them. It is a glorious evocation. Look carefully behind and to the right of Rico, and you will see Duke Heitger, who knows his Louis deeply, smiling and nodding while Rico plays and sings.
The ensemble behind our man is Menno Daams, Duke Heitger, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Claus Jacobi, Matthias Seuffert, Keith Nichols, Spats Langham, Emma Fisk, Malcolm Sked, Richard Pite, and other luminaries, including Josh Duffee as entering master of ceremonies.
Happy birthday, dear Rico. Thank you for being born. We’re always in the market for you.
One of the many highlights of the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was a “Duke’s Men” set led by trumpeter / vocalist Rico Tomasso — where he beautifully evoked the recordings made by small Ellington units in the Thirties.
We heard music from the Jazzopators (Barney Bigard), the Fifty-Second Street Stompers (Rex Stewart), the Rug-Cutters (Cootie Williams), as well as compositions associated with Johnny Hodges, Sonny Greer, Juan Tizol.
One of the first things I did when I came back from Whitley Bay was to post Rico’s AIN’T THE GRAVY GOOD? — which has received some of the attention it deserves. But a number of people, both musicians and fans, have asked, “Is there any more from Rico’s small-band Ellington set?” and I am happy to oblige here by presenting the entire set as it happened.
The band Rico assembled is David Boeddinghaus, piano; Malcolm Sked, bass; Henri Lemaire, guitar; Richard Pite, drums; Alistair Allan, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Claus Jacobi, reeds.
KRUM ELBOW BLUES and DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM:
(For more about “Krum Elbow,” although the evidence is complex, click here.)
BIG HOUSE BLUES:
PRELUDE TO A KISS:
AIN’T THE GRAVY GOOD?:
The gravy is good! I know there will be more delicious music this coming November 6-8 at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party. (The new name is an appropriate tribute to its beloved founder: the music and the guiding principles remain unchanged so, and that’s a good thing.)
Jake Hanna said — more than once — “When you get too far from Basie, you’re just kidding yourself.”
Reedman Matthias Seuffert knows this well, and put his knowledge into action at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, with a delightful set of Basie music. Matthias diverted us with his tenor saxophone and clarinet; Enrico Tomasso played trumpet; the rhythm section, essential, was Martin Litton, piano; Henri Lemaire, rhythm guitar; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.
EASY DOES IT:
Eddie Durham’s TOPSY:
THESE FOOLISH THINGS:
COUNTLESS BLUES, in honor of the 1938 Kansas City Six:
SHOE SHINE BOY:
BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL, for Herschel:
and moving into the Fifties, FLIGHT OF THE FOO BIRDS (don’t let all that manuscript paper seem intimidating):
“Easy does it” isn’t just a bumper sticker or a catchphrase: it’s a way of life both inside and outside jazz. What would happen if we tried to live the Basie way? Worth considering.
And on a more pragmatic note, each of the musicians seen in the videos will be playing at the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — November 6-8. I’ve already started to look into airplane tickets and fares . . . a sign of great moral commitment to this Party. If you’ve never been there, and you can get there, and you don’t . . . why, you’re just kidding yourself. Where have I heard those words before?
Here is one of the high points of a wonderful tribute to Fletcher Henderson’s “Connie’s Inn Orchestra,” led by Claus Jacobi, saxophone, with Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, Menno Daams, trumpet / cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, Graham Hughes, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Claus Jacobi, reeds; Keith Nichols, piano; Jacob Ullberger, banjo / guitar; Malcolm Sked, bass; Richard Pite, drums. Recorded on November 8, 2014, at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party:
The song? STARDUST. What could be more beautiful? And this performance speaks to a time when rhythmic ballads could be both hot and tender, when improvisation could also be romantic dance music, when African-American bands could venture into Caucasian pop music . . . and play it beautifully. And the quietly eloquent shadow of Bix is evident throughout. (Would this performance also be possible without the genial angelic guidance of Louis? I think not.) A profound gentle lyricism in dance tempo — a great achievement then and now (with heroic subtle playing from Mister Daams and the band as a whole).
It’s difficult for me to comprehend that one week ago (the time difference notwithstanding) I was at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, held in the Village Hotel Newcastle, recording this performance. I and others were having the time of our lives.
Why is there a picture of a gravy boat on JAZZ LIVES? All will be revealed.
This singular performance took place late in a set, led by Rico Tomasso, devoted to “the Duke’s men,” specifically the small-band recordings (with one 1930 exception) done between 1936 and 1939 under the leadership of Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Rex Stewart, and Cootie Williams.
Cootie is responsible for this most delicate of compositions, AIN’T THE GRAVY GOOD? — which doubles as a culinary disquisition with platefuls of double-entendre implications. To me, it’s also a late-Thirties take on a Twenties vaudeville song. I can imagine it onstage sung by a team, one sitting at a table full of food, the other one in an apron . . . but I leave the staging to you.
As I mentioned, the leader of the set was noble and gregarious Enrico Tomasso — friends are invited to call him Rico — a wonderful trumpeter, singer, entertainer (that’s a compliment) and improviser.
He begins this number with one of the best explanations of the subtleties of plunger-muted trumpet that I’ve ever heard, and then moves on to the main course.
Rico is joined by Alistair Allan, trombone; Claus Jacobi, alto saxophone; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet and saxophones; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Henri Lemaire, guitar; Malcolm Sked, string bass; Richard Pite, drums:
Had this been the sole performance I had witnessed at Whitley Bay, I would have been more than satisfied. But it wasn’t, and I came home with more than three hundred video-recordings. Will I share them? You can count on it. I couldn’t attest to the quality of the gravy — we have to take Rico’s word for it — but the music was beyond delicious. And there will be a 2015 Party . . . so plan ahead. Details to follow as I know them.
I urge anyone who loves the music to experience it live. For some, that isn’t possible because of cost or one’s health. But even though I am proud of my video recordings, they are not the same thing as being on the spot while beauty is created. And jazz festivals, parties, clubs, concerts can only go on if there are people in attendance.
My readers know all this. But the trick is to make the great leap from an intellectual awareness (“I should go hear some live jazz . . . someday.”) to action. All of us who have said, “I’ll go to hear Hot Lips Ferguson some other Sunday . . . those gigs will go on forever!” know the sadder reality.)
End of sermon.
I cannot attend this year’s Steamboat Stompin New Orleans, but my absence means there’s another seat for you. It begins Friday evening, November 14, and ends Sunday afternoon, the 16th. In between I count nineteen one-hour sets of music, in addition to a presentation about the Historic New Orleans Collection, four steam calliope concerts by Debbie Fagnano. Much of the music will be performed on the two decks of the steamboat Natchez, gliding up and down the Mississippi River. The artists include Duke Heitger, Don Vappie, Evan Christopher, the Yerba Buena Stompers, Dukes of Dixieland, Tim Laughlin, David Boeddinghaus, Hal Smith, Banu Gibson, Solid Harmony, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Clint Baker, Tom Bartlett, Conal Fowkes, Orange Kellin, Leon Oakley, Steve Pistorius, and another dozen.
I was able to attend in 2013, and had a wonderful time. Some evidence!
SWEET LOVIN’ MAN by Duke and the Steamboat Stompers:
Steve Pistorius considers the deep relationship between music, memory, and love in A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:
Banu Gibson, as always, shows us her heart, and it’s full of RHYTHM:
and the Yerba Buena Stompers play a later King Oliver piece, EDNA:
INSERT FOUR-BAR MODULATION HERE.
I returned last night from the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, exhausted and uplifted. The exhaustion will wear off (it always does) after a day or two of treating myself like an invalid, nut the joy is permanent. It comes from seeing people make friends through music. The music began with rehearsals at 9 AM on Thursday and ended sometime late Monday morning (I heard the jam session at the pub as I was going up the stairs around 1 AM). The texts for those mellow sermons were based on the teachings of Johnny Dodds, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, Jabbo Smith, Jean Goldkette, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Chu Berry, Paul Whiteman, Cootie Williams, Adrian Rollini, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Johnny Dunn, Luis Russell, Bing Crosby, Helen Morgan, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Don Byas, Willie Lewis, Sidney Bechet, Al Bowlly, Cliff Edwards, Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Chick Webb, Jelly Roll Morton . . . you get the idea.
And the performers! Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, Menno Daams, Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, Claus Jacobi, Thomas Winteler, Matthias Seuffert, David Boeddinghaus, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan, Martin Litton, Janice Day, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols, Richard Pite, Malcolm Sked, Phil Rutherford, Spats Langham, Emma Fisk, Frans Sjostrom, Josh Duffee, Nick Ball, Mauro Porro, Henri Lemaire, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Martin Wheatley, Jean-Francois Bonnel. . . and sitters-in at the Pub, including Torstein Kubban. (If I’ve omitted anyone’s name, it is because yesterday was nearly twenty hours of travel, which does terrible things to cognition.)
And the friends! Everyone who was there will have a mental list, but I think we all start with Patti Durham — then I think of Bob Cox, Bobbi Cox, Derek Coller, Veronica Perrin, Chris Perrin, the young woman clarinetist, so intent, Jonathan David Holmes, Julio Schwarz Andrade, Andrew Wittenborn — and many more.
If you are wondering, the answer is Yes, I did bring my video cameras. Plural. Safety first.
And I shot video of all the sets, one jam session / concert in the Victory Pub, and many of the rehearsals — several hundred performances. It takes some time to upload and download, so I have nothing from this last weekend to share with you at the moment. But I will.
While you are thinking, “How could I start putting money away for the 2015 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY?” (for that will indeed happen), I invite you to revel in this, recorded at a rehearsal at the 2012 Party:
All over the quite comfortable Village Hotel in Newcastle (with a very solicitous staff) are signs and photographs advertising the pleasures to be found there, all sharing a lower case “v.” at the start, both to show an intensity of feeling (“very!”) as well as remind you of the hotel chain’s identifying logo. In the mechanism that takes you from one floor to another (I called it an elevator and was reminded that it was a “lift,” because I was in the United Kingdom now) was a photograph of three pillows reading “v. snuggly” “v. cheeky” and “v.lazy.”
All I will say here, as a bow to the Party and to the Village Hotel and to my heroes and friends, is that I am “v.joyous.”
The very expressive swinging violinist Emma Fisk was given a difficult assignment — to summon up the ghosts of Stuff Smith (violently, dramatically hot) and Eddie South (elegance personified) in thirty minutes at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. I’d give her and her colleagues very high marks at this nearly-impossible task.
The colleagues are Jeff Barnhart, piano and vocal (hear him romp on the verse to LADY BE GOOD — a feat that astonishes the band — as well as on a block-chord solo on SKIP IT), the ceaselessly rocking Richard Pite, drums; the energized Henri Lemaire, string bass; the versatile Spats Langham (called upon to be Django for seven choruses of uplifting accompaniment on EDDIE’S BLUES), and two guest stars to take us close to the Onyx Club Boys of fabled memory, Ben Cummings, trumpet (hidden behind someone’s coif, but he comes through clear as a bell); Jean-Francois Bonnel, clarinet.
Here they are — recorded on November 3, 2013, nimbly being themselves while honoring departed masters.
IF YOU’RE A VIPER (thank you, Jeff!):
MAMA MOCKINGBIRD (for Hoagy and Eddie):
LADY BE GOOD:
Well played, Emma, Jeff, Spats, Henri, Richard, Ben, and Jean-Francois!
And I know that Emma has a feature set at this year’s Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party called FIDDLESTICKS in honor of Signor Venuti, which I know will be fun.