Tag Archives: Rico Tomasso

“FORTY AND TIGHT”: THE JOHNNY DODDS JUBILEE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 8, 2014)

I present to you — with pride and gratitude — one of the many ecstatic moments of the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — the finale to the Johnny Dodds tribute set, which featured an astonishing assemblage: cornet, three reeds, three banjos, washboard, piano, string bass, hot violin . . . without ever getting messy.

The song is FORTY AND TIGHT (for once I will leave the etymological questions* to others) and the players Rico Tomasso, cornet; Claus Jacobi, alto; Matthias Seuffert, Thomas Winteler, clarinet; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, bass; Emma Fisk, violin; Nick Ball, washboard; Martin Wheatley, Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, banjo.

I love this.

Exact and abandoned at the same time, and a triumph of community — notice the musicians’ smiles and tapping feet as well as their common language of signs and experience: a nudge or a shoulder-lean that says “You take the next break,” the circling motion that indicates “let’s conclude this with an ensemble chorus — the language of brothers and sisters who know the tribal signs for joy — people who embody joy as well as understanding it. Look at the happiness on the face of one Nicholas D. Ball, percussionist, to feel that emotion.

Two afterthoughts.  FORTY AND TIGHT was obviously a way of signifying the highest level of approval.  Whether the unspoken references were to physical attributes that gave erotic pleasure or something else I do not know.  Was “forty” in the Chicago Twenties the equivalent of a more recent “a perfect ten”?  In-group dialogue, cherished and partially submerged, hidden from us.

And something technical.  To watch my videos in the best visual fidelity (preferably on a screen even larger than your iPhone 6!) find a tiny icon of a gear  — a toothed wheel — at the bottom right of the YouTube screen.  Click on it and raise the number displayed to the very highest, 1080, for the clearest image.  I also encourage viewers to watch this in “full screen,” preferably on a monitor the size of the living-room wall, but that last bit may not be possible.

Can you see and hear from this video what a wonderful time we had at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party?  (A purely rhetorical question, I assure you.) And there will a 2015 Party . . . let joy be unconfined!

May your happiness increase!

MASTERING THE ART OF HOT CUISINE: ENRICO TOMASSO and HIS RUG-CUTTERS at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 8, 2014)

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.

PLS-00003755-001Why 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.

May your happiness increase!

PILGRIMAGES TO BEAUTY

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 Stomp in 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.”

May your happiness increase!

“FEELIN’ NO PAIN”: A RED NICHOLS TRIBUTE at the 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

“Feeling no pain” was a Twenties slang expression that meant one was sufficiently intoxicated to be numb.  Without the final G, it was also the title of several 1927 Red Nichols recordings of Fud Livingston’s composition — here evoked expertly in the twenty-first century by a group of nimble Hot Adventurers at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

The obstacle-course masters here are Andy Schumm, cornet; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Michael McQuaid, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Nick Ward, drums:

This is the sort of lively musical evocation that happens all the time at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — and it will happen again in November 2014.  Details here.  And here is the list of musicians who will be appearing — that’s a plenty!

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Duke Heitger (USA), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Enrico Tomasso (UK); trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK), Graham Hughes (UK); reeds: Jean-François Bonnel (France), Mauro Porro (Italy), Claus Jacobi (Germany) , Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Thomas Winteler, (Switzerland); piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Martin Litton, (UK), Morten Gunnar Larsen (Norway), David Boeddinghaus (USA); banjo/guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Martin Wheatley (UK); string bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France); brass bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Malcolm Sked (UK); frums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Debbie Arthurs (UK); bass sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden); violin: Emma Fisk (UK); vocals: Janice Day (UK), Debbie Arthurs, (UK), Spats Langham (UK).  And there might be other surprises.

I know that the title (Livingston’s idea?) was meant whimsically, but I take it seriously: may all beings be free from pain — and they don’t have to read this blog or hear this music to feel this wish.

May your happiness increase!

FEELIN’ THE SPIRIT: MEMORIES OF THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY 2012

I’ve had a great deal of hot jazz pleasure and enlightenment in my annual trips to Whitley Bay for the late Mike Durham’s International Jazz Festival and Classic Jazz Parties.  And another one is on the way for November 7-9, 2014, thanks to Patti Durham and diligent friends.

I don’t mean to rush away the time until then, but I offer five more previously unseen delights from the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (recorded October 27-28) — honoring King Oliver, Benny Carter, Louis and Bechet, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Graeme Bell, and the magnificent contemporary / traditional jazz musicians at work here.

WA WA WA, a tribute to the Oliver Dixie Syncopators of the second half of the Twenties, led by Keith Nichols (piano), with Duke Heitger (trumpet), Andy Schumm (cornet); Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Gavin Lee, Matthias Seuffert, Rene Hagmann, (reeds); Martin Wheatley (banjo); Phil Rutherford (brass bass), Josh Duffee (drums):

I’M IN THE MOOD FOR SWING, Matthias Seuffert’s buoyant embodiment of the spirit and music of Benny Carter, with Matthias (alto); Rene Hagmann (cornet); Alistair Allan (trombone); Martin Litton (piano); Spats Langham (guitar); Henru Lemaire (string bass); Richard Pite (drums):

DOWN IN HONKY TONK TOWN, for Louis and Sidney, in whichever incarnation you prefer (1924-5 or 1940), with Bent Persson (cornet); Thomas Winteler (soprano saxophone); Stephane Gillot (baritone saxophone); Jens Lindgren (trombone); Martin Seck (piano); Henri Lemaire (banjo / string bass):

ZONKY, from drummer Josh Duffee’s ambitious evocation of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, with Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Andy Schumm (trumpet / cornet); Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Matthias Seuffert, Gavin Lee, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Michael McQuaid (reeds); Keith Nichols (piano / vocal); Martin Wheatley (banjo / guitar); Richard Pite (string bass); Josh (drums / leader):

UGLY DUCKLING, a hidden treasure from the Graeme Bell repertoire, here served up beautifully by multi-instrumentalist Michael McQuaid, and Duke Heitger, Bent Persson (trumpets); Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Michael, Stephane Gillot, Thomas Winteler (reeds); Martin Seck (piano); Henri Lemaire (banjo / guitar); Malcolm Sked (brass bass / string bass [off-camera but indispensable]); Nick Ward (drums):

The Classic Jazz Party site hasn’t offered a full roster for the November 7-9 party, which will be held, once again, at the Village Hotel Newcastle, but here is the contact information, and I will post details as they emerge.

As Josh Duffee says, “It’s like Christmas to us.” I don’t believe in Santa Claus, but I do believe in the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.

May your happiness increase!

THE BACKBONE OF JAZZ: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT and FRIENDS at WHITLEY BAY 2012 (October 28, 2012)

01f/17/arve/g2119/081

Count Basie and his musicians taught us so much by their example.

Swing is at the heart of everything.  Jazz is music for dancers, and it has to have an intense but light rhythmic impulse, an irresistible flowing motion. The blues are essential.  Simplicity is key even to the most elaborate improvisations.  Fewer notes have greater effect.  You can improvise on I GOT RHYTHM until the end of time.  Music, like its players and singers, has to have a living, breathing pulse.

(The grammarians in my audience will note I am using the present tense, intentionally.  Basie’s truths are still truths.)

The superb reedman / composer / arranger Matthias Seuffert put together a small band for the 2012 Whitley Bay Jazz Party and offered us his evocative originals in the style of / paying tribute to the great figures of jazz — Bix, Louis, Duke, Benny, Hawkins, and a few others: click here to enjoy these brilliant tributes.

I saved his homage to Basie, BACKBONE BASIE, for last — accomplished with the inestimable aid of Martin Litton, piano; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums; Matthias and Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Enrico Tomasso, trumpet:

Thank you, Matthias and friends, and thank you, Mike Durham.  As always!

May your happiness increase! 

THIS ONE’S FOR PATTI: SWEET MUSIC FROM THE 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

If you know anything about the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (formerly known as the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival) you can’t help being fond of and admiring Patti Durham.  She continues to be a loving presence, a truly dear friend to many people.  So “this one’s for Patti”: one of her favorite songs, performed at the 2012 Party.

GUILTY is one of those pretty, emotive early-Thirties ballads associated with Al Bowlly.  Here, it’s performed by the emotionally compelling (and always swinging) Spats Langham, vocal and guitar; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Emma Fisk, violin; Norman Field, reeds; Martin Litton, piano;  Manu Hagmann, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.  And as the performance goes along, I always imagine a meeting of Bowlly with a mid-Thirties Teddy Wilson band . . . an alternate universe in the Brunswick studios, where sweet meets swing:

Thank you, dear Patti, for inspiring us in so many ways.

May your happiness increase!

“LIVE SPORT”: A JAM SESSION AFTER HOURS IN THE VICTORY PUB, NEWCASTLE (Oct. 28-29, 2012) with the STARS of THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Once more . . . if “Mister Mike” isn’t someone recognizable to you, would you kindly take a minute and read this?  It would mean a great deal to many people, and, to paraphrase Dizzy Gillespie, “No him, no this.”

“This” turns out to be my video record of the closing notes of the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — a jam session on Sunday night held in the Victory Pub of the Village Newcastle.  Some of the details are indistinct — I would have made a very bad spy — because a video camera, even on a tripod, is an ungainly dance partner.  I wrote down personnels on the back of two JAZZ LIVES cards, which have now vanished into that place where Things That Vanish go.  So if I’ve left out the name of a noble participant, email me at swingyoucats@gmail.com. and tell me.

Or you can simply observe musicians brilliantly at play in the dark.

LONESOME BLUES (from the Hot Five book) Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Litton, keyboard — he deserves a grand piano! — ; Roly Veitch, guitar; Josh Duffee, drums):

AFTER YOU’VE GONE (Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Litton, keyboard; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Josh Duffee, drums):

I NEVER KNEW Andy Schumm, cornet; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Thomas Winteler, Michael McQuaid, Norman Field, reeds; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone, and others):   

ONCE IN A WHILE (for Louis and the Hot Five — performed by Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Thomas Winteler, Michael McQuaid, Norman Field, reeds; Spats Langham, guitar; Manu Hagmann, bass; Josh Duffee, drums, and others):

MY MELANCHOLY BABY (traditionally the dreaded request by inebriated patrons in the bar, but Spats Langham turns it into a masterpiece of tender swing here, aided by Andy Schumm, cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone, Josh Duffee, drums. The admiring watchers include Frans Sjostrom, Martin Wheatley, Stephane Gillot):

I SAW STARS (which I associate with the 1934 debut of Django and Stephane on Ultraphone — here rendered with sweet fervor by Roly Veitch, guitar / vocal; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

Then, as if by magic, the scene shifted . . . suddenly it was 1941; we were at Minton’s (or someplace north of 125th Street in Harlem, New York City; I had turned into Jerry Newman, recording swing-to-bop for posterity . . . you’ll hear what I mean.

LESTER LEAPS IN (Martin Litton, keyboard; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone; Rico Tomasso, Andy Schumm, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

TOPSY (Martin Litton, keyboard; Michael McQuaid, alto saxophone; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, tenor saxophone; Alistair Allan, trombone; Martin Wheatley, Roly Veitch, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums):

After those last notes had stopped echoing, I (and some others) made our weary, happy way to bed . . . rocking gently on what we had heard, dreaming sweetly of the 2013 Party.

For Mister Mike.

And, as always, tickets are on sale to the 2013 Party, the best-organized high-spirited living jazz museum, here.

May your happiness increase.

BEAU KOO LOUIS: BENT PERSSON’S SAVOY BALLROOM FIVE at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (October 28, 2012)

The music that Louis Armstrong and colleagues made in 1928 Chicago remains vivid.  But aside from WEST END BLUES and NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (the latter a song Ruby Braff particularly liked) the repertoire hasn’t been explored all that much, perhaps because the Don Redman arrangements are complex.

BEAU KOO JACK was once a famous showpiece, a way to honor Louis: hear the 1929 Earl Hines band’s recording for Victor, with the trumpet section doing a splendid job of becoming the Master in triplicate:

Thus, the idea of Bent Persson and his noble colleagues playing this music in front of me at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was something I looked forward to with great eagerness.  And I was not disappointed.  You won’t be either.

Bent’s Savoy Ballroom Five (but who’s counting?) are Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Michael McQuaid, Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Martin Litton, piano; Spats Langham, banjo and guitar; Nick Ward, drums (including the delightfully idiomatic and rare “bockety-bock” cymbals in honor of Zutty Singleton); Rico Tomasso, vocal and trumpet.

FIREWORKS (aptly titled):

SKIP THE GUTTER:

KNEE DROPS (what are knee drops?  A dance maneuver, something to eat, or an ailment?):

TWO DEUCES (celebrating the friendship of Louis and Earl, I assume):

NO, PAPA, NO (or simply NO), by Victoria Spivey:

NO ONE ELSE BUT YOU (Rico on trumpet for Bent):

ST. JAMES INFIRMARY (with an atmospheric vocal by Rico):

GRANDPA’S SPELLS (a duet for Bent and Martin Litton, with a solo taken from the Hot Chorus book):

SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (vocalizing by the romantic Mr. Tomassi):

BEAU KOO JACK (“lots of money,” you dig?):

Beaucoup jazz!  And this one’s for Mister Mike.  Visit here to find out more about the 2013 Party, where marvels like this blossom.

May your happiness increase.

“FORTY YEARS OF JAZZ”: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, ORIGINAL THINKER — at the 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (October 28, 2012)

Many of the most admired jazz improvisers don’t sit down and “compose” music on manuscript paper; rather, they invent new compositions on the spot while playing.

The reed master Matthias Seuffert is a heartening exception, and this set at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, “Forty Years of Jazz,” allowed him to show off more of his considerable talents.  The premise was remarkable in itself: Matthias presented original compositions that evoked the first four decades of jazz and paid tribute to the great figures.

The set also displayed the marvelous professionalism of the players, for I suspect that some of them were seeing these scores for the second time in their lives.  The music would have been more polished had there been several long rehearsals, but it exuberantly got to the heart of things.

The players are Matthias, reeds and a surprise vocal; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Martin Litton, piano; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Manu Hagmann, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums.

For Louis and Earl, circa 1928 — SATCHELMOUTH STRUT:

Mr. Beiderbecke, meet Mr. Trumbauer — TAKE A TRAM TO BIXVILLE:

For Fats Waller and his Rhythm — a special tribute to Mike Durham, the generous genius of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, with a heartfelt vocal by Matthias — WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT YOU?:

The one, the only Coleman Hawkins — FOR THE BEAN (or TO FATHER BEAN):

Ditto for Edward Kennedy Ellington — SOPHISTICATED EDDIE:

For BG, Teddy, and Gene — OPUS 5/6 or 7/8:

And a mid-Forties reconsideration of “I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA,” in which she definitely has a new outfit — VIRGINIA BOP:

What an imagination!

May your happiness increase.

“I’LL MAKE FUN FOR YOU”: THE MUSIC OF McKINNEY’S COTTON PICKERS as RECREATED BY JOSH DUFFEE and COMPANY at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Oct. 27, 2012)

What could be better than another small concert — led by drummer / historian / raconteur Josh Duffee — bringing McKinney’s Cotton Pickers “back” for us in the twenty-first century?

I thought you’d say that.

Here’s romping and sweet big band jazz at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — thanks to Rico Tomasso, Rene Hagmann, Andy Schumm, trumpet / cornet; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Gavin Lee, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Michael McQuaid, reeds; Keith Nichols, piano / vocal; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Richard Pite, string bass; Josh Duffee, drums / leader; Mike Durham, vocal.

I’LL MAKE FUN FOR YOU:

I WANT A LITTLE GIRL:

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?:

MISS HANNAH:

GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU?:

THERE’S A RAINBOW ‘ROUND MY SHOULDER:

IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT:

SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA:

(A hot performance of ZONKY exists but for the moment it is hidden under my bed for safe-keeping.)

May your happiness increase.

AVALON, WITHIN REACH: THE MUSIC OF LORING “RED” NICHOLS and HIS FIVE PENNIES at WHITLEY BAY (October 27, 2012)

I hope sufficient time has passed for cornetist / bandleader / composer Loring “Red” Nichols to be assessed fairly, his music heard and appreciated for its merits.  Let us hear no more of Nichols as an uncreative Bix imitator, a musical martinet.  Since I first heard a selection of the Nichols Brunswicks forty years and more ago, I have wondered at the mean-spirited attacks on him.

Of course he committed the great sins in Romantic Jazzdom: he expected his musicians to read charts; he was successful; he wasn’t an alcoholic; he lived a reasonably long life.  More power to him.

His music is receiving the recognition it should have gotten decades ago as an engaging mixture of the ornate and the heated, the arranged and the free-wheeling.  Here at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (on October 27), a great band takes on some of the best Nichols music: Andy Schumm, cornet; Michael McQuaid, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Nick Ward, drums.  If you hear reverent evocations of Miff Mole, Jimmy Dorsey, Vic Berton, Pee Wee Russell, Chauncey Morehouse, and Eddie Lang, it’s not by accident.

And “watch the drummer,” please: heroic Nick Ward!

AVALON, that magical island celebrated in a 1920 song whose melody borrows substantially from Puccini:

THAT’S NO BARGAIN (Alistair sits this one out):

Fud Livingston’s marvelous IMAGINATION, well-named — in a performance that makes me wonder if Lester Young had heard this record in his youth:

A 1919 hit, ALICE BLUE GOWN:

With thanks to Frans Sjostrom, doing his best Rollini — IDA — dedicated by me to my Auntie.  And Michael McQuaid’s playing is beautiful and unusual both:

SLIPPIN’ AROUND, for Miff Mole, the underrated master:

A diversion: Alistair’s I’M GETTIN’ SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU, or JAZZ BY THE FOOT.  When faced with such brilliance, what can one say?:

Duke Heitger, Rico Tomasso, trumpets, came along for ECCENTRIC:

Now that you’ve had a chance to hear this contemporary evocation of 1927-30 “modern sounds,” aren’t they rewarding music, full of innovative harmonies and orchestral variety — how much is packed into THAT’S NO BARGAIN, for instance.

The whole subject of Nichols and his music and these performances is, to me, another lesson: listen to the sounds rather than the ad hominem portraits or the biased ideologies that sustain them.

This post is dedicated to one of my mentors, the eminent A. J. S. Figg, who is sustaining the musics all the time.

May your happiness increase.

STILL MORE HOT NOTES FROM THE WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Sunday, October 28, 2012)

Sunday was the final official day of this year’s Classic Jazz Party at Whitley Bay, but it wasn’t a disappointment, even given the heights hit on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Impatient readers may scroll down to the bottom, although you’ll lose points on the final examination.

The first set of the day was especially ambitious — a history of jazz (at least the middle Twenties to the middle Forties) that was gleaming and inventive —  because it didn’t traverse the ground from HIGH SOCIETY to ANTHROPOLOGY, but delineated the journey in seven original compositions and arrangements by Matthias Seuffert — one evoking the Hot Five, another Bix and Tram, tributes and sly homages to Basie and Hawkins, to Ellington and a Goodman small group . . . ending up with Matthias’ brilliant rewriting of I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA as a 1945 boppish small group.  I  hope the startling swerve into Modernism upset no one: it kept me enthralled.

An hour-long consideration of Louis, Bechet, and Clarence Williams followed — with strong playing and singing by Bent Persson, Jens Lingren, Thomas Winteler, and Cecile McLorin Salvant — in addition to a scorching two-reed extravagana (Stephane Gillot and Winteler) on CANDY LIPS.

Just as fine — although different — was Matthias Seuffert’s bow to Benny Carter, with Rene Hagmann on trumpet, Alistair Allan, trombone, and a rocking rhythm section of Richard Pite, Martin Litton, Henry Lemaire — with versions of BLUES IN MY HEART, DOOZY, WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW, BLUE INTERLUDE, SMACK, JUST A MOOD, and I’M IN THE MOOD FOR SWING.  (My notes read “lovely” and “just perfect.”)

What could follow that?  How about Bent Persson, Kristoffer Kompen, Michael McQuaid, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Spats Langham, Martin Litton, Nick Ward, and Rico Tomasso (vocal and trumpet) bringing us a superior version of the Armstrong – Hines Savoy Ballroom Five?  The set began with FIREWORKS, which turned out to be truth in advertising.  Then — just as good as much more rare — an hour spent with the music of King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators circa 1926 — including a riotous WA WA WA and a chart the band was seeing for the first time, SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT.  Topping that was a genuinely exact and ecstatic reincarnation of the Halfway House Orchestra, with glorious playing from Andy Schumm, Michael McQuaid, Stephane Gillot, and Nick Ward — drumming as if possessed by the great spirits of savage grace.

Sunday concluded 9officially) with a stand-up-and-cheer 1937 Goodman concert with masterful playing, ensemble and solo . . . my room one story above was rocking!

After the Goodman tribute ended, sedate souls went to bed.

But I went to the Victory Pub for a jam session that began with Andy Schumm (now informally attired) romping through his favorite late-Twenties repoertoire . . . before friends came along: Rico Tomasso, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Thomas Winteler, Frans Sjostrom, Jens Lindgren, Josh Duffee, Malcolm Sked, Alistair Allan, Michael McQuaid, Matthias Seuffert, and other gifted roisterers.  I needed my sleep but stayed there until two in the morning (and you will see some of the reason I couldn’t leave!).  Extravagant creativity in near-darkness including sweet leisurely versions of TOPSY, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, AFTER YOU’VE GONE, I NEVER KNEW, ONCE IN A WHILE (the Hot Five version), I SAW STARS and LESTER LEAPS IN . . . Minton’s comes to Newcastle, as lit by Edward Hopper, recorded by Jerry Newman with a video camera.

Because of the “storm” or Hurricane Sandy, my flight to New York was cancelled.  But I was given the chance to make the most sublime jazz lemonade.  Paul Adams, of Lake Records, was creating a Vintage Recording Session with a Jazz-Age big band of Whitley Bay superstars: Duke Heitger, Rico Tomasso, Andy Schumm, Alistair Allan, Kristoffer Kompen, Stephane Gillot, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, Keith Nichols, Malcolm Sked, Spats Langham, Josh Duffee, and a guest appearance by Bent Persson.  I couldn’t stay for the whole session, but I heard them play POTATO HEAD BLUES (with the Louis and Dodds solos scored for brass and reeds, respectively), JAZZNOCHRACY, AWFUL SAD, HOT AND BOTHERED, CHANT OF THE WEED, ONE MORE TIME, THE SPELL OF THE BLUES, MANDY (MAKE UP YOUR MIND), WHEN THE FOLKS HIGH UP DO THAT MEAN LOWDOWN (a Berlin tune introduced by Bing in the film REACHING FOR THE MOON), STAMPEDE, MY PRETTY GIRL, and they were part-way through MILENBERG JOYS when I had to leave to make a train . . .   It will be a profoundly stirring recording — and the project needs subscribers.  Paul and Linda were asking for jazz-lovers to become patrons at a minimum of thirty pounds apiece, for which they would get their names in the CD booklet and a copy of the CD itself.  More information to come — but you can click fellside    for details.

I will post videos from this year’s extravaganza in a week or so — but take it from me.  The 2012 CJP was a sustained explosion of joy, and the 2013 promises to scrape the clouds — with appearances by Les Red Hot Reedwarmers (with Aurelie Tropez) and the Union Rhythm Kings (with Bent Persson, Frans Sojstrom, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Jacob Ullberger, Kristoffer Kompen, and others).

November 1-3, 2013.   If you are able to attend and you don’t, you’ll have missed something very special.  And if you don’t mind whispering a fact in your ears, the 2012 party was sold out.  People had to be turned away.

Check whitleybay for detials.

The musicians invited for the 2013 party include:

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Enrico Tomasso (UK), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Andy Woon (UK)

Trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK), Graham Hughes (UK)

Reeds: Aurélie Tropez (France), Stéphane Gillot (France), Claus Jacobi (Germany) , Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Mauro Porro (Italy)

Piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Jeff Barnhart (USA), Morten Gunnar Larssen (Norway), Martin Seck (Germany)

Banjo/Guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Martin Wheatley (UK), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Keith Stephen (UK)

String Bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Malcolm Sked (UK)

Brass Bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Jean-Philippe Palma (France)

Drums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Julien Richard (France), Nick Ward (UK)

Bass Sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden)

Violin: Mike Piggott (UK)

Vocals: Daryl Sherman (USA), Caroline Irwin (UK), Spats Langham (UK)

Here’s something both sweet and hot from Friday, October 26 — part of a tribute to Lovie Austin enacted by Rene Hagmann, Jens Lindgren, Thomas Winteler, Martin Litton, Roly VEitch, and Josh Duffee:

And here’s a valuable lesson in swinging animal husbandry from a JElly Roll Morton tribute (featuring Enrico Tomasso, Kristoffer Kompen, Matthias Seuffert, Martin Litton, Malcolm Sked, Nick Ward, Michael McQuaid — BILLY GOAT STOMP — with the ordinarily quite evolved Nick doing the convincing animal imitations (and making the band laugh in the process):

And — the lovely sound you hear in those videos is in no small part because of the sensitive hard work of Chris and Veronica Perrin — who made sure the music sounded like music.

May your happiness increase.

MORE HOT NOTES (Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, Oct. 27, 2013)

More random impressions from the second day of the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party:

The elegant Martin Litton merging himself and Teddy Wilson for the first set of the day, a solo recital of pretty songs (BODY AND SOUL) and more energetic ones (LIZA);

a ferocious evocation of the New Orleans Bootblacks and Wanderers (recording aliases with not a little of the expected condescension of the time featuring Lillian Hardin Armstrong, George Mitchell, Johnny Dodds) — by Bent Persson, Jens Lindgren, Stephane Gillot, Matthias Seuffert, Martin Seck, Martin Wheatley, and Malcolm Sked — music that nearly unsettled the foundations of the Village Hotel Newcastle (PAPA DIP, DROP THAT SACK, TOO TIGHT, GEORGIA BO BO, MY BABY, and two others).  Down-home exuberance!  I was delighted by Gillot’s alto playing, which (from my perch) made the band echo the late-Twenties Sam Morgan recordings . . . with magnificent ensemble and solo work from the others;

a tribute to Red Nichols from 1926-30, with Andy Schumm stepping into the role masterfully, Alistair Allan summoning up the Master Miff Mole (shoes off or on), Michael McQuaid reminding us, once again, how much Lester Young must have learned from Jimmy Dorsey, Frans Sjostrom singing pretty songs through his bass saxophone, and Nick Ward creating hot castles in the air.  That would have been sufficient pleasure for anyone, but when Rico Tomasso and Duke Heitger joined for the trumpet trio on ECCENTRIC, it was nearly too much pleasure to bear;

reed wizard Thomas Winteler sitting close to the bandstand, smiling;

Rene Hagmann, on cornet; Jean-Froncois Bonnel, soprano, giving their own individualistic version of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four — the expected songs, but full of surprising light and shade — the landscape we expected but seen anew, with Hagmann suggesting not Muggsy but Cootie, marvelously;

Spats Langham singing the songs of Al Bowlly (accompanying himself on guitar) so tenderly that I thought I saw tears in many eyes — but also suggesting that Bowlly could easily have visited the ARC studios in 1937 and made himself at home with a small elegant hot band;

a wonderfully romping evocation of the Graeme Bell-Humphrey Lyttelton collaborations led by Michael McQuaid, with fires stoked by Duke Heitger, Bent Persson, and Nick Ward;

Josh Duffee’s loving and energized McKinney’s Cotton Pickers (all new songs) with vocal refrains by Mike Durham, Spats Langham, and Keith Nichols — reminding us that there are rainbows around our shoulders when we know how to do the ZONKY;

trombone hero Kris Kompen donning the mantle of Jack Teagarden — for a sweetly swinging DIANE and a BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME that truly cut loose;

Cecile McLorin Salvant, Bent Persson, Thomas Winteler, Keith Nichols, and Martin Wheatley suggesting that the 1928 OKeh studios had moved right next to the local Marks and Spencer, with visits from Lille Delk Christian and Little Louis;

I missed the tributes to Mary Lou Williams (at the head of the Andy Kirk band) and the Missourians, as well as what I was told was an exuberant jam session in the Victory Pub — video-recording and note-taking can be draining, too — but what I did see was choice and more.

A continued pleasure was the beautiful natural sound provided by Chris and Veronica Perrin — I’d hire them for every jazz party!

People are already reserving their places for 2013.  You come, too.

May your happiness increase.

A FEW WORDS FROM THE LAND OF DREAMS (October 26, 2012)

At the moment, the Land of Dreams isn’t Basin Street or the outskirts of Lake Ponchartrain.  It’s the Village Hotel Newcastle, where the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party had its unofficial beginnings last night . . . and will emerge at full power in a few hours.

Some of my friends went, last night, to a concert at The Sage Gateshead to hear Cecile McLorin Salvant pay tribute to Billie Holiday with noble assistance from Rico Tomasso and Jean-Francois Bonnel; I stayed at the hotel to marvel at two rehearsals.  In one, a band featuring Andy Schumm, Michael McQuaid, Alistair Allan, Frans Sjostrom, Nick Ward, and others, played music associated with Frank Trumbauer, and then Red Nichols.  Imagine I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA and WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS, IDA, ECCENTRIC, FEELIN’ NO PAIN, THAT’S NO BARGAIN . . .   Then my hero Bent Persson took the stand to work his way through clever arrangements of some truly obscure songs Louis had recorded for the Hot Choruses book — SPANISH SHAWL, CAFE CAPERS, SIDEWALK BLUES, HOT NOTES, STOMP YOUR STUFF . . . with wonderful playing from Jens Lindgren, Martin Seck, Rene Hagmann (saxophone and cornet), Thomas Winteler, Frans Sjostrom, Phil Rutherford, Josh Duffee, and others.  And Bent played the Louis choruses on each tune — electrifying!  The band, if you can’t imagine it from my words, sounded like an on-the-spot evocation of the CHICAGO BREAKDOWN session.  With no breakdowns.

I expect to be Too Busy to Blog . . . but think of me among the beautiful sounds.

I hope some of my readers will be inspired by this description to begin to consider the possibility of a 2013 visit.  Good music, good friends — joy in the air.  Today we’ll hear from Keith Nichols, Norman Field, Duke Heitger, Matthias Seuffert, Spats Langham, Martin Wheatley, Stephane Gillot, Malcolm Sked, Richard Pite, Kristoffer Kompen, Emma Fisk, and more . . .

May your happiness increase.  

TOO HOT FOR WORDS: MATTHIAS SEUFFERT’S RHYTHMAKERS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

In 1932 and 1933, a small but determined group of New York jazz musicians took part in a series of recording sessions that might well still be the hottest jazz on record.  Henry “Red” Allen, Gene Krupa, Joe Sullivan, Fats Waller, Pee Wee Russell, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Lord, Happy Caldwell, Zutty Singleton, Pops Foster, Jack Bland, Eddie Condon . . .   The vocalists were Red himself, Fats, Chick Bullock, and the elusive Billy Banks — who, like Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon, specialized in singing in an abnormally high register.

The sessions were recorded for the Banner and Melotone labels and were meant to be sold inexpensively in “dime-stores,” so I imagine that the recording directors didn’t notice or didn’t care just how unfettered the performances were.  And no one seemed to care that “colored” and “white” musicians were playing together, either — a good omen of things to come, albeit slowly.

Many recordings of this time begin sedately, wooing the prospective buyers with a calm exposition of the melody before launching into improvisation in the last third of the disk: not the Rhythmakers.  It’s often been stated that Philip Larkin saw these sessions as one of the high points of the twentieth century, perhaps of Western civilization.  I wouldn’t argue with this position, although Larkin, chronically morose, saw everything else that came after as somehow small, which is a pity.

The superb reedman (here on clarinet) Matthias Seuffert was asked to close off the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party with his own version of the Rhythmakers.  He had help, of course, in Bent Persson (trumpet); Rico Tomasso (using his many voices and having fun vocalizing); David Sager (trombone); Steve Andrews (tenor sax); Philippe Guignier and Keith Stephen (banjo and guitar); Martin Seck (piano); Henry Lemaire (bass); Richard Pite (drums).

BUGLE CALL RAG:

YELLOW DOG BLUES:

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

OH, PETER:

SPIDER CRAWL:

WHO’S SORRY NOW?:

MEAN OLD BEDBUG BLUES:

An ecstatic conclusion to the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, although JAZZ LIVES will have a postscript — courtesy of Flemming Thorbye, who also captured these sets — to come.

CECILE McLORIN SALVANT SALUTES BESSIE SMITH and VALAIDA SNOW at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye)

The highly dramatic young singer Cecile McLorin Salvant was a hit at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, and she did not disappoint this year.  It’s clear that she has immersed herself in the repertoire she chooses, and she is a high-energy theatrical performer of the old school, someone who throws herself into each song.

In her tribute to Bessie Smith, Cecile was aided by “Bent’s Seven Blue Babies,” Bent Persson, cornet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Paul Munnery, trombone; Mauro Porro, piano; Philippe Guignier, banjo; Christian Lefevre, tuba; Nick Ward, drums.

ALEXANDER’S RAGTIME BAND (Elin):

NOBODY IN TOWN CAN BAKE A SWEET JELLY ROLL LIKE MINE (Thorbye):

YOU’VE GOT TO GIVE ME SOME (Elin): duet between Cecile and Philippe . . . whatever can the lyrics can be talking about?

YOU OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED (Elin):

OH, DADDY (Elin):

For her tribute to Valaida Snow, Cecile was joined by Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, Mauro Porro, reeds; Kristoffer Kompen,trombone; Paul Asaro, piano; Roly Veitch, banjo and guitar; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

SWEET HEARTACHE (Thorbye):

NAGASAKI (Thorbye):

There’s a good deal more from Cecile to be found on YouTube: those intoxicated by her approach to the music will find much to enthrall them!  Thanks as always to the generous Flemming Thorbye (“thorbye”) and Elin Smith (“elinshouse”) whose videos can be enjoyed on YouTube and their own sites: http://www.thorbye.net., and http://www.elinshouse.wordpress.com.

“FROM Ab TO C”: RICO TOMASSO AND FRIENDS PLAY JOHN KIRBY at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

The John Kirby Sextet was distinguished by marvelous writing and beautiful playing — accuracy at high speeds with not a note wasted.  (And I wouldn’t be the first person to point out that the Sextet was clearly so influential in what came to be known as bebop in the early Forties — consider that tight unison playing.

But on-the-spot recreations have a force and beauty that didn’t always fit within the confines of a three-minute recording.  Here are four lively examples, recorded on Sunday, November 6, 2011, at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.  The noble perpetrators are Rico, trumpet; Matthias Seuffert, Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Paul Asaro, piano; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (Thorbye):

BLUE SKIES (Thorbye):

DAWN ON THE DESERT (Elin):

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (Thorbye):

Only musicians operating at the highest level of precision and swing could play those charts so beautifully!  Thanks again to Elin Smith and Flemming Thorbye for steady camerawork and musical vigilance, and for their generosity in sharing their handiwork.

“EAST ST. LOUIS TOODLE-OO”: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS PLAY DUKE ELLINGTON at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye)

November 5, 2011, Saturday night at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party was a highlight — the crowd cheered, with good reason!

With Mr. Nichols at the piano and occasionally exercising his vocal cords, the band included Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, and Bent Persson, trumpets; Alistair Allan, trombone; Matthias Seuffert, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Wheatley, banjo and guitar; Richard Pite, string bass; Nick Ward, drums; Cecile McLorin Salvant, vocals.

THE MOOCHE (featuring the Jungle Band sound and the earthy percussion of Nick Ward, as well as a beautiful alto excursion by M. Bonnel before Rico masterfully growls us to the finish line):

CREOLE LOVE CALL (beginning with Cecile’s wordless vocal — a la Baby Cox or Adelaide Hall, then the mournful sound of Alistair Allan, the dangerously-muted Rico and the multi-talented Mauro on clarinet.  Hear that reed section!):

Then something riotous, borrowing some of its impetus from — you guessed it, OLD MAN RIVER — the 1930 showpiece OLD MAN BLUES, which is a famous film highlight from the Amos ‘n’ Andy film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK: Alistair Allen becomes Tricky Sam; Mauro Porro does his Harry Carney; Keith Nichols strides out; Jean-Francois Bonnel, on soprano, soars; Bent Persson roars:

The 1932 version of THE SHEIK OF ARABY, indebted far more to Bechet than Valentino, features the usual brilliant suspects — adding Andy Woon (as Cootie), Keith (as himself — with commentary by Rico), and Mauro (as Hodges on soprano) to the solo order:

TRUCKIN’ brings Mr. Nichols back in the vocal spotlight, and there’s a solo spot for Matthias Seuffert on clarinet — with a multi-media opportunity for audience participation later on. (Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro are truckin’ on down on the tiny dance floor.):

IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING) begins with the verse by Keith, then Cecile McLorin Salvant joins in to reiterate the philosophy — best embodied by that searing trumpet section:

An encore, COTTON CLUB STOMP, showed off that this band still had lots of energy. (That’s Jonathan David Holmes in dark shirt and glasses, near the stage on the right):

The Maestro would have been pleased.  See these videos and many more at http://www.thorbye.net.

WE LOVED IT: JOSH DUFFEE HONORS McKINNEY’S COTTON PICKERS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

On November 5, 2011, at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, percussionist and jazz scholar Josh Duffee brought together this all-star crew to make the music of McKinney’s Cotton Pickers come alive — and it certainly did.  The brass section was Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, and Rico Tomasso, trumpets; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, Mauro Porro, reeds; Keith Nichols, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone.  I won’t annotate these performances except to say that any history of swinging jazz ensembles that omits McKinney’s Cotton Pickers is surely mistaken — for their overall balance between inspired solos and imaginative arrangements — and that Josh and his all-star gang do the MKCP proud.

PEGGY (Thorbye):

A PRECIOUS LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE (Elin):

WILL YOU, WON’T YOU BE MY BABY? (Thorbye):

JUST A SHADE CORN (Thorbye):

I’D LOVE IT (Thorbye):

CRYING AND SIGHING (Thorbye):

MILENBERG JOYS (Thorbye):

CHERRY (Elin):

I FOUND A NEW BABY (Elin):

Thanks, as always, to the generous Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith for these videos: see more at “elinshouse” and “thorbye” on YouTube! And we all hope this project gets the widest possible exposure — a great mixture of respect for the originals and enthusiastic twentieth-century playing.

TWO VIEWS OF KANSAS CITY JAZZ: KEITH NICHOLS’ BLUE DEVILS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Elin Smith)

Often we associate “Kansas City jazz” with the free-flowing style of the middle Thirties.  But there was a regional style even before John Hammond heard the Basie band at the Reno Club on his car radio.

Here are two examples, brought to life at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party by pianist /arranger Keith Nichols and his Blue Devils — a band consisting of  Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Andy Woon, trumpets; Steve Andrews, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Alistair Allan, trombone; Richard Pite, string bass; Martin Wheatley, guitar; Nick Ward, drums.  You might also catch a glimpse of dancing couples — one unidentified and vigorous; the other Bridget Calzaretta and Paul Asaro, off to the right.

Before there was Basie, there was Moten — in whose band Basie was the second pianist.  Here’s a sample of what Bennie Moten’s band was recording in 1925, KATER STREET RAG, with solos by Jean-Francois Bonnel (baritone), Alistair Allan, Bent Persson, and Rico Tomasso:

Four years later, there was Walter Page’s Blue Devils, here embodied in BLUE DEVIL BLUES, with solos by Bent, Steve Andrews (clarinet), and Andy Woon:

There’s no sense in talking about “progress” in art, otherwise art criticism becomes a staged wrestling match, Stravinsky vs. Mozart, and both performances here make perfect aesthetic sense.  But in four years the rhythmic feel had certainly changed. . . . moving towards the Basie band at the Famous Door and onwards.

THAT RHYTHM MAN: BENT PERSSON PLAYS LOUIS at the 2011 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (thanks to Flemming Thorbye and Elin Smith)

Even though I think he finds it mildly embarrassing, I hold the cornetist / trumpeter / bandleader / jazz scholar / occasional singer Bent Persson in awe.  He isn’t the only brassman who has studied and emulated Louis Armstrong — but when he plays, young and middle-period Louis comes alive, gloriously.

In this set at the 2011 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (on Friday, November 4) he and an all-star band evoked some music from 1929, when Louis was often accompanied by the Carroll Dickerson and Luis Russell — a period of his career that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.

The band had Bent, Andy Schumm, and Michel Bastide on trumpets; Kristoffer Kompen, trombone; Michel Bescont, Matthias Seuffert, and Mauro Porro, reeds; Martin Seck, piano; Mike Piggott, violin; Jean-Pierre Dubois, guitar; Richard Pite, sousaphone and string bass; Debbie Arthurs, drums; vocals by Rico, Cecile McLaurin Salvant, and Michel Bastide.

SYMPHONIC RAPS is more good-natured than symphonic, although it occasionally gives the impression of a Hot Seven line scored for large orchestra. I admire the way the sections play off each other at the start, then the exchanges between Seck’s properly skittering Hines-styled piano and the band.  Because this band isn’t constrained by the recording studio, Bent opened up the arrangement for a few more solos — the first being the nimble Matthias on alto, then an off-camera Kristoffer on trombone (catch Debbie Arthurs rocking the proceedings all through this), before he comes on with some organic, locally sourced Louis. Bent knows Louis so well that he seems to move around freely in the great man’s imagination, leaving the impression of a newly-discovered alternate take, say, on Argentinian Odeon — before Debbie wraps this package up neatly with comments on the temple blocks:

The Waller-Razaf lament about what they now call “colorism,” BLACK AND BLUE, remains deeply moving.  Everything here is in place, with the comfortable feeling of musicians who know the original so well that they can bring to it their own individualities — Bent, Kristoffer, that reed section, and an understated but impassioned vocal from Rico that summons up the Master, leading to an early-Thirties Hawkins interlude from Bascont, and Bent rising above the band and Debbie’s most empathic drumming:

Another Waller-Razaf song, THAT RHYTHM MAN, its basic conceit going back to Renaissance poetry, that the whole world is an orchestra, is clearly a dance number.  The band swings out from the start, with Kristoffer doing his special J.C. Higginbotham magic on the bridge. Michel Bastide shows that rhythm can triumph over every obstacle, even a recalcitrant microphone; he’s followed by rocking solos from Kristoffer, Bascont, Bent, and Matthias, before the whole rollicking performance winds down.  I wonder how many jazz players and singers across the country had this black-label OKeh in their collection, a record worn to a low gravy:

The most famous of the Waller-Razaf trilogy is of course AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (Elin) and this version follows the less well-known Seger Ellis small band recording, which featured Joe Venuti, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Eddie Lang, Arthur Schutt, and Stan King — here the compelling Cecile McLorin Salvant stands in for Ellis, to great effect:

DALLAS BLUES (Thorbye) shows the band ready to swing — propelled by Debbie and her colleagues — even before Kristoffer and Richard play the blues and Bent sings them.  An inspired Kristoffer returns for a substantial outing and wows both the crowd and the band, before the trick ending that catches almost everyone by surprise:

I AIN’T GOT NOBODY (Thorbye) is given a performance at odds with the melancholy lyrics. Rocking interludes for the band, Rico, Mauro Porro and his metal clarinet, and Bent, suggest that everyone here indeed has somebody:

THANKS A MILLION (Elin), with both Rico and Bent invoking and evoking Louis, makes me feel so grateful for this set of music.

Thanks, once again, to Flemming Thorbye — check out his treasures   here

and Elin Smith, whom you can visit here