Tag Archives: Rob Reich

CHOOSING TO SWING: NIRAV SANGHANI AND THE PACIFIC SIX

I don’t have grandchildren*, but I can imagine myself gathering the younguns around and telling them, “Younguns, Grandpa knew Nirav Sanghani when he was only a swing dancer, before he began to lead a band!” They would be properly awestruck.  As I am by Nirav’s debut CD, its pretty cover displayed above.

Some facts: the CD is immensely danceable music, the tracks at righteous groovy tempos, with a mix of classic standards and riff-based originals.  Nirav is one of the young musicians mentored by Clint Baker, so you know that he has taken all the right impromptu classes and scored high on the real-life exams (in front of audiences).  And he understands rhythm guitar (rather than attempting to become a Famous-Solo-Guitarist-Clone) and playing for the band.  The band is a compact sextet of wise individualists, and they rock in solo and ensemble.  Beautiful sound . . . . and a digital download costs $8.  I am sure that Elders like myself could also buy a physical disc from Nirav at any of the swing events he and the Pacific Six adorn.

The band: Justin Au, trumpet; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Rob Reich, piano; Nirav Sanghani, guitar; Jen Hodge, string bass; Riley Baker, drums; Clint Baker, trombone (on BAKER BOUNCE only).

The songs: BAKER BOUNCE / DOODLE RHYTHM / MARIANAS / BLUE (And Broken-Hearted) / IRRATIONAL BLUES / SOMEDAY SWEETHEART / WHO’S SORRY NOW? / LULLABY OF THE WAVES / WHISPERING.  arch 26, 2019

Recorded August 19, 2018 at Community Music Center, San Francisco, CA.

From the first notes, the band floats on a well-connected four-piece rhythm section: Reich, Sanghani, Hodge, and Baker have listened hard to the great small groups of the Forties and the wartime Basie influence is so happily evident (although none of the cliches are).  I noticed happily that more than a few of the tracks began with a rhythm-section introduction, reminiscent of the great small groups and also clearly setting the tempo for dancers.  (Incidentally, that rhythm section has its own delicious quirky approach: hear the opening chorus of WHISPERING to get at it: hilarious and completely effective.)  IRRATIONAL BLUES is beautifully evocative of the 1938 Kansas City Six, with a guitar introduction by Sanghani.

And the horn soloists (Zimmerman switching from clarinet to saxophone on some tracks; a terse, lyrical Au — with the impassioned Clint Baker, jazz parent, adding huge trombone sounds on the first track) are wonderfully idiomatic but never imitative.  Eddie Condon would surely admire their interplay on BLUE and on SOMEDAY SWEETHEART.  The jazz fans in the audience might think of 1946, of Savoy Records, of swing-to-bop; the dancers will be too busy dancing to consider such erudite matters.

Nirav’s originals are made of familiar materials but each has its own little surprises, and the arranging touches are well-shaped but never overfussy.  I know that if I heard this on the radio or on a DJ’s playlist, I might not immediately call each of the players by name but I certainly would insist on knowing about the band and buying a few copies of the disc.

I propose that people who enjoy this CD pass along copies of it to dance organizers who might be out of touch with the best Bay Area jive so that we can spread the swinging word(s).

My only complaint about this disc is that it isn’t a two-disc set.

Here is the band’s Facebook page, and here, perhaps even more important, is the Bandcamp page where you can hear the sounds and download the music.

If you have a swing dance event coming up, this would be one of the many fine bands to hire.  If, like me, you don’t, you surely will want to have the music in your home, your ears, your car . . . the possibilities are endless, and gratifying.

*Because I don’t have grandchildren, I am expecting like-minded younger JAZZ LIVES readers to visit us in assisted living, bearing new CDs, organic fruit and vegetables.  I think that’s not too much to ask.

May your happiness increase!

TWO MINUTES AND TWENTY-SEVEN SECONDS

My title doesn’t refer to someone’s hallowed solo or a famous 78 recording.  No, it’s music created this month, March 2015.

I have watched with pleasure and amusement the birth and development of a new band — no, a new instrumental ensemble with its own gravely whimsical music.  The object of my affection is the Endangered Species Trio, which brings together Emily Asher, trombone; Tom Abbott, bass saxophone; Rob Reich, accordion.

I could make a case for all species as being endangered these days, but the title refers more to the three instruments, which have been the subject of curiosity (at best), sliding down to active mockery, contempt, disdain, and incredulity. Except for the trombone, which has a certain acceptance — although there are many jokes about trombones and trombonists — the bass saxophone and the accordion are regarded, at best, as highly miscellaneous instruments, even though both of them are capable of great beauty.

Tom, Emily, and Rob just returned from a brief stay at an artists’ retreat in Banff, and they shared this delicious musical vignette, TOM AND LIZ, on YouTube.

Humor me.  Even if you have deep reservations about “original compositions” by jazz artists; even if the thought of the accordion brings up deep childhood traumas, experience this beautiful cockeyed swinging melodic many-textured interlude:

I expect to have a good day — pleasing experiences have already taken place and there are more to come — but for sheer compact pleasure, these two minutes and twenty-seven seconds will be hard to top.

Go ahead:  see if you can listen to it only once.  I dare you.

More about this wonderful group here.

May your happiness increase! 

WITH THIS BOOK (AND A FUNCTIONING PEN) THE BAY AREA JAZZ FAN IS ALL READY FOR MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES

Photographer / jazz fan Jessica Levant has been enjoying her twin pleasures for years now — as she says, “idly” taking pictures of her jazz and blues heroes and heroines in the Bay Area (that’s the area in and around San Francisco, California).  She’s now collected those photographs — no posing, all taken in performance — into a charming book, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA JAZZ & BLUSICIANS.

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The book is sweet testimony to the wide variety of musical styles and performers working in this area — women and men, youths and veterans, singers and instrumentalists, leaders and side-people. By offering these photographs in pure alphabetical order, Jessica has wisely avoided the question of categorizing or of valuing these musicians. I am pleased to see portraits and biographies of people I know and have heard: Clint Baker, Danny Brown, Waldo Carter, Mike Greensill, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Mehling, Si Perkoff, Rob Reich, Dave Ricketts, Mal Sharpe, John Wiitala . . . as well as people I know by reputation . . . and the larger group of people I look forward to hearing and meeting.  Jessica’s color portraits are informal and lively; no stiff poses against a studio backdrop here, and her biographies combine material provided by the artist and her own perceptions.

It’s an entertaining book, and I predict it could start a social trend. Jazz and blues fans like (we’re all fans at heart) to go home with an autograph from our favorite musician, and I can see Bay Area fans competing with one another to collect ALL the autographs in this book.  Better hurry: I’ve spotted Jessica at jazz clubs, busily photographing — I hear rumors of a second volume to come.

You can learn more about Jessica and her book here. And when you see a quietly enthusiastic woman with a camera (tactfully not getting in anyone’s way) I encourage you to approach her and ask, “Are you Jessica Levant?  May I have your autograph?”  I’m fairly sure she will oblige, graciously.

Thanks to Barb Hauser for making the connection, as she always does!

May your happiness increase!

FROM EAST TO WEST, EMILY ASHER BRINGS GOOD SOUNDS (Cafe Divine, February 17, 2014)

Trombonist, singer, composer, arranger Emily Asher is so blissfully bicoastal that she makes the rest of us seem as if we’re glued to our recliners.  She flies from Hither to Yon, whisking back and forth from Seattle to Brooklyn, making friends for the music wherever she goes, a marathon runner for good music.

Here’s a very recent sample, from an intriguing gig at Cafe Divine in San Francisco — which began as a duo of trombone (Emily) and accordion (Rob Reich) but expanded in the most graceful way.  The first Special Guest was string bassist Daniel Fabricant, who joined in for a romping ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

Daniel had to go off to make a gig with Gaucho (those spreaders of joy) so Emily and Rob asked the sweet but pointed question, WHY DON’T YOU GO DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS?:

I think Frank Loesser’s imagined ship would be too sluggish for our Ms. Asher, but she likes the tune ON A SLOW BOAT TO CHINA:

BLUE SKIES featured an Impromptu but Expert Girl Trio — An Historic Moment — Emily, Meredith Axelrod, and Kally Price, with Rob and the esteemed Craig Ventresco, guitar:

Meredith showed us the way to MY BLUE HEAVEN:

Now, if you’re reading this on the East Coast and feeling deprived, there is Good News Tonight.  On Saturday, March 1, Emily Asher’s Endangered Species Trio (yes!) will begin New Brunswick Jazz Project’s Women in Jazz month.  They will play at the Alfa Art Gallery in New Brunswick, New Jersey, immediately following a viewing of the very fine film THE GIRLS IN THE BAND.

Details here and here.  The event begins at 6:30; the film screening will be from about 7:20-8:45, and the band will play from 9-11 PM: with Emily, the EST is Tom Abbott, bass saxophone; Rob Reich, accordion.  I’d be there if I could.

May your happiness increase!

SWEET AMBIANCE: TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, DENNIS LICHTMAN, DAVE RICKETTS, JARED ENGEL, ROB REICH, ARI MUNKRES: A SESSION AT BRENDA’S (June 9, 2013)

When she asked what I would like, “I’ll take a dozen of your best,” I politely told the waitperson at Brenda’s French Soul Food (on Polk Street in San Francisco) in the late afternoon of June 9, 2013.

Here’s what happened — along with delicious New Orleans food: swing visitations by my friends and heroes: Tamar Korn, voice; Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Jared Engel, Ari Munkres, string bass; Rob Reich, accordion.  A gathering of musically like-minded friends to be sure, but also a melding of three ensembles: San Francisco’s GAUCHO (Ricketts, Reich, and Munkres); Gordon’s GRAND STREET STOMPERS and Tamar Korn and Friends (everyone else).  Collect them, buy the set!

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA:

BLUES EN MINEUR:

DJANGOLOGY:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

LAZY RIVER:

DOUCE AMBIANCE:

WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

COMES LOVE:

IT’S LIKE REACHING FOR THE MOON:

DINAH:

IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE:

Echoes of Louis, Django, Bing, Fats, Billie — all presented in entirely individual ways.

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER SUNDAY SUPPER AT BRENDA’S WITH GAUCHO (DAVE RICKETTS, ROB REICH, ARI MUNKRES): JUNE 23, 2013

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Dr. Matilda Weinstein (the JAZZ LIVES house physician) asks, “Have you had your GAUCHO today?”

Here’s a hot and sweet musical tonic from my visit to one of GAUCHO’s regular spots — Brenda’s French Soul Food on Polk Street in San Francisco — on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Dave Ricketts brought along his ever-reliable Tin Man (you’ll see it in his lap) but also his cornet, where he displays an admirable calm lyricism; Rob Reich swung out on the accordion in ways that the instrument isn’t accustomed to — all for the good! — and Ari Munkres showed again why he is a one-man rhythm section.

A hot SWEET GEORGIA BROWN (I got my camera in action late, but the second half is delicious):

The little-known rhythm ballad, MOANIN’ FOR YOU (courtesy of the Mills Brothers and patented Ricketts-Romanticism):

And for those who like their New Orleans cuisine with Middle Eastern touches, THE SHEIK OF ARABY:

Tasty (as is the food at Brenda’s)!

May your happiness increase!

GAUCHO GOES TO BRENDA’S (June 9, 2013)

The gypsy jazz group GAUCHO is flexible — it is often a trio of guitarist / composer / singer Dave Ricketts, string bassist Ari Munkres, and accordionist / pianist Rob Reich.  Then it can expand to a sextet, with guitarist Michael Groh, reedman Ralph Carney, and percussionist Elizabeth Goodfellow — or other permutations I haven’t yet witnessed.

On Sunday, June 9, the trio of Ricketts, Munkres, and Reich shared the stage with Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, and Jared Engel at    Brenda’s, an estimable “French soul food restaurant” in San Francisco: 652 Polk Street (at Eddy).  Brenda’s deserves applause not only because GAUCHO has a regular Sunday afternoon-into-night gig there, but because its “French soul food” translates as their version of New Orleans food in substantial well-seasoned portions.  (My muffaletta hero came with a small dish of spicy watermelon rind pickle — five stars’ plus — and all around me people were happily devouring their food.  And Brenda’s blog even provides the recipe for the pickles!)

Here are two performances by GAUCHO from that night.  I would have stayed for more, but we had a recording session to go to — the results of which, I hope, will emerge sooner rather than later.

DOUBLE BARREL, Dave’s composition — using the KING OF THE ZULUS vamp as a starting point — rocks:

SHINE, the old favorite:

Come to Brenda’s on a Sunday (5-8) for hot food and hotter jazz.  And to keep up with GAUCHO, click here.

May your happiness increase!

SISTER KALLY PRICE PREACHES THE SERMON and THE CONGREGATION (LEON OAKLEY, ROB REICH, JOHN WITTALA, STEVE APPLE) SAYS “AMEN!” at AMNESIA (June 2, 2013)

One of the delights of visiting the Bay Area is being able to hear and experience the delightfully impassioned singer / composer Kally Price.  She took the stage at Amnesia last Sunday night, June 2, 2013, and electrified us all with her own composition — an evocative dramatic performance in swing called THE LANGUAGE OF MUSIC.  She was accompanied by Rob Reich, piano; John Wittala, string bass; Steve Apple, drums; and a positively volcanic Leon Oakley, cornet.

If you didn’t believe in the righteous powers of Music before this, you certainly should have undergone a conversion.  Thank you, Sister Price — and the Brothers in the band!

May your happiness increase!

GAUCHO and TAMAR KORN CELEBRATE at AMNESIA (Aug. 29, 2012)

The cheerfully flexible gypsy-jazz organization known as GAUCHO celebrated its tenth anniversary at Amnesia (853 Valencia Street, San Francisco:  amnesia) on August 29, 2012.  Traditionally a tenth anniversary is celebrated with gifts of tin or aluminum . . . I hope that the tip basket brimming with bills stood in successfully for “tin.”  But the crowd at Amnesia gave GAUCHO and Tamar Korn an even better present — a warm reception.

And the videos that follow prove how deeply GAUCHO and Tamar were welcomed in San Francisco.  Occasionally the warmth proved physically exuberant: I and my tripod and camera were in fairly constant danger of being treated like Dorothy Gale by some positively athletic dancing couples.  But everyone survived.

For this celebration, GAUCHO consisted of leader – guitarist – composer Dave Ricketts and the eminent swing guitarist Michael Groh in tandem, with the vigorous reedman Ralph Carney, the wily Rob Reich on accordion and piano, the ingenious Ari Munkres on string bass.

They began the evening with an energized I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

Then one of Dave’s compositions that has reached a larger audience through the cinema, DOUBLE BARREL:

BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA was anything but wistful Midwestern nostalgia:

Then Tamar joined them for the cautionary yet swinging COMES LOVE:

She followed with a romping DINAH:

And harking back to what I perceive as her roots, Berlin’s RUSSIAN LULLABY:

Finally, she offered two Ricketts (melody) – Korn (lyrics) collaborations:

PEARL:

SING ON:

This party also served to announce once again Gaucho’s new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART (all originals by Dave) with contributions from Leon Oakley, cornet; Clint Baker, various instruments; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums; Marty Eggers, tuba; Dave and Michael.  Look for it wherever better music is sold — in this case, gauchojazz.

May your happiness increase.

HONEY, DO!

Yet another excursion with Louis Armstrong — backwards to 1933 and 1966 or so and forwards to yesterday, July 7, 2012.

Step One: HONEY, DO! (lyrics by Andy Razaf, music by J.C. Johnson).  It’s customary to lament how poor Louis’ bands were, but this version is swinging away for the first part of the song.  And what Louis is doing, so joyously, is beyond description:

In 1966 — more or less — department stores in suburbia all had flourishing record departments.  I don’t know which store it was, but I remember as someone too young to drive a car going off with my mother to some store (more furniture than anything) for something she needed . . . and saying to her, “Ma, I’ll be right back,” running off to the record department, forsaking all others, heading to the Louis browser, snatching up this RCA Victor anthology with one side devoted to his recordings in the early Thirties, the other to his 1946-7 efforts, giving the cashier my $2.67 or an equivalent amount, and racing back to my mother (who had bought her pillows or bowls by that time) . . . I was guilty but exultant as she stood there — with that look of mild reproach and concern that I already knew too well: translation: “Did you have to spend your allowance on another record?”  Yes, Ma, I did.  I love you and you were right but now I have HONEY, DO! — nearly fifty years later, too.  A good return on $2.67.

Fast forward to yesterday, where the Beloved and I were digging Mal Sharpe and The Big Money in Jazz Band at the No Name Bar in Sausalito.  Circumstances prevented my video-recording, but I have a story for you all instead.  Superb music from Mal, Jim Gammon, trumpet; Rob Reich, accordion; Bill DeKuiper, guitar; Ari Munkres, string bass; Pete Magadini, drums.  A vigrously rocking band that also showed off deep subtlety — a version of I GOT IT BAD with its first chorus a duet for Jim (plunger-muted) and Ari.

Early in the final set, Mal (trusting the audience a bit) asked if anyone had a request.  STARDUST was suggested but politely turned aside for the moment, as was I DOUBLE DARE YOU.  But the latter suggestion turned Mal’s thoughts to Louis, and Pete suggested HONEY, DO! — which Jim took up with ease and pleasure.  The other members of the band weren’t entirely familiar with this obscure song, but they fell in gamely and the No Name Bar was rocking as the BMIJ turned the corner into the second chorus . . . and then Mal, bless him, put down his trombone and belted out the lyrics with skill and abandon.

I’m still grinning.  Maybe I can ask them to play it again when I have a video camera handy.  You should have been there!

May your happiness increase.

KALLY PRICE MAKES IT CLEAR: SHE’S GOT TO BE A RUG-CUTTER (at The Red Poppy Art House, June 17, 2012)

This little treat of a swinging performance comes from the recent appearance of singer Kally Price — with accordionist / pianist Rob Reich, string bassist Dan Fabricant, and percussionist Beth Goodfellow — at San Francisco’s congenial Red Poppy Art House (on Folsom Street) on June 17, 2012.

This quartet, with Kally blazing away, does a superb job of bringing back the 1937-8 Duke Ellington band, complete with vocal trio, to this century:

The only problem I have with this hymn to swing-dancing is that the lyrics strike me as especially self-deprecating.  Can you imagine a past where Kally Price was — dare I say it — un-trucky?  Or that she ever, ever had to improve her jive?  Maybe it was some part of her distant past, but if her jive were improved I don’t think the Red Poppy would be standing as I write this.

See what you think.  And try to keep still while watching and listening to this foursome tell us not only what swing is all about, but offer incontrovertible evidence that Swing is here to stay.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta cut back a figure / So, Gate, I’ll dig you / Later!

May your happiness increase.

KALLY PRICE’S DEEP SOUL (Red Poppy Art House, June 17, 2012)

I’ve admired the singer / songwriter Kally Price for some time now, and think it’s a very good omen that she was appearing at the very cozily singular Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco (visit it here) three days after we arrived in California.  She was joined by pianist / accordionist / composer Rob Reich (of Gaucho and other groups), string bassist Dan Fabricant, and drummer Beth Goodfellow.  Kally doesn’t shout or scream or gyrate, but it’s clear that her singing and her songs come from deep within her — a powerful private soul that she shares most readily with us.  She doesn’t sing at her songs, or even sing her songs . . . she becomes them.  And the three other musicians on the little stage gave her empathic support and love.

Here are some of the highlights of their two sets.

After a terse, romping I GOT RHYTHM (mixing Fifty-Second Street, Mel Powell, Bud Powell, and Kansas City) that the trio played while I was getting my camera accustomed to the dark, Rob offered his own composition, an unnamed waltz that he said was somewhat spooky.  For the moment, then, it’s SPOOKY WALTZ:

Kally shared one of her songs — simple yet intense, apparently plain but full of oblique twists and turns.  She calls it MY JOB:

She is very fond of the great singers of the Thirties, and here’s a medley that connects Billie Holiday and Ivie Anderson, in LET’S CALL A HEART A HEART and LOVE IS LIKE A CIGARETTE:

Tampa Red’s ROCK IT IN RHTYHM, which everyone on the stand was more than able to enact with style:

Rob, Dan, and Beth offer a spirited GLADIOLUS RAG:

I associate FLAMINGO with the 1941 Ellington band and rhapsodic delivery of the lyrics by Herb Jeffries (still with us!); here, Dan Fabricant takes it on himself to reinvent those same lyrics: the effect is mesmerizing, more or less:

Kally returns for a fervent WILLOW WEEP FOR ME:

Her tribute to the late Regina Pontillo, THE HOPEFUL PLACE, a small devout masterpiece:

MELT MY HEART, a song with hymnlike intensity:

And finally her own LOVE FOR THE ASKING:

I hope the world keeps discovering Kally Price and her noble abetters.  I can’t decide if she sings with a powerful delicacy or a delicate power, but it really doesn’t matter.  We are so very lucky to have her.

May your happiness increase.

A TRIP TO AVALON with TAMAR KORN and GAUCHO

Suitcases not required.  And you won’t have to show your driver’s license to the pleasant TSA man or woman . . . simply let these superb musicians take you to an ideal place (care of Puccini, Al Jolson, and Benny Goodman).

The travel agent-magicians in charge here are Gaucho, the wondrous swing / gypsy ensemble that has been certified one hundred percent cliche-free by the FDA.  Seen here are guitarists Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh; accordionist Rob Reich; reedman Ralph Carney; cornetist Leon Oakley; string bassist Ari Munkres; percussionist Pete Devine; vocalist Tamar Korn.  This video (beautifully done, thanks to Porto Franco Records) was recorded in 2010 as part of Gaucho’s album PEARL, featuring Tamar. The band is now raising money for their fifth CD, which will feature another great young vocalist – Georgia English, who has studied music with Gaucho’s bandleader since she was 8 years old, and is now a student at Berklee School of Music.  The CD is on its way: I believe it will be out in the first part of July.

See you in Avalon . . .

May your happiness increase.

KALLY PRICE, ROB REICH, JIM GAMMON: “I’M CONFESSIN'”

Warning: this video is not for those who prefer their singers timid and demure.  Kally Price is the closest thing to a Force of Nature I have ever heard: in fact, if I still had my television set, I would have expected to be notified of this video performance on the Weather Channel.

It’s not that Kally is loud.  Or that she screams and shouts.  Or that she distorts the melody and lyrics into strange shapes, or overindulges in wild scat singing.  None of the above.  But what she does do is to take the most familiar song — in this case, the well-worn I’M CONFESSIN’ — and imbue it with so much intense passion that it’s a wonder that the song doesn’t split at the seams.  Kally has a rich, deep voice that can be sweet, mellow, or downright raw — and a huge emotional range, from caressingly tender to I-am-tearing-myself-open-right-now . . .

She is an extraordinarily powerful actress — I think she could play Medea — but she doesn’t seem as if she is putting on an external guise.  Rather, the words, the music, the power and the sweetness, bubble up from inside her.  Here she’s accompanied by the fine spare pianist Rob Reich (known better as the swinging accordion player for Gaucho) and the eloquent trumpeter Jim Gammon.

Courtesy of Porto Franco Records, you should watch, listen, and marvel for yourself here.  (And I am sure that some of my readers know more about the history of I’M CONFESSIN’ / LOOKIN’ FOR ANOTHER SWEETIE than I do.)

Honestly, I feel shaken after listening to Kally Price.  And that is a good thing!

May your happiness increase.

BLINK AND THEY’RE GONE: GAUCHO COMES TO BROOKLYN (October 2011)

Who or what is GAUCHO?

Without a lengthy explanation, they are a wonderful small band — their main allegiance is to the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly, but they aren’t Gypsy drones, running up and down the fretboard in defiance of melody and common sense.  Usually they have two guitars (solo and rhythm), an accordion, string bass, and friends.

Here’s a sample — GAUCHO performing AFTER YOU’VE GONE — Rob Reich on accordion, Ari Munkres on string bass, Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh on guitars,  with our own Tamar Korn:

San Franciscans are already used to having GAUCHO in their midst, and the first time I heard some version of this group was in 2005 on a visit to that city — I believe at Amnesia.

But for those New Yorkers who aren’t flying westward any time soon, GAUCHO has come to us.  Here are the dates (on short notice, for which I apologize):

Monday, October 3:
Pete’s Candy Store, 10 pm
709 Lorimer St, Brooklyn

Wednesday, October 5
Radegast Hall and Biergarten, 8 pm
113 N 3rd St, Brooklyn

Thursday, October 6
Downhouse Lounge, 9 pm
250 Ave X, Brooklyn

Saturday, October 8
Zebulon 8 pm
258 Wythe Ave

GAUCHO is slightly smaller than usual (you know, weight restrictions on airline travel).  The Brooklyn version is  Dave Ricketts (guitar); Rob Reich (accordion);
Ari Munkres (bass); Yair Evnine (cello, guitar).

And who knows who might want to sit in?  Miss Korn, her ethereal self, lives in Brooklyn.  GAUCHO swings mightily and tenderly, and they are worth seeing.  I guarantee it.

KALLY PRICE IS POWERFULLY HERSELF

Kally Price is a fully realized singer, not for the timid, someone hard to ignore.  She doesn’t create background music.

Price has a controlled emotional power than is remarkable.  It’s not overacting or “dramatic.”  Rather, she has an impassioned definiteness that comes from within; it’s not something she learned how to do in acting school.  She doesn’t shout or rant, but it’s clear she is not going to let anything get in her way when she’s delivering the messages contained in a song.

I had not heard of her before our California trip, but many people told me about her.  They went out of their way to let me know she wasn’t formulaic or ordinary.

I knew IF I HAD A RIBBON BOW from Maxine Sullivan’s wistful 1937 version, and it had always struck me as poignantly girlish: if I had a ribbon bow, then Prince Charming would come and find me.  The singer of this folk song had not been able to learn much about assertiveness training, had never heard of Friedan or Steinem, so the song struck notes of wishing rather than action.  Kally Price’s rendering is powerful, and you imagine her both singing the song (she is faithful to it) and examining it at arm’s length: pity this poor girl in what I imagine is her best frock, waiting for someone to come and love her, much like one of Toni Morrison’s doomed little girls in THE BLUEST EYE.  Kally performs the song with fidelity but is also able to suggest her frustration at being confined to the constricting world of such narrow hopes and aspirations.

If my deconstructing of this text doesn’t appeal to you, sit back from your computer and witness a forceful performance by a musical actress with great skill and undeniable passion.  Her accompanists are Leon Oakley, cornet; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Rob Reich (at the piano instead of the accordion), and Ari Munkres on string bass.  This performance was recorded at San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House in May 2010, just before Kally recorded her second CD as a leader:

She’s someone serious — not to be taken lightly!

The other performance from the Red Poppy is a fascinating merging of an a cappella I WANT TO LIVE and Price’s reimagining of RHYTHM — not the Gershwins’ classic but the 1933 Spirits of Rhythm perpetual-motion machine.  Again, whether she’s creating a ferocious soliloquy or she’s swinging deeply, Kally Price is someone to take notice of:

I’m making room on my shelves — between Bent Persson and Sammy Price — for Kally Price’s CD . . . coming soon to you from Porto Franco Records.

“PEARL”: TAMAR KORN and GAUCHO

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, here is a fascinating video documentary of the musical meeting of the San Francisco band GAUCHO with Tamar Korn and friends.  Tamar sings “PEARL,” (music by Dave Ricketts, lyrics by Tamar) aided by Dave Ricketts and Michael Groh, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion, Pete Devine, drums, Ari Munkres, bass; Leon Oakley, cornet.

The session happened on January 24, 2010, and is captured here in lovely black and white.  It took place at Cafe Amnesia on Valencia Street in San Francisco, where Gaucho has been appearing for nine years.

Music from this session can be found on the Porto Franco CD of the same name: details available at  http://www.portofrancorecords.com.

FIFTY-SECOND STREET WEST (Cafe Borrone, Oct. 15, 2010)

Because of the wonderful photographs that Charles Peterson and others took, some of my readers will be able to visualize the bandstand at Jimmy Ryan’s sixty-five years ago — crowded with hot musicians jamming on, say, BUGLE CALL RAG, with every luminary in New York City eagerly improvising at the peak of their powers.

Now imagine that scene with additions.  A wondrous singer — let’s say Connee Boswell, Lee Wiley, or Mildred Bailey is joining in for a few numbers. 

And, if your imagination can hold this, Django Reinhardt and some members of his group are also there, off to the side, having a fine time.  Bob Wills is coming through the door, too. 

Did this happen?  If it did — in New York City, circa 1945 — it hasn’t been documented.  But something very much like it happened last Friday, October 15, 2010, in Cafe Borrone, which sits happily in Menlo Park, California.

Cafe Borrone has — through the generosity and prescience of its owner, Roy Borrone — having Clint Baker’s All-Stars as its Friday night jazz band.  For twenty years of Fridays, mind you.  And the 15th was a twentieth-anniversary party.

And “SFRaeAnn,” who is Rae Ann Berry on her driver’s license, was there to record this occasion.  Clint’s regulars were in attendance, but so were some instrumentally-minded friends.  As was the eloquently hot Gypsy-tinged small group Gaucho, and New York’s own wonder, Tamar Korn.  The musicians (collectively) are Clint Baker, playing everything expertly; Robert Young, saxophone; Leon Oakley, cornet; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar; Tom Wilson, trombone; Jim Klippert, trombone; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion; Mike Groh, guitar; Ari Munkres, bass, J. Hansen, drums, Riley Baker, drums.

A word about GAUCHO — a group I’ve seen in San Francisco (and I’ve also listened happily to their recordings): many “Gypsy swing” groups that loosely resemble this one specialize in superhero-speedy readings of the Reinhart-Grappelly repertoire.  In such cases, I agree with my friend Anthony Barnett when he proposes a moratorium on such endeavors.  In my case, all I want is not to be pummelled with notes.  But GAUCHO is superbly different.  The overall affect is superficially of music you’d hear on the porch or in the living room, but that feeling is undercut by the instant awareness that no amateur musicians ever, ever sounded this good.  Its two guitarists play and swap roles with grace and a stylish casualness.  Rob Reich makes the accordion an instrument I would happily listen to, as he spins out wandering lines (I was traumatized by an accordion as a child.)  And Ari Munkeres brings together Pops Foster and Paul Chambers very adeptly.  The overall feeling brings together Teddy Bunn and Western swing and a whole host of refreshing improvisations on various subtle, profound models.   

Here’s part of a delightful EXACTLY LIKE YOU, where Tamar and Leon converse:

And a full-fledged YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY — where Tamar’s eyes and facial expressions reveal a great comic actress, singing the twisty lyrics at a rapid clip.  (Not only that: she sings the verse twice!)  This performance becomes a series of witty conversations and overlapping monologues, most fetchingly: 

How about SOME OF THESE DAYS, with an incredible outchorus where instruments and Tamar (the Mills Sister) blend so exuberantly:

Here’s a  delicate, unaffected I’M CONFESSIN’ — a performance where Ari’s arco bass, Leon’s Ziggy Elman – Harry James emoting, Robert’s sweet alto, and more theoretically disparate elements come together to create something terribly moving:

The simplistic philosophy of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING remains true — complain too much and even the dog walks out of the room — but what catches my eye in the first minute of this performance is that an audience member has asked Tamar to dance (unless I am missing the essential subtext).  At what other site do band members dance with the audience?  I ask you!  And don’t miss the vocal duet between Tamar and Jim Klippert, a man who is having just too much fun to keep it to himself:

Tamar sat out PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE (perhaps the jitterbugging had worn her out for the moment?) and Clint took the vocal, with solos from everyone: 

And the evening ended with a romp nothing short of ecstatic on BILL BAILEY (or, as Joe Wilder calls it, THE RETURN OF WILLIAM BAILEY), which should have you grinning for days:

I’m thrilled that this music was created and that the apparently tireless Rae Ann Berry saved it for us and for posterity.  Bless Roy Borrone, all the musicians, and our own devoted videographer, too.

P.S.  And I have it from good authority that GAUCHO’s new CD has Miss Korn and Mister Oakley in attendance — with some songs that Tamar has written lyrics for.  I check the mailbox every day . . . and will let you know when it arrives!

TAMAR KORN / “GAUCHO” IN SAN FRANCISCO

In the jazz world, new “Gypsy Swing” groups seem to proliferate.  Gaucho is one of the best of the Django-inspired small swing groups, a San Francisco staple, inventive and rocking.  They’ve recorded three CDs, each one delightfully consistent.  They are Dave Ricketts, Michael Groh, g; Rob Reich, acc; Ralph Carney, reeds; Ari Munkres, b; Pete Devine – d, perc, and Cheek-O-Phone (TM) — the last something you’ll have to see and hear in person.  “Gaucho,” incidentally, is the band’s version of “gadjo,” the term a Gypsy would bestow on a non-Gypsy.   

Here are two neat video clips that I just found out about, recorded in atmospheric black and white and HD at AMNESIA in San Francisco a few months back.  The YouTube channel is “PortoFrancoRecords,” a label that will be issuing a new Gaucho CD in the fall. 

AND these two videos (and the CD to come) feature the eloquent and always surprising TAMAR KORN.  Need I say more?    

I associate “The Anniversary Song” with a lugubrious reading in waltz-time, and it has always been credited to Al Jolson, who (not surprisingly) did little to create it aside from recording it.  Here it’s offered in a lilting swing four-four, with Tamar singing, dancing (to the accompaniment of Ralph’s adventurous clarinet solo) and improvising with soprano riffs to conclude:

“I Surrender Dear” comes from Mr. Crosby and Mr. Armstrong, but Tamar makes it her own, as always, floating on Gaucho’s impasioned pulse and invention:

Thanks to Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records, whose new website will have a variety of independent music from swing jazz to modern permutations: http://www.portofrancorecords.com/videoblog.  Peter tells me that many musical things are happening quite fast, so there will be more to come very soon!  And energetic YouTube surfers will a number of other clips of Tamar and Gaucho in performance from “charlestonalley,” a friend of swing jazz and swing dance.