Tag Archives: Robert Fowler

ANDY’S GANG, OR “BIX ONE-SIX”: ANDY SCHUMM, JIM FRYER, LARS FRANK, ROBERT FOWLER, DAVID BOEDDINGHAUS, JOSH DUFFEE (Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, November 4, 2016)

Al Gande, Bix Beiderbecke, Johnny Hartwell, from Dick Voynow’s scrapbook. Courtesy of Michael Feinstein and THE SYNCOPATED TIMES.

Here, on November 4, 2016, a group of International Bixians played a set of the dear boy’s music at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party.  The premise was a small group modeled after the 1927 “Bix and his Gang” recordings for OKeh, but with some songs Bix would have known or did play but never recorded in this format.

The players should be familiar, but I will elucidate.  Andy Schumm, cornet; Jim Fryer, trombone; Lars Frank, clarinet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Robert Fowler, in his maiden outing on bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.

First, the ODJB’s AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

The pretty and durable BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD:

JAZZ ME BLUES:

From SHOW BOAT, CAN’T HELP LOVIN’ DAT MAN:

SORRY (not really SORRY!):

Wonderful music in a remarkable setting.

May your happiness increase!

“IN THAT FREE-AND-EASY MANNER”: MENNO DAAMS’ INTERNATIONAL SERENADERS BRING ALEX HILL TO LIFE (Whitley Bay, November 4, 2016)

Early on November 4, 2016, an august group of informally-attired gentlemen assembled within the Village Hotel in Newcastle, England, at what is now called Mike Durham’s Whitley bay Classic Jazz Party to rehearse their set of songs and arrangements by the most-talented and most short-lived Alex Hill.  Their aims: to have a jubilee and also do some needed functionizin’.

The truly all-star band was led by trumpeter / scholar / arranger Menno Daams,  and was comprised of David Boeddinghaus, piano; Spats Langham, guitar and vocal; Henry Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums;  Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, trumpets; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Richard Exall, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, reeds; Jim Fryer, Alistair Allan, trombones.

This was a rehearsal: thus, not everything had already been polished through focused playing and replaying, but the absence of an audience occasionally lets musicians cut loose and experiment.  I’ve intentionally left in the pre-and-post comments to give listeners the experience of being there.

And although they knew I was there, they happily managed to ignore me, which was fine then and turned into a great boon for all of us.  I had a wonderful view of the chairs, but one must sit far enough back in the room to capture everyone in the band. My focus wasn’t perfect, but at least you can blame the camera rather than its operator.  The sound is clear, and the absence of an audience, bringing pint mugs back and forth and chatting, is a great boon, although sharp-eared video observers will hear some commentary which usually stops when the band begins.

About the band name: I don’t think Menno and Co. had an official collective sobriquet in the program, and many of the original Hill sessions were issued as “his Hollywood Sepians,” and no amount of linguistic immolation on my part could convert that to a group title both appropriate and inoffensive.  I will leave the possible variations on that theme to you, and comments offering such names will, alas, never see the light of cyber-day.

On to the blessed music.  LET’S HAVE A JUBILEE:

SONG OF THE PLOW:

AIN’T IT NICE?:

DISSONANCE (Mezz Mezzrow took credit, but it is a Hill composition and arrangement):

DELTA BOUND (with wonderful singing by Mr. Langham, typically):

FUNCTIONIZIN’, a close cousin of SQUEEZE ME:

KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL, wise advice:

One of the unannounced pleasures of this Party, held this November in the same space [the “v.snuggly” Village Hotel] is that well-behaved listeners are welcome to sit in on rehearsals — a rare pleasure.  Blessings on Alex, Menno, and the wonderful musicians for their splendid work in keeping the good sounds alive.

And just so you know my enthusiasm is global, not local, this comment, relayed through my good friend Sir Robert Cox: “Tom [that’s Spats] said how brilliant Menno’s arrangements were and how much, to their astonishment, rehearsal had taken only 45 minutes. He said that, never in the history of the party, had a rehearsal lasted less than an hour.”

May your happiness increase!

“THAT BUNDLE OF STYLE AND GRACE”: SPATS LANGHAM’S HOT COMBINATION (October 27, 2018)

Thomas “Spats” Langham by George Coupe

Thomas “Spats” Langham is unmatched at what he does — and he does so many things superbly that it’s always a pleasure to encounter him.  His energies, his sharp wit, his swing, his lyricism, his delightful acting: there are no blank spaces to fill in.  I first met him at Mike Durham’s Classic Jazz Party in 2009, and he was a joy every year. So it’s a great happy surprise to see these four video performances from the Classic Jazz Concert Club in Sassenheim, the Netherlands, on October 27, 2018.

Mister Langham can be heard and seen here on guitar, banjo, ukulele, and vocals.  He is joined by the delightful singer Emily Campbell; guitarist Danny Blyth; string bassist / sousaphonist Malcolm Sked; reed star Robert Fowler; percussion superhero Nick Ward.

TAKE ANOTHER GUESS was a hit in 1936 for Ella Fitzgerald and Helen Ward; here there are delightful vocal interpolations from the Combination:

Spats takes us on a wild romp through the song associated with Ukulele Ike, IT ALL BELONGS TO ME:

Emily comes back for BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN (with the verse, of course) — which is its own bowl of Swing borscht before long, with hints of SING SING SING in the clarinet-drums exploration:

Continuing the Asiatic nature of things, Spats sings EVER SINCE I KISSED HER ON THE VOLGA . . . make of that title what you will.  I haven’t found out anything about this novelty, except to wonder what patrons at the back of the theater thought they heard of the title:

What a wonderful band.  How rich an unexpected gift.

May your happiness increase!

JELLY ROLL MARTIN: LITTON PLAYS MORTON at the MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 4, 2016)

litton

I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much Morton, especially when it’s played as expertly as this — and from some unusual corners of the canon.  Here are Duke Heitger, trumpet; Graham Hughes, trombone, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Robert Fowler, reeds; Martin Litton, piano, transcriptions, arrangements; Martin Wheatley, banjo, guitar; Malcolm Sked, bass; Nick Ball, drums, at the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party on November 4, 2016. “Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm” is at the foundation — these performances never rush or shout — but there is a good deal of rollicking energy here.  No doubt.

TRY ME OUT:

DEEP CREEK:

GAMBLING JACK:

ELITE SYNCOPATIONS:

May your happiness increase!

“HOW HIGH THE YELLOW MOON”: SPATS LANGHAM AND HIS HOT COMBINATION (November 6, 2015)

yellow moon

It’s always a pleasure to observe Thomas “Spats” Langham — singer, vaudevillian, string virtuoso — and he always surprises in the nicest ways.  One of his specialties is bringing “new” (as in unheard or rarely-heard) song treasures to us.  In this case — at the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, the song was SLEEPY HEAD, written by Banjo Ikey Robinson.  As far as I can tell, the only official recordings of this song have been by Spats and Jeff Barnhart, individually and as a duo.  (There are several other songs with that title, the one I know being a tender Thirties lullaby that Bobby Hackett used as his closing theme on his 1949 broadcasts from Nick’s in Greenwich Village.)

In this performance, Spats is joined by Robert Fowler, reeds; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, brass bass.

What I find delightful here is not simply the song itself, or the vocal, or the instrumental interludes, but the blend — that seems so right — between the sad lyrics and the swinging tempo, something that musicians in the late  Twenties and Thirties brought to a high art: the lyrics are frankly sad, but the dancers wanted to swing.  As they would here.

Thank you, Spats, Robert, Martin, and Malcolm, for making beauty out of sadness.

More of this — the “beauty” part more than the “sadness” — will be offered generously at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — one of the most rewarding weekends I could imagine.  And I won’t have to imagine it.  See you there, I hope.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN SURRENDER IS TRIUMPH (BENT PERSSON and DUKE HEITGER, 2015)

I SURRENDER, DEAR, is truly a forlorn love song.  Not “You left me: where did you go?” but “Without you I can’t make my way,” which is a more abject surrender to love unfulfilled.

surrender1

And here’s Bing, both in 1931 and 1939 — so you can hear the intense yearning in the words and music:

A very mature version (with John Scott Trotter):

(There are several more Bing-versions of this song, for those willing to immerse themselves in YouTube, including a 1971 performance on the Flip Wilson Show where one line of the lyrics is . . . altered.)

But now to Mister Strong.

On November 6, 2015, this glorious group of musicians — Bent Persson, Rico Tomasso, Menno Daams, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Robert Fowler, Michael McQuaid, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Malcolm Sked, Nick Ball, Spats Langham did the holy work of evoking Louis Armstrong at the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party.  Here’s my video of this wonderful song — sung and played by the heroic Bent Persson:

Here, for the cinematographers in the viewing audience, is Flemming Thorbye’s video of the same performance — which is much better than mine!

And about two months earlier, Duke Heitger, trumpet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums, gave this beautiful song a treatment that reminds me a little of Benny Carter and Teddy Wilson, not bad antecedents at all:

We associate surrender with defeat, with failure.  If love requires the surrender of the armored ego, that’s a triumph.  And the creation of beauty out of painful yearning, another triumph.  Incidentally, the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party takes place in September; the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party in November.  So no reason for conflict.

May your happiness increase!

WHEN TECHNOLOGY MET ROMANCE (1929): SPATS LANGHAM, ROBERT FOWLER, MARTIN LITTON, MALCOLM SKED at the MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 6, 2015)

Before Facebook, before Instagram, before online dating apps that said YES or NO with a simple movement of one’s finger, technology and romance were always allied — perhaps uneasily, but connected.  Imagine the impact of inexpensive quick mail, or the telephone.  And then, the photograph.  And the moving image.  Hence this imaginative conceit:

TALKING PICTURES

Here’s a delightful version from the 2015 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — with Spats Langham, banjo and vocal; Robert Fowler, clarinet; Martin Litton, piano; Malcolm Sked, brass bass:

The bounce and optimism of the song might make us forget, for a moment, that the singer is sitting alone in his room, adoringly contemplating a photograph of the Love Object, wishing that he could move closer to an actual encounter — but the closest he can get is an imagined sound film of the one he yearns for, speaking from the screen.  And bliss?  Being able to run the film over and over.

I hope that the imagined lovers get to move from the realm of image into tangible reality, and that this song is “their” song —  now that they’ve been able to shut off the projector.

If you were there at this year’s Party, you’ll remember this delightful musical cameo.  If not, make plans for 2016 . . . I will share details when I know them. And for those keeping track: in the start of this video, we see and hear Thomas Winteler, preparing for the next set, and the many-talented Joshua Wyborn, who made the live sound come across to us so clearly.

May your happiness increase!

AT RICO’S BARBECUE: WHERE I’VE BEEN, AND WHAT I HEARD (November 8, 2015)

For Part One of these delights, please click here.

Rico CD front better

Trumpeter / singer / bandleader / composer Enrico Tomasso, “Rico” to the legions of people whom he’s adopted and vice versa, is an endearing human being (fully embodying the spirit of Louis) and stellar musician. What might not be immediately apparent is that he is also a superhuman trumpet player.  What you will see and hear below is the final performance of a four-day marathon party (Thursday through Sunday) where Rico had often been playing lead trumpet in front of large ensembles.  And he ended the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party on a high note, no a series of high notes, with his rendition of Louis’ 1938 Decca recording of STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE.

BBQ Decca

I will leave the discussion of the song’s authorship to others, and merely point out that the title is then-contemporary slang for walking proudly down the street with one’s stunning woman partner, not eating a dripping meat sandwich on the run.  And the arrangement you’ll hear is by the brilliant Chappie Willet, whose work has been extensively explored by John Wriggle — and is the subject of John’s forthcoming book.

But to the music.

Rico is joined by and supported by Duke Heitger, Andy Schumm, Kristoffer Kompen, Alistair Allan, Michael McQuaid, Lars Frank, Matthias Seuffert, Robert Fowler, Keith Nichols, Spats Langham, Malcolm Sked, Josh Duffee:

That’s superhuman but also delicately beautiful.  Thank you, Rico, and friends. And as I said in my previous post, the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party is scheduled once again for 2016, but it would be terribly nice if you were there. Since all human enterprises are finite, do what you can to attend this fiesta of music while it’s accessible, rather than saying, “Oh, I’ll get there some day!” and then saying, “I wish I had gone.”   It can be done.  Class dismissed.

May your happiness increase!

WHAT YOU’LL HEAR WHEN YOU’RE THERE: THE MIKE DURHAM CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 5 – 8, 2015)

TWO DEUCES! Bent Persson and Enrico Tomasso at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party

TWO DEUCES! Bent Persson and Enrico Tomasso at the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party

“Fine! Wonderful! Perfect!” to quote Fats.  I’m referring to the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party — coming soon to the Village Hotel Newcastle in the UK.

I mean no offense or slight to my friends and heroes who organize Parties, Stomps, Fests, and other weekend galas, but the MDCJP (the Party formerly known as the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party) is special.  Many musicians simply want to get up on the stand and sing or play among their friends and peers, and this is standard — often exhilarating — fare at most jazz weekends.  And the MDCJP encourages such frolic with a nightly jam session in the Victory Pub. But many musicians devoted to the sounds of the Twenties and Thirties and beyond want to pay reverent homage to their forbears while having their own say — so this Party is organized into small concerts, each celebrating a band, a sound, a leader: it becomes a wondrous living evocation of where we’ve all come from.

First, a list of who’s going to be there on the bandstand — an illustrious lot for sure:

Janice Day, Mellow Baku (vocal); Emma Fisk (violin); Andy Schumm, Menno Daams, Duke Heitger, Bent Persson, Enrico Tomasso (trumpet); Kris Kompen, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan (trombone); Matthias Seuffert, Michael McQuaid, Robert Fowler, Lars Frank, Thomas Winteler, Claus Jacobi (reeds); Martin Litton, David Boeddinghaus, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols (piano); Spats Langham, Jacob Ullberger, Martin Wheatley (banjo, guitar); Phil Rutherford, John Hallam, Malcolm Sked (bass, brass bass); Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone); Henry Lemaire (bass, guitar, banjo); Richard Pite (drums, bass); Josh Duffee (drums, vibraphone); Nicholas Ball (drums, washboard)

(If I have left anyone out, I apologize.)

And a brief listing of the concert themes: the Union Rhythm Kings; a tribute to Mike Durham; the Original Memphis Five; the Quintette of the Hot Club of France; Jelly Roll Morton; Bunny Berigan; the “avant-garde” of Red Nichols and Miff Mole; Spats Langham’s Hot Combination; Lu Watters; solo piano recitals; Teddy Brown; the Dixie Stompers; Dance Band Divas; Thirties small-group sessions; Louis (featuring Bent and Enrico); the 1938 Morton Library of Congress recordings; Black New Orleans; chamber jazz; Western Swing; Spike Hughes; Chicago South Side; the Cotton Club; Casa Loma Orchestra; more unrecorded Bix; Bechet; Duke Heitger; California Ramblers; Eddie Condon; the Nichols-Duffee Orchestra . . . and more.

And two highlights of the 2104 Festival — moments to remember!

HOT.

SWEET.

It’s a musical feast.  Don’t miss out on this Party.

May your happiness increase!

JAMAICA SHOUT: BENT PERSSON PLAYS RED ALLEN (July 9, 2010)

As promised, the second half of the glorious session (inventive yet very free-minded) that was Bent Persson’s tribute to Henry “Red” Allen’s early recordings — captured at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, in a downstairs room that was part of the hotel’s health club.  Healthy music, though — seriously aerobic for players and audience!

The players were Bent and Michel Bastide, trumpets; Paul Munnery (standing in for Red’s pal, J.C. Higginbotham), trombone, Robert Fowler and Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds, Jeff Barnhart, piano and vocals; Jacob Ullberger, guitar and banjo; Henri Lamaire, bass; Josh Duffee, drums. 

The second half began with one of the atypical small-group recordings with men from the Luis Russell band, issued under the euphonious title J.C. HIGGINBOTHAM AND HIS SIX HICKS — playing a serious blues, HIGGINBOTHAM BLUES:

Then, moving forward to one of the Russell recordings less celebrated than their characteristic rompers — a sweet ballad, HONEY, THAT REMINDS ME (originally recorded in 1931 with a lovely, earnest Vic Dickenson vocal — here reimagined by Jeff Barnhart):

Bent scaled down to a rocking small group to give his own version of the incendiary Rhythmakers records (the originals were Philip Larkin’s favorites):

WHO’S SORRY NOW? had a Barnhart vocal (instead of Billy Banks’ warbling):

I WOULD DO MOST ANYTHING FOR YOU (which became Claude Hopkins’ theme):

YES, SUH! (a piece of spirited hot vaudeville):

In 1933, Allen and Coleman Hawkins — comrades from the Fletcher Henderson band — teamed up for a series of recordings aimed at the jukebox market.  Some of the songs they recorded were charmingly ephemeral, among them MY GALVESTON GAL, HUSH MY MOUTH (If I Ain’t Goin’ South).  Bent chose to revisit three classic recordings:

SISTER KATE (an old-time tune in 1933):

HEARTBREAK BLUES (where one can hear the cross-fertilization of influence between Hawkins and Bing Crosby):

JAMAICA SHOUT:

The program ended with the moody THERE’S A HOUSE IN HARLEM FOR SALE — a somber conclusion to an uplifting program of hot music: 

You’ll notice that although the players reflect back on the original recordings and the fabled players, there is very little direct imitation of Red, Hawk, Higgy, Pee Wee, Dicky Wells, etc. — the way it’s supposed to be.  Bravo, Bent!

SWING OUT!: BENT PERSSON PLAYS RED ALLEN (July 9, 2010)

Bent Persson never lets us down — as a trumpeter or a jazz scholar who teaches by his own example. 

One of the high points of this year’s Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival this year was his two-hour presentation of the music of Henry “Red” Allen from 1929 to 1934.  The concert emphasized the music Red made (often under his own name) as a member of the incredibly swinging Luis Russell Orchestra, with the wildly heated recording group the Rhythmakers, and a few of his early Vocalions. 

Bent’s group had Michel Bastide, trumpet; Paul Munnery, trombone, a reed section of Michael McQuaid, Jean-Pierre Bonnel, Robert Fowler; Jeff Barnhart, piano / vocals; Jacob Ullberger, banjo / guitar; Henri Lamaire, bass; Josh Duffee, drums; Cecile Salvant, vocals. 

Here’s Bent — one of my heroes — with a band full of splendid soloists and sight-readers (!) playing music that I have been admiring for a long time — hot, rhapsodic, always surprising.  Although record companies looked to Red as “the answer” to Louis Armstrong, Red always went his own way, a sort of delightful sideways approach to familiar phrases and harmonies.  And Bent and the band do him justice here, honoring the shades of J. C. Higginbotham, Albert Nicholas, Pops Foster, Paul Barbarin, and other giants. 

The program began, most appropriately, with SWING OUT:

Feeling poorly?  Consider the DOCTOR BLUES (although one never knows if the title refers to a healer or the need for one:

Bent called upon his impromptu vocal trio (Cecile, Jeff, and Michel) for the refrain in NEW CALL OF THE FREAKS.  Who knew that New Orleans musicians were so deeply involved in recycling programs?

SUGAR HILL FUNCTION celebrates good times uptown:

And for the theologically-minded, Cecile offers ON REVIVAL DAY (with delightful echoes of Bessie Smith, too):

LOUISIANA SWING was the title of a fine Luis Russell collection, and it is apt here, considering that the Russell band was filled with New Orleans masters:

POOR LI’L ME again features the soulful Cecile:

SINGING PRETTY SONGS is, always surprisingly, exuberant rather than balladic:

Watch out for the law!  Cecile offers an admonitory PATROL WAGON BLUES:

And a true romper from a King Oliver Victor session (its title in the spirit of an unsupervised terrier puppy) SHAKE IT AND BREAK IT:

Hot enough for anyone!  And there’s more to come in Part Two – – –