Jazz enthusiasts are as guilty of the Name-Brand-Enchantment as other product purchasers: the people at the supermarket who will only buy Heinz’ baked beans and not very different from the listeners who celebrate their particular Jazz Deity and would ignore splendid performances by people they haven’t yet heard. Think of Joshua Bell, unannounced, playing gorgeously in the Washington, D.C. subway, few people paying attention, and you get the idea.
Here is an ad hoc group of California jazz stars — although some of them never made a record under their own name — playing wonderfully. Tom Baker is a beloved figure, but I suspect many listeners might look at the heading of this post and think, as did Philip Larkin, “If I haven’t heard of them, how good could they be?” and turn away, which would be a pity, because the music is delicious.
This hot effusion — a live gig — comes from the collection of superb bassist and spiritual leader Mike Fay. The collective personnel is Bill Napier, clarinet; Larry Stein, soprano saxophone; Tom Baker, tenor saxophone; Tom Keats, rhythm guitar; unidentified, solo guitar; possibly Jim Cumming, string bass. Robin Hodes, trumpet, and Bob Mielke, trombone, are noted in the personnel but aren’t heard on the first tracks. The CD is labeled HOT REEDS 1983. Here are the first five performances, and they rock and saunter in the best ways.
OH, MISS HANNAH!:
CREOLE LOVE CALL:
SWINGIN’ THE BLUES (with a nod to TWISTED):
and THEM THERE EYES:
My guess is that most of the names in this band might be new to many listeners, especially to those less familiar to the California jazz scene of decades past. (How odd to write “decades past” of 1983: some readers will understand this feeling.)
You might never have heard of them, but I hope you are glad that you heard their music. And there are another five or perhaps six performances from this energetic and friendly date to come.
May your happiness increase!