Tag Archives: Rod McDonald

THE PAST, PRESERVED: “TRIBUTE TO JIMMIE NOONE”: JOE MURANYI, MASON “COUNTRY” THOMAS, JAMES DAPOGNY, JOHNNY WILLIAMS, ROD McDONALD, HAL SMITH (Manassas Jazz Festival, Dulles, Virginia, Nov. 30, 1986)

One moral of this story, for me, is that the treasure-box exists, and wonderfully kind people are willing to allow us a peek inside.

A jazz fan / broadcaster / amateur singer and kazoo player, Johnson “Fat Cat” McRee, Jr. (1923-1990), — he was an accountant by day — held jazz festivals in Manassas and other Virginia cities, beginning in 1966 and running about twenty years.  They were enthusiastic and sometimes uneven affairs, because of “Fat Cat”‘s habit, or perhaps it was a financial decision, of having the finest stars make up bands with slightly less celestial players.  Some of the musicians who performed and recorded for McRee include Bobby Hackett, Vic Dickenson, James Dapogny, Don Ewell, John Eaton, Maxine Sullivan, Bob Wilber, Pug Horton, Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Bob Greene, Johnny Wiggs, Zutty Singleton, Clancy Hayes, George Brunis, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Tommy Gwaltney, Joe Muranyi, Danny Barker, Edmond Souchon, Cliff Leeman, Bobby Gordon, Marty Grosz, Hal Smith, Kerry Price . . . .

McRee also had business sense, so the proceedings were recorded, issued first on records and then on cassette.  I never got to Manassas while the Festival was happening, but I did buy many of Fat Cat’s lps (with their red and yellow label) and years later, when I met Hank O’Neal, he told me stories of recording the proceedings on Squirrel Ashcraft’s tape machine here.

My dear friend Sonny McGown, who was there, filled in some more of the story of the music you are about to see and hear.  The 1986 festival was dedicated to Jimmie Noone and these performances come from a Sunday brunch set.  “It was a very talented group and they meshed well. Mason ‘Country’ Thomas was the best clarinetist in the DC area for years; he was a big fan of Caceres. . . . Fat Cat’s wife, Barbara, often operated the single VHS video camera which in later years had the audio patched in from the sound board. As you well know, the video quality in those days was somewhat lacking but it is better to have it that way than not at all. Several years later Barbara allowed Joe Shepherd to borrow and digitize many of the videos. In his last years Fat Cat only issued audio cassettes. They were easy to produce, carry and distribute. FCJ 238 contains all of the Muranyi – Dapogny set except for “River…”. However, the videos provide a more enhanced story.”

A few years back, I stumbled across a video that Joe had put up on YouTube — I think it was Vic Dickenson singing and playing ONE HOUR late in his life, very precious to me for many reasons — and I wrote to him.  Joe proved to be the most generous of men and he still is, sending me DVDs and CD copies of Fat Cat recordings I coveted.  I am delighted to report that, at 93, he is still playing, still a delightful person who wants nothing more for his kindnesses than that the music be shared with people who love it.

Because of Joe, I can present to you the music of Jimmie Noone, performed on November 30, 1986, by Joe Muranyi, clarinet, soprano saxophone, vocal; Mason “Country” Thomas, clarinet; James Dapogny, piano; Rod McDonald, guitar; Johnny Williams, string bass [yes, Sidney Catlett’s teammate in the Armstrong Decca orchestra!]; Hal Smith, drums; Johnson McRee, master of ceremonies and vocalist.  The songs are IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT (vocal, Joe); CRYING FOR THE CAROLINES (vocal, Fat Cat); MISS ANNABELLE LEE (Joe); SO SWEET; RIVER, STAY ‘WAY FROM MY DOOR; APEX BLUES; SWEET LORRAINE (Fat Cat).

Some caveats.  Those used to videocassette tapes know how quickly the visual quality diminishes on duplicates, and it is true here.  But the sound, directly from the mixing board, is bright and accurate.  YouTube, in its perplexing way, has divided this set into three oddly-measured portions, so that the first and second segments end in the middle of a song.  Perhaps I could repair this, but I’d rather be shooting and posting new videos than devoting my life to repairing imperfections.  (Also, these things give the busy YouTube dislikers and correcters something to do: I can’t take away their pleasures.)

One of the glories of this set is the way we can see and hear Jim Dapogny in peak form — not only as soloist, but as quirky wise ensemble pianist, sometimes keeping everything and everyone on track.  Joe has promised me more videos with Jim . . . what joy, I say.

Don’t you hear me talkin’ to you?  It IS tight like that:

Who’s wonderful?  Who’s marvelous?

I’ve just found joy:

I started this post with “a” moral.  The other moral comes out of my finding this DVD, which I had forgotten, in the course of tidying my apartment for the new decade.  What occurs to me now is that one should never be too eager to tidy their apartment / house / what have you, because if everything is properly organized and all the contents are known, then surprises like this can’t happen.  So there.  Bless all the people who played and play; bless those who made it possible to share this music with you.  Living and “dead,” they resonate so sweetly.

May your happiness increase!

“WOULDN’T HAVE A CHANGE OF HEART”: JAMES DAPOGNY, DAWN GIBLIN, MIKE KAROUB, ROD McDONALD, GWEN MacPHEE, LAURA WYMAN at the ZAL GAZ GROTTO (August 20, 2017)

Dawn Giblin. Photograph by Jeff Dunn.

The song IF I WERE YOU, by Buddy Bernier and Robert Emmerich, might have vanished entirely if not for memorable recordings.  I feel it comes from that postage-stamp of inspiration where songwriters seized on a commonplace conversational phrase for a title and made a song out of it.  I’ve not been able to find out much about it, nor has sheet music surfaced online.  But it has a wonderful auditory lineage: it was recorded in quick succession — between April 29 and July 1, 1938 — by Nan Wynn with Teddy Wilson (featuring Johnny Hodges and Bobby Hackett), Billie Holiday, Fats Waller, and by Hot Lips Page’s band, although he left the vocal to one Dolores Payne.

In our time, it’s also been recorded by Dawn Lambeth and Rebecca Kilgore. Beautifully.

Now we can add warm-voiced Dawn Giblin to that list, as of August 20 of this year, where she and eminent friends performed the song at the Zal Gaz Grotto in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Dawn is accompanied by Mike Karoub, cello; James Dapogny, piano; Rod McDonald, guitar; Gwen MacPhee, string bass.  And, fortunately for us, this and another performance was filmed by Laura Wyman for Wyman Video.

Before you plunge ahead to this latest delight, perhaps you’d like to hear other performances by Dawn Giblin: a gorgeous IF I HAD YOU from last January (no relation to the 1938 song), and a session from May, featuring GIVE ME THE SIMPLE LIFE, ALL MY LIFE, and LOVER, COME BACK TO ME.

And now, the pleasures of August:

Here’s a swing instrumental, with neatly gliding dancers Robin and Lois, Grotto regulars who obviously love to dance and love music by Dapogny and friends:

The new Person in the band (to me, at least) is the admirable string bassist Gwen MacPhee, of whom Dawn says, “I met Gwen at Wayne State University.  She was in my ear training class and took me under her wing.  She was the first friend I made there.”  And now she’s a friend of ours.

I’m happy in New York, but I wish Ann Arbor were closer.  However, it’s delightful to have Wyman Video on the scene for all of us.  Laura, modestly, says she doesn’t deserve to be in the credit line with the musicians, but as a fellow videographer, I politely disagree.  We may not bake the cookies, but we make it possible for you to have a taste.

May your happiness increase!

MARCHING AND SWINGING: JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 2014)

Rainbow OneI am just back from the 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival, where I heard and admired glorious music.  But while I’m going through the process of getting videos to you (eagerly alert and waiting) I cannot forget the delights of the recent past: July 2014 at Evergreen with James Dapogny, Jon-Erik Kellso, Christopher Smith, Kim Cusack, Russ Whitman, Dean Ross, and Pete Siers:

and a rare Fats Waller tune:

What a band they are.

May your happiness increase!

POIGNANT BEAUTY: JAMES DAPOGNY’S CHICAGO JAZZ BAND at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 26, 2014): JON-ERIK KELLSO, CHRISTOPHER SMITH, KIM CUSACK, JAMES DAPOGNY, ROD McDONALD, DEAN ROSS, PETE SIERS

Sunrise over Mobile Bay

Sunrise over Mobile Bay

Because I’ll be on my way to the 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival tomorrow, my thoughts turned back to those few days in July 2014 where — amidst rainbows and rain, nocturnal elk, Vietnamese food with dear friends and heroes — I heard some of the finest music of my life.

The music was  created by Professor James Dapogny (piano, arrangements, research, and even a sly vocal or two) and his Chicago Jazz Band: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Kim Cusack, Russ Whitman, reeds; Christopher Smith, trombone, Rod McDonald, guitar; Dean Ross, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.  No gimmickry, just deep music.

One of the most memorable performances of that weekend was the Ellington – Rex Stewart MOBILE BAY, deep and slow.  Here’s a map for those who need to  orient themselves:

MOBILE BAY

I think of this four-minute interlude as the very definition of poignant: something that gives the sensitive person a sharp pang.  But the pain of regret, of loss, the feeling of sadness, is counterbalanced by awe: “How beautiful is that embodiment of sadness,” so that we have to entertain both sensations at once.

At the 2014 Evergreen Jazz Festival, I recorded and shared the better part of seven sets by this band.  I apologize if what I am about to write seems greedy, but I want to hear them again.  Shall we talk of the financing necessary to have the official JAMES DAPOGNY CHICAGO JAZZ BAND FESTIVAL?  No other groups need apply.

Until then . . . .

May your happiness increase!

PLENTY RHYTHM! ERIN MORRIS, JAMES DAPOGNY, CHRISTOPHER SMITH, ALEX BELHAJ, ROD McDONALD, BONNIE SMITH, CHRIS TABACZYNSKI, LAURA WYMAN: YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN (June 2016)

No, I didn’t hear any shouts in the night, “The British are coming!” (Or, for that matter, “The British are going!”)

paul-revere-statue

But if Paul Revere had been well and truly hip, he might have shouted, “Hot jazz in Ypsilanti!  Thursday nights!  Cultivate!” and that would have gotten me out of bed for sure.

Here are three truly entrancing performances recorded on June 16 and 23, 2016, by Laura Wyman of Wyman Video — yes, she deserves her own place in the personnel roster).  The leader of this morphing band of creators is Erin Morris, tuba.  Yes, I know you know Erin as a unique dancer and choreographer, but she is also a wonderful low-brass player, able to entrance us when she’s just sitting still.

I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING with Erin; James Dapogny, keyboard (“He makes that new piano sound exactly like old,” to paraphrase Johnny Mercer); Rod McDonald, guitar; Chris Tabaczynski, C-melody saxophone. Where?  Cultivate Coffee & Tap House, Ypsilanti, Michigan:

That’s the very definition of Mellow to me, what I think of as the music the great artists make for themselves when the lights aren’t shining in their faces.  Not morose nor a let’s-show-the-people-this-is-jazz romp, but pretty and moving.  And Erin plays the tuba with gentleness; at times in the ensemble it sounds like a sweet bass saxophone heard from far away.  And Chris Tabaczynski is my new Youngblood Hero.  Dapogny and McDonald have been Heroes of mine for years.

Now, let’s add a little Americana to the mix, as Bonnie Smith sings CARELESS LOVE in an unaffected, heartfelt way, with her father, Christopher, on trombone; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Erin and Jim:

Finally, what my dear friend Mike Burgevin used to call a “Bingie” — one of those songs that we hear through a sacred veil of Crosby — WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, performed by Christopher, Alex, Jim, and Erin:

All I can say about this scene is that it does my heart good to know that a small group of secular saints is bringing lyricism into the world.  Cultivate Joy.  And for my part, I’ve got my plane ticket to Ann Arbor.

May your happiness increase!

RHYTHM AND MIRACLES

LOUIS and GORDON JENKINS larger

Since 1971, July 6 is always a mournful date for me, since Louis Armstrong departed this temporal neighborhood (“made the transition,” “passed into Spirit,” or what you will) on that day.

Because of the beautiful post Ricky Riccardi wrote about the last music Louis listened to before he died (here) I was ready to write about an emotional vortex that hit me hard.

On the last tape Louis made for himself, he led off with SATCHMO IN STYLE, the life-enhancing music he and Gordon Jenkins made from 1949-52).  That’s important to me, because eight of those performances are the music that made me absolutely devoted to Louis — this is more than a half-century ago.

But then I thought of the tradition where you rejoice at the funeral, and that Louis would not have wanted us to weep, but to hear good music with a strong lead and wonderful melodies.  I think he would also have approved of seeing buoyant young swing dancers move around, for this was the way (in a backwards fashion) that he fell in love with Lucille Wilson, his fourth wife.

So here we are,  rhythm and miracles conjoined, which is also appropriate.

I GOT RHYTHM:

I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES (with the verse and at a gorgeous tempo):

These videos come to us through the generosity of the musicians and dancers, but also because of videographer Laura Beth Wyman of Wyman Video, who did a splendid job in capturing that most difficult situation: a room full of dancers with musicians playing for them.  The musicians!  James Dapogny, piano; Mike Jones, clarinet; Roderick McDonald, guitar; Joe Fee, string  bass. This performance took place during the properly named Plenty Rhythm Weekend.  Filmed at Gretchen’s House, Ann Arbor, Michigan, on December 5, 2015.  For more rhythmic miracles, visit here.

Good enough for Louis.  Good enough for us.

May your happiness increase!

WYMAN VIDEO SWINGS OUT (Allegheny Jazz Party, September 2015)

Laura Wyman, completely focused on the task at hand

Laura Wyman, completely focused on the task at hand

WYMAN VIDEO is the new brainchild and business venture of Laura Wyman, whom you should know as the CEO and head videographer of JAZZ LIVES’ Michigan Bureau, headquartered in Ann Arbor.  She has taste and a dilligent perfectionism.

Before there was a WYMAN VIDEO, Laura was bringing us video of such wonders as this:

ST. LOUIS BLUES (W.C.Handy; arr James Dapogny) – Erin Morris, Brittany Armstrong Morton, Sarah Campbell, Rachel Bomphray & Hayden Nickel (dancers). Tom Bogardus (cl), Paul Finkbeiner (tpt), Chris Smith (tbn), James Dapogny (pno), Shannon Wade (bass), Rod McDonald (bjo) & Van Hunsberger (drms). Zal Gaz Grotto, Ann Arbor, Mich. 6-21-15.

and this gorgeous interlude:

FIREFLY (James Dapogny) – The James Dapogny Quartet. James Dapogny (pno), Mike Karoub (cello), Rod McDonald (gtr) & Kurt Krahnke (bass). Kerrytown Concert House, Ann Arbor, Mich. 1-10-15.

But WYMAN VIDEO really came in to its own at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, with evidence right here:

CHERRY  (Don Redman) – Dan Block (cl & bass cl), Andy Stein (vln), Scott Robinson (bari sax & tarogato), James Dapogny (pno), Marty Grosz (gtr & leader) & Hal Smith (drms). Allegheny Jazz Party, Cleveland, Ohio. 9-11-15. Filmed by Laura Beth Wyman for Wyman Video.

I AIN’T GOT NOBODY from the same session:

All of this would suggest that WYMAN VIDEO is rather like JAZZ LIVES, and it is true that Laura is deeply involved in hot music and swing dance.  But her range is far broader than mine: Laura has been capturing speakers, readings, weddings, and other occasions.  I don’t think she goes to traffic court or other gloomy events, but I know she’s captured for posterity graduations, parties, swing dances, and other occasions where people gather happily.

So I urge you — if you live in or near Ann Arbor, Michigan, or if you want an expert videographer, contact Laura Wyman for videography that will help you have swinging memories.  And if you are not on Facebook, you can certainly contact her at wymanvideoa2@gmail.com.

May your happiness increase!