Tag Archives: Rossano Sportiello

KINGS OF SWING: ALLAN VACHÉ, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, PAUL KELLER, DARRIAN DOUGLAS at the 2015 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 18, 2015)

ALLAN VACHE

Allan Vaché knows what swing is all about, and when you get him on a bandstand with a good rhythm section, floating jazz improvisations happen.  And that was the case at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — when he and Rossano Sportiello, piano; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Paul Keller, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums, took their happy way through three Charlie Christian / Lionel Hampton riff tunes that have been associated with Benny Goodman for seventy-five years.

I’m amused that one title seems to refer to air travel (more of a novelty in 1939 than now), one to Benny’s clarinet, one to shooting craps.

FLYIN’ HOME:

SOFT WINDS:

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

Yes, we certainly could lament that this is no longer our popular music, and occasionally I myself dip into that pit of despair, but the music that these five people made and still make is a true cure for any sadness.

And here is the information you’ll need about the 2016 Atlanta Jazz Party, April 22-24.

May your happiness increase!

REMEMBERING BILL DUNHAM (1928-2016)

Often the latest jazz news is an obituary notice. It’s not surprising given the age of some of my friends and heroes, but I don’t always linger on such news: if I immersed myself in it, I might become too sad to continue stating confidently that JAZZ LIVES.

BILL D one

But I will make an exception for William B. Dunham — known to me as Bill, known earlier in his life as Hoagy.  For more than half a century he was the regular pianist with the Grove Street Stompers, who play on Monday nights at Arthur’s Tavern in Greenwich Village, New York.

Bill died on January 11: details here.

Like most of us, Bill had many facets he showed to the world.  Officially he was a New York City real estate eminence who signed his emails thusly:

William B. Dunham
Licensed Real Estate Broker
Barrow Grove Associates Inc.
P.O. Box 183, Cooper Station P.O.
New York, NY 10276-0183

But this serious signature was only one side of a man who was at heart puckish. I’d met him perhaps a decade ago and we had become friendly, so when I hadn’t seen or heard from him last year, I emailed him in August to ask if all was well, and got this response:

Hey Michael……………….Thanks for asking. For a couple of doddering old geriatrics we are doing OK – not quite at the strained food stage. I have had a little problem which has kept me out of Arthur’s. Getting better.

Blog recommendation. Every Sunday from 12:30 – 2:30 a great trio at Cafe Loup on 13th Street. Piano, bass and guitar. Not to be missed! Could you video there?

Our cat population has dwindled by 50%. We had to download Manning because he tended to bite. Love bites mind you. I used to enjoy the occasional love bite – but not by a cat!

Let me know if you ever want to visit Cafe Loup on a Sunday…………

Best……Bill

PS……….LOVE your blogs!!

That was the Bill Dunham I will always remember: the enthusiastic jazz-lover who turned up at gigs, always beautifully dressed, the man who marveled at the music and the musicians, who would email me to share his delight in a video I’d just posted.  He and his wife Sonya were a reliable couple at New York City jazz gigs, cheerful and ardent.

I don’t remember whether I first met Bill at Arthur’s Tavern and then at gigs or the reverse, but our early correspondence was often his urging me to come down to hear the Grove Street Stompers on a Monday night, or telling me what wonderful things had happened the previous Monday.  I am afraid I put him off fairly consistently, because I have taught early-morning Tuesday classes for thirty years and even when the GSS gig ended at ten, I yawned my way through my work.  But I did make my way down there — with camera — one night in 2010, and recorded this performance, the regular band with guest stars Dan Barrett, cornet; J. Walter Hawkes, trombone (later in the evening Rossano Sportiello took to the piano):

Others in that band are Peter Ballance, trombone (seen here in front of the narrow bandstand, keeping track of the songs played that night); Joe Licari, clarinet; Giampaolo Biagi, drums; Skip Muller, string bass.

Here is a more recent still photograph of that band, with Scott Ricketts, cornet; Steve Little, drums:

BILL D at Arthurs Ballance Ricketts Licari Little perhaps MullerAs a pianist, Bill was an ensemble player who offered the plain harmonies as the music moved along.  He knew this, and did not seek to inflate his talents: when I saw him at a gig where Rossano Sportiello or Mark Shane was at the keyboard, he spoke of them and their playing as versions of the unreachable ideal.  He was proud of the Grove Street Stompers as a durable organism upholding the collective love of jazz, but modest about himself.

A digression.  Bill became one of my most enthusiastic blog-followers but he often found technology baffling, which is the right of people who came to computers late in life.  WordPress would inexplicably unsubscribe him from JAZZ LIVES, and I would get a plaintive telephone call and then attempt — becoming Customer Service — to walk him through the steps that would re-establish a connection.  Once the complication was beyond my powers to fix on the telephone, and since I knew I was coming in to Manhattan, I offered to come to his apartment and fix things there, which he happily accepted.  There I found out about the four cats — I don’t remember their names, and since I was a stranger, they went into hiding (perhaps they didn’t like something I’d posted on the blog?) and I never saw them.

Once I fixed the connection, because it was noon, Bill offered me a glass of iced gin, which I declined, and spoke of his other jazz obsession — Wild Bill Davison. Wild Bill, when he was in New York City in between gigs, would come down to Arthur’s and play, and Bill (Dunham) spoke happily of those encounters: he’d also become a WBD collector, but not in the usual way: Bill’s goal was to acquire a copy of every recording WBD had ever made, perhaps on every label and every speed. I was awe-struck, but perhaps tactlessly asked if this was like collecting stamps, because WBD’s solos had become more worked-out than not. To his credit, Bill agreed.

He also had a substantial collection of paper ephemera and memorabilia. However, by the time I’d met him and had this blog, any ideas of an interview were brushed aside, “Michael!” he’d say, laughing, “I can barely remember my wife’s name!”

Before I’d ever met Bill, though, I knew of him as a youthful eminence in ways more important to me.  He had graduated from Harvard in 1952.  To my mind, this made him a truly sentient being — even if gentlemen at Harvard those days aimed no higher than a C, I believe those C grades meant something.  He was seriously involved with jazz before I was able to crawl.

Thanks to my dear friend John L. Fell, I heard a tape of Bill in 1951 as part of the Harvard jazz band, the Crimson Stompers — including drummer Walt Gifford — on a session where clarinetist Frank Chace, visiting Boston, had been the star. In Manfred Selchow’s book on Edmond Hall, I learned that Hall had been recorded at an informal session in 1948, and “Hoagy Dunham” had played piano on ROYAL GARDEN BLUES. I had a cassette copy of what remained of those sessions.  At some point I copied these tapes onto another cassette and sent them to Bill, who was ecstatic.  Through Jeanie Wilson, Barbara Lea’s dearest friend, I learned that Bill — for a very short time — had dated Barbara, and I got Bill to write his memories when Barbara died, which you can read here.  Here is a post in which Bill figures — both in a black-and-white photograph of himself, Barbara, and the Stompers, and a Harvard news story where he is “Hoagie” Dunham.

Another photograph of the Crimson Stompers, from drummer Walt Gifford’s scrapbook, tenderly maintained by Duncan Schiedt:

CRIMSON STOMPERS 11 48

And here is Bill, as a JAZZ LIVES stringer or jazz town crier, with some New York news (hilariously).

A few memories from cornetist Scott Ricketts, seen above with Bill on the bandstand —

“At the end of a set, Bill would refer to Arthur’s as ‘The West Side’s Finest Supper Club’. But the only food I ever saw there was in the 25 cent glass peanut machine in the front.”  

“Bill would always close the set (over Mood Indigo) by telling the audience, “Have a couple of Wild Turkeys, we’ll be right back.” At the band’s 50th anniversary party, I asked Bill if he was having a Wild Turkey? He said ‘No, I don’t drink that stuff!'”

And a neat summation from a cousin of  Bill’s:

“Bill was a terrific guy, who served in the military in Korea and then came back to attend Harvard on the GI bill. He was a bit of a renaissance man; having gone to Harvard, worked on Wall Street, been a noted jazz musician (his real passion), and then into real estate. I was fortunate enough to get to see him just a few weeks ago, and we coaxed him to play some music on the piano in the front lobby of the assisted living home they were visiting with their daughter. He still had it then.”

How might people count their lives well-lived?  To me (and the person who has made the transition can only know this in some spiritual way) if you’ve lived your life properly, people miss you when you are no longer there.  I know I will from now on think, “I wonder if  Bill will show up tonight?” when I am seated at a particular gig — and then have to remind myself that he won’t.  I send my condolences to Sonya, and Bill’s daughter Amy.

My jazz universe and my personal universe are smaller and less vibrant because of Bill’s death.

Thanks so much to Alison Birch for her generous help in this blogpost.

And “this just in,” thanks to Joseph Veltre and ancestry.com — Bill’s picture from the 1952 Harvard yearbook:

BILL DUNHAM 1952

May your happiness increase!

THE MAIL; THE PROBLEMS; THE BREEZES: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, HAL SMITH at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 10, 2015)

Two beautiful exercises in swing and feeling from the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party, created by Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  The first is a Thirties song so associated with Fats Waller than some believe him to be the composer, which isn’t the case:

I'M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN

I deplore the current use of “gonna,” but here I accept it without flinching.

The second is one of Rossano’s wonderful medleys — joining EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME (a song I cherish for its mixture of self-pity and self-mockery) and the Charlie Christian blues, SOFT WINDS:

What beautiful merging of three individual sounds!  Rossano and Nicki appear often as a duo, and have made several wonderful CDs, but I believe this is their first collaboration with Hal — who fits them delightfully.  I delight in his swinging brushwork throughout, shades of Jo and Sidney especially as SOFT WINDS shifts into its highest gear without getting any faster.

Such music happens regularly at the Allegheny Jazz Party . . . and will again in September 2016.

May your happiness increase!

MOON DREAMS AND MORE: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO / FRANK TATE at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 19, 2014)

Forest Blue moonlight Pianist Rossano Sportiello and string bassist Frank Tate are lyrical poets who understand the power of music to create emotional and spiritual landscapes we can roam in.  They did this at the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party in a late-evening set of September 19, 2014, which began with a sweet extended medley — more a series of musings on cosmological matters — and then went afield.  Notice that the first video begins with a well-deserved round of applause for Frank Tate!

blue dark forest

MISTY / BLUE MOON / MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT / HOW HIGH THE MOON:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE (sprinting, no doubt):

Chopin’s NOCTURNE in Eb Major (which some of us recall from the film LOVE STORY) / DEEP PURPLE / EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOOD-BYE / JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS:

Lovely and expansive, never superficial.  Rossano and Frank will once again be working their magic at this year’s Allegheny Jazz Party in Cleveland, Ohio, September 13-15, 2015.  Won’t you join us?  Information here.

May your happiness increase!

CHAPTER THREE OF SWEET AND HOT IN CLEVELAND: DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, HOWARD ALDEN, RICKY MALICHI (Allegheny Jazz Party 2014)

If you have been living a normal life away from the computer — normal for a warm late July — and have been sitting by the pool rather than following this thread, I understand.

Here and here are the first two chapters of this saga, including leisurely uplifting versions of WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE; THAT DA DA STRAIN; IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN.

These performances happened on September 19, 2014, at the Allegheny Jazz Party  — which will happily take place this year from September 10-13, at the very comfortable Inter-Continental Hotel on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, with music from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon by some of the finest in the world.  The AJP website can be found here.

I went to my first Allegheny Jazz Party in 2004 — when it was still Jazz at Chautauqua — and it was and continues to be a high point of my year.  Why? How about Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Block, clarinet; Scott Robinson, taragota, C-melody saxophone, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums . . . . playing three more beauties.

One, associated with Kid Ory and Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, SAVOY BLUES:

Two and three, CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME, with extraordinary solo duets — no, that isn’t an oxymoron! — and then an instant segue into WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH, poignantly sung by Duke:

To me — and I know not everyone will agree with me here — these are the three ideal food groups: a blues, a venerable pop song, and something associated with Louis (in this case, two of three).  Can’t go wrong with that fine offering!  This post is happily dedicated to Don “Zoot” Conner, who lives in New England, and who is one of the blog’s most fervent supporters and admirers.  After the first or second offering, he commented — as he sometimes does — asking for MORE.  It pleases me to be able to gratify him.  And myself.  And I hope you.

Onwards to the 2015 Party — where the eight musicians above will be joined by another twenty luminaries (my math is approximate, but you get the idea)!

Tickets and  prices and other necessary information here.  I hope to see some of my readers there.  And I will offer more sterling music from 2014 as we get closer to September 10.

May your happiness increase!

CHAPTER TWO of SWEET AND HOT IN CLEVELAND: DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, HOWARD ALDEN, RICKY MALICHI (Allegheny Jazz Party 2014)

THAT DA DA STRAIN

It felt so good that another helping was the only thing.  Two days ago I posted a delicious performance of WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE, from the 2014 Allegheny Jazz Party — no, the Allegheny Jazz Party September 10-13, at the very comfortable Inter-Continental Hotel on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio, with music from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon by some of the finest in the world.  The AJP website can be found here.  And you can visit MAGGIE here.

Now for the reason for all these words.  I went to my first Allegheny Jazz Party in 2004 — when it was still Jazz at Chautauqua — and it was and continues to be a high point of my year.  Why?  How about Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Block, clarinet; Scott Robinson, taragota, C-melody saxophone, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums . . . . playing two.  One, a venerable Dixieland classic, THAT DA DA STRAIN:

How that romps!

And something definitely pretty — a sweet ballad by Louis and his lyric-writer, Horace Gerlach, IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN:

I think that’s glorious music.  Hot and sweet, too.

IF WE NEVER MEET AGAIN

Tickets and  prices and other necessary information here.  I hope to see some of my readers there.  And I will offer more sterling music from 2014 as we get closer to September 10.

A postscript: more than one musician and listener has asked about the source of THAT DA DA STRAIN.  Either the answer has been a shrug or a hopeful association with Marcel Duchamp and Dada.  It was a song with lyrics — a self-referential opus: “That Da Da Strain” was such irresistible music that it could cause a delightful mental instability.  Hear Eva Taylor (in 1923) make it perfectly clear:

May your happiness increase!

SWEET AND HOT IN CLEVELAND: DUKE HEITGER, DAN BARRETT, DAN BLOCK, SCOTT ROBINSON, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, HOWARD ALDEN, RICKY MALICHI (Allegheny Jazz Party 2014)

When_You_and_I_Were_Young,_Maggie_(Ditson_sheet_music_cover)

My first memory of WHEN YOU AND I WERE YOUNG, MAGGIE, is from a life-changing recording by Vic Dickenson on Vanguard Records — a leisurely performance featuring Shad Collins, Ed  Hall, Sir Charles Thompson, Steve Jordan, Walter Page, and Jo Jones.  The song was first a poem, written in 1864, and I wonder if Vic knew it from John McCormack’s recording.

I can hear Vic’s version in my head as I write these words (of course, you can find the performance on YouTube).  Here’s the cover picture, which I treasure for Vic’s expression (you could write your own caption) and the matching light-blue socks:

VIC Showcase

Our business today is with the present, not the early Fifties, with living musicians who will be performing later this year in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Allegheny Jazz Party September 10-13, at the Inter-Continental Hotel on Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland (very comfortable) with music from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon by some of the finest in the world.

My interest in such events has always been THE MUSIC first, talking with people I love second, but the hotel is very modern and refreshing.  One could bring a friend who’s not entirely jazz-mad and (s)he would have a fine relaxing weekend as well.  The AJP website can be found here.

Now for the reason for all these words.  I went to my first Allegheny Jazz Party in 2004 — when it was still Jazz at Chautauqua — and it was and continues to be a high point of my year.  Why?  How about Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Block, clarinet; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums . . . . playing MAGGIE:

And perhaps you have family and friends in or near Cleveland?  Or you can advertise for some on Craigslist.

Tickets and  prices and other necessary information here.  I hope to see some of my readers there.  And I will offer more sterling music from 2014 as we get closer to September 10.

May your happiness increase!