Tag Archives: Rossano Sportiello

SPORTIELLO-METZ, UNLIMITED (Atlanta Jazz Party, April 27, 2014)

Rossano Sportiello, piano, and Ed Metz, snare drum with wire brushes, made up a fully satisfying combo / band / orchestra in their morning set at the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party.  The music they made has resonated happily in my memory, and now I have the pleasure of sharing it with you.

Rossano began the set with a heartfelt BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL — which had a Strayhorn coloration at the start.  In an age of bright colors and high volumes, it is so reassuring to hear a Maestro like Rossano play a ballad — not in any hurry to get through, to speed it up:

From Basie to his teacher, Fats, for HANDFUL OF KEYS, joined by Ed:

Then, a long interlude-concert which allows both players to shine as soloists and as part of a wondrous duo.  The selections are MISTY, IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, CHINATOWN (with a hand-drum solo a la Jo Jones), LUCKY TO BE ME, Liszt’s CONSOLATION #3, SHOE SHINE BOY — a full circle back to Basie:

Throughout this morning serenade, I was reminded of the beautiful sound of Johnny Guarnieri and Sidney Catlett, and I marvel at Rossano’s beautiful precision and the astonishing variety of sounds and textures Ed gets out of this most minimalist drum kit — and the duo’s apparently indefatigable swing. Proof, once again, that you don’t need a lot of volume to swing.

All this happened at the April 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party, and I have every expectation that equally beautiful music will be created there again this April. Details and registration information here.  And since — as is the custom in most parties — the earlier you register, the better your seating . . . carpe diem in a big way.

The players this year will be Ben Polcer, Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, Allan Vache, Tom Fischer, Dan Barrett, Russ Phillips, John Cocuzzi, Rossano Sportiello, Johnny Varro, Dalton Ridenhour, Eddie Erickson, Nicki Parrott, Paul Keller, Sean Cronin, Danny Coots, Chuck Redd, Darrian Douglas, Rebecca Kilgore.  Quite a varied and energetic crew.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTIFUL IMPROMPTUS: DAN LEVINSON, BOB HAVENS, KEITH INGHAM at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 20, 2014)

In my deepest jazz self, I hold to what I would call the Condon aesthetic: that nothing beats a group of like-minded musicians assembling for a common purpose — creating swinging lyrical improvisations — on the spot, with no arrangements, nothing more formal than a mutually agreed-upon song, tempo, key, and perhaps someone volunteering to play lead in the first chorus.  After that, the players live utterly in the moment.  Sometimes this freedom makes for collisions, but more often it results in the kind of pleasure one lives for, the moments when the tight collars have been unbuttoned, the painfully fashionable shoes have been kicked off.

Last September, at the Allegheny Jazz Party (debuting with great success in Cleveland, Ohio) these impromptu delights happened many times in the three-day banquet of sounds.  But one session has remained in my mind as a high point of playful unfettered collective improvisation — a trio set led by Dan Levinson, clarinet and tenor, with two of The Singular Elders, Bob Havens, trombone; Keith Ingham, piano.  The combination of a reed instrument and trombone works beautifully but isn’t often attempted these days.  There were bebop precursors and swing ones, but the tonal ranges of the two instruments are delightfully complementary.  The trio of piano and two horns requires a certain orchestral approach to the piano, although I am sure that Monk or Herbie Nichols would have done splendidly here, too — but Keith is a full band in himself.

With pleasure, then —

(WHAT CAN I SAY, DEAR ) AFTER I SAY I’M SORRY:

SEPTEMBER SONG:

A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN:

Thank you, Messrs. Dan, Bob, and Keith.

And, although it’s only January, the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party is a sure thing for September 10-13, with a delightful lineup (although there is the asterisk that indicates “All programs subject to change”: Duke Heitger, Jon-Erik Kellso, Randy Reinhart, Andy Schumm, Harry Allen, Dan Block, Ken Peplowski, Scott Robinson, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett, Howard Alden, Marty Grosz, Andy Stein, Ehud Asherie, James Dapogny, Mike Greensill, Rossano Sportiello, Jon Burr, Nicki Parrott, Frank Tate, Ricky Malichi, Pete Siers, Hal Smith, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Faux Frenchmen.  To keep up to date with what’s happening at the AJP, visit here.

May your happiness increase!

BEAUTY IS ALWAYS HERE FOR US: REBECCA KILGORE, DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, DAN BLOCK, ALLAN VACHE, BOB HAVENS, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, PAUL KELLER, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, ED METZ (Atlanta Jazz Party: April 25, 2014)

May I offer a six-minute escape from the world that at times weighs so heavily upon us?  You know that world, defined by medical lab tests and inescapable bills, news of ungentle acts.  I could wear out your eyes and sink us all into gloom describing that world.

But there is another world, always alive if we can remind ourselves of it: the world of beauty and creativity, of joy and generosity.

This offering of Beauty was created on April 25, 2014, at the Atlanta Jazz Party, a musical cornucopia.  The exalted participants are Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, tenor / clarinet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Ed Metz, drums.

THE ONE I LOVE

The song, ninety years old, is the Isham Jones / Gus Kahn THE ONE I LOVE (BELONGS TO SOMEBODY ELSE) — a simple melodic line built on a two-note pattern but one of those songs that takes up residence in your brain until it is chased away by external forces.  THE ONE I LOVE is also a sacred favorite of mine because it plays a part in one of the great meetings of the cosmos.  Earl Hines said that he was at the Chicago musicians’ union playing a new tune (yes, that one) and a cornet player introduced himself and started to play in duet with him.  Yes, that cornet player. How would the course of Western Civilization have been different if Hines had been practicing scales or was standing outdoors with his cigar?

Instead of a dim memory of 1924, the real thing in 2014:

I find everything about this performance endearing, from the cinema verite with which it begins (Becky offering everyone a lead sheet, facing an overexcited microphone, setting the tempo by singing the title). Maestro Sportiello enters and the rhythm section joins in: I find myself relaxing, all tension replaced by happiness, in forty-five seconds. “Safe in the arms of Joy,” I think.

Listen closely, please, whether you play an instrument, sing for your supper, or are simply a devoted fan — to the beautiful singularity of the individual voices here: Becky, Bob, Bucky, Duke / Dan, and Becky returning.  Each one is completely different but allied by a love for the melody and a respect for the rhythm.

And PHRASING — the way Ms. Kilgore fluidly offers lines of prose and individual syllables so that the meaning of the simple lyric is enhanced, not lost, but that the words aren’t rigidly tied to the beat.  Imagine the sheet music, which delineates a metronomic relationship between notes and words, and hear Becky’s intuitive elasticity, seconded by the horn soloists, elongatinf a phrase here, compressing another, emphasizing a few words and offering others with sweet conversational casualness.

And even though no one is “doing repertory,” the whole performance feels as if Basie and a few of the fellows just stopped by to play one.  That simple propulsive riff at the end — Basie, but reaching back to Louis.  Believable, natural, uplifting music.

This is high art — it takes lifetimes to know how to sing and play like this — offered without pretense.  I feel better already.

Visit here to find out more.

May your happiness increase!

ATLANTA WARMTH: ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, JOHN COCUZZI, BUCKY PIZZARELLI, PAUL KELLER, DANNY COOTS (April 25, 2014)

Even in sunny Northern California, it can be quite chilly as the year ends, so I have been thinking of warm places with warm music.  One that came to mind instantly was the 2014 Atlanta Jazz Party. Here’s a swing set performed there on April 25, 2014, by Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; John Cocuzzi, vibraphone; Danny Coots, drums.  It’s Goodman-inspired in terms of repertoire but anything but imitative, and Allan encourages everyone to stretch out in the most rewarding ways on three ensemble numbers and one ballad feature for Signor Pizzarelli.

IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME:

A SMOOTH ONE:

DARN THAT DREAM (featuring Maestro Pizzarelli):

SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

The next AJP will take place April 17, 18, 19, 2015: click here for details.

May your happiness increase!

WITH LOUIS AND JACK IN MIND: DUKE HEITGER, RANDY REINHART, BOB HAVENS, HARRY ALLEN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, HOWARD ALDEN, NICKI PARROTT, JOHN VON OHLEN (ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY, September 18, 2014)

One could make the case that anyone can hear STARS FELL ON ALABAMA without thinking of Jack Teagarden or JEEPERS CREEPERS without recalling Louis Armstrong, but I would be somewhat skeptical.  For me, the first song is ever associated with Jack — for thirty years — and with Louis at Symphony Hall in 1947; the second one has been sung and played by many people including Billie  Holiday and Leo Watson, but for me it is always a Louis song — again, for thirty-five years.

But I know that for most musicians, this kind of nostalgic scholarship is, at most subliminal, and these two songs are just well-established parts of the common language, songs everyone of a certain persuasion knows and loves.  As do I.

These performances took place on September 18, 2014, at the Thursday night jam session that is a tradition for the Allegheny Jazz Party (formerly known, in a different location, as Jazz at Chautauqua).  I was sitting so close to the band, a position I favor, that it was impossible to capture everyone at once, but I think you will agree the sound and image are worth it.

The band for ALABAMA was Duke Heitger, trumpet; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Bob Havens, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, guitar (hear his astonishing harmonics on the first song); Nicki Parrott, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums.  For JEEPERS, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone, joined in.

Here’s the leisurely STARS FELL ON ALABAMA:

And the romping JEEPERS CREEPERS:

What better advertisement for the good times and fine music to be had at the Allegheny Jazz Party?

May your happiness increase!

OUR BUDDIES: DUKE HEITGER, ANDY SCHUMM, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, HOWARD ALDEN, JON BURR, PETE SIERS at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (Sept. 22, 2014)

In the jam session scenes of films of the preceding century, the two or three trumpet players are always competitive, their horns extending towards the sky, solos played faster, louder, higher. I’m sure this assertive display still goes on somewhere, but the true masters of collaborative creation understand that music is an enterprise where you welcome other players and thus make an audience welcome from the start.

You can experience it here: at the Allegheny Jazz Party, on September 22, 2014: featuring Duke Heitger, trumpet; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Howard Alden, banjo; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums — and the text for the mellow sermon was, appropriately, Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY:

Making lifelong friendships in and through music.

May your happiness increase!

SHE BURST INTO SONG: REBECCA KILGORE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT at the ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY (September 22, 2014)

Rebecca Kilgore has been one of my favorite singers for more than two decades now.  But life is full of surprises, delights that catch us happily unaware.  At the Allegheny Jazz Party last month, our Becky stepped to the microphone and announced that she — with the help of two dear friends — had written a song.

And then she sang it.  And it was delicious.

The song is THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH, and she really did dream that she had mastered the language.  When she awoke, she wrote down the melody and sketched out some lyrics.  Mike Horsfall added the harmonization, and Ellen Vanderslice contributed more clever lyrics to give this Kilgore-fantasy its charming shape.

I am thrilled to be able to share this song, and Rebecca’s sprightly performance, with you. And let us not forget those two international jazz masters, Rossano Sportiello and Nicki Parrott, who add their own je ne sais quoi to it all:

For those who — as I do — delight in the spiffy, stylish lyrics, here they are.

 

THE DAY I LEARNED FRENCH

Verse:

One night I lay me down to sleep

I said a pray’r and counted some sheep

But something strange occurred that night

Was I insane? Let me explain…

 

Refrain:

Oh, the day I learned French, I recall with delight

How I woke with a start, feeling ever so smart:

I’d learned French overnight!

And not just parlez vous I knew French through and through

When so sweetly, j’ai dit “oui completely, the day I learned French

 

In a tiny boutique, lingerie from Paris

Seemed to fit parfaitement in the life of une femme

Who could parler so free

And it’s simply magnifique, to discover I could speak

Like a native, creatively phrasing, the day I learned French

 

It was easy, comme ça, comme ci, voilà, voici, j’ai appris

Merci beaucoup, s’il vous plait, alors, le fait accompli!  [to CODA last time]

 

I looked up at the sky, et j’ai vu le soleil

It was shining so brightly I knew this would be a spectacular day

And the birdies sang cui, cui! They were speaking French like me

We were swingin’ and singin’ the Spring in, the day I learned French

CODA:

You can try this at home, if your slumber is deep

You don’t need an excursion or total immersion, just drop off to sleep

And as quick as un, deux, trois, you can dream in French, voilà!

It’s amazingly, dazingly crazy, the way I learned French

It’s easy voici: Merci beaucoup, à bientôt, adieu

Le fait accompli!

 

Music by Rebecca Kilgore and Mike Horsfall
Words by Rebecca Kilgore and Ellen Vanderslice
Copyright 2014 Cherry Pie Music, PO Box 29103, Portland OR 96296

This isn’t the trio’s sole creation.  Non.

In late July, some of Portland’s finest jazz musicians gathered at Dead Aunt Thelma’s Recording Studio in Sellwood to record fresh original material. Project partners Rebecca Kilgore, Ellen Vanderslice, and Mike Horsfall teamed up to produce 18 original songs, with each partner contributing melodies, harmonies and lyrics to the collaboration.  For the recording session, they brought together a dream team of musicians: Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Todd Strait, drums, with guests David Evans, tenor sax; Dan Balmer, guitar; Jon Moak, trombone; Tim Jensen, flute and alto flute; Israel Annoh, percussion; Steve Christofferson, melodica; Mike Horsfall, vibes and arranging. Special guest Susannah Mars performed a duet with Rebecca on “You Make It Look So Easy,” and contributed vocal harmonies on “A Christmas Lullabye.”

A CD release (details to be announced) is just one of the ways the team hopes to make this sparkling new music available.

And something festive nearer at hand: Becky and friends will be releasing a Christmas EP with 3 original songs.  The title cut is “It’s Getting To Be That Time Of Year” with words and music by Ms. K.

May your happiness increase!