Tag Archives: Rossano Sportiello

“JUST FRIENDS”: EHUD ASHERIE, HOWARD ALDEN, FRANK TATE, PETE SIERS, BILL ALLRED, RANDY REINHART, DAN BLOCK (ALLEGHENY JAZZ PARTY, September 10, 2015)

JUST FRIENDS

JUST FRIENDS — when it was originally performed in 1931 — was a sad love ballad, appropriate to the beautifully mournful tones of Red McKenzie — and notice how hip and expansive his second chorus is.  He had known and heard the Chicagoans, Jimmie Noone, and of course Louis:

If you prefer the 1932 Russ Columbo version, it’s beautiful also.

At some point, JUST FRIENDS was treated less as a lament and more as a song to play on.  (One could point to the Charlie Parker with Strings recording in 1949, and subsequent performances, but Bird often treated it as a medium-tempo ballad.)  And that tradition — swing rather than sobbing — prevails today.

I present an extended swing meditation on this song, performed on Thursday, September 10, 2015.  The participants, the creators, are Ehud Asherie, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Pete Siers, drums; Howard Alden, guitar; Bill Allred, trombone; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Dan Block, tenor saxophone.

That is the sort of wonderful music that happens every year at this party, whether it’s at the informal jam sessions of Thursday night or the sets on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  This year, the Party takes place from September 15 to the 18th.

A word about names.  When I started attending this party, it was held in Chautauqua, New York, and was called Jazz at Chautauqua; then it moved to Cleveland and temporarily was called the Allegheny Jazz Party; now it has become mature and changed its name to the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.  You can find out more details here, on Facebook, or at the Party’s www.alleghenyjazz.org, or even by calling 216.956.0866.

The Party takes place at the InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center, 9801 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106.  You can call 216.707.4100 or 855.765.8709 to make reservations, but be sure to use the Group Code YOO when you call or reserve online.

Musicians who will be there . . . are the Faux Frenchmen, Rebecca Kilgore, Wesla Whitfield, Andy Stein, Hal Smith, Pete Siers, Ricky Malichi, Frank tate, Kerry Lewis, Jon Burr, Rossano Sportiello, Mike Greensill, James Dapogny, Ehud Asherie, Marty Grosz, Howard Alden, Bill Allred, Dan Barrett. Scott Robinson, Dan Levinson, Dan Block, Harry Allen, Jon-Erik Kellso, Andy Schumm, Randy Reinhart, Duke Heitger.

Come by, hear some wonderful music, eat and drink, and make friends.

May your happiness increase!

 

BEAUTY, NOW: LIAM BYRNE / ROSSANO SPORTIELLO (May 2016)

Liam Byrne

Here are two lovely performances that rest so gently on floating melodies, created by the young tenor saxophonist Liam Byrne and the Maestro, Rossano Sportiello.  For once, I am going to reprint an artist’s biography directly from his website, because it expresses neatly what you need to know:

Saxophonist LIAM BYRNE from North Wales studied at Leeds College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music winning several awards, including the Dave Cooper Memorial Prize for Jazz Saxophone and the ‘Spud Murphy’ Saxophone Prize.  He has performed alongside leading British jazz musicians including Alan Barnes, Digby Fairweather, Bruce Adams and Dave O’Higgins.  He also co-leads a band with trumpeter Jamie Brownfield which regularly performs across the country at jazz clubs and festivals. Liam has a growing reputation as a torchbearer of the jazz tenor saxophone tradition, with a warm sound and understated aproach inspired by the likes of Lester Young and Ben Webster.

The biography leaves out that Liam lives in Llandegla, an alliterative cluster which seems a fine title of an original.  But I digress.

These two beautifully evocative performances were recorded May 8, 2016 at a private jazz party in Cheadle Cheshire, UK, at the house of Malcolm Frazer, who has superb taste.

Here’s ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE:

and a deep subtle evocation of 1956 Lester Young on I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN:

For more beauties (solos by Rossano, a quartet featuring Liam, and more) subscribe to Malcolm Frazer’s YouTube channel.

With lyricism like this being created NOW, I can turn away from the news and feel hopeful, if only for a brief time.  Thank you for that, Liam, Rossano, and Malcolm.

May your happiness increase!

MUSIC THAT LASTS: RUSS PHILLIPS, DUKE HEITGER, BRIA SKONBERG, ALLAN VACHE, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, SEAN CRONIN, DARRIAN DOUGLAS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 18, 2015)

Good music, like any good art, doesn’t grow old.  Here’s a venerable song — apparently composed in 1916, published in 1917, being performed ninety-eight years later at the Atlanta Jazz Party on April 18, 2015.  And meaning no disrespect to Mister Handy, it is more than possible that the song was accessible in parts long before 1916.

BEALE STREET BLUES

Good music is also flexible.  The venerable composition, so beloved of “Dixieland” players, gets a sweet Basie makeover here, at the hands of Russ Phillips, trombone; Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Sean Cronin, string bass; Darrian Douglas, drums.

This is a rewarding interlude: I feel improved by its expert generous joys.

May your happiness increase!

FOR THREE, BY THREE: ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, CHUCK REDD (ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY, April 17, 2015)

One of the finest piano trios ever played amazing music at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party — Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Chuck Redd, drums.

ROSSANO

This lengthy performance — three moods, three interludes, three tributes — honors Erroll Garner, George Shearing, and Count Basie, with MISTY, SHE, and SHOE SHINE BOY — creating a world of melodic improvisation, moving from sweet slow rumination to Kansas City romp, Harlem stride — with beautiful string bass and drum work along the way.

Magnificent music: the sort of creative effusion that happens when one of these musicians is on the stand, and even more when the three of them get together.

May your happiness increase!

COZY VIRTUOSI: RUSS PHILLIPS, DAN BARRETT, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, NICKI PARROTT, ED METZ at the 2015 ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 19, 2015)

How do we define virtuosity?  Is it blinding technical skill, amazing displays of bravado, playing higher, faster, in ways that dizzy and delight?  Sometimes, perhaps.  I think Louis’ 250 high C’s in performances in the early Thirties must have delighted audiences.  But the true virtuosity (to me) is subtler, quieter, more subversive: Louis’ melody statement and solo on THAT’S FOR ME comes to mind.  Dear and deep melodic improvisations that stick in the mind as much as the original song; tone and touch that come to us with the sweet clarity and intensity of beloved voices; unerring yet relaxed swing.

Russ and Dan at Atlanta

The three performances offered here are perfectly virtuosic, although the general approach is spiritual rather than calisthenic, people playing for the happiness of the band rather than for the loudest applause.

Five people joined forces on the spot — not an organized band — at the 2015 Atlanta Jazz Party: Russ Phillips, Dan Barrett, trombone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ed Metz, drums.

I’ve already posted this quintet’s made-fresh-while-you-wait masterpiece, improvisations on Artie Shaw’s blues line for his Gramercy Five, SUMMIT RIDGE DRIVE, but it bears repeated watching and listening:

Lovely in a blue haze, but with a swing: MOOD INDIGO:

And EAST OF THE SUN, which Professor Barrett explicates for us as preface to the glorious cosmological explorations:

These cozy virtuosi (thanks to Cole Porter) indeed.

May your happiness increase!

BY THE LIGHT OF LOUIS

LOUIS and ALPHA and dog

I’ve written this before, but when I hear Louis Armstrong, I have great difficulty keeping myself from standing up instantly and putting my hand over my heart.

LOUIS cartoon in Melody Maker Jan. 1933

But I also feel that way about music that reminds me of Louis.  I don’t simply mean WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH or THE FAITHFUL HUSSAR, but any music that’s beautifully and reverently played, with emphasis on melodic improvisation in swing.  That happens fairly regularly, thank goodness, with the musicians I follow.  And it happened most beautifully at the end of the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party (now the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party) during the closing ballad medley.

I know that Norman Granz got the credit for introducing the ballad medley to jazz concerts — that is, rather than have everyone on stage take a long solo on a ballad, thus making for a musical interlude of nearly an hour at a slow tempo, he would have his soloists take one chorus only on a ballad that they’d chosen, with the rhythm section keeping the same slow tempo but changing key — but I wonder if credit shouldn’t go first or simultaneously to Eddie Condon, for whom this was a regular feature in clubs and broadcasts and even recordings.  Condon’s medleys were a bit more brisk — what generations ago musicians and listeners called “rhythm ballads” — but they were delightful interludes.

Joe Boughton, founder of the Allegheny Jazz Party (and Jazz at Chautauqua and other gifts) would have followed the Condon model — I think JATP was anathema to him.  Since he loved obscure show tunes and songs that would otherwise be forgotten, he insisted that his parties close with an extended ballad medley before a final jam tune.

A beautiful evocation of what Riley and Clint Baker call LOUISNESS happened once again at the 2015 Party (September 13, 2015) when all the musicians trooped onstage to play or sing one heartfelt chorus.  Here are six of the best: soloists Scott Robinson, tenor [WAS I TO BLAME?}; Duke Heitger, trumpet [BODY AND SOUL]; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet [HOME] with lovely rhythm section support from Rossano Sportiello, piano; Frank Tate, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

I think of Joe Oliver sternly telling his protege that people wanted to hear that lead . . . and of Louis always embodying that the song was lovely and that one had to play it from the heart.

What music is all about; what music does at its best.

May your happiness increase!

GRATITUDE in ABUNDANCE in CLEVELAND (Sept. 13, 2015)

Being adult human beings is not as easy as they told us it would be.  “Oh, you’ll understand when you get older.”  “You’ll be able to do that when you’re a grownup.”  Surprise!  So, sometimes we are so busy trying to figure out what hit us that we forget that being alive is a privilege.

THANKS A MILLION

There are millions of reasons to be grateful — shall we start with waking up?

THANKS A MILLION 2

Here is the musical embodiment of that sentiment:

This delicious little episode — gratitude, swung — took place at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party on September 13, 2015.  The spiritual teachers on the stand are Duke Heitger, trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.  I am so glad they exist, and that they are imbued with such art, grace, and love — conveyed in every second of this performance.  The song, as Duke tells us, is THANKS A MILLION, so the people we also give thanks to are Jon-Erik Kellso, Louis Armstrong, and even Dick Powell.

And surely I am grateful to Nancy Hancock Griffith and Kathy Hancock for courageously and fervently making sure that there is another Cleveland Classic Jazz Party in September 2016.

But mostly I am glad to have ears to hear with, friends to share pleasures with, and music to savor.

May your happiness increase!