A dear collector-friend sent me a copy of this video — a live performance, captured from the audience, at the 1986 Harbourfront Jazz Festival in Toronto, Canada, featuring Wild Bill Davison, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Jim Galloway, soprano saxophone; Keith Ingham, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal; Milt Hinton, string bass; Russ Fearon, drums, with a very short interlude pairing Bill and pianist Art Hodes at the end, alas, incomplete.
Although I gave up searching out Wild Bill’s performances some time ago — he had perfected what Dick Sudhalter and others called “master solos” on each tune, and although they were classic, perfectly balanced and intense, he rarely coined a new phrase. To his credit, he “had drama” (in the words of Ruby Braff, who could be exquisitely dismissive of most musicians) and he played his lead and solos fiercely. . . . at eighty. (He lived on until November 1989.) Readers who don’t know how difficult it is to play a brass instrument at any age may not feel how miraculous it is to be playing with such emotive force — even sitting down. And Bill is surrounded by masters of the art, young and older. No one sounds bored or tired . . . they give their all.
The second aspect of this performance that is beyond notable is, ironically, its frankly amateurish cinematography: the archivist, whose name I do not know, did not have a tripod for steadiness; the edits are sometimes obtrusive. But what a complete and total marvel. What a blessing that it survives. And so I thank the Unknown Hero(ine) holding the camera, because without them we would never be transported to this scene. We are accustomed to hailing Jerry Newman — the Columbia University student who took his disc cutter “uptown” — even though he gets posthumously criticized because he didn’t like Charlie Parker (“How could he have disappointed the future, so much wiser, as he did?” I write ironically). Erudite listeners bless Bill Savory and Jerry Newhouse and Dean Benedetti. But let’s take a brief reverent interval to celebrate the criminals and rule-breakers who smuggle recording equipment into large halls and capture art that would have otherwise been just a memory in the ears and eyes of the audience there at that time.
Now, the music. ROSETTA / I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN / TAKE ME TO THAT LAND OF JAZZ (Marty) / unidentified piano excerpt / OLD MAN TIME (Milt) / WHEN YOU’RE SMILING / intermission / DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (incomplete) / BLUE AGAIN / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (Marty) / JOSHUA (Milt) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE (Galloway-Barrett) / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA (Bill, Art Hodes, incomplete):
Bless the musicians on stage, and bless the Unknown Recordist.
Thanks to jazz-scholar and good friend Mark Miller, and the irreplaceable Dan Barrett for their knowledge, so generously shared.
Coincidentally, I am driving to Philadelphia to enjoy and record a Marty Grosz gig . . . the beat goes on!
May your happiness increase!