Tag Archives: Sacramento Music Festival

“ASSES IN SEATS” AND THE JAZZ ECOSYSTEM

Here’s something comfortable, enticing, seductive.

It’s not my living room, I assure you: too neat, no CDs.

Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chuck Wilson, alto saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Kelly Friesen, string bass; Andrew Swann, drums.  “Sweet Rhythm,” October 26, 2008, THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

Tal Ronen, string bass; Mark Shane, piano; Dan Block, tenor sax.  “Casa Mezcal,” October 26, 2014, I’LL ALWAYS BE IN LOVE WITH YOU:

(This is not a post about numerology or the significance of October 26 in jazz.)

Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Clint Baker, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  “Sweet and Hot Music Festival,”  September 5, 2011, TOGETHER:

Ray Skjelbred and the Cubs: Ray, piano, composer; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Clint Baker, string bass, Katie Cavera, guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums. “Sacramento Music Festival,” May 25, 2014, BLUES FOR SIR CHARLES:

I will explain.

“Sweet Rhythm” was once “Sweet Basil,” a restaurant-with-jazz or the reverse, in New York City.  Now it is just a restaurant.  “Casa Mezcal,” across the street from the Tenement Museum, also offered jazz as well as food.  Now, only food.  The two California festivals depicted above are only memories now.  (I could have included the Cajun, Bourbon Street, Roth’s Steakhouse, Banjo Jim’s, the Garage, the Bombay Club, Jazz at Chautauqua, and perhaps a dozen other vacancies in the cosmos — in my time, which isn’t the whole history of the music.)  Jazz clubs become apartments, drugstores, dormitories, nail salons.  Or what was once a jazz bar now has karaoke night and game night.

That’s not difficult to take in.  Everything changes.  “Things are tough all over,” as my father said.

But I’ve included the chair and ottoman because so many jazz listeners prefer the comforts of home to live music, and thus, venues collapse and are not replaced.

The expression I’ve heard from festival producers is the blunt ASSES IN SEATS. It presumes that other body parts are attached to the asses, of course.  But it’s simple economics.  When a club owner looks out at the landscape of empty chairs and tables with napkins undisturbed, when there are more musicians on the stage than there are people in the audience, you can imagine the mental cogitations that result.  This has nothing to do with musical or artistic quality — I’ve heard terrible music played to filled rooms, and once in a New York club I was the audience (let that sink in) — not even me, myself, and I — for the first few songs by a peerless band.  And if you think that musicians are a substantial part of the club budget, it isn’t so: a world-famous jazz musician told me once of being paid sixty dollars for three hours’ work, and some of my favorite musicians go from fifty-and-seventy-five dollar gigs, or they play “for the door.”

And as an aside, if you go to a club and sit through two sets with your three-or-five dollar Coke or well drink or standard beer, you are subsidizing neither the club or the music.  Festival economics are different, but even the price of the ticket will not keep huge enterprises solvent.  I hear, “Oh, the audience for jazz is aging and dying,” and the numbers prove that true, but I think inertia is a stronger factor than mortality, with a side dish of complacency.  And people who study the swing-dance scene say that what I am writing about here is also true for younger fans / dancers.

So before you say to someone, “I’m really a devoted jazz fan,” or proudly wear the piano-keyboard suspenders, or get into arguments on Facebook over some cherished premise, ask yourself, “How active is my commitment to this music?  When was the last time I supported it with my wallet and my person?”

I do not write these words from the summit of moral perfection.  I could have gone to two gigs tonight but chose to stay home and write this blog.  And I do not go to every gig I could . . . energy and health preclude that.  And I am also guilty, if you will, in providing musical nourishment for viewers through technology, so that some people can live through YouTube.  I admit both of these things, but on the average I go to more jazz gigs than some other people; I eat and drink and tip at the jazz clubs; I publicize the music here and elsewhere.

But you.  Do you take the music for granted, like air and water?  Do you assume it will go on forever even if you never come out of your burrow and say hello to it, that other people will keep supporting it?  Do you say, “I must get there someday!” and not put wheels under that wish?  Mind you, there are exceptions.  Not everyone lives close enough to live music; not everyone is well-financed, energetic, or healthy.  But if you can go and you don’t, then to me you have lost the right to complain about clubs closing, your favorite band disbanding, your beloved festival becoming extinct. Jazz is a living organism, thus it needs nourishment that you, and only you, can provide.  Inhaling Spotify won’t keep it alive, nor will complaining about how your fellow citizens are too foolish to appreciate it.

If you say you love jazz, you have to get your ass out of your chair at regular intervals and put it in another chair, somewhere public, where living musicians are playing and singing.  Or you can stay home and watch it wither.

May your happiness increase!

HAIL AND FAREWELL: SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (a/k/a SACRAMENTO JAZZ JUBILEE) TO CLOSE AFTER 44 YEARS

More bad news for people who like their jazz in profusion over one weekend: the Sacramento Music Festival, once known as the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, will not continue on next year. Here is the whole story.

An observant person could tell the reasons for this decision, and they are primarily financial: festivals are terribly expensive to run, and the ratio between costs and audience was not always encouraging.  I am sad to read this, because in the past six months a number of festivals have said goodbye.  I won’t mount the soapbox and harangue readers who had said, “Oh, I’ll go next year,” but the moral — carpe diem over a swinging 4/4 — is clear.

My videos — about one hundred and fifty — show that I attended the SJJ in 2011, 12, and 14.  It was an unusual event.  I seem to remember racing from one side of the causeway (if that is what it was called) to the other for sets, and scurrying (that’s not true — I don’t really scurry) from one venue to another.  There was an astonishing amount of good music in the years I attended, and some very lovely performances took place in the oddest venues.

Here are more than a half-dozen splendid performances, so we can grieve for the loss of a festival while at the same time smiling and swinging.

From 2011, TRUCKIN’ by Hal Smith’s International Sextet:

and one of my favorite 1926 songs, HE’S THE LAST WORD:

The Jubilee also made room for pretty ballads like this one, featuring John Cocuzzi, Jennifer Leitham, and Johnny Varro:

A year later, Rebecca Kilgore was HUMMIN’ TO HERSELF:

Marc Caparone doffs his handmade cap to Louis for HE’S A SON OF THE SOUTH:

Another pretty one — MORE THAN YOU KNOW — featuring Allan Vache:

and some Orientalia out of doors — SAN by the Reynolds Brothers and Clint Baker:

A nice medium blues by Dan Barrett and Rossano Sportiello:

THE BOB AND RAY SHOW in 2014 — Schulz and Skjelbred, performing SHOE SHINE BOY:

CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS, featuring Dave Stone and Russ Phillips with Vince Bartels and Johnny Varro:

and an extended performance by Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs from 2014:

One of my favorite stories — a Louise Hay affirmation of sorts — comes from the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee.  It was held over Memorial Day weekend, and there was riotous excitement on the days preceding Monday — but Sacramento on Memorial Day was one of the most deserted urban centers I’ve ever encountered. The nice Vietnamese restaurant I had hopes of returning to was shuttered for the holiday, the streets were quiet with only the intermittent homeless person taking his ease.  Since I have been a New Yorker all my life, the criminal offense termed “jaywalking” does not terrify me.  On one such Monday, the light was red against me but there were no cars in sight.  Full of assurance, I strolled across the street and made eye contact with a young woman standing — a law-abiding citizen — on the opposite curb.  When I reached her and grinned at her legal timidity, she looked disapprovingly at me and said, “Rule-breaker!”  I grinned some more and replied, “Free spirit!”

At its best, the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee inspired such free-spirited behavior, musical and otherwise — among dear friends.  Adieu, adieu!

May your happiness increase!

JAMMIN’ AT VINCE’S: VINCE BARTELS, DAN BARRETT, DAVE STONE, ALLAN VACHÉ, RUSS PHILLIPS, JOHNNY VARRO at SACRAMENTO (May 25, 2014)

Slightly less than a year ago I was a happy member of the throngs at the 2014 Sacramento Music Festival. I couldn’t make it there this year, but that’s no reason you and I can’t savor some wonderful music I recorded there. All but one performance is emerging from the JAZZ LIVES vaults (deep and extensive) for your listening, dining, and dancing pleasure.

Vince Bartels

The band here is led by drummer Vince Bartels — his All Stars — and they are accurately named.  Dan Barrett, cornet; Allan Vaché, clarinet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Johnny Varro, piano; Dave Stone, string bass.  The ambiance, for the most part, is an unabashed lovefest for the music Eddie Condon and friends made in the Fifties.  Not all the selections were in the Condon repertoire, but the band kicks along splendidly without any imitations.

SWING THAT MUSIC:

THE ONE I LOVE:

Condon Jam Session

THE SELFIE MEDLEY (which requires a little commentary. First, I think the selection of ballads — a beautiful thing — draws seriously on the Columbia recording of JAM SESSION COAST-TO-COAST, one of George Avakian’s nicest ideas.  I hadn’t known that Vince had a M.A. in improvisational theatre, but he puts it to good use here, asking the audience to come up, surround the band, take selfies of themselves and the band, put them on Facebook, send them to relatives overseas, or what you will.  Thus the visual is often a little obscured, but the music is delicious):

OH, BABY!:

CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS? (a heartfelt duo-feature for Russ and Dave):

MOTEN SWING:

JUBILEE:

Oh, joy was certainly spread in abundance.  More to come.

May your happiness increase!

DEEP FEELING: VINCE BARTELS ALL STARS at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 23, 2014: DAN BARRETT, RUSS PHILLIPS, ALLAN VACHE, JOHNNY VARRO, DAVE STONE)

Vince Bartels, a superb drummer, takes his inspiration as a bandleader from Eddie Condon — so his programs are varied in every way.  Where other bands opt for Fast and Loud, Vince has a deep romantic streak which he encourages in his colleagues.  Thus the Migrant Jazz Workers (the band name created by Eddie Higgins) often pause to look lovingly at the scenery. They aren’t ashamed of sweetness, and they strive to create memorable beauty.

These marvels happened regularly when Vince and his band played at the 2014 Sacramento Music Festival — the Workers were Dave Stone, string bass; Johnny Varro, piano; Allan Vache, clarinet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Dan Barrett, trumpet.

I offer three particularly deep performances — no self-consciousness, no dramatization . . . just beautiful music.

Their extraordinary, sensitive reading of the Ellington SOLITUDE:

Johnny Varro’s sparkling ONE MORNING IN MAY (which Hoagy Carmichael’s mother said was her favorite of her son’s songs):

Russ Phillips, singing and playing the Ellington AZALEA, inspired by Louis Armstrong’s memories of a New Orleans flowering bush that he could never forget.  (How beautifully Russ sings!):

Yes, “traditional jazz” can be sweet and lovely, too.  Thank you, Vince, for keeping this music alive.

May your happiness increase!

TEN MINUTES OF SPIRITED PLEASURE: RAY SKJELBRED and THE CUBS at SACRAMENTO (May 24, 2014)

Just that.  Ray Skjelbred, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums.  Recorded at the Sacramento Music Festival on May 24, 2014 — in a cozy room where I sat so close to the band (my preferred position) that I couldn’t get all of the quintet in at one time.  I hope Jeff Hamilton will forgive me for rendering him temporarily invisible (is this his superpower?) but he surely is delightfully audible.

The tunes — a 1922 Vincent Rose pop-song-turned-jazz-standard, LINGER AWHILE, and a pretty song that we might not have known had not the Jean Goldkette band recorded it, at a faster tempo, a few years later — IDOLIZING:

There’s no other band quite like this one, and we are so fortunate that they exist.

May your happiness increase!

HOORAY FOR CAPTAIN SKJELBRED!

Today, November 2, is the birthday of one of our heroes — pianist / composer / singer / poet / imaginer / scholar Ray Skjelbred.  He is an original, even when he is letting the great traditions flow through him; he is both inscrutable and generously open; he continues to improve life in this century.

No formulaic cupcakes with candles for Captain Skjelbred!

I offer instead a small musical mosaic of his own subversive creations — the first three when no one was supposed to be paying attention (someone might call it “making friends with the piano”) that I captured on May 25, 2014, at the Sacramento Music Festival.

Since I envision Captain Skjelbred as a quiet spy in the enemy country of mediocrity and repeater pencils, the fact that I caught him unaware might just be fair play.  He does the same for and to us: in the fourth video, MY GALVESTON GAL (performed with his Cubs — Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Kim Cusack, clarinet) there is an odd and whimsical phrase Ray creates at 1:50 that makes me say, “What? What?” every time I hear it.

And he does it again, playing the piano, playing music, playing with our expectations — and always gratifying them in ways we didn’t know existed.

Thank you, Captain Skjelbred.  We are grateful you are here.

Music for Groucho — Kalmar and Ruby, 1930:

A little Monkishness, or is it Monkiania?:

Some blues, sun-warmed, locally grown, organic:

And a pop tune from 1933, MY GALVESTON GAL, featured by Henry Allen, Coleman Hawkins, and Benny Morton — much-beloved silliness, with a particularly Skjelbredian interlude at 1:50:

And no one calls him schnorrer. (Julius can explain, or you could look it up.)

P.S.  Should anyone wonder, “Michael, now you’re posting clips that last less than a minute?  Have you run out of things to post?”  The answer is, in a hushed tone, “You have no idea of what remains to be seen.” The idea of a mosaic of orts and fragments appeals to me, and I hope also to the Captain.  Found poetry!

May your happiness increase!

FRESH-SQUEEZED: VINCE BARTELS, ALLAN VACHÉ, DAN BARRETT, RUSS PHILLIPS, JOHNNY VARRO, DAVE STONE at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 23, 2014)

Mister Waller would be delighted.  And we were too.

Vince Bartels had assembled a truly all-star band in the Condon tradition for the 2014 Sacramento Music Festival, with himself on drums, Dave Stone, string bass; Johnny Varro, piano; Allan Vaché, clarinet, Russ Phillips, trombone; Dan Barrett, trumpet. And they performed SQUEEZE ME and got every drop of sweetly lascivious energy out of it — a memorable performance indeed:

I mean my fellow-listeners no disrespect, but that performance deserved much more applause than it got.  Perhaps everyone was stunned into silence.  You may applaud now, as loudly as possible.  If you are someplace where applause might not be appropriate, I will settle for loud grinning and sending this blogpost on to others who might like to have their spirits uplifted.  OK?

May your happiness increase!

SOMETHING FOR SIR CHARLES THOMPSON, WHO IS HAPPILY WITH US: RAY SKJELBRED, KIM CUSACK, CLINT BAKER, KATIE CAVERA, JEFF HAMILTON (Sacramento Music Festival, May 2014)

I had to write that long title; if I just offered Ray’s song title — BLUES FOR SIR CHARLES — readers would jump to the most dire conclusions.  But no! Sir Charles Thompson is in his middle nineties, plays golf, lives in Japan, is happily married.  There’s hope for all of us, although I don’t intend to take up golf.

For about sixty years, Sir Charles has been one of the rare birds of jazz — emerging on record in 1940 with the Horace Henderson band and making his name with Charlie Parker in 1945, on recordings with Buck Clayton (the Jam Sessions and more), Joe Newman, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Morton, Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson, and three-quarters of the Basie rhythm section.  Unlike the equally unheralded Nat Pierce, Charles’ version of Basie was stealthily his own, with boppish harmonic underpinnings that never got in the way of his floating swing.  Indeed, the recording Charles made of SWINGTIME IN THE ROCKIES with Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones (John Hammond admired him and welcomed him on sessions for Vanguard and Columbia) is one of the recordings I go to first if someone asks me, “What does swing mean to you?”

Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs were one of the highlights of the 2014 Sacramento Music Festival (they are a highlight wherever I encounter them) and this swinging blues shows them off beautifully — Kim Cusack, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Clint Baker, string bass; Katie Cavera, rhythm guitar.

BLUES FOR [IN CELEBRATION OF!] SIR CHARLES THOMPSON:

This one’s for everyone who could use a little swing, and it’s especially for my pal Bill Gallagher, who is the official Sir Charles Thompson discographer.

May your happiness increase!

OF COURSE WE CAN, or THE ANSWER IS “YES”: DAVE STONE, RUSS PHILLIPS, VINCE BARTELS, JOHNNY VARRO at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 25, 2014)

The song that follows was created in 1929 by Kay Swift and Paul James; I learned it first from the duet of Ella and Louis, then from the heartfelt early Crosby version and a later Sinatra one. But even though the lyrics speak of heartbreak, this quartet — captured live at the 2014 Sacramento Music Festival — is sweetly optimistic rather than self-pitying. Hear the subtle variations on this theme created by string bassist Dave Stone, trombonist Russ Phillips, with unerring support from drummer / leader Vince Bartels and the invaluable pianist Johnny Varro.

CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS?

Of course we can:

May your happiness increase!

THE GOOD NEWS FROM THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 2014)

It was oppressively hot last weekend at the Sacramento Music Festival, but the music itself made it all more than worthwhile.  Here’s one extended sample, nearly twelve minutes of beauty created by Vince Bartels and the All-Stars in honor of Eddie Condon, a medium-slow Bb blues that segues into OLE MISS.  The players are Vince, drums; Dave Stone, string bass; Johnny Varro, piano; Allan Vache, clarinet; Russ Phillips, trombone; Dan Barrett, trumpet:

And this wonderful sustained invention took place on May 23, 2014.

Vince and his colleagues here (the late Eddie Higgins, when he was originally part of this band — making their debut CD — called them the MIGRANT JAZZ WORKERS) are honoring, both in spirit and example, Eddie Condon.

What Eddie made happen on a regular basis is quite beautiful and he doesn’t get the credit he deserves: in my jazz pantheon, he is alongside the greatest figures.  He masterfully shaped any group of idiosyncratic eccentrics into a band, gave them an aesthetic (I would say “moral”) focus, and then let them find their own ways to the truth, individually and collectively.  There are and were and will always be marvelous improvisers, but there was only one Eddie, and it was very lovely to see his music being honored and illuminated in this way.  I just wish the Blue Network still existed, but I hope that (in my own way) that JAZZ LIVES spreads the word from Calcutta to Ketchikan. For all you G.I.’s and hot fans!

I will have more video dispatches from the SMF — featuring Vince, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, High Sierra, Bob Schulz, Eddie Erickson, and others — as the spring and summer unfold.

May your happiness increase!

ALMOST THERE: THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 23-26, 2014)

Next Friday morning, I will be in my New Old Car, heading to Sacramento, California, to spend the Memorial Day weekend amidst music-making friends . . .

Here is the Festival’s site, and the complete list of artists is available here.

I’ll simply note a few JAZZ LIVES’ favorites (in an ecumenical alphabetical order): the Au Brothers, Gordon Au, Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band, Clint Baker, Dan Barrett, Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys, Eddie Erickson, the Freebadge Serenaders, Grand Dominion, High Sierra, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Meschiya Lake and the Lil Big Horns, Marc Caparone, Midiri Brothers, Mike Daugherty, Pat Yankee, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Hal Smith, Stephanie Trick, Allan Vache, Johnny Varro, Vaud and the Villains, Vince Bartels All-Stars . . . and more.

And for every band / performer listed above, there are four I haven’t named — all having a wonderful time in simultaneous sessions. I hope to meet readers new and already-known at Sacramento.

May your happiness increase!

MAY WE? THE SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL IS COMING (May 23-26, 2014)

Although I’ve been coming to California on a regular basis only since summer 2010 (which hardly makes me a native plant) I’ve been attending the Memorial Day jazz weekend at Sacramento every year I could.

In fact, I seem to have brought my video camera and notebook with me in 2011 and 2012, too.  Evidence below.

But before any reader gets engrossed in Recent Glories, may I direct your attention — as the attorneys always say in courtroom dramas — to what is happening in May 2014?

Here is the Festival’s site.

Jazz purists, please don’t be alarmed if you don’t recognize all of the headliners: the SMF has taken a broader view of “Americana” and “roots music” than it did in earlier years, but there is a wide variety of pleasing sound for all.  The complete list of artists is available here.

I’ll simply note a few JAZZ LIVES’ favorites (in an ecumenical alphabetical order): the Au Brothers, Gordon Au, Bob Schulz Frisco Jazz Band, Clint Baker, Dave Bennett and the Memphis Boys, Eddie Erickson, the Freebadge Serenaders, Grand Dominion, High Sierra, Katie Cavera, Kim Cusack, Meschiya Lake and the Lil Big Horns, Marc Caparone, Midiri Brothers, Mike Daugherty, Pat Yankee, Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs, Red Skunk Gipzee Swing, Royal Society Jazz Orchestra, Stephanie Trick, Vaud and the Villains, Vince Bartels All-Stars . . . and more.

The thought of all that, even spread out over multiple venues from Friday through Monday, is both elating and exhausting.  While I lie down, perhaps you’d like to peruse Years Gone By . . .

Hal Smith’s International Sextet

 
 
 
 
 
Come celebrate at the Sacramento Music Festival with us this year.
May your happiness increase!

“COMING FROM MY HEART”: JENNIFER JANE LEITHAM’S “I STAND CORRECTED”

Jennifer Jane Leitham is a remarkable musician and a singular person.  I met her for the first time a year ago at the Sacramento Music Festival, and liked her on the spot: she is forthright and sweet-natured.

But I wasn’t only meeting someone who could truly play that cumbersome instrument: I was meeting a woman who had triumphantly made it through a very long and arduous journey.

She’s a brave person, and the documentary about her, I STAND CORRECTED, is something you should see.  Here’s the trailer:

This process of being human, of becoming the person you were meant to be, is not always easy, although those who keep on keepin’ on may find deep rewards.

I STAND CORRECTED has been showing all across the country . . . look for it wherever courageous motion pictures are shown!

And if the trailer moves you, click here to vote for the trailer (it’s number 139, down the page) so that this film can be seen by a wider audience.

May your happiness increase.

INSPIRED JAZZ MISCHIEF AFTER HOURS IN SACRAMENTO: DAN BARRETT, PHIL FLANIGAN, ROSSANO SPORTIELLO, STEPHANIE TRICK (May 27, 2012)

Are you one of these people secretly convinced that the best things happen when you aren’t there?  Do you suspect that the most superb music is played by musicians for their own pleasure — after the concert, in their hotel rooms, in empty ballrooms?  This may not be paranoid imagining.  I think the videos below — taken at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival — are compelling evidence.

This session took place after the Sunday evening concert had ended . . . and the musicians didn’t want to go back to their hotels (Rossano Sportiello and Dan Barrett being prime instigators).  While the cheerful people surrounding the stage were putting everything away, packing up, doing their jobs . . . the music started — or kept going.

First a hip RUSSIAN LULLABY with Dan at the piano and Phil Flanigan at the bass.  Then — with some musical chairs and giggling, Rossano and Stephanie Trick shared the piano bench while Phil kept the beat going and (eventually) Dan joined in on muted cornet for RUNNIN’ WILD:

No one wanted to call a halt to this fun (even though Phil had to catch a plane) so they took their time for an inspired KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW with Dan, Rossano, Stephanie:

And an old-fashioned rocking BLUES to close, created by Dan and Rossano:

“See you next year!”  “Beautiful!”  How true on both counts.

I am so grateful to the musicians here — people whom I count as friends — for not saying, “For goodness’ sake, Michael, put that video camera down.  You’re not going to shoot this, are you?”  They knew I was there — circling around — but they tacitly let me stay . . . what a privilege!

May your happiness increase.

REQUIRED RIFFING: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at the 2012 SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 26, 2012)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Reynolds Brothers are a superb hot band, subtle and forceful, offering vivid solos and lovely intertwining ensemble lines.  And they offer us songs, both sweet and spicy, that deserve to be played.  I’ve been a convert for several years now.  But you don’t have to take my word for it: see for yourself.

They’re required reading in my lifetime course on Swing.  And regular field trips are part of the curriculum.

Here they are — with guest Clint Baker — at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival.  That’s Marc Caparone, cornet; Katie Cavera, string bass; John Reynolds, guitar, whistling; Ralf Reynolds, washboard; Clint Baker, clarinet, trombone — with assorted and sundry vocalizing from the members of the crew.  Here they are on a paddlewheel steamer — heating it up in front of a very receptive audience — on May 26, 2012.

One of the more popular songs about how nice it was to go back home down South (perhaps a safe theme from Stephen Foster up to the Swing Era) ALABAMMY BOUND:

A high-class love song with caffeine, always the way to go — WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA.  I am not being hyperbolic when I write that John Reynolds improves the world by his presence — singing, playing, scatting, whistling:

A prescription for happiness, care of the early Cab Calloway ensemble, THE SCAT SONG.  Fine riffin’ this evening!:

You shiftless person!  Get up off the ground and swing.  Marc shows us how, vocally and with the necessary hardware, on LAZY BONES:

FUTURISTIC JUNGLEISM needs no exegesis, and might baffle anyone attempting to offer one:

WHEN FRANCIS DANCES WIH ME is a 1921 song recorded by Billy Murray and Ada Jones, then by the Andrews Sisters.  I’m only sorry that our Katie left out these deathless lyrics from the second chorus — a natural segue into the Reynolds Brothers’ rendition of FAT AND GREASY, referring to the stylish Francis: “His hair shines like diamonds, he combs it with fat / He wears a Palm Beach and a brown derby hat / Now you know a guy can’t look better than that“:

A delightful Thirties pickup song (earlier than REMEMBER ME) on the immortal theme of “Hey, cutie!  Look over here!  Pay attention to me!” — PARDON ME, PRETTY BABY:

Ralf teaches us Official History with the assistance of Professors Berry and Razaf . . . and listen to how the brass leaps in after the vocal on CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS:

A plunger-muted SOME OF THESE DAYS featuring the multi-talented Mister Baker on clarinet, trombone, and vocal.  Ralf could no longer endure the fact that washboards are not equipped with plunger mutes — look closely at around the five-minute mark:

With this Fats Waller song, the question is moot.  Or perhaps rhetorical.  AIN’T ‘CHA GLAD?  I know I am:

“I keep cheerful on an earful / Of music sweet.”  HAPPY FEET:

How to spend a Saturday night — deep in riffs!  And I’ll next hear the Brothers (and Friends) at the San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival . . . this November.  Look-a-here, as Fats would say — SAN DIEGO!

May your happiness increase.

SACRAMENTO SWING: VINCE BARTELS, DAN BARRETT, ALLAN VACHE, RUSS PHILLIPS, NICOLAS MONTIER, JASON WANNER, JENNIFER JANE LEITHAM, JEANNIE LAMBERT (May 27, 2012)

This set — one of the last ones at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival — was a lovely combination of modern ideas, rich swing and inventiveness, and a repertoire going back almost ninety years.  But there was no archaeology, no fancy business: playing the old tunes as they had been in their prime, or reinventing them according to some aesthetic principles.  No, this set was simply a gathering of people who had similar philosophies: swing is everything; sweet melodies uplift our hearts; go for yourself.

Leader / drummer Vince Bartels is a substantial man with a gentle touch on the drums, and he assembled a multifaceted band of like-minded musicians:  string bassist Jennifer Jane Leitham; pianist Jason Wanner; tenor saxophonist Nicolas Montier; trombonist Russ Phillips; clarinetist Allan Vache; cornetist Dan Barrett — with a special guest appearance by singer Jeannie Lambert.

SWING THAT MUSIC, both for Louis and as a statement of principles:

SUGAR:

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

THE ONE I LOVE, that 1924 pop hit that jazz fans remember fondly because it was the first song — at the Chicago Musicians’ Union — that Earl Hines and Louis Armstrong played together:

BUT BEAUTIFUL, a feature for Ms. Lambert and Mr. Phillips — celebrating their twenty-eighth anniversary — is something special:

POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS shows off Jason Wanner, living proof of how novices with the right stuff become young masters in jazz:

And a Condon-styled CHINA BOY, with Town Hall Concert breaks at the end:

May your happiness increase.

HEALING VIBRATIONS: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 27, 2012)

I’ve tried fish oil capsules and probiotics, saw palmetto and niacin, magnesium and multivitamins, goldenseal and Bach flower remedies.

But nothing gives me the lift of a Reynolds Brothers set — and one with Clint Baker (trombone, clarinet, occasional vocal) is even more potent.  Take as directed: like homeopathy, the smallest dosage is transformative.

The RB are, as always, Ralf (washboard); John (guitar, whistling); Marc Caparone (cornet); Katie Cavera (string bass) — all four have been known to break into song when the moment is ripe.  See for yourself in this delightful long set recorded at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival (at the Railroad Museum on May 27, 2012, for the record-keepers).

Alex Hill must have been especially willing to please when he wrote I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU, and Claude Hopkins suggested that his whole band was equally cooperative:

Sung by Bing.  Who needs more?  LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER:

THREE LITTLE WORDS (but not with the variant Turk Murphy text):

For Bix and Tram, BORNEO:

Come to Camden, New Jersey — I hear the Bennie Moten band is cooking up something good on BLUE ROOM:

Sweet and sassy, Sister Katie invites us to join her in films, with YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES — and John whistles the theme so engagingly:

Mister Berlin must have liked a drop of schnapps once in a while, thus I’LL SEE YOU IN C-U-B-A — sung with spice and wit by Senorita Cavera:

From the Cotton Club Parade of 1935 (by Ted Koehler and Rube Bloom)  — I just found a copy of the original sheet music: now I’m ready to start TRUCKIN’:

A beautiful excursion into Louis Armstrong – Sammy Cahn – Saul Chaplin democrary in SHOE SHINE BOY.  That Caparone fellow didn’t study at the Waif’s Home, but he sure gets Louis:

If I could wire my refrigerator so that it played FAT AND GREASY when I opened the door, perhaps I would be back to my middle-school weight.  of course having Fats Waller sing and play it does lend a certain ironic twist.  Rockin’ in rhythm:

And the National Anthem of what Eddie Condon called “music,” Louis’ SWING THAT MUSIC:

Feeling better?  I know I am.  (And that’s not my medicine cabinet, in case you were wondering.)

May your happiness increase.

ROSSANO SPORTIELLO and DAN BARRETT at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 27, 2012)

Take two phenomenal musicians — pianist Rossano and trombonist Dan — give them soulful material to play (BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU) — and you have sheer magic, with the shades of Louis and Fats approving:

Was ever a lament chronicling the loss of hair color through romantic melancholy so appealing, so whimsically lyrical?

May your happiness increase.

THE BOYS AND THE BAND: JUSTIN and BRANDON AU VISIT HIGH SIERRA (Sacramento Music Festival, May 27, 2012)

Who says that hot jazz is solely the purview of a generation of elder statesmen?  Certainly not the young brassmen Justin (trumpet) and Brandon Au (trombone), who paid a social call to the High Sierra Jazz Band at the Sacramento Music Festival on May 27, 2012.

Justin and Brandon joined leader / reedman Pieter Meijers, their Uncle How (Howard Miyata on trombone and vocal), Bryan Shaw on trumpet, Stan Huddleston on banjo, Bruce Huddleston on piano, Earl McKee on sousaphone and vocals, and Charlie Castro, drums — for a program of hot cross-generational jazz and hijinks.

The HSJB began with a nineteenth-century favorite, sung with great honest feeling by Earl, THE OLD SPINNING WHEEL:

Then, one of the many animal-themed compositions dear to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and, a bit later, Bix Beiderbecke, OSTRICH WALK:

Here, after Pieter introduces the boys, everyone creates a wonderful street-parade CANAL STREET BLUES:

Justin, Brandon (vocal), and Pieter swing out on NAGASAKI:

And, as an aside, here is what I believe to be the performance — captured for posterity — that Peter refers to.  A slippery composition, CAPITOL-BOUND, performed at the Pismo Jazz Jubilee by the Sea — October 28, 2011 — by Justin, Brandon, Gordon, Uncle How, Danny Coots, and Katie Cavera:

One of the High Sierra’s patented specialties, FROM MONDAY ON, with a vocal by Earl and a five-horn recreation of Bix’s solos at the end:

And, to close, a hot blues for Louis, MAHOGANY HALL STOMP:

Age doesn’t matter in jazz if the spirit is right.

May your happiness increase.

MORE INGREDIENTS: JOHN, RALF, MARC, KATIE, and CLINT (Sacramento Music Festival, May 26, 2012)

Household names, or at least they should be — the Reynolds Brothers and Clint Baker at the 2012 Sacramento Music Festival, recorded on May 26, 2012.  That’s Katie Cavera, string bass, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet, vocal; Ralf Reynolds, washboard, vocal; John Reynolds, guitar, whistling, vocal; Clint Baker, trombone, clarinet, vocal.

My title comes from a Louis anecdote: someone pressed him very hard about which trumpet player he favored, Bobby Hackett or someone whose name I don’t remember.  Louis didn’t like to make such judgments — the other fellow was good and MUSIC itself was the goal, but finally he said, “Bobby.  He  got more ingredients.”

Here’s some more evidence of why the Reynolds Brothers should be in every home.

For Bill Robinson, who had no problem taking the stairs, DOIN’ THE NEW LOWDOWN:

Fine riffin’ this evening on HONEYSUCKLE ROSE:

“Diamond bracelets Woolworth’s doesn’t sell, baby.”  How true!  I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE:

Don’t let us catch you “winking your eye at morals,” Brothers and Sisters.  THERE’S GONNA BE THE DEVIL TO PAY:

Katie brings out her Yiddishkeit!  BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN:

Insomniac?  TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:

They sparkle, they bubble: THEM THERE EYES:

For Higgy and Louis, I’M CONFESSIN’:

For the young fellow from Davenport, Iowa, I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA:

Romping!  CHINA BOY:

Ingredients?  How about a whole jazz pantry of subtlety and swing?

May your happiness increase.

“IT’S GOOD FOR YOU”: HOT JAZZ IN THE HEALTHY OPEN AIR with THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at the SACRAMENTO MUSIC FESTIVAL (May 26, 2012)

My mother used to gently urge me — “urge” is the nicest way of putting it — to go outside occasionally.  “Are you going to stay in your room with a book all day?  It’s so nice outside!”

This post’s for you, Mom — I made it out-of-doors at a jazz festival — the Sacramento Music Festival — and soaked up the sun, the Vitamin D, the sweet California air.

Of course, I didn’t notice much of those cosmic gifts, because I was busy feeling the good seismic disturbances that the Reynolds Brothers and Clint Baker were creating — that’s John on guitar, vocal, and whistling; Ralf on washboard and vocal; Marc Caparone on cornet and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal; Clint Baker on trombone, clarinet, and occasional vocal (he had some laryngitis that weekend).

They began with their public profession of loving willingness from Alex Hill and perhaps Claude Hopkins, I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU.  John asserts it all so willingly; who would doubt him?

Marc sings about that naughty flirtatious COQUETTE, so tantalizing:

Ralf and John team up for their classic SADIE GREEN (The Vamp of New Orleans):

No one sings on MAHOGANY HALL STOMP (the lyrics would be about the fleshpots of Storyville) but the ghosts of Louis and Higgy certainly were enjoying the outdoors as well:

John, more plaintively this time, gives us the early Thirties version of the solitary lover, pale and wan, HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF:

The other side of the amorous spectrum — having one’s hands full of delights — is offered by the witty Miss Cavera in CHARLEY, MY BOY.  “Shivers of joy,” indeed:

My new quest.  Where or what or why is SAN?:

For Harold Arlen, Louis, and Jack, Marc lets us know he’s GOT A RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES:

I don’t know the source of STOMP STOMP! (is it Slim and Slam or the Cats and the Fiddle or a physical therapist’s command?) but it certainly made the cosmos move:

“Jack, you really come on!”  How true.  Even though no one in the band is named Jack.

“See, Mom, I went outside!  What?  Now you want me to clean my room . . . . ?”

May your happiness increase.

BEWITCHED BY BECKY (Sacramento Music Festival, May 2012)

She shall make music wherever she goes!

Becky is our own Rebecca Kilgore, and we are so lucky to be able to see and hear her.  I had the privilege once again at the Sacramento Music Festival.  There she was joined by Dan Barrett (trombone, narratives), and Rossano Sportiello (piano) for a number of wonderful sessions.

I marvel again at the lovely music that these three created for us.

BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BEWILDERED (Rodgers and Hart):

THIS CAN’T BE LOVE (again):

and a Thirties tune that some associate with Connee Boswell, others with the Washboard Rhythm Kings, HUMMIN’ TO MYSELF:

In the presence of the highest art: such beauty is easy to love but not so easy to create.

And I should point out that even though Becky appears with a variety of combos — each one offering beautiful interplay between her voice and the players — the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet (formerly known as B E D) is still thriving!  (That’s Becky, Dan, Eddie Erickson, Joel Forbes.)  Coming soon to a festival / party / concert near you!

But for the moment, we’ll all go on being BEWITCHED.

These three video performances have been approved by the Canadian Film Board of Review.

May your happiness increase.