Tag Archives: Sam Morgan

SARAH AT SARAH’S: AUGUST 28, 2016 (Part One)

sarah-spencer

My friend Sarah Spencer (tenor and soprano saxophone, clarinet, vocal) is an impeccable hybrid.  London-born, New Orleans-sourced.  Although her speaking voice and cadences are purest UK, her musical soul is situated somewhere on the Rue Conti.  And, yes, she encountered Raymond Burke and Percy Humphrey and several dozen Masters, now-Ancestors in her musical and spiritual development.

On August 28, 2016, I had the very pleasant opportunity to hear and record Sarah and her Quartet (Jimmy Mazzy, banjo and vocal; Art Hovey, string bass and tuba; Bill Sinclair, piano and vocal) at the Jazz Masters Series at Sarah’s Wine Bar (an outgrowth of Bernard’s, a wonderful restaurant) in Ridgefield, Connecticut.  (The Jazz Masters Series is held on the last Sunday of each month.)

Before we begin, here are two performances featuring Jimmy Mazzy from that evening.  One is eloquently tender; the other ribald.  You’ll be able to tell them apart.

And several emotionally energized highlights from the first set.  (I’ve left the beginnings unedited, for the most part, so that you can see the endearing friendly exchanges among the quartet)

ANYTIME:


MY MEMPHIS BABY:


BOGALUSA STRUT:


THE LAUGHING SAMBA:

WE’LL MEET AGAIN:

Part Two will be along anon.

May your happiness increase!

VISIONS OF NEW ORLEANS, MADE REAL (Part One): KRIS TOKARSKI, TIM LAUGHLIN, and HAL SMITH at the EVERGREEN JAZZ FESTIVAL (July 31, 2016)

At the 2016 Evergreen Jazz Festival, I didn’t see the double rainbows that were so magnificent at the 2014 celebration — but they were musically evident whenever the Kris Tokarski Trio took the stage.

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman

The extent of my devotion to this group was evident to anyone who saw me following them around, a happy man, breathing hard because of the altitude and the excitement in equal measure, with video camera and tripod.  They played eight sets; I caught seven.

The Trio is Kris Tokarski, piano; Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Hal Smith, drums. It’s a trio that balances deep seriousness and lighter-than-air play.  Its music is tangible but translucent: you hear the whole but admire the individual voices twining together.  Think of Casals, Thibaud, Cortot.  Simeon, James P., and Pops Foster.  Benny, Teddy, and Dave Tough.  Singing lyricism, floating swing.

And they did the thing I prize most, which is to honor the tradition by being themselves.  Heaven knows each of these players knows the clearly-delineated tradition — on records, in performance with other musicians, studying the Masters in person — but they know (to quote Emerson) that imitation is suicide and (to quote Lester) you must go for yourself.

I was telling a friend about a favorite Roddy Doyle novel, THE VAN, about two Irish friends who open a mobile fish-and-chips business, and their proud slogan is “Today’s chips today,” which is what I think of when I hear these performances: nothing warmed up under heat lamps, nothing stale.  Music that’s truly alive in now.

Here is the first half of this Trios’s closing set of the Festival (I am working backwards), recorded in a church with wonderful acoustics.  Kris chose to make this set a New Orleanian one, with gracious hot results.

JAZZ ME BLUES (for the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, then Bix, then the Bobcats and Condon and and and:

SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART (no doubt a Morton tune, and I come from the school that places a comma in the middle; it makes better dramatic sense):

THAT DA DA STRAIN, from Mamie Smith onwards to us in 2016:

BOGALUSA STRUT, a nod to the Sam Morgan ensemble:

What wonderful music.  You can bet there will be more.

May your happiness increase!

“HELLO, LOLA!”: GRAND DOMINION JAZZ BAND at SAN DIEGO (Nov. 22, 2012)

One can only imagine the circumstances that led to the titling of the first song in the Victor studios in 1929, but Lola was Pee Wee Russell’s girlfriend in the late Twenties and early Thirties.  Legend has it she was exceedingly jealous and showed it in remarkable ways: once cutting up all of her lover’s suits with a long sharp scissors.  (Maybe Lola said to Pee Wee, “If you really loved me, you would name a song after me and record it so that everyone could see my name on the label.”)

I doubt that Lola is with us today, or that anyone named Lola was in the audience at the 2012 San Diego Jazz Fest (formerly the Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival) but the Grand Dominion Jazz Band knows its social courtesies and said “Hello!” to the crowd through hot jazz.  The players here are leader Bob Pelland, piano; Clint Baker, trumpet; Gerry Green, reeds; Jim Armstrong, trombone; Hal Smith, drums; Mike Fay, bass; and Bill Dixon, banjo.  Any band that has Clint at the front and Hal at the back can’t get off course!

HELLO, LOLA!:

BOGALUSA STRUT (recalling Sam Morgan, who never had a pair of scissors):

PERDIDO STREET BLUES (another evocation of the Crescent City):

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU (remembering Claude Hopkins and Alex Hill, both very willing individuals, eager to please):

Good manners in hot jazz.

May your happiness increase.

“BIG EASY BIG BANDS: DAWN AND RISE OF THE JAZZ ORCHESTRA,” by EDDY DETERMEYER

A successful book on jazz has to be accurate, unbiased, and deep.  The writer shouldn’t twist evidence to fit an ideology; (s)he has to base conclusions on solid research; ideally, the book has to contain something new.

Eddy Determeyer’s new book on New Orleans “big bands” is successful in these ways.  I knew his work from his 2009 RHYTHM IS OUR BUSINESS: JIMMIE LUNCEFORD AND THE HARLEM EXPRESS — a beautifully thorough and lively study of that band and its somewhat elusive leader — so I was eager to read BIG EASY BIG BANDS.

BIG EASY BIG BANDS

It’s a fascinating book because it focuses on an aspect of New Orleans jazz and dance music that we knew existed but that apparently never received such loving attention — “orchestras,” groups larger than five or six pieces, relying on written arrangements — from the teens to the present day.

Determeyer’s scope is broad: in this book, one finds Louis Armstrong and Joe Robichaux, Champion Jack Dupree, Aaron Bell, Benny Powell, Ornette Coleman, Papa Celestin, Wallace Davenport, Sam Lee, Ed Blackwell, Dooky Chase, “Mr. Google Eyes,” Papa Jack Laine, and many others.

That a number of those names are less familiar is the point of the book, and testimony to the hard work behind it.  For one thing, Determeyer has shown by his research that there was a vital musical tradition in New Orleans running parallel to the one that most of us acknowledge: street musicians, small improvising bands, larger marching aggregations.  But — so runs the accepted myth — the “big bands” came out of Kansas City, New York, and Chicago, leaving New Orleans as a kind of improvisers’ Eden, both pure and somewhat behind the curve.

Determeyer’s research, from Congo Square to hard bop, shows that there was much more going on: picnics at Milneburg, steamboats and minstrel shows, Sam Morgan’s band, the excursion boats — with Fate Marable in charge (including drummer Monk Hazel’s account of a cutting contest between Emmett Hardy and young Louis (where Louis is reputed to have said, “You is the king!).

One of the strengths of Determeyer’s book is that the reader glides happily from one vivid anecdote to another: Huey Long saws off one leg of a three thousand dollar Steinway grand so that it can get into a club; Joe Robichaux, forty years later, is nearly done in by the erotic / financial insistence of a Japanese prostitute.  Cap’n John Handy sits in with his younger namesake, John Handy, and they have a good time.

It’s a thoroughly entertaining and informative book — stretching from the 1700s in New Orleans to Hurricane Katrina — with a number of surprising photographs, an index, and clear links to research sources.

You can purchase a copy at the Determeyer’s webstore — BIG EASY BIG BANDS is surprisingly affordable.  It will entertain and enlighten . . . what more could we ask?

May your happiness increase.

THE REAL THING: CHRIS TYLE’S SILVER LEAF JAZZ BAND

Often, the best music doesn’t get the most intense publicity.  This is especially true for Chris Tyle’s Silver Leaf Jazz Band — a flexible down-home band that could play hot and sweet, and specialized in music that was authentically from the heart — not from someone else’s recordings.  If you don’t know Chris, you’ve missed out on a great deal of memorable jazz: he is one of the finest hot cornetists on the planet, a gutty singer, a splendid clarinetist, and a drummer other drummers speak of admiringly.  He’s also a fine scholar and researcher, so his music projects are based on a deep love of the music rather than simply getting a group together in the studio and saying, “What’s next?”

The compact discs his Silver Leaf Jazz Band recorded are among the most refreshing I know . . . but not enough attention has been paid to them.  I recall, some years ago, being in the car with a musician-friend, who said, “Listen to this and tell me what you think . . . don’t try to identify the musicians, just enjoy the sounds.”  By the time the band was sixteen bars in, I was hooked.

I think JAZZ LIVES readers should be, too.

One of the ironies of the “jazz audience” is that often it gravitates to the Officially Old — those Sam Morgan or Ellington-Blanton discs, or the Brand New — Exx Why and her Girls, recorded in 2012 . . . and what’s in the middle gets forgotten, even by listeners with a wide reach.  This would be a wrong turn . . . !

The first CD I would draw your attention to is by the smallest group: a quartet of Chris, clarinetist Orange Kellin, pianist Steve Pistorius, and drummer John Gill — everyone also takes a turn at the vocal microphone except Orange.  The disc is called NEW ORLEANS WIGGLE (GHB BCD-347) and it features good songs that haven’t been exhausted through overexposure, including a substantial portion of music associated with Armand Piron, Lovie Austin, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Dick Oxtot, and others: NEW ORLEANS WIGGLE / ST. LOUIS BLUES / STOCKYARDS STRUT / RED MAN BLUES / TAKE ME TO THE LAND OF JAZZ / PONCHARTRAIN / HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN / AIN’T NOBODY GOT THE BLUES LIKE ME / YEARNING (JUST FOR YOU) / MESSIN’ AROUND / NEW ORLEANS BLUES / DOWN WHERE THE SUN GOES DOWN / BOUNCING AROUND / MAMMA’S GONE, GOODBYE / MANDY LEE BLUES / STEPPING ON THE BLUES.

A quintet is featured on STREETS AND SCENES OF NEW ORLEANS (Good Time Jazz GTJCD 15001-2): Chris, Jacques Gauthe, clarinet; Dave Sager, trombone; Tom Roberts, piano; John Gill.  They play CONGO SQUARE / SILVER LEAF STRUT / FAREWELL TO STORYVILLE / WEST END BLUES / WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / WHY DON’T YOU GO TO NEW ORLEANS? / PERDIDO STREET BLUES / GALLATIN STREET GRIND / BLUES FOR RAMPART STREET / NEW ORLEANS HOP SCOP BLUES / BORDER OF THE QUARTER / DECATUR STREET BLUES / WE SHALL WALK THROUGH THE STREETS OF THE CITY / TIN ROOF BLUES / CANAL STREET BLUES / BASIN STREET BLUES / GRAVIER STREET BLUES / BACK O’TOWN BLUES / DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS? / SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE.  Some familiar tunes here, but none of them rendered in a formulaic way — along with less-played compositions associated with Johnny Wiggs, Johnny Dodds, Ida Cox, and others.

On GREAT COMPOSERS OF NEW ORLEANS JAZZ (Good Time Jazz GTJCD 15005-1), Chris and a larger ensemble offer the most entertaining history lesson I can imagine.  The band is Chris, Mike Owen, trombone; Orange Kellin, Steve Pistorious, piano; Craig Ventresco, guitar / banjo; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums / washboard — with guest appearances from Duke Heitger, trumpet, and Tom Fischer, clarinet / alto sax.  The tunes are a wonderful education in hot jazz: PAPA’S GOT THE JIM-JAMS / WEARY CITY / SHIM-ME-SHA-WABBLE / YOU CAN HAVE IT / GHOST OF THE BLUES / ISN’T THERE A LITTLE LOVE? / EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY BLUES / KLONDYKE BLUES / IT ALL BELONGS TO YOU / RAMBLING BLUES / NUMBER TWO BLUES / I MUST HAVE IT / PECULIAR / COOKIE / PAPA, WHAT YOU ARE TRYING TO DO TO ME I’VE BEEN DOING IT FOR YEARS — music composed by Alcide “Yellow” Nunez, Wingy Manone, Sidney Bechet, Larry Shields, Nick LaRocca, King Oliver, Sharkey Bonano, and a young fellow named Armstrong.

By the time I came to Chris’ Jelly Roll Morton tribute, I had heard a great many of them . . . some stiffly “correct,” others weirdly “innovative.”  But JELLY’S BEST JAM (Good Time Jazz 15002-1) lives up to its name, with Chris, Orange, John Gill (on trombone this time); Tom Roberts, Vince Giordano, string bass, and Hal Smith.  Interspersed among the band performances are four solos Jelly Roll recorded in 1938: CREEPY FEELING / FINGER BUSTER / WININ’ BOY BLUES / HONKY TONK MUSIC.  The band sides are EACH DAY / THE PEARLS / IF SOMEONE WOULD ONLY LOVE ME / MAMA’S GOT A BABY / JELLY ROLL BLUES / SHREVEPORT STOMP / BLUE BLOOD BLUES / KING PORTER STOMP / MISTER JOE / BIG FAT HAM / JUNGLE BLUES / GOOD OLD NEW YORK — all performed with a flair and imagination that Jelly Roll himself would have enjoyed.  For myself, I can testify that this CD is dangerously swinging: I got caught up in KING PORTER STOMP while driving to see the Beloved and missed my exit completely . . . still, it was worth it.

Recently, I asked Chris to tell us something about the birth of this band:

I started working at the Can-Can Cafe, in the Royal Sonesta Hotel [in New Orleans], in early 1992.  I was playing trumpet with clarinetist Barry Wratten’s band.  Barry’s band was there for a few months, was laid-off, then Clive Wilson came in.  After a few months they were laid off.

After Barry’s band got their walking papers, I went to the management and mentioned I had led bands in the past and would be interested in the job if they ever wanted to make a change.  In October, 1992, I got the call to start working there, six nights a week.

I wanted the band to be a success, not only with the public but also with the management.  Luckily, managment were pretty much “hands-off,” leaving me to run things as I thought appropriate.  My vision was for the band to be a “classic” jazz group, not a Bourbon Street dixieland band.  Bearing the latter in mind, however, when we had tour groups I tailored our repertoire to the chestnuts: Bill Bailey, Muskrat Ramble, Saints, etc.  But we played these things in our style, and the people I hired were on the same page as myself, musically. The tourist set(s) aside, there was an incredible amount of quality music played there.  Once the tour group sets were over, we played music written or recorded by King Oliver, Louis, Jelly Roll Morton, the ODJB.  I love obscure pop songs of the 1920s and 1930s, so we’d do those, too.

George Hocutt, a producer who had been involved with the record business for decades, liked the band and encouraged Fantasy Records in Berkeley to ressurect the Good Time Jazz label for new recordings.  Fantasy had been issuing material from the Good Time Jazz catalog for awhile.  So George talked them into recording the Silver Leaf Jazz Band.  We ended up doing three recordings, and George also recorded cornetist Scott Black, clarinetist Tim Laughlin, and clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Jacques Gauthe’.

The band at the Can-Can was always a quartet – which was all the hotel could budget.  But I’d add players for the recordings.  The first, “Street and Scenes of New Orleans”, was the regular band plus trombonist David Sager.  With the Jelly Roll Morton tribute we did a six-piece band, and a seven piece band for the “Great Composers of New Orleans Jazz” CD.

The “Composers” cd is my favorite – mainly for the selection of tunes but also for the playing of the other musicians.  That’s not to say the others aren’t good – they are, and they all got excellent reviews when they were released.  

We also did some nice recordings for Stomp-Off and for George Buck’s label, GHB.  The one we did for George got an incredible rating from the Penguin Guide to Jazz.  There’s only a few recordings in the book that get a special “rosette.”  So our recording, with a quartet, was given the same rating as “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis and “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane.  A few years ago Concord Records bought Fantasy, and even though the Silver Leaf Jazz Band is listed on their website, the CDs are out-of-print.

Fortunately, these four superb discs are still available through Chris — and buying discs direct from the artist is the method I recommend!

They can go to my site – www.tyleman.com, and click on the CD photos.  It will take them to Paypal.  If they want to pay some other way, like check or money order, they can just send me an email: chris@tyleman.com.  I’m asking $14.95 each, but it they order three or more I’ll send the CDs post paid. They would need to contact me for the “special offer.”

I urge you to get these good sounds!

May your happiness increase.