Tag Archives: Sam Rocha

“LE JAZZ HOT” KEEPS THE FLAME LIT at MONTEREY (Part Two): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, SAM ROCHA, MIKIYA MATSUDA, MARC CAPARONE, DAWN LAMBETH (March 8, 2020)

Here is the first part of the delightful set of music that Le Jazz Hot performed at the Jazz Bash by the Bay (Monterey, California) on March 8, 2020: I WONDER WHERE MY BABY IS  TONIGHT, BE THAT WAY, I’M CONFESSIN’, ONE SWEET LETTER FROM YOU, NEVERTHELESS (I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU).  And here’s the second half.

This beautiful set of gypsy jazz — hot and lyrical, with all the possible shadings in between — was the last music I heard at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay, and the last music I heard at a jazz festival in this wickedly unpredictable year.  So it has not only beauty but a certain poignancy, rather like the last delicious spoonful for an indeterminate time.  The brilliant players and singers of Le Jazz Hot are Paul Mehling, guitar, vocals; Evan Price, violin; Sam Rocha, rhythm guitar, vocals; Mikiya Matsuda, string bass.  At the end of the set — which will appear in the sequel, to remember Bartelby — my hero-friends Marc Caparone, cornet; Dawn Lambeth, vocals, dropped by and added more good sounds.

I always think that the perspectives of the musicians themselves are more important than mine, so I asked Paul to write something about this occasion that no one recognized at the time as so significant:

Looking back on these performances which would turn out to be the “last” of Le Jazz Hot Quartet from “BEFORE TIMES” I’m struck with a bittersweet joy: of course we had no way of knowing…
For those of you who don’t know us: this is what happens when musicians feel connected to their listeners (and vice versa!): synergy not just within the band, but a certain give-and-take with the audience where they’re in on the joke(s), verbal and musical.
This festival was a mutli-faceted victory for us:
*we’d been invited back after a very long hiatus and we were GRATEFUL and wanted to SHOW IT
*we were super thrilled to be among such stellar fellow acts, some of whom we invited to join our little show, many of whom were just in the room to enjoy themselves
*we clearly were bringing IT -as we do, but there’s always the chance that the little EXTRA something will spark some great moments and these videos captured so many delights.

Michael seems to often be in the right place at the right time. He deserves an extra-special honorary award for these end-of-an-era captures. We’re all going to come back roaring onto the jazz venues and stages when this pandemic blows over- JAZZ IS NOT OVER- in the meantime, we have these videos for consolation.

What would life be without the occasional STRUT?

Louis shines his light — “My brother!” as Django is reported saying — and Paul has a right to sing these Harold Arlen-Ted Koehler blues:

Dawn Lambeth joins in with NIGHT AND DAY:

Marc Caparone joins in with Dawn to Louisize the air a little more, with A KISS TO BUILD A DREAM ON:

and at the intersection of Louis and French pop music, here’s C’EST SI BON:

Finally, one of the two or three most-played signing-off tunes (who does GOODNIGHT, SWEETHEART any more?) here’s I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

Until next time.  But before you move on to the next web-delight, consider subscribing to Paul’s YouTube channel — much good music there and it’s been proven to keep the vegetables in the crisper fresher longer.

All the musicians I know have had their incomes stop or deflate just a few days later in March.  I hope that viewers who enjoy this music can offer gratitude in tangible form.  Thus . . . the PayPal link is pazzo@hotclubsf.com.  Your generosity repays the people who give us so much.

May your happiness increase!

“LE JAZZ HOT” KEEPS THE FLAME LIT at MONTEREY (Part One): PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, SAM ROCHA, MIKIYA MATSUDA and GUESTS (March 8, 2020)

This beautiful set of gypsy jazz — hot and lyrical, with all the possible shadings in between — was the last music I heard at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay, and the last music I heard at a jazz festival in this wickedly unpredictable year.  So it has not only beauty but a certain poignancy, rather like the last delicious spoonful for an indeterminate time.  The brilliant players and singers of Le Jazz Hot are Paul Mehling, guitar, vocals; Evan Price, violin; Sam Rocha, rhythm guitar, vocals; Mikiya Matsuda, string bass.  At the end of the set — which will appear in the sequel, to remember Bartelby — my hero-friends Marc Caparone, cornet; Dawn Lambeth, vocals, dropped by and added more good sounds.

I always think that the perspectives of the musicians themselves are more important than mine, so I asked Paul to write something about this occasion that no one recognized at the time as so significant:

Looking back on these performances which would turn out to be the “last” of Le Jazz Hot Quartet from “BEFORE TIMES” I’m struck with a bittersweet joy: of course we had no way of knowing…
For those of you who don’t know us: this is what happens when musicians feel connected to their listeners (and vice versa!): synergy not just within the band, but a certain give-and-take with the audience where they’re in on the joke(s), verbal and musical.
This festival was a mutli-faceted victory for us:
*we’d been invited back after a very long hiatus and we were GRATEFUL and wanted to SHOW IT
*we were super thrilled to be among such stellar fellow acts, some of whom we invited to join our little show, many of whom were just in the room to enjoy themselves
*we clearly were bringing IT -as we do, but there’s always the chance that the little EXTRA something will spark some great moments and these videos captured so many delights.

Michael seems to often be in the right place at the right time. He deserves an extra-special honorary award for these end-of-an-era captures. We’re all going to come back roaring onto the jazz venues and stages when this pandemic blows over- JAZZ IS NOT OVER- in the meantime, we have these videos for consolation.

Asking the musical question, I WONDER WHERE MY BABY IS TONIGHT (the lyrics say she is off doing the Charleston — oh, for those sweetly antique times):

Paul (played by Steve Allen in the biographical film) explains BE THAT WAY:

They say this 1929 classic is good for the soul:

Sam sings an ode to the U.S. Mail, ONE SWEET LETTER FROM YOU:

and that dear song, NEVERTHELESS (I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU):

The second half of this set begins with a STRUT, so stay tuned.  All the musicians I know have had their incomes stop or deflate just a few days later in March.  I hope that viewers who enjoy this music can offer gratitude in tangible form.  Thus . . . the PayPal link is pazzo@hotclubsf.com.  Your generosity repays the people who give us so much.

May your happiness increase!

BOUNCING WITH THE JONATHAN DOYLE SWINGTET (Part One) at the REDWOOD COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL: JONATHAN DOYLE, JOSH COLLAZO, SAM ROCHA, JAMEY CUMMINS, ALEX BELHAJ, GORDON AU, CHARLIE HALLORAN (May 12, 2019)

Bouncing has been shown to have salutary therapeutic effects, so join us!

The source of all this joy is the Jonathan Doyle Swingtet, recorded in performance at the magical Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 12, 2019.  That’s Jonathan Doyle, tenor saxophone / compositions / arrangements; Gordon Au, trumpet; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jamey Cummins [right], Alex Belhaj [left], guitars; Sam Rocha, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums. . . .  captured in a still photograph by the JAZZ LIVES staff:

Now to the music played for the first half of this gratifying set — what Mildred Bailey might have called “a hot half-dozen.”

Take us back to 1943, while Coleman Hawkins stands off to the side, smiling:

and something sweet that Jonathan calls DON’T WALK OUT (the harmonic hint is this — imagine Louis’ opening number as a rhythm ballad and you have it):

Winnie the Pooh couldn’t make it, but in his honor, HONEY JAR, his love:

SLIPPERY SLOPE, perhaps named because of  ascending and descending lines:

I’VE NEVER BEEN TO NEW YORK.  If this is true, I have to invite Jonathan and Corinne to sit in Washington Square Park in the late spring:

Thinking of Austin, Texas, zoology, where THE BATS ARE SINGING:

The best news is that Jonathan and friends will be appearing — in whatever permutations they choose — at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 7-10, 2020.  Here you can see a list of the other artists, a cornucopia of musical joys that increases my heart rate dangerously.

See you there!

Even better! — here is the schedule for the Festival.  I can’t wait.

May your happiness increase!

LITTLE CHARLIE BATY, BLAZING

Clint Baker, Marc Caparone, Jeff Hamilton, Dawn Lambeth, Little Charlie Baty at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 2019

The profoundly swinging guitarist and admirable man Little Charlie Baty has died of a coronary at 67.  I promised myself I would not make this site a necrophile’s amusement park, but I make exceptions for people I knew, people who made strong impressions, and Charlie was one.  I was only in contact with him last May, but his loss is fierce to me.

Saturday night, Marc Caparone joined the conversation at the Jazz Bash by the Bay to tell us that Charlie was gone.  I was physically stunned.  It was sadly appropriate that we should get the news from Marc, because he was the first person to ever mention Charlie’s name — this guitarist who played just like Charlie Christian, who really swung, who was genuine.  I filed that praise away, as one does, hoping that I would hear Charlie in the flesh — which happened at the Redwood Coast Music Festival.

I have evidence, which I treasured when it was happening, treasured through watching and re-watching, and treasure more now — video recordings from May 11 and 12, 2019.  I am reproducing the links in full, not my usual practice, in hopes that readers will stop what they are doing and dig in.

First, a groovy set with boogie, blues, and a lovely HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN:

https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/did-your-recent-blood-test-show-decreased-groove-levels-jazz-lives-is-here-to-help-redwood-coast-music-festival-may-12-2019/

https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2019/12/16/totally-groovy-carl-sonny-leyland-little-charlie-baty-marc-caparone-clint-baker-jeff-hamilton-dawn-lambeth-redwood-coast-music-festival-may-12-2019/

Then, Baty Plays Christian — rocking not only the room but the neighborhood:

https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/for-charlie-by-charlie-part-one-little-charlie-baty-jamey-cummins-jacob-zimmerman-marc-caparone-dan-walton-sam-rocha-jeff-hamilton-dawn-lambeth-redwood-coast-music-festival-may-11-2019/

https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2019/08/01/for-charlie-by-charlie-part-two-little-charlie-baty-jamey-cummins-jacob-zimmerman-marc-caparone-dan-walton-sam-rocha-jeff-hamilton-dawn-lambeth-redwood-coast-music-festival-may-11-2019/

A few thoughts.  Marc told me of Charlie playing I GOT RHYTHM for twenty-five choruses and making the crowd stand up and cheer.  I can believe it: Charlie would have been very happy at the Reno Club in Kansas City c. 1936.

Charlie could thrill a crowd, but virtuosity for its own sake wasn’t what he came for — flaming the fretboard, as a guitarist friend once called it.  He lived the music and he lived to share the feelings of songs with us.  So his playing was strongly melodic, even through the runs and blue notes, the sharp dynamics, the small dramas-in-swing, the shifting harmonies and variations on variations.  A Baty solo was like a short story: it proceeded logically from start to finish; you could analyze its architecture after the fact, although at the time you were swept along by invention and momentum.

He rocked, to put it simply.  And he knew it, so part of the pleasure was watching a master’s sweet assurance in his craft.

When I first saw him in person, my five-boroughs skepticism kicked in.  This was “Little Charlie“?  This broad-shouldered man, like me, might wear a suit from the Portly section (a good deal of real estate in front, around the belt buckle) which he carried without embarrassment: Here I am, and I don’t have a problem with myself.  If you do, find another damn place. 

His assurance wasn’t arrogance, but it was an easy, perhaps hard-won, self-knowledge, and I saw him as an experienced ship’s captain, later a tribal chieftain, as he told a few stories to us after the set.

When I introduced myself to him, he was gracious in an unfussy way and he made me feel comfortable.  Later, when I shared the ecstatic videos with him, he was splendidly grateful and gracious — in private and in public.  I saw him in person for perhaps three hours and exchanged a dozen sentences with him in person, and perhaps another handful of emails and Facebook call-and-responses.

So why do I feel so bereft, why is there a large space in the universe where Little Charlie Baty was, and now is not?

To me, both in his playing and in the way he carried himself — powerful yet sometimes understated — he radiated an authenticity, a disdain for posing, that will remain admirable to me.  One way to walk through the world; one way to make the air full of melody.

Goodbye, Charlie.  Swing out.  And thanks for your brief, blazing visit to my world.

May your happiness increase!

FREDERICK HODGES, HIMSELF, CHARMS US (Stomptime, April 27 – May 3, 2019)

Frederick Hodges, in a very serious moment

The singular pianist / singer / archivist / entertainer Frederick Hodges describes what he does as “Sophisticated and Jazzy Piano Stylings of the Great American Songbook,” and it is a reassuring example of truth in advertising.

I had not encountered him in person before last spring’s Stomptime cruise in the Eastern Caribbean, but he dazzled us all.  He is an elegant personage who likes to amuse as well as play music: there is nothing stuffy about him, and he has all the characteristics of a great entertainer, whether he is recounting a comic anecdote, whipping up and down the keyboard, singing in English (or occasionally in another tongue): he’s a complete show in himself.

His piano style is at once ornate and swinging — a window into 1936 pop music and jazz when they were comfortable bedfellows.  Those who don’t listen closely will hear only the ornamentation, impressive in itself: those who pay closer attention will hear a very precise artist who draws on varied inspirations for his own brightly shining result.  You can hear ragtime and stride and “cocktail piano” in his work — and the admiring shades of Fats Waller and Eubie Blake.  He also has listened closely to the duo-piano teams of the last century, and can make you believe there is another person on the piano bench.

Here, he makes KEEPIN’ OUT OF MISCHIEF NOW gleam:

With Steve Pikal, string bass, and Dick Maley, drums, he dances through LADY BE GOOD, a performance framed by characteristic puckishness:

another classic, PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:

Perhaps the most famous Gershwin tune, I GOT RHYTHM:

Some more Fats (in the daylight, hence the change of hue):

And a Eubie Blake extravaganza, properly titled:

Frederick also plays well with others: (Nate Ketner, reeds; Marc Caparone, trumpet; Clint Baker, trombone; Sam Rocha, string bass; Danny Coots, drums) on the TIN ROOF BLUES.  Slow-moving dancers (or are they ships docking?) impede our view of the band but the music comes through:

and the beloved ROYAL GARDEN BLUES by the same bunch:

He’s a singular musician, a remarkable personality.

May your happiness increase!

FOR CHARLIE, BY CHARLIE (PART TWO): LITTLE CHARLIE BATY, JAMEY CUMMINS, JACOB ZIMMERMAN, MARC CAPARONE, DAN WALTON, SAM ROCHA, JEFF HAMILTON, DAWN LAMBETH (Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 11, 2019)

From this distance, it feels as if Charlie Christian (July 29, 1916 – March 2, 1942) was an extra-terrestrial phenomenon, some entity that touched down so briefly on this planet, played a great deal of music — some of it, thank the Goddess, recorded — and then said he had to visit another neighborhood and we should study what he had given us.  Charlie feels more like a beam of light reflected through a spinning prism than an actual mortal, although we have stories of him at the back of the band bus, singing Lester Young solos.  And I suspect that what the doctors at the sanitarium on Staten Island, New York, wrote down as “tuberculosis” on his chart was an inter-galactic summons to another place that needed his particular blaze of joyous enlightenment.

He wasn’t the first to play jazz on the electric guitar (check out George Barnes, Eddie Durham, Floyd Smith, and others) but what he did was completely fresh then and remains so: the looping lines, the rhythmic attack both fierce and subtle, the harmonic suggestions, the incisive swing.  We celebrate him!

Charlie Christian as a member of Benny Goodman’s Orchestra, Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, September 1939. Thanks to Nick Rossi for the photograph.

This most recent celebration took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 11, 2019, and the brilliant players are Little Charlie Baty (right) and Jamey Cummins, guitars; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Sam Rocha, string bass; Dan Walton, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.  Here are the first four performances: FLYING HOME, ROSE ROOM, BENNY’S BUGLE, and STAR DUST.

And the second half, beginning with SEVEN COME ELEVEN:

Dawn Lambeth stops by to sing I’M CONFESSIN’:

and the splendid 1931 I SURRENDER, DEAR:

Something Middle Eastern that isn’t hummus? Perhaps THE SHEIK OF ARABY:

And the closing swing delight, WHOLLY CATS, which I always think should have an exclamation point at its close:

Incidentally, it’s easy to be distracted by the gleaming sounds of the “two guitar heroes,” Little Charlie and Jamey, but I would direct or re-direct your attention to that glorious rhythm section of Dan Walton, Sam Rocha, and Jeff Hamilton; the sweet song of Dawn Lambeth; the wonderful improvisations of Jacob Zimmerman and Marc Caparone, whose idea this set was.

Make plans to visit the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 7-10, 2020 — thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen and their wonderful musical friends.

And for more about Charlie, from a different angle, here is Mel Powell’s recollections of the young man.  And a memory of Benny Goodman as well.

May your happiness increase! 

FOR CHARLIE, BY CHARLIE (PART ONE): LITTLE CHARLIE BATY, JAMEY CUMMINS, JACOB ZIMMERMAN, MARC CAPARONE, DAN WALTON, SAM ROCHA, JEFF HAMILTON, DAWN LAMBETH (Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 11, 2019)

Charlie Christian didn’t have many birthdays on this planet, but yesterday would have been another one.  We celebrate him and his music, and with good reason.

Charlie Christian as a member of Benny Goodman’s Orchestra, Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, September 1939. Thanks to Nick Rossi for the photograph.

This celebration took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival on May 11, 2019, and the brilliant players are Little Charlie Baty (right) and Jamey Cummins, guitars; Jeff Hamilton, drums; Sam Rocha, string bass; Dan Walton, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.  Here are the first four performances.

FLYING HOME:

ROSE ROOM:

BENNY’S BUGLE:

STAR DUST:

More to come in Part Two.  And more to come from the Redwood Coast Music Festival, May 2020 — thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen and their wonderful musical friends.

And for more about Charlie, from a different angle, here is Mel Powell’s recollections of the young man.  And a memory of Benny Goodman as well.

May your happiness increase!