That’s Jeff Hamilton, piano; Clint Baker, cornet; Robert Young, bass saxophone, brought to us by rara avis Eric Whittington of Bird & Beckett Booksat
653 Chenery Street, San Francisco, California: (415) 586-3733, and captured on video by the indefatigable RaeAnn Berry of that same city.
Photograph by Angela Bennett
I needed to share CRAZY RHYTHM with you for Jeff’s splendidly playful introduction and what happens next:
Clint switches to clarinet for IF I HAD YOU:
and sings on a frolicsome I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY:
What musical evening would be complete without Alex Hill’s DELTA BOUND?
Bird and Beckett offers a variety of music, readings — a wise comfortable place. And books. Of course.
At this writing, RaeAnn has posted fifteen videos, found here. Her YouTube channel introduced me to the wonders of California hot almost a decade ago, so I value her continued work.
And to Clint, Jeff, Robert, and Eric: thanks for keeping the heat on. We need it.
In the dozen years I’ve lived here, my apartment has slowly morphed into a combination library / computer workshop / recording studio / and who knows what, based in the living room, with various effusions of CDs, books, external hard drives, cassettes, photographs — generally confined to the living room. To my left, cassettes from the late Seventies on; to my right, a four-speed phonograph with (as I write) a Jess Stacy Commodore 78 of RAMBLIN’ and COMPLAININ’ on the turntable, adjacent to a newer stereo system. Also on my left, long-playing records and hard drives; to my right, a wall of CDs.
There are rules: a new CD will migrate to the kitchen counter, but it knows it shouldn’t be there and it tends to hide and look abashed when discovered. The bathroom and bedroom are off limits to music-infestation. No, don’t ask for photographs.
But having JAZZ LIVES since February 2008 is like living inside a giant multi-sensory photograph album. Insubstantial in some ways, seriously substantial in others. I’ve posted nearly six thousand videos on YouTube, which means I’ve been a busy tech-primate. And some more videos haven’t been posted, so the bits of information are thick in this one-bedroom palace of sound and sight.
Photograph by Michael Steinman
Every so often I want to hear and see something that gave me pleasure several times: at the moment of experience and, later, in writing about it, posting it, and enjoying it. One that came to mind today was a performance I witnessed and savored in California at San Francisco’s The Lost Church, almost four years ago: Tamar Korn, Craig Ventresco, Jared Engel, Gordon Au, and Dennis Lichtman — mellowly celebrating the lunar power of love with SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON:
Awfully sweet, this speaks of a world where young people could ask the cosmos for help in romance and receive it. Life before phones.
I will indulge myself in this again, and I encourage you to do so also. When I take a day off from blogging, the search bar on front page will lead you to treats.
The somber-looking fellow here might not be known to you, but he is the most generous of excavators, finding rare jazz treasures and making them available for free to anyone with a computer and many free hours. His name isDave Radlauer, and his site is called JAZZ RHYTHM.
As is often the case in this century, Dave and I have never met in person, but know each other well through our shared fascinations. But first a word about JAZZ RHYTHM. When you go to the site’s home page, you’ll see a left-hand column with famous names from Louis Armstrong to Lester Young, as well as many lesser-known musicians. Click on one to hear a Radlauer radio presentation, with facts and music and anecdotage nicely stirred together. The long list of names testify to Dave’s wide-ranging interest in swinging jazz.
But here comes the beautiful part. Click on “Bagatelle jazz club,” for instance, and you will be taken back in time to a rare and beautiful place where delicious music was played. Possibly you might not know Dick Oxtot, Ted Butterman, Frank Goudie, Bill Bardin, Pete Allen well, but their music is captivating — and a window into a time and place most of us would not have encountered: clubs in and around San Francisco and Berkeley, California, in the Fifties and Sixties.
Dave has been an indefatigable researcher and archivist, and has had the opportunity to delve into the tape collections of musicians Bob Mielke, Wayne Jones, Earl Scheelar, Oxtot, and others. And the results are delightful sociology as well as musically: how else would I have learned about clubs called The Honeybucket or Burp Hollow? And there are mountains of rare photographs, newspaper clippings, even business cards.
When I visit Dave’s site, I always feel a mild pleasurable vertigo, as if I could tumble into his treasures and never emerge into daylight or the daily obligations that have to be honored (think: ablutions, laundry, bill paying, seeing other humans who know nothing of P.T. Stanton) but today I want to point JAZZ LIVES’ readers in several directions, where curiosity will be repaid with hours of life-enhancing music.
One is Dave’s rapidly-expanding tribute to cornet / piano genius Jim Goodwin — legendary as musician and singular individualist.
And this treasure box, brimful, is devoted to the musical life of Frank Chace— seen here as momentarily imprisoned by the band uniform.
On Dave’s site, you can learn more about Barbara Dane and Janis Joplin, James Dapogny and Don Ewell . . . all presented with the open-handed generosity of a man who wants everyone to hear the good sounds.
Dave has begun to issue some of these treasures on beautifully-annotated CDs, which are well worth your consideration.
I’m told that the music is also available digitally via iTunes, but here is the link to Amazon.com for those of us who treasure the physical CD, the photographs, and liner notes.
A postscript. Until the middle Eighties, my jazz education was seriously slanted towards the East Coast. But when the jazz scholar and sometime clarinetist John L. Fell befriended me, I began to hear wonderful musicians I’d known nothing of: Berkeley Rhythm, Goodwin, Skjelbred, Byron Berry, Vince Cattolica, and others. So if the names in this piece and on Dave’s site are new to you, be not afeared. They made wonderful music, and Dave is busily sharing it.
I just acquired the late Bert Whyatt’s bio-discography of Muggsy Spanier, THE LONESOME ROAD. Published by Jazzology Press in 1995, it feels fresh.
I read non-fiction books haphazardly, especially when I know the shape of the narrative, but for some reason I began this one at the beginning, where Bert wrote of his connection with Ruth, Muggsy’s widow, and her wholehearted cooperation in the book, which combines his research with her unpublished memoir.
I found this passage on page 7 and think it moving beyond simple explanation. (Note: in his last years, the Spaniers lived in Sausalito, California, a town the Beloved and I came to know):
One evening, we [Bert and his wife and Ruth] returned to Sausalito from San Francisco and Ruth asked us to pull the car off the road which runs down from the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.
“We often would stop here for a last cigarette after the Club Hangover had closed for the night,” she said. “It helped Muggsy to unwind and we would usually sit quietly, saying little. Sometimes he would seek reassurance that I loved him. ‘I feel so lonely and afraid,’ he would say. I would remind him of the affection felt for him worldwide, of all his friends who loved him and, of course, that I did too.”
She paused and then said, “If we ever get that book finished, we should call it ‘Muggsy Spanier: The Lonesome Road.'”
My first reaction to this little tale was astonishment, then sorrow. To think that a man so much at one with his art, after an evening of sharing joy through his music, could feel so desolate and frightened, was nearly shattering.
I then thought wryly that I had been wrong in assuming that playing hot cornet was armor against existential dread. . . . that a plunger mute could keep such essential anxiety at a distance.
But even as I felt sorrow and sympathy for Muggsy, I was flooded with pride and admiration. He was born in 1901, and it might be cliched to write that men of that generation were told it was unmanly to reveal their hearts with such openness, perhaps even to their wives. Being male required staunchness and emotional reserve. Oh, one could say “I love you!” to one’s Beloved, one could woo the person one wanted to be intimate with by using words like those, one could say it to children. But to say I NEED LOVE and I AM AFRAID was not something men were trained or encouraged to do. Candor like that might have seemed a confession of weakness.
But somehow Muggsy knew that his emotions were the magical element that made him able to play the blues, or the love song that he aimed directly at Ruth in their courtship, I’M CONFESSIN’. Love was at the center of his art. And such heartfelt candid utterance. And he found the courage to push aside his expected role and, in the darkness, speak his truths.
I celebrate Ruth also for creating an atmosphere where her husband could confess his inmost heart and receive reassurance and love, not dismissal or mockery. She must have understood her husband’s need as genuine and commendable. She didn’t say to him, “What is wrong with you, talking like that?”
Perhaps she knew that it takes a brave individual to openly say, “I am afraid,” an honest one to say, “I am lonely.”
Because of this anecdote, the man I admired as a jazz musician is now enhanced rather than diminished, a figure larger and more beautiful than an anxious man seeking reassurance. Muggsy Spanier, perhaps an unlikely figure, is the embodiment of our deep need for love — a hero of that exalted emotion. He seems to have known that without it, we wither.
His own road might have been lonesome, but I find his openness inspiring and brave.
Charles “Duff” Campbell — jazz aficionado and art dealer and close friend of the famous — was born on January 9, 1915. He died on October 3, 2014, peacefully, at his home in San Francisco. Even if he had never become friends with Jelly Roll Morton, Nat Cole, Mary Lou Williams, and many others, he would have been a remarkable man: a childhood in Vladivostok and Shanghai before he returned to California to stay.
Hereis an official obituary — but Duff led such a richly varied life this summary cannot begin to tell more than the smallest bit of his tale.
Through the good offices of his dear friend, cornetist Leon Oakley, I was invited to Duff’s house on the afternoon of April 16, 2014, and I brought my video camera. Duff’s memory was not perfect, and occasionally it took a few questions from Leon to start a story going, but we knew we were in the presence of a true Elder.
He recalled seeing the Ellington band in California in the late Thirties (“They were so damned good”) and hanging out with Mary Lou Williams when she took a solo piano job at a hotel. “I went to hear everybody,” he said. “Everybody” meant the Basie band on an early trip west; Louis and Jack Teagarden in the first All-Stars; Joe Sullivan, Earl Hines, Don Ewell, Darnell Howard, Muggsy Spanier. Duff remembered sitting near Sullivan at Doc Daugherty’s Club Hangover and Sullivan turning to him and saying, “Well, what would you like to hear?”
For me — a born hero-worshipper — Duff was the most real link with the past imaginable. He sat in a car with Jelly Roll Morton; he drove Art Tatum to and from the gig; he had listening parties with Nat Cole as a guest.
Before anyone turns to the video, a few caveats. Duff had lost his sight but could still get around his house without assistance, and he had some involuntary muscle movements — so the unsuspecting viewer might think he was terribly comfortable, but he wanted to talk about the days he recalled, and when the afternoon was over he was intent on having us come back soon for more. It was a warm day and he had dressed formally for his guests, so he was perspiring, but a gentleman didn’t strip down while company was there. Here are some excerpts from that long interview, with Leon asking Duff questions:
on his encounters with Jelly Roll Morton:
and with Nat King Cole:
a brush with the law:
memories of Art Tatum:
Everyone I’ve ever mentioned Duff to, before and after his passing, has had the same reaction. We knew and and know now we were in the presence of an Original: quirky, independent, someone who knew what was good and supported it no matter what the crowd liked. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I first met him at one of Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz afternoons at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach San Francisco. I saw an older gentleman sitting in front of the band, as close as he could get, a drink on the table. He was dancing in his chair, his body replicating every wave of the music. When I found out who he was and introduced myself (we had a dear mutual friend, Liadain O’Donovan) he was as enthusiastic in speech as he had been in dance. And I suspect that enthusiasm, that deep curiosity and energy, sustained him for nearly a century.
Goodbye, Duff. And thank you. It was an honor to be in your presence.
If creativity received appropriate recognition, guitarist and musical scholar Craig Ventresco would have received a MacArthur genius grant for his work in American vernacular musics by now.
He isn’t as well known as he should be, but the people who know him value him for his singular devotion to art that would otherwise be lost, forgotten, discarded.
Craig doesn’t simply dream of vanished worlds, nor does he simply amass evidence of them. He brings them to life, playing rags, blues, stomps, hymns, marches, tangos, a slow drag or two — the melodic and rhythmic life force of an America gone by. You might find Craig in some small San Francisco eatery or more ambitious restaurant, making his way through the lovely popular music of a hundred years ago — often to people who wouldn’t know Will Marion Cook from William H. Tyers — but when the listeners pay attention, they are moved by the “old music” that sounds so good. (Sometimes he is joined by singer / guitarist Meredith Axelrod, who operates on the same principles.)
Here, Craig plays his own variations on James P. Johnson’s OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:
And a ragtime slow drag (circa 1901-3) called PEACEFUL HENRY:
These selections were recorded at Cafe Divine (1600 Stockton Street, North Beach, San Framcisco) on July 30, 2014, and they only hint at what Craig offers us so consistently with so little fanfare.
Saturday, May 10, our friend Mal Sharpe took his band, Big Money in Jazz, to play in celebration of the grand re-opening of the North Beach Public Library at Columbus and Lombard in San Francisco. Not only was the library worth celebrating, but the renovation included a new rectangular asphalt playground with plantings around it, the Joe DiMaggio Playground.
The music was celebratory as well, with Mal on trombone and vocals; Leon Oakley, cornet; Jeff Sanford, clarinet and soprano saxophone; Bill De Kuiper, guitar; Paul Smith, string bass.
Mal loves North Beach, “You could be in Greece,” he said, gesturing at the long vista of bright sky and mountains off in the distance. Here are three performances from that afternoon, with cinema verite of picture-taking spectators looking to see where the music was coming from.
During SONG OF THE WANDERER, both a sight-seeing bus and a cable car pass by, behind the band. Jazz has that effect on the universe: everything coalesces all of a sudden.
ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, perfectly apt:
MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR:
SONG OF THE WANDERER (an excerpted version, for the outchorus had to compete with local clamor):
Mal and friends have a variety of regular gigs in the city: once a month at the Savoy Tivoli, weekly at Fior d’Italia, Original Joes, and at Tupelo. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and ask to be added to his weekly email announcements — whimsical, just like their creator.
A week ago, last Monday night, I was making the scene at Le Colonial SF (20 Cosmo Place, San Francisco) on the site of the famous Trader Vic’s.
Virtuoso guitarist Paul Mehling and friends usually play hot gypsy jazz — homage to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli — as the Hot Club of San Francisco. But Paul brought a new variation on swinging themes, The Ivory Club Boys, to Le Colonial on April 28, 2014.
The Ivory Club Boys evoke the jazz scene of the late Thirties on New York City’s fabled Swing Street (Fifty-Second Street) with a special emphasis on the hot music of violinist Stuff Smith.
Along with Paul, the ICB are Evan Price, electric violin; Clint Baker, trumpet AND trombone AND vocal; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar, vocal, and non-Boyishness; Sam Rocha, string bass, vocal.
OPENING BLUES (like the old days, and wonderful):
CARELESS LOVE (a blues Stuff Smith adored):
An assertively quick reinvention of SWEET AND LOVELY:
Le Colonial is a fine place to be on Mondays — to hear hot music; to dance to it; to watch the exuberantly acrobatic dancers; to eat Vietnamese food and drink all sorts of intriguing liquids. And now “20 Cosmo Place” is in my GPS, so I feel both secure and excited.
Photographer / jazz fan Jessica Levant has been enjoying her twin pleasures for years now — as she says, “idly” taking pictures of her jazz and blues heroes and heroines in the Bay Area (that’s the area in and around San Francisco, California). She’s now collected those photographs — no posing, all taken in performance — into a charming book, SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA JAZZ & BLUSICIANS.
The book is sweet testimony to the wide variety of musical styles and performers working in this area — women and men, youths and veterans, singers and instrumentalists, leaders and side-people. By offering these photographs in pure alphabetical order, Jessica has wisely avoided the question of categorizing or of valuing these musicians. I am pleased to see portraits and biographies of people I know and have heard: Clint Baker, Danny Brown, Waldo Carter, Mike Greensill, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Mehling, Si Perkoff, Rob Reich, Dave Ricketts, Mal Sharpe, John Wiitala . . . as well as people I know by reputation . . . and the larger group of people I look forward to hearing and meeting. Jessica’s color portraits are informal and lively; no stiff poses against a studio backdrop here, and her biographies combine material provided by the artist and her own perceptions.
It’s an entertaining book, and I predict it could start a social trend. Jazz and blues fans like (we’re all fans at heart) to go home with an autograph from our favorite musician, and I can see Bay Area fans competing with one another to collect ALL the autographs in this book. Better hurry: I’ve spotted Jessica at jazz clubs, busily photographing — I hear rumors of a second volume to come.
You can learn more about Jessica and her book here. And when you see a quietly enthusiastic woman with a camera (tactfully not getting in anyone’s way) I encourage you to approach her and ask, “Are you Jessica Levant? May I have your autograph?” I’m fairly sure she will oblige, graciously.
Thanks to Barb Hauser for making the connection, as she always does!
Recipe for happiness: a hot swinging band, a room full of expert swing dancers. Voila! Experience it in these performances by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Swing Band at Metronome in San Francisco on August 10, 2013. In the band: Clint (trumpet, clarinet, trombone, vocal); Robert Young (saxophone, clarinet, cornet, vocal); Jeff Hamilton (piano); Sam Rocha (string bass, vocal); Jason Vandeford (guitar, vocal); Steve Apple (drums). Absolutely. Positively!
SWEET SUE (or HIGH NOONE):
DELTA BOUND (sung to us by Mister Rocha):
I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:
JOE LOUIS STOMP:
AFTER YOU’VE GONE:
LADY BE GOOD:
THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:
IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE (a serenade by Mister Vandeford):
MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR with vocal refrain by Mister Rocha):
SHAKE THAT THING:
Didyou shake that thing? I hope so. If not, go back to the first video and remember your cultural responsibilities, please.
The Beloved and I made the scene at Le Colonial (20 Cosmo Place, San Francisco) on July 8 to hear some hot music. As an extra bonus, we saw much expert, energetic dancing.
The music was provided by a compact, inventive band — Le Jazz Hot for four (leader Paul Mehling was stuck in France for a spell): Clint Baker, guitar, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, vocal; Evan Price, violin, guitar; Robert Young, saxophones, vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass. They romped — musicians and dancers in sweet reciprocity! Here are a few songs from the first set.
Incidentally, the Hopperesque lighting of the scene is very unjust to violinist Evan Price, who is seated at one side of the group. But please don’t forget to pay attention to him — his playing, never sticky-sweet, always swinging — is delightful.
Before viewers embark on this jazz voyage, I should note that I was videoing from across the room, and the dancers — properly — were in motion. So the visual aspect of what follows may strike some as more surreal than usual, but I think these videos are lovely in a moving-sculpture way (the famous 1954 short film JAZZ DANCE came to mind).
Someone who is willing to get in the groove with us can delight in the interplay between the expertly moving dancers and the hot band. Viewing this at home, in the right frame of mind, one can sit back and be transported, as we were.
THREE LITTLE WORDS:
WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?:
MY BLUE HEAVEN:
What a delicious scene! Every Monday night this happens at Le Colonial, I hear tell — but Clint, Evan, Robert, Sam, and Paul bring the best vibrations with them wherever they play.
The very engaging singer Svetlana Shmulyian has come West — joined by the heroic swingers of the JC Hopkins Biggish Band for an appearance this Friday, July 12, at the enticingly-named MAKE OUT ROOM in the Mission District of San Francisco.
I’ve heard Svetlana at the Back Room Speakeasy in New York City, and I am very much looking forward to this appearance. She swings easily; she knows what the lyrics mean; her voice is a pleasure.
Tamar Korn was a remarkable singer, musician, and presence when I first heard her some six years ago.
She has continued to blossom, to explore, to experiment in the most joyously rewarding ways. She wants to embody each song, getting to the heart of its emotions, in words, notes, and gesture. In the words of my friend Davide Brillante, she is “an illuminated person.” And the musicians around her are clearly inspired by her perfectly pitched extravagances.
The Beloved and I were happily in the audience at a San Francisco venue we’d not encountered before — The Lost Church, 65 Capp Street — when Tamar and Friends took the stage on June 8, 2013. (It’s a fascinating place for music and theatre and more.)
The Friends (they deserve the capital letter) were Gordon Au, trumpet; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass — with a guest appearance from guitarist Dave Ricketts of GAUCHO later in the evening.
Here are the first four performances of a glorious dozen:
THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE:
SHINE ON, HARVEST MOON:
LONESOME AND SORRY:
THE SONG IS ENDED:
Deliciously memorable, playful music — performances both simple and deeply textured.
Thanks to Tamar and her / our Friends, to Brett Cline, Erma Kyriakos, Confetta and Anatol and Scott for their kindnesses and for increasing our joys.
One of the pleasures of this 2013 California summer has been discovering this intimate, swinging duo — Michael Groh (whom I knew and admired from GAUCHO) on guitar and vocal, and Ned Boynton (new to me) on guitar. Learn more about Nedhere. They played a lovely varied set at Amnesia in San Francisco on Sunday, June 2, offering the kind of relaxed, creative music that we always imagine musicians play when there’s a small audience of people on the same wavelength.
Here are three highlights:
BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES (or I THOUGHT I HEARD BUDDY BOLDEN SAY), containing useful information for dancers and lovers of fresh breezes:
A sweetly mobile reading of FOR ALL WE KNOW:
W.C. Handy’s ever-relevant lament about duplicity on all levels, LOVELESS LOVE:
Michael somewhat whimsically called this duo — a compact, intimate band — THE NEW EXCELSIOR RHYTHM BABIES, a spinoff from a larger unit. To get the full story, ask him on a set break.
Yesterday, your grateful / intrepid videographer took his new knapsack, camera, tripod, and microphone to a live jazz event, set up, and recorded. . . . after a month’s hiatus in the schedule.
The event was the Sunday afternoon gig of Mal Sharpe and the Big Money in Jazz Band — that entertaining group no longer at the No Name Bar in Sausalito, but now taking up a serious weekend residence (Saturday and Sunday, 3-6 PM) at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, 1434 Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California.
Mal’s colleagues were Leon Oakley, cornet; Jeff Sanford, reeds; Si Perkoff, keyboard; Paul Smith, string bass; Carmen Cansino, drums; guest Waldo Carter, trumpet on JOE LOUIS STOMP.
I chose two selections from the afternoon’s performances not only because they felt so fulfilling, but also because I had not captured either song on video for JAZZ LIVES. The first, a mixture of wistfulness and comedy (that’s the Mal Sharpe way!) is the song Billie Holiday and Lester Young made immortal in 1937 — FOOLIN’ MYSELF:
And the second, a walloping tribute to the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis (with a side-glance at Bill Coleman, having a good time in Paris) is JOE LOUIS STOMP:
I’m ready! — for the Jazz Bash by the Bay / Dixieland Monterey 2013 . . . Hope to see you there.
I’ve heard only a few broadcasts from the famed San Francisco jazz spot Club Hangover, but the address given by the radio announcer, “Bush Street above Powell,” stuck in my head so firmly that on the rare times I have been driving in that city — helplessly in thrall to my GPS — and either Bush or Powell has been nearby, I have looked around to see if, perhaps Joe Sullivan or Earl Hines can be seen in some shadowy incarnation. “Nothing beside remains,” to quote Shelley.
But not so fast. Dave Radlauer’s bounteous JAZZ RHYTHM website offers a good deal of music recorded and broadcast from the club –free, for anyone to hear. Here are the two cornucopia.
Dave explains, “These are 25 original complete unedited half-hour broadcasts from the premier nightspot for Dixieland and New Orleans music in San Francisco during the 1950s, Club Hangover. Some have been issued over the years on LP and CD, but many have not. Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Kid Ory, Muggsy Spanier, Ralph Sutton, and Jack Teagarden.”
There’s also CLUB HANGOVER Rarities — “Jazz Rhythm programs featuring exclusive highlights (just the cream) of rare broadcasts from San Francisco’s premier Dixieland Jazz club of the 1950s.”
Listen to both so you don’t miss a hot note. And be prepared to spend some happy hours at JAZZ RHYTHM — no carbs, no calories, but irresistible and addicting.
New York has so much to recommend it, but I miss Mal Sharpe’s jazz soirees in Sausalito, in Martinez, and at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach, San Francisco. Here are three pertinent pieces of evidence, recorded on August 25, 2012: Leon Oakley, cornet; Mal, trombone and spiritual guidance; Dwayne Ramsey, clarinet, soprano saxophone, vocal; Si Perkoff, keyboard; Paul Smith, string bass, Carmen Cansino, drums. And seated right in front of us was jazz legend / art legend Charles Campbell, having a good time — a model for us all!
A nice yearning AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’, its tempo true to the lyrics:
Mister Morton’s WOLVERINE BLUES:
Rarely do I post an incomplete performance — this one is cut short because of my miscalculation of battery strength — but Dwayne’s vocal on BLUE, TURNING GREY is so powerfully emotional that I couldn’t consign it to the unseen archives. Prepare yourself for incompleteness but also for great feeling:
The cheerfully flexible gypsy-jazz organization known as GAUCHO celebrated its tenth anniversary at Amnesia (853 Valencia Street, San Francisco: amnesia) on August 29, 2012. Traditionally a tenth anniversary is celebrated with gifts of tin or aluminum . . . I hope that the tip basket brimming with bills stood in successfully for “tin.” But the crowd at Amnesia gave GAUCHO and Tamar Korn an even better present — a warm reception.
And the videos that follow prove how deeply GAUCHO and Tamar were welcomed in San Francisco. Occasionally the warmth proved physically exuberant: I and my tripod and camera were in fairly constant danger of being treated like Dorothy Gale by some positively athletic dancing couples. But everyone survived.
For this celebration, GAUCHO consisted of leader – guitarist – composer Dave Ricketts and the eminent swing guitarist Michael Groh in tandem, with the vigorous reedman Ralph Carney, the wily Rob Reich on accordion and piano, the ingenious Ari Munkres on string bass.
They began the evening with an energized I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:
Then one of Dave’s compositions that has reached a larger audience through the cinema, DOUBLE BARREL:
BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA was anything but wistful Midwestern nostalgia:
Then Tamar joined them for the cautionary yet swinging COMES LOVE:
She followed with a romping DINAH:
And harking back to what I perceive as her roots, Berlin’s RUSSIAN LULLABY:
Finally, she offered two Ricketts (melody) – Korn (lyrics) collaborations:
This party also served to announce once again Gaucho’s new CD, PART-TIME SWEETHEART (all originals by Dave) with contributions from Leon Oakley, cornet; Clint Baker, various instruments; Georgia English, vocals; Vic Wong, guitar; Elizabeth Goodfellow, drums; Marty Eggers, tuba; Dave and Michael. Look for it wherever better music is sold — in this case, gauchojazz.
This little treat of a swinging performance comes from the recent appearance of singer Kally Price — with accordionist / pianist Rob Reich, string bassist Dan Fabricant, and percussionist Beth Goodfellow — at San Francisco’s congenial Red Poppy Art House (on Folsom Street) on June 17, 2012.
This quartet, with Kally blazing away, does a superb job of bringing back the 1937-8 Duke Ellington band, complete with vocal trio, to this century:
The only problem I have with this hymn to swing-dancing is that the lyrics strike me as especially self-deprecating. Can you imagine a past where Kally Price was — dare I say it — un-trucky? Or that she ever, ever had to improve her jive? Maybe it was some part of her distant past, but if her jive were improved I don’t think the Red Poppy would be standing as I write this.
See what you think. And try to keep still while watching and listening to this foursome tell us not only what swing is all about, but offer incontrovertible evidence that Swing is here to stay. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta cut back a figure / So, Gate, I’ll dig you / Later!
More rewarding than going to the mall in search of the nonexistent record store (now replaced by a kiosk selling baseball caps you can have embroidered with your name, perhaps?). More personal than bidding and clicking online, it’s my return to AMOEBA MUSIC in San Francisco!
It should say something about the impression this store (and its Berkeley branch) made on me this last summer that I can summon up “1855 Haight Street” without having to think about it. And the flimsy yellow plastic bag I brought back to my apartment has not been used for any ordinary purpose. Inside the store the view is awe-inspiring and not a little intimidating for those who (unlike me) collect broadly across the musical spectrum:
I knew where I was going and my path had only two main oases — leaving aside the cash register at the end. One delicious spot is sequestered in a corner: several bookshelves filled with albums of 10″ 78 rpm records. You’d have to be a collector of older music or someone of a certain age to be familiar with this display in its unaltered state. It still thrills me but it has the odd flavor of a museum exhibit — although I know of no museum where you can purchase the exhibits and take them home. See if this photograph doesn’t provoke some of the same emotions:
And what do these albums contain? I’ll skip over the dollar 1941-2 OKeh Count Basie discs, the odd Dave Brubeck 78, the remarkable Mercer Records PERDIDO by Oscar Pettiford on cello, the Artie Shaw Bluebirds . . . for a few that struck particular chords with me:
That one’s to inspire my pal Ricky Riccardi on to his next book!
One of the finest front lines imaginable — a pairing that only happened once.
The right Stuff . . . for Anthony Barnett.
Milt Gabler made good records!
In honor of Maggie Condon, Stan and Stephen Hester . . . and I didn’t arrange the records for this shot. When was the last time you entered a record store with its own Eddie Condon section?
It would have been disrespectful to confine myself to taking pictures and not buying anything (also, enterprises like this need some support to stay in business), so I did my part.
The reverse of a Johnny Guarnieri tribute to Fats Waller, autographed to “Ed,” whom I assume played a little piano.
The NOB HILL GANG might look like another San Francisco “Dixieland” band, but any group with Ernie Figueroa on trumpet and Vince Cattolica on clarinet demands serious consideration.
But wait! There’s more!
A Roy Eldridge collection on Phontastic (source: Jerry Valburn) of Gene Krupa 1941-2 airshots plus the 1940 Fred Rich date with Benny Carter;
ONE WORLD JAZZ — a 1959 Columbia stereo attempt at internationalism through overdubbing, featuring a home unit of Americans: Clark Terry, Ben Webster, J. J. Johnson, Hank Jones, Kenny Burrell, George Duvivier, and Jo Jones — with overdubbed contributions from Bob Garcia, Martial Solal, Stephane Grappelly, Ake Persson, Roger Guerin, Roy East, Ronnie Ross, and George Chisholm;
Marty Grosz and his Honoris Causa Jazz Band on Ristic / Collector’s Items — featuring unissued material and rehearsals from the HOORAY FOR BIX! sessions — featuring Frank Chace;
a double-CD set on the Retrieval label of the Rhythmic Eight, in honor of Mauro Porro, whose set at the 2011 Whitley Bay paying homage to this band was memorable;
a Leo Watson compilation CD on Indigo — just because I couldn’t leave it there;
the Billy Strayhorn LUSH LIFE compilation on Doctor Jazz, with a fine small group whose horns are Clark Terry and Bob Wilber.
The end result at the cash register? Forty-three dollars and some cents. Worth a trip from just about anywhere.
Monday nights are usually low-key if not anxious: the week looms. Perhaps we should bring lunch to work? But Le Jazz Hot has created a scene for musicians, listeners, and swing dancers at Le Colonial (which, I’m told, used to be Trader Vic’s), every Monday night from 7-10 PM.
I took my camera there on Monday, August 8, and captured these three performances by Paul Mehling, guitar, vocal, and leader; Sam Rocha, Isabelle Fontaine, guitars; Jeff Sandford, reeds; Clint Baker, bass. And a variety of swing dancers, most expert, with our friend Leslie Harlib twirling and dipping at the bottom right of my frame.
Paul began with his own version of wild-eyed Harry “the Hipster” Gibson’s Forties drug-hallucination-fantasy, STOP THAT DANCING UP THERE:
Nothing could follow that except a peaceful song — pastoral rather than hallucinogenic — so here’s Carmichael’s SKYLARK:
And in another mood, the 1920 warning, beloved of Sophie Tucker and jazz bands alike, SOME OF THESE DAYS:
Make the scene at Le Colonial some Monday — it’s at 20 Cosmo Place in San Francisco; it has a very intriguing Vietnamese menu. No cover, no minimum, nice acoustics. To quote Slim Gaillard, “Very mellow. Very groovy.”
My West Coast role model Rae Ann Berry was on the move again in the beginning of May 2011 and she captured this hot afternoon session at Pier 23 in San Francisco.
It’s a splendid cross-generational encounter, the kind of music that results when experienced jazz players who know the common language and history get together and have their say, individually and collectively.
The bow-tied gent in front is cornetist Jim Cullum; well behind him in the shades is Leon Oakley, also on cornet; to their left is clarinet hero Bill Carter; Marty Eggers (often on bass) is stompin’ ’em down at the piano, J. Hansen doing the same at his drum kit. Although my attention is usually focused on the cornetists, Hansen is solid, his sounds colorful; Marty is often thinking about Morton, and Bill Carter sounds exactly like himself — perfectly surprising, heartfelt, witty, brave.
Although Rae Ann recorded fifteen performances, I’ve chosen three I like very much as homages to Louis.
The first comes from the time when Louis was just up from New Orleans, “Little Louis,” although he was hardly slender, playing alongside his musical father, King Joe Oliver, in the Creole Jazz Band: RIVERSIDE BLUES:
And something from the Clarence Williams period (the Red Onion Jazz Babies), a hot CAKEWALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME where one of the gentlemen of the ensemble, obviously inspired, bursts into song to tell us all about those champions:
Here’s the closing selection of the Louis-evocation, what I think of as the National Anthem of our music, two cornets entwining on WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH:
To see the dozen other performances that the diligent Ms. Berry has captured for us and for posterity, visit her YouTube channel:
It’s moments like these that make a man think of pulling up his New York roots and moving — with the Beloved, CDs, turntable, computers, and tea strainer — to California. Could one of my readers find me an income that will run for the next ten years so that this might be accomplished?