I am sitting in my suburban New York apartment awaiting a predicted blizzard, which means reacquainting myself with my essential inanimate pals, Ms. Down Parka and Mr. Snow Shovel. The thought fills me with dread and gloom.
But there are always palliatives, and what I offer you requires no prescription, no copay, no trip to the pharmacy. And it works just as well if the sun is blazing in through your windows.
Hot jazz — performed and recorded in this century — is the organic remedy offered here.
The thermodynamic healing practitioners are known both as the First Thursday Band and the Yeti Chasers: Ray Skjelbred, piano, vocal, leader; Steve Wright, cornet, clarinet, alto and soprano saxophones, vocal; Dave Brown, string bass, vocal; Mike Daugherty, drums, vocal. They created these sounds at the Royal Room in Seattle, Washington.
CARELESS LOVE is often performed as a dirge — a cautionary tale, “You see what careless love can do / has done?” but here it’s a swinging romp, with no weeping or moaning:
Another romp built on the threat of impending doom (thanks to Henry “Red” Allen for this and so many other inspirations), YOU’RE GONNA LOSE YOUR GAL. Watch out for that cymbal (Mike’s performance-art piece in tribute to Zutty Singleton, 1928)!
And another tribute to the Red Allen small-band recordings, ROLL ALONG, PRAIRIE MOON, which is the only song that can make me think of J. C. Higginbotham and Bob Hoskins at once. Steve Wright reminds us that this approach to the alto saxophone, so satisfying, did not utterly vanish in 1945:
Improvisers have always loved the subversive challenge of taking apparently inappropriate material (sweet love ballads) and making them swing. Here’s a fine example: the Yeti Chasers’ LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:
In honor of Mister Morton, who didn’t like snow either, the BLUE BLOOD BLUES:
Andy Razaf had it right — the world can’t do without THAT RHYTHM MAN (especially when he uplifts us at such a swinging tempo):
THE TORCH — evoking memories of Turk Murphy (commentary below*). It sounds as if it was written in 1885 to be performed in a barroom, which is emotionally although not factually correct:
Say the word. You’ll be heard. Ray’s always touching performance of ANY TIME, ANY DAY, ANYWHERE:
My favorite DIGA DIGA DOO, with a lovely leap into its second chorus before Ray’s Stacy ecstasy:
Finally, SKID ROAD BLUES, which I hope isn’t prophetic for future driving:
I don’t think this band needs a serious explication of its virtues, individual and collective. Don’t they sound fine? I feel better, and hope you do, too.
*Thanks to generous and erudite Bill Haesler, I now know everything worth knowing about THE TORCH:
“The song is called variously:
The Torch That Didn’t Go Out
The Kansas City Torch
The Torch of Kansas City
When You Carry The Torch
and was, allegedly, taught to Turk Murphy by Patsy Patton (cabaret
singer and wife of banjo player Pat Patton. We know him from when he
came to Sydney on the Matson Line ships). The first ‘jazz’ version was recorded by Turk Murphy for a Columbia LP on 19 Jan. 1953. The notes by George Avakian to that ‘Barrelhouse Jazz’ LP says that Turk came to it from the Castle Jazz Band (who recorded it later in Aug 1957) via Don Kinch and Bob Short, ex Castle band members).
It was composed (music and lyrics) in 1928 by the great Harry Warren
(we all know him) using the name Harry Herschel and originally
published by Robbins Music Corp.
WHEN YOU CARRY THE TORCH
[Verse]:When the gang has turned you down,
And you wander ’round the town,
Longing for someone in sympathy.
As you go from place to place,
Looking for some friendly face,
You can hear the old town clock strike three;
Then you wish you had your old gal back again.
You’re lonesome, oh, so lonesome,
And your poor hear cries in vain:
Oh, gee, but it’s tough,
When the gang’s gone home;
Out on the corner,
You stand alone;
You feel so blue
With nothing to do;
You’re cravin’ someone’s company.
The gang leaves you there
With an old time stall,
While you go home and gaze
At the four bare walls.
Ev’ry tear seems to scorch,
When you carry the torch
And the gang’s gone home.
When you haven’t got a friend,
And your worries never end,
When the future doesn’t look so bright.
As you sit there in the gloom
Of an empty silent room,
As the hallway clock ticks through the night,
Then you long to hear a knock upon your door.
You’re weary, oh, so dreary,
And your poor heart cries once more:
May your happiness increase!