Tag Archives: SFRaeAnn

PAINTED LIPS, PAINTED EYES

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

One more from this delicious band — Ray Skjelbred and his Cubs — on their 2015 West Coast Tour.  I posted a life-affirming (no, life-improving) selection from their July 9, 2015 concert at the Rossmoor Jazz Club here, and you could do worse than watch it again.

This delight  — again thanks to SFRaeAnn  (who is known to the law as Rae Ann Hopkins Berry) — comes from the very next night, when Ray and his Cubs performed at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, California. For those who haven’t kept up, the band is Ray Skjelbred, piano / vocal; Kim Cusack, clarinet / vocal; Katie Cavera, guitar / vocal; Clint Baker, string bass / vocal; Jeff Hamilton, drums.

(About Cafe Borrone, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, were I there, I would be there.)

I pointed out in my previous post how much I enjoy Kim Cusack’s singing. Perhaps to the uninitiated, he sounds a little like a character in a good Warner Brothers film circa 1933, his phrases clipped, his delivery conversational (a useful corrective to so many singers orally swooning over their own long vowel movements).  But listen closely to how he lingers over a note here and a note there, how he swings, how he delivers the goods.

I belong to a small select group of people who not only delight in Kim’s singing, but who treasure his elongation of certain sounds, especially in this case — at the end of the chorus, what he often does to NOW, stretching it out so that it reminds me of the annoyed comment of a Siamese cat whose imperial will is being disregarded.  On this July 10 performance, it’s a little less cheerfully caustic than usual, but perhaps this was the last tune before a break and everyone was thinking of dinner.

I also adore — and I will stop shortly — his final hand gesture, amused yet charming: “Ladies, don’t rush the band.  Don’t knock me off my stool.  Form a single line and don’t push.  Thank you, my people!”

AND THE BAND ITSELF.  Swing made lucent and portable — the music stand on Ray’s keyboard was not the only thing rocking, I know.  The ripe-peach rhythm wave of Clint and Katie, and the beautifully melodic waves of sound that Jeff creates.

If you’re not smiling, I urge you — as a healing practitioner — to play the video again until it has its proper palliative effect.

May your happiness increase!

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“THIS BAND PLAYS WITH A PASSION”: RAY SKJELBRED and HIS CUBS (Feb. 10, 2012

Many jazz bands — hoping to please their audiences — specialize in Fast and Loud.  The team of F&L has their place, for sure, but they grow wearisome quickly.

A band that shows what can be done within the infinite variety of “medium tempo” and with remarkable dynamics is one led by pianist / singer / composer Ray Skjelbred — his CUBS.  For this occasion, the Cubs are Kim Cusack, clarinet; Katie Cavera, guitar; Clint Baker, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

Sweet, soft, plenty rhythm!

And it seems to me that everyone in this band grows more lyrical each time I hear them — in solos and in their cohesive ensemble playing.

A lovely Thirties song immortalized by Billie, Lester, Teddy, Buck, and the Basie rhythm section without the Count, A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT:

Memories of Ethel Waters and Jack Teagarden in I JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT, BABY — sung casually and with heart by Hal Smith:

Paul Dresser’s MY GAL SAL, with a conversational vocal chorus by Mr. Skjelbred (this performance is the source of my title):

BLUES FOR SIR CHARLES — that’s the still-active (at 93) swing master Sir Charles Thompson; in this performance the Cubs evoke the lovely glide that Charles and friends created on the Buck Clayton Jam Sessions:

Thanks to the peripatetic Rae Ann Berry for recording these videos for us, and the Fresno Dixieland Society for creating their “Sounds of Mardi Gras,” presented Feb. 9-12 in Fresno, California.  If you visit Rae Ann’s YouTube channel, SFRaeAnn,  you’ll see many more performances by the Cubs, by the Grand Dominion Jazz Band, and the Climax Jazz Band — beautifully captured for your listening and dancing pleasure.

Tasty!

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Three): GRAND DOMINION JAZZ BAND at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

More wonderful music from the 2011 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Festival, proving that gratitude is a year-round phenomenon.

Here are eight gratifying performances by the Grand Dominion Jazz Band, recorded on November 24-25, 2011, and made available for JAZZ LIVES through the generosity of Rae Ann Berry, whose handiwork can be seen in two places (if you don’t encounter her at a concert, gig, or jazz party): her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

Grand Dominion is led by pianist Bob Pelland, and features our friend Clint Baker — the wonderfully fulfilling multi-instrumentalist — here on trumpet, with Jeff Hamilton on drums giving the band just the right kind of relaxed drive from his kit.  The other worthies are Mike Fay, string bass; Jim Armstrong, trombone and vocals; Gerry Green, reeds; Bill Dixon, banjo.

ALL THE GIRLS GO CRAZY ‘BOUT THE WAY I WALK had a less genteel title in its first incarnation, but this will do:

Still down in New Orleans, here’s the GRAVIER STREET BLUES, with Clint in a fine Mutt Carey mood:

ST. PHILIP STREET BREAKDOWN — recalling George Lewis — features Gerry Green and the rhythm section:

PANAMA (not “PANAMA RAG”) by William H. Tyers, gets a fine rocking treatment here, all of its strains treated respectfully and with heat:

WILD MAN BLUES reminds me of Red Allen’s 1957 version in its steady intensity — and that’s the highest compliment I can pay:

The New Orleanians — wherever they found themselves on the planet — liked to offer swinging versions of “pop tunes” for dancing, and INTO EACH LIFE SOME RAIN MUST FALL lends itself delightfully to this treatment, with fine solos after the sweet vocal:

Recalling the 1940 Decca session that paired Louis and Bechet, here’s a gutty PERDIDO STREET BLUES, with beautiful drumming from Jeff:

Asking the perennially nagging question, DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (and the answer is “Of course we do!):

Thanks to Paul Daspit and these glorious musicians.  More to come!

GRATITUDE IN 4/4 (Part Four): THE YERBA BUENA STOMPERS at the 2011 SAN DIEGO THANKSGIVING DIXIELAND JAZZ FESTIVAL (thanks to Rae Ann Berry)

Good for stompin’, to quote Oran Page.  Here’s some truly heartfelt hot jazz from the 2011 San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival — thanks to Paul Daspit, who brought these glorious musicians together and made sure everyone on and off the stand was beaming, and more of the same to our own “SFRaeAnn,” Rae Ann Berry, whose devotion to the music sends it around the world in the very best ways: her up-to-date list of hot jazz gigs in the area on www.sfraeann.com and her YouTube channel here.

The Yerba Buena Stompers, led by banjoist / singer John Gill, improve the air whenever they play.  In this incarnation, recorded on November 24 and 25, 2011, in two sets, the YBS took its repertoire in part from the songs that Alan Adams — the late trombonist and San Diego festival director — loved to play.  Alan had good taste, and this is the way to be remembered!

In addition to Mister Gill, the band sported Kevin Dorn, drums; Conal Fowkes, piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet, and the brass superheroes Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger on cornet and trumpet, respectively.

Here’s MUSK(R)AT RAMBLE, played at the nice tempo it began its life at:

And that rocking lament, SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, explicated by Duke:

Another GAL, who stayed where she was, was Paul Dresser’s loyal MY GAL SAL:

A brisk exploration of WABASH BLUES:

One of the great early hit songs of the last century, ROSES OF PICARDY (again taken at such a sweet tempo — balancing Hot and Sentimental perfectly). The trumpet conversation after Orange’s solo is priceless:

Something for Johnny Dodds — circa 1926, Chicago — FLAT FOOT:

A less-known invitation to the dance from the Hot Five repertoire, with an inviting vocal by John — and dig the trumpet / cornet sound on the verse, and their colloquy after the vocal:

Finally, an evocation of Louis and Papa Joe, RIVERSIDE BLUES:

Come on and Stomp!

HOT JAZZ IN THE WINE COUNTRY: TED SHAFER’S JELLY ROLL JAZZ BAND (Jan. 8, 2012)

There might be better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than in the company of a hot band playing King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton, but so far science has not found it.  Think of the raised dopamine levels!

Rae Ann Berry, the guiding light for traditional jazz in the San Francisco Bay Area, brought me to the monthly meeting of the Napa Valley Dixieland Jazz Society — where the guest band was Ted Shafer’s Jelly Roll Jazz Band.

You can find out more about the NVDJS here.  Their regular sessions take place at the Embassy Suites, 1075 California Blvd., in Napa, on the second Sunday of the month from 1-5 PM.

The band was Ted and Ken Keeler, banjo; Leon Oakley and Rick Holzgrafe on cornet and trumpet; Glenn Calkins, trombone; Pete Main, clarinet; Virgina Tichenor, piano; Jim O’Briant, tuba; Burt Thompson, drums.

And here’s some of the music they played:

SNAKE RAG:

CAMP MEETING BLUES:

TIGER RAG:

MILENBURG JOYS:

WORKING MAN’S BLUES:

To learn more about what’s happening in the Bay Area jazz scene, visit Rae Ann’s site for an up-to-date listing, here — and check out her YouTube videos — well over two thousand at last count — www.youtube.com/sfraeann

HOT STRINGS AT MONTEREY (Dixieland Monterey 2011: The Final Set)

I know it’s subjective, but I find some instruments intrinsically more pleasing than others.  I am slightly ashamed that when someone asked, “Are you going to hear the four-banjo set at the Wharf Theatre?” the words “four” and “banjos” in such proximity made me a little nervous.

But then I got more information.  “It should be good, Michael.  The four banjos will be played by Clint Baker, Katie Cavera, Paul Mehling, and John Reynolds.  Marc Caparone will play bass, and Ralf Reynolds will swing out on the washboard and blow his whistle whenever he hears a musical ‘Foul!'”

I headed north to the Wharf with expectations that it would be, well, not bad.  I could endure four banjos . . .

The music I heard not only lifted me out of my seat but is a rebuke to my inherent jazz snobbery.  This set swung as hard as anything I’ve ever heard live, and you will see that I ain’t jiving.

And since I am still grappling with a wicked cold as I write this post, I think of Aimee Gauvin’s words (when he put on his white coat and became Dr. Jazz): GOOD FOR WHAT AILS YOU!

For once, I will present with a minimum of comment.  If this music needs explanation (and the onstage speakers are wonderfully, hilariously articulate), you need more than Sudafed.

Politically incorrect intro, please?  CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN:

Something for Louis!  SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:

John explains that shiny thing!  DIGA DIGA DOO:

Clint warns us — SOME OF THESE DAYS:

Did you know the secret rules of banjo culture?  Now you do.  And Katie (Baby Face) explains it all, in the key of Ab.  I wanted so badly to sing along but didn’t want my voice to overwhelm the video, so you are encouraged to sing loudly at home:

Something pretty — the 1931 DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME:

Paul reinforces the banjo’s international theme with DARK EYES:

Once Katie explains the great gender-divide, we can head into what I think is a highlight of my life in 2011.  If you watch only clip in this posting (perhaps being banjo-timid) please watch this one. Surprises abound!  Watch out for flying cornets on CHARLEY, MY BOY:

Something hinting at Claude Hopkins and Fletcher Henderson c. 1932-33, HONEYSUCKLE ROSE.  Identify the quotations and win the prize:

Since these folks love their home state, what would be a better closer than CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME with a cornet interlude:

My pal Ricky Riccardi says he wants to see the Reynolds Brothers on Mount Rushmore — a fine sentiment.  But I am a man of more modest dreams.  I’d like to hear the Reynolds Brothers’ music being played on jazz / vintage pop radio shows — do any of my readers have a radio program?  Get in touch with me!

I’d like to see the Brothers appearing at jazz festivals outside of their home state.  California will just have to stop being selfish and allow the boys to travel.  We’ll change that restrictive law.  What, New York doesn’t need ferocious, hilarious swing?  England?  Really!

These are the last of the videos I took at Monterey — a mere ninety or so.  I am very proud of what I captured and have shared, and am only sad that I didn’t take more . . . But Rae Ann Berry (that’s SFRaeAnn to YouTube) has posted videos of a session or two that I didn’t catch, so head on over to YouTube to see more.

I know it is a bad idea to rush time away — with every day a wrapped box full of surprises! — but I can’t wait for the 2012 Jazz Bash By The Bay.  Thanks to all of the musicians for lifting the stage up and up and up; thanks to Sue Kroninger for creating a wonderful world for all of us to float in for that weekend.

I will close with a very personal note.

At the end of the set, Clint — who has a heart as big as the Bay Area — asked all the musicians to sign his banjo head.  I watched from a distance, not wanting to intrude.  How sweet!  His way of saying, “I never want to forget this moment, and we are all brothers and sisters.”  Then he asked me to sign it also.

I have never been so honored in my life.

I’ve won awards.  I’ve had my books reviewed in the New York Times.  But to be handed a Sharpie and encouraged to sign was something I wouldn’t have had the temerity to dream of.  I wrote only three words, “With deep love,” but that was what I felt and feel.  No one is going to ask me to sit in by playing, and that’s a good thing for the jazz cosmos, but I’ve been embraced by the people I love and admire.

WOW! to quote the Sage, Eddie Erickson.

FIFTY-SECOND STREET WEST (Cafe Borrone, Oct. 15, 2010)

Because of the wonderful photographs that Charles Peterson and others took, some of my readers will be able to visualize the bandstand at Jimmy Ryan’s sixty-five years ago — crowded with hot musicians jamming on, say, BUGLE CALL RAG, with every luminary in New York City eagerly improvising at the peak of their powers.

Now imagine that scene with additions.  A wondrous singer — let’s say Connee Boswell, Lee Wiley, or Mildred Bailey is joining in for a few numbers. 

And, if your imagination can hold this, Django Reinhardt and some members of his group are also there, off to the side, having a fine time.  Bob Wills is coming through the door, too. 

Did this happen?  If it did — in New York City, circa 1945 — it hasn’t been documented.  But something very much like it happened last Friday, October 15, 2010, in Cafe Borrone, which sits happily in Menlo Park, California.

Cafe Borrone has — through the generosity and prescience of its owner, Roy Borrone — having Clint Baker’s All-Stars as its Friday night jazz band.  For twenty years of Fridays, mind you.  And the 15th was a twentieth-anniversary party.

And “SFRaeAnn,” who is Rae Ann Berry on her driver’s license, was there to record this occasion.  Clint’s regulars were in attendance, but so were some instrumentally-minded friends.  As was the eloquently hot Gypsy-tinged small group Gaucho, and New York’s own wonder, Tamar Korn.  The musicians (collectively) are Clint Baker, playing everything expertly; Robert Young, saxophone; Leon Oakley, cornet; Katie Cavera, banjo, guitar; Tom Wilson, trombone; Jim Klippert, trombone; Dave Ricketts, guitar; Rob Reich, accordion; Mike Groh, guitar; Ari Munkres, bass, J. Hansen, drums, Riley Baker, drums.

A word about GAUCHO — a group I’ve seen in San Francisco (and I’ve also listened happily to their recordings): many “Gypsy swing” groups that loosely resemble this one specialize in superhero-speedy readings of the Reinhart-Grappelly repertoire.  In such cases, I agree with my friend Anthony Barnett when he proposes a moratorium on such endeavors.  In my case, all I want is not to be pummelled with notes.  But GAUCHO is superbly different.  The overall affect is superficially of music you’d hear on the porch or in the living room, but that feeling is undercut by the instant awareness that no amateur musicians ever, ever sounded this good.  Its two guitarists play and swap roles with grace and a stylish casualness.  Rob Reich makes the accordion an instrument I would happily listen to, as he spins out wandering lines (I was traumatized by an accordion as a child.)  And Ari Munkeres brings together Pops Foster and Paul Chambers very adeptly.  The overall feeling brings together Teddy Bunn and Western swing and a whole host of refreshing improvisations on various subtle, profound models.   

Here’s part of a delightful EXACTLY LIKE YOU, where Tamar and Leon converse:

And a full-fledged YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY — where Tamar’s eyes and facial expressions reveal a great comic actress, singing the twisty lyrics at a rapid clip.  (Not only that: she sings the verse twice!)  This performance becomes a series of witty conversations and overlapping monologues, most fetchingly: 

How about SOME OF THESE DAYS, with an incredible outchorus where instruments and Tamar (the Mills Sister) blend so exuberantly:

Here’s a  delicate, unaffected I’M CONFESSIN’ — a performance where Ari’s arco bass, Leon’s Ziggy Elman – Harry James emoting, Robert’s sweet alto, and more theoretically disparate elements come together to create something terribly moving:

The simplistic philosophy of WHEN YOU’RE SMILING remains true — complain too much and even the dog walks out of the room — but what catches my eye in the first minute of this performance is that an audience member has asked Tamar to dance (unless I am missing the essential subtext).  At what other site do band members dance with the audience?  I ask you!  And don’t miss the vocal duet between Tamar and Jim Klippert, a man who is having just too much fun to keep it to himself:

Tamar sat out PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE (perhaps the jitterbugging had worn her out for the moment?) and Clint took the vocal, with solos from everyone: 

And the evening ended with a romp nothing short of ecstatic on BILL BAILEY (or, as Joe Wilder calls it, THE RETURN OF WILLIAM BAILEY), which should have you grinning for days:

I’m thrilled that this music was created and that the apparently tireless Rae Ann Berry saved it for us and for posterity.  Bless Roy Borrone, all the musicians, and our own devoted videographer, too.

P.S.  And I have it from good authority that GAUCHO’s new CD has Miss Korn and Mister Oakley in attendance — with some songs that Tamar has written lyrics for.  I check the mailbox every day . . . and will let you know when it arrives!