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.