Tag Archives: Shannon Barnett

“RAGSTRETCH” IS GOOD FOR YOU

Sometimes you know how good a band is in the first two choruses.  That happened to me with RAGSTRETCH, whose debut CD I am reviewing belatedly. True, I knew two members of the band through hearing them several times in New York City: trombonist / singer Shannon Barnett and trumpeter / singer Bjorn Ingelstam, so I was already eager to hear the CD.  But I was unprepared for just how hot and expert this Australian – Scandinavian jazz hybrid is.

By the way, you can skip my encomia and go directly here, which is the band’s website.  Here you can sample the sounds and buy the CD.

The other 4/6 of this sextet: Chris Tanner, clarinet / vocals; Craig Fermanis, guitar; Sam Anning, string bass; Rajiv Jayaweera, drums.

The repertoire is familiar but the treatment is energized: DANS LA RUE D’ANTIBES / WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM / JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE / ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS / MY MONDAY DATE / JAZZ ME BLUES / FOOLIN’ MYSELF / WHY DON’T YOU GO DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS / ROCKIN’ CHAIR / PANAMA / SWEET LORRAINE / I’LL BE YOUR BABY TONIGHT.

“Energized” in this case doesn’t mean loud or fast, although Ragstretch is capable of playing romping tempos without rushing or dragging: it means that they are expert at conveying enthusiasm — musically, without jokes.  It also means that they have, individually and as a group, heard a wide variety of jazz and pop, and they bring their awareness to the repertoire.  It doesn’t mean that the solo work in JAZZ ME BLUES (for one example) sounds like Blue Note sixties hard bop, but it also means that this band knows that the music continued even after the death of Bunk Johnson.  There’s a joyous playfulness and charging rhythm that many other better-known bands could learn from.

Here’s a sample:

and

Sam Anning’s cover sketch — “Jelly Roll Morton and his Red Hot Trousers” — sums up so much about this band: cheerfully in love with the music but just slightly subversive.  And completely satisfying.

I have no license to practice medicine, but I prescribe RAGSTRETCH and their CD as a proven mood-enhancer . . . without side effects.  It made me feel better. What more could anyone say?

May your happiness increase!

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NOBLY DONE! (THE SECOND NOBILIS NIGHT, FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016)

Nobilis logo

What does that lovely calligraphic logo have to do with jazz or JAZZ LIVES?

Easy.  Let’s start with someone I admire, the fine musician Emily AsherIf you’ve been paying attention to the scene for the last ten years, you’ve heard and seen Emily — an inventive trombonist, a winning singer, a delightful composer, arranger, and leader of fine appealing ensembles — on her own, with her Garden Party, her Endangered Species Trio, with Wycliffe Gordon, with Shannon  Barnett, as a charter member of Mighty Aphrodite, around New York and the Pacific Northwest . . . wherever good music can be found.  I’ve featured her on this blog (visit the handy search bar when you have an hour or so).

But Emily is more than a fine, consistently inspiring musician.  Early in her career, she was leading groups — sometimes an unrewarding experience — and from that, she learned a great deal . . . practical knowledge about how to survive in that thing called “the music business,” where dealing with clubowners, getting gigs, maintaining good relations with other musicians, being paid fairly — all the things that audiences don’t see when the band takes the stage.  Emily has a big heart as well as a big range, so rather than jealously keep her wisdom to herself, she founded the Nobilis Music Group with the idea of helping other musicians and groups avoid pitfalls and — dare we say it — happily make a living.

She was not content to print up business cards, rent office space, and sit at a desk behind a sign reading Sole Proprietor. That’s not her style.  (Emily runs marathons.)

Last month, on April 2, Nobilis held its first evening — six bands showed what they could do (and more) to an intent and amazed audience. Here is the YouTube playlist of the musicians who performed that night.  Although some might call Emily’s usual music a cross between Old Time Modern and New Lyrical (she writes and sings songs that are reminiscent of her idol Hoagy Carmichael) the range of music under the Nobilis banner is astonishing, from 1926 Hot to twenty-first century Modern to surrealistic rock-opera.  All of it genuine, original, lively.

Nobilis May 13 banner

The second Nobilis evening (as depicted above) will feature Marshall Gilkes, Eric Doob, and Matt Clohesy; Michele Zayla; Nadje Noorhuis and James Shipp. All of this will happen on Friday, May 13, from 7-11 PM.  (Twenty dollars for four hours of music is a deep bargain, as jazz listeners know.)  This energized creativity will take place at Club Bonafide, 212 E 52nd Street, Third Floor, New York, New York 10022.  And you can learn more here.

Here is the Facebook event page, and here is the link to purchase tickets (inexpensive ones for a night of music) online.

I urge you to drop by (Club Bonafide is very inviting — cozy, too — not for the usual platitudes.  “For the good of the music.”  “To keep live jazz alive.”  “To support a worthy venture.”  Those are all true, but I know, from the first Nobilis evening, that you won’t yawn, scowl, feel bored, or feel the need to check your phone.  Rare experiences in this time and place.  The press release describes the three bands as “sonically luscious.”  If that isn’t an inducement to show up, look at yourself closely in the mirror next time you pass by and ask, “Who is that person?”

May your happiness increase!

WELCOME, HETTY KATE!

Hetty Kate and Gordon Webster

Hetty Kate and Gordon Webster

I am delighted to introduce the fine singer Hetty Kate. To those who already know her, let this be a repeat embrace and celebration.  Hetty does all the right things, without straining or undue drama.  Her voice is clear and penetrating; her diction beautiful without being “learned” (she has a conversational ease); she swings; she subtly but affectingly improvises; she understand the lyrics; she embellishes and ornaments but never obliterates the melody. She respects the great singers of the past and present but never climbs in to the tomb and closes the door.

I delight in the two new CDs she has presented to us, in her sweet light-hearted approach.  When she decides to snap out a lyric, the results are explosively good (hear her FROST ON THE MOON).  She sounds as if she is merely singing the song, but we know that such casualness is true art.

Hetty is international in the best way: based in Melbourne, Australia, she recorded one CD on a New York City trip — enjoying the company of fine local musicians including Gordon Webster, piano; Dan Levinson, reeds; Mike Davis, trumpet, Cassidy Holden, guitar (now of New Orleans, but I knew him first as a string bassist with the Cangelosi Cards), Kevin Congleton, drums; Rob Adkins, string bass; Joseph Wiggan, tap dancing (wonderfully on Shoo Fly Pie); Adrien Chevalier, violin (Besame Mucho); Adam Brisbin, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; and a quartet of additional horns on the final track to make a rocking big band, Nadje Noordhuis, Jay Rattman, Michael Webster, Mike Fahie.  The truly international trombonist Shannon Barnett (Australia / New York / Germany) also pays a call.  The result is irresistible, one of those CDs I wanted to play again right away as soon as it ended.

The CD is called GORDON WEBSTER MEETS HETTY KATE, and the equality of the title is mirrored in the music, with a nice balance between singer and band.  The soloists tell us stories; Gordon’s wonderfully off-center piano is always a deep pleasure, and the sound — thanks to Michael Perez-Cisneros — is rich, exquisite.

GORDON HETTY

Hetty told me, “I really let my imagination go a little with the song list, and love digging out tunes that aren’t played too much,” thus, Button Up Your Overcoat / Blitzkrieg Baby / Peek-a-boo / Shoo Fly Pie & Apple Pan Dowdy / How D’ya Like To Love Me? / Eight, Nine & Ten / There’s Frost On The Moon / Busy Line /  Sweet Lover No More / I Wanna Be Around / Hard Hearted Hannah / Bésame Mucho / I Lost My Sugar In Salt Lake City.

Two songs were unfamiliar charmers, so I asked her about their origins.  Here’s what Hetty wrote:

I first heard Peek-A-Boo on a .. wait for it.. Dove advertisement (probably on You Tube), where they’d used the song as the soundtrack to a story about how women are always so self conscious about their looks, and don’t like being photographed – but when they are children they have no shame about this and just dance and ham for the camera.. a little message about trying to be confident and see the beauty in us all! So the song was a cute one.. I fell immediately in love with it and with some research found the vocalist, Rose Murphy, the “chee chee girl” and also added her other famous song ‘Busy Line’ to the album. She was quite an extraordinary performer and pianist, and now I’m a big fan. 

There are so many wonderful singers who don’t get much of a ‘look in’ because of Ella / Billie / Peggy / Anita and so forth – I feel that not only am I getting a benefit from discovering these other singers, but their memory can be kept alive a little too! Audrey Morris sang ‘How D’Ya Like To Love Me’ and she was an extraordinary talent as well (Bob Hope also famously sang that song) Sweet Lover and I Wanna Be Around were given to me on a mix tape by a good friend with a Blossom Dearie obsession and her approach to two rather evil songs was of course cute as a button – at the time I was going through some romantic challenges of my own, and I love to sing about the darker side of love as well as its light and sparkling hopefulness!

There’s Frost On The Moon was also given to me — Chick Webb’s band with Ella Fitzgerald (very young) and I believe Louis Jordan – and again, the lyrics were an immediate drawcard as well as the melody. The band in the studio had a great time with this one! I think it’s our favourite!

A lot of my family are writers, and as well as being drawn to the melody of a tune, I am always entranced by a clever turn of phrase, and with this album being able to match clever songs with some great dance tempos and arrangements by Gordon I was in heaven!! 

Had Hetty recorded only this CD, I would be heralding her as a reassuringly professional new talent. But there’s more. DIM ALL THE LIGHTS is an entrancing collection of “vintage love songs” associated with Peggy Lee, June Christy, and Julie London: The Thrill Is Gone / In the Still of the Night / Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered / Answer Me, My Love / Why Don’t You Do Right? / Cry Me A River / Something Cool / Wives and Lovers / I Get Along Without You Very Well.  Hetty is accompanied by a spare but beautiful quartet of Sam Keevers, piano; James Sherlock, guitar; Ben Robertson, string bass; Danny Farugia, drums.

HETTY DIM ALL THE LIGHTS

The temptation for a singer, choosing these songs so strongly associated with these majestic artists, would be either to copy or to go in the other direction — vary the tempo, add odd rhythmic backgrounds, and the like. Hetty does neither: I am sure that the voices of the Great Foremothers are echoing in her head, but she treats each song as its own new script, and takes her time, inventing a new, lifelike way to sing it.  No maudlin swooning, no pounding drums, no melodramatic rubato.  Just effective singing: I’d put her version of BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, and BEWILDERED up against anyone’s. Understated, apparently cool, but with real passion coming through.

I believe Hetty has been singing professionally only since 2006, but she is a real treasure.  No fakery — no little-girl cute, no look-at-me-I’m-so-hip / punk / sexy here at all.  Just good music, intelligently interpreted and always swinging. And don’t let the gorgeous cover shot prejudice you against the elegant Ms. Kate: her CDs are about her voice, not her hair or her beautiful dress.

Here is Hetty’s Facebook page, and here is the website for the CD with Gordon.  Both discs are on iTunes.  Visit here and enjoy one-minute sound bites; visit the ABC site to purchase DIM ALL THE LIGHTS, and here to purchase the CD with Gordon — which is also available at CDBaby. (I know — life is complicated, especially for those of us used to dropping in at our local record stores and coming home with some new or old treasure.  But Hetty’s CDs are worth the digging.)

It’s a critical commonplace to welcome the new artist at the start of “a brilliant career” to come.  In Hetty Kate’s case, she is already singing brilliantly — a young artist with a mature, engaging sensibility.

May your happiness increase!

GET MELLOW, YOU DOGS: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, JOHN ALLRED, MURRAY WALL, WARREN VACHÉ, MENNO DAAMS, SHANNON BARNETT, HARVEY TIBBS at THE EAR INN (October 6, 2013)

I was too exhilarated on the evening of October 6, 2013, to put my feelings into words.  The music played at The Ear Inn — the second set of one of the EarRegulars’ Sunday-night revival meetings in swing — was extraordinary.

The EarRegulars on their own are a splendid group — led by trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and featuring guitarist Matt Munisteri — with an extensive coterie of gifted friends who send us creative gifts Sunday after Sunday.  This Sunday the quartet began with John Allred, trombone, and Pat O’Leary, string bass.

The guests were a brassy bunch (with the exception of string bassist Murray Wall): Warren Vaché (imported from New Jersey) and Menno Daams (from the Netherlands), cornets; Shannon Barnett (from Australia) and Harvey Tibbs (from uptown), trombones.

The second set was a glorious yet expert conversation — friendly musical dialogues at the highest level.  Yes, the solo playing was brilliant, but the easy mastery of the common language (riffs, backgrounds) was just as thrilling.

The first selection here was suggested by an elegant woman from Edinburgh whose name eluded me (I hope she reads this blog so I may identify her properly).  Her jazz credentials are perfect, for she asked for Herschel Evans’ line for the Basie band of 1937-9, DOGGIN’ AROUND.  A sextet of brilliant players assembled: from the left, Warren, Menno, Jon-Erik, John (in the front line); Murray and Matt in the rear:

And as if four horns weren’t enough, how about a few trombones for IN A MELLOTONE?  Warren left for New Jersey after dramatically taking some bills out of his pocket, stuffing them into Phillup DeBucket and announcing loudly, “Tip the band, you cheap _____!” and vanishing into the night.

Menno, Jon-Erik, Shannon, John, Harvey, Murray, and Matt rocked not only The Ear Inn but probably the entire five-borough area.

Mellowly!

Before this set at The Ear Inn, I had been at Michael Kanan’s studio, The Drawing Room (56 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn) to experience the beauty of Abigail Riccards singing and Michael at the piano.  The very moving evidence is here.

An amazing evening.

May your happiness increase!

PERFECTLY WILD: MENNO DAAMS and EHUD ASHERIE at The Knickerbocker, New York (October 8, 2013)

I’ve always thought that wonderful things are happening while I am sleeping, missing out on them. Possibly a neurotic idea, but occasionally the evidence confirms it.

Last night, Tuesday, October 8, 2013, pianist Ehud Asherie had another week of his regular solo piano gig at The Knickerbocker on 33 University Place, New York City.  That in itself would be an excellent thing: Ehud is a masterful improviser whose imagination roams around the entirety of jazz.  He has a classical touch and a deeply wry sense of humor.  And he never ever forgets how to swing!

But Ehud had a friend — someone dear to me, the Dutch trumpeter Menno Daams.  (To be accurate, he brought his cornet.)  And his lovely wife — that’s no cliche — Ineke Rienks, captured the duo’s performance of WILD MAN BLUES.

You would think with that title that wild unbridled passion would be governing their art, but to create wildness, or the impression of it, a great deal of expert mastery, of fierce restraint is needed.  Dionysiac wildness would know little of bar lines, chord changes, or sympathetic accompaniment. Menno and Ehud are so skilled at evoking the tradition as a way of singing their own individualistic songs.  Although the room in this shot looks empty, it was filled with the admiring spirits of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Henry Red Allen, Rex Stewart, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Bud Powell . . . and more.  And first among equals?  Ehud Asherie.  Menno Daams.

As a postscript.  People who know me have noted my recent but powerfully-growing love of California (specifically Marin and the Bay Area) and the people, jazz friends and others.  But often during the preceding week  (Menno’s trip to New York, hanging out with Rossano Sportiello, Nicki Parrott, Becky Kilgore, Ed Metz, Jim Czak, John Post, and Bill Moss; hearing Warren Vache, Shannon Barnett, Harvey Tibbs, and others sit in with the Munisteri-Kellso EarRegulars at The Ear Inn; hearing Abigail Riccards and Michael Kanan in Brooklyn) . . . I think that New York is putting up a really good fight.  “You like Marin?  You enjoy the farmers’ market?  You’ve made friends with all sorts of people, from Sam Rocha to Beck Ringle?  You’ve heard wonderful music?  Fine, Michael!  Let New York show you what WE can do . . . .!”  Tune in tomorrow, boys and girls.  Who knows what will happen next?

May your happiness increase!

RAGSTRETCH GOES AROUND THE WORLD IN JAZZ: PANAMA / AUSTRALIA / DENMARK (WITH FRIENDS!)

My new friend Lars Ole Christiansen posted this video by the intercontinental band RAGSTRETCH.  That hot band characterizes itself here on Facebook as “New Orleans inspired jazz! Scandinavian horns meet New York-based Aussies for an upcoming tour of Denmark and Norway.”

That in itself would be enough to convince me.  But RAGSTRETCH is also fortunate enough to have my friend Shannon Barnett (an astonishing player, shoes on or off) on trombone in the front line.

They are playing William H. Tyers’ PANAMA . . . and they are playing it in Copenhagen.  Can you say, “Jazz is a universal language.”?

I was about a minute into this video before I said, “More people need to hear this RIGHT NOW.”  So here you are!

RAGSTRETCH is Chris Tanner, clarinet; Björn Ingelstam, trumpet; Shannon Barnett, trombone; Craig Fermanis, guitar; Sam Anning, string bass; Rajiv Jayweera, drums.  Recorded at the Copenhagen Harbour Jazz Festival, July 7, 2013

May your happiness increase!

BIRTH OF A BAND! (EMILY ASHER, SHANNON BARNETT, NICK RUSSO, ROB ADKINS at RADEGAST, March 5, 2013)

Special delivery!

When Emily Asher announced a last-minute gig at Radegast, that cheerful Bierhalle in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last Tuesday, I was eager to go.  Three-quarters of the group was familiar to me — people / players I admire: Emily herself on trombone and vocal; Rob Adkins on string bass; Nick Russo on guitar and banjo.  What added to the allure was the fourth member: trombonist Shannon Barnett, someone I didn’t think I knew.  So . . . two trombones plus rocking rhythm.  How could I be blue?

When I arrived at Radegast — and was directed to the back room, which is quiet and cozy — I met Shannon once again.  Once again because we had encountered each other at the Home of Happy Ears (326 Spring Street) one Sunday night.  After the band set up and played two numbers, I stepped forward and said to the front line, “Forgive me for getting in the way, but this isn’t just a session.  This is A BAND!”  They were obviously feeling the congenial vibrations too.  The two trombonist heroines (from the States and from Australia) had never played together before; the music they made reinforces the idea of a swinging common language.

Both Emily and Shannon not only play but sing, so you will hear some charming, assured vocalizing.  And I know they will have a wide repertoire — larger than these familiar tunes.  There was talk of Jay and Kai compositions / arrangements.  I’m looking forward to their next gig.

The only thing this band lacks is a NAME — I made some suggestions, which were met with kind amused attentiveness — but I am sure that the four inventive players will think of one that is both apt and witty.  For now, just enjoy!  Nick Russo swung things along as he always does, although his cap was more wintry than usual; Rob Adkins was playing his new string bass — with beautiful sound, fitting for such a thoughtful, swinging player.

SOME OF THESE DAYS:

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY:

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

MOOD INDIGO:

DINAH:

SWEET SUE:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

Both Emily and Shannon have websites — you can check them out on the JAZZ LIVES blogroll.  And I know you’ll want to be on hand when this band — a precocious one for sure — turns one, two . . .

May your happiness increase.