Tag Archives: sitting in

WHEN FRIENDS DROP IN: A LITTLE JAM SESSION at CAFE BOHEMIA: JON-ERIK KELLSO, BRIA SKONBERG, GEOFF POWER, RICKY ALEXANDER, ALBANIE FALLETTA, ARNT ARNTZEN, JEN HODGE (January 2, 2020)

If I learned that a few dear friends were going to drop by in fifteen minutes, I would rush around tidying, straightening out the bed, looking to see what you could serve them . . . a flurry of immediate anxiety (“Does the bathtub need to be cleaned and can I do it in the next two minutes?” “Where will people sit?”) mixed with the pleasurable anticipation of their appearance.  As an aside, JAZZ LIVES readers who wish to see the apartment — equal parts record store, video studio,  yard sale, and library will have to make an appointment.

Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar; Jen Hodge, string bass, Cafe Bohemia, Dec.26, 2019.

Since I “live” at Cafe Bohemia (15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York) only intermittently, and it’s already tidy, thus, not my problem, I could simply relax into a different kind of pleasurable anticipation.  It happened again when Jon-Erik Kellso began to invite people up on to the bandstand near the end of the evening of January 2, 2020 — another of the Thursday sessions that cheer me immensely. The result reminded me of some nights at the 54th Street Eddie Condon’s when guests would come by and perform.

Let me give you the Dramatis Personae for that night and then we can proceed to two of the marvels that took place.  The House Band: Jon-Erik, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar / vocal; Sean Cronin, string bass / vocal.  The Guests: Bria Skonberg, Geoff Power, trumpet; Arnt Arntzen, banjo; Jen Hodge, string bass.  Arrangements were quickly and graciously made: Sean handed to bass to Jen for these two numbers; Bria stayed on, Geoff went off for one and came back for the second.  

JAZZ ME BLUES, with Jon-Erik, Bria, Ricky, Albanie, Arnt, and Jen:

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL, with Albanie singing and Geoff back on the stand:

Much better than apartment-tidying, I’d say.  And I’d wager that even the Lone YouTube Disliker, who hides in the bathroom with his laptop, might give his death-ray finger a rest.  More beautiful sounds will come from Cafe Bohemia, so come down the stairs.

May your happiness increase!

 

 

ALL THE CATS JOIN IN (at SWEET AND HOT 2011): MOLLY RYAN, DAN LEVINSON, MARK SHANE, DAN BARRETT, MARC CAPARONE, COREY GEMME, CHLOE FEORANZO, CONNIE JONES

It began, as many good things do, with just a trio performing a late-night set (Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011) in the sports bar “Champions” at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival.  But by the end of the hour, the band had expanded considerably, with many delightful surprises.  The trio was reedman Dan Levinson, singer and guitarist Molly Ryan, and peerless pianist Mark Shane.  To me, that’s a full orchestra — as you can hear for yourself on their version of Jimmie Noone’s EL RADO SCUFFLE, named for a Chicago jazz club:

Molly sweetly sings (no surprise here) the national anthem of hot jazz fans, GET RHYTHM IN YOUR FEET — reminding me of the mid-Thirties Red Allen recording:

That would have been fun enough for anyone with ears!  But sharp-eyed viewers will notice two superheroes coming in to the Champions sports bar — cornetist Marc Caparone and trombonist-plus Dan Barrett.  Since Dan had been exploring the Jimmie Noone repertoire, he called READY FOR THE RIVER (one of those I’m-going-to-kill-myself-in-swingtime songs, which has the singer threatening to drown himself).  Watch closely, as the three members of the front line discover that 1) they have something in common, and 2) great minds think alike, even if Dan Barrett later characterized their shared knowledge as evidence of misspent childhoods.  (See below* for additional information!)

Perhaps that is true, but I got delighted chills up and down my spine, and it wasn’t the air conditioning:

This happy quintet (three horns, two rhythm, no waiting) then proceeded into SAN:

Molly honored a request for the lovely / wistful / witty song about dreams coming true when there’s no money to help them along (I know it from an Eddie Cantor record), WHEN MY SHIP COMES IN.  Talk abuot music that makes the most delicious lemonade when there are no lemons to work with!

Other musicians had obviously heard the good vibrations (one of the nicest aspects of both Sweet and Hot and Dixieland Monterey is the cross-fertilization, or — in less scientific terms — the exalted sitting-in): how about Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet and Corey Gemme on C-melody saxophone for that immortal yet nagging question, DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?:

Then, presumably with pants on, the SHEIK OF ARABY:

And (in preparation for his set, which followed, but also because he wanted to get in on the fun), the superb cornetist Connie Jones joined in for Molly’s exultant rendition of CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME!  I would suggest that the state tourist board needs her to sing this song, but perhaps the people in power already know this:

Sweet and hot and irreplaceable, too.

*Some kind soul / hot music scholar transcribed the lyrics — verse and chorus! — for the Coon-Sanders recording, and I print the transcription below.  Possibly a song for group harmony on long car trips?

VERSE: Tell the world that I’m all through with it.
No more will I moan.
Burn my home. What can I do with it?
Can’t live all alone.
No use wastin’ time,
For I just know that I’m—

CHORUS: Ready for the river, the shivery river,
The river that goes down to the sea.
Gonna drown my troubles, and leave just the bubbles
To indicate what used to be me.
Made my will, wrote some notes,
Gonna keep a-walkin’ ’til my straw hat floats.
I’m ready for the river, the shivery river,
So get the river ready for me.

TAMAS SITS IN (Nov, 23, 2010)

Visitors to this blog will already know Tamas Itzes as more than the director of the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band, the spirit behind twenty years of delightful jazz festivals in Hungary, and the inventor of “OhYeahDay,” covered in the previous posting. 

Tamas is also a swinging violinist and pianist.  And he and his friends visited New York City for a few jazz-filled days and nights. 

I caught up with Tamas and Co. at The Ear Inn and then at Club Cache, where he sat in with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks for two numbers.  (The Nighthawks were, along with Vince, Jon-Erik Kellso, Mike Ponella, Jim Fryer,Andy Stein, Ken Salvo, Arnie Kinsella, Andy Farber, Dan Block, and Dan Levinson.)

First, Tamas borrowed Andy Stein’s Stroh phono-violin to double the string section for SAY YES TODAY, a song originally performed by the Roger Wolfe Kahn band (composition by Walter Donaldson, arrangement by Arthur Schutt):

Then, in the last set, Tamas came up to play the piano for a swinging, loose version of Earl Hines’s ROSETTA:

Tamas, your visit here was too brief: do come again!  And for the complete and total path to enlightenment, without climbing mountains, visit http://www.myspace.com/VinceGiordanotheNighthawks.

DAN BARRETT and THE EarRegulars (Oct. 17, 2010)

Sadly, Dan Barrett is flying back to California as I write this.  I know he’ll be happy to be reunited with Laura and Andy, but we’ll miss him here terribly.

In the past ten days, he’s done a number of club gigs, a concert, a private party, and maybe some other playing I missed.  I couldn’t follow him around as much as I would have liked, but I did catch him on video on three occasions — twice at The Ear Inn and once at Arthur’s Tavern with Bill Dunham’s Grove Street Stompers. 

Highlights of those three glorious nights are a-coming! 

I don’t know when Dan touched down in New York City, but after a triumphant jazz afternoon playing alongside Dan Levinson, Dan Tobias, Keith Ingham, and Kevin Dorn in celebration of Ray Cerino’s ninety-first birthday party, a joyous event, Dan (after a nap) made his way downtown to that Soho salon of swing, The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) for another Sunday extravaganza with The EarRegulars. 

Here are several performances, featuring the charter co-leaders Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Matt Munisteri (guitar), with Joel Forbes (bass) and several esteemed joiners-in.

How about a paean to the power of love to keep superstition at bay that isn’t YOU’RE LUCKY TO ME?  Rather, I’VE GOT MY FINGERS CROSSED, memorably done by Louis and Fats in their respective recording studios in 1935:

Someone requested DONNA LEE, perhaps knowing what a delicious meal the EarRegulars could make of this variation on INDIANA:

Jon-Erik gave the trumpet chair to his friend and ours Danny Tobias, and the two Dans lingered deliciously in a wistful IF I HAD YOU:

Jon-Erik came back to make a three-man brass frontline.  They did a beautiful job on that old favorite, LET ME CALL YOU SWEETHEART, with the innocently tender lyrics.  And the instrumental trades near the end are worth their weight in Vocalion test pressings:

And the second-set jam session called in Dan Block (clarinet) and Simon Wettenhall (on Eb alto horn rather than trumpet) for a lively ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash, I hope it’s Sunday night at The Ear Inn!  (Incidentally, many more marvelous things happened . . . but you’d have to be there to share the experience.  There’s nothing like seeing this music live!)

BOB BARNARD’S NEW YORK (Part Two)

Having warmed up his trumpet on Tuesday night (September 21) with the Nighthawks, Bob Barnard returned on Wednesday to sit in with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland. 

His credentials were (as Dizzy Gillespie would say) unimpeachable, because he was the only person in the room who’d actually played for Louis (as a member of Graeme Bell’s band). 

And, aside from George Avakian, who was seated nearby, delighting in it all, I think Bob could safely say that he was the only person in Manhattan who had seen Louis and the All-Stars on four tours of Australia. 

But Bob didn’t need to explain any of this to get up on the Birdland bandstand — the musicians in the LACB knew him well and were happy to have him join in: Jon-Erik Kellso, Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Block, Ehud Asherie, David Ostwald, and Dave Gibson.

And they performed three classics from the Armstrong book:

STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:

SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:

SWING THAT MUSIC:

More to come!

SITTIN’ IN . . .

About ten days ago, I was at a jazz club and found myself at the bar listening to two esteemed jazz players, whom I’ll call LOUIS and EARL, for purposes of discretion. 

Earl was telling us a story.  He had had a gig with three of the finest musicians he knows; things were going beautifully.  As the end of the night approached, a musician he knew only slightly came up to the stand, and said, “Hey, you guys sound great.  Can I sit in?”  Earl, somewhat unprepared for this, said warily, “OK.  What do you want to play?”  And the musician said, “You know, the only tune that I have in my head is _ _ _ _ _ _ (a simple-sounding but quite treacherous Monk composition).”  Earl was sure that the original musicians on the stand, experts all, could extemporize on it, so with some trepidation, he counted off the tempo and they began.  However, the guest star — and that appellation is ironic — couldn’t successfully negotiate the chord changes of the song he had chosen to play.  I’m not sure how much chaos ensued, but I assume that the musicians couldn’t wait for the particular song to be over.

The moral that came out of this incident, aside from a good deal of rueful head-shaking, grew into a small informal disquisition on the unstated rules of sittin’ in. 

One: If you have to ask, “Can I sit in?” or even “May I sit in?” you shouldn’t be there.  I don’t know if it resembles what they call “seeding” in tennis, but musicians of equal stature or good standing are invited to join the fun.   

Two: If you do make it up to the bandstand, through whatever means, it is bad form to call a weird tune in hopes of showing off your large and esoteric repertoire or your ethereal hipness.  Match your suggestion to the collective style of the musicians whose world you are temporarily joining.  Some groups move seamlessly from HIGH SOCIETY to ORNITHOLOGY, but they are few. 

Three: If you forget Two in the heat of the moment and the joy of sittin’ in, make sure that you know how to play the weird tune you yourself have suggested.  It is better to be the King of ALL OF ME than to mess up something more exotic.

Louis proposed his idea: he had always wanted to have a small card printed, a musical quiz.  “Want to sit in?  Then you won’t mind taking this little test, first.”  I proposed the first question: “What key is C JAM BLUES in?”  (I didn’t ask how he would prevent plagiarism, because I was so entranced by the image of a player taking the card back to a table in the club and perhaps filling in the circles with a #2 pencil.)

But then a thought occurred to me, and I asked these two veterans of many bandstands.  “How do you say to people, ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t want you to sit in with this band”?  And they looked somber, which made me think that many people get allowed up on bandstands who weren’t welcome there just because musicians hadn’t developed their polite refusals.

I proposed several that I thought were tactful — social falsehoods that wouldn’t be obviously rude: “You know, the owner doesn’t like having people sit in.”  And Louis chimed in, “Yes, I could always say the band was about to do something special this set, and sitting in wouldn’t work.”

But my creativity had been stirred, and I proceeded to suggest a few — possibly more dangerous — rejoinders for this delicate moment:

“I’d love to have you sit in, but I’ve just washed my hair / I have my period / I have a headache.”

“Boy!  What a great idea!  But, you know, it’s Shabbos / Ramadan / Lent, so tonight’s out.  Could you come back after sundown tomorrow / in a month / in ten days?”

“I’m sorry, but I’m lactose-intolerant, and my holistic healer says that letting people sit in is bad for my stomach acid.”  Or, “I’m so sorry, but my cardiologist says I can’t.”

“Sounds fine!  Let me just check with my psychic / financial advisor / interior decorator and see what (s)he thinks!”

If readers would like to suggest tactful versions of what musicians really want to say, which is “No.” “I don’t feel like it.” “No, you’d just screw it all up.”  “You know what?  I really dislike the way you play,” please let me know.  You will have done the jazz community a great favor.