Tag Archives: Slim Gaillard

VERY MELLOW, VERY GROOVY: RANDY SANDKE, DAN BARRETT, JOHN SHERIDAN, ANDY STEIN, JON BURR, JOHN VON OHLEN at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA (Sept. 17, 2011)

In the words of the Sage, Bulee “Slim” Gaillard, “Very mellow, very groovy.”  Here’s a session from the very gratifying musical improvisations at Jazz at Chautauqua, featuring Randy Sandke, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone and vocal; Andy Stein, violin; John Sheridan, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; John Von Ohlen, drums — on three leisurely performances of familiar songs made new by their graceful mastery.

First, the classic “drunkard’s request” that is really a fine song at any tempo, MY MELANCHOLY BABY, with two very cheerful vocal choruses from the Pride of Costa Mesa, California, Daniel Barrett:

Then, one of the oldest and most durable of Irving Berlin’s waltzes, ALWAYS:

And a tune that Randy called for its verve, even though its title is hard to take seriously these days, THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE:

Thank you, gentlemen, for stretching out so nobly for our pleasure!

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LE JAZZ HOT: MAKING THE SCENE ON MONDAY (August 8, 2011)

Monday nights are usually low-key if not anxious: the week looms.  Perhaps we should bring lunch to work?  But Le Jazz Hot has created a scene for musicians, listeners, and swing dancers at Le Colonial (which, I’m told, used to be Trader Vic’s), every Monday night from 7-10 PM.

I took my camera there on Monday, August 8, and captured these three performances by Paul Mehling, guitar, vocal, and leader; Sam Rocha, Isabelle Fontaine, guitars; Jeff Sandford, reeds; Clint Baker, bass.  And a variety of swing dancers, most expert, with our friend Leslie Harlib twirling and dipping at the bottom right of my frame.

Paul began with his own version of wild-eyed Harry “the Hipster” Gibson’s Forties drug-hallucination-fantasy, STOP THAT DANCING UP THERE:

Nothing could follow that except a peaceful song — pastoral rather than hallucinogenic — so here’s Carmichael’s SKYLARK:

And in another mood, the 1920 warning, beloved of Sophie Tucker and jazz bands alike, SOME OF THESE DAYS:

Make the scene at Le Colonial some Monday — it’s at 20 Cosmo Place in San Francisco; it has a very intriguing Vietnamese menu.  No cover, no minimum, nice acoustics.  To quote Slim Gaillard, “Very mellow.  Very groovy.”

SWING / DANCE! — JAKE SANDERS QUINTET (May 18, 2011)

Professor Jim Fryer tells his students, “Dancing is what music looks like; music is what dancing sounds like.”  A swinging mantra if ever there was one, and the videos below prove his points.

I’ve been admiring the swinging banjo / mandolin playing of Jake Sanders for some time now — but it didn’t prepare me for the groovy jazz he and his Quintet offered a room full of dancers on May 18, 2011. 

The occasion was a swing dance extravaganza, “White Heat,” sponsored by Dance Manhattan on a perilously rainy night.  But the music dried my clothing and lifted my spirits in four bars.  You’ll see and hear what I mean.

Jake’s colleagues were bassist Ian Riggs (whom I’d met at Teddy’s), guitarist Michael Gomez (new to me, but a wizard), Will Anderson (a young swinger who’s seen all over town), Gordon Au (one of my heroes, here on cornet).  They were tucked away in the corner of a small gymnasium-like room (with pillars) where a small number of intrepid dancers swirled around. 

The fine photographer Lynn Redmile was herself one of the dancers, and she tells me that the other twirlers and dippers included Caroline Ruda, Eli Charne, Sam Huang, Eve Polich, Tina Micic, Pauline Pechin, Kathy Stokes, Steve Rekhler, Richard Kurtzer, Neal Groothuis, Charles Herold, Nina Galilcheva, Marty Visconti, Sallie Stutz.  (If you were there and haven’t been included in this list, do let me know.)

Here’s I WONDER WHERE MY BABY IS TONIGHT, a Twenties tune (known more widely because Django and Stephane took it up in the late Thirties).  The lyrics tell us that a dancing fool who could do the Charleston took the singer’s Baby away, and the singer is both morose and homicidal (“I’d like to kill the man who made the Charleston,” which I hope wasn’t meant for the sainted James P. Johnson) while the music has a Charleston-interlude at regular intervals – – – an early postmodern episode in Twenties pop:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:  what other jazz classic brings together the 1940-1 Goodman Sextet, Bix, Louis, Basie, Eddie Condon, and is still being swung in 2011?  Jake’s tempo is in the groove: they’re solid senders!

A straight-ahead reading of BRAZIL, which rocks:

DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL (with or without the apostrophe) is one of those songs that’s usually played too fast — perhaps as homage to dancing off both (y)our shoes.  Here it’s “very groovy, very mellow,” to quote Mr. Gaillard:

Want to see and hear more?  I’ve posted seven other videos at my YouTube channel — http://www.youtube.com/user/swingyoucats — which (as the old record jackets used to proclaim), “You’re sure to enjoy.”  I hope so!

MOODY, MAXINE, MUGGSY, J.D., ERROLL, SLIM

It has its own rhythm, doesn’t it?  Here are the latest delicacies up for bid on eBay.

James Moody, who just left us, with his whimsical signature:

Dear Maxine Sullivan, giving someone her home address, once upon a time:

Kid Muggsy, faithful to the spirit of Joe Oliver to the end:

Jimmy Dorsey, his coiffure gleaming:

Very unusual — an Erroll Garner inscription:

And finally, the uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable Bulee “Slim” Gaillard, posing with a more serious young couple, circumstances unknown:

Now . . . shut your eyes and imagine the sound of this collective ensemble.  I hear Maxine carrying the melody line, Moody and Slim improvising vocal counterpoint behind her; Muggsy, Erroll, and Slim keep the rhythm going. 

That should take your mind off of holiday shopping!

NOW HEAR THIS: Hal Smith on ZUTTY SINGLETON

Zutty Singleton: Face Drives the Train

A friend once remarked that playing in a band with Zutty Singleton “was like trying to stay ahead of a freight train that was bearing down on you.” Indeed, when Singleton was inspired, the pulse of his drumming took on the power of a highballing freight! One of the best examples of this forward momentum may be heard on “King Porter Stomp” (Decca 18093), recorded under Singleton’s name in New York City on 28 May, 1940.

Zutty Singleton had previously recorded as a bandleader for Decca in 1935. His other recording credits included sessions with Fate Marable, Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines, Jelly Roll Morton, Charles LaVere, James P. Johnson, Sidney Bechet, Lionel Hampton and the wonderful sides by the “Rhythmakers” — Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Fats Waller, Joe Sullivan, Pops Foster, Al Morgan, Eddie Condon and others. After 16 years of recording with some of the greatest names in jazz, Singleton was in top form on the “New Orleans Jazz Album.”

The all-star band that recorded for Decca in 1940 consisted of: Henry “Red” Allen, trumpet; Benny Morton, trombone; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Lil Armstrong, piano; Bernard Addison, guitar; Pops Foster, bass; and Singleton. The band recorded “Canal Street Blues” and “Down in Jungle Town” under Allen’s leadership and “King Porter Stomp” and “Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble” with Singleton in charge. The four sides illustrate the thrilling interaction between New Orleans musicians (Allen, Hall, Foster and Singleton) and musical colleagues from “out of town,” but Singleton is clearly the star performer on “King Porter Stomp!”

The side begins with an eight bar introduction—the horns play whole notes as Singleton comes out swinging on the snare drum: a flurry of rolls and syncopated figures, accented rolls, more syncopations, a cymbal crash, syncopated rolls and two quick cymbal crashes, all underpinned by “Face’s” driving 4/4 bass drum.

On the ensemble verse, Singleton keeps pushing the bass drum, while playing uncomplicated press rolls on the snare drum. On bars 13-16, he plays some of his trademark syncopated figures, leading into the interlude. After two bars of long rolls, accented rolls, stinging quarter notes and cymbal crashes, Singleton launches the ensemble into the trio section of the tune.

Ed Hall is the first soloist. Singleton continues to play simple, but effective press rolls on the snare drum, with the bass drum laying down an incredible foundation.

Red Allen gets the same treatment for his chorus, though Singleton accents the afterbeats on bars 11 through 16.

Behind Benny Morton’s solo, Singleton matches Morton’s cool sound, playing smooth press rolls. He raises the musical temperature on bar 16 with an explosive paradiddle, utilizing the snare drum and cowbell.

Singleton’s press rolls and bass drum pulse take on a renewed urgency as he accompanies Hall’s second solo. On bars 14-16, Singleton audibly readies himself for a solo chorus of his own.

The band plays a stoptime figure for the drums every four bars, turning Singleton loose. On the first drum solo, he stays on the snare drum, keeping the bass drum going throughout. He plays accented and syncopated rolls on the snare drum on bars 1-4.. On bars 5-8, accented long rolls. Rudimental figures are heard on bars 9-12 and again on 13-16.

For the second drum chorus, he plays ruffs, cymbal crashes and syncopations on the crash cymbals (bars 1-4); quarter notes, then paradiddles between the tom-tom and snare (5-8); syncopated rolls (9-12) and finally a militaristic flourish to end the solo, punctuated by a cymbal crash and single quarter note on the bass drum.

As the ensemble leaps back in, Singleton continues to drive the band relentlessly, playing the “ride” beat on the cymbal with his right hand, four even quarter notes to the bar on the snare with his left hand and 4/4 time on the bass drum.

Allen holds a note for four bars, signaling one more chorus, but Singleton does not play a fill (or “turnaround”) beween the penultimate and final ensemble choruses—such a device is not necessary. By now the drums have become a literal juggernaut. The rest of the band manages to stay one step ahead of the fast freight barreling down the tracks. Singleton brings the tour-de-force performance to an exciting close with a ruff, two quarter notes and a syncopated figure on the snare and a “button” on the choke cymbal.

In the years following the 1940 Decca session, Singleton recorded many outstanding sides with a wide variety of musicians from Fats Waller to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. But “King Porter Stomp” must surely rank as one of the greatest recordings of Singleton’s career. Few drummers could match Zutty for the kind of drive, pulse, tension-and-release and raw power heard on this side! It is tempting to imagine a conversation with Singleton regarding the drumming on “King Porter Stomp.” Considering his confidence in his own abilities and his sense of humor, Singleton would most likely have replied, “Watch out for that freight train, Face!”