Tag Archives: Smith Street Society Jazz Band

JOHN GILL’S NATIONAL SALOON BAND

Heat and humidity make August a terrible time in New York City.  Therapists flee; Yorkshire terriers and Great Danes pant; air-conditioners drip; the asphalt shimmers in a most unappealing way. 

But Bruce McNichols, of the Smith Street Society Jazz Band, just sent me good news. 

John Gill, that understated virtuoso of the banjo, National guitar, and trombone, and a compelling, loose-limbed vocalist, has got an August gig — Sundays from 7 to 11 PM at the National Underground.  What’s more, he’s assembled some of my favorite individualists — Terry Waldo on piano and vocals, McNichols himself on banjo, soprano sax, and vocals, Brian Nalepka on bass, tuba, and vocals, and the pensive but ferociously swinging Kevin Dorn on drums.  You’ll have to visit the club every Sunday in August to see if Kevin can be enticed to croon a chorus by the end of the night.  I imagine the joint will jump with John’s own mix of ragtime, hot jazz, blues, and rockabilly.  I won’t be there and I’m sorry I won’t hear John sing: he knows the lyrics to both “Tishomingo Blues” and “Did You Ever see A Dream Walking?”  How many men can say that? 

The National Underground is at 159 East Houston Street (at Allen Street) (212.475.0611) and this band is a rare treat.  Bring several large handkerchiefs, a bottle of water from the freezer.  Don’t miss it!

JIM FRYER AND BRIA SKONBERG: OUR KIND OF MUSIC!

I’ve mentioned the brilliant young hot trumpeter / singer Bria Skonberg and multi-instrumentalist (trombone, trumpet, euphonium, vocals) Jim Fryer in my postings about The Ear Inn — but here are a few more words about this dynamic brass team.

Bruce McNichols, of the Smith Street Society Jazz Band, invited me and the Beloved to a trad jazz party hosted by OKOM (Our Kind Of Music) in Lafayette, New Jersey, on April 22. Such invitations are rare and precious, the weather was beautiful, so with a few instructions to our GPS, we found ourselves at Bill Taggart’s beautiful, sprawling house, and were led down to the basement (the OKOM recording studio) for a jam session featuring Bria and Jim with Herb Gardner on piano, Gim Burton on banjo, and Ed Wise on bass. The set we heard featured sparkling variations on familiar jazz standards: “Margie,” “All of Me,” “Dinah,” “There’ll Be Some Changes Made,” and “Buddy Bolden’s Blues.” In it, Bria distinguished herself once again by a brilliant tone and an easy, rangy command of the horn, a wicked dexterity with the plunger mute, and charming, unforced singing. Jim showed off his talents on all his horns and singing, reminding me at points of trombonist Eddie Hubble.

For those who didn’t make it to that particular corner of New Jersey that afternoon, they need not despair: aesthetic relief is at hand, on the compact disc “Over Easy: Bria Skonberg and Jim Fryer’s Borderline Jazz Band,” on OKOM (details are available at www.okom.com., or you can call 1-800-546-6075. It’s an exceedingly uncliched mixture of classics Thirties pops, “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm,” and classic material from “In A Mellotone” to “At the Jazz Band Ball.” The sextet is a truly hot band, subtle and knowing, and you should get to know them as quickly as possible.

Photographs copyright 2008 by Lorna Sass