Tag Archives: Steamboat Stomp

THE LAST TIME I SAW CONNIE

Although I grew up listening to recordings of people who had already moved on, I’ve tried hard to make this blog a chronicle of living music and musicians, so it isn’t JAZZ DIES.  But I am still reeling from the deaths of Jim Dapogny and Connie Jones, and I do not use that cliche lightly.  I will shine the spotlight more on Prof. in future, I guarantee you, but this post is all about Connie.

I was enthralled by the music Connie created so effortlessly, that I followed him when he appeared in California (2011, 2012, 2014) and once in New Orleans (2015).  Others saw him more often, to be sure, but if you search this blog for “Connie Jones,” you will find more than fifty postings, all with video-evidence.

But here is something you haven’t seen yet, Connie and friends on their own magic carpet, taking us along to places unimagined yet familiar.

It is a glorious and mournful memory both: the last time I had the privilege of seeing, hearing, and recording Connie, here captured among brilliant friends Bob Havens, trombone; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Banu Gibson, rhythm guitar instead of her usual wonderful singing. This performance took place below decks on the steamboat Natchez, at the final Steamboat Stomp based in New Orleans.  PERSIAN RUG is a song I associate with the Louisiana Sugar Babes but also with Jack Teagarden, with whom Connie worked at the end of Jack’s life.  It is a charming piece of “Orientalia,” complete with verse, and it swings in celestial ways here.

I offer this video with great reverence.  To some casual viewers, it may simply be “another live video”; to me, it is touching evidence of what Connie did so nobly and with such apparent ease.  He made magic.

Blessings on him, on Bob, David, and Banu also:

No one can replace Connie, although we should all try to create — whatever it is we create — as beautifully as he does here.

May your happiness increase!

APPLY HEAT: “HOT CLASSICISM” (KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH) IN NEW ORLEANS, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

I’ve posted a good deal by this very satisfying band: Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, hereherehere — and a few other posts.  You could search them out without too much fuss.

Their first CD!

Because to me this music is very lively, spicy, and energizing, here are a few more gratifying performances from their evening gig in New Orleans’ Snug Harbor (during the last Steamboat Stomp) on September 25, 2016.

Very mellow, very groovy, SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY:

Is there a causal link — that she was once FUNNY THAT WAY and now she’s NOBODY’S SWEETHEART?  Calling all psychotherapists and cultural critics:

Even though it’s a warm August, chiles are good for you, so HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN:

The title of this Irving Berlin classic causes great merriment in the balcony, A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:

Albert Wynn’s 1928 ecstasy, PARKWAY STOMP:

FORTY AND TIGHT (“Use your imagination,” says Kris.):

And the rallying call for this magnificent trio, STOMP OFF, LET’S GO:

Restorative, curative, no prescription needed: “Apply Hot Classicism to the inflamed area and the afflicted soul. Repeat as desired.”

May your happiness increase!

TRIO SONATAS FOR CLARINET, PIANO, and PERCUSSION, OPUS 9.25.16: KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH at SNUG HARBOR

No, not Cortot-Thibaud- Casals, or any more formally garbed trio.  Rather, another visit to the marvelously melodic world of Hot Classicism, the trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, described here.

One of the pleasures of visiting New Orleans last September for the Steamboat Stomp was the opportunity to visit some places new to me off the steamboat, one of them being Snug Harbor — living up to its name — to hear the trio perform on September 25, 2016.  I posted five glowing performances, glowing even in the purple haze, here, some time back, so now it’s time for more.

What makes these performances a little different is that they all have Andy on clarinet, which he plays with his usual passion and precision, here summoning up Noone, Dodds, early Benny, Don Murray, Fud, Tesch, Mezz who had stuck to practicing, and a few others — all nicely combined in his own beautiful personal synthesis. Incidentally, Andy does play some cornet here, but you already noticed that.  Kris and Hal show why they are intensely and intently reliable, creative, swinging, and surprising.

And some beautifully obscure, seldom-played songs to improvise on.

I’D RATHER CRY OVER YOU:

ORIENTAL MAN (where “Oriental” means generically Asiatic rather than Chinese, if I recall correctly):

FORGET-ME-NOT:

RED RIVER BLUES (with the most gorgeous Hal Smith press rolls):

There’s more to come from this peerless hot chamber trio.

May your happiness increase!

“IS IT HOT IN HERE?” “NO, IT’S THE BAND”: HOT CLASSICISM ON THE RIVER (KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH) SEPT. 23, 2016, PART TWO

HOT CLASSICISM is the name adopted by Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums.  I am proud to know them and happy to hear them.  This is the second part of their set on the Steamboat Natchez during the 2016 Steamboat Stomp; here is the first.

What follows is another lively tour of all the shadings of hot, inspired by the heroes of Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and elsewhere — precision without stuffiness, eagerness without chaos.  The repertoire is classic but not exhausted, and the performances are vibrant.

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:

MISTER JOE:

JUST GONE:

MY GAL SAL:

TOM CAT BLUES (a duet for Andy and Kris):

STOMP OFF, LET’S GO!:

Wonderful cohesive inspired music.  Follow Kris, Hal, and Andy on Facebook to track down their next gigs.

May your happiness increase!

“FROGGIE MOORE” and SO MUCH MORE: HOT CLASSICISM ON THE RIVER (KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH) SEPT. 23, 2016

hot-classicism

What’s hot, has six legs, and floats?  Easy.  HOT CLASSICISM, the trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, when they’re on board the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River — in this case, Saturday, September 23, 2016, as part of last year’s Steamboat Stomp.  But you knew the answer already.  (And in the name of accuracy, they float even when on dry land — musically, that is.)

Here’s the first half of a hot, historical but expansively creative set that this trio performed for us on the boat: with admiring glances at Jelly Roll Morton, Tiny Parham, King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Doc Cooke, Freddie Keppard, Albert Wynn, Sidney Catlett, Punch Miller, and dozens of New Orleans and Chicago hot players whose names you would also know.

This Morton tune is called FROG-I-MORE or FROGGIE MOORE RAG (I think those are all the variants) and Mister Morton said it was named for a vaudeville contortionist.  No doubt:

SUNDAY, a tune that all the musicians in the world love to play, takes me back to Jean Goldkette in 1927, even though the Keller Sisters and Lynch didn’t make it to the boat:

Are your tamales hot?  They should be.  Freddie Keppard’s were:

A beautiful slow groove:

I could be wrong, but I think PARKWAY STOMP is a romp on the changes of DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL — something that was being done long before ANTHROPOLOGY and ORINTHOLOGY.  The Albert Wynn recording with Punch Miller is also an early Sidney Catlett recording, something the Honorable Hal Smith knows well:

Who remembers Tiny Parham?  Jen Hodge does, and I do, and Milt Hinton did.  So does HOT CLASSICISM:

What a wonderful hot band!  There’s another serving to come, but until then, you might investigate this delight.  And HOT CLASSICISM has gigs to come: follow Kris, Hal, Andy on Facebook.  You will be rewarded for diligence.

May your happiness increase!

A NIGHT AT THE BOMBAY CLUB (Part Two): KRIS TOKARSKI, JAMES EVANS, HAL SMITH (September 22, 2016)

bombay-clubYes, The Bombay Clubthat luxurious New Orleans hangout in the Prince Conti Hotel, home to good music, food, drink, and friendships.  I visited it for the first time on the date above, to hear Kris Tokarski, James Evans, and Hal Smith — my premiere offering from that session can be found here.

And here is Part Two: listen to the way this trio blends the three voices into a larger, delightful organism, with each member keeping his individuality.

An absolutely gorgeous SOPHISTICATED LADY:

GET HAPPY, thanks to Harold Arlen at the rehearsal piano:

JUST YOU, JUST ME:

TOP HAT, WHITE TIE AND TAILS:

Yes, there are several more joyous instant-classics from this session, and they will appear.

May your happiness increase!

A NIGHT AT THE BOMBAY CLUB (Part One): KRIS TOKARSKI, JAMES EVANS, HAL SMITH (September 22, 2016)

bombay-club

It was my first time at The Bombay Club in New Orleans, and I know it won’t be my last.  The music was splendid — as you will see and hear — created by Kris Tokarski, piano; James Evans, reeds and vocal; Hal Smith, drums.

LOUISIANA:

I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET:

DON’T BLAME ME:

BUT NOT FOR ME:

I would point out that Kris, James, and Hal aren’t involved in some densely researched multi-layered repertory project.  They are stylistic rovers, happily wandering around in the glorious present of swing, creating beautiful sounds and deeply listening to each other.  Individualists who have given their hearts to the collective endeavor.

There’s more from this glorious session.  I guarantee it.

May your happiness increase!

AT THE STOMP, AND THEY CERTAINLY DO (Part One): KRIS TOKARSKI, ANDY SCHUMM, HAL SMITH at SNUG HARBOR (September 25, 2016)

hot-classicism

It was just magical: twice during the 2016 Steamboat Stomp, a new favorite CD came to life in front of my eyes.  The CD — above — features Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, playing subtly but with tremendous heat.  (Not incidentally, the CD is available here, and to me it’s an instant classic.

I stayed in New Orleans an extra night at the end of the wonderful 2016 Steamboat Stomp to catch the “Hot Classicism” trio live at Snug Harbor, and what they have to say is plenty.  Here are five performances from that evening, and there will be more.

WEARY BLUES:

STRATFORD HUNCH:

IDA, SWEET AS APPLE CIDER (of course for Ida Melrose Shoufler):

CHICAGO RHYTHM:

MISTER JOE:

Could you be Hot Classicism-deficient?  Rather than visiting your local network medical professional, I suggest that you can remedy this common ailment by a) watching these videos; b) purchasing the trio’s CD here; c) finding somewhere that they are playing.  I know that HOT CLASSICISM will have a set or more at the San Diego Jazz Fest at the end of this month. Come say hello.  Let your inner Stomper be joyful.

As Smokey the Bear always says, “Only YOU can prevent starving musicians.”

May your happiness increase!

CAPTAIN PISTORIUS SETS A COURSE FOR JAZZ: “STEAMBOAT DAYS”

Long before I’d ever met Steve Pistorius in person, I knew his music: consistently alive, full of good feelings even when he was playing or singing the saddest blues.  I’d heard him solo, playing full, orchestral piano, and heard that piano bubbling through ensembles in exuberant down-home ways.  I had the honor of meeting him and hearing him in person at the first Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans (that would be 2013) and I have had the pleasure twice more.

pistorius-four

From the left, that’s Benny Amon, drums; Orange Kellin, clarinet, Steve himself, and James Evans, clarinet, saxophone, and vocal. These four gentlemen have just come out with a CD, called STEAMBOAT DAYS, and it’s wonderful.  And — should you want to go immediately to gratification, you can buy copies at www.stevepistorius.com.

pistorius-cd

As usual with Steve, the repertoire is a mix of sweet reassuring surprises — New Orleans and New Orleans-inspired jazz without the hackneyed Bourbon Street bounce.  And this quartet is both original — they inhabit 2016 — and comfortably mellow.  I had the privilege of writing a few lines for the disc . . .

Technically speaking, this is a compact disc, as you see when you slide the plastic article into the player. But I prefer the archaic term “record,” in the broader sense: an accurate depiction of something memorable, a way of capturing something evanescent for posterity. This record enshrines for us something rare and cheering: actual improvised music being made on the spot by musicians, without artifice. Although much of the repertoire is sweetly venerable, we know immediately that this creativity, singular and collective, exists now. STEAMBOAT DAYS doesn’t strive to imitate historical recordings or legendary bands — no conscious homages to Noone, Mezzrow-Bechet, Wilber-Davern. Let those who wish to “play old records in high fidelity” do just that. This is a record of what Steve, James, Orange, and Benny felt like playing in the moment. Thus it is genuine and irreplaceable. And varied, with stomps, blues, pop songs both tender and mournful, genuine make-out music (SWAY), a handful of Creole seasoning, and a properly dark roux.

The music is occasionally raw — as in so intense in its emotion that polish becomes an afterthought — yet at the same time highly expert. At once delicate and ferocious, it is a lace tablecloth with a tiger underneath. Although New Orleans jazz, according to the Sages, is an ensemble art, the four soloists amaze and delight throughout. James and Orange complement each other — tonally and stylistically — I think of different varieties of ivy growing exuberantly up a wall. Steve and Benny are all the rhythm section anyone would ever need, a truly orchestral pianist and a percussionist who makes beautiful rollicking noise. This is an expandable quartet, with the singing of Steve (whose seriousness is porous to let deep feeling come out) and James (who so tenderly offers his heart to us) — also a rousing pleasure on C-melody saxophone, with his own sound.

Many hour-long recordings start out glossy and appealing but by the time I am twenty minutes through, I am looking for some other way to amuse myself. Don’t my socks need to be paired? These selections tumble one upon another, and my only problem is that, having heard KATHLEEN for the first time, I didn’t want to go on to the second track without walking dear Kate home a few more times.

This is A BAND, so delicious. They do not archaeologize; they are warm rather than scholarly-chilly. They do not play at the music. They ARE the music. May they have ten thousand opportunities to keep pleasing themselves and us.

For the record, the songs are I’LL TAKE YOU HOME AGAIN, KATHLEEN / SINCE MY BEST GAL TURNED ME DOWN / GULF COAST BLUES / I WANT YOU JUST MYSELF / THE YAMA YAMA MAN / WILD CAT BLUES / CRYIN’ FOR THE CAROLINES / LE MARCHAND DE POISSONS / QUIEN SERA [SWAY] / SATANIC BLUES / A MILLION DREAMS / POOR KATIE REDD / FORTY AND TIGHT / RIVERSIDE BLUES / STEAMBOAT DAYS.

But wait!  There’s more!  You don’t have to take my word for it.  How about the set that the Quartet performed at the Steamboat Stomp last month (September 24, 2016) on the Natchez?  That’s Tom Saunders on bass sax, in for Benny Amon on drums.

Can do.

SATANIC BLUES:

RIVERSIDE BLUES:

STEAMBOAT DAYS:

CRYIN’ FOR THE CAROLINES:

FORTY AND TIGHT:

I’LL TAKE YOU HOME AGAIN, KATHLEEN:

SHREVEPORT STOMP:

THE FISH VENDOR (LE MARCHAND DE POISSONS):

You’ll want a copy of the CD to complement the videos, I assure you.  And this band is a life-enhancer.

May your happiness increase!

GUILTY, WITH AN EXPLANATION (September 2016)

judges-gavel

I confess that I’ve let some days go by without blogging.  Unthinkable, I know, but I (gently) throw myself on the mercy of the JAZZ LIVES court of readers.

Permit me to explain.  From Thursday, September 15, to Sunday, the 18th, I was entranced by and at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party.  Consider these — randomly chosen — delights.  Jim Dapogny playing IF I WERE YOU (twice) and some of his winsome original compositions.  Rossano Sportiello, Frank Tate, and Hal Smith swinging like no one’s business.  Rebecca Kilgore singing KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL in the Andy Schumm-Hal Smith tribute to Alex Hill. Andy, on piano, with Paul Patterson and Marty Grosz — once on banjo! — in a hot chamber trio (a highlight being LOUISE).  Wesla Whitfield in wonderfully strong voice.  Dan Block and Scott Robinson romping through HOTTER THAN ‘ELL.  A Basie-styled small band led by Jon Burr, offering (among other pleasures) IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING.  A string bass trio — Burr, Tate, and Kerry Lewis — showing that no other instruments need apply.  Harry Allen and Jon-Erik Kellso playing ballads, and Dan Barrett, too.  Tributes to Nat Cole, Harry Warren, Isham Jones, and Bill Evans.  Many videos, too — although they take some time to emerge in public.

I came home late Sunday night and on Monday and Tuesday returned to normal (employed) life as Professor Steinman: John Updike, Tillie Olsen, William Faulkner.

Tomorrow, which is Wednesday, September 21, I get on a plane to New Orleans for Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stomp.  Obviously I can’t report on delights experienced, but I can say I am looking forward to hearing, talking with, and cheering for the Yerba Buena Stompers, Miss Ida Blue, Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, Hal Smith, Kris Tokarski, Andy Schumm, Alex Belhaj, David Boeddinghaus, Ed Wise, Charlie Halloran, James Evans, Steve Pistorius, Orange Kellin, Tom Saunders, Debbie Fagnano, and many others.

So there you have it.  I could sit at home blogging, or I could be on the road, collecting gems, some of which I will be able to share.

My counsel in all this has been the most eminent solicitor, Thomas Langham, who will now offer his closing argument to the jury:

May your happiness increase!

POUR MONSIEUR BECHET: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, DOUG FINKE, CHRIS DAWSON, KATIE CAVERA, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH (San Diego, Nov. 30, 2014)

The great man himself, signing a promotional postcard, in 1955 or 56:

Bechet postcard front

and the other side:

Bechet postcard back
Honoring Sidney, these great lyrical artists, November 30, 2014, at the San Diego Jazz Fest:

An absolutely exquisite rendering of SI TU VOIS MA MERE, Bechet’s paean to maternal love and memory, here performed by Tim Laughlin, clarinet; Connie Jones, cornet; Doug Finke, trombone; Chris Dawson, piano; Katie Cavera, guitar; Marty Eggers, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.

I look forward to seeing Tim at the Steamboat Stomp, later this month.

May your happiness increase!

IT’S TIME TO STOMP (Steamboat Stomp, September 23-25, 2016)

Today is the first day of class, so I handed out papers for my students to read and a questionnaire to fill out.  But turnabout is fair play: my friend, Professor Hal Smith, sent me some pages worthy of deep study: the schedule for the 2016 Steamboat Stomp.

steamboatnatchez-paddle

I’ve written with great admiration of my experiences at the 2013 and 2015 Stomps here and here and here (and more, for the curious) — but I want to share with you the Coming Attractions that are less than a month away.  For full details, of course, you should visit here.  And, without being too pushy, may I suggest that space on the Steamboat Natchez is not infinite, and that lodgings in New Orleans are equally finite, that time is of the essence.

640_steamboat-natchez-new-orleans-reviews

There are four sessions: Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon, each of them introduced by a steam calliope recital by the dextrous Debbie Fagnano.  I should also mention that the Natchez has three areas for music: the main cabin, the top deck, and the Captain’s Salon.  So there are always simultaneous sessions going on.

On Friday night, there will be two delights: on the boat itself, sessions by Tuba Skinny and the Yerba Buena Stompers; at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, the Steamboat Stomp All-Stars (David Boeddinghaus, James Evans, Andy Schumm, Tom Saunders, Hal Smith) will hold forth.

On Saturday morning and afternoon, sessions by the Steve Pistorius Quartet (Steve, James Evans, Orange Kellin, Tom Saunders), the YBS, and Tim Laughlin (with Neil Unterseher, Alex Belhaj, and Ed Wise); later, at dockside, the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band (Ray Heitger, Tom Saunders, Alex Belhaj, Jamie Wight), Tim Laughlin, Andy Schumm, Neil Unterseher, Ed Wise, and a jam session with the YBS.

Saturday night, Banu Gibson (with David Boeddinghaus, Tom Saunders, Andy Schumm, James Evans, Kevin Dorn, Charlie Halloran), the Dukes of Dixieland, Tuba Skinny, the YBS, the Kris Tokarski Trio with Andy Schumm and  Hal Smith, the Steamboat Stompers (Duke Heitger, Tom Saunders, Steve Pistorius). Banu Gibson (with David Boeddinghaus, Andy Schumm, Hal Smith), and another Kris Tokarski Trio with Hal Smith and Tim Laughlin.

On Sunday morning, Solid Harmony (Topsy Chapman and her two songful daughters) will be backed for one set by the Kris Tokarski Trio (Clint Baker and Hal Smith), and then by the YBS.

The Stomp will conclude with a VIP / Patron Party at the Bourbon New Orleans Hotel, and I have heard that Kris Tokarski, Andy Schumm, and Hal Smith will be playing a gig at Snug Harbor that night.  No doubt.

That’s a whole lot of Stomp.  Hope to see you there!

May your happiness increase!

CARE TO STOMP? (September 23-25, 2016)

It’s never too early to think about a Stomp.  And not just any Stomp — but the fourth annual Steamboat Stomp, held in New Orleans . . . for the most part, on the river, while the Steamboat Natchez lazily goes up and down the Mississippi, the bands are playing, or the steam calliope is wailing, the food and drink are being offered.

STEAMBOAT STOMP 2016 poster

If my words aren’t sufficiently evocative, let this image sink in:

Steamboat Natchez. Photograph by John Snell.

Steamboat Natchez. Photograph by John Snell.

Here’s the Stomp’s Facebook page where you can learn more, buy tickets, make hotel reservations, and get yourself in the mood for Stomping.  (For those of you who resist the charms of Facebook, please note that the poster has the Stomp’s web address, also information about the chosen hotel.)

I have been fortunate enough to be part of the 2013 and 2015 Stomps — and I brought my self and my camera, so I offer evidence of the delights that took place — and will continue this coming September.

Here are Tim Laughlin, Ray Heitger, Steve Pistorius, and Jeff Hamilton from 2013.

and a delicious performance by Banu Gibson from 2013.

Steve Pistorius, Tom Fischer, and Ben Polcer swinging out in 2015,

the Yerba Buena Stompers that same year,

and Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers from 2013.

Enough to convince you?  If not, please look again at those names on the flyer, and know that the flyer can’t list all the luminaries (Hal Smith is going to be there, for one — as part of Kris Tokarski’s HOT CLASSICISM, a trio including Andy Schumm) — so hot music will surely be happening.  The way the Natchez is set up allows for simultaneous sets: sometimes three at once, so the only problem I foresee is deciding WHICH?  We should all have such dilemmas.

But enough of that.  See you on the boat, I hope.

May your happiness increase!

TOKARSKI’S NIGHTINGALE (AND OTHER RARE SPECIES)

Although I’ve only met the young pianist / composer Kris Tokarski a few brief times in person, I admire him as a remarkable musician with great wit, warmth, flexibility, and swing.

Kris Tokarski. Photograph by Scott Myers.

Kris Tokarski. Photograph by Scott Myers.

About sixteen months ago, Kris made his first CD as a leader, DROP ME OFF IN HARLEM — a delightful musical collation with Kris among his friends and peers James Evans, Evan Christopher, and Benji Bohannon.  Here’s what I wrote about Kris (with music samples) in April 2014.

Although Kris’ musical and emotional range is substantial, he is a great subtle player of older music with the right feeling — without being hemmed in by written manuscript, older recordings, or restrictive stylistic conventions.  Here is a recent video-recording Kris did especially for JAZZ LIVES — at home and informally — of Joseph Lamb’s RAGTIME NIGHTINGALE:

Notice his lovely touch, his gentle approach.  Would you like to hear more? That is easily accomplished.

Kris, photographed by Don Keller, in front of Jelly's house, Frenchmen and Robertson Streets, New Orleans

Kris, photographed by Don Keller, in front of Jelly’s house, Frenchmen and Robertson Streets, New Orleans

In March of this year, Kris, Hal Smith, drums, and Cassidy Holden, string bass, went into the GHB Studios in New Orleans to create a CD that would consider classic rags from a Mortonian perspective, with performances modeled on Jelly’s own evocations as well as songs known to be familiar during his career but not recorded.  The compositions are Pastime Rag #3 / Heliotrope Bouquet / Kinklets / Peacherine Rag / Elite Syncopations / Ragtime Nightingale / Grace And Beauty / Please Say You Will / Sunflower Slow Drag / Swipesy / Magnetic Rag / The Easy Winners / Cataract Rag / St. Louis Rag.  If you understand the concept, the CD is a magnificent invention; if you’ve never heard the Morton Library of Congress recordings, the CD will please just as deeply.

I was delighted to be asked to write the liner notes.  Here’s what I said:

SOFT, SWEET, PLENTY RHYTHM

In 1972, I had several opportunities to marvel at Eubie Blake, then nearing ninety.  He would play MEMORIES OF YOU, TROUBLESOME IVORIES, STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER, or CHARLESTON RAG, but he always concluded with a virtuosic display and a triumphant shout, “That’s RAGTIME!” It certainly was, but the music was more than notes on the page; it was shaped by the personality and experiences of its creator. Jazz improvisation is never pure (thank goodness): it’s all subliminal osmosis and hybridization.  Eubie’s ragtime was broad-minded: it cuddled up with stride, eight-to-the-bar, orchestral flourishes owing as much to Rachmaninoff as Joplin. 

I’ve heard many musicians approach the ragtime repertoire according to their spirit animal.  Some storm through a rag as if preparing for a martial arts tournament.  Others play it with reverent rigidity, the way a child in an antique shop sits tensely on the chair to which he’s been affixed.  This CD presents one, two, and three musicians embodying a radical idea: “Let’s play the music with joy and attention to detail, and whatever happens, it will be good.”     

On this CD, Jelly Roll Morton’s proud, playful New Orleans spirit is strong, although Kris Tokarski wisely avoids the Morton caricature: lesser pianists turn Morton into a large papier-mache figure at the keyboard. 

Kris’s playing is, as always, warm and delicate but you know there is stomping power beneath the surface. I admire his beautiful touch, the logic of his phrases, but he’s never so precise as to be chilly.  Kris animates the rags, reminding us that ragtime is swinging syncopated dance music: pastoral but not effete.

Masterful playing by Cassidy Holden and Hal Smith makes this a genuine trio, democratic and empathic.  Hear the low woody propulsive sound Cassidy gets (the right notes, the right changes, a wonderful pulse) as well as his cellolike clarity.  Hal’s playing appears uncomplicated, but it takes decades of devoted playing to know what to leave out, what sounds to make, how and when to make them.  I thought occasionally of Minor Hall and Tommy Benford, but most often of Hal.

These performances aren’t “recreations” of some imagined past, but neither are they free-form improvisations on the harmonies.  I hear echoes of the jungle (ANIMULE BALL) in CATARACT RAG, the Spanish tinge in MAGNETIC RAG.  But each song sounds like a movement in a dance suite – with echoes of marches, quadrilles, and street parades. PLEASE SAY YOU WILL moves so deliciously from waltz to a gently swinging rhythm ballad with a few closing moments of stomp (as Morton did on MY GAL SAL).  ST. LOUIS RAG – in the words of Jake Hanna – starts swinging from the beginning.  GRACE AND BEAUTY shows off this trio’s many virtues: they don’t get louder or faster, but you know the train is moving on the right track and it will arrive on time. 

SUNFLOWER SLOW DRAG is a history of the first decades of jazz, as it progresses from a tender, almost shy start to a romp.

We owe this session to Hal Smith, not only a master percussionist but a jazz scholar and detective.  He had long been fascinated by Morton’s transformations of famous ragtime pieces, and wondered how other rags would sound if played in Jelly’s style.  He knew that Kris would be perfect for the project, making the performances vibrant, not dusty.  Hal put together a list of rags that might have been played in New Orleans between 1900 and 1917 – and after swapping music and recordings, this wonderful group was ready – not for the river, but for the studio.  Thank you, Kris, Hal, Cassidy, for opening the magic toybox and offering us so much joy.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Or perhaps I have.

To purchase the CD, visit here. Or if you encounter Kris at a gig, I am sure he will be happy to arrange a mutually satisfying transaction.

And I am looking for several chances to enjoy Kris and friends in the coming months.  His trio — with Hal Smith and Tim Laughlin (yes, you did read that correctly!) — is a highlight of the Evergreen Jazz Festival in Colorado at the end of July; the “Hot Classicism” trio of Kris, Hal, and Andy Schumm will also appear at the 2016 Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans.

May your happiness increase!

SIX TO STOMP BY: THE YERBA BUENA STOMPERS at the STEAMBOAT STOMP: JOHN GILL, CLINT BAKER, CONAL FOWKES, KEVIN DORN, TOM BARTLETT, ORANGE KELLIN, DUKE HEITGER, LEON OAKLEY (Sept. 18, 2015)

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As Heidegger used to ask himself, “What would a Stomp be without Stompers?” (I’ve translated from the original.)  And when the query becomes even more specific, “What would a Steamboat Stomp be without the Yerba Buena Stompers?” the answer is even clearer.  And so it was, on September 18, 2015, the Stompers took to the stage for the first night’s concert.  And they did indeed Stomp.  They are John Gill, banjo / vocal; Conal Fowkes, piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Kevin Dorn, drums; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Leon Oakley, cornet; Duke Heitger, trumpet, playing a program of New Orleans-associated hot jazz.

CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME:

WABASH BLUES:

WILLIE THE WEEPER:

MILENBERG JOYS:

OLD STACK O’LEE BLUES:

THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:

It’s not just the Girls.  I look forward to future YBS encounters.

A serious word about those six performances.  I think the test of any band of this sort is the measure of energy — I don’t mean volume or velocity — they can bring to familiar material.  Everyone in that room had heard or perhaps played MILENBERG JOYS many times.  But the Stompers approached the material with the curiosity and love that made the familiar into something vibrant.  And that is both precious and rare, the very opposite of rote performance.

When I know more about the 2016 Steamboat Stomp, you can be sure I will let you know.

May your happiness increase!

ROLLIN’ DOWN THE RIVER, STOMPING JOYOUSLY: STEVE PISTORIUS, ORANGE KELLIN, JAMES EVANS, TOM SAUNDERS (September 19, 2015)

pistorius

Steve Pistorius is an irreplaceable pianist, singer, bandleader, and visionary, and I love his Quartet — with a front line of Orange Kellin, clarinet; James Evans, vocal, reeds, and someone adept keeping time and swinging out the root notes — on this most recent occasion, Tom Saunders on bass sax.  The Quartet doesn’t strive to imitate anyone in particular, but what comes out is deep and swinging.

You could call it New Orleans jazz and not be wrong, but I think of it as four kindred souls having a sweetly intense conversation about the song at hand, where their intelligence and feeling raise up every note from what could be formulaic or prosaic. Here is what I wrote about their first disc, NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE.  To read what I wrote about their second, UNDER A CREOLE MOON, you’ll have to buy the disc — which I’ll predict you would want to anyway.

UNDER THE CREOLE MOON

Now, this isn’t an advertisement for those two compact discs (although the subliminal energy is in my words, I hope) but a gift of music — a session on the Steamboat NATCHEZ recorded [by me, for you] during the 2015 Steamboat Stomp.

A cinematographic caveat follows.  I was shooting into bright sunlight through large glass windows, so there was a good deal of unsolicited glare.  Changing the videos to black and white helped cut down on the lurid aspect, but the four players are individually and collectively sheathed in what looks like swing ectoplasm.  Fitting, of course.  The sound, however, is fine and finer.

King Oliver’s I AIN’T GONNA TELL NOBODY:

James rhapsodizes so wonderfully on YOU BELONG TO MY HEART:

Doc Cooke’s BLAME IT ON THE BLUES:

An Oliver rarity, I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU:

Mister Morton’s FROG-I-MORE RAG:

Bechet’s WASTE NO TEARS:

A. J. Piron’s THE BRIGHT STAR BLUES:

And a later Bechet, DANS LA RUE D’ANTIBES:

Hot, intent, relaxed, soothing, compelling.  The best in their line.  And somewhere in these videos Steve says ruefully that this band has lost its regular gig.  I find that astonishing — in New Orleans, so proud of its music? — that I hope it has been remedied by now.  Club-owners and party-givers, take note.

And I will keep you informed about the 2016 Steamboat Stomp — something I hope to attend.

May your happiness increase!

HE BROUGHT HIS FRIENDS: STEVE PISTORIUS, TOM FISCHER, BEN POLCER at the STEAMBOAT STOMP (September 19, 2015)

Steve Pistorius and Friends, photograph by Dominique G. Ramos

Steve Pistorius and Friends, photograph by Dominique G. Ramos

Less is indeed more sometimes at jazz parties as well as other places.  Here’s proof of a most delicious sort, down below the main deck of the Steamboat Natchez during the 2015 Steamboat Stomp — a cozy little chamber jazz session scored for three Maestri, Steve Pistorius on piano and moral leadership; Tom Fischer on clarinet; Ben Polcer on trumpet and vocal on BABY BROWN.

And there are certain delights you might not notice on first viewing.  In the audience were Banu Gibson and David Boeddinghaus among other luminaries. Although my videos don’t always have compelling visual effects (I prefer to aim my camera at the band and leave it there) please note the floating scenery viewed out the window behind Tom, and how the light changes as the time passes.  Most beautiful.

And then there’s the music, with nods to Handy, Waller, Morton, Twenties pop songs — a session with timeless joy and wit.

YELLOW DOG BLUES:

BABY BROWN:

TIGER RAG:

COQUETTE:

WEARY BLUES:

To quote Johnny Mathis sixty years ago, “Wonderful, wonderful.”  Thank you, O Three Wise Men.

May your happiness increase!

A STEAMBOAT, HOT JAZZ, THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER, A STEAM CALLIOPE, STRIDE PIANO, THE BLUES, and FRIENDS (September 18-20, 2015)

My title is, to me, the best one-line description of the Steamboat Stomp — happening in New Orleans, on the Steamboat Natchez, from September 18-20, 2015.

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Some of the performers who will be on the boat are Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers, Steve Pistorius, Evan Christopher, Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, Solid Harmony, Yerba Buena Stompers, Miss Ida Blue, New Orleans Classic Jazz Orchestra, Stephanie Trick, Paolo Alderighi, Debbie Fagnano on the steam calliope, and more.

The schedule is here, and I can see myself fretting over it on the plane ride.  “If I see X now, I can’t see Y.  But I can see Y the next day.”  Jazz fest calculus, or perhaps chess.  But it’s always delightful to have more than one can handle rather than having long stretches of time.  However, on the Natchez, it’s entirely delightful to cruise up and down the Mississippi.  If one ignores the oil rigs outside, one can think of Huckleberry Finn.  Or, better, Fate Marable.

Here  is another site (the Stomp’s Facebook page) that offers different perspectives.

Finally, the hard facts one needs to know: prices, tickets, packages, reservations.

But here’s the best evidence, taken from the 2013 Stomp.

The official Jelly Roll Morton anthem of this carnival of joy:

Yes, you’ll have to pay something to board the Natchez, but your dollars will feel like dimes:

The way you’ll feel as soon as the music begins:

As Justin Wilson used to say, “I guarantee it!”

May your happiness increase!

WHAT BETTER WAY TO CARPE THE DIEM? (September 18-20, 2015)

NATCHEZ

I am not sure that Ralph Waldo Emerson would have instantly taken to jazz, although its energy, self-reliant independent passion might have pleased him. But he did write these words in Nature, words I have tried to take to heart: “Life only avails, not the having lived.”  Put more simply, the experience of life is both intense and fleeting: it must be savored while it is here, not in retrospect, as if leafing through a photograph album.  Or, as Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame says [in the play of the same name], “Life is a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death!”  (It became “suckers” in the film version, alas.)

What has all this to do with JAZZ LIVES?  It is my unsubtle way of saying that the Steamboat Stomp is once again happening in New Orleans, on the dates shown above and below, and that if you can be there, your happiness will measurably increase.  This is not an idle bit of press-agentry on my part: I was there two years ago and had a wonderful time.

STOMP 2015

The poster tells you all you need to know, with one emendation.  The Dukes of Dixieland won’t be performing at the Stomp; instead, there will be Jacques Gauthe’s New Orleans Classic Jazz Orchestra.  AND my brilliant friends and pianists Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi will be there also.

The musical festivities will begin Friday night with performances “held at a local offisite location,” which means somewhere nearby, comfortable, and on land. (Incidentally, I do not like small boats and do tend to suffer from mal-de-mer . . .  I felt fine on the Natchez.)

The main Saturday evening concerts will take place aboard a special sailing of the Steamboat Natchez. The evening will include two stages of simultaneous music along with New Orleans-style food served by the Natchez‘s own renowned chef (food not included in price).  On Sunday, a New Orleans style gospel jazz brunch (food included) will conclude the musical festivities, followed by a reception for patrons and sponsors.

Now, with all good things, a little investigation on your part is required. Emerson talked mightily of self-reliance, so one must do some legwork — or some clicking in this modern technological age. Here is the Stomp’s Facebook page.  Here you can reserve tickets and learn more.  And because — as Lester Young said in a comment I will expurgate — seeing is believing, here are a few video posts from the inaugural Stomp.  Oh what fun it was.  And will be.

Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers

The Yerba Buena Stompers and Vince Saunders

Banu Gibson’s Rhythmic Heart

New Orleans Joys With Ray, Tim, Steve, and Jeff

If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to double the dosage of Joy.

May your happiness increase!

DON’T MISS THE BOAT! (September 18-20, 2015)

Good news!  Duke Heitger’s third Steamboat Stomp — a delightful effusion of music in New Orleans, often with the steamboat Natchez as a floating stage, is a certainty for September 2015.

Here’s Duke’s announcement:

It is my pleasure to announce that our 3rd annual Steamboat Stomp will take place in New Orleans from September 18-20, 2015.  For those of you unfamiliar with Steamboat Stomp, it is an intimate festival held in New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, dedicated to the finest of classic jazz. The Steamboat Natchez, one of the last authentic steamboats still operating in the United States, will serve as the anchor for this three-day festival. Ticket sales are scheduled to begin March 18 at www.steamboatstompneworleans.com. I would, however, encourage you to secure your hotel room now. Please contact me at dukeheit@bellsouth.net for assistance if needed. Along with the announced artists, we continue to secure some of the top jazz musicians in the world.  As most of you know, these types of productions exist as a result of the generosity of jazz aficionados like yourselves. I hope you will consider attending and/or becoming a sponsor and play an active role in supporting this exciting event.  I have enclosed information about sponsorship levels and patron ticket packages for your consideration. Again, please let me know if you have any questions. And please pass along this message to anyone you think might be interested. I truly believe we are creating something special and hope you can join us. Thank you for your consideration.

The announced artists for the Stomp — and it’s six months in advance — include the Yerba Buena Stompers (Duke, Leon Oakley, Tom Bartlett, Orange Kellin, Conal Fowkes, Clint Baker, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Miss Ida Blue); Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony, the Dukes of Dixieland, Duke’s own Seamboat Stompers, the Tim Laughlin Trio, Banu Gibson and New Orleans Hot Jazz . . . and more, including calliope concerts by Debbie Fagnano.  All of this on an authentic Mississippi paddle-wheel steamboat.  Whether you want to envision yourself as one of the musicians in Fate Marable’s band or a Mark Twain character, it’s the best place.

And here are three videos from the 2013 Stomp:

Appropriately, STEAMBOAT STOMP by the Yerba Buena Stompers:

Banu Gibson’s declaration in song of what was readily apparent, I’VE GOT A HEART FULL OF RHYTHM:

And Steve Pistorius’ beautiful lament, I’D GIVE A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:

It takes dollars as well as dimes to keep enterprises like the Steamboat Stomp from vanishing.  So I hope you can join us.

May your happiness increase!

PILGRIMAGES TO BEAUTY

I urge anyone who loves the music to experience it live.  For some, that isn’t possible because of cost or one’s health.  But even though I am proud of my video recordings, they are not the same thing as being on the spot while beauty is created.  And jazz festivals, parties, clubs, concerts can only go on if there are people in attendance.

My readers know all this.  But the trick is to make the great leap from an intellectual awareness (“I should go hear some live jazz . . . someday.”) to action. All of us who have said, “I’ll go to hear Hot Lips Ferguson some other Sunday . . . those gigs will go on forever!” know the sadder reality.)

End of sermon.

I cannot attend this year’s Steamboat Stomp in New Orleans, but my absence means there’s another seat for you.  It begins Friday evening, November 14, and ends Sunday afternoon, the 16th.  In  between I count nineteen one-hour sets of music, in addition to a presentation about the Historic New Orleans Collection, four steam calliope concerts by Debbie Fagnano.  Much of the music will be performed on the two decks of the steamboat Natchez, gliding up and down the Mississippi River.  The artists include Duke Heitger, Don Vappie, Evan Christopher, the Yerba Buena Stompers, Dukes of Dixieland, Tim Laughlin, David Boeddinghaus, Hal Smith, Banu Gibson, Solid Harmony, Jon-Erik Kellso, John Gill, Kevin Dorn, Clint Baker, Tom Bartlett, Conal Fowkes, Orange Kellin, Leon Oakley, Steve Pistorius, and another dozen.

I was able to attend in 2013, and had a wonderful time.  Some evidence!

SWEET LOVIN’ MAN by Duke and the Steamboat Stompers:

Steve Pistorius considers the deep relationship between music, memory, and love in A DOLLAR FOR A DIME:

Banu Gibson, as always, shows us her heart, and it’s full of RHYTHM:

and the Yerba Buena Stompers play a later King Oliver piece, EDNA:

INSERT FOUR-BAR MODULATION HERE.

I returned last night from the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, exhausted and uplifted.  The exhaustion will wear off (it always does) after a day or two of treating myself like an invalid, nut the joy is permanent.  It comes from seeing people make friends through music.  The music began with rehearsals at 9 AM on Thursday and ended sometime late Monday morning (I heard the jam session at the pub as I was going up the stairs around 1 AM).  The texts for those mellow sermons were based on the teachings of Johnny Dodds, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Johnson’s Paradise Orchestra, Jabbo Smith, Jean Goldkette, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Chu Berry, Paul Whiteman, Cootie Williams, Adrian Rollini, Jimmy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Johnny Dunn, Luis Russell, Bing Crosby, Helen Morgan, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Don Byas, Willie Lewis, Sidney Bechet, Al Bowlly, Cliff Edwards, Eubie Blake, James P. Johnson, Chick Webb, Jelly Roll Morton . . . you get the idea.

And the performers!  Rico Tomasso, Duke Heitger, Menno Daams, Andy Schumm, Bent Persson, Claus Jacobi, Thomas Winteler, Matthias Seuffert, David Boeddinghaus, Graham Hughes, Alistair Allan, Martin Litton, Janice Day, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Keith Nichols, Richard Pite, Malcolm Sked, Phil Rutherford, Spats Langham, Emma Fisk, Frans Sjostrom, Josh Duffee, Nick Ball, Mauro Porro, Henri Lemaire, Kristoffer Kompen, Lars Frank, Martin Wheatley, Jean-Francois Bonnel. . . and sitters-in at the Pub, including Torstein Kubban.  (If I’ve omitted anyone’s name, it is because yesterday was nearly twenty hours of travel, which does terrible things to cognition.)

And the friends!  Everyone who was there will have a mental list, but I think we all start with Patti Durham — then I think of Bob Cox, Bobbi Cox, Derek Coller, Veronica Perrin, Chris Perrin, the young woman clarinetist, so intent, Jonathan David Holmes, Julio Schwarz Andrade, Andrew Wittenborn — and many more.

If you are wondering, the answer is Yes, I did bring my video cameras.  Plural. Safety first.

And I shot video of all the sets, one jam session / concert in the Victory Pub, and many of the rehearsals — several hundred performances.  It takes some time to upload and download, so I have nothing from this last weekend to share with you at the moment.  But I will.

While you are thinking, “How could I start putting money away for the 2015 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY?” (for that will indeed happen), I invite you to revel in this, recorded at a rehearsal at the 2012 Party:

All over the quite comfortable Village Hotel in Newcastle (with a very solicitous staff) are signs and photographs advertising the pleasures to be found there, all sharing a lower case “v.” at the start, both to show an intensity of feeling (“very!”) as well as remind you of the hotel chain’s identifying logo.  In the mechanism that takes you from one floor to another (I called it an elevator and was reminded that it was a “lift,” because I was in the  United Kingdom now) was a photograph of three pillows reading “v. snuggly” “v. cheeky” and “v.lazy.”

All I will say here, as a bow to the Party and to the Village Hotel and to my heroes and friends, is that I am “v.joyous.”

May your happiness increase!

DUKE HEITGER’S STEAMBOAT STOMP (November 14-16, 2014)

I had a wonderful time at the inaugural Steamboat Stomp last fall — the pure pleasure of hearing hot New Orleans jazz on a steamboat cruising up and down the Mississippi River.  Mark Twain, Fate Marable, David Jones, and young Mister Armstrong all combined.

I cannot go to this year’s effusion of good times and good music (three festivals in one month is too much for me while I am attempting to hold a full-time job), so there will be an empty seat.  So I urge you to go in my place, and bring your jazz-loving friends.

Musical evidence here and here  — and there is more from the 2013 Stomp if you search JAZZ LIVES.

And here is what Duke Heitger, the generous beacon of hot jazz, has to tell us:

The second annual Steamboat Stomp is about 2 months out (November 14-16). This is a wonderful time of year to be in New Orleans, and we have added some marquee names to the already stellar roster including Evan Christopher, Jon-Erik Kellso and Hal Smith. This will surely be a weekend of great music and great fun. Weekend packages and a variety of exciting sponsorship opportunities are still available. As you know, the support and participation of folks like you are key to the success of events like Steamboat Stomp. Please visit www.steamboatstompneworleans.com for more information. If you have any questions with regards to hotels, reservations, etc… I will be happy to assist you personally at dukeheit@bellsouth.net. This promises to be a very special event. I hope to see you there!

What Duke’s letter does not say is . . . the Yerba Buena Stompers, Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, Topsy Chapman, Solid Harmony, the Dukes of Dixieland . . . joy-spreaders all.  Don’t let this weekend event steam right by you.

May your happiness increase!