Tag Archives: Stephane Grappelli

SOME RARE STUFF

That’s Stuff Smith, one of the supreme beings of jazz violin, who deserves more attention than he received in life and does now.  An audio sample from 1936 with Stuff playing and singing (with Jonah Jones, Jimmy Sherman, Mack Walker, Bobby Bennett, Cozy Cole):

This little remembrance of Stuff is because I found two rare paper items on eBay — which you shall see.  But before I completed this post, I checked everything with Anthony Barnett, the reigning scholar of jazz violin, who’s issued wonderful CDs, books, and more about Stuff, Eddie South, Ginger Smock, and many other stars and hidden talents.  More about Anthony’s ABFable projects below.

Here is a 1947 Associated Booking Corporation (that’s Joe Glaser’s firm) magazine advertisement for both Stuff and Eddie South — Eddie has Leonard Gaskin, string bass; Allen Tinney, piano:

Music instruction books linked to famous artists proliferated from the Twenties onwards, and here is one I had never seen before.  I don’t know how deeply Stuff was involved with the compositions and arrangements, but this 1944 folio is a fascinating curio:

Characteristically and thriftily, a mix of public domain songs and a few originals:

The composition looks unadventurous, but this is only the first page.  “Who is Lee Armentrout?” is the big question on JEOPARDY, and the answer is here:

How about some more music?  “Can do,” we say — a lovely rendition of DEEP PURPLE, a duet between Stuff and Sun Ra, recorded on July 29, 1948 by drummer Tommy Hunter. Ra is playing a solovox which was a piano attachment.

Anthony tells me, “There is a lost recording by Ra and Coleman Hawkins from around the same period (but not the same session).  Stuff and Hawk led a band for a couple of weeks around that time with Ra on piano.”

I’ve been writing ecstatically about Anthony’s ABFable discs for more than a decade now: they are absolute models of loving presentation of rare music.  How about this : a CD of 1937 broadcasts of a big band, led by Stuff, its members drawn from the Chick Webb band plus other stars — with a young singer named Ella Fitzgerald?  Stuff leading a septet drawn from the 1942 Fats Waller band while Fats was touring; a Ray Nance compilation that features acetate recordings of Nance, Ben Webster, Jimmie Blanton, Fred Guy, Sonny Greer — oh, and Ben plays clarinet as well as tenor; more from Ray Perry, Eddie South, and glorious violinists you’ve never heard of.  Helen Ward, Rex Stewart, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Joe Bushkin, Jo Jones  . . .

It’s self-indulgent to quote oneself, but perhaps this is forgivable: I don’t ordinarily endorse the productions of an entire CD label, but Anthony Barnett’s AB Fable series of reissues is something special: rare music, beautifully annotated and transferred, delightfully presented.  Barnett’s notes are erudite but never dull. Each CD I’ve heard has been a joyous experience in preconception-shattering. I used to think of jazz violin improvisation beyond Joe Venuti and Stéphane Grappelli as a mildly inconvenient experience. Grudgingly, I acknowledged that it was possible to play compelling jazz on the instrument, but I was politely waiting for Ray Nance to pick up his cornet. Barnett’s CDs have effected a small conversion experience for me—and even if you don’t have the same transformation take place, they are fun to listen to over and over again.

And — as a musing four-bar break: we are, in 2017, caught between the Montagues and the Capulets, the people who say, “Oh, CDs are dead!” and those who say, “I’ll never download a note.”  These CDs are rare creations, and those ignorant of them might be unintentionally denying themselves joy.  For more of the right stuff and Stuff — books, CDs, accurate information galore — visit here.

May your happiness increase!

AN ORDER OF HOT CLUB FOR FOUR, PLEASE: EMMA FISK, SPATS LANGHAM, MARTIN WHEATLEY, HENRY LEMAIRE (Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, Nov. 6, 2015)

Emma Fisk

Emma Fisk is a deep-rooted jazz violinist.  Here, from her website, is the story of how she became one.

I first encountered Emma at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party, where in the past three years she has been called upon to honor Eddie South, Stuff Smith, Stephane Grappelly, Joe Venuti, and others — see her in action here and here. (Emma pops up here and there on my most recent videos from the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, and she’s always welcome.)  Then I heard the CD, featuring Emma, as part of the splendid small group aptly calling itself DJANGOLOGIE.

Fast forward to November 6, 2015, where Emma was leading a stellar quartet that she whimsically called “the Hot Club of Whitley Bay,” herself on violin, Martin Wheatley, Spats Langham, guitar; Henry Lemaire, string bass.  Here are the delights they offered us.

DINAH:

J’ATTENDRAI:

DOUCE AMBIANCE:

NUAGES:

MINOR SWING:

A sidelight: Emma is giggling through some of this set, and there’s good reason, if you see a youngish man sitting on the floor right in front of the band.  That’s no Quintette-obsessed fan, but the fine guitarist / banjoist Jacob Ullberger.  Emma told me, “I was laughing at Jacob coming to sit under a table to listen at the start of one of the songs. He looked like a little boy sitting cross-legged in the school hall, which tickled my funny bone. He told me afterwards that he wanted to come and hear the acoustic sound of the music.”

And quite rightly so.

Follow Emma (as we say in this century) on Facebook, where she is Emma Fisk Jazz Violin.

May your happiness increase!

SUITE DANCES: WILL HOLSHOUSER, MATT MUNISTERI, MARCUS ROJAS

Musette003_med

A delightful new disc.

The three creators.

The three creators.

I appreciate the comfort of improvising on familiar themes: I haven’t tired of the blues or BODY AND SOUL. But even the most “traditional” of listeners can find that venturing beyond one’s fenced front yard can be uplifting.  A new CD, INTRODUCING MUSETTE EXPLOSION, is a happy, bracing exploration of fresh fields and pastures new (the lively cover art, befitting the music, is by Na Kim). The three impish yet serious improvisers on this disc are Will Holshouser, accordion / compositions; Matt Munisteri, guitar and banjo; Marcus Rojas, tuba.
The music they are exploring is French musette — dance-based pop music of Paris that flourished in the last century.  A listener new to the form will hear some Django-connections, both literal (one of the compositions is the Reinhardt-Grappelli SWING 39) and whimsical — some songs are by the virtuoso accordionist Gus Viseur, others by guitarist Baro Ferret.  But this isn’t another by-the-numbers Django-and-Stephane tribute, and the music has its own vivid energies, its own quirky turns.
Each track seems a small musical drama all its own — not simply an attempt by jazz musicians to pretend to be French strolling street musicians, but their delightful variations within and around the form.
Some performances instantly suggest films that haven’t yet been created (and there are a few neat aural interpolations — witty surprises that don’t feel hackneyed) but each track is its own dance.  In fact, it is easy to listen to the whole disc at a sitting as if one were at a chamber-music concert with ten movements in a suite.  (This variety, never forced or abrupt, is something few discs offer.)
This isn’t to suggest that the music is “contemporary classical,” with all the intellectual rigor implied by that name, because this trio swings. The performances are affectionate but I wouldn’t call them sentimental: no berets and striped sailor shirts are audible in this hour of music.
I first heard accordionist Holshouser on a Matt Munisteri CD, and was immediately impressed with the easy grace he brings to an instrument that, in other hands, can be melodramatic and rhythmically constrained.  Munisteri shines wherever he is; he consistently improves the landscape — enough said.  Tubaist Rojas is not only a splendid player who makes his instrument as light-hearted and melodic as any French hornist, but he is also a deft musical impersonator: the bird songs or whale murmurs heard on this CD come from him. (I was reminded of hornist Jimmy Buffington, and that is not small praise.)
In his notes, Will writes that he and Matt “got hooked” on French musette music — seduced by the “dark beauty and thrilling virtuosity” they heard in the classic recordings, “passionate and sweet, but played with a fierce edge — like jazz.”  But rather than create a repertory project, another set of old records in contemporary fidelity, they brought jazz players’ vigor and willingness to explore to the songs and conventions they had grown to love, finding new ways to improvise on the material.
And as brilliant as Will, Matt, and Marcus are as soloists, they come together marvelously as ensemble players — something is always going on in every performance, and this combination of instruments that would seem odd or unbalanced in other hands sounds complete and rich here.
You can hear brief samples of the music on Will’s site here. The band has been captured on video, playing SWING VALSE:
and GITAN SWING:
Those who are members of the Terry Gross Fan Club have already heard Will play and talk about this band and their music on NPR’s FRESH AIR, but that fascinating segment can be heard here. The band’s Facebook page is here. And the disc itself can be found in all the old familiar places: CD BabyAmazon (may I gently urge readers to investigate Amazon Smile, where a percentage from one’s purchases goes to a charity one selects), or iTunes.
I find this music happily atmospheric, so I offer a suggestion that is part challenge.  I hope some creative film-school or drama-school type finds this music and begins to make short films, no dialogue needed, with each track as a central character in a theatre piece or a short film. Those who aren’t making films, writing, directing, or acting in theatre can simply buy copies of the disc or download it — rare pleasures are in store.
May your happiness increase!

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: MORE OF LE JAZZ HOT at MONTEREY (March 7, 2014)

A number of people wrote very enthusiastic responses to my posting part of a set by Dawn Lambeth and Le Jazz Hot (March 7, 2014) at Jazz Bash by the Bay. They wanted more, and I can’t blame them. More of Dawn’s beautiful singing from another set is on the way, but here are the remaining performances by Le Jazz Hot from that session.

For the latecomers, the posts I speak of can be seen here and here.

The band is Paul Mehling, guitar; Evan Price, violin; Isabelle Fontaine, rhythm guitar / vocal; Sam Rocha, string bass.

To the music.

PLACE DE BROUCKERE:

MELODIE AU CREPUSCULE:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

BUONA SERA, SIGNORINA:

I won’t attempt to explain the intricate relations between the Hot Club of San Francisco, Le Jazz Hot, and the Ivory Club Boys, except to say that the latter incarnation is gigging at Armando’s in Martinez on May 31.  Details here.

May your happiness increase!

SWING SCENE: MONDAY NIGHT at LE COLONIAL SF with THE IVORY CLUB BOYS (PAUL MEHLING, EVAN PRICE, CLINT BAKER, SAM ROCHA, ISABELLE FONTAINE: April 28, 2014)

A week ago, last Monday night, I was making the scene at Le Colonial SF (20 Cosmo Place, San Francisco) on the site of the famous Trader Vic’s.

Virtuoso guitarist Paul Mehling and friends usually play hot gypsy jazz — homage to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli — as the Hot Club of San Francisco. But Paul brought a new variation on swinging themes, The Ivory Club Boys, to Le Colonial on April 28, 2014.

The Ivory Club Boys evoke the jazz scene of the late Thirties on New York City’s fabled Swing Street (Fifty-Second Street) with a special emphasis on the hot music of violinist Stuff Smith.

Along with Paul, the ICB are Evan Price, electric violin; Clint Baker, trumpet AND trombone AND vocal; Isabelle Fontaine, guitar, vocal, and non-Boyishness; Sam Rocha, string bass, vocal.

OPENING BLUES (like the old days, and wonderful):

CRAZY RHYTHM:

CARELESS LOVE (a blues Stuff Smith adored):

An assertively quick reinvention of SWEET AND LOVELY:

DESERT SANDS:

DINAH:

Le Colonial is a fine place to be on Mondays — to hear hot music; to dance to it; to watch the exuberantly acrobatic dancers; to eat Vietnamese food and drink all sorts of intriguing liquids.  And now “20 Cosmo Place” is in my GPS, so I feel both secure and excited.

May your happiness increase!

THE MUSIC OF STEPHANE GRAPPELLI: JON BURR, PAUL PATTERSON, HOWARD ALDEN, and ANDY STEIN (Sept. 21, 2013)

The lyrical, propulsive string bassist Jon Burr often presents a program of the music associated with Stephane Grappelli, and with good reason — not only because he loves the idiom, but as a memory of the dozen years he worked and appeared with the violin master.

Here, at the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua (now known as the Allegheny Jazz Party) Jon and nobly swinging string friends — Paul Patterson, violin, Howard Alden, guitar, and guest Andy Stein (on the closing selection) make beautiful music.

ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM:

MOONGLOW:

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN:

NUAGES / DAPHNE:

LIMEHOUSE BLUES:

Jon, Howard, and two dozen other notables will be making music at the Allegheny Jazz Party during September 18-21, 2014.  I know I’ve mentioned it twice in this post, but it’s very good news.  See for yourself.

May your happiness increase!

GYPSY JAZZ PLEASURES: “DJANGOLOGIE” and “SOME LIKE IT HOT CLUB”

I have been fussy about modern re-enactments of “Gypsy jazz” in the past, but here are two superb CDs that you should know about.

I didn’t know about DJANGOLOGIE until I had the good fortune to hear Emma D. Fisk play at the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party.  She is a find: a violinist with a dark rich tone, a love for melody, and a way of swinging without being syrupy.  And the Gypsy jazz quartet she’s part of, DJANGOLOGIE, is as good a group as she is a player.  A very uncluttered instrumentation: Emma, James Birkett, guitar; Giles Strong, guitar; Mick Shoulder, double bass.  Here is the group’s Facebook page.

DJANGOLOGIE A NEW LEAF

Their CD, A NEW LEAF, mixes QHCF repertoire — pre and postwar — LADY BE GOOD, SHEIK OF ARABY, NUAGES, MINOR SWING, J’ATTENDRAI, TROUBLANT BOLERO, ARTELLERIE LOURDE, DARK EYES — with engaging originals by Mick Shoulder, DANS MON ENDROIT TRANQUILLE, BEAUTIFUL TILL 3, DJANGO’S STOMP, SINISTER DRAG, and FEUILLE D’AUTOMNE.  The recording is very beautiful for many reasons: the guitarists pass melody and rhythm back and forth; Shoulder holds it all together; Emma calmly soars.  Here’s some musical evidence:

That’s only thirty-nine seconds, so we need more:

And here’s the group’s rocking version of THE SHEIK:

They’re original without losing the sweet intensity of their heroic forebears, in the tradition without copying the Reinhardt-and-Grappelli trademark runs and gestures.  The CD is available through CDBaby and Amazon, although (as always) the best way to get a copy is to hand money directly to members of the group — in between sets — and see them smile at you.

Moving from the UK to the US, I can recommend SOME LIKE IT HOT CLUB — a quartet of a different slant, based in New Jersey, with Alex E. Soudah, guitar; Rob Cuellari, guitar; Frank Slingerland, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Jerry D’Anna, string bass.

SOME LIKE IT HOT CLUB

Their CD begins with a clever link to the Billy Wilder film from which they draw their name, but what follows is light-hearted, not comical.  They lean more to the postwar Reinhardt instrumentation, but they are flexible and swinging: DOUCE AMBIANCE, MANOIR DE MES REVES, LA FOULE, LADY BE GOOD, CARAVAN, MONTAIGNE SAINTE-GENEVIEVE, MINOR SWING.  I don’t have any videos to post of the group, but they have appeared in New Jersey to great acclaim — most recently pleasing audiences at a New Jersey Jazz Society concert.  So do look them up!  This is their Facebook page.

May your happiness increase!