Lord Byron wrote, “… let joy be unconfin’d.” He didn’t make it to the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California, but everyone on this set took his words to heart.
Duke Robillard brought his swinging bluesy self and his guitar for a set with trumpeter Marc Caparone’s Back O’Town All-Stars: Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Dan Walton, keyboard and vocal; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums; Dawn Lambeth, vocal.
I could write this post in under ten words, like a telegram. GREAT MUSIC COMING. WE’LL BE THERE. SEE YOU TOO, but even my very hip audience might need some elaboration, so here goes.
The OAO and I will be going to the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California. It’s held at the comfortable Portola Hotel and Convention Center, and the fun begins Thursday evening, March 2, and skitters to a stop on Sunday afternoon, March 5. It is one of the more convenient festivals I know, because all of the music is under one roof, so the most arduous walking one has to do is from one room to another, and when something nie is happening above, there’s an escalator. (Even youngbloods appreciate such conveniences.)
Here are some of the musicians who will be appearing, a list too long for me to pretend it will be complete: Brandon Au, Justin Au, Clint Baker, Anne Barnhart, Jeff Barnhart, Dan Barrett, Chris Calabrese, Marc Caparone, Katie Cavera, Josh Collazo, Danny Coots, Bob Draga, Chris Dawson, Marty Eggers, Eddie Erickson, Yve Evans, Corey Gemme, Paul Hagglund, Brian Holland, Marilyn Keller, Nate Ketner, Rebecca Kilgore, Dawn Lambeth, Carl Sonny Leyland, Howard Miyata, Don Neely, John Otto, Steve Pikal, Gareth Price, Tom Rigney, Sam Rocha, Andy Schumm, Hal Smith, Dave Stuckey, Stephanie Trick, Nathan Tokunaga, Jason Wanner, and a cast of hundreds.
Like most festivals, the opportunities for existential dilemmas abound, with sometimes eight events going on (separated at times by a half-hour start time) so there is too much going on to see and hear it all. To wit: the vertigo-inducing schedule. I suggest that one bring a highlighter or a set of Sharpies to delineate where one MUST be at any given time. Possibly people blessed with greater tech skills know how to do this on their new iPhone 206; perhaps someone will teach me.
I could go on about what a wonderful festival this is. How festivals, deprived of active support, dry up and fly away and are no more. But you know all this, or I hope you do. Rather, I’d present some delightful video evidence: I began coming to this festival in 2011, and I think I missed one year between then and 2020. So I will let the music, hot and sweet, do the explaining for me. I apologize to any musician who’s in a video who’s not at the Bash this year: I mean no offense, and hope to show off your glories to this audience.
LOVE POTION NUMBER NINE:
SOLID OLD MAN:
TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:
THE YAMA YAMA MAN:
I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:
TENDER IS THE NIGHT / I GOT RHYTHM:
CHARLEY, MY BOY:
YOUNG AND HEALTHY:
To quote Mister Tea, “If that don’t get it, well, forget it for now.” See you there! And here‘s how to order, as they used to say.
Honoring Sidney Catlett while remaining completely himself: that’s what the masterful artist-percussionist Josh Collazo does here in spellbinding ways. It was the set closer of Marc Caparone’s Back O’Town All-Stars set at the Redwood Coast Music Festival because nothing — except perhaps SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH or the national anthem could follow that.
And for those of us who understand the music, STEAK FACE (named for Louis’ Boston terrier, a happy carnivore) IS a national anthem. It’s thrilling, a complete drama embodied on a drum set.
The band is modeled on Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, majestically. Marc Caparone, trumpet, vocal; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums. This marvelous six-minute natural event took place at the Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka, California, September 30, 2022:
Josh inhabits the world of that solo so splendidly that it would be an affront to post a photograph of Big Sid here. But I hope he’ll forgive me for posting the source of this composition’s title: “General,” Louis Armstrong’s Boston terrier (Joe Glaser bred dogs) who obviously had deep culinary awareness:
but the real story is told here . . . STEAK FACE in action!
I apologize if the canine candids have distracted you from the glories Josh and the band create — music, to paraphrase Whitney Balliett, that makes you want to dance and shake and shout. All in six minutes: beyond remarkable.
“Mahogany Hall,” Lulu White’s ‘Octoroon Parlour,'” photograph by E. J. Bellocq:
The Spencer Williams composition it inspired:
Into the present for a band modeled on Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, majestically. Marc Caparone, trumpet, vocal; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Josh Collazo, drums.
They performed two sets at the 2022 Redwood Coast Music Festival, Eureka, California, and the wondrous seismic uproar hasn’t quieted down yet.
Power and delicacy, an eye to the details and a rollicking energy. More to come!
Some people want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the pyramids at Tulum, the Northern Lights . . . . I’ve done some of those things, but what I want in 2022 is to return to the Redwood Coast Music Festival. Keep your monuments: they’ll be around in November. This festival is enduring, but it was made to take a nap in 2020 and 2021 for reasons that should be clear. I was there in 2019 and had the time(s) of my life. So, in less than three weeks, “if the creeks don’t rise,” or “if breath lasts,” (you pick) the OAO and I will be there, grinning and eager, flushed with anticipation.
I should say right here that this post is an unsubtle but perhaps necessary encouragement to all my jazz friends and colleagues to get off their couches and chairs, stop inspecting those books and labels, and enjoy the real thing, fresh, vivid, and multi-hued.
To make it easier to buy tickets, hear sound samples, have questions answered, and more, visit http://rcmfest.org/ (and be dazzled). If someone’s name is unfamiliar to you, the site is the equivalent of an old-fashioned record store’s listening booth.
Kris Tokarski and Hal Smith will be there:
Dawn Lambeth, Marc Caparone, and Dan Walton too:
Jonathan Doyle, Steve Pikal, and Charlie Halloran will be around:
Dave Stuckey and Western Swing pals as well:
Island spice from Charlie and the Tropicales:
Carl Sonny Leyland also:
Thursday and Friday, September 29 and 30:
Again, friends and connoisseurs, that’s http://rcmfest.org/. It is a very congenial experience — even the musicians I know, who are often downtrodden and vocal about it, praise the management, the environment, and more. Good sound technicians, volunteers who don’t shoot first and ask questions later, and a strip of good restaurants in Eureka, a town with a lovely mural and kind feelings.
Also, if you haven’t gleaned it from the schedules, the RCMF is beautifully expansive.
I went to my first jazz party / weekend / festival in 2004, so I speak from experience. As budgetary pressures made themselves ominously evident, festivals shrank. There might still be five sets a day, but the cast of characters was a dozen musicians, changing places on stage. A certain airlessness set in, as if we’d paid for an all-you-can-eat buffet and every dish was based on canned salmon and green beans. And such constriction made itself heard in the setlists.
No, the RCMF has many musicians, simultaneous sets, and a variety of approaches: zydeco, rhythm’n’blues, soul, New Orleans jazz, piano boogie-woogie, Fifty-Second Street flavors, Western Swing, country, Americana, “roots,” Louis, Jelly, Duke, Joplin, and everyone in between. I delight in the rich menu; I despair of getting to hear all the good sounds.
I won’t run through the usual didactic sermon about how festivals require active support (I mean people willing to go there and pay for the music) but I will note that every time a jazz fan doesn’t go to a festival when they could have, an angel dies. Clarence never gets his wings. Do you want that on your conscience?
If the names above are familiar to you — John Royen, piano; Kim Cusack, clarinet; Joshua Gouzy or Steve PIkal, string bass; Hal Smith, drums — then my copying Louis’ delighted exhortation will make perfect sense. To go a little deeper, here is a new CD, titled GREEN SWAMP, a Darnell Howard original. It contains seventeen performances and was beautifully recorded by New Orleans’ own Tim Stambaugh.
But perhaps four minutes of music would be a joy-spreading interlude at this point — a Don Ewell original, SOUTH SIDE STRUT, with Steve on string bass. (Don, as you might know, was John’s mentor: no one better.)
I have a familiar pride in this issue, because I wrote the notes:
In a society in love with newness, to call something “old-fashioned” may seem an insult.Doesn’t everyone want thelatest thing? But to me that expression is another name for timeless beauty and virtue, creations that will last. This CD is terribly “old-fashioned” and I am damned glad of it.
This music is melodic, swinging, affectionate. It romps. It grins. The sounds embrace the listener; what comes out of the speaker sounds good, and that is no small thing (in Condon-terms, it is honey rather than broken glass to the ear). Without gimmicks or jokes, the band says, “Come along with us. We promise you a good time.” Most of the tunes (“tunes” is another old-fashioned word, one I’d hate to lose) are medium-tempo, a little faster or slower: good for spur-of-the-moment-shoeless dancing in the kitchen.
Captain John Royen doesn’t have that honorific only because he pilots a boat; his playing is wonderfully decisive: you know where you are at all times, and the trip is both elegant and exciting, as he steers by the lights of Ewell and Morton. The Captain is also that reassuring evolutionary accomplishment: a two-handed orchestral pianist. He doesn’t pound or race: you can set your clock by him. His colleagues Pikal and Gouzy are just as reliable: they offer a limber rhythmic platform, flexible and stimulating. Hal Smith is a master of swing and sonic variety: every note both propels and rings as he plays “for the comfort of the band.” Finally, there’s the unequalled Kim Cusack, whose tone is lemonade in July, who creates memorable variations with lightness and fervor. The repertoire is honorable melodies that are both venerable and fresh. By the way, this is a band, not simply four soloists in the same room: listeners with even mildly functioning imaginations will sense these musicians smiling approval through every track.
I used to write long liner notes, supplying biography (Google made that redundant) and song origins (ditto), explaining musical nuances. My new goal is to write notes that can be read in less than three minutes and twenty seconds, the time it took to play a 78 rpm record. If more explanation is necessary, one of us has failed. Not the band, I assure you. Now, get to listening! Joy awaits.
The other performances on the disc are I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME / SQUEEZE ME / BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME / HONEY HUSH / I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU / SWEET SUBSTITUTE / HERE COMES THE BAND / OLD FASHIONED LOVE / PRETTY BABY / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / MONDAY DATE / BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU / SAVE IT, PRETTY MAMA / BUSH STREET SCRAMBLE / DELMAR DRAG / GREEN SWAMP.
Too good to ignore: Steve Pikal, string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone, clarinet; Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet. THREE LITTLE WORDS, key-changing from C to Ab:
That swinging love song from 1930 is much loved by jazz musicians — perhaps beginning with the Ellington version. It’s also the setup for a famous Turk Murphy joke, and Pee Wee Russell used to call it THREE LITTLE BIRDS. Here it’s a playground for this swinging band to enjoy themselves and bring joy to us.
Not that I need a reason! But I am posting this today for two: the HCJF version of LULU’S BACK IN TOWN made many people happy, if the statistics are valid proof — here — and today is Brian Holland’s birthday. So we celebrate him and the band!
It intrigues me that so many of the songs that are classics of hot jazz sing the praises of the American South, although many of the African-American musicians went at least partway North as soon as they could, and for good reason. Louis Armstrong really loved his home town, so there was no irony in his singing and playing WHEN IT’S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH for forty years; other musicians, however, felt the disconnect keenly — that Fats Waller could record MY WINDOW FACES THE SOUTH but while he was touring that region the hotels and restaurants frequented by the dominant race were closed to him. Alas.
All this is prelude to the Bennie Moten – Thamon Hayes instrumental hit, simply called SOUTH — recorded in 1924 and 1928, and kept in the Victor catalogue into the Fifties. I found out that lyrics — quite pedestrian ones — were added by “Ray Charles,” but if my source is correct and they were written in 1936, that RC is not the famous one. And the lyrics aren’t worth the space here.
My window faces north-west, but I can always make it face the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet. And no, I don’t need more catsup. But thank you. The only thing that troubles me is that I cannot remember the name of this eatery: was it THE FIRE PIT? Oh, well, the music lasts longer than beer does.
I think of a performance like this as brightly colored but full of shadings, a compendium of Fifty-Second Street camaraderie brought into our century. Or, more simply, five minutes of expert joy. Notice I write expert: it’s only in the movies where Jack Webb picks up a cornet and is — voila! — proficient. For these jovial fellows and their colleagues, swing is a life’s work.
They are, from left, Brian Holland, piano; Marc Caparone, cornet; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal (whose birthday is today), string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet. (Dear Jacob: my apologies for not swinging the camera around sufficiently to always capture you.)
And the song here is the Al Dubin – Harry Warren delight, LULU’S BACK IN TOWN.
This performance has its own extra added emotional kick. Not only is it musically wonderful, but it is a souvenir of the last time I saw this band in action, the last festival I attended. We live in hope for a swinging future, you know.
It’s time for some music both tranquil and energized: an improvised duet on the Andy Razaf – Paul Denniker ‘S’POSIN’, by Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet, and Steve Pikal, string bass, at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, on March 7, 2020. Jacob and Steve were part of the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, musing their way through this 1929 song, associated with Fats Waller.
This interlude feels like a lovely series of inquiries gently tossed back and forth, a conversation floating in mid-air, touching the melody, stating it, then veering into swinging patterns, to return to the melody:
I find it impossible to listen to that performance only once at a sitting.
A few happy digressions about the song. Although you don’t hear the lyrics, they are charming variations on “I adore you. May I kneel at your shins,” and so on. I imagine the slightly abashed wooer quietly inhabiting the conditional tense: “Would it be acceptable to you if I told you how entrancing you are, or would you turn my words away?” or the hypothetical, “Suppose I said you are Alpha and Omega, honey lamb? Would you respond positively or negatively?” We might characterize this lover-to-be as overly timid, but I think such sweet tentativeness is a tender way of avoiding the usual aggressiveness.
I wanted to wait until this section of the blogpost to mention that my favorite full-scale version of this song was the Seger Ellis when-worlds-collide recording on June 24, 1929, for OKeh: Ellis captures eagerness and worried reticence, and he’s accompanied by Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Stan King, Justin Ring, Harry Hoffman, and Mister Strong, formerly known as “Little Louis.” It’s on YouTube.
Finally, when I Googled “‘S’POSIN’,” this came up:
He’s a Las Vegas attorney, although now his firm is now the Posin Law Group: “Providing personalized and superior representation to the Las Vegas community since 1997 for Family Law, Criminal Law, Personal Injury and Bankruptcy. . . . if you were involved with domestic violence, a car accident, divorce problems, a DUI or any other drug related charges our team of experts will be there to provide support, advice and representation in court. . . . please call our offices at 702-396-8888 and schedule a consultation.”
Now, sing along with me, “‘S’posin’ I should fall upon my face / Would you think that you would take my case?” or your own variation, apologies to Andy Razaf. Then go back and admire Messrs. Zimmerman and Pikal anew.
No elk in the parking lot and no double rainbows at the 2019 Evergreen Jazz Festival, but the music was full of natural wonders: especially the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, featuring Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Marc Caparone, cornet; Steve Pikal, string bass; and, playing clarinet and alto saxophone, John Otto. Here are three sprightly performances to prove that the altitude helped get people higher rather than tiring them out.
A positively jaunty WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:
A key-changing romp through THREE LITTLE WORDS:
Fats Waller’s composed-in-the-taxi 0pus of 1929, MINOR DRAG:
It will be lovely to hear this band once again in person — someday soon? And perhaps to make my way to Evergreen, Colorado, for a rewarding summer weekend of inventive hot music.
Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler were not in attendance at the Jazz Bash by the Bay on March 8, 2020, but we didn’t miss them, because the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet (Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Jacob Zimmerman, reeds; Marc Caparone, cornet) chased the clouds away at a fraction of the cost of a Ziegfeld musical:
At the end of my teaching career, I came to feel that knowing was overrated, that the willingness to say, “Gee, I can’t really tell you,” was so liberating. I could place the burden of Knowledge tenderly on the sidewalk and scoot away, not even looking back to see if someone had picked it up.
The enlightened state of not-knowingness is even more exalted when it has a soundtrack.
Here, it’s a swinging one, provided by the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet with guest star Riley Baker, trombone — Brian Holland, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass; Danny Coots, drums; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Marc Caparone, cornet. All of this spiritual shape-shifting happened at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, on March 8, 2020.
It doesn’t hurt that the spirit smiling on all this lovely business is Benny Carter: if you don’t know his 1933 recording of I NEVER KNEW, set aside some time to be dropped into bliss.
Bless these fellows who so open-heartedly share not only what they play but who they are with us.
This performance was created only five months ago by the calendar but it seems like decades have passed. But perhaps counting the days and mourning our powerlessness is just another attempt at knowing — a reliance on evidence that constricts us, like a sweater that has become too tight that we can put in the thrift-store bag and give away without a second thought? I wonder. (Wondering is an activity approved of by JAZZ LIVES, in case you have any concerns.)
To me, music like this doesn’t require much explication, and to begin to label and analyze it (in the style of Gunther Schuller) would be an insult. Here are six of my friend-heroes — guest Riley Baker, trombone; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet; Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; the very amused Steve Pikal, string bass — improvising on an Irving Berlin classic, BLUE SKIES. (The place? Jazz Bash by the Bay, Monterey, California. The time? Before the world changed.)
But notice how much respect these jazz improvisers — who, in this century, are supposed to be enthralled by harmonic density and innovation — give to Berlin’s melody, even as they are turning phrases this way and that. Hear how six instrumentalists, by eschewing the ensemble-solos-ensemble format, create an ever-shifting small orchestra, full of variations of texture . . . so that the performance is fulfilling rather than formulaic.
Listen, watch, and delight:
They really know how to do it. And “we’ll be together again.” I guarantee it, to quote the late Justin Wilson, king of the properly-made roux.
Jacob Zimmerman, Riley Baker, March 7, 2020, Monterey, California
Good music for a Saturday night, or anytime. In performance at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay, this composition wasn’t announced by name, but it’s really Jacob Zimmerman’s RADIATOR — dedicated to Ray Skjelbred — an improvisation on the venerable theme SHINE. (And before you get all het up about SHINE, please read this to get the real story about that song, written by African-Americans as a proud affirmation. But I digress.) The result is some fine riffin’ by Jacob, alto saxophone and head arrangement; Marc Caparone, cornet; Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass; guest star and friend Riley Baker, trombone.
Righteous stuff, wouldn’t you say? I look forward to our next reunion, when all the cacophony (emotional, medical, political — you name it) has subsided. I hear that medical staffs worldwide are working on a vaccine for hateful ignorance, too.
Double rainbow, Evergreen, Colorado, 2014. Photograph by Michael Steinman
Here is some wonderful music from one of my favorite bands, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, appearing at the Evergreen Jazz Festival (that’s Evergreen, Colorado) in July 2019. For this weekend, the quintet was Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Marc Caparone, cornet; John Otto, clarinet and alto saxophone; Steve Pikal, string bass.
I might be paraphrasing Yogi Berra, but this piece of music is so famous that no one every plays it anymore. I’m referring to the 1923 CHARLESTON, words and music by Cecil Mack and Jimmy Johnson, as noted below:
In my childhood, when several television shows purported to reproduce the ambiance and music of “The Roaring Twenties,” one by that title starring Dorothy Provine, CHARLESTON was played and sung often. But now, I can’t remember the last time I heard a jazz band play or sing it. (Note: I know there are wonderful recordings, and as I write this, the Original Boulevardiers of Bucharest are driving audiences wild with their rendition, but you don’t need to write in.) Here’s the HCJQ’s frisky version:
and a cool tender IMPROVISATION on a theme recorded but not composed by Fats Waller — the performers are John Otto and Steve Pikal:
Another HOT DANCE (as it would say on the record label), KRAZY KAPERS, perhaps harking back to the comic strip? — variations on the theme of DIGA DIGA DOO:
This band knocks me out, song after song. I saw them most recently at the Jazz Bash by the Bay . . . and you will get to see and hear them also, more . . . .
Let me be plain: before the skies darkened to the shade they are now, I flew from New York to Monterey in March to immerse myself in the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay, and I am deeply glad that I did. Here are the first three performances I saw and captured — by one of my favorite bands, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, which is Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Marc Caparone, cornet; Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone and clarinet.
MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS — now, for most of us, a dream out of reach:
Rodgers and Hart, 1927:
and the vengeance song that sounds like a love ballad to those unaware of the lyrics:
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my mask and gloves on to go get my mail. It’s the thought that someday soon I might see and hear my friends play jazz again that keeps me from eating the decorative molding. Be well, dear readers.
This post is full of emotion for me, and I hope for some of you: not just the music but the reality under the music, the world in which we now read and hear and attempt to proceed.
I offer you two lovely performances of songs by Irving Berlin and by George and Ira Gershwin, by Dawn Lambeth, vocal; Marc Caparone, cornet; Dan Walton, piano; Jamey Cummins, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass — created for us at the Redwood Coast Music Festival in Eureka, California, on May 11, 2019.
The beginning of this story is the last live jazz I saw — at Cafe Bohemia in New York City, celebrated elsewhere on this blog — on March 12, 2020. And even then people were [wisely, politely, perhaps tactfully] recoiling from one another, because who knew that your dear friend didn’t carry a double helping of death?
A few nights earlier, people were giving each other elbow bumps in lieu of closer contact, and when I, without thinking, shook the hand of a new acquaintance, we both looked at each other in embarrassment and shock, and we both muttered apologies, as if we’d taken an unseemly liberty. I know all this is prudent and exceedingly necessary — more so than choosing to wash the apple one buys at the farmers’ market before devouring it. But it adds to the despair.
It’s now almost June, and we greet each other as if we were grenades — and with reason. I know I am not alone in feeling the deadly deprivation of human contact (I have been hugging people — those I know and who would not back away — for perhaps a decade now, because it seems a natural loving expression) and the emotional aridity that distance imposes. Grinning and waving is an incomplete substitute. Hugging oneself just ain’t the same thing. You know this.
Because there is no live music for me to drink in and to video-record, I have been delving into my YouTube archives, which go back to 2006, in search of satisfying performances that the artists will allow to be shared. It is easier, of course, for me to pretend I am at the Ear Inn by watching a video than to pretend that I am hugging and being hugged, but it, too, is only a small palliative.
My searching, thankfully, has borne fruit, and I have found a goodly number from the Redwood Coast Music Festival, which — on my 2019 visit — seemed the perfection of the art form. It did not happen in 2020, but those of us who feel such things deeply pray that it will in May 2021.
In the set called featuring Dawn Lambeth and her Quartet, Dawn and the wonderful people I’ve mentioned above performed two songs that are poignant in themselves, but in connection almost unbearably so for what they hold out to us as possibilities unreachable at the moment.
The first is Berlin’s WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, which tells that that there will be “Peace and contentment at the end of the road”; given this tender reading, it’s hard to interpret this song as anything but hopeful, even though the road is longer and darker than perhaps even Berlin imagined:
Three songs later in the set, Marc chose as his feature EMBRACEABLE YOU — thinking, as one would, of Bobby Hackett:
The combination of the two songs is somber and lovely all at once.
I dare not waste energy on discussing what “the new normal” will look like: rather, my wish is that all of us live to see and experience it. But I do dream that the end of the road we are now on will have a plenitude of embraces given and received. We will never again, I hope, take such things for granted.
Thanks to the musicians here and to the people who make the Redwood Coast Music Festival possible and glorious, and of course heartfelt thanks to Mark and Valerie Jansen. Let this post stand as an IOU for future grateful embraces.
DINAH is one of the standbys of the swing-jazz-vocal repertoire, and has been so since Ethel Waters introduced it in 1925.
But it has been played faster and faster since then. Here it’s completely groovy, performed by the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, featuring Jacob Zimmerman, alto saxophone; Marc Caparone, cornet; Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Brian Holland, piano, at the Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, on March 7, 2020.
Harry Lim texted me to say how much he approves of this, by the way. He wants to sign the HCQ to a Keynote Records contract but is having trouble sending the paperwork.
This commercialized mirth might strike you as extreme, but bear with me.
Perhaps this will resonate more effectively. The OKeh sleeve makes me smile.
This song has been turned into a terrible cliche through ninety years of routine performance, but this effort from March 8 — which seems like ages ago! — takes me right back to Billie and Louis. The cheerful creators here are Danny Coots, drums; Steve Pikal, string bass; Brian Holland, piano; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet; Marc Caparone, cornet; special guest, Riley Baker, trombone. All this goodness took place at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California.
As an aside, I’d always thought of SMILING as a post-Wall Street crash song, but not only was Louis’ recording before the market imploded, but the first recording, by Bill Carlsen’s Orchestra, dates from May 1928 in Chicago. (Thanks to Charles Richdale for this prompt answer to my research query.) So the suggestion that smiling built community where tears did not was in its own way timeless. I hope readers can find reason to grin.
In the process of assembling this blog — which often feels like a small-town newspaper — I encountered this sweet 1928 recording, new to me, which I include because it begins with the verse. And I admire Seger Ellis. SMILING has gotten criticized by the “true jazz connoisseurs” as saccharine, over-simple: a song that needed improvisers to raise it above the mundane. I’d disagree: sometimes a sweet uncomplicated tonic is just the thing to settle one’s nerves.
A friend said to me a few days ago, only half-joking, “Could you hold down the optimism a bit? It’s getting on my nerves.” I apologized, but these days, “Latch on to the affirmative!” is my motto.
Dawn Lambeth is one of my favorite singers, and she keeps getting better: I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing her again at the 2020 Jazz Bash by the Bay earlier this month, and she delivered some telling words that have only gotten more relevant. With her are Steve Pikal, string bass; Brian Holland, piano; Danny Coots, drums; Jacob Zimmerman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Marc Caparone, cornet — a group of amiable ruffians known as the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet. And here they are!
This is understandably an arid time for live jazz in performance, but I will keep sending the sermon through this blog, with many delightful moments from the Jazz Bash by the Bay, less than two weeks ago.
Above, the musicians. Below, the text for the mellow sermon.
Now, this 1930 song seems a charming period piece. How many people, ninety years later, know the archaic vocabulary painfully current shortly after the stock market crash? It owes its immortality to Louis, as so much music does:
Marc Caparone acknowledges our debt to Mister Strong in his own way, with Danny Coots, drums; Brian Holland, piano; Steve Pikal, string bass:
Some concepts never die: I just heard someone speak of “being emotionally invested” in another person. May our psychic portfolios always gain in value.
And, speaking of value, the Holland-Coots Quintet will be appearing at the 40th Jazz Bash by the Bay in Monterey, California, this March — and the Musician of the Year will be Mister Caparone. Good sounds await.