The renowned jazz reedman Joel Press made a point last night at Smalls, in between-set conversation, of praising the clarinetist Tim Laughlin — someone whom I hadn’t heard in person before the Sweet and Hot Music Festival this last September. And I agreed, enthusiastically.
“Tonation and phrasing” is how Louis described the ideal: that the sound coming out of someone’s horn, the audible beauty of someone’s vocal sound, is as important as the notes played. Music, said Eddie Condon, should come in the ear like honey. Tim understands that so well and puts it into practice: the simplest melody statement gleams. And as for “phrasing,” he’s a master at taking his time, making space so that those notes resonate in our ears and hearts. Not surprisingly, his partners in the band are great lyrical players. I’ve praised them before and this time will let the music speak for itself — and will only, as Yeats wrote, murmur name upon name: Connie Jones, cornet and sky-architecture; Clint Baker, trombone and funk; Chris Dawson, piano and elegance; Katie Cavera, guitar and automatic transmission; Marty Eggers, string bass and solid rock; Hal Smith, drums and sound-sculptures. And late in this set they were visited by the slippery and thoughtful trombonist Russ Phillips.
Oh, play those things!
They began the set with a nice easy version of SHINE — a song looked on with some disapproval for its lyrics, but once you move the difficult words aside, the melody rings beautifully. It’s one of those classic-but-neglected songs I could hear much more often:
Then a real surprise — Tim loves pretty melodies, which is appropriate, so he called for IF YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD, which rises to sweet splendor early on:
If you think only of the lyrics, I CRIED FOR YOU strikes a more unhappy note, but jazz players and singers have been ignoring its potantial vindictiveness since the middle Thirties — as the band does here:
Then came one of the high points of the festival — Connie Jones’ absolutely heartfelt performance of a song Louis Jordan recorded, NEW ORLEANS AND A RUSTY OLD HORN, which sums up a good deal of Connie’s love for that city, the music, and how they intertwine. It’s also a song Connie recorded with Tim on their latest CD (visit http://www.timlaughlin.com. for the details):
Russ Phillips came onstage (always something to celebrate) and the band swung out into the old Berlin favorite, ALL BY MYSELF:
And they ended the set with a good old good one, evoking what Louis would have called a street parade in his home town, HIGH SOCIETY:
Here’s a bit of what they call laginappe — something extra and extra-special — as they call it in New Orleans: a Connie Jones / Tim Laughlin / Corey Gemme / John Sheridan / Richard Simon / Frank DiVito gift from the last set of Sweet and Hot: MAMA’S GONE, GOODBYE (listen closely to Connie’s generous, pensive obbligatos to Corey’s lead):
I’m very sorry that these are the last videos of the Laughlin – Jones band I have from Sweet and Hot 2011, but thrilled to be able to share them with you. This band — almost identical except that Bob Havens will be playing trombone — will be featured at the San Diego Dixieland Festival this coming November. Maybe Clint (who will be playing with two other bands at that festival — trumpet with Grand Dominion and tuba with the Yerba Buena Stompers — will come and make himself to home with Tim and Connie, too. I’ll be there.