Tag Archives: Sweet and Hot Music Festival

FLOATING LYRICISM: TIM LAUGHLIN, CONNIE JONES, CLINT BAKER, CHRIS DAWSON, MARTY EGGERS, KATIE CAVERA, HAL SMITH at SWEET AND HOT 2011 (Sept. 5, 2011)

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.

SOME FINE RIFFIN’ THIS EVENING: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and FRIENDS (DAWN LAMBETH, DAVID BOEDDINGHAUS, CHLOE FEORANZO, and COREY GEMME) at SWEET AND HOT 2011

On the closing day of the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, the Reynolds Brothers (and friends) performed their ninth set — and it was as Hot and Ready as the previous eight.  The Brothers are Ralf (washboard), John (guitar, vocal, whistling), with help from Marc Caparone (cornet), Katie Cavera (string bass), as well as Chloe Feoranzo (reeds), Corey Gemme (cornet, trombone), David Boeddinghaus (piano), Dawn Lambeth (vocal).  It seemed, then and now, that the vibrations the Brothers launch into the universe are so strong and so sweet that everyone wants a chance to stand on the same stage and feel that energy.

But music speaks louder than words.

The session began with a not-too-fast SHINE, John singing the somewhat treacherous lyrics with great style after hot solos from the horns and a surging outchorus:

Keeping Mr. Strong in mind, Chloe suggested LAZY RIVER, and kicked it off at just the right easy tempo:

The extraordinary singer Dawn Lambeth kept the Louis-connection going with a sprightly JEEPERS CREEPERS, complete with the verse.  Her phrasing is so subtle and so delicious.  And “Ole!” sums it up for me, too:

Pianist David Boeddinghaus came on the stand (he sits in with the Brothers whenever he can) and Dawn — knowing that David is both sensitive and well-acquainted with a million songs, asked him if he’d follow her on WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR — a song that Dawn has been singing to young Master James Arden.  Aren’t we lucky that she was able to let us in on this tender creation (with a lovely piano chorus and a courageous bridge).  Dawn’s second chorus brings tears to my eyes, and I’m much older than James Arden, that lucky boy.  (Incidentally, the Louis-connection is intact: check out DISNEY SONGS THE SATCHMO WAY, a late masterpiece):

From those holy moments, a U-turn.  SING YOU SINNERS:

For his feature, Corey did beautiful things with a song about candor, I’M CONFESSIN’:

And the Brothers closed their set with a real rouser — their habit always, reminding us to have and cherish HAPPY FEET:

I will be seeing and exulting in the Reynolds Brothers at the 32nd Annual San Diego Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival (Nov. 23-27, 2011) — http://www.dixielandjazzfestival.org. — and I’d love to see you there!

JOHN SHERIDAN KICKS IT (Sept. 5, 2011)

Underestimate pianist / composer / arranger John Sheridan at your peril.  Neatly dressed, apparently serious-minded, he is really a volcanic eruption of swing just waiting for the proper moment.  Yes, he can play the most delicate traceries behind a soloist or our Becky Kilgore, and when he sits down at a new piano he is more likely to venture into IN A MIST than HONKY TONK TRAIN BLUES (although his version of the latter song is peerless).  But he’s a Force of Nature when seated at the piano.  No cascades of notes; no violent runs up and down the keyboard; no “displays of technique”: John simply starts plainly and builds and builds — at these times, the pianist he summons up most is the much-missed Dave McKenna, without consciously aping the Woonsocket, R.I. master’s locomotive patterns.

Sheridan remains Sheridan, and that’s a good thing.

Here he is (with Richard Simon, bass; Dick Shanahan, drums) in the final set of the final afternoon of the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival.  All the musicians and the varied audiences were in a state of Jazz Satiety: whatever could have been played or heard was in the preceding four days.

So wily Mr. Sheridan eschewed his stride extravaganzas and tender ballads: instead, he suggested something both elementary and profound, Sonny Rollins’ calypso ST. THOMAS.  And from those simple chords and potentially repetitive rhythmic patterns he built a powerful edifice — a masterpiece of variations on themes, of creative improvisation.  And it rocked the house there — as I think it will do for yours now:

Another winning play from John Sheridan, man of many surprises!

“SUNDAY, BY THE POOL, IN LOS ANGELES”: DAN LEVINSON, MOLLY RYAN, MARK SHANE, KATIE CAVERA, RALF REYNOLDS, REBECCA ZOE LEIGH (Sept. 5, 2011)

Certain phrases evoke an instantaneous positive reaction: “on the beach in Maui,” “No school today,” “Friday after work,” “hand in hand in the park.”  You can certainly invent those that make for happy vibrations.

A new one to add to my personal lexicon is “Sunday, by the pool, in Los Angeles.”  It needs some clarification: I don’t swim well and Los Angeles is not the California city closest to my heart . . . but when these words connect with the Sweet and Hot Music Festival (as they did in September 2011), what could possibly go wrong?

Nothing, as far as I am concerned.  And the measure of this swing session is that even with the bright light, the early hour, and the wind gusts, the music was sweetly triumphant.  The participants were Dan Levinson, his phrasing so easy and comfortable on clarinet and tenor sax; Mark Shane, a pianist who has a real problem in that he finds it impossible not to swing; the tenderly compelling singer (and solid rhythm guitarist) Molly Ryan; the invaluable Katie Cavera on guitar.  (Scientific studies, for what it’s worth, say that “multi-tasking” is a sham, that we can’t do more than one thing at once well: I would like to say, “Science, meet Katie Cavera.”)  And then some guests — one an Eminence, one a Newcomer, showed up and made us even happier.

Myabe because the sun was out, they began with SHINE:

Poolside, unfortunately, is not the best place for a singer with a microphone — the Weather Channel could explain the prevalence of gusty winds.  But Molly Ryan, who is a resilient performer used to transcending larger obstacles than this, absolutely triumphed with a heartbreaking rendition of the Ink Spots’ hit, IF I DIDN’T CARE.  Molly cares!  And her swinging empathy comes through in every note — a performance that was one of the highlights of Sweet and Hot 2011 for me.  No, it’s not a 1938 Vocalion or Victor — it’s happening now:

And here comes the Eminence — not His Holiness, but the Prince of the Washboard, the Sultan of Hot, Mister Ralf Reynolds, to join in the fun.  I don’t know if Ralf is essentially an optimist, but he spreads joy copiously — so he suggested WHEN YOU’RE SMILING (rather than GLOOMY SUNDAY):

Then Dan invited a young woman up from the crowd and asked her to sing something.  She really can and does — I introduce you to Miss Rebecca Zoe Leigh, having a good time with BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?  (She knows the verse: extra credit on the final):

The sky is dark and stormy: I wish we were back at poolside right now.  And if that’s not possible, I’ll immerse myself in these delightful performances.

REBECCA AMIDST THE REEDS at SWEET AND HOT 2011

I’ve seen the peerless singer Rebecca Kilgore perform live for the past seven years, and have always marveled how easily she made herself — and everyone else — comfortable in ad hoc situations.  And her easy confidence radiates to the other musicians; we in the audience feel it, too.  No one sits tensely on the edge of a seat when Becky takes the mike to sing: we know that something good, something surprising and persuasive, is coming.

It certainly happened at her closing set of the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, which took place on Sunday, September 5, 2011.  Someone had the interesting idea of splitting the RK4 (that’s the Rebecca Kilgore Quartet, the group formerly known as BED) into two.  In one room, Dan Barrett and Joel Forbes improvised alongside pianist Chris Dawson, reedman Jim Galloway, and drummer Frank DiVito.  I’m sure that was a delight.  Down the hall, Becky found herself surrounded by clarinets — Bob Draga and Chloe Feoranzo, with comrade Eddie Erickson on the stand and the irreplaceable pianist / singer Mark Shane.

What resulted was superb, and you can see for yourself.

Becky began with a song — of no great lyrical depth but immensely memorable — that I’d never heard her sing before, THE FLAT FOOT FLOOGIE (which segued into a later bit of pop drollery, SHOO FLY PIE AND APPLE PAN DOWDY, known only to scholars of dance-band arcana).  But she and the band floated on air, with our without a floy floy:

Another new-old song, YOU CAME A LONG WAY FROM ST. LOUIS, was more lyrically dense but equally rewarding:

Becky then became a fine rhythm guitarist, while the clarinetists, Mark, and Eddie capered around in BEI MIR BIS DU SCHOEN at a nice tempo:

Becky teased us and the audience about Eddie Erickson’s feature, WHAT’LL I DO? as a genuine weeper, but at heart she’s right — what a lovely performance of that beautiful song, with Eddie’s voice full of shadings that change from word to word:

Usually pianists as splendidly gifted as Mark Shane choose to wow the crowd with a stride firecracker for a feature — but our Mr. Shane is a wily programmer, and he called the 2:19 BLUES (or MAMIE’S BLUES) for his star turn, which led to a deep-blue seven minute performance of which Mr. Morton would (“no doubt”) have approved:

In response to an audience member’s request, Becky tenderly sang that Swing Era carpe diem,  A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY, in duet with Mark — the result touching without being sentimental:

And the whole group re-assembled so that Becky could lead them out with a hymn to self-love in the form of snail-mail: I’M GONNA SIT RIGHT DOWN AND WRITE MYSELF A LETTER:

What grace!  Thanks to Becky and the ensemble, and special thanks to the Canadian Board of Film for its gracious assistance.  This posting was made possible by a grant from the Frida Foundation.

P.S.  While I was writing this post, I took a phone call from my friend Destiny Sneath and explained what I was doing.  “You won’t believe it,” I said.  And — she knows the right thing to say — Destiny replied, “I can’t wait!”  This one’s for you, Destiny — and for all of us who admire our Miss Kilgore.

IT’S TOO HOT FOR WORDS: THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS and CLINT BAKER at SWEET AND HOT 2011 (Sept. 4, 2011)

I was very happy at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival, if my postings haven’t made that obvious.

But initially I was not terribly happy to watch the Reynolds Brothers in this outdoor venue — called RAMPART STREET because it seemed to be under a freeway ramp, which is either black humor or making the best of things.

A few minutes into the set I realized why the Brothers were playing outdoors.  I had seen various members of the Los Angeles Fire Department outside, and several parked trucks were there (with quietly observant firemen and women in uniform taking in the scene).  It made sense.

The people who operated the hotel had become aware that this band generated so much heat that it was thought better for all concerned if they performed outside.  I asked one of the firefighters and she agreed, but asked me not to tell people because there might be panic . . . but I can let the secret out now.

The Brothers, as always, lived up to their name — by featuring two men related by blood and parentage.  John (with the less effusive mustache) on National steel guitar, a tiny National ukulele, banjo, vocals, and whistling; brother Ralf on washboard and exhortation; Marc Caparone on cornet and vocal; Katie Cavera on string bass and vocal; guest star Larry Wright on alto sax, ocarina, and “vocal”; the gloriously down-in-the-gutter (only metaphorically) Clint Baker on trombone and vocal.

Here’s what they sounded like.  You might want to make sure that you know where your fire extinguisher is, or have a glass of water near the computer.

They began with CHINA BOY:

Then Clint was featured on I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME — dig the wonderful J. C. Higginbotham birdge he creates:

John sang I COVER THE WATERFRONT — so stylishly:

SAN (which always brings memories of Bix) had a whistling interlude from John, a “vocal” and ocarina display from Larry, and a wonderful duet for Marc and John:

Katie (having a good time) stepped forward for the pretty Walter Donaldson AT SUNDOWN:

And John offered CRAZY RHYTHM:

Marc, honoring Mister Armstrong, Mister Crosby, and indirectly Jones and Smith, gave out on a sweet, intense SHOE SHINE BOY:

John changed over to banjo for a hot lament about the BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME:

Note Marc’s beautiful lead playing on I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, so lovely:

And the Brothers scorched the stage with their closing HINDUSTAN:

Everyone thanked the firemen and women — who were wiping the sweat out of their eyes — for protecting us from what might have been a jazz inferno.  Our heroes on the stage, our heroes in uniforms outside.

TRULY SWEET, TRULY HOT with CONNIE JONES, TIM LAUGHLIN, CHRIS DAWSON, CLINT BAKER, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH, and CHLOE FEORANZO (Sept. 3, 2011)

Yes, the Champions sports bar was somewhat exuberant in its general atmosphere, but that did not stop these masterful musicians from creating sweet and hot jazz at the music festival of the same name held in Los Angeles in September 2011.

Here’s a memorable trio of selections from a great band — Tim Laughlin on clarinet; Connie Jones on cornet; Clint Baker on trombone; Chris Dawson on piano; Marty Eggers on bass; Hal Smith on drums; and (sitting in) Chloe Feoranzo on reeds (dig that party dress and that Miss Chloe just can’t keep from dancing — it comes through in her playing, too!).

Walter Donaldson’s lament for his deceased wife is such a beautiful song on its own — MY BUDDY — that the jazz players of the Thirties picked it up and made it their own (I think of Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, and Coleman Hawkins — some triumvirate).  This band does it justice:

Two clarinets need some sweet music to work on: here’s SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, expression of wishes and desires that may come true in the indefinite future.  No, right now — while this band is at work and at play:

Finally, hot rhythm of this caliber could make even the most solid citizen feel a little rebellious, willing to kick over the traces and make every day a casual Friday.  Hence, CRAZY RHYTHM:

What a band!  Hot lyricism in every bar . . .