Tag Archives: swing dance

SPLENDID SWING: THE BASIN STREET BRAWLERS, “IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT”

I encounter a number of youthful players who have formed improvising bands. Many of these small orchestras, to my delight, attempt to bring their own personalities — ferocious or tender — to the great repertoire of the last century. But few of them succeed so consistently as a new British group, THE BASIN STREET BRAWLERS.  Their debut CD, IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT, is a recent issue — a limited edition of 500 copies — and I encourage you to investigate both the band and the disc.

BRAWLERS

Here’s their “showreel,” a collection of samples from their live performances:

You’ll notice certain things from this video tasting menu: the band has a light, easy bounce; trumpeter Peter Horsfall is a concise, lyrical player and an especially fine singer.  (Imagine if Bob Howard or Louis Prima had been born in London — swinging, impassioned, but never overstated.)  The rest of the band is equally convincing, never trying too hard, but gently leaning into the swing winds: trombonist / vocalist Malcolm Earle-Smith and guitar master Martin Wheatley (whom I’ve seen and admired often at Whitley Bay) are the official representatives from a slightly older generation, but they fit right in with clarinetist / saxophonist Ewan Bleach, pianist Colin Good, string bassist Dave O’Brien, and drummer Mez Clough.

The repertoire on this CD — structured with a beginning, middle, and end — says a great deal about this band’s love and expertise — with small evocations of Teddy Wilson, Louis, Jack Teagarden, Goodman small groups, and more: A SMOOTH ONE (Intro) / IF DREAMS COME TRUE / JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS / IF ONLY YOU KNEW (an original hinting at Hodges and Strayhorn) / ALL MY LIFE / HOW AM I TO KNOW? / STARS FELL ON ALABAMA / ONCE IN A WHILE / IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT! / SWING THAT MUSIC / A SMOOTH ONE (Outro) / LOTUS BLOSSOM (Bonus track).  There’s even two very brief but pleasing appearances by one Natty Bo as “guest M.C.”

It’s beautifully recorded at the renowned Porcupine Studios, and the CD is a consistent pleasure.

(I didn’t have to do any mind-editing: “Oh, this would be wonderful if only _____ didn’t do this,” which dogs some of the new CDs I am asked to comment on.)

If you’d like to purchase the CD — an indication of sound judgment, I think, the best place is the “SHOP” section of the band’s website. For those who can’t wait for a physical disc, they can be satisfied by a download here. Candidly, as engaging as the “showreel” is, the CD is even more rewarding.

Once I heard the music, I became both advocate and fan. But I had one quibble — with the band’s chosen appellation. I admired the alliteration, but asked Peter if he was fully aware of the connotations of “brawlers.” (Yes, Yeats referred to a sparrow making that noise in the eaves, but I somehow thought this was not an avian swing group.) Peter’s answer was charmingly candid: “Brawlers  – came really from my understanding of the roots of this music. Trying to give a little light hearted reference to the bar brawls and whorehouses that hot jazz accompanied!”

I couldn’t argue with that.  And I assure any timorous listeners that neither the band or the CD will ruin your furniture, behave badly, or irritate the neighbors.

And the BSB has or have a Facebook page, with a gig schedule — crucial in these busy days and nights.

May your happiness increase!

A RHYTHMIC ECSTASY, 1950

The British Pathe newsreel organization has released 85,000 films to YouTube — they can be found here.  Of course, I went to that channel and entered “jazz” in the search box.  Some of the film footage is silent, which is its own kind of frustration, but this one isn’t:

Three and a half minutes of Humphrey Lyttelton and his band, culminating in an ecstatic SNAKE RAG — played for young dancers thoroughly captivated by the music, the rhythm, and their own movement.  No stimulus but rhythm and “ginger pop,” the narrator tells us.

At first, I yearned for those good old days.  Imagine rooms full of young people dancing all night to King Oliver’s music . . .but then I realized that the best swing dance extravaganzas I’ve been to, in California and New York, with bands led by Clint Baker and Gordon Au, and others, have been just as evocative, just as moving.  So there’s hope.

May your happiness increase!

FEELING WEARY? THIS SHOULD HELP.

WEARY BLUES, by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, recorded on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at the Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View, California.  Clint, trumpet; Jim Klippert, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; J Hansen, drums; Sam Rocha, guitar; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass:

There!  I feel invigorated already.

May your happiness increase!

A VALENTINE STOMP, or THE NINE-TWENTY SPECIAL (Part Two): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND with NICOLE FRYDMAN (Feb. 13, 2014)

Here is the second part of a delightful musical evening (and here, for anyone who missed it, is the first).

Love was in the air at the Nine-Twenty Special — at the Russian Center on Sutter Street in San Francisco the night before Valentine’s Day 2014 when Clint Baker and his New Orleans Swing Band (with the wryly independent singer Nicole Frydman) played a swing dance in honor of Cupid.  I don’t know actually how many couples went home smitten; how many new alliances were forged across the crowded room.  (No one came up to the balcony where I was shooting videos to announce their new happiness.)

I do mean love of melody, of melodic improvisations, of great songs, or bouncing buoyancy.  From my second-story perch, I was able to capture the whole band and that sweet rumble you hear is the sound of the dancers moving, their shoes making graceful arcs, their whispered conversations and giggles.

The band was our man Clint, trumpet, clarinet, vocal; Robert Young, saxophone, vocal . . . and a lovely rhythm section of Jeff Hamilton, piano, gloriously; Tom Wilson, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; J Hansen, drums; the aforementioned Nicole Frydman, vocal.

Here are the highlights of the second set.  Love it?  Love it!

MY BLUE HEAVEN:

DIGA DIGA DOO / KRAZY KAPERS:

A meteorological pair by Nicole. First, STORMY WEATHER:

Then everything clears, with BLUE SKIES:

THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:

BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE:

WEARY BLUES:

SAN FRANCISCO BAY BLUES:

“Had a good time every time I went out.”  True indeed, if Clint Baker has a hand in the music. If you missed this Valentine Stomp, Clint will be leading a band for the Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View, California, on April 2 — from 9:30 to midnight. Hop on!

May your happiness increase!

A VALENTINE STOMP, or THE NINE-TWENTY SPECIAL (Part One): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND with NICOLE FRYDMAN (Feb. 13, 2014)

Love was in the air at the Nine-Twenty Special — at the Russian Center on Sutter Street in San Francisco the night before Valentine’s Day 2014 when Clint Baker and his New Orleans Swing Band (with the wryly independent singer Nicole Frydman) played a swing dance in honor of Cupid.

When I write “love,” I don’t know actually how many couples went home smitten; how many new alliances were forged across the crowded room.  (No one kept tabs, and no one came up to the balcony where I was shooting videos to announce their new happiness.  Why, I don’t know.)

But I do mean love of melody, of melodic improvisations, of great songs, or bouncing buoyancy.  You can hear and see for yourself. I am very fond of these videos not only for the music but for the ambiance: from my second-story perch, I was able to capture the whole band and that sweet rumble you hear is the sound of the dancers moving, their shoes making graceful arcs, their whispered conversations and giggles.

The band was our man Clint, trumpet, clarinet, vocal; Robert Young, saxophone, vocal . . . and a lovely rhythm section of Jeff Hamilton, piano, gloriously; Tom Wilson, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; J Hansen, drums.

Here are the highlights of the first set.  Love it?  Love it!

CRAZY RHYTHM, with a vocal explication by Robert:

ONE HOUR, with endearments by Clint:

VALENTINE’S DAY JUMP:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, as described by Nicole, and an enthusiastic Mr. Baker:

THEM THERE EYES, with charms delineated by Ms. Frydman:

A double-header . . .

I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE (Clint at his most Swing Romantic) with a quick segue into BOURBON STREET PARADE:

SWING, SISTER, SWING, with Nicole giving us the embodiment:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

“Had a good time every time I went out.”  True indeed, if Clint Baker has a hand in the music.

May your happiness increase!

THE GREAT SIXTEEN: CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP (Jan. 8, 2014)

The inspiration for my title comes from a brief, warm conversation I had with the wonderful clarinetist (also photographer / writer) Bill Carter after this musical evening had concluded.  He smiled at me and said, “Did you get any ones worth posting?”  I grinned back and said, “Only sixteen,” which was a shared joke because the band had played just that number of songs.

I ordinarily post the results of an evening’s musical merriment in shifts, considering that few people have the time or space to watch more than a few videos at one sitting.  But this band was so fine and the dancers so receptive that — in the name of Muggsy Spanier’s RCA Victor record, THE GREAT SIXTEEN — I offer the entirety of the music played at the Wednesday Night Hop at the Cheryl Burke Dance Studio in Mountain View, California, on January 8, 2014.

The noble participants were Clint Baker, trumpet / vocal; Bill Carter,clarinet; Jim Klippert, trombone / vocal; Jeff Hamilton, keyboard; Sam Rocha, string bass / vocal; Bill Reinhart, banjo; J Hansen, drums; Jessica King, vocal.

Thanks to Audrey Kanemoto for unwavering moral guidance.

WEARY BLUES:

I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE:

BOURBON STREET PARADE:

MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR:

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

BLACK SNAKE BLUES:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

DARKNESS ON THE DELTA, sung prettily by Jessica King:

Ms. King stayed on to woo us with EXACTLY LIKE YOU:

SWEET LOTUS BLOSSOM:

TIGER RAG:

WHEN YOU’RE SMILING, explicated by Rev. Klippert:

THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS:

A multi-sensory pleasure . . . even better when experienced first-hand. To find out where more fine music is hopping, click here.

May your happiness increase!

“ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY!”: CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND PLAYS FOR DANCERS at METRONOME (August 10, 2013)

Recipe for happiness: a hot swinging band, a room full of expert swing dancers.  Voila!  Experience it in these performances by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Swing Band at Metronome in San Francisco on August 10, 2013.  In the band: Clint (trumpet, clarinet, trombone, vocal); Robert Young (saxophone, clarinet, cornet, vocal); Jeff Hamilton (piano); Sam Rocha (string bass, vocal); Jason Vandeford (guitar, vocal); Steve Apple (drums). Absolutely. Positively!

CRAZY RHYTHM:

ONE HOUR:

SWEET SUE (or HIGH NOONE):

DELTA BOUND (sung to us by Mister Rocha):

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

LADY BE GOOD:

THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:

IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE (a serenade by Mister Vandeford):

MAKE ME A PALLET ON THE FLOOR with vocal refrain by Mister Rocha):

SHAKE THAT THING:

Did you shake that thing?  I hope so.  If not, go back to the first video and remember your cultural responsibilities, please.

May your happiness increase!

CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at SAVANNA: THE SECOND SET (July 10, 2013)

The jazz musicians I know get a special pleasure from playing for dancers, watching the moving figures both vibrate to and reflect the music.  Wise swing dancers know there’s a particular delight dancing to a live band instead of an iPod.

Clint Baker and his New Orleans Jazz Band proved this — as they always do — one night about three weeks ago at the Wednesday night swing dance session held at Savanna in San Francisco’s Mission District, known as Cat’s Corner.

Clint, cornet and vocal, was joined by Jim Klippert, trombone and vocal; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, piano; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Marty Eggers, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.  Here’s the second set — suitable for at home swing dancing as well — which draw happily on pop tunes of the remembered past.  The first set can be enjoyed here.

IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE:

SWEET SUE:

THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:

INDIAN LOVE CALL:

CRAZY RHYTHM:

FRANKLIN STREET BLUES:

TIGER RAG:

ST. LOUIS BLUES:

JOE AVERY’S PIECE:

SHAKE THAT THING:

In terms of shaking that thing, everyone, on and off the bandstand, did.  I had to hold on to my tripod to keep it steady.

May your happiness increase!

CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at SAVANNA: THE FIRST SET (July 10, 2013)

The jazz musicians I know get a special pleasure from playing for dancers — watching the moving figures both reverberate and reflect the music — and wise swing dancers know there’s a particular delight dancing to a live band instead of an iPod . . .

Clint Baker and his New Orleans Jazz Band proved this one night not long ago at the Wednesday night swing dance session held at Savanna in San Francisco’s Mission District –known as Cat’s Corner.

Clint, cornet and vocal, was joined by Jim Klippert, trombone and vocal; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jeff Hamilton, piano; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Marty Eggers, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.  Here’s the first of two sets — suitable for at home swing dancing as well — which draw happily on pop tunes of the remembered past:

DINAH:

ONE HOUR:

THE SECOND LINE:

SISTER KATE:

MY BLUE HEAVEN:

TISHOMINGO BLUES:

WHEN MY DREAMBOAT COMES HOME:

IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

May your happiness increase!

ANOTHER MINT JULEP, PLEASE!

mjjb-dosn-cd-cover

A new CD, DURHAM ON SATURDAY NIGHT, by the Mint Julep Jazz Band, featuring the excellent singer Laura Windley, is a honey.

The MJJB is a small hot group — well-versed in playing for dancers, so they set swinging tempos and stick to them.  Their ensemble work is beautifully precise without being stiff, and they really understand the subtle mysteries of swing rhythm.  And the solos are just fine: not only can these young folks energetically pretend that 1941 isn’t really gone, but they can launch their own inventive solos time after time.

One of their main inspirations is youthful Ella Fitzgerald and the small group out of Chick Webb’s band — The Savoy Eight — and they evoke that sound perfectly without turning out pale note-for-note copies of the records.  I heard evocations of Sandy Williams and Sidney Bechet, but also Al Grey and Howard McGhee.

The repertory also looks with affection at the Ellington small groups and Victor band, the Kirby Sextet, the Ink Spots, the Basie band of the same period (I really welcome hearing JIVE AT FIVE, and the MJJB swings it the best way.)

They also find rather obscure pop tunes — which work!: GET IT SOUTHERN STYLE, ONE GIRL AND TWO BOYS, and there’s a nifty original, MIAMI BOULEVARD.

The excellent young musicians on this disc are Lucian Cobb, trombone; Laura Windley, vocals and glockenspiel; Aaron Hill, alto saxophone / clarinet; Keenan McKenzie, tenor saxophone / clarinet; Jared Worford, guitar; Jim Ketch, trumpet; Jason Foureman, string bass; Aaron Tucker, drums.  They aren’t restricted to the world of 1937, but there are no excursions into Sonny Rollins on a Swing chart, if you know what I mean.

Those boys rock,” the folks at the Savoy would have said.

Laura Windley is a special pleasure.  Many youthful singers in the “swing dance” scene have memorized the gestures of their idols — listening to the records so many times that they can mimic those Vocalions — and they, women and men, dress beautifully.  But as singers they lack their own personalities.  All gown, no voice.

Laura’s got her own sweet style with a serious rhythmic underpinning: if she were handed a song she’d never heard before, she could do it convincingly without echoing anyone else.  Her rich voice reminded me of young Ella — that hopeful, wistful, asking-for-love quality — but she can turn corners at a fast tempo, as she proves on the CD’s closer, the band’s romping version of Lil Armstrong’s HARLEM ON SATURDAY NIGHT.

Here’s a small sample from a band-within-a-band:

Laura Windley (vocals), Lucian Cobb (trombone), Aaron Hill (tenor sax), Keenan McKenzie (sitting in on soprano sax), Aaron Tucker (drums), J.C. Martin (guitar), Peter Kimosh (bass).

What you will hear on the CD will convince you that — like Swing itself — the Mint Julep Jazz Band is here to stay.  And that is very reassuring news.

Visit them, hear more from their CD (it’s also available on iTunes and CD Baby), and follow them here.

May your happiness increase!

MIGHTY GOOD at MONTEREY 2013 / THE CASE OF THE YEARNING DAMSELS

I am back home and back at the computer one day after the 2013 Jazz Bash by the Bay (or Dixieland Monterey for those who like alternatives): it was quite fine on many levels.  I didn’t video quite as much as I have done in past years, but this was because I had made a conscious decision to behave with greater rationality . . . rather than seeing how many sets I could cram into the weekend and arriving home with a cold or a cough that would take two weeks to shake off.  But there will be videos, I promise.

I heard splendid music from Carl Sonny Leyland in a solo set full of his originals; I encountered Ivory and Gold for the first time, although I have known Jeff and Anne Barnhart — wonderful variety of sounds; their characteristic wit; a great presentation.  The Allan Vache – John Cocuzzi – John Sheridan – Paul Keller – Ed Metz group rocked (a highlight was an extended IN A MELLOTONE); the splendid singer Dawn Lambeth appeared with a number of bands and made us feel better and better as she sang; Marc Caparone appeared as a guest star with High Sierra — his teamwork with Bryan Shaw is astonishing; Jim Fryer had a rare and delightful solo set; the Reynolds Brothers with Clint Baker caused seismic shifts of the most rewarding kind.  Howard Miyata was crowned Musician of the Year 2013 in a ceremony both goofy and touching, and his nephews Gordon, Justin, and Brandon swung out with the noble help of Katie Cavera and Danny Coots.

And I know other attendees had their own version of an exquisite weekend while listening to all the other bands and soloists on the program.

Did you miss it?  Were you being wisely frugal?  Did it pass you by? Don’t despair: a 2014 Jazz Bash by the Bay is solidly in the works, with these artists and more — Becky Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Paolo Alderighi, the Reynolds Brothers, Eddie Erickson, Bob Draga, the Au Brothers, High Sierra, Bob Schulz’ Frisco Jazz Band, Danny Coots, Phil Flanigan, Stephanie Trick, Sue Kroninger, Carl Sonny Leyland, High Sierra, Crown Syncopators, and more.  (And without being too didactic, I will point out that these enterprises rely on your tangible support — financial / physical — or they evaporate.  Look around for the sad evidence.)

It will be held March 7-8-9, 2014.  You may call 831.675.0298 or visit here for more information.  I will provide updates as I know them.

On to a related subject.  You are encountering JAZZ LIVES through a computer, an iPad, a phone or some other electronic gizmo.  And probably you think nothing of it.  But for other members of the jazz community, this is a terrifying kind of esoterica.

I met several charming ladies of a certain age (one doesn’t ask) at the Bash who told me that they were pining away for want of gallant male swains with whom to dance.  In each case, the ladies had been happily married for a long time; their husbands had died.  And unattached men seem not only fragile but in short supply.  So — if you are a single fellow out there, with or without two-tone shoes, and you can dance, there are willing partners a-plenty at these festivals.

The second part of my thinking goes back to our easy reliance on technology.  Since I have had a life-changing experience on Craigslist (of the best sort), I said to each of the damsels, “Do you have a computer?”  No.  One had a computer but her son used it and she had no idea how to on her own.  In each case, it was as if I had asked, “Do you know how to speak Sanskrit?”  I was all ready to say, “I know there are music-loving men of your generation who would be happy to dance with you — you could go to STRICTLY PLATONIC or ACTIVITY PARTNERS (whatever it is now called) on Craigslist — and gratifying things would happen.” But no.

So, I propose this as a generous act for a segment of the JAZZ LIVES readership. If you know someone, Auntie or Grandma or the Lady Two Houses Down, and she loves to dance . . . either help her out on your computer OR show her how to operate one.  I think this would be an act of deep swinging charity.  I know that people say, “Oh, no!  I don’t go on the computer!  I could get killed!  I could get my identity stolen!”  These fears have some basis in reality, I admit . . . but going to your grave without a partner is, to me, a sorrowful idea.

May your happiness increase.

“ON WITH THE DANCE” (Part Two): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP in MOUNTAIN VIEW (Jan. 3, 2013)

Here is the second part of an extraordinary evening — a swing dance with hot music provided by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, with beautiful playing from Clint (trumpet / vocal); Jim Klippert (trombone, vocal); Bill Carter (clarinet); Jason Vanderford (guitar, vocal); Bill Reinhart (banjo), Sam Rocha (string bass), J Hansen (drums).  I had a wonderful time.  Although you can’t see them, the dancers were explosively happy — and I think these video performances will rock and shout their way through the smallest computer monitor, the most tiny speakers.  Or your money back.  The first part of this hot bacchanal can be found here.

Is it too whimsical — in this age of physical aloneness and cyber-community –to suggest that these video performances are a good reason to invite the neighbors over for a party, push the furniture aside, and encourage everyone to dance like mad in the living room?  It’s just a thought.

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

OLE MISS:

COQUETTE:

BUGLE BOY MARCH:

ST. LOUIS BLUES:

WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE?:

JOE LOUIS STOMP:

THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT / JOE AVERY’S PIECE:

Californians are so lucky — not only for grapefruit trees and Meyer lemon trees, delicious local kale, and Amoeba Music — but they can go to a Wednesday Night Hop more often than I can.  I went to one where Clint’s band (with almost the same personnel) rocked the room — in 2012, and it was memorable indeed.  Part One and Part Two.

Here you can find out information about future Wednesday Night Hops.  (Thank you, Audrey Kanemoto!)

This post is dedicated to thoughtful Julius Yang, with thanks.

AND.

The universe doesn’t always have a sense of humor, and our best-laid plans oft gang agley.  But I am delighted to be able to wish Mister C.T. Baker a happy birthday, because this posting will appear on January 27.  He deserves our love and commendation — not just for the Mountain View gig, I assure you.

May your happiness increase.

“ON WITH THE DANCE” (Part One): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP in MOUNTAIN VIEW (Jan. 3, 2013)

How to start the New Year — any New Year — right!  A swing dance with hot music provided by Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band, with beautiful playing from Clint (trumpet / vocal); Jim Klippert (trombone, vocal); Bill Carter (clarinet); Jason Vanderford (guitar, vocal); Bill Reinhart (banjo), Sam Rocha (string bass), J Hansen (drums).

I had a wonderful time.  Although you can’t see them, the dancers were explosively happy — and I think these video performances will rock and shout their way through the smallest computer monitor, the most tiny speakers.  Or your money back.

AVALON:

SISTER KATE:

WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP:

SWEET LOTUS BLOSSOM:

DOCTOR JAZZ:

ALL OF ME:

THE SECOND LINE:

BLACK SNAKE BLUES:

DINAH:

Is there anyone finer?  I thought not.

Californians are so lucky — not only for grapefruit trees and Meyer lemon trees, delicious local kale, and Amoeba Music — but they can go to a Wednesday Night Hop more often than I can.  I went to one where Clint’s band (with almost the same personnel) rocked the room — in 2012, and it was memorable indeed.  Part One and Part Two.

Here you can find out information about future Wednesday Night Hops.  (Thank you, Audrey Kanemoto!)

More to come in the second part, once everyone’s computer has cooled down.

May your happiness increase.

LET ME OFF UPTOWN FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Part Two): “CHRISTMAS STOMP” with GORDON AU’S GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Columbia University, December 1, 2012)

It bears repeating.

Saturday, December 1, 2012, was a wonderful day (they all are, if you have the right approach to them) but the evening was even better . . . I was fortunate enough to be uptown for the CD release party held at Columbia University.  The party was honoring the Grand Street Stompers on the occasion of their new CD, CHRISTMAS STOMP.  And STOMP they did.  (Learn more about that very pleasing CD here.)

GSS cover

For those of you who couldn’t take the A train (thank you, Billy Strayhorn) or drive uptown, here are some highlights of this most swinging, mobile evening. The participants: Gordon Au on trumpet / arrangements / compositions; Matt Musselman, trombone; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Davy Mooney, guitar; Jared Engel, string bass; Rich Levinson, drums; Tamar Korn, Molly Ryan, vocals — with guest appearances from the amazing dancer Andrew J. Nemr, clarinetist Dan Levinson, saxophonist Adam Lee, singer Margi Gianquinto, and more.

Before we start,a caveat (nicely browned for the holiday season).  The music is wonderful; my videos are somewhat below-par for reasons that anyone who has been in a large hall filled with wonderfully graceful dancers will recognize.  An event such as this (thank you, Lucy!) is organized for the comfort and pleasure of the people who not only know what the Peabody is but are able to do . . . the world is not my sound stage.  Knowing this, I took up a position at the rear of the hall — a happy observer — and recorded what I saw.  In situations such as this, I think, “This is what it was like at the edge of the Savoy Ballroom,” and any discontent vanishes.  Perhaps next year someone will lend me a crane or at least a stepladder and a longer tripod.  Or not.  Here are the remaining marvelous swirling delights I saw and heard on December 1.

It wasn’t wintry outdoors, but Tamar feels it’s always a pleasure to sing I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM:

Moving along in the “I’ve got” cardfile, she beautifully delivers Fats’ I’VE GOT A FEELIN’ I’M FALLING:

Molly comes back for IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS:

O HOLY NIGHT is not the vehicle one associates with high-energy jazz, nor with elegantly forceful tap dancing, but when Gordon Au and the Grand Street Stompers meet the wizard Andrew J. Nemr, magic happens.  I only wish I had been at a better angle to focus on those airborne feet.  Next time:

Molly, typically well-behaved, tells of holiday adulteries in I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS.  Let us avert our eyes from this potentially lascivious scene — when the Grand Street Stompers play, we get the presents:

The Three Graces — Molly, Tamar, and Margi — give out with a very sweet WHITE CHRISTMAS:

Victor Herbert never knew his MARCH OF THE TOYS could look and sound like this:

AIN’T MISBEHAVIN is a way to welcome Adam Lee, Lucy Weinman, and Dan Levinson to the holiday stomp:

For the finale, everyone throws caution to the wind — at least metaphysically — for LET YOURSELF GO:

If you’ve enjoyed these experiments in Cinema Very Tea, you’re sure to enjoy the real thing: learn more about the actual CD (a winner no matter what the calendar says) here.

May your happiness increase.

STOMPING FOR CHRISTMAS: AN EARLY HOLIDAY BASH WITH GORDON AU / THE GRAND STREET STOMPERS (Columbia University, December 1, 2012)

It’s a cornucupia of hot holiday pleasures: a CD release party that’s also a swing dance extravaganza.  And more.  A dance lesson (at 7 PM) by Nathan Bugh.  The phenomenal dancer Andrew J. Nemr will be performing as only he can.  And (I quote):

Featuring dance performances, holiday photo station, surprise special guests, groovin’ DJs, and 3 hours of live swing-your-socks-off holiday and jazz tunes, including songs from the Grand St. Stompers‘ eagerly awaited second album!Christmas Stomp presents the holiday classics you know and love (plus a few rare gems), stomped on and reshaped into swinging, jazzy hits, courtesy of the delicious musical talents of Gordon Au, trumpet / cornet / arrangements; Tamar Korn and Molly Ryan, vocals; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet; Matt Musselman, trombone; Nick Russo, banjo / guitar; Rob Adkins, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums.

Saturday, December 1st, 8-11PM // $12, $8 Columbia University students.  Diana Center, Barnard College: 3009 Broadway, New York, New York.

I attended the 2011 version of this annual splash, and even though I was restricted to Peabodying with my tripod at the rear of the room, it was a wonderful night.  Graceful, energized young men and women, fascinating to watch, dancing to the best live jazz . . .

And speaking of that jazz, I’ve been listening to my very own advance copy of CHRISTMAS STOMP — the new Grand Street Stompers’ holiday CD.  At the risk of being unsubtle, it is a great outpouring of sweetly quirky swing.  Gordon has a sublimely odd sense of things (underneath that superbly polite exoskeleton) and it comes through in the music.  I have very little tolerance of Christmas music — but in Gordon’s hands, it becomes a thing of slightly lopsided beauty.  After all, some of the most popular Christmas tunes lend themselves nicely to the GSS’ approach — I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS has never been a classic in my book, worthy of Robin and Rainger — but the GSS make it very lively and memorable.  On this CD, there’s also WINTER WONDERLAND, I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM, ‘ZAT YOU, SANTA CLAUS?, IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, MARCH OF THE TOYS, the aforementioned holiday near-adultery of Mommy and Mister C, THE ONLY THING I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS, O HOLY NIGHT, and Gordon’s witty pastiche, ALL THE OTHER CHRISTMAS SONGS.  Sweet vocals from Tamar and Molly, and hot / tender playing from everyone else.

If you bring a crisp (or even a crumpled) twenty-dollar bill (“a double sawbuck” in ancient parlance) not only will you be admitted to the festivities on December 1, but you will go home with your own CD.  Amaze your friends; delight your family; be the envy of everyone.  For more details, click stompers.  On the site you will find a variety of VIP packages with delicious benefits.  My favorites are the ones that aren’t listed: a cornet lesson from Gordon; a half-hour discussion of cosmology and philosophy with Tamar; a visit to Nick’s house to play with his adorable children, a seminar in Universal horror films with Professor Dorn, a dance lesson from Lucy Weinman . . . any or all of these things can be negotiated.

And here’s some video evidence from last year — what a swell party it was!  (Purists will say that RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE isn’t Christmas music, but it’s good music.  So there.)

May your happiness increase.

YES, DO TRY THIS AT HOME: “SKINNY MINNE,” by GLENN CRYTZER and his SYNCOPATORS

If you’re at home while you’re reading this post, take a moment to look around you.  If you’re elsewhere, close your eyes and visualize your home and the largest room of your house or apartment.  (If you’re reading this on your phone while walking, I wish you wouldn’t.  But enough of that.)

Now, look at this picture.

Imagine that your place has suddenly been transformed into a swing-dance sock hop (or, if you prefer, the dancers can keep their Capezios on).

Impossible, you say.

Highly possible, I tell you.  No, you probably can’t make your studio apartment larger, and the neighbors below would get restive if you brought in all these Peabodying friends.  But the transformation can be done musically with the help of a small plastic artifact weighing around an ounce:

Yes, the new CD by Glenn Crytzer and his Syncopators, SKINNY MINNE, recorded live on May 4 and 5 at the Midwest Lindy Fest in Minneapolis (hence the title) has just that effect.  I know the idea bends time and space and delivers an uppercut to the laws of physics, but when Swing is concerned, it trumps anything you learned in high school science class.  And this CD is all about the many colors and flavors of Swing.

The Syncopators are Steve Mostavoy, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, reeds; Solomon Douglas, piano; Glenn Crytzer, guitar; Steve Pikal, string bass; Mike Daugherty, drums; Meschiya Lake, vocals.

And, typically, they mix fresh readings of venerable songs (with roots in Count Basie, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, Illinois Jacquet, Artiie Shaw, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, and Sidney Bechet) with originals that are so deeply idiomatic that they are both delicious surprises and totally in the groove(s).  And Meschiya’s singing is as rich, smoky, and enticing as ever.

The songs are ONE O’CLOCK JUMP / J’ATTENDRAI / SKINNY MINNE / BOTTOMS UP / THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER / THE SAD SACK / YACHT CLUB SWING / BLUE SPIRIT BLUES / JACQUET IN THE BOX / EL SALON DE GUTBUCKET / THE GRABTOWN GRAPPLE / DEEP DOWN IN CAROLINE / C JAM BLUES / HOP, SKIP AND JUMP / EGYPTIAN FANTASY / BLUES FOR NORMA / IT DON’T MEAN A THING (IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING).

And because this music was recorded live at a Lindy Fest, the band is especially loose and animated . . . there’s none of that constriction that sometimes befalls musicians in the recording studio where they can’t see each other, they hear each other through headphones, and they are understandably xonxerned that no mistakes be made.  You’ll hear what it sounded like to be there: an immense asset!

To effect this magic in your own home, which translates as “To order the CD,”  click here.  Once you’re on Glenn’s site, you can hear samples of the music he has created on three compact discs.

May your happiness increase.

DON’T MISS THIS: “THE SAVOY KING” COMES TO NEW YORK CITY

Good news!  THE SAVOY KING: CHICK WEBB AND THE MUSIC THAT CHANGED AMERICA is coming to New York City . . . .

The Savoy King is an important contribution to our knowledge and our history.  I highly recommend that those who have the opportunity see this film.” – Harry Belafonte

“Vibrant and evocative – – I loved every minute of The Savoy King.” – film critic Leonard Maltin

With the voices of: Sunpie Barnes as Barney Bigard, Bill Cosby as Chick Webb, Billy Crystal as Mezz Mezzrow, Tyne Daly as Helen Oakley Dance, Keith David as Charles Buchanan, Andy Garcia as Mario Bauzá, Danny Glover as Count Basie, Jeff Goldblum as Artie Shaw, Janet Jackson as Ella Fitzgerald, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Dizzy Gillespie, John Legend as Dizzy Gillespie, Ron Perlman as Gene Krupa, Voza Rivers as Sandy Williams, Eugene Robinson as Teddy McRae, and Charlie Watts as Stanley Dance

THE SAVOY KING: CHICK WEBB AND THE MUSIC THAT CHANGED AMERICA  will screen at THE 50TH NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL:

Saturday, Sept. 29 (noon), at The Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St.

Tuesday, Oct. 2 (3:30pm), at The Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, 144 W. 65th St.

September 13, 10am to noon, there is a press screening and Q&A at The Walter Reade Theater, with Director / Producer Jeff Kaufman, Executive Producer Voza Rivers (Chairman of The Harlem Arts Alliance), and NEA Jazz Master Roy Haynes

September 28, 8pm, a panel with a Swing Dance to follow, with The George Gee Swing Orchestra, and special guest vocalist Lainie Cooke.  The panel will be hosted by Judy Pritchett, and will include:  Dr. Richard Gale (son of Savoy Ballroom owner Moe Gale), Swing dance master Norma Miller, and Jeff Kaufman (director / producer of The Savoy King).  Location: Dance Manhattan, 39 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011.  (212) 807-0802

October 2, at noon: a panel at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of Harlem Arts Advocacy Week.  Hosted by Voza Rivers of the Harlem Arts Alliance / New Heritage Theatre Group; the panel will include: Dr. Richard Gale (son of Savoy Ballroom owner Moe Gale), Swing dance master Norma Miller, playwright / actress Gertrude Jeannette, drummer Roy Haynes, and Jeff Kaufman (Director / Producer of The Savoy King).  Location: The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York NY 10037-1801

“We fought a war with music and dance, and that’s what opened the doors.”

– Norma Miller

inclusive pr | http://www.inclusivepr.com  |  323-460-4111.  Mickey Cottrell: mickey@inclusivepr.com  |  Jonah Blechman: jonah@inclusivepr.com

Note to JAZZ LIVES readers: this is not only a splendid film about Chick Webb and the music he created and helped make the American popular language — it is about that music’s power to create acceptance and break down barriers.  THE SAVOY KING is also a wonderful film — even if you have never heard or heard of Chick Webb, it has its own power to enchant without ever seeming didactic.  

I’d make it required viewing for anyone who thinks (s)he wants to make a film, because it’s so far beyond the usual parade of talking heads . . . . 

Don’t miss it!

Here is my review and a beautiful one, SWING SPIRITS HAUNT SEATTLE, by Candace Brown —           

May your happiness increase.

A GREAT HUMAN STORY: “THE SAVOY KING: CHICK WEBB and the MUSIC THAT CHANGED AMERICA”

We have all seen our share of documentaries, perhaps beginning in elementary school.  The least successful are tedious although well-meaning, taking us year-by-year, serving up moral lessons.  Although they strive to inform and move us, often they are unsatisfying and undramatic in their desire to present us with facts.

Jeff Kaufman’s brilliant feature-length portrait is a soaring antidote to every earnest, plodding, didactic documentary.  It is full of feeling, insightful without being over-emphatic.  It tells several stories in affecting, subtle ways.

Chick Webb was a great musician — a drummer other drummers still talk about with awe and love.  He guided and lovingly protected the teenaged Ella Fitzgerald, helping her grow into a mature artist.  Crippled from childhood — he would never grow much taller than 4′; he was in constant pain; he died shortly after turning thirty — he was fiercely ambitious and ultimately triumphant in ways he did not live to see.

But this is far more than the story of one small yet great-hearted man.  It is much larger than the chronicle of one jazz musician.  It is the story of how Webb’s love, tenacity, and courage changed the world.  That sounds hyperbolic, and I do not think that any American history textbook has yet made space for the little king from Baltimore, who deserves his place alongside Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson.  This film will go a long way towards correcting that omission.  For Chick, tiny yet regal behind his drum set, helped create an environment where Black and White could forget those superficial differences and become equal in the blare of the music, the thrill of the dance.

Without Webb, would there have been a Savoy Ballroom where American men and women could have forgotten the bigotry so prevalent, lost in the joy of swing?  I like to imagine someone, trained into attitudes of racism from birth, hearing HARLEM CONGO on the radio and feeling transformed as if by a bolt of lightning, not caring that the players were not Caucasian, making the shift in his / her thinking from cruel derision to admiration and love.  How may people moved to an acceptance of racial equality because they were humming Ella’s recording of A TISKET, A TASKET?  We will never know . . . but just as the sun (in the fable) encouraged the stubborn man to shed his heavy coat where the cold wind failed, I believe that jazz and swing did more than has ever been acknowledged to make White and Black see themselves as one.

And the film documents just how aware Webb was of the reforming power of his music.  The idea of him as a subtle crusader for love, acceptance, and fairness is not something imposed on him by an ideologically-minded filmmaker: it is all there in the newspaper clippings and the words he spoke.

Here is Candace Brown’s superb essay on the film — with video clips from the film.

I must move from the larger story to a few smaller ones.  Put bluntly, I think filmmaker Kaufman is a wonder-worker, his talents quiet but compelling — rather like the person in the tale who makes a delicious soup starting with only a stone.  It took six years and a great deal of effort to make this film, and the result is gratifying throughout.

Making a documentary in this century about someone who died in 1939 has its own built-in difficulties.  For one thing, the subject is no longer around to narrate, to sit still for hours of questions.  And many of the subjects friends and family are also gone.  Chick Webb was a public figure, to be sure, but he wasn’t someone well-documented by sound film.  Although his 1929 band can be heard in the rather lopsided film short AFTER SEBEN, the director of that film cut Chick out of the final product because he thought the little man looked too odd.

I don’t think so.  Here is a still from that film (with Chick’s dear friend John Trueheart on banjo and my hero Bennie Morton on trombone):

But back to Kaufman’s problem.  Although there are many recordings of Chick’s band in the studios and even a radio broadcast or two, other figures of that period left behind more visual evidence: think of the photogenic /  charismatic Ellington, Goodman, Louis.  Of Webb and his band in their prime, the film footage extant lasts four seconds.

So Kaufman had to be ingenious.  And he has been, far beyond even my hopes.

The film is a beautifully-crafted tapestry of sight and sound, avoiding the usual overexposed bits of stock film and (dare I say it) the expected talking heads, droning into the camera.  The living people Kaufman has found to speak with love of Chick Webb are all singular: jazz musicians Roy Haynes (swaggering in his cowboy hat), Joe Wilder (a courtly knight without armor), Dr. Richard Gale (son of Moe, who ran the Savoy), dancers Frankie Manning and Norma Miller . . . their affection and enthusiasm lifts up every scene.

And Kaufman has made a virtue of necessity with an even more brilliant leap.  Webb wasn’t quoted often, but his utterances were memorable — rather like rimshots.  Ella, Gene Krupa, Ellington, Basie, Helen and Stanley Dance, Artie Shaw, Mezz Mezzrow, and twenty others have their words come to life — not because a serious dull voiceover reads them to us, but because Kaufman has arranged for some of the most famous people in the world to read a few passages.  Do the names Bill Cosby and Janet Jackson suggest how seriously other people took this project?

THE SAVOY KING is a work of art and an act of love, and it desrves to be seen — not just by “jazz lovers” or “people who remember the Big Band Era.”

It has been selected to be shown at the 50th annual New York Film Festival, tentatively on September 29, which in itself is a great honor.

That’s the beautiful part.  Now here comes four bars of gritty reality.  In the ideal world, no one would ever have to ask for money, and a major studio would already have done a beautiful job of exploring Chick Webb’s heroism, generosity, and music by now.  But it hasn’t happened, and we know what results when the stories we love go Hollywood.

Filmmaker Kaufman is looking for funding through INDIEGOGO to arrange a “proper launch” for this film — the goal being $5000 to cover the extra work of our PR team (media, publicity, sales, etc), and other key expenses that will help lead to a commercial release.  All levels of support (ideally $75 and up) will make a real difference.  Here is the link.

Think of a world made better by swing.

See and support this film.

May your happiness increase.

A HOT BAND IS GOOD TO FIND (Part Two): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP (August 1, 2012)

Jim Klippert said it best.  “I always wanted to play with a band like this.”

On August 1, 2012, Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band rocked the house — the Cheryl Burke Dance Studio in Mountain View, California — at the “Wednesday Night Hop.”

The participants?  Clint on trumpet and vocal; Jim Klippert, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jason Vanderford, guitar; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.

Here’s where you can find out about future Wednesday Night Hops.

And here’s the first part of the evening.

Now, to the second.  The constant delights were beautiful ensemble energy and precision, wonderful hot playing — passion, relaxation, and intuition — no matter what the tempo.  More than one person let me know that the first set was so entrancingly distracting that it got them off track at work . . . . I have visions of people at their desks all over the world trying hard to stay focused while Sister Kate does her thing . . . . for Clint and his colleagues create music that is deliciously distracting.  Their music is a sure cure for gloom, tedium, ennui, Victorian swoons, pins-and-needles, existential dread, coffee nerves, the blahs, low blood sugar, high anxiety, and more.

SISTER KATE (or, for the archivists in the room, GET OFF KATIE’S HEAD):

Woe, woe.  It’s CARELESS LOVE.  Be careful, now!

Thanks to Puccini, here’s AVALON, not too fast:

For Bix, for Louis, for Papa Joe — ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

SOMEDAY SWEETHEART:

KNEE DROPS is an irresistible Louis Armstrong song from the Hot Five sessions. For this post, I tried to find more information on what the dance move would have looked like in 1926 . . .but I am not sure that the “knee drop” as practiced in break-dancing and ballet would have been recognized at the Sunset Cafe or other Chicago nightspots:

When in doubt, SHAKE THAT THING (defined loosely):

May your happiness increase.

A HOT BAND IS GOOD TO FIND (Part One): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND at the WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP (August 1, 2012)

What happened in Mountain View, California, on Wednesday, August 1, 2012, might have been noted by global weather scientists as the best kind of seismic alteration.  Clint Baker’s New Orleans Jazz Band played two sets for dancers at the “Wednesday Night Hop” held at the Cheryl Burke Dance Studio and they made the cosmos rock — as far as I and the dancers could tell.

The participants?  Clint on trumpet and vocal; Jim Klippert, trombone; Bill Carter, clarinet; Jason Vanderford, guitar; Bill Reinhart, banjo; Tom Wilson, string bass; Steve Apple, drums.

Here’s where you can find out about future Wednesday Night Hops: the street address, the admission cost, directions.

And here’s the first part of the evening.

But a word before you immerse yourselves in the rocking hot sounds.

Some of my nicest readers gently write in, “Michael, you really should have put your camera here or there,” and I try not to let that SHOULD weigh too heavily on me. The gentle suggesters do not realize that I am at these gigs because the band members are generous kind people who put up with my presence and my camera.  But the world is not my personal video studio and I am trying my best to be unobtrusive — not the jazz world’s Erich von Stroheim.

So at Mountain View I could have set up my camera under a huge whirring electric fan (needed to keep the dancers from heatstroke) or over the drums.  I chose the latter and initially I was anxious.  But necessity is not only an inventive mother — sometimes Miss Necessity is a real pal (think of Joan Blondell in the Thirties movies where she tells the naive heroine what really needs to be said).

Setting up close to Steve Apple was a religious experience, for he played with such quiet strength,  such variety of sound and timbre, such deep swing that my vantage point was a true gift.  You can hear how the horns floated on top of and through this blissful rhythm section . . . . and how they mixed 2012 swing with a beautiful New Orleans splendor!  Clint’s solid lead would have made the masters grin; Bill Carter and Jim Klippert weave curlicues and romp on the harmonies in the best way — and those fellows in the back: Reinhart and Vanderford and Wilson would get my vote for Best String Trio anywhere.  The real thing, alive and well.

Clint called DALLAS BLUES to start, which is the hallmark of a man who loves the music — and he had been playing Luis Russell in the car on the way down to Mountain View, always a good idea:

ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY is a sweet Jabbo Smith tune that’s getting more play these days (Eddie Erickson does it, too!) — romance in swingtime:

WHISPERING shows, once again, how a band sensitive to the dancers can swing anything:

RED SAILS IN THE SUNSET brings back 1935 Louis (this is a Decca band) and the New Orleans tradition of playing pop tunes rather than sticking to a narrow repertoire of  “good old good ones”: I think of Bunk Johnson preferring PISTOL PACKIN’ MAMA and MARIA ELENA on dance gigs:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, with the verse — and I swung my camera around to catch the expert hopping of Audrey Kanemoto, our heroine, and Manu Smith.  Watching this video, I thought of the Czech writer Josef Skvorecky, who loved jazz and had been an amateur saxophonist in his homeland under a variety of occupations.  In one of his novels, he has a passage describing playing in a band while the current love of his life is doing a beautiful expert vigorous Charleston to the music.  He would have loved to see this band and these dancers:

There was no beer at Mountain View, although there were Fritos in little bags from the vending machine.  Perhaps that’s why THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT came to mind.  Or perhaps it was time for some Lowdown Groove, which I have not found in any vending machine:

WEDNESDAY NIGHT HOP, a fast blues for the Lindy Hoppers:

I love SOLID OLD MAN — a simple line from the session that Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, and Billy Taylor did with Django in 1939:

KRAZY KAPERS is, as Clint mentions, a line on DIGA DIGA DOO — recorded first by Benny Carter in 1933 with one of our dream bands, featuring Floyd O’Brien, Chu Berry, Sidney Catlett, Teddy Wilson, Max Kaminsky, Lawrence Lucie, and Ernest Hill.  (Thank you, John Hammond!):

My goodness!  What a hot band!  And there’s more to come.

May your happiness increase.

“JAZZ LIVES” GOES TO A DANCE: FOUR SEMI-FORMAL SCENES from the COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SWING DANCE (December 9, 2011)

In my ideal re-envisioning of myself, I am both a hot cornetist — modeling myself on Little Bobby Hacksaw — and a stylish swing dancer.  Both of these goals have so far eluded me, but I was delighted to be invited to the Columbia University Swing Dance Society Semi-Formal Friday night.  And I took my camera.  More about that in sixteen bars.

What could be nicer, more promising?  The Grand Street Stompers would play hot and sweet jazz — always original — for an audience of limber swing fans who were in constant motion.  The GSS is one of my favorite bands: Gordon Au on trumpet, gentle leadership, compositions and arrangements; Dennis Lichtman on clarinet; Matt Musselman on trombone; Nick Russo on banjo and guitar; Rob Adkins on string bass; Kevin Dorn (just back from the West Coast) on drums; Tamar Korn on voice.

The Beloved came in and enjoyed the scene; I got to talk with some friends: Lucy Weinman, Veronica Lynn Day, Sam Huang, Michelle deCastro, and Lynn Redmile — and to watch the dancers, who made me think sadly of college opportunities missed.  I told Veronica that when I went to college swing dancing was not quite in fashion (probably I was too busy reading), but that had I been in the right place and the right time, I would have been entranced — both by the live music and by the lively young women.  I would have had a fine time and probably flunked all my classes.  Worth the trade?  No doubt, to quote Mr. Morton.

But back to the semi-formal scenes.  I stationed myself at the rear of the room to capture what you might have seen and heard had you been there . . . the videos are slightly more jumpy than I would have preferred, but I thought a tripod would not have gone with my semi-formal garb.

For Bix, for Hoagy, and for swing — RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE:

Miss Korn (resplendent in mauve or is it Valpoicella?) tells us EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

Are skies cloudy and gray?  They’re only gray for a day, remember.  WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

And Gordon’s own rocking love song, CRAZY EYES:

Wonderful scenes!  And how fortunate we are that such things are flourishing in this century — not only for those people who live near 117th Street and Broadway.  Get rhythm in your feet!  On with the dance!

LUCY’S SECRETS

If you saw this young woman on the street, you would think, “She has a nice smile,” but you might not know that she has several secret lives.

All will be revealed about Lucy Weinman in this post.  She doesn’t have multiple-personality disorder, her own lingerie business, nor a quiz show with Garry Moore.  Her Columbia University transcript would show that she is majoring in biology, is a research fellow at the Kelley Lab — far beyond the high school biology I knew.  You might also encounter her as an enthusiastic swing dancer at a number of venues or a delighted audience member at jazz concerts by people like Dennis Lichtman and Gordon Au.

But this is how I first encountered Lucy.  In full flight and in good company — with Dennis Lichtman and Chloe Feoranzo, Kevin Dorn and other notable souls:

Notice the trumpet attached to our Miss Weinman.  To quote Eddie Condon, she owns it and she plays it.  In fact, Lucy is a really impressive hot trumpeter with a large sound, a truly swinging conception, and a good deal of spice.  She, Jeff Weinman (guitarist / pianist / and also Lucy’s father) and Miss Cherry Delight (vocals) make up the Big Tent Jazz Band with a variety of ringers and sitters-in.  Their Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Cherry-Delight-and-The-Big-Tent-Jazz-Band/343542389217?v=info&sk=info.

That should be enough.  BIO WHIZ GIRL ALSO HOT TRUMPETER would be a nifty headline on an imagined newspaper in a Thirties movie.  But Lucy has more surprises for us.

One is the Columbia University Semi-Formal Swing Dance — coming up on December 9, 2011.  Here (in excited prose I didn’t dare edit) are the details:

CU Swing Dance – This Joint is Jumpin’
: a stompin’ swing dance fiesta featuring New York’s own Grand Street Stompers. Feel-good New Orleans jazz, lovely dancing, lovelier company, and good times will abound. Show up in your semi-finest attire and stretch out those hamstrings cause THIS JOINT’S GONNA BE JUMPIN’!
How it’s gonna go down:
8:30- 9pm – A beginner swing dance lesson provided by CU Swing Dance (No prior experience or partner necessary, ya dig? You got no excuse!)
9pm-12am – The band JUMPS and so do we. It’s that simple.
CUID holders: $8
Non-CUID: $10
*The Grand St. Stompers is a swinging-hot traditional jazz band led by rising young trumpeter Gordon Au and featuring the evocative and joyous vocals of Tamar Korn. With one foot stomping in vintage tradition and the other in modern style, they’ll throw down everything from Louis Armstrong hits and New Orleans standards to Gordon’s exciting originals to surprisingly swinging adaptations of classical pieces and Disney tunes. The bottom line is this: whenever they play, it’s a helluva show.
**Directions: Take the 1 train to 116th St. Walk north on Broadway to Barnard’s Gates at 119th St. Enter campus, turn right, and look for the orange building (The Diana Center). Go down one floor to LL1. Give money to the smiling Columbia students, get your hand stamped, and dance to your heart’s content!

But wait!  There’s more.  WKCR-FM (the radio station of Columbia University, also accessible streaming live on the web at http://www.wkcr.org) is known for seventy years of jazz programming.  One of its long-standing programs — I remember listening to it as far back as the early Seventies — is OUT TO LUNCH, a weekday jazz show from 12-3.  This radio station plays the whole range of recorded jazz from 1917 to the present, from the ODJB to the world of free.  Splendid!  But often — not surprisingly — what’s known as “traditional jazz,” loosely defined as New Orleans, Chicago, early Swing — is left to the very scholarly divagations of the Dean of New York Jazz Radio, Phil Schaap.

Some weeks ago, I was driving home in the early afternoon on a Tuesday, and I turned on my car radio, whose first preset is 89.9, WKCR.  I forget what exactly was coming out of the speaker — was it I MUST HAVE IT by King Oliver or was it FAREWELL BLUES by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings? — but it was a delicious jolt.  The “disc jockey,” the archaic term for the person choosing what records to play, stayed out of the way of the music for a good long time.  Then she announced herself as “Lucy,” and the veils dropped from my eyes.  I am not embarrassed to say that I called the station and said, mock-ominously, “WHAT are you doing playing all that good hot jazz?  What’s the matter with you?” or words to that effect.  Then I introduced myself — Lucy and I know each other from Radegast and The Ear Inn — and we both started laughing happily.

Lucy Weinman is on the air every other Tuesday — her next show is December 13.  She has a clear voice, can pronounce the musicians’ names correctly, and her love for the music comes right through the speaker.  Today, when she was through playing a nice long set of Louis and Earl from 1928, including KNEE DROPS, she began her commentary with a hushed, “Oh, my God.  Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines,” which is proper reverence.

She has at least three or four brilliant careers in front of her, and JAZZ LIVES salutes her varied endeavors — while unmasking her secrets, which is the privilege of Hot Jazz Journalism.  Find out more about her lives at http://www.facebook.com/Lucy.Rae.W.  And if you’re lucky, she’ll bring her horn to a gig.  Pleasant surprises await!