Tag Archives: Tamas Ittzes

THE FORTUNATE ISLAND, FOUND!

To the most erudite readers, those who consult Geoffrey of Monmouth more than Facebook, the legendary island of Avalon is deeply significant in Arthurian legend: the Fortunate Island, the Island of Apples, the place where King Arthur’s sword Excalibur was forged and where Arthur went to die but remained immortal.  The best guess — only a guess — places the island somewhere near Wales.

Al_Jolson_Avalon_cover (1)

To others, AVALON is a hit popular song of 1920, composer credit going to Al Jolson, Buddy DeSylva, and Vincent Rose, yet its opening motif so close to a Puccini aria that the composer sued for plagiarism and won. (Knowing Jolson’s habit of cutting himself in on songs — that is, “Put my name on it as co-composer and thus give me one-third of the royalties, and I will sing it, making it a hit” — I think the song’s credit goes only to the other two writers. (Why only Rose and Jolson are credited on this cover is mysterious.)

Still others, and I am one of them, associate this song with unforgettable jazz performances by Red Nichols, Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong and the Dukes of Dixieland, and many others.  The Goodman Quartet version has its own conventions: a descending riff near the end accented by a drummer — originally the Blessed Eugene Krupa — playing the pattern on the wood rim of the snare.  Charlie Parker recorded his own improvisations over the Quartet version, and the song continued to be immensely durable: ask Al Haig, Ted Brown, Lester Young, Art Pepper, Elmo Hope, Eddie Condon, Mel Powell, and Don Byas.

But back to myth and evidence.

Recent archaeological research now suggests that the Fortunate Island is located near or in Kecskemét, Hungary.  I could fill pages with the documentary evidence, but offer this video as proof.  This musical evocation of AVALON is so vividly alive here that I am convinced.  The researchers — a gallant international team — assembled at the 24th International Bohém Ragtime & Jazz Festival held in Kecskemét, Hungary, March 27-29, 2015.  The team had an informal name, but it will make sense once you understand the video revelations — Attila’s International All Stars, and they are Malo Mazurié (France) – trumpet, Evan Arntzen (Canada/USA) – clarinet, tenor sax, Attila Korb (Hungary) – trombone, Dave Blenkhorn (Australia/France) – guitar, Sebastien Girardot (Australia/France) – string bass, Guillaume Nouaux (France) – drums.

As a reward for patiently reading (or scrolling down through) my japes, here is a wondrously swinging AVALON by a band worthy of Arthurian legend:

I am especially delighted to see Attila Korb appropriately adorned, but that IS a stage joke.

You may order the festival DVD (in English) here.  And for more information about the festival, visit here.  All of this is thanks to the Producer,Tamás Ittzés, Kecskemét Jazz Foundation, who is a splendid musician himself, and to the legendary musicians who transport us to AVALON.

If you are ideologically fierce, hewing to your conviction that only people born in a certain nation or with a certain ethnicity or racial background can play “America’s classical music,” I propose an intensive course of aesthetic rehabilitation: listening to this video, eyes closed, for as many times as it takes to loosen the death-grip of those beliefs.

May your happiness increase!

CATHERINE RUSSELL SWINGS IN (M)ANY LANGUAGE(S)!

Hearing Catherine Russell, I am always reminded of Eddie Durham’s sentence in praise of Ed Hall: “He didn’t know how not to swing!”

And when you put Catherine in front of a hot band — the evidence follows immediately! — the effect is happily seismic.

Here she is at the 22nd International Bohém Ragtime & Jazz Festival in Kecskemét, Hungary, singing EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY (the arrangement is by Andy Farber and Attila Korb) with the Hungarian Bohém Ragtime Jazz Band . . . József Lebanov, trumpet; Attila Korb, trombone; Zoltán Mátrai, reeds; Tamás Ittzés, piano; György Mátrai, guitar; József Török, string bass; Alfréd Falusi, drums.  Recorded March 23, 2013.  More information: bohemragtime and catherinerussell.

Here Catherine ventures into Hungarian melody and lyrics.  True, she has to put on her glasses, but she does such a nice job — her singing comes from the heart!  The band is almost the same, but Tamás Ittzés switches to violin, with Miklós Lázár alongside him.  The song is “miért szerettem bele magába,” which I believe translates to WHY I FELL IN LOVE, and it’s a neat rhythm ballad.  Can’t you hear Louis or Fats doing it, around 1936?  (I am sure that one of my readers can tell us all more about this composition by Mihály Eisemann and László Szilágyi.

And some wonderful swing dancing, too.

For those who wish to sing along, the lyrics are:

Mért szerettem bele magába? Gondolkodom, de már hiába.

Bármi rosszul esik, a szív beleesik egy ilyen kis hibába.

Ki gondolta volna előre, hogy ez lesz a végén belőle?

Máris odavagyok, majdnem belehalok, mi lesz ebből jövőre?

Ez egy olyan dolog, amin muszáj zokogni,

E sok közül éppen magát kellett kifogni.

Mért szerettem bele magába? Gondolkodom, de már hiába.

Bármi rosszul esik, a szív beleesik egy ilyen kis hibába.

Catherine Russell is a star — wherever we find her!

And that reminds me.  If you don’t see yourself as going to Hungary in the next two weeks, or you have mislaid your passport, swing relief is in sight.  Catherine will be appearing with a beautifully hot band on Monday, April 15, 2013, at a concert given by the Sidney Bechet Society.

RussellApril15_PC

That, as Keats said, is all you need to know.  See you there!

May your happiness increase.

“ON A COCONUT ISLAND” (March 26, 2011)

Here’s a delightful example of the multiculturalism that jazz embodies. 

What could be more expansive than a band of French musicians (with an American pianist sitting in) playing music created by a mixture of races and ethnicities in New Orleans? 

They’re playing a Hawaiian pop song (or at least its subject is Hawaii) recorded by an African-American trumpet player and singer — and my friend Melissa Collard, too.

And they’re playing it in Hungary. 

Call that narrow or insular at your own peril!

The facts:

The Night Owls, from Paris, play a leisurely ON A COCONUT ISLAND, at the 20th International Bohém Ragtime and Jazz Festival in Kecskemét, Hungary, March 26, 2011.  The Owls are Jerome Etcheberry, trumpet; Christophe Deret, trombone; Enzo Mucci, banjo; Sebastien Girardot, string bass; Guillaume Nouaux, drums.  And the meditative-looking fellow at the piano is none other than Butch Thompson!

The 2011 Bohém Festival DVD compilation can be obtained from order@bohemragtime.com.  See more at: www.bohemragtime.com.

HUNGARIAN JAZZ RHAPSODIES

It’s not something I like to admit, but until a few hours ago I was unaware of the fine hot jazz in Hungary.  Carol Baer had given me a CD by the Bratislava Hot Serenaders, but my world geography is so weak that I never quite figured out where Bratislava was, although I liked the band.

But I’ve just heard from Tamas Ittzes, of the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band and the Bohem Ragtime and Jazz Festival.  And I’m delighted to add his site to the blogroll: http://www.bohemragtime.com.  If you are still burdened by a narrow world-view, here are some of the players who have appeared at the Festivals in the past: Paul Asaro, Bria Skonberg, Matthias Seuffert, Nick Ward, Russ Phillips, Paolo Alderighi, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Bob Barnard —  are you convinced?  The RJB has also recorded with Barnard, George Kelly, Zeke Zarchy (!), and Joe Muranyi.

But this isn’t an instance of a European group that needs the visiting stars to bolster itself.  Proof is here, in their  March 2007 live version of Ellington’s BLACK BEAUTY.  The players are Attila Korb, cornet (normally trombone); József Lebanov, trumpet; Zoltán Mátrai, tenor; Tamás Ittzés, piano, leader; József Török, bass; György Mátrai, guitar; Alfréd Falusi, drums.

And here’s more evidence of the worldwide connections amongst swinging jazz musicians — an entertaining (and well-edited) mini-documentary filmed at the 2009 Festival.  Watch closely and you’ll see your favorites, and some players you hadn’t known but obviously should.

I’ll be posting more about the CDs and the festivals to come in Hungary in 2010 — one in March and a Louis Armstrong Festival in June.  Obviously, NOBODY’S SWEETHEART and TIGER RAG transcend any language barriers, as we always knew they did.