Tag Archives: Tardo Hammer

“THROUGH THE EYES OF A DRUMMER: THE LIFE AND PHOTOGRAPHS OF JIMMY WORMWORTH”: A FILM BY NEAL MINER

Worm

The Neal Miner we admire is a superb jazz string bassist and composer:

The composition is Neal’s TIME LINE: his colleagues are Michael Kanan, piano; Greg Ruggiero, guitar.

Fewer people know Neal as a fine record producer, a splendid videographer (the evidence is here, now a gifted documentary-maker.

I was privileged to be in the audience last Thursday night when he showed his film about the engaged and engaging drummer / photographer Jimmy Wormworth to a very receptive audience.  Neal has put the film on YouTube for all of us to enjoy at our leisure, for free.

Although I tend to glance at my watch during documentaries, I sat rapt, and it wasn’t only because the stories were delightful.  Neal has not resorted to fancy film tricks (although you HAVE to wait for the coda); he has gently stayed out of the way of his subject.

And the stories!  Tales of Paul Chambers, Charlie Rouse, George Braith, Lou Donaldson, Dizzy Gillespie . . . all the way up to the present, with Tardo Hammer, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Dwayne Clemons, and other friends. In the Fifties Jimmy bought a Brownie camera and began to take candid photographs of his heroes and colleagues, and they are priceless, as is the cheerful commentary.  The film is as close as we will get to sitting down with an amiable jazz legend who graciously unrolls fascinating anecdotes of his first-hand experience.  At the end of the documentary, the audience stood and cheered.

I said to someone on the way out, “Much better than a memorial service.”  Neal has done something beautiful and lasting by celebrating and chronicling a great artist while that person is alive.  I would like to see him get grant money to do more of these films, although I would hate to see him put the string bass in the closet.

Here’s Neal’s commentary:

For the past five years I have been experimenting with video and audio recording. After getting my feet wet with a few projects, I decided to undertake the challenge of documenting a person’s life, career and, in this case, some very unique photographs.

Since 2005 I have had the good fortune of playing regularly with master drummer, Jimmy Wormworth on a weekly show with the iconic Annie Ross. On one of our first gigs together Jimmy pulled an old snapshot out of his pocket, handed it to me with a playful grin and said, “Who’s that?” After examining the slightly tattered photograph I realized that it was none other than my bass hero, Paul Chambers, sipping from a bottle of Gordon’s gin backstage while standing next to the legendary pianist, Wynton Kelly. Every week thereafter, Jimmy showed me more shots that truly amazed me.

I then learned that when Jimmy was in his early twenties he was the drummer for the hot, new vocal group, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. He was on tour with them from 1959 to 1961, sharing concert bills with all the top jazz groups of the day. Backstage Jimmy was not only rubbing elbows with the giants of jazz, he was also snapping photographs with his Brownie camera, documenting these legends in a very candid light.

I was immediately intrigued and inspired to do something to help Jimmy share these photos and his stories with the world. This documentary is strictly a labor of love and not for profit in any way. My only goal is to share Jimmy Wormworth’s fascinating life story and his beautiful photographs.

I hope you enjoy this film, the making of which was an amazing experience and opportunity for me to learn and grow. I am truly grateful for all of the many people who contributed to and helped out with this project.

Thank you for watching!
Neal Miner

P.S. Please spread the word and long live Jimmy Wormworth!

May your happiness increase!

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THE ELECTRIC MAN RINGS TWICE

glowingsocket

So let him in!

ELECTRIC MAN, Irene Sanders and Buddy Burton, in 1936.

Try this at home, if you are insulated properly.

But good ideas never get old, hence this modern version of the same direct, current conceit: Marty Elkins’ FUSE BLUES:

Marty’s friends here are Herb Pomeroy, Houston Person, Tardo Hammer, Greg Staff, Dennis Irwin, Mark Taylor.  And Marty has a wonderful new CD that gives all sorts of delicious shocks.

May your happiness increase!

LYRICALLY ALIVE: AI MURAKAMI QUARTET: “CONCEPTION”

For the moment, the usual media sources have tired of telling us that jazz is dead, but some anonymous blogger launches heavy satire that it is “the worst,” while another source reports that jazz is the least popular music on the planet.  I find it difficult to care about such blurts . . . because beautiful performances and many new discs prove those slighting words untrue.

aimurakami

Today’s delight is drummer Ai Murakami’s CONCEPTION (Gut String Records) where she leads Zaid Nasser, alto saxophone; Tardo Hammer, piano; Hassan Shakur, string bass, through eight lyrically swinging performances: ON A MISTY NIGHT / CONCEPTION / SWEET LORRAINE / OLD DEVIL MOON / WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME / SAUCER EYES / WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN / RAY’S IDEA.

I had never encountered Ai, but when I had the opportunity to hear her music, I was very pleased.  (I must point out that my apartment, rather like the late Ed Beach’s, is primarily furnished in music — a wall of CDs, boxes of cassettes, and a collection of what is now called fashionably “vinyl,” so that I turn down offerings of most CDs, thinking that I will never live to hear one-fourth of what I now own. For me to eagerly ask for a CD is in itself an enthusiastic endorsement of the music it contains.)

First off, although this is a drummer-led quartet, Ai is a percussionist more interested in propelling the group than in soloing.  The two extended solos she takes, on SAUCER EYES and RAY’S IDEA, are each slightly more than a minute long, and are deliciously melodic displays of accents, rolls, and rimshots — compositionally deep, as one motif naturally builds into the next.  Throughout this session, she plays “for the comfort of the band, ” creating a flowing swing tapestry for the quartet.  She moves quietly around her set as the context changes, and her work is full of subtle colorations of sound that show how deeply and lovingly she listens to her colleagues.  Pianist Hammer is one of the great lyrical players of this era, his work simultaneously definite and airy; bassist Shakur is a melodic player who keeps beautiful time and has a deep resonant tone; altoist Nasser is a post-Parker songbird with a citrusy tone, moving easily from one great lyrical paean to the next.

This recording is “old-fashioned” in beautiful ways, which I write as a great compliment: it shows their respect for song offered in swinging ways.  Melodies are caressed rather than demolished, and the result is gratifying mainstream jazz played in this century.  It isn’t an attempt to reproduce great performances or familiar solos in better fidelity, but one could pass it off as a lovely unissued Prestige session and the collectors would be racing to buy copies.

I asked Ai for her thoughts, and they are candid and modest.

“First of all, I love each one of these players as a great musician.  They have their own unique sound and their phrasing is so musical.  I have worked with each member in different band situations and always enjoyed it.  But when we played together for the first time, it was very different. I felt full of joy while I was playing as the band was so swinging. After several gigs together, I felt even better! Then I started thinking that I should do a recording with this band. I wanted more people to hear our music and feel like I do.

The most significant tune for me on this recording is Conception, which is why I named my album after it! I always love this tune, but I don’t hear many musicians play it nowadays. So I wanted to try it on our recording.  I guess it is a tough tune, but I’m happy about the way we sound on the recording.  The drum trading was a bit complicated, but we nailed it! I really like the ending too.

On our recording, I selected tunes the way I do for the gig.  I wanted our recording to be like a good set, with various tempos, different feels, a mix of standards and bebop tunes… so that we enjoy our playing and hopefully our listeners do too.  I’m quite happy about the way it came out.

I also wanted to feature all the members on my recording. I asked Tardo and Hassan to pick their own featured tunes.  Tardo picked When Johnny Comes Marching Home and Hassan picked We’ll Be Together Again.  Tardo and Hassan played great in general, but I think they especially sounded wonderful on their tunes.”

Here you can find out more. And here are two complete performances from the disc itself:

SWEET LORRAINE:

WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN:

CONCEPTION is both an idea and a giving birth — here it is deeply satisfying lyrical music, a living embodiment of sophisticated swinging improvisations . . . the kind of rich music the media tells is finished.  How wrong they are.

You can learn more about Ai and her bands here.

May your happiness increase! 

APRIL IS THE COOLEST MONTH, or NEW YORK JOYS (2013)

Every time I get ready to declare, “OK, I will spend the rest of my life happily in California,” New York crooks a dainty finger at me and whispers, “Not so fast, fellow.  I have something for you.”

ny skyline

These are some of the musicians I was able to see, hear, and video during April 2013 — an incomplete list, in chronological order:

Svetlana Shmulyian, Tom Dempsey, Rob Garcia, Asako Takasaki, Michael Kanan, Michael Petrosino, Joel Press, Sean Smith, Tardo Hammer, Steve Little, Hilary Gardner, Ehud Asherie, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Kevin Dorn, James Chirillo, Brian Nalepka, Dan Block, Danny Tobias, Matt Munisteri, Neal Miner, Catherine Russell, Jon-Erik Kellso, Lee Hudson, Lena Bloch, Frank Carlberg, Dave Miller, Billy Mintz, Daryl Sherman, Scott Robinson, Harvie S, Jeff Barnhart, Gordon Au, John Gill, Ian Frenkel, Lew Green, Marianne Solivan, Mark McLean, Dennis Lichtman, Tamar Korn, Raphael McGregor, Skip Krevens, Andrew Hall, Rebecca Kilgore, Dan Barrett, Scott Robinson, Pat O’Leary, Andy Brown, Giancarlo Massu, Luciano Troja, Rossano Sportiello, Randy Sandke, Harry Allen, Dennis Mackrel, Joel Forbes.

And I saw them at the Back Room Speakeasy, the Metropolitan Room, Smalls, the Bickford Theatre, the Ear Inn, Symphony Space, the Finaldn Center, Jazz at Kitano, Jeff and Joel’s House Party, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jalopy Theatre, Casa Italiana, and Zankel Recital Hall.

T.S. Eliot had it wrong.  Just another average jazz-month in New York.

P.S.  This isn’t to slight my California heroes, nay nay — among them Marc Caparone, Dawn Lambeth, Carl Sonny Leyland, Clint Baker, Jeff Hamilton, Chris Dawson, Marty Eggers, Katie Cavera, Kally Price, Leon Oakley, Mal Sharpe, Tom Schmidt, John Reynolds, Melissa Collard, Ari Munkres, GAUCHO, PANIQUE, Bill Carter, Jim Klippert, JasonVanderford, Bill Reinhart, Dan Barrett . . . .

May your happiness increase.

FIVE LESSONS IN SWING: JOEL PRESS, TARDO HAMMER, SEAN SMITH, STEVE LITTLE at SMALLS (April 6, 2013)

Saxophone master Joel Press has decided to spend his time in New York City, and that’s very good news.  He’s an original — a soft-voiced player who can growl and moan in the best Southwestern tradition (even when it has been assimilated through Boston) but often prefers to ride the rhythm, uttering tender, looping lines.  While remaining himself, he encompasses the whole tradition — with nods to Sonny Rollins and Bud Freeman, to Herschel Evans and Lester Young.

A few weeks ago, Joel led a wonderful quartet at Smalls (183 West Tenth Street in Greenwich Village) with Tardo Hammer on piano; Sean Smith, string bass; Steve Little, drums.

THAT OLD FEELING:

THERE IS NO GREATER LOVE:

GONE WITH THE WIND:

LOVER MAN:

Bb BLUES:

New York is lucky to have you back, Joel.  Thanks for the beautiful floating sounds!

May your happiness increase.

PETER VACHER’S SUBTLE MAGIC: “MIXED MESSAGES:

The best interviewers perform feats of invisibility.  Yes, they introduce the subject, give some needed context or description, and then fade away – – – so that we believe that X or Y is speaking directly to us.  This takes a great deal of subtlety and energy . . . but the result is compelling.  Whitney Balliett did it all the time; other well-regarded interviewers couldn’t.  Peter Vacher, who has written for JAZZ JOURNAL and CODA, among other publications, has come out with a new book, and it’s sly, delightful, and hugely informative.

Vacher

MIXED MESSAGES: AMERICAN JAZZ STORIES is a lively collection of first-hand recollections from those essential players whose names we don’t always know but who make the stars look and sound so good.  The title is slightly deceptive: we are accustomed to interpreting “mixed messages” as a combination of good and bad, difficult to interpret plainly.  But I think this is Vacher’s own quizzical way of evaluating the material he so lovingly presents: here are heroic creators whose work gets covered over — fraternal subversives, much like Vacher himself.  One might think, given the cover (Davern, Houston Person, and Warren Vache) that this is a book in which race features prominently (it does, when appropriate) and the mixing of jazz “schools” is a subject (less so, since the players are maturely past such divisive distinctions).

Because Vacher has opted to speak with the sidemen/women — in most cases — who are waiting in the lobby for the band bus, or having breakfast by themselves — his subjects have responded with enthusiasm and gratitude.  They aren’t retelling the same dozen stories that they’ve refined into an automatic formula; they seem delighted to have an attentive, knowledgeable listener who is paying them the compliment of avidly acknowledging their existence and talent.  The twenty-one musicians profiled by Vacher show his broad-ranging feeling for the music: Louis Nelson, Norman ‘Dewey’ Keenan, Gerald Wilson, Fip Ricard, Ruby Braff, George ‘Buster’ Cooper, Bill Berry, Benny Powell, Plas Johnson Jr, Carl ‘Ace’ Carter, Herman Riley, Lanny Morgan, Ellis Marsalis, Houston Person Jr, Tom Artin, John Eckert, Rufus Reid, John Stubblefield, Judy Carmichael, Tardo Hammer, Byron Stripling.  New Orleanians, beboppers, late-Swing players, modern Mainstreamers, lead trumpeters and a stride pianist, and people even the most devoted jazz fancier probably has not heard of except as a name in a liner note or a discography.  Basie, Ellington, and Charlie Barnet make appearances here; so do Johnny Hodges, Jimmie Lunceford, Al Grey, Charlie Shavers, Bobby Hackett, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Red, Maynard Ferguson, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy Knepper, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman, Papa Celestin, Don Byas, Dexter Gordon, J. J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, the AACM, Freddie Green, John Hammond, Roy Eldridge, Dick Wellstood, Duke Jordan, Sal Mosca, Junior Cook, Bill Hardman, Art Farmer, Mary Lou Williams.

But the strength and validity of this book is not to be measured by the number of names it includes, but in the stories.  (Vacher’s subjects are unusually candid without being rancorous, and a number of them — Braff, Berry, Stripling — take time to point out how the elders of the tribe were unusually kind and generous mentors.)  Here are a few excerpts — vibrant and salty.

Benny Powell on working with Lionel Hampton:

He was a pretty self-centered guy.  Kinda selfish.  When something wasn’t right or he wanted to admonish somebody in the band, he would have a meeting just before the show.  He’d get us all on stage and tell us how unworthy we were.  He’d say, “People come to see me.  I can get out on stage and urinate on stage and people will applaud that.”  He would go on and on like this, and when he was finished, he’d say, “All right, gentlemen, let’s have a good show.”  I’d say to myself, “Good show!  I feel like crying.”

Pianist Carl “Ace” Carter:

. . . the drummer . . . . was Ernie Stephenson, they used to call him Mix.  He said, “Why don’t you turn to music?  You can get more girls.”  He’s passed on now but I said if I ever see him in heaven I’m gonna kill him because to this day I haven’t got a girl.” 

Trumpeter John Eckert:

I didn’t appreciate Louis Armstrong until I played a concert with Maynard Ferguson’s band, when I was. maybe, 26 years old [circa 1965].  A lot of big acts were there, including Maynard, Dave Brubeck with Paul Desmond, and three or four other modern groups.  Louis ended the concert.  I’d always seen him as this old guy, with the big smile, saying negative things about bebop, but I was just thunderstruck at how he sounded.  I couldn’t believe how powerful he was, his timing, just the authority he played with — his group wasn’t really that impressive — but he was the king.

To purchase this very satisfying book, click here.

May your happiness increase.

MICHAEL KANAN and FRIENDS ARE THROWING A PARTY (Nov. 6, 2011)

A Rent Party, to be exact.  For those who don’t know, this comes out of a Harlem tradition in the Twenties and onwards: if you needed some financial aid, you hired a friendly piano player (who brought his friends with him) and asked people to contribute what they could to keep Old Man Depression at bay.

Pianist Michael Kanan has moved into a new studio — there was a fire too close to the old one — and it’s a beauty, spacious and with lots of windows.  But the Rent . . . is . . . Higher, a fact of urban life.  So here’s Michael’s solution: invite his friends to play his beautiful piano and ask a congenial group to support this enterprise.

He writes:

To celebrate the opening of our new rehearsal studio – “The Drawing Room” – we are presenting a concert by the “Four Pianists”. Larry Ham, Tardo Hammer, Pete Malinverni, and Michael Kanan will alternate at the mint condition Steinway C grand piano. There will be some special guests sitting in as well.  As we are trying to defray some of the cost of moving into the new space, we’ll ask for donations at the door.  Please contribute whatever you’d like.

Sunday, November 6th

7:00 – until it’s done

At “The Drawing Room”

70 Willoughby Street #2A, between Lawrence St. and Bridge St.

Downtown Brooklyn

Admission: contribute what you’d like

for info: 917-836-2105

The Drawing Room is a large, comfortable space which can accommodate a large, happy crowd. Bring anyone you’d like, and spread the word!  Feel free to BYOB.  Our studio is accessible by several subway lines. From Midtown Manhattan you can get there in 30 minutes or less.  If you choose to drive, you can probably find street parking on a Sunday evening.  

I know that Michael has great plans for the new space, and I hope to be there for some of those happenings: I can’t make this one, because I’ll be at Mike Durham’s Classic Jazz Party.  But having heard these four pianists take turns at a far less congenial venue, I can guarantee that this Rent Party will be worth it.