Tag Archives: tenor guitar

GYPSIES, CONTINUED: THE FAUX FRENCHMEN at JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2012

JAZZ LIVES doesn’t always take requests, but after I’d written this about two impressive Gypsy jazz ensembles, DJANGOLOGIE and SOME LIKE IT HOT CLUB, a reader wrote in: Hi! I would recommend that you get your hands on a CD by a group here in Cincinnati, The Faux Frenchmen. A very fine quartet that deserves a listen.

They do indeed.  And since I’ve seen them for a number of years at Jazz at Chautauqua, I can vouch for this reader’s enthusiasm and show everyone what he’s excited about — with a twist of the wrist, or perhaps a dozen clicks of the mouse.

ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM:

Theme from RHAPSODY IN BLUE:

I’M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT (with Andy Schumm, cornet, and Howard Alden, joining in — one chorus only):

MINOR SWING (with Howard, and Andy switching to piano):

This swinging group will also be at the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua party: need I say more?  Their usual personnel is George Cunningham, Brian Lovely, guitars; Don Aren, string bass; Paul Patterson, violin; for the 2012 Chautauqua party, they were joined by Joe Lucasik, clarinet. Here is their website, too: with their performing schedule and information on their four CDs.

May your happiness increase!

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DON’T JUST SIT THERE . . . SWING SOMETHING! (Hanna Richardson, Phil Flanigan, Randy Reinhart, Stefan Vasnier, Jared Mulcahy: DO SOMETHING)

I’ve been waiting for this CD for a long time . . . and it satisfies!  Not only does it have a sweetly spiky Modernist cover; inside the paper sleeve is some of the best swinging music you’ll hear.  No hyperbole; no jokes.

“What could cause Michael to make such extravagant claims?” one might ask.  Well, some history.  In the beginning of this century, I was reviewing CDs for The Mississippi Rag, a periodical I miss almost as much as I miss its editor, the sainted and funny and sharp Leslie Johnson.  A new CD came to me featuring a singer I’d never heard of, Hanna Richardson, and a bassist I knew, Phil Flanigan.  I put it on and was immediately happy: they swung without pretense, they improvised sweetly; they made fine melodies sound better, turning them this way and that to the light.  Warmth without sentimentality was their goal, and they accomplished it on every track — often leavened with sly wit.

Eventually I got to meet Hanna and Phil, to see them in the recording studio and to delight in their live performance.  Then, through the Jazz Grapevine, news leaked out from a secret spot in upstate New York.  Hanna and Phil had picked up electrified tenor guitars (four strings, no waiting) and had added them to the Richardson-Flanigan entourage.  And videos started to appear on YouTube of a group they called — with tongue-in-cheek (but not so seriously that Hanna’s sterling enunciation was hampered) TENOR MADNESS.

Your Honor, Exhibit A, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS (Hanna, Phil, Tom Bronzetti):

EXHIBIT B, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THAT GETS ME? (Hanna, Phil, Stefan Vasnier):

I rest my case.  Ain’t they something?

And now, Hanna, Phil (alternating between string bass and tenor guitar), Randy Reinhart (cornet), Stefan Vasnier (piano), Jared Mulcahy (string bass) have made what they used to call AN ALBUM . . . with the provocative title DO SOMETHING.  The songs are THREE LITTLE WORDS (with the sweet verse) / FOOLIN’ MYSELF (where Hanna goes her own wistful way, not copying Billie) / WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THAT GETS ME? / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (where housework is the way to Romance) / THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU / ME MINUS YOU (with great wit — remembering Miss Connee Boswell!) / ROMANCE WITHOUT FINANCE (for the shade of Tiny Grimes) / TALK TO ME BABY (a twentieth-century realistic love ditty) / DO SOMETHING (a call to arms!) / I DOUBLE DARE YOU / SHOW YOUR LINEN, MISS RICHARDSON (where Johnny Mercer has never sounded so good).

Not only does our Miss Richardson sound better than ever, but the band, the band . . . is a marvel — rhythm that you could use to walk to Florida, and Randy’s glowing cornet, suggesting Sweets Edison here and Bobby Hackett there.

It is possible that my readers need this CD.  Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, no occasion at all.  It’s a beauty.  Learn more (as we say) here.

May your happiness increase.

HANNA, PHIL, AND STEFAN: “TENOR MADNESS” (Feb. 2010)

Singer Hanna Richardson is understated yet compelling (and a swinger on the electric tenor guitar); her husband, bassist Phil Flanigan, is a player Whitney Balliett thought had some of Jimmy Blanton’s “Listen!” quality about him.  Here they are joined in concert by the nimble French pianist Stefan Vasnier, who has a good deal of Nat Cole’s precise gaiety in his work:

Here’s an intent but easy-rocking THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU:

And a little-known song (the only version I know is Mildred Bailey’s) about that intriguing creature, the intoxicating nerd — WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THAT GETS ME?:

And as a finale (Hanna says she couldn’t resist it) the late-Thirties epic with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, SHOW YOUR LINEN, MISS RICHARDSON:

These three performances come from the folkswaggoner channel on YouTube: well worth a second and third look!  (I see that they’ve just posted a swinging, witty HE AIN’T GOT RHYTHM . . . perhaps there’ll be even more to come.)

THE SWEET POISE OF “TENOR MADNESS”

Here are four more performances from one of the best chamber-jazz groups you’ll ever hear — TENOR MADNESS — not a nod to Sonny Rollins’ famous session, but an acknowledgment of the two electric tenor guitars (four-string marvels) in this trio.  Hanna Richardson, that fine singer, is in charge of one; Tom Bronzetti masterfully handles the other; the eloquent bassist Phil Flanigan holds it all together.  Here they are at a cozy concert recorded in November 2009.  Note their gently propulsive rocking motion, their delicacy, the speaking voices of the three instruments, and Hanna’s casual, sly, feeling way with lyrics and melody.  And their quotes from other songs are nimbly hilarious, their harmionies deep (hear what they do on WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS, for one):

And how nicely they handle the sly twists (melody and lyrics) of the imperishable James P. Johnson – Andy Razaf A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID, which expresses truest devotion in down-to-earth domestic terms:

(The group apologizes for a few missing measures about three minutes in, due to a camera malfunction . . . I hardly noticed.)

Three variations on the subject of Amour — first, HOW’D YOU LIKE TO LOVE ME?:

Then, an even more insistent Twenties summons, on the theme of “Shut up and kiss me!” — DO SOMETHING (updated in this performance to an eager rock reminiscent of the Nat Cole trio):

And finally, there’s fulfillment in THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU:

See and hear more about Tenor Madness at http://www.myspace.com/tenorguitarmadness.  Wow!

COPYRIGHT, MICHAEL STEINMAN AND JAZZ LIVES, 2010
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Steinman and Jazz Lives with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

HOORAY FOR HANNA!

The singer Hanna Richardson is one of our hidden treasures — lightly swinging, earnest without being over-serious, matching her mood to the song.  I’ve most often heard her alongside bassist Phil Flanigan (her husband), guitarist Chris Flory, and others of equal stature.  Here she is, cheerfully sweeping away the potential angst of Billie Holiday’s FOOLIN’ MYSELF, accompanying herself adroitly on the tenor guitar, with the nifty piano playing of Patti Wicks to keep things slyly rocking.  A treat!  And I was informed of this YouTube clip by another rare and splendid singer, Melissa Collard.

As the waitperson says when (s)he sets your salad down in front of you, “Enjoy!”

FOUR STRINGS IN MY FUTURE?

Two days ago on Maui, we wandered into a second-hand store in Wailuku and I saw a beautiful ukulele hanging on the wall.  In the grip of musical hubris and hopefulness, I asked to see it and improvised a simple Thirties single-note riff, impressing the Beloved, who said, “I didn’t know you could play!”  “I didn’t either,” I replied.

mele-curly-kpa-tenor-2-holeSince I was quite young, I have made half-hearted attempts at learning a number of musical instruments.  Some of those nstruments ornament my apartment, although I am cautious lest it turn into a one-bedroom version of a music store / pawnshop. 

The ukulele has appealed to me for a long time, because I had the notion that it might be fairly simple to play — four strings rather than some more intimidating number, and not a great deal of aesthetic ambition attached to it (unlike, say, the violin).  It also has a Jazz Age history — on all the Twenties and Thirties sheet music I collect, the line above the treble clef has chord diagrams for imagined ukulele players to read off the page — and the diagrams are just my speed, a diagram of the four strings with a dot on each string to show where the novice should place his or her fingers. 

I haven’t bought the ukulele yet, although we visited the Mele store, where Peter (the resident self-taught virtuouso) tried to teach me to play YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE, with middling results. (I am a recalcitrant, stubborn pupil.)   The second-hand store was closed today, and I refuse to pay full price unless I am compelled to by circumstances.  I also don’t plan to turn into Arthur Godfrey, Don Ho, or Tiny Tim, never fear.  My aesthetic model is Cliff Edwards. I don’t aspire to starring in Technicolor, being the voice of a Disney character, or dying penniless, but his swinging insouciance is immensely appealing.

There are many wonderful Ukulele Ike clips on YouTube — too many to up or download, so you might want to investigate them on your own.  I’ll report back about the results of my four-string quest.

(On YouTube, you can also see a brief clip of Buster Keaton at home in 1965, happily croaking his way through “June Night,” accompanying himself on a tenor guitar with a fair deal of skill.  Who knew?)