Tag Archives: the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra

LIFE IMPROVES AT FORTY, ESPECIALLY FOR THE SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST and SWING EXTRAVAGANZA (Nov. 27-Dec. 1, 2019)

The 1932 best-seller (with a Will Rogers movie a few years later):

Even before I was 40, I was slightly suspicious of the idea, even though it came from better health and thus longer life expectancy.  Was it an insult to the years that came before?  And now that I’m past forty . . . .

But the San Diego Jazz Fest and Swing Extravaganza is celebrating its fortieth this year and is in full flower.  So no Google Images of birthday cakes for us — rather, music of the highest order.

The bands and soloists who will be featured include John Royen, Katie Cavera, the Holland-Coots Jazz Quintet, Grand Dominion, John Gill, On the Levee Jazz Band, the Mad Hat Hucksters, Carl Sonny Leyland, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Chicago Cellar Boys, Titanic Jazz Band, the Night Blooming Jazzmen, and more than twenty others, with youth bands, sets for amateur jammers, and the Saturday-night dance extravaganza featuring On The Levee and the Mad Hat Hucksters.

The Festival is also greatly comfortable, because it is one of those divine ventures where the music is a two-to-five minute walk from the rooms at the Town and Country Convention Center.

Click to access schedule.pdf

is the “almost final” band schedule for Wednesday night through Sunday.  I will wait until the “final” schedule comes out before I start circling sets in pen and highlighting them — but already I feel woozy with an abundance of anticipated and sometimes conflicting pleasures.

For most of the audience, one of the pleasures of the festival circuit is returning to the familiar.  Is your trad heartthrob the duo Itch and Scratch, or the Seven Stolen Sugar Packets?  At a festival, you can greet old friends both on the bandstand and in the halls.  But there’s also the pleasure of new groups, and the special pleasure of getting to meet and hear someone like John Royen, whom I’ve admired on records for years but have never gotten a chance to meet.

Here’s John, playing Jelly:

And here are a few previously unseen videos from my visits to the Jazz Fest.  First, one of my favorite bands ever, the band that Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones co-led, here with Doug Finke, Katie Cavera, Hal Smith, Chris Dawson, and Marty Eggers — in a 2014 performance of a Fats classic:

and the Chicago Cellar Boys — who will be at this year’s fest — in 2018.  The CCB is or are Andy Schumm, John Otto, Paul Asaro, Johnny Donatowicz, and Dave Bock:

and for those deep in nostalgia for traditional jazz on a cosmic scale, how about High Sierra plus guests Justin Au and Doug Finke in 2014:

Pick the bands you like, explore those new to you, but I hope you can make it to this jolly explosion of music and friendship: it is worth the trip (and I’m flying from New York).  You’ll have an unabridged experience and lose your anxieties!

May your happiness increase!

GET READY FOR THANKSGIVING JAZZ (Nov. 21-25, 2012)

It might seem odd to be thinking about Thanksgiving at the end of July, but this post has very little to do with heavier clothing or sitting down with the family to a traditional holiday meal.  In fact, what I’m suggesting might be the way to escape the predictable festivities, or at least to make them festive in a different way with more lively music.

Why not run off to the 33rd annual San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival — beginning on Wednesday night, November 21, 2012, and continuing until Sunday afternoon, November 25?  There will be over forty hours of live music — with several bands playing simultaneously in different locations.  The location is the comfortable Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, California 92110.  Rates start at $105 per night, and you can call 800-772-8527 or 619-291-7131 to reserve.  A badge enabling you to see and hear everything for five days and nights is $95.  For more information about the festival, visit here.

But I can hear you saying, “If I’m going to run off from a family gathering, there had better be hot music in profusion to make it worth my while.”  No worries, as the children say.  How about Katie Cavera, John Gill, the Reynolds Brothers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Uptown Lowdown, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, Grand Dominion, Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones and their New Orleans All-Stars, Chloe Feoranzo, Red Skunk Jipzee Swing, Nannette and her Hotsy Totsy Boys, Stephanie Trick, Cornet Chop Suey, Dave Bennett, and many others?

One special attraction — appearing on Friday night only — is Nouveau Stride, which pairs singer Lorraine Feather and pianist Stephanie Trick in a program of compositions by Fats Waller, Dick Hyman, and James P. Johnson — to which the Grammy-nominated Ms. Feather has put original lyrics . . . to be sung to the accompaniment of Stephanie’s romping piano.  For more information about this group, visit here.

And as our friend Hal Smith writes, Nouveau Stride will make its debut at San Diego in a multi-media presentation: “The show includes a ‘piano cam’ (enabling the entire audience to watch Stephanie’s flying fingers) and Lorraine’s lyrics projected onto a screen.  Also included is a “soundie” of Fats Waller (the soundie was the pre-MTV version of a music video) and an award-winning stride cartoon produced by Lorraine in 2009.”

And guests at the San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival can dine on traditional holiday fare on Thursday night . . .

We savor the rituals . . .

but one can always invigorate the familiar with a new tradition.

May your happiness increase.