The music I love conveys deep feeling in a few notes; it engages me. I may not know the players as people but I feel their friendship in sounds. When the music is spirited but calm, expert but experimental, playful without being goofy, I feel at home in the world, embraced by dear sounds. It can happen in the first eight bars of the first song.
I had one of those wonderful musical interludes at Casa Mezcal on Orchard Street in April of this year — one of the divine Sunday afternoon sessions often led by Tamar Korn. But when Tamar is out of town, her friends do their best to make sure we feel wonderful — instrumentally speaking.
Rob Adkins, musically and emotionally trustworthy — with his bass, with his fingers, with his bow — picked two great players to make up an uplifting trio: Dan Block, clarinet and tenor; Dalton Ridenhour, piano. Here are some selections from the first half of the afternoon. Yes, there’s audience chatter, but try to feel compassion for the people whose Sunday brunch is their social highlight, an escape from their apartments. Or, if you can’t ascend to compassion, just listen to the music. It’s what I do.
I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING:
NIGHT AND DAY (One):
NIGHT AND DAY (Two) — the reason for the break was that the battery in my Rode microphone passed out and could not be revived by the battery EMT crew, so there is a gap. Imagine it as the music missed while Jerry Newman put a new acetate on the turntable and lowered the cutting arm. Or not:
I NEVER KNEW:
YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO:
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:
A few words about the players. I’ve been admiring and following Dan Block for over a decade now: his music is a bright light in a sometimes murky world, always surprising but in its own way a deeply kind phenomenon. When he puts any horn to his lips, what comes out is intense yet playful: I’ve been moved to tears and have had to stifle laughter — the best kind — listening to his music.
Rob Adkins is terribly modest and gently low-key, but he reminds me — without saying a word — of Milt Hinton’s axiom that the bass was the foundation of the band. Harmonically, rhythmically, emotionally, morally. He knows and loves his instrument, and he plays for the comfort of the ensemble, never egotistically — although he is proud to swing and he is always ready to be lyrical. And as you can see and hear here, he is a great catalyst.
Dalton Ridenhour gets a few more words. Because the Music Business — as distinguished from the music — encourages non-musicians to make people into commodities, into products, I first encountered Dalton as “a ragtime pianist” and a “stride pianist.” These little boxes are accurate: he can play superbly in both idioms. But when I actually heard Dalton — both words need emphasis here — I understood that his musical soul was much more expansive than the careful reproduction of one idiom. He’s a free bird, someone whose imagination moves through decades and idioms with grace. You’ll hear his brave light-heartedness through this session (I also had wonderful opportunities to hear him at the Atlanta Jazz Party this year: more about that in time) — he makes music, something that is very rare and very endearing. So far, he has only one solo CD, but ECCENTRICITY on Rivermont Records (2o12) is a constant delight. I urge you to “check it out,” as they used to say on Eighth Avenue in New York City in the Seventies, and you will hear that Dalton has all the accuracy and sparkle of the Master, Dick Hyman, with his own very personal warmth.
And a small personal caveat. Some of my listeners, who love making connections between the Now and the Hallowed Past, will leap to do this and hear Lester Young – Nat Cole – Red Callendar, or perhaps Lucky Thompson – Oscar Pettiford, etc. I know it’s meant as high praise. “Sounding Like” is a great game, and I do it myself. But I beseech such wise historiographers to for once leave the records behind and hear the music for itself. It is even more magnificent when it is not compared to anything or anyone.
There will be more music from this trio to come. I look forward to someday encountering them again as a group. Such things are possible and quite wonderful.
May your happiness increase!