Tag Archives: Thirties jazz

KALLY PRICE’S DEEP SOUL (Red Poppy Art House, June 17, 2012)

I’ve admired the singer / songwriter Kally Price for some time now, and think it’s a very good omen that she was appearing at the very cozily singular Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco (visit it here) three days after we arrived in California.  She was joined by pianist / accordionist / composer Rob Reich (of Gaucho and other groups), string bassist Dan Fabricant, and drummer Beth Goodfellow.  Kally doesn’t shout or scream or gyrate, but it’s clear that her singing and her songs come from deep within her — a powerful private soul that she shares most readily with us.  She doesn’t sing at her songs, or even sing her songs . . . she becomes them.  And the three other musicians on the little stage gave her empathic support and love.

Here are some of the highlights of their two sets.

After a terse, romping I GOT RHYTHM (mixing Fifty-Second Street, Mel Powell, Bud Powell, and Kansas City) that the trio played while I was getting my camera accustomed to the dark, Rob offered his own composition, an unnamed waltz that he said was somewhat spooky.  For the moment, then, it’s SPOOKY WALTZ:

Kally shared one of her songs — simple yet intense, apparently plain but full of oblique twists and turns.  She calls it MY JOB:

She is very fond of the great singers of the Thirties, and here’s a medley that connects Billie Holiday and Ivie Anderson, in LET’S CALL A HEART A HEART and LOVE IS LIKE A CIGARETTE:

Tampa Red’s ROCK IT IN RHTYHM, which everyone on the stand was more than able to enact with style:

Rob, Dan, and Beth offer a spirited GLADIOLUS RAG:

I associate FLAMINGO with the 1941 Ellington band and rhapsodic delivery of the lyrics by Herb Jeffries (still with us!); here, Dan Fabricant takes it on himself to reinvent those same lyrics: the effect is mesmerizing, more or less:

Kally returns for a fervent WILLOW WEEP FOR ME:

Her tribute to the late Regina Pontillo, THE HOPEFUL PLACE, a small devout masterpiece:

MELT MY HEART, a song with hymnlike intensity:

And finally her own LOVE FOR THE ASKING:

I hope the world keeps discovering Kally Price and her noble abetters.  I can’t decide if she sings with a powerful delicacy or a delicate power, but it really doesn’t matter.  We are so very lucky to have her.

May your happiness increase.


Play these performances for anyone who thinks the music of the Thirties monochromatic.  Perhaps this music might enlighten someone who thinks that musicians reinventing the music of nearly eighty years ago are engaging in “nostalgia.”

Through the generosity of the musicians and of “jazze1947,” I can share with you two splendid performances by the Harlem Jazz Camels (swinging friends since 1978)  — caught live on February 7, 2012, at the Aneby, Sweden, concert hall.  Led by pianist / arranger Ulf Lindberg, the Camels feature Bent Persson, trumpet; Goran Eriksson, alto, clarinet; Claes Brodda, clarinet, baritone, tenor sax; Stephan Lindsein, trombone; Lasse Lindback, string bass; Sigge Delert, drums; Goran Stachewsky, guitar and banjo.

Here is HEARTBREAK BLUES (evoking Coleman Hawkins and Henry “Red” Allen), a melancholy rhapsody:

And — in honor of Louis — a romping THEM THERE EYES:

What a wonderful band!


Old Fashioned Love One of the great insiders of San Francisco jazz, Barb Hauser, wangled a copy of this CD for me a few years ago. I had never heard of the singer, although I admired her sidemen (Barrett, Skjelbred, Erickson) as well as her repertoire and, not least, her fashion sense. From the crooning opening of “I’ve Had My Moments” (a song I associated with Django and Marty Grosz, a heady pair) I was smitten. In the most Platonic artistic way, I must add. The great Thirties jazz records which merged a small, intuitive hot band with sensitive yet rhythmic singing were, I thought, gone with that decade. But Melissa’s gentle way with the lyrics was entirely convincing. Without demanding our attention or making a show of it, she sings as if she had fully absorbed not only what the words mean but what their message implies. Calmly, when she sings “Nevertheless, I’m in love with you,” it sounds like a truth. And the instrumentalists play at their very best: Barrett, whose solo skills often make us forget what a peerless ensemble trombonist he is, is in splendid form on his usual horn and even better on cornet. Skjelbred offered his usual blend of lopsided Teddy Wilson and Jess Stacy, leavened with splashes of his own idiosyncrasies. Erickson, whose exuberance has sometimes obscured his subtler musical virtues, is just as fine. But Melissa is something to hear. Some current retro-jazz recordings put an ordinary singer in front of a swing group, give her some Thirties tunes to perform, and hope for the best. Often the singer imitates Lady Day — a truly bad idea, for Holiday’s style can in the wrong hands be reduced to a handful of growls and meows. (Yes, meows.) Melissa has a yearning but understated delivery: her singing is based on her speaking voice rather than a melodramatized persona; she sings from the heart. Each performance has its own mood and approach, and it’s clear that she chooses songs whose musical ambiance makes her comfortable and whose lyrics speak to her. It isn’t the high drama of “these songs are my autobiography,” but it is clear that Melissa knows what it is to miss “the you and me that used to be,” the impact of having “had her moments,” and does indeed value “old fashioned love.” It approaches heresy, but I think her version of “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful” is even better than Fats’s. And her appeal is not narrowly limited to some imagined Brunswick-Vocalion evocation of the 78 past: she can move nimbly from small-band swing into Thirties Hawaiian (her “On A Cocoanut Island” is funny, genuine, and sweet). Her approach is always imbued with tenderness, whether the mood is bouncy (“Why Don’t We Do This More Often?”) or darker (“Street of Dreams”).Thinking her thoughts, no doubt It’s a rewarding CD — one with a true, beating heart. Melissa, of late, has found new musical partnerships in California, and I hope that a second CD, with equally rare and heartfelt performances, will come along soon. Check out her website (www.melissacollard.com) and visit CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com/cd/mcollard) to hear sound clips. She’s got it, as they used to say.