I could call this post OUTSTANDING IN THEIR FIELD, but that would be wrong.
There they are, in all their hot pastoral glory: the New York Classic Seven, co-led by Colin Hancock, drums; Mike Davis, trumpet and vocal; with Andy Schumm, piano; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Josh Dunn, banjo and guitar; Josh Holcomb, trombone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and alto saxophone. Their concert — yesterday, Sunday, May 15, 2022 — was made possible by the Tri-State Jazz Society(thanks to Bill Hoffman, as always, for his efficient kindnesses). I am told that the whole concert was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, but I wanted to bring my camera and gear there myself, so that the OAO and I could enjoy it hot. As we did.
Here’s a hot performance of Tiny Parham’s JUNGLE CRAWL, transcribed by Mike Davis — so authentic, so slippery-lovely. (You know, Dick Wellstood said that the best jazz had “grease and funk.” The white walls of the little hall still gleamed when the concert was over, but a kind of lively unfettered human vitality was in the air:
Someone sitting near me said, when this was all through, “That was awesome,” and I agree. There’s more to come. You can find the whole concert, live-streamed,here — for free, but people who are hep to the jive will find the donation box and toss some love to the Society and their musicians. It’s only right.
And just to reiterate: “Jazz is dead?” “Young people today have no knowledge of the jazz tradition before Coltrane?” Derisive noises from your occasionally-humble correspondent.
A scholarly friend recommended Patricia A. Martin’s 2003 doctoral dissertation, THE SOLO STYLE OF JAZZ CLARINETIST JOHNNY DODDS 1923-1938 (Louisiana State University) which you can read here. She has created transcriptions and analyses of solos, erudite discussions of clarinets, comparative analysis of Dodds and Noone, and more.
But an insight on page 44 stopped me right there: Dodds was the consummate professional. Most people who knew Dodds thought of him as quiet, serious and, unlike most musicians of the time, a man who drank very little (only a little beer, according to his son John). He took care to maintain his 5′ 8″ 210 pound frame, generally looking fit and trim all in all his pictures. Dodds always considered himself first and foremost a musician. John Dodds II recollects:
Father impressed on us by his personal care (chap-preventative to his lips; wearing gloves in the cold; and dieting to avoid unsightly bulges) that his occupation was solely that of a musician!
(Martin’s source is John Dodds Jr.’s 1969 liner note to the Milestone Records issue, CHICAGO MESS AROUND.)
This character study is now incredibly relevant, not only for those of us who have gained weight during quarantine. Another collector-friend of mine who wishes to remain anonymous told me of a previously unseen pocket notebook that Dodds kept. John Dodds, Jr., let the collector copy down a few relevant sentences.
What was important to the great New Orleans clarinetist? Joe Oliver’s business practice? Reed stiffness? Compositions? A gig diary?
No. Johnny Dodds was focused on was not gaining weight, staying trim. Here are some of his entries, so appropriate today.
Instead of Pie, an Apple. Instead of a Cookie, have half an Orange. Instead of a Roll, Melba Toast.
Leave space on your Plate. If you can’t see the dish, there is Too Much Food.
Half Grapefruit at every meal. Black Coffee, please. Hot Water with lemon.
“Clothes too tight? You ain’t Living Right!”
They used to say when I was a boy, “All that Gumbo making you Jumbo!”
Don’t eat just because everyone else is. Stop before getting full. Take a Walk!
Beans and Greens, our Grandparents said.
Say NO THANK YOU to Whisky, Butter, Cream, Sugar!
I am the Boss of my Stomach, my Stomach won’t tell Me what to Do.
Jazz history as presented by people who should know better is compressed into telephone poles glimpsed through the window of a speeding train: “All aboard! MAPLE LEAF RAG . . . .WEST END BLUES . . . . LADY BE GOOD . . . . COTTON TAIL . . . . KO KO . . . . KIND OF BLUE . . . . A LOVE SUPREME. Last stop, ladies and gentlemen!”
At best, an inexplicable series of distortions, omissions.
One small example of this odd perspective on the music I’ve spent my life immersed in is the discussion of the “jazz ballad.” I take it to be players or singers improvising over a composition in slower tempo, its mood romantic or melancholy or both. Of course people wanted slower tempos to dance to: THE STAMPEDE was a marvel, but you couldn’t hold your darling close to you on the dance floor at that tempo. One of the “authorities” states that the first jazz ballad performance is the Trumbauer-Beiderbecke I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA, followed by the Mound City Blue Blowers’ ONE HOUR, 1927 and 1929, respectively. But that leaves out, for one example, Jimmie Noone’s SWEET LORRAINE and many other recordings. And, of course, recordings are only a tiny sliver of what was being performed and appreciated.
But as far as jazz ballads are concerned, I think performances of songs titled I NEED YOU and NOW THAT I’VE FOUND YOU are certainly relevant. And they have not been considered worthy of notice by those who reduce an art form to easy-to-swallow historical capsules, useful for those who need to pass final examinations.
Also what runs parallel to this “ballad hypothesis,” a statement I’ve heard recently, is the contention that Caucasian audiences liked sweet music; Afro-Americans liked hot music. We’re told that recording supervisors embraced this hypothesis as well. The exceptions proliferate: tell that to Charles Linton, Pha Terrell, Harlan Lattimore, Eva Taylor, and more. But that’s another posting.
Enough grumbling about those who theorize from a very narrow awareness. Here are two very seductive examples of category-exploding that also fall sweetly on the ear. Neither performance has lyrics, but they would be easy to invent: to me they are very satisfying unacknowledged jazz ballads.
The first is Clarence Williams’ I NEED YOU, composers credited on the label as Jackson and Williams, from May 29, 1928, performed by Clarence Williams’ Jazz Kings : Ed Allen, King Oliver, cornet’ probably Ed Cuffee, trombone; probably Albert Socarras, clarinet, alto saxophone; Clarence Williams, piano; Cyrus St. Clair, tuba:
Then, a beautiful song by Tiny Parham from the last recording session he made for Victor, November 11, 1930, NOW THAT I’VE FOUND YOU:
That lovely record contains what is, to me, a delectable unsolved mystery. The listed personnel of Tiny Parham And His Musicians is: Roy Hobson, cornet; Ike Covington, trombone; Dalbert Bright, clarinet, alto and tenor saxophone; Charlie Johnson, clarinet, alto; Tiny Parham, piano, leader; Big Mike McKendrick, banjo, guitar; Milt Hinton, brass bass; Jimmy McEndre, drums. The Victor label clearly indicates “Whistling chorus by Maurice Hendricks.” And a gorgeous twenty-four bars it is, in high style: the Red McKenzie of whistlers. A small sidelight: “Hendricks” whistles the first sixteen bars elegantly, and I find myself missing him through the bridge and elated when he returns for the final eight bars.
But who is or was Maurice Hendricks? If he is a real musician, why doesn’t his name appear in any discography? The theory that it might be young Milt Hinton (the initials are the only hint) is implausible because Milt is audibly playing brass bass — tuba, or sousaphone, what you will — throughout the record, not putting the horn down while the Whistler is so prettily doing his thing. Brian Rust and “Atticus Jazz” say that “Maurice Hendricks” is Big Mike McKendrick, and I would grant a certain aural similarity between the name and the pseudonym, but a) why would a pseudonym be needed on the label, and b) why are there apparently no other recorded examples of Big Mike whistling? Was “Maurice” a friend of the Parham band, welcomed into the studio to amaze us now, ninety years later?
My best answers for the moment are of course whimsical: “Maurice Hendricks” is really Lew Le Mar, who made the hyena and billy goat sounds for the 1927 Red Hot Peppers session, or, if you don’t think that Lew hung around Chicago for three years just to get back in the Victor studios, I propose that the Whistler is Cassino Simpson, who was capable of more than we can imagine, but that’s only because Jack Purvis was busy making many recordings in New York in November 1930.
Theorize as you will, though, the music rises above whatever we can say about it. Listen again. Thanks to Mike Karoub for his ears, to Matthew Rivera of the Hot Club of New York and especially to Charles Iselin for bringing the second recording to my attention.
A hot band is good to find, and the Rock Island Roustabouts answer to that description. I’ll leave it to Hal Smith to explain how this band, which debuted at a Davenport, Iowa tribute to Bix Beiderbecke, came to be named after a Chicago train line . . . because he knows about these things. Me, I come for the music.
And music there was. I’ve done the unusual thing of sending out a full plateful — nine videos at once, recorded in three sets at the Evergreen Jazz Festival (July 27, 28, 29) so that you can experience this band’s power and versatility. The Roustabouts are co-led by Jeff Barnhart, piano, and Hal Smith, drums, with — in this incarnation — Dave Kosmyna, cornet; Doug Finke, trombone; Jonathan Doyle, reeds; Bob Leary, banjo / guitar; Ryan Gould, string bass, and on the last three performances here, a guest appearance by Lauryn Gould, soprano sax.
The music goes deep and although there are some favorites, the Roustabouts like songs that don’t ordinarily get played. So there’s Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory, but also Frank Melrose, Jimmy Blythe, Johnny St. Cyr, and Tiny Parham.
Settle down in your seats. Make sure you know where the fire extinguisher is, and check that it’s charged.
Kid Ory’s SAVOY BLUES:
THE GIRLS GO CRAZY when this band plays, but the enthusiasm isn’t gender-specific:
Frank Melrose’s MARKET STREET STOMP, scored for Messrs. Smith and Barnhart:
One composition titled MESSIN’ AROUND, this one by pianist Jimmy Blythe:
And Johnny St. Cyr’s song of the same name — to mess around was serious yet delightful business, as you can tell:
Louis’ MAHOGANY HALL STOMP, at the nice 1929 tempo:
An incomplete but wonderful version of Tiny Parham’s WASHBOARD WIGGLES (blame the sun-blinded and exhausted man behind the camera) which adds Lauryn Gould, who plays that irascible saxophone beautifully:
A song that I’d never heard performed live, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS, which coalesces into a lovely rocking performance. I did some small research, expecting that its source was an obscure Wingy Manone record, but no — the later New Orleans bands, who picked up good tunes no matter their source, found this one, from 1948, by Floyd Tillman. I am not digressing when I offer the Patsy Cline version first (Ray Charles recorded it also):
Now, hear how the Roustabouts make it their own:
and William H. Tyers’ proven mood-enhancer, PANAMA:
I sat down for a meal with string bassist / bandleader / singer Jen Hodge last year in New York City, and I was pleased to encounter a person I could admire as much as the music she’s been making: candid, friendly, playful, intelligent. And her new CD reflects all these qualities. Since it doesn’t have liner notes, I offer — unsolicited — a few paragraphs.
First, facts: the Jen Hodge All Stars are Jen, string bass, vocals; Chris Davis, trumpet; Connor Stewart, clarinet, tenor saxophone (whom I also met and admired); Josh Roberts, guitar; Marti Elias, drums. You’ll note the absence of trombone and piano — for the true traditionalists — but you won’t miss them. In fact, this instrumentation gives the disc a remarkable lighter-than-air quality. The band soars and rocks. Here’s a taste. Admire their dynamics, too:
As soloists, each of the players is superb and sometimes superbly quirky: their imaginations are not hemmed in by constricting notions of appropriate styles, regions, or dates. No one quotes from Ornette (at least I didn’t notice it if it happened) but everyone on the disc knows that the music didn’t stop when Lil and Louis separated. The soloists fly with a fervent lightness, and they couldn’t be better as ensemble players.
A particular pleasure of this disc is that its members tend to burst into song, at widely spaced intervals, individually or in combination — a very touching duet on SMOKE RINGS for one. On SHOUT, SISTER, SHOUT, Jen is aided and abetted by the hilariously expert “Jen’s Male Chorus,” whose identities you will learn after purchasing the music; other vocals are by Arnt Arnzen, Bonnie Northgraves, and Jack Ray — he of the Milk Crate Bandits. HEY LET’S DRINK A BEER is given over to Jen and Bonnie, who suggest vocally they are Fifties carhops at the drive-in, on roller skates — perilously cute but they also know judo.
One could divide the CD’s repertoire into the Familiar and the New, the Familiar being DARDANELLA; BLAME IT ON THE BLUES; IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT; SHOUT, SISTER, SHOUT; SMOKE RINGS, VIPER’S DREAM; HELL’S BELLS; STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY; ROCK BOTTOM; ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM. But that designation of “The Familiar” would not be so accurate. The JAZZ LIVES audience could hum or even sing perhaps seven of those songs, but I would be hard put to do the first eight bars of Fletcher Allen’s VIPER’S DREAM, Art Kassel’s HELL’S BELLS, or Tiny Parham’s ROCK BOTTOM.
Incidentally, I am not revealing too much by writing that Jen has a Platonic crush on Tiny Parham, which comes out with her recording a Parham song or two on each of her CDs. It was not possible in this universe for Jen to ask Tiny to the Junior Prom, so these bouquets must suffice.
Here’s the hilariously quirky HELL’S BELLS, flying along in sixth gear:
And “The Familiar” songs are never handled routinely: each performance has a pleasing surprise at its center. On my first listening, I was now and again happily caught off balance: I thought I knew how a band would end — let us say — IF I COULD BE WITH YOU — but the arrangement here was not predictable, although it was not so “innovative” to violate the mood of the song. ROCKIN’ IN RHYTHM has traces of the Braff-Barnes Quartet versions, with a brief and delightful excursion into Jo Jones’ solo patterns of his later decades. STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY, worn threadbare through repetition, is lively and fresh here. The “New” material sometimes hints at familiar chord shapes: MY DADDY ROCKS ME, THEM THERE EYES, but the originals are cleverly enticing.
All I know is that I’ve played this disc several times straight through “with pleasure” undiminished. And I know I am not alone in this. I delight in hearing evidence that the Youngbloods are swinging so hard, with such taste, and individuality . . . and I delight in the particulars of their music.
There are many ways to honor the tradition, in jazz as well as the other arts. Let us say you are a young musician who falls in love with an artifact — the OKeh record of TIGHT LIKE THIS by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five in 1928. You can use the recorded music as an inspiration to go your own way, to play something that honors Louis but is your own creation. Or, equally honorable, you can transcribe the recorded evidence, and offer to a new audience a live performance that comes as close to the original as possible, or one that allows for individual variation within the hallowed architecture of the original.
Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks — the great progenitor — and the newer groups such as the Original Cornell Syncopators and the New Wonders follow the latter path gloriously, sometimes recreating and re-enacting, sometimes honoring the original architecture while painting the interior windowsills periwinkle.
From left, Jared Engel, banjo; Joe McDonough, trombone; Jay Lepley, drums; Ricky Alexander, reeds; Mike Davis, cornet, leader; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Dalton Ridenhour, piano. Photograph by Jane Kratochvil
There are many ways in which the New Wonders are special. For one thing, they offer repertoire that has not been overdone — no SINGIN’ THE BLUES, no STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE. They draw from recordings made by the California Ramblers, the Chicago Loopers, Tiny Parham, Red Nichols, the Goofus Five, and others — wonderful pop tunes that haven’t been played in ages. And they are a great paradox, for their approach is exact (reproducing pieces of arrangements, both instrumental and vocal, that are not easy to do) but loose. They are not museum curators, but they are not only playing the songs and moving on . . . and there is a spirit of great fun and ebullience without the least mockery or condescension. A performance or a recording by the New Wonders is a convincing bit of theatre: as if this group of beautifully-dressed young men had come to your house with the sweet notion of bringing 1927 back for a few hours. And they do it with love: the music can be precise and tender, or hot and bumptious — all in the space of a few songs.
I saw them create such wonders last August in Brice Moss’ pastoralia, and it was memorable, as you can observe here. But there were limitations to the sound my microphone could capture, and this was the pianoless New Wonders. So I am delighted to announce their debut CD, titled THE NEW WONDERS, so that no one can mistake it for anything else. It’s a delightful banquet of sounds from Messrs. Davis, McDonough, Alexander, Rattman, Engel, Lepley, and Ridenhour, as they playfully work their way through FLAMIN’ MAMIE; REACHING FOR SOMEONE; I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED; BONEYARD SHUFFLE; POOR PAPA; I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS; I’D RATHER CRY OVER YOU; PERSIAN RUG; CLORINDA; I NEED LOVIN’; SMILE, DARN YA, SMILE; JUNGLE CRAWL; I’M WALKING BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS; SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY; THE BALTIMORE.
I may be accused of ageism, but there is something particularly pleasing to hear these reasonably young (at least to me) musicians immerse themselves in music made by young musicians — an enthusiastic freshness. And there’s another delightful oddity in the New Wonders’ presentation: the vocal choruses. In my youth, we made fun of Wes Vaughan, we lifted the needle over Irving Kaufman (unless there was a hot obbligato) and in general, we waited for Bing to come along and make everything all right. Four members of The New Wonders sing (Lepley, Rattman, Alexander, and leader Davis) and they do it splendidly, not only in solo — verse as well as chorus — but in reproducing the intricate vocal parts from the Chicago Loopers date, CLORINDA and I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED — with great style, earnest without being stiff. Replaying this disc, I found myself looking forward to those beautifully-executed vocal outpourings, and I think you might share my pleasure.
Al fresco, August 2017
Hereyou can find out more about Mike and the band, and here is the band’s Facebook page. And . . . . here is the CDBaby page for the new CD.
But the best way to buy a band CD is at the gig — maybe you’ll get it signed, and you have the direct economic transfer of giving money to the musicians who have just played for you, so here is the event page for the New Wonders’ CD release party — Tuesday, March 13, 2018, from 8-10 PM at Norwood, 241 W 14th St, New York, New York 10011. Mike points out, “Norwood is a members-only club. In order to attend this event all tickets must be purchased in advance. NO tickets will be sold on the premises.” And I won’t be able to make this gig, so those of you who are waiting for more videos might have to be in attendance, if possible. It will be Wonderful.
Edward Ory — that’s the Kid to those of us who admire and keep his name and music alive — is a fabled figure. His 1925-28 Chicago recordings with Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Luis Russell, Johnny Dodds, Lil Hardin, George Mitchell, Jelly Roll Morton, Ma Rainey, even Tiny Parham are bedrock masterpieces of the pre-World War Two jazz canon, and many bands celebrate them.
But the California climate — whether you consider the ground-breaking 1922 recordings or the evidence of Ory’s second career — must have agreed with him, because the music he made from 1943 on, while less celebrated, is as gratifying, to some even more so. In the middle Forties, Ory’s band was not a formulaic “trad” group; like Bunk Johnson, he played popular songs. Rather than have a two-beat rhythm section with banjo, tuba, and a pianist playing their impressions of an older style, the Ory band carried a rhythm guitarist, a string bassist who mized 2/4 and 4/4, and often had the elegantly down-home pianist Don Ewell keeping things light, bright, and swinging. At its most gliding, the Ory band suggested a fraternal meeting of New Orleanians still in beautiful form and a swing rhythm section with hints of Basie’s . . . quite a lovely blend.
Ory’s music of the Forties and Fifties has been well-documented on disc, because the band was caught live on radio broadcasts, and, later, for Norman Granz, but I think many lovers of “traditional jazz” associated him with a rough-hewn trombone style over their idea of “traditional” rhythms. That is, until the superb drummer and jazz scholar Hal Smith assembled a group of congenial players for his new “On the Levee” Jazz Band, its title referring to a San Francisco club owned by Ory, where he and his band played from 1957-61.
I asked Hal about his first awareness of this period of Ory’s music, and he told me, Back when I bought my first Lu Watters record, the owner of the record store handed me the Watters LP, looked at the label and said “Oh — ‘Good Time Jazz.’ I have another Good Time Jazz record here that someone ordered, but never came in to pick up.” The LP she offered me was “Kid Ory’s Creole Jazz Band, 1954.” I gladly accepted it, and from the first hearing the combination of Ory’s tailgate trombone and the swinging rhythm section (Minor Hall, Ed Garland and Don Ewell in particular) became some of my favorite sounds in Jazz.
Hal later told me, Based on our performances in New Orleans and Pensacola, I think the On The Levee group most closely resembles the GOOD TIME JAZZ ensembles, circa 1953 – 1955. A lot of that is due to Kris’ admiration for Ewell, and Josh Gouzy’s Ed Garland-inspired bass. (Ory’s sound changed considerably after Ewell and Garland left, and even more in the late ’50s and early ’60s).
The band has already played gigs in New Orleans and in Pensacola, Florida, with Clint Baker nobly filling the Ory role; Ben Polcer, trumpet; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; Alex Belhaj, guitar; Joshua Gouzy, string bass; Hal Smith, drums. And early in 2018 they will again play in New Orleans . . . and will appear at the San Diego Jazz Fest in November. I am sure that there will be many other opportunities to hail this group in between.
For now, here is the band’s website, and here are a few videos. Many more are on YouTube, and the site has a whole cloud of audio-only performances, more than enough to roll up the rugs (if anyone does that) and invite the neighbors over for swinging cheer.
DOWN HOME RAG:
Many bands are playing this repertoire, but few are doing it in this fervent;y swinging way. And since the club no longer exists on the Embarcadero — 987 would be part of the Ferry Plaza Maketplace — we should embrace this new band, so nicely keeping a jazz legacy vibrantly alive.
The days are getting shorter, darker, and cooler. There’s little that I can do to combat this, but I offer this third part of a glorious August afternoon as a palliative for the descent into winter.
Thanks to the energetic Brice Moss, I was able to attend and record a lovely outdoor session featuring The New Wonders — Mike Davis, cornet, vocal, arrangements; Jay Lepley, drums; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone and miscellaneous instrument; Joe McDonough, trombone, Ricky Alexander, reeds; Jared Engel, plectrum banjo. There’s group singing here and there, which is its own idiomatic delight. This is the third of three posts: here is part one, and here is part two — both segments full of wondrous hot music.
And now . . . . a Hot one in Hot slow-motion, no less steamy — NOBODY’S SWEETHEART:
Did someone say “The Chicago Loopers”? Here’s CLORINDA, with vocal quartet:
A serious question for sure, ARE YOU SORRY?
Another paean to the South from songwriters who may have gone no deeper than Battery Park, THAT’S THE GOOD OLD SUNNY SOUTH:
We’d like it to be a valid economic policy — THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE:
DEEP BLUE SEA BLUES, with a surprising double for Jay Rattman:
Who needs an umbrella? I’M WALKING BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS:
and an emotional choice, I’D RATHER CRY OVER YOU:
Deep thanks, as before, to Brice, family, friends, and to these splendid musicians, for making an Edenic idea come to life.
And I don’t have the delicious artifact yet, but The New Wonders did and have finished their debut CD. I am willing to wager that it will live up to the band name. Details as I know them.
On August 20, 2017, there was a return to Eden. It didn’t make the papers, possibly because social media wasn’t attuned to hot jazz in bucolic settings (Brice Moss’s backyard in Croton-on-Hudson) but it still felt Edenic, thanks to the New Wonders (Mike Davis, Jared Engel, Jay Lepley, Joe McDonough, Ricky Alexander, and Jay Rattman) and thanks to generous fervent Brice, of course, and Anne, Aubrey, Odysseus, Liana, Ana, and Chester.
This is the second part of the great revelation: the first part is here. I urge you to visit that first part — not only to hear more splendid music in the most welcoming surroundings, but to read the enthusiastic words Brice has written about this band. And the proof is in every performance by the New Wonders.
AIN’T THAT A GRAND AND GLORIOUS FEELING, courtesy of Annette Hanshaw:
Tiny Parham’s JUNGLE CRAWL:
A very successful experiment. The pretty LOVE WILL FIND A WAY, by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake (from SHUFFLE ALONG) reimagined as if Bix and His Gang had performed it:
Not a suggestion, but a command: SMILE, DARN YA, SMILE:
And a serious request: I NEED LOVIN’:
For Red, Miff, and Fud: HURRICANE:
What they used to call Orientalia, PERSIAN RUG, with a completely charming vocal from Mike:
There will be a Part Three, joyously. Have no fear. And soon, I am told, the New Wonders’ debut CD will appear.
Some phenomena are so strong or so evident that they make commentary superfluous. You don’t need The Weather Channel to tell you when it’s snowing, and you don’t need me to explain the next three brief video performances. However, if you plan to watch them on your phone, beware, because the energy contained here might blow your SIM card across the room.
For those who desire explication, there are credits at the end of each video. (The videos themselves are gorgeous: usually I find most multi-camera shoots more jumpy than required, but here, all praise to the videographers.)
THAT’S NO BARGAIN:
Not that there isn’t a place for loose and long renditions of ROYAL GARDEN BLUES in my world, but this band and these performances are very cheering alternatives to much of what is offered as pre-World War Two hot music.
For those who thrive on data, here is the relevant YouTube channel, and here is the band’s website (in all its permutations). This is the band’s gig schedule for July and August — unfortunately for me, somewhat distant from New York, but perhaps we shall rendez-vous sometime. And here is what I wrote about the band’s debut CD.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bundle up my computer and take it to Byron and Henry, my very trusted repair-wizards. It began to tremble during the final video, and that worries me.
Frank D. Waldronwasn’t well-known outside the Seattle area, but the music he composed nearly a century ago is memorable. Greg Ruby and the Rhythm Runners have brought Waldron’s quirky, lively music to life on a new CD.
As Greg tells us in the video above, Waldron’s music is an unearthed treasure. And the band he assembled to play it is superb: Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Charlie Halloran, Cassidy Holden, Julian MacDonough, and himself — with Mike Marshall as a guest on two tracks.
As you’ve gathered from Greg’s video, the project needs funding to reach completion: see here or visit Kickstarter here— where you can contribute the smallest amount and get a tangible reward. “Every dollar helps a lot.”
I am writing this post for reasons both selfish and altruistic. First and perhaps most plain: the music is rewarding as a series of surprises: truly idiomatic previously-unheard compositions. Of course there are Twenties and Thirties songs we haven’t heard before, but people deeply involved in this music know a wide range of compositions. Waldron’s music has what they would have called “pep,” and it’s not a matter of being a series of rapid one-steps. Rather, his compositions have memorable melodies, unpredictable turns, and multiple strains. This CD is the equivalent of finding a folio of new Morton or Parham songs.
And, as I’ve written here, since there are few working bands with fixed personnel these days, the repertoire has understandably narrowed to “something everybody knows,” and that can make for monochromatic performances. I dream that Greg’s work will stimulate a Waldron revival.
Second, music is more than its notation. Greg’s Rhythm Runners are a superb group — musicians who respect the compositions but let their individual personalities come out sweetly and convincingly. I was delighted by Greg’s first CD, WASHINGTON HALL STOMP, which I wrote about about here(and the personnel on that CD is the same as on SYNCOPATED CLASSIC). I’d like to see this band prosper.
New music, estimable young musicians, a delightful — and well-recorded / well-produced new CD. I encourage you to support this project. And Frank D. Waldron thanks you as well.
HOT CLASSICISM is the name adopted by Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums. I am proud to know them and happy to hear them. This is the second part of their set on the Steamboat Natchez during the 2016 Steamboat Stomp; here is the first.
What follows is another lively tour of all the shadings of hot, inspired by the heroes of Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and elsewhere — precision without stuffiness, eagerness without chaos. The repertoire is classic but not exhausted, and the performances are vibrant.
NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:
MY GAL SAL:
TOM CAT BLUES (a duet for Andy and Kris):
STOMP OFF, LET’S GO!:
Wonderful cohesive inspired music. Follow Kris, Hal, and Andy on Facebook to track down their next gigs.
What’s hot, has six legs, and floats? Easy. HOT CLASSICISM, the trio of Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet and clarinet; Hal Smith, drums, when they’re on board the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River — in this case, Saturday, September 23, 2016, as part of last year’s Steamboat Stomp. But you knew the answer already. (And in the name of accuracy, they float even when on dry land — musically, that is.)
Here’s the first half of a hot, historical but expansively creative set that this trio performed for us on the boat: with admiring glances at Jelly Roll Morton, Tiny Parham, King Oliver, Bix Beiderbecke, Doc Cooke, Freddie Keppard, Albert Wynn, Sidney Catlett, Punch Miller, and dozens of New Orleans and Chicago hot players whose names you would also know.
This Morton tune is called FROG-I-MORE or FROGGIE MOORE RAG (I think those are all the variants) and Mister Morton said it was named for a vaudeville contortionist. No doubt:
SUNDAY, a tune that all the musicians in the world love to play, takes me back to Jean Goldkette in 1927, even though the Keller Sisters and Lynch didn’t make it to the boat:
Are your tamales hot? They should be. Freddie Keppard’s were:
A beautiful slow groove:
I could be wrong, but I think PARKWAY STOMP is a romp on the changes of DARKTOWN STRUTTERS’ BALL — something that was being done long before ANTHROPOLOGY and ORINTHOLOGY. The Albert Wynn recording with Punch Miller is also an early Sidney Catlett recording, something the Honorable Hal Smith knows well:
Who remembers Tiny Parham? Jen Hodge does, and I do, and Milt Hinton did. So does HOT CLASSICISM:
What a wonderful hot band! There’s another serving to come, but until then, you might investigate this delight. And HOT CLASSICISM has gigs to come: follow Kris, Hal, Andy on Facebook. You will be rewarded for diligence.
I read once of how an eminent musician, in a hotel room with musician friends, would open a new bottle of Scotch, and before drinking, pour a little out on the rug and say, “That’s for the guys who have gone before,” or perhaps “That’s for the guys upstairs.” A libation in honor of the Ancestors.
When Ray Skjelbred plays, no liquids are spilled, but he honors the Ancestors in his own way, by evoking them in his own fashion. Here are four brilliant evocations that he created at the San Diego Jazz Fest on November 27, 2015.
Although Ray is a peerless band pianist (hear him with his own group, the Cubs, and many others, lighting the way from within the ensemble) he comes from the glorious tradition, the days when the pianist was the band. Perhaps it’s a kind of Scandinavian thrift, a genetic offering from his personal Ancestors, who say, “You have these ten fingers; why only use two or three?”
For Tiny Parham, STOMPIN’ ON DOWN:
For Joe Sullivan, GIN MILL BLUES:
Also for Sullivan and his friends, OH, BABY! — and those delightful startling dissonant surprises at the start:
For Oro “Tut” Soper and the shade of Baby Dodds, IT’S A RAMBLE:
I look forward to seeing and hearing Ray (with Dawn Lambeth and Marc Caparone) at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest. Here’s a sample of what that wonderful combination did in 2015:
In my adolescence, I read every jazz book on the shelves of the very well-stocked suburban public library. I didn’t understand everything I read (when one reads Andre Hodeir’s harsh analysis of, say, Dickie Wells’ later style without having the musical examples at hand, it is an oddly unbalanced experience) but I absorbed as much as I could, from Rudi Blesh to Barry Ulanov and beyond.
I remember clearly that some of the history-of-jazz books (each with its own ideological slant) used diagrams, in approved textbook fashion, for readers who needed an easy visual guide. Often, the diagram was a flow chart —
Sometimes the charts were location-based: New Orleans branched out into Chicago, New York City, Kansas City (as if the authors were tracing the path of an epidemic). More often, they depicted “schools” and “styles”: Ragtime, New Orleans, Dixieland, Chicago jazz, Early Big Bands, Stride Piano, The Swing Era, Fifty-Second Street, Bebop, Modern . . .
Sectarian art criticism, if you will. You had different dishes for New Orleans and Modern; you didn’t eat Dixieland on Fridays. And you had to wait two hours before going in the water. It also supported mythic constructs: the earliest jazz styles were the Truth and everything else was degenerate art, or the notion that every new development was an improvement on its primitive ancestor.
The critics and journalists loved these fantasies; the musicians paid little attention. Although you wouldn’t find Wingy Manone playing ANTHROPOLOGY, such artificial boundaries didn’t bother George Barnes, Joe Wilder, or Milt Hinton (the latter eminence having recorded with Tiny Parham, Eddie South, Clifford Brown, and Branford Marsalis).
Happily, the musicians are able to assemble — in the most friendly ways — wherever there is a paying gig. No one has to wear a t-shirt embossed with his or her allegiance and stylistic categorization. Such a gathering took place on Sunday, August 14, 2016, in the basement of 75 Christopher Street, New York City — known in the guidebooks as FAT CAT, although there are many variants on that title.
The leader and organizer of this ecumenical frolic was Terry Waldo, pianist, ragtime scholar, vocalist, and composer. For this session, his Gotham City Band was Chuck Wilson, alto saxophone; Jim Fryer (the Secret Marvel), trombone and vocal; Jay Leonhart, string bass and vocal; Jay Lepley, drums.
And here are four examples of the good feeling these musicians generated so easily.
DIGA DIGA DOO:
MEMORIES OF YOU (starting with Terry’s elaborate homage to its composer, Eubie Blake):
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY (with a funny, theatrical vocal by Terry):
OLD FASHIONED LOVE (sung by the romantic Jim Fryer):
Once again, this post is dedicated to the inquiring scholar from Bahia, who sat to my left and brightened the room.
Here is video evidence of an extraordinary trio concert of the Kris Tokarski Trio — Kris Tokarski, piano; Andy Schumm, cornet / clarinet; Hal Smith, drums — performed at the Old US Mint, New Orleans, on January 13, 2016. The stuff that dreams are made on:
Albert Wynn’s PARKWAY STOMP:
Tiny Parham’s CONGO LOVE SONG:
Doc Cooke’s HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN:
SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY:
Mister Morton’s ode to Joe Oliver, MISTER JOE:
FROG-I-MORE RAG (or FROGGIE MOORE, if you prefer):
In honor of Danny Altier, MY GAL SAL:
Please note: these lovely performances, simultaneously delicate and intense, aren’t copies of the recordings, but evocations of cherished multi-layered creations. Yes, you’ll hear echoes of Beiderbecke, Keppard, Dominique, Oliver, Noone, Simeon, Livingston, Hines, Morton, James P. Johnson, Alex Hill, Catlett, Benford, Singleton, Stafford, Pollack, Krupa, Dodds . . . but what you are really hearing is the Kris Tokarski Trio, graciously embracing present and past, leading us into the future of hot music. And in its balance, the trio reminds me of the legendary chamber groups that embody precision and passion in balance, although Mozart, Brahms, and Dvorak created no trios for piano, cornet, and trap kit. Alas. They didn’t know what was possible.
I’m thrilled that these videos exist, and although I am fiendishly proud of my own efforts, these are much better than what I could have done. Now, all I want is the Kris Tokarski World Tour, with a long stopover in New York.
Here is Kris’s Facebook page, and here is his YouTube channel. Want more? Make sure your favorite festival producer, clubowner, concert promoter, or friends with a good piano and a budget experiences these videos.
Seriously hot: the Fat Babies take on jazz classics, pop tunes, and obscure delights at the San Diego Jazz Fest (Nov. 28, 2014). They are Beau Sample, string bass; Alex Hall, drums; Paul Asaro, piano, vocals; Jake Sanders, guitar / banjo; Dave Bock, trombone; John Otto, Jonathan Doyle (a guest star from Austin, Texas), reeds; Andy Schumm, cornet, arrangements. They’re a favorite band of mine and they have a loyal following.
A small caveat: You’ll hear some sweetly animated conversation from a few people to my right. I try to regard it as gently surrealistic commentary. I was trained to respect my elders, even when they are oblivious, so JAZZ LIVES listeners bear the burden of my politeness. It’s too late to get annoyed at the audience (very pleasant people). Or me.
Doc Cooke’s HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN:
Johnny DeDroit’s THE SWING:
From the Perry Bradford and his Jazz Phools book — originally featuring a young Louis Armstrong, LUCY LONG:
Bixiana! OH, BABY, DON’T SAY NO, SAY MAYBE:
More Bixiana! BIG BOY:
Jimmie Noone, Earl Hines, and the mysterious Floyd Mills’ CHICAGO RHYTHM:
A blues made memorable by a Jack Teagarden cornet chorus, IT’S SO GOOD [or, as Michael McQuaid once announced it at Whitley Bay, IT’S NO GOOD]:
A hot Henderson opus, COME ON, BABY!:
A pop tune recorded by Jack Linx and other worthies, OH, ME, OH, MY:
A Twenties pop ballad, SAVE YOUR SORROW:
Jumping forward into wild modernity, Paul pays homage to a delicious Fats Waller record of I’LL DANCE AT YOUR WEDDING:
Tiny Parham’s ROCK BOTTOM (not personally):
THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE (a little laginappe: a jam session for two reeds — John Otto and Jon Doyle — and the rhythm section):
Good hot sounds. There will be more good music at this year’s San Diego Jazz Fest, which will take place from Nov. 25-29. Details will be available here, and I promise to write more about the Fest as the autumn gets closer.
The Reynolds Brothers are always SHOW-READY. No question.
And they began the 2012 Jazz Bash By The Bay with a riotous set — including clarinetist and master of witty repartee Bob Draga. That’s cornet man Marc Caparone, string bassist / charming singer Katie Cavera, Brother Ralf on the washboard, and Brother John on the guitar, vocal, and whistle. A good time was had by all, even though it was midafternoon, rather early for hot jazz.
They began with the Gershwin call-to-musical-arms, STRIKE UP THE BAND:
What are the THREE LITTLE WORDS? Of course, I LOVE YOU comes in first, but I would make a case for THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS. I’m waiting for Congress to legislate that one into law:
Bob Draga probably doesn’t know my Aunt Ida, but the telepathic vectors in the cosmos suggested to him that it would be nice to play IDA, SWEET AS APPLE CIDER. It was and is!
Katie Cavera is full of surprises. Ask anyone! And the surprise she pulled out of her Show-Ready bag of tricks was the sweet and mildly naughty 1932 OH, IT LOOKS LIKE RAIN. Bob sat this one out; perhaps he went to play cards?
Professor Ralf wants the washboard to be returned to its former glory, rightly so. He accomplishes this by playing it with a swing, but also by reminding us all of the music that it once propelled — here, Tiny Parham’s WASHBOARD WIGGLES:
John Reynolds is a magnificently swinging singer, sweet and hilarious at the same time. I never tire of his TUCK ME TO SLEEP IN MY OLD ‘TUCKY HOME:
And another surprise — I can’t watch the Disney films, but their music is priceless and memorable. If I began my day with WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK, I would arrive at my office with a big smile. You try it and report back:
Feeling low? Got a parking ticket? Can’t shake that nasty cold? Worried about the bills? Did you burn the toast?
It’s going to be all right. In fact, it’s already all right.
Make yourself to home and listen to this music. Or — if you’re swiffing around, turn up the volume and feel the deep swinging joy this band creates.
They’re Ray Skjelbred’s First Thursday Band, caught live at the New Orleans Restaurant in Seattle, Washington, on December 1, 2011. They are Ray Skjelbred, piano / leader; Steve Wright, cornet, clarinet, alto and soprano saxes; Dave Brown, string bass; Mike Daugherty, drums.
And — in the spirit of the season — do you hear what I hear? I hear a real jazzband. “What’s that?” I hear someone in the back saying. Well, that’s an improvising group where all the members love the music and work together towards the same purpose, supporting one another in a gritty joyousness appropriate to the song, picking up each others’ cues, playing witty follow-the-leader so that one hears simultaneously a quartet and four strong-minded individualists taking their own path to get to their own versions of Jazz Paradise.
I also hear echoes of Pee Wee Russell, Rod Cless, Fud Livingston, Guy Kelly, Doc Poston, Earl Hines, Frank Melrose, Wellman Braud, Milton J. Hinton, Pops Foster, Eddie Dougherty (a relation, perhaps?), George Wettling — all embodied on December 1, 2011, by living creators who have absorbed the tradition and made it their own. Who cares if people fight cyber-skirnishes in the blogosphere about whether “J**z” is alive or dead? Call this by whatever polite name you like: it is most certainly alive.
The first song and performance that caught my attention was LOVE ME TONIGHT, which is associated in my mind with Earl Hines and Bing Crosby — one hell of a pair! It is a lovely song: with lyrics, one of the most insinuating seduction lyrics I know (perhaps more wooing than A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY): a carpe diem pointed towards the bedroom. But here it’s a bit more lowwdown, suggesting that Chicago jazz was a powerful aphrodisiac as well:
And here’s a lowdown Commodore JADA:
Something unusual from Mister Piano Man — a little solo tribute to someone quite forgotten, Cassino Simpson. All most of us know of him is that he worked with Tiny Parham and did his own Chicago gigs, before succumbing to mental instability. After he unsuccessfully tried to kill Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon, he was institutionalized and I believe he spent the rest of his life there. The noble John Steiner took recording equipment to Simpson and recorded him playing piano in 1942: the results, very hard to find even fifty years ago, appeared on a Paramont 10″ lp, which I’ve heard but never seen. Mister Skjelbred gives us a window into the blues — the Cassino Simpson way:
And something pretty, soulful, as well as funky: Ellington’s BLACK BEAUTY:
Here’s a truly mournful TRAV’LIN ALL ALONE (Ethel Waters – Jimmie Noone – Kenny Davern tempo, not Billie’s ironic bounce):
And a rather obscure tune from 1936 — I associate it only with Henry “Red” Allen, but that’s sufficient pedigree for anyone — NOTHING’S BLUE BUY THE SKY:
Something else from Red (circa 1933), his affirmation that everything is really OK — THE RIVER’S TAKIN’ CARE OF ME:
And the song that could stand as the band’s secondary title, summing up their attitude towards their work and their art, LIVIN’ IN A GREAT BIG WAY (think of Bill Robinson, Fats Waller, and Jeni LeGon in STORMY WEATHER). Ray sings the delectable lyrics softly, but you might consider memorizing them — you could do far worse for a mantra to get you through every day:
What exquisite music — delicate and raunchy at the same time!
P.S. I don’t want to be especially preachy, but I would like all the youthful musicians in the house to watch and listen closely to these clips — for the deep unspoken unity of the quartet, the shifting sound-textures, and numberless virtues. Mister Skjelbred doesn’t cover the keyboard with runs and arpeggios (unless he wants to); his left hand is integral to his playing; he could be a whole orchestra but doesn’t trample on anyone. Mister Wright knows everything there is to know about “tonation and phrasing”: not a note is out of place and each one has its own purpose, its own sound. And, children, there were ways of playing the alto saxophone that Charles Parker did not render obsolete. Mister Daugherty does so much with so few cymbals — bless him! — he knows what his snare drum and bass drum are for; he swings those wire brushes, and he is always listening. And Mister Brown, whether plucking or bowing, gets a deep resonant yet flexible sound out of his bass. Want to know what kind of amplifier he uses? It’s called LOVE. And although he can play the guitar beautifully, he doesn’t turn his string bass into one. There! I have spoken. Learn it to the younguns!
I first encountered the swinging percussionist Stephane Seva on pianist Olivier Lancelot’s CD (“Lancelot and his Chevaliers”). Although some washboardists can be heavy and overly assertive, Stephane had a light, tapping sound, and an irresistible beat. He’s on two new, rewarding CDs.
But first — here’s Stephane in the setting most would have encountered him, as an integral part of the quartet PARIS WASHBOARD (captured by Jeff Guyot for YouTube), with trombonist Daniel Barda, clarinetist Alain Marquet, and pianist Christian Azzi, performing ROSE OF THE RIO GRANDE:
Stephane is in fine form on the quartet’s latest CD, LIVE IN MONSEGUR (which features Barda, Marquet, and pianist Louis Mazetier), recorded live on July 4, 2009 — at a festival titled “Les 24 heures de Swing.”
It’s on the Black and Blue label (BB 708.2) and begins in high gear with a romping MINOR DRAG — followed by SQUEEZE ME, DINAH, KEEP YOUR TEMPER, ROCKIN’ CHAIR, THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE, UP JUMPED YOU WITH LOVE, CARAVAN, SWEET LORRAINE (with witty lyrics in French about the song itself, crooned by Stephane), and MAPLE LEAF RAG.
Although Fats Waller avoided trombone in his Rhythm, Paris Washboard has the cheerful stomp and swagger of the Waller group.
Stephane hasn’t wanted the washboard to be identified exclusively with Twenties jazz and with revivalist bands, so he has performed with a variety of jazz players. And the results, surprising and delightful, can be heard on another CD (on his own label — STEF 001 — with an unusual quartet, SWING ONDULE.
It follows Paris Washboard’s format: piano (Ludovic de Preissac), trombone (Eric Fauconnier), clarinet (Stephane Chausse), Stephane on washboard and vocals, and guest saxophonist Eric Seva. The CD is teasingly brief — fourtracks only — MINOR’S MOOD, CHEVAUCHEE A BOP-CITY, SWEET LORRAINE (vocal by Stephane), WASHBOARD WIGGLES. The first two are originals by the pianist; the last track a famous composition of Tiny Parham’s.
What distinguishes the group and the CD from its more traditional cousins is their gleeful breadth of influences. In the first few minutes (at a rocking tempo) I thought of the Raymond Scott Quintette, Lee Konitz and Lennie Tristano, late swing and early bop . . . all flying by most joyously. This CD cries out for Blindfold Testing across the civilized world. The appropriate reaction would be, “I don’t know who they are, but they’re superb!”
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Stephane is coming to New York for the last week of November, and will be doing four gigs. Here are the details:
DOC SCANLON’S PAN-ATLANTIC SWINGSTERS with Stephane Seva:
Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010: Swing 46, New York City
349 W. 46th Street between 8th & 9th Avenues
Tuesday, Nov. 30: The Bickford Theatre, Morristown, New Jersey 8 PM: New York Washboard Band: Stéphane Séva, wasnboard and vocals; Dan Levinson, clarinet; Gordon Webster, piano; Matt Musselman, trombone.