Thanks to Chris Tyle, master of so many instruments and generous archivist, we have some new treasures — old music played with style, grace, and energy — thanks to an unknown videographer. They are “live unedited,” but the videographer (perhaps shooting from a balcony?) did a wonderful job. There are so many individual definitions of “the real thing,” but these videos capture what I think of as irreplaceable genuine stomping music. Chris’ YouTube channel, “Godfrey Daniels”, has more marvels and more are promised.
Steve Pistorius and his Mahogany Hall Stompers: Steve Pistorius, leader, piano, vocals; Scott Black, Chris Tyle, cornets, vocal; Jacques Gauthe, clarinet/soprano sax; Hal Smith, drums. (In the mystery that is WordPress, I can’t give Monsieur Gauthe his name’s proper accent: I apologize.) CAKE WALKIN’ BABIES FROM HOME / HEEBIE JEEBIES / MOULIN A CAFE:
Jacques Gauthe and his Creole Rice Jazz Band: Jacques Gauthe, leader, clarinet, soprano sax; Chris Tyle, Scott Black, cornets; Tom Ebert, trombone; John Royen, piano; Amy Sharp, banjo; Tom Saunders, sousaphone; Hal Smith, drums. Special guest on some numbers: Claude Luter, soprano sax. YERBA BUENA STRUT / DOIN’ THE HAMBONE / JAZZIN’ BABIES BLUES / EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY / KANSAS CITY MAN BLUES / ROYAL GARDEN BLUES (incomplete):
Hal Smith’s Frisco Syncopators: Hal Smith, leader, drums; Chris Tyle, cornet; Jacques Gauthe, clarinet, soprano sax; David Sager, trombone; Amy Sharp, banjo; Steve Pistorius, piano, vocal; James Singleton, string bass. DALLAS BLUES / CLARINET MARMALADE / HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO? (incomplete):
continued, with HOW COME YOU DO ME LIKE YOU DO (concluded) / WEARY BLUES / introducing the band / PRETTY BABY / SOUTH / SAN (incomplete) //
What treasures! And let no one ever say that “the old songs” don’t have life in them. They just need expert jazz physicians — see above — to do loving resuscitations.
The invisible wall between musicians and non-musicians (“civilians” or, worse, “fans”) is often difficult to hurdle. Oh, there are the polite conversations between sets, and sometimes even a chat over a plate of food or a beverage, but the things we want to know of our heroes — “How do you DO what you do? What is the source of your magic?” — usually must be intuited and are rarely spoken of. April DeShields, a long-time devotee and close observer of the music we love, has made it possible for us to eavesdrop on relaxed, revealing conversations . . . beginning with two of my particular heroes, Hal Smith and Dan Barrett. And — delightfully — April is neither Mister Rogers nor Gunther Schuller: she’s admiring but never fawning, erudite but never austere.
I found April’s YouTube channel “ECHOES OF SWING” and watched her casually expert interviews. Before we move on, here’s a sample — the first part of her conversation with Hal, with musical examples of the very best kind as well as informal, informative chat about Hal’s ROADRUNNERS, and about what can be done with a small group where the only horn is the clarinet, and his own beginnings:
and the second part, where Hal speaks about influential drummers Ben Pollack, Wayne Jones, Nick Fatool, Fred Higuera, and two lessons with Jake Hanna; teaching aspiring jazz players at Banu Gibson’s NOLA trad jazz camp; the superb MY LITTLE GIRL by Hal’s Jazzologists; Hal’s own musical development and forming a personal identity . . . with portraits of Sidney Catlett, Lionel Hampton, and Dizzy Gillespie:
and the third part — with Hal’s affectionate memories of his supportive parents . . . up to current gigs in the time of Covid-19; the rigors and pleasures of remote recording, and of course, a few cat tales:
After I’d seen and enjoyed the first part of the Hal Smith interviews, I contacted April to ask her about herself, and after some reluctance, she opened the curtain:
When I was 6 my folks took me to the Sacramento Jazz Festival, and, during Abe Most’s set, he called up Tom Saunders (cornet player from Detroit, not the bass player – his nephew –who lives in NOLA now), of whom played Black Coffee and made the musical lightbulb go off on in my brain. He caught that from the stage, and being that my folks immediately decided it was late and we should get to bed, we walked out and Saunders followed us. He chatted up my folks, found out they wanted to go to bed, looked at me and said, “You don’t want to go, do you?” – to which I promptly replied “Nope.” He grabbed my hand, told my Dad that when I was tired he would take me back to our room, asked my Dad for a spare key so we wouldn’t wake them up, and off he took me- to the bar where I met Wild Bill Davison.
My father never did something like that, but I am so grateful he did, because every year at Sac and at subsequent festivals in other areas, Saunders was protector, teacher, and best friend. He and Chuck Hedges would load me up with lists of records to listen to as “homework” for the next year, and by the time I was 8 years old, I was correcting a guy who had a Saturday morning jazz show on a local public radiostation. He invited me to the station, and from then on Saturday mornings would be very early drives with Dad to the radio station and I kept that up until I was nearly 30 and health kept me from doing it anymore.
My old boss at KRML moved to Palm Desert and is on the Board of the American Jazz Institute – he finally convinced me instead of asking me every month to record shows for him if I started to do my own series with no deadlines, he would re-broadcast material he wanted, and here we are. So it turned out to be a long story…. so many people came to me after Saunders died, thinking he was my father or grandfather, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to festivals for a long time without being in a puddle of tears. Many years later I’m finally ready to do what he would have wanted me to do – he would’ve been very mad at me for quitting in the first place!
So much of what I learned from those guys, and eventually the weekly calls with Saunders abouteverything, is so much a part of who I am in every way I just can’t imagine who I would be without them!
April has also posted some rare historical material: Tom Saunders’ Wild Bill documentary; a Saunders-Wild Bill set done in celebration of Bill’s eightieth birthday; an interview with Chuck Hedges . . . and just now, a two-part interview with Dan Barrett, beginning with his early jazz-conversion experiences and the history of early New Orleans jazz musicians migrating to California; Dan’s interactions with Andrew Blakeney and Joe Darensbourg — a side-portrait of Tom Saunders by April and her “heaven-opening epiphany”; memories of trombonist George Masso, and wonderful music from Dan and George’s CD:
Part Two begins with Mary Lou Williams’ LONELY MOMENTS from BED (Dan, Becky Kilgore, Eddie Erickson, and Joel Forbes); Dan and other trombone-playing arrangers; his long friendship with Howard Alden and how it led to a move to New York — through Jake Hanna, Red Norvo, and Dick Sudhalter — to gigs with Woody Allen and film work, the children’s project BEING A BEAR:
The third and final part of that interview is on the way . . . but I can’t wait to see April’s next gift to us.
You don’t have to be a specialist in Morton’s neuroma to appreciate this excursion into happiness: a delicious romp on the 1930 Yellen and Ager paean to dancing, written for THE KING OF JAZZ.
That is an image — the famous Paul Whiteman recording. Here’s something that is even more multi-dimensional. The performance took place on September 23, 2016, at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, as part of the Steamboat Stomp (thanks again and again to Duke Heitger for making his and our dreams come true). The noble participants here are James Evans, clarinet; Andy Schumm, cornet; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Tom Saunders, bass saxophone; Hal Smith, drums. And do they rock!
I find it hilariously fitting that because of the intermittent lighting in the room (everyone knows that jazz clubs, to be atmospheric, must be dark) that the most brightly lit area of this video — leaving aside James’ brilliantly white shirt — is one or both of Andy’s shoes. HAPPY FEET, no doubt.
There’s more to come from the Stomp and other joyous events . . . so keep following JAZZ LIVES. Good value for your money, if I may be so bold.
I confess that I’ve let some days go by without blogging. Unthinkable, I know, but I (gently) throw myself on the mercy of the JAZZ LIVES court of readers.
Permit me to explain. From Thursday, September 15, to Sunday, the 18th, I was entranced by and at the Cleveland Classic Jazz Party. Consider these — randomly chosen — delights. Jim Dapogny playing IF I WERE YOU (twice) and some of his winsome original compositions. Rossano Sportiello, Frank Tate, and Hal Smith swinging like no one’s business. Rebecca Kilgore singing KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL in the Andy Schumm-Hal Smith tribute to Alex Hill. Andy, on piano, with Paul Patterson and Marty Grosz — once on banjo! — in a hot chamber trio (a highlight being LOUISE). Wesla Whitfield in wonderfully strong voice. Dan Block and Scott Robinson romping through HOTTER THAN ‘ELL. A Basie-styled small band led by Jon Burr, offering (among other pleasures) IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING. A string bass trio — Burr, Tate, and Kerry Lewis — showing that no other instruments need apply. Harry Allen and Jon-Erik Kellso playing ballads, and Dan Barrett, too. Tributes to Nat Cole, Harry Warren, Isham Jones, and Bill Evans. Many videos, too — although they take some time to emerge in public.
I came home late Sunday night and on Monday and Tuesday returned to normal (employed) life as Professor Steinman: John Updike, Tillie Olsen, William Faulkner.
Tomorrow, which is Wednesday, September 21, I get on a plane to New Orleans for Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stomp. Obviously I can’t report on delights experienced, but I can say I am looking forward to hearing, talking with, and cheering for the Yerba Buena Stompers, Miss Ida Blue, Banu Gibson, Tim Laughlin, Hal Smith, Kris Tokarski, Andy Schumm, Alex Belhaj, David Boeddinghaus, Ed Wise, Charlie Halloran, James Evans, Steve Pistorius, Orange Kellin, Tom Saunders, Debbie Fagnano, and many others.
So there you have it. I could sit at home blogging, or I could be on the road, collecting gems, some of which I will be able to share.
My counsel in all this has been the most eminent solicitor, Thomas Langham, who will now offer his closing argument to the jury:
Today is the first day of class, so I handed out papers for my students to read and a questionnaire to fill out. But turnabout is fair play: my friend, Professor Hal Smith, sent me some pages worthy of deep study: the schedule for the 2016 Steamboat Stomp.
I’ve written with great admiration of my experiences at the 2013 and 2015 Stomps hereand hereand here (and more, for the curious) — but I want to share with you the Coming Attractions that are less than a month away. For full details, of course, you should visit here. And, without being too pushy, may I suggest that space on the Steamboat Natchez is not infinite, and that lodgings in New Orleans are equally finite, that time is of the essence.
There are four sessions: Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon, each of them introduced by a steam calliope recital by the dextrous Debbie Fagnano. I should also mention that the Natchez has three areas for music: the main cabin, the top deck, and the Captain’s Salon. So there are always simultaneous sessions going on.
On Friday night, there will be two delights: on the boat itself, sessions by Tuba Skinny and the Yerba Buena Stompers; at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe, the Steamboat Stomp All-Stars (David Boeddinghaus, James Evans, Andy Schumm, Tom Saunders, Hal Smith) will hold forth.
On Saturday morning and afternoon, sessions by the Steve Pistorius Quartet (Steve, James Evans, Orange Kellin, Tom Saunders), the YBS, and Tim Laughlin (with Neil Unterseher, Alex Belhaj, and Ed Wise); later, at dockside, the Cakewalkin’ Jass Band (Ray Heitger, Tom Saunders, Alex Belhaj, Jamie Wight), Tim Laughlin, Andy Schumm, Neil Unterseher, Ed Wise, and a jam session with the YBS.
Saturday night, Banu Gibson (with David Boeddinghaus, Tom Saunders, Andy Schumm, James Evans, Kevin Dorn, Charlie Halloran), the Dukes of Dixieland, Tuba Skinny, the YBS, the Kris Tokarski Trio with Andy Schumm and Hal Smith, the Steamboat Stompers (Duke Heitger, Tom Saunders, Steve Pistorius). Banu Gibson (with David Boeddinghaus, Andy Schumm, Hal Smith), and another Kris Tokarski Trio with Hal Smith and Tim Laughlin.
On Sunday morning, Solid Harmony (Topsy Chapman and her two songful daughters) will be backed for one set by the Kris Tokarski Trio (Clint Baker and Hal Smith), and then by the YBS.
The Stomp will conclude with a VIP / Patron Party at the Bourbon New Orleans Hotel, and I have heard that Kris Tokarski, Andy Schumm, and Hal Smith will be playing a gig at Snug Harbor that night. No doubt.
That’s a whole lot of Stomp. Hope to see you there!
Steve Pistorius is an irreplaceable pianist, singer, bandleader, and visionary, and I love his Quartet — with a front line of Orange Kellin, clarinet; James Evans, vocal, reeds, and someone adept keeping time and swinging out the root notes — on this most recent occasion, Tom Saunders on bass sax. The Quartet doesn’t strive to imitate anyone in particular, but what comes out is deep and swinging.
You could call it New Orleans jazz and not be wrong, but I think of it as four kindred souls having a sweetly intense conversation about the song at hand, where their intelligence and feeling raise up every note from what could be formulaic or prosaic. Here is what I wrote about their first disc, NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE. To read what I wrote about their second, UNDER A CREOLE MOON, you’ll have to buy the disc — which I’ll predict you would want to anyway.
Now, this isn’t an advertisement for those two compact discs (although the subliminal energy is in my words, I hope) but a gift of music — a session on the Steamboat NATCHEZ recorded [by me, for you] during the 2015 Steamboat Stomp.
A cinematographic caveat follows. I was shooting into bright sunlight through large glass windows, so there was a good deal of unsolicited glare. Changing the videos to black and white helped cut down on the lurid aspect, but the four players are individually and collectively sheathed in what looks like swing ectoplasm. Fitting, of course. The sound, however, is fine and finer.
King Oliver’s I AIN’T GONNA TELL NOBODY:
James rhapsodizes so wonderfully on YOU BELONG TO MY HEART:
Doc Cooke’s BLAME IT ON THE BLUES:
An Oliver rarity, I CAN’T STOP LOVING YOU:
Mister Morton’s FROG-I-MORE RAG:
Bechet’s WASTE NO TEARS:
A. J. Piron’s THE BRIGHT STAR BLUES:
And a later Bechet, DANS LA RUE D’ANTIBES:
Hot, intent, relaxed, soothing, compelling. The best in their line. And somewhere in these videos Steve says ruefully that this band has lost its regular gig. I find that astonishing — in New Orleans, so proud of its music? — that I hope it has been remedied by now. Club-owners and party-givers, take note.
And I will keep you informed about the 2016 Steamboat Stomp — something I hope to attend.
Steve Pistorius has much to teach us — not only from the keyboard, but about the many stops on the larger journey. Here, at Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stomp, he gave two small but telling evocations of the moods of Love. Fellow faculty were Duke, trumpet; Tom Fischer, tenor saxophone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; John Gill, banjo; Tom Saunders, tuba; Jeff Hamilton, drums.
The first: The Lover, in Solitude, Longs for the Music that Reminds him (or her) of Pleasing Hours Spent in the Company of the Amorous Ideal, now Presumed Far Away. A Mood of Yearning, of Deep Nostalgia, is Conveyed:
The second: The Lover, Learning of a Betrayal, an Assault on Fidelity, Tells the Miscreant in No Uncertain Terms that his / her Presence is No Longer Welcome in the Domicile:
It’s all true. We’ve lived through these stages, no?
But happier news awaits. Steve, Orange, reedman James Evans, and string bass wizard Tyler Thomson have created a new CD — NEW ORLEANS SHUFFLE — which has been spinning perpetually in the JAZZ LIVES player. I will have more news of this shortly.
The real thing — lyrical New Orleans jazz recorded on the steamboat Natchez sailing up and back the Mississippi River. In 2013, not 1926, too. What could be nicer?
All of this was the idea (the dream, perhaps) of our friend and hero Duke Heitger, who launched the first STEAMBOAT STOMP in October 2013.
Here’s some hot music by Duke and his pals — the Steamboat Stompers: Orange Kellin, clarinet; Tom Fischer, tenor saxophone; Steve Pistorius, piano / vocal; John Gill, banjo; Tom Saunders, tuba; Jeff Hamilton, drums.
One for Papa Joe, SWEET LOVIN’ MAN:
Sweetly dancing, those beauties, CREOLE BELLES:
A riverboat favorite, SAILING DOWN THE CHESAPEAKE BAY:
Duke never speaks roughly to anyone, so this traditional end-of-night New Orleans tune has to be taken as a gentle embrace rather than a rough shove out the door — GET OUT OF HERE (AND GO ON HOME):
I’ll keep you posted on the plans for the 2014 Steamboat Stomp, I promise. For the moment, admire these players: they can swing and they can float.