THE BRONZE MESSENGER, by Ericka Midiri
I’m very happy to report that cornetist Danny Tobias has finally come out with his own CD, aptly called CHEERFUL LITTLE EARFUL — a subtle trio session, intimate yet propulsive.
I was fortunate enough to write the very brief notes for the CD:
Danny Tobias is an old-fashioned jazz player in the best modern way, at home in any swinging jazz context. Like his heroes Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, he loves melody, his improvisations have a beautiful shape, and he is always recognizably himself. Danny didn’t learn his jazz from a textbook but through experience – early gigs with Ed Metz, Jr., Paul Midiri, and Joe Holt, and a fifteen-year musical apprenticeship with drummer Tony Di Nicola and master clarinetist Kenny Davern.
Kenny was an inspiration. He taught me what not to play, how to play in an ensemble, and how to construct a solo. He could build a solo as well as anyone who has ever played. Period. Tony and Kenny were always willing to teach me and I loved every night that I had the privilege to work with them. Since those two passed away I’ve been traveling with the Midiri brothers to festivals all over the country and leading my own groups whenever possible. It’s funny but when I looked at the tunes I’d picked for this CD almost all of them were written between 1925 and1935. I don’t think of these songs as old. They speak to me and remind me of Tony and Kenny.
When I asked Danny about his original compositions, he said, The names of my tunes are rather silly. I rehearse with an organ trio once a week in Trenton saxophonist Dom DeFranco’s cellar. Hence the name DOMINIC’S BIG CELLAR, which is based on LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME. When I brought up NO MATH, he just grinned. And the song with the most striking title has an intriguing explanation: HOW’S YOUR MOTHER was first written as a Christmas song for my three sons. The title comes from a gag of mine (with people I know very well): when someone mentions something off color or foul, I will say “How’s your mother?” as if the bawdy comment has jogged a memory.
Danny’s trio is completed by two very sympathetic and supportive players. Pianist Joe Holt is a fixture in jazz rooms along the Eastern Seaboard, and he and Danny have been playing together for years, often with the Midiri brothers. (You can see them on YouTube.) Gary Cattley has his Ph.D. from North Texas State University, plays tuba in addition to string bass, and appears with the Princeton Symphony as well as Marty Grosz.
This easy-going trio got together for sessions in summer 2009, with the head arrangements done by Danny. The results remind me of the finest sessions for Keynote Records in the Forties or the John Hammond sessions for Vanguard a decade later: neat but inspired. Each performance was completed in one or two takes. This CD captures the kind of jazz that musicians play for their own pleasure when only the attentive customers are in the club. It’s comfortable, late-evening music, from the sorrowing SAY IT ISN’T SO to the romping CHICAGO RHYTHM and the title tune, a perfect description of Danny Tobias’s jazz.
The disc is available from the modest, soft-spoken Mr. Tobias himself for $15.00. Send check, cash, or other negotiable instruments to Danny at 38 Fenwood Avenue, Mercerville, New Jersey 08619. More to come!
P.S. When Dan Barrett started his New York City tour — sadly too brief — one of the first things he said to me was that he had played two concerts in New Jersey with a wonderful cornet player, Danny Tobias. Did I know him? (I murmured assent but Dan was so intent that I don’t know if it registered.) That young Mr. Tobias was so good, so melodic that he reminded the elder Dan why he had taken up the cornet himself: to play the melody. Dan (Barrett) continued, looking at me sternly, “You really ought to mention Danny in your blog,” and I happily said, “I have, at length, and he’s coming out with his own CD. He’s a fine player and a fine person!” All true!