Tag Archives: tradition

TWO FOR MILDRED: DARYL SHERMAN at the WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (Nov. 1, 2013)

It’s always pleasing to me when an artist fully inhabits the present while offering a deep understanding of the tradition.  The soulful Miss Daryl Sherman does just that.

Here, Daryl honors one of her idols and mine, Mildred Bailey, at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. She is accompanied by Duke Heitger, trumpet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Jean-Francois Bonnel, reeds; Emma Fisk, violin; Keith Nichols, piano; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Spats Langham, guitar; Richard Pite, drums.

First, the lovely I’LL CLOSE MY EYES:

Then, Mister Berlin’s cheerful I’VE GOT MY LOVE TO KEEP ME WARM:

I’ve been remiss in not posting these earlier, but a variety of technical difficulties held them back.  Thank you, Daryl, and swinging players, for telling your stories with a swinging beat.

May your happiness increase!

GET READY FOR THANKSGIVING JAZZ (Nov. 21-25, 2012)

It might seem odd to be thinking about Thanksgiving at the end of July, but this post has very little to do with heavier clothing or sitting down with the family to a traditional holiday meal.  In fact, what I’m suggesting might be the way to escape the predictable festivities, or at least to make them festive in a different way with more lively music.

Why not run off to the 33rd annual San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival — beginning on Wednesday night, November 21, 2012, and continuing until Sunday afternoon, November 25?  There will be over forty hours of live music — with several bands playing simultaneously in different locations.  The location is the comfortable Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, California 92110.  Rates start at $105 per night, and you can call 800-772-8527 or 619-291-7131 to reserve.  A badge enabling you to see and hear everything for five days and nights is $95.  For more information about the festival, visit here.

But I can hear you saying, “If I’m going to run off from a family gathering, there had better be hot music in profusion to make it worth my while.”  No worries, as the children say.  How about Katie Cavera, John Gill, the Reynolds Brothers, Carl Sonny Leyland, Uptown Lowdown, the Yerba Buena Stompers, the Heliotrope Ragtime Orchestra, Grand Dominion, Tim Laughlin and Connie Jones and their New Orleans All-Stars, Chloe Feoranzo, Red Skunk Jipzee Swing, Nannette and her Hotsy Totsy Boys, Stephanie Trick, Cornet Chop Suey, Dave Bennett, and many others?

One special attraction — appearing on Friday night only — is Nouveau Stride, which pairs singer Lorraine Feather and pianist Stephanie Trick in a program of compositions by Fats Waller, Dick Hyman, and James P. Johnson — to which the Grammy-nominated Ms. Feather has put original lyrics . . . to be sung to the accompaniment of Stephanie’s romping piano.  For more information about this group, visit here.

And as our friend Hal Smith writes, Nouveau Stride will make its debut at San Diego in a multi-media presentation: “The show includes a ‘piano cam’ (enabling the entire audience to watch Stephanie’s flying fingers) and Lorraine’s lyrics projected onto a screen.  Also included is a “soundie” of Fats Waller (the soundie was the pre-MTV version of a music video) and an award-winning stride cartoon produced by Lorraine in 2009.”

And guests at the San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz Festival can dine on traditional holiday fare on Thursday night . . .

We savor the rituals . . .

but one can always invigorate the familiar with a new tradition.

May your happiness increase.

THANKS, JONATHAN SCHWARTZ (and FRANK SINATRA, too)

jonathan-schwartz-wnyc1Jonathan Schwartz has been broadcasting on WNYC-FM (New York City’s NPR station) for a long time now, offering remarkable music and deeply informed commentary.    Every Saturday and Sunday from 12-4, Jonathan plays a large variety of moving and intriguing music — Fred Astaire, Ruby Braff, Becky Kilgore, Tony Bennett and many others.   

Jonathan’s program also appears on Sirius satellite radio and his WNYC shows can be heard online, but I am listening live as I write this. 

Unlike other radio personalities who delve deeply into American popular song and jazz, Jonathan is more interested in presenting the music than a barrage of archival data.  And his program isn’t a museum, for he plays recordings by young performers who keep traditions vigorous. 

When I first heard his WNYC program, years ago, my musical range was deep but narrow.  I knew as much as I could about 1938 Billie Holiday, about the partnership of Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden, about the sounds of Jo Jones and George Wettling.  I loved Bing Crosby.  But I was an impatient listener, fidgeting until Jonathan played a song or a musician of whom I approved. 

sinatraAnd I didn’t understand Jonathan’s deep fascination with Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra was everywhere in my childhood and adolescence, and he seemed one-dimensional, someone trying to be hip for the young’uns and a sad tough guy for the people who watched the Ed Sullivan Show.  Louis was always Louis, no matter what he sang or played.  Sinatra seemed so busy selling repackaged versions of himself.  When “Ol’ Blue Eyes” came back, it meant nothing to me — had he ever been away?  The performances I saw on television seemed consciously mannered: “Look how deeply I feel,” he seemed to be saying, which I did not find convincing.   

But I am writing this to say that even our most cherished artistic convictions need to be reinspected now and again, to see if they are valid.  Or if they ever were.  The Beloved listens to Jonathan’s WNYC program faithfully, so I have heard him more often and more regularly than ever before.

More than a year ago, Jonathan played a Sinatra recording I had never heard, from the Capitol sessions with the Hollywood String Quartet, which appered on vinyl and CD as CLOSE TO YOU.  The song was a collaboration of Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer, “P.S., I Love You.”  I had heard Billie Holiday’s sweet-sour Verve version — but Sinatra’s singing, tender, unaffected, wistful — brought tears to my eyes.  The next day, I bought the CD and still think of it as supremely romantic music, superbly realized.  That singer in the Capitol studio didn’t care whether he struck the best I-don’t-care pose for the photographers.  He was inside the music, selling nothing but conveying everything. 

I was suspicious.  I looked into the mirror while shaving.  Was I turning into a Sinatra-phile, one of those people who reveled in every note their hero had sung?  I already had enough musical obsessions, thank you.  So I kept close watch on myself and played CLOSE TO YOU in the car, thinking that it was one atypical occasion when Sinatra had allowed himself to merge with the music. 

But it happened again when Jonathan played another Capitol Sinatra, the arrangement by Gordon Jenkins.  Perhaps it was “Where Are You?”  And, against my more suspicious self, I was staggered by the depth of feeling in that record.  I bought it and played it.  And then there was the slightly angry “Oh, You Crazy Moon,” from THE MOONLIGHT SINATRA.  And the tragically world-weary Sinatra of “I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry.”

So this is to say, “Thank you!” to Jonathan Schwartz for enriching my musical and emotional experience.  I now think it is possible to play a great Sinatra recording alongside one of the Billie Holiday Verves and to hear that both singers are — in their own way — considering the mysteries of the human heart. 

Some readers might be thinking, “Isn’t this a jazz blog?  Sinatra wasn’t a jazz singer!”  Those categories don’t matter when the art moves us.  As he was in mourning for his life, drinking cognac, Lester Young  played those mournful Sinatra records over and over.  “Frankie-boy,” Pres called him.  If Sinatra moved Lester Young, who knew everything about elation and despair, that’s good enough for me.  I am sorry that it took me this long to find the inward-looking Sinatra, but I am deeply indebted to Jonathan Schwartz for making it happen.