Tag Archives: Twenties

Part One: ANDY SCHUMM’S BIXOLOGISTS (Whitley Bay, July 9, 2010)

Cornetist Andy Schumm was having the time of his life at the 2010 Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival.  Not that Andy doesn’t have fun and spread joy wherever he goes — but here he was with a band of players who knew the music intimately, knew the subtle dimensions of the styles by heart.  So Andy and his Bixologists were an immense hit, and I caught every session (missing perhaps three songs) and I am very glad of it.  The band for this initial meeting on Friday, July 9, was Norman Field on a variety of reeds and amusing scholarly digressions; Paul Munnery on trombone; Jeff Barnhart on piano; Jacob Ullberger on banjo and guitar; Frans Sjostrom, the heroic, on the bass saxophone; Josh Duffee on his minimalist and very swinging drums. 

I will not explicate these performances, because they don’t need my pointing out their delights.  However, they are so much more than pale recreations of records: they are living creative hot music!

AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL:

LOUISIANA:

AT SUNDOWN:

ROYAL GARDEN BLUES:

I’M MORE THAN SATISFIED:

OH, BABY!:

BIG BOY:

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?:

And more to come on the other side . . .

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THE NIGHTHAWKS ARE FLYING! (April 19, 2010)

Here are two wonderfully acrobatic performances by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks that I recorded at Sofia’s in the Hotel Edison one week ago.  My nomination for Olympian here is trombonist Jim Fryer, but he has stiff competition!  On that Monday night, the Hawks were Vince (vocal, bass sax, tuba, string bass); Kenny Salvo (banjo, guitar); Peter Yarin (piano); Arnie Kinsella (drums); Jon-Erik Kellso, Mike Ponella (trumpets); Dan Levinson, Dan Block, Mark Lopeman (reeds); Andy Stein (violin / baritone sax). 

The Nighthawks pay tribute to a 1930 West Coast band, Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders, with a TIGER RAG variant called CHARLIE’S IDEA that originally featured Lawrence Brown and Lionel Hampton.  You’ll see what I mean about a leaping Jim Fryer as well as the dancers on the floor and Jon-Erik’s version of HOTTER THAN THAT, another ragged tiger:

And here’s a hot jam session on EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, with a pair of slow-motion dancers and a positively demonic solo from Arnie Kinsella (and some calmer excursions from Dan Levinson, Andy Stein on the Stroh phono-violin, among others):

And this virtuosity takes place every Monday from 8-11 PM at 211 West 46th Street!

JAZZ BRILLIANCE AT THE EAR INN

Sunday, September 6, 2009, was my first visit to The Ear Inn after a summer’s hiatus. 

The music I heard there was uplifting, with a Labor Day holiday weekend version of the EarRegulars: cornetist Dan Tobias, alto saxophonist Michael Hashim, gutiarist James Chirillo, and bassist Frank Tate — with violinist Valerie Levy sitting in for two songs in the second set. 

I brought my video camera, as I had done at Whitley Bay, to capture the proceedings in cinematographic splendor.  And I did, although less than splendidly.  The Ear is rarely brightly lit (although occasionally strings of tiny white bulbs come to life, suggesting Christmas for non-sectarian audiences) but that night the ambiance was especially murky.  So the videos that follow are occasionally blurry and consistently grainy. 

Mea cinema culpa, I say.  Readers who object to having their jazz turned noir (Dan’s shirt was a series of vivid pastels) should avert their gaze.  But the music is so restorative that I hope they can listen while doing something else.*

About the band.  Dan Tobias is a wonderful, intuitive player, someone who would have been welcome on Fifty-Second Street or at a Keynote Records session.  He has a glowing tone but can also growl and soar, although he usually takes the compact middle-register paths of Buck Clayton and Bobby Hackett.  This night he reminded me of Roy Eldridge, of the Thirties Ellington and Basie brass, of Joe Thomas and Shorty Baker.  Need I say more?  Dan is also a genial ad-hoc bandleader: almost every number ended with a series of Kansas City riffing outchoruses created on the spot.  Michael Hashim has spectacular technique and musical wit.  His bubbling personality has so many sides that it’s like a full sax section on the gig.  There’s the Johnny Hodges balladeer; the rhythm and blues crowd-inciter; Pete Brown’s love-child; the King of Arpeggios.  He only got paid once on Sunday, a pity.  James Chirillo’s solos are full of brilliant tumbling lines (yet every note rings and has a purpose), happily weird dissonances, a sonic spectrum that goes from pastoral whisperings to twangy Fifties chords to hints of electronic music.  He’s never predictable, and his rhythm is a wondrous force.  Frank Tate was there two years ago on the EarRegulars’ first gig.  Frank can walk the chords with a resonance and rightness that suggests Walter Page, and his melodic inventions catch the ear (fitting for someone who learned a great deal from playing alongside Bobby Hackett).  When the music heats up, many bassists get carried away: Frank swings hard but is the epitome of steadiness. 

Let’s start with IF DREAMS COME TRUE — the property of Billie Holiday, also James P. Johnson, Teddy Wilson, and Buck Clayton — here a trotting conversation among friends:

A Duke Ellington medley is often formulaic, stringing together “greatest hits” as Duke himself did — almost as if to get it over so that the crowd would go home happy they had heard SATIN DOLL.  This version is anything but cliched; it begins with DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME, where Hashim does Hodges perfectly, then the quartet gets serious for Danny’s SOLITUDE, full of mournful growls (bringing together Arthur Whetsol and Clark Terry), and James’s pensive WARM VALLEY brings everyone together in a deliciously hymning way:

Jazz musicians keep coming back to Irving Berlin’s melodies, even those that seem most simple, and ALL BY MYSELF (a favorite of Kenny Davern) should be played more often — especially as it is here:

Performed as an unstated homage to Bix (catch the first chorus) and to Eddie Condon (throughout), SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL is one of those happy oddities that blossomed through Twenties and Thirties pop music — a song that should properly be melancholy but is a real romp.  Notice James’s brilliant introduction, and Danny’s invitation to the ball game:

On a “gal” kick?  Who knows, but the next tune called was the old favorite MY GAL SAL:

Another “Dixieland” tune, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, is fun to play, even if the band neatly sidesteps the stop-time patter vocal chorus:

Valerie Levy, a classically-trained violinist who’s also got a great deal of experience playing the American Songbook (and who also happens to be Mrs. Chirillo), joined the band for a lovely EMBRACEABLE YOU:

I try to request songs infrequently, but my restraint gave way.  Not only did I ask Danny if the band would play I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, but I pushed presumption to its limits by asking for a slow-medium tempo.  Danny agreed, and I got to record this wonderful performance:

I remember Davern calling I WANT TO BE HAPPY at the extraordinary concert Hank O’Neal put on at the New School in 1972 (the other participants: Condon, Wellstood, Davison, and Krupa) and Davison leering at the crowd, “Don’t we all!”  We still do:

Finally, for this post, POOR BUTTERFLY, a sideways memory of the suffering operatic heroine:

Some band! — even through the murk and blur.

*If anyone can recommend a hard-drive compact video camera that functions well in low light, I would be grateful.  I’m using a Sony DCR SR 220. . . .

LES RED HOT REEDWARMERS, OH MY! (July 11, 2009)

By popular demand, here are five more hot numbers from Les Red Hot Reedwarmers, the band that lives up to its name, caught live at the 2009 Whitley Bay International Jazz festival, featuring Aurelie Tropez, Stephane Gillot, Martin Seck, and an enthusiastic rhythm section.  (I’ve posted a few performances from this set where Bent Persson joined them — see RED HOT AND BENT. . . ) 

From the book of their idol, Jimmie Noone, they perform IT’S TIGHT LIKE THAT (a phrase of enthusiastic celebration that has nothing to with Manhattan parking spaces or constricting waistbands):

And a rhetorical question anyone can answer in the affirmative, even if you’re an only child: OH, SISTER!  AIN’T THAT HOT?:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS is now sometimes used to signal that the evening’s entertainment is over and that it’s time for well-behaved listeners to go to bed.  But in the Twenties, it was a brisk dance tune (think of the Henderson version with Louis), so the RHR weren’t ready to stop, as you’ll hear:

SAN was recorded not only by Noone, but by the Mound City Blue Blowers, and by a small band out of the Paul Whiteman organization featuring Bix Beiderbecke.  The RHR live up to their heroic antecendents with style:

And, finally, MY DADDY ROCKS ME — where the reference is neither to hammocks or to Pilates.  “With one steady roll,” say the lyrics.  You’ll figure it out once you’ve heard this rocking performance.  And that trumpet man?  None other than our hero, Mr. Persson:

The RHR’s two Stomp Off CDs are also splendid: the band comes through whole on every performance.  I admire the band tremendously for the fervency and beauty of their solo improvisations, but would call your attention to their exact, swinging ensemble playing — those unison passages are suely difficult to execute at any speed, and the band adores racing tempos! 

This post is for M. “Stompy” Jones, President and Treasurer of the Mlle. Aurelie Tropez Fan Club, Canadian Division.