Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

FEBRUARY 14, AT AN ANGLE

This song was a hit in 1931-2.  YouTube offers many amiable dance-band recordings.  Here I present four, two modern and two classic.

George Probert, soprano; Chris Tyle, cornet, vocal; Mike Owen, trombone; John Royen, piano; Lars Edegran, guitar; Bernie Attridge, string bass; Hal Smith, drums.  1998.  (Thanks to Chris for singing and playing from the heart.  And Hal keeps everyone pointed in the right direction, heartbreak or no.)

Bobby Gordon, clarinet; Keith Ingham, celeste; Hal Smith, drums.  1996.

THE performances, when the song was new, including the verbally treacherous verse, with Bing at one of his many peaks.

Finally, Louis and the Chicago band — with that muted lead.  “Bring it out, saxophones!” And the final bridge, a history of jazz in itself:

If Valentine’s Day is to you just a celebration of commodified love, it will pass.  When the stores close for the night, the tired sales help is already putting 50% OFF stickers on the candy boxes, but it would be gauche to bring some chocolate to the Love Object on the 15th.

The music, however, rings on wonderfully without interruption.

May your happiness increase!

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FEBRUARY 14: A LOVE SONG BY JIMMY ROWLES and RED MITCHELL

it-must-be-true-chords

A few minutes of love in jazz or vice versa: a sweet ancient Harry Barris / Gordon Clifford / Gus Arnheim song, IT MUST BE TRUE, here performed by Jimmy Rowles and Red Mitchell, piano / voice, and string bass, respectively: July 1978 in Paris.

Rowles was the most subtly surprising pianist and devilishly intuitive accompanist, but he is not celebrated enough as a singer: what he and Red Mitchell get up to here would warm the most chilly heart.  (The song was first popularized by a young fellow named Crosby, but this version makes its own tender impression.)

May your happiness increase!

A VALENTINE STOMP, or THE NINE-TWENTY SPECIAL (Part Two): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND with NICOLE FRYDMAN (Feb. 13, 2014)

Here is the second part of a delightful musical evening (and here, for anyone who missed it, is the first).

Love was in the air at the Nine-Twenty Special — at the Russian Center on Sutter Street in San Francisco the night before Valentine’s Day 2014 when Clint Baker and his New Orleans Swing Band (with the wryly independent singer Nicole Frydman) played a swing dance in honor of Cupid.  I don’t know actually how many couples went home smitten; how many new alliances were forged across the crowded room.  (No one came up to the balcony where I was shooting videos to announce their new happiness.)

I do mean love of melody, of melodic improvisations, of great songs, or bouncing buoyancy.  From my second-story perch, I was able to capture the whole band and that sweet rumble you hear is the sound of the dancers moving, their shoes making graceful arcs, their whispered conversations and giggles.

The band was our man Clint, trumpet, clarinet, vocal; Robert Young, saxophone, vocal . . . and a lovely rhythm section of Jeff Hamilton, piano, gloriously; Tom Wilson, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; J Hansen, drums; the aforementioned Nicole Frydman, vocal.

Here are the highlights of the second set.  Love it?  Love it!

MY BLUE HEAVEN:

DIGA DIGA DOO / KRAZY KAPERS:

A meteorological pair by Nicole. First, STORMY WEATHER:

Then everything clears, with BLUE SKIES:

THE GIRLS GO CRAZY:

BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES:

HONEYSUCKLE ROSE:

WEARY BLUES:

SAN FRANCISCO BAY BLUES:

“Had a good time every time I went out.”  True indeed, if Clint Baker has a hand in the music. If you missed this Valentine Stomp, Clint will be leading a band for the Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View, California, on April 2 — from 9:30 to midnight. Hop on!

May your happiness increase!

A VALENTINE STOMP, or THE NINE-TWENTY SPECIAL (Part One): CLINT BAKER’S NEW ORLEANS SWING BAND with NICOLE FRYDMAN (Feb. 13, 2014)

Love was in the air at the Nine-Twenty Special — at the Russian Center on Sutter Street in San Francisco the night before Valentine’s Day 2014 when Clint Baker and his New Orleans Swing Band (with the wryly independent singer Nicole Frydman) played a swing dance in honor of Cupid.

When I write “love,” I don’t know actually how many couples went home smitten; how many new alliances were forged across the crowded room.  (No one kept tabs, and no one came up to the balcony where I was shooting videos to announce their new happiness.  Why, I don’t know.)

But I do mean love of melody, of melodic improvisations, of great songs, or bouncing buoyancy.  You can hear and see for yourself. I am very fond of these videos not only for the music but for the ambiance: from my second-story perch, I was able to capture the whole band and that sweet rumble you hear is the sound of the dancers moving, their shoes making graceful arcs, their whispered conversations and giggles.

The band was our man Clint, trumpet, clarinet, vocal; Robert Young, saxophone, vocal . . . and a lovely rhythm section of Jeff Hamilton, piano, gloriously; Tom Wilson, string bass; Katie Cavera, guitar; J Hansen, drums.

Here are the highlights of the first set.  Love it?  Love it!

CRAZY RHYTHM, with a vocal explication by Robert:

ONE HOUR, with endearments by Clint:

VALENTINE’S DAY JUMP:

EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, as described by Nicole, and an enthusiastic Mr. Baker:

THEM THERE EYES, with charms delineated by Ms. Frydman:

A double-header . . .

I DON’T WANT TO SET THE WORLD ON FIRE (Clint at his most Swing Romantic) with a quick segue into BOURBON STREET PARADE:

SWING, SISTER, SWING, with Nicole giving us the embodiment:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

“Had a good time every time I went out.”  True indeed, if Clint Baker has a hand in the music.

May your happiness increase!

THE BOY’S GAWKY AND ECCENTRIC, BUT LOVE WORKS ITS MAGIC: HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

The Beloved — whom I celebrate today and all the other days and nights — told me about Hal Le Roy.  He was another gap in my swing education, but this could be remedied by multiple viewings of this Vitaphone short film, HIGH SCHOOL HOOFER.

Once seen, Le Roy is completely unforgettable, an electifying dancer.  His style is so eccentric, so vigorous yet graceful, that I find myself thinking, “How did he do that? — and that? — and that?”  Everything is in blissful motion — his long legs, his pompadour, that goofy grin.  He was 18.  Le Roy is the visual equivalent of a previously unheard Bix solo, or the 1932 Bennie Moten band in an outchorus: life-changing.  (Ron Hutchinson, the great Vitaphone scholar, tells me that Le Roy made other shorts before becoming “Harold Teen” in a film series beginning in 1934.  Unfortunately, Hal didn’t seem to be one of those “ingenues” who made an easy transition to adulthood on screen; he retired from films when he was 37 and spent the rest of his life in musical productions in dinner theatres.)

And although the acting in this film is unsubtle and the comedy is heavy-handed, I also delight in the details: the suits that the upper classmen wear, Le Roy’s business with some piece of uneaten food; the lively dance music that plays throughout.

I confess I have a crush on Eleanor(e) King, who was 27 in this “high school” film.  She isn’t a great actress at the start, as a foil to “Bill,” given that wooden comeback about “sunburn” by the script, but she  grows as the film goes on: her toughlove “Honey,” just before she urges a stuttering, uncoordinated Le Roy to go out there and wow ’em — two years before FORTY-SECOND STREET — is very convincing.  The script also makes her an effective early life coach: turn CAN’T into CAN, and separate your ego from yourself.  She has something there, and any life coach who could enable Le Roy to so utterly shed his terrors and be himself is a wow.

Watch this!

The film fulfills all our fantasies: the poor freshman who is doing menial chores in the cafeteria is nervous, obsequious, has a stammer.  But he can dazzle the crowd and win the heart of the girl who has a real loving interest in him.  Music hath charms!  Fidelity triumphs; swing is in the air.

Haughty Bill disappears, as does the ominous fellow who threatens Hal with exile (ostracism, high school style) if he fails.  It all ends with a broad joke: offstage, dizzied by love, Hal is a terrible dancer.  But his enraptured girl, Georgia May Tate, doesn’t mind at all.

My high school experiences were far less glorious, so I cherish this film as a what-might-have-been-in-another-life experience.  My more recent experiences in ballroom dancing have been, shall we say, confined, another reason HIGH SCHOOL HOOFER is a delightful dream.

And its point is clear: the love our Beloveds offer gives us the power to fly — in public — rather than confining ourselves, timid and insecure, amidst the dirty dishes.

May your Valentine’s Day — and all the others — find you triumphant, loved, and loving.  Love can make us light on our feet, not only on February 14.

May your happiness increase.

“EACH DAY IS VALENTINE’S DAY”: LARRY HAM, CHRIS HANEY, KLAUS SUONSAARI (Feb. 10, 2012)

Although I am seriously romantic, I am not terribly interested in the flurry of gas-station roses and GMO candy that marks February 14 as Valentine’s Day.  But I do love MY FUNNY VALENTINE, and I thought it very sweetly appropriate that pianist Larry Ham, bassist Chris Haney, and drummer Klaus Suonsaari played it at Sofia’s several nights before it would be the anthem du jour.  Here is their soulful rendition, with Larry’s fascinating harmonies reminding me of Jimmy Rowles; Chris spinning quietly eloquent lines; Klaus making those wire brushes whisper and cajole.  Great music for romantics any day in the year!

Song scholars will know this, but MY FUNNY VALENTINE was originally performed in the Rodgers and Hart musical BABES IN ARMS . . . sung to “Val,” or Valentine — by the young woman who cheerfully enumerates his flaws but wants him to keep them.  I didn’t know that “Valentine” was originally played by Ray Heatherton, famous in my time as someone appearing on children’s records and later as the MC of the Long Island, New York BREAKFAST CLUB.  If only I had known about his past lives when I encountered him in 1974, I could have asked him . . .

This one’s for the Beloved, who occupies the position of Valentine so securely that I cancelled any other auditions shortly after we met . . .

LOVE IS IN THE EAR (Feb. 13, 2011)

Because it was The Night Before Valentine’s Day, the EarRegulars played amorous jazz at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City): they were Chris Flory, guitar; Charlie Caranicas, trumpet / fluegelhorn; Dan Block, tenor / clarinet; Lee Hudson, bass, romping through Irving Berlin’s THE BEST THING FOR YOU (WOULD BE ME). 

Better than a heart-shaped box of chocolates or a paper-wrapped bunch of cut flowers (the latter is seen crossing the room early on in this video).

As Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle told us, Love will find a way!