Tag Archives: Walter Donaldson

“GEE, HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN?” IS THE QUESTION. THE EARREGULARS HAVE THE ANSWER (October 7, 2012)

It’s been SO LONG, they tell us — a bouncy version of the 1936 Walter Donaldson song . . . performed here by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Vincent Gardner, trombone; Pat O’Leary, string bass, at the home of happy sounds, The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York).  The EarRegulars work their magic every Sunday night from 8 to 11 . . . performing extraordinary feats of swinging legerdemain!

That doesn’t need explanation or commentary, does it?

May your happiness increase.

DOWNTOWN STANDARD TIME: THE EARREGULARS at THE EAR INN: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, JOE COHN, JOEL FORBES (Sept. 30, 2012)

Once again, a triumph of subtlety, precision, wit, grace from the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on September 30, 2012.  The E.R. were very special that Sunday night but they always are: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett (on a brief visit from California), trombone, vocal; Joe Cohn, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.

What particularly delights me is the blending of individual voices and styles into a wholly supportive community: the most uplifting kind of social enterprise that encourages rather than stifles the four selves on the bandstand.  Some will point out that the “tunes” are “old chestnuts,” dating from the early part of the previous century.  In the hands of Forbes, Cohn, Barrett, and Kellso, how lively they are, how full of light and shade and surprises!

WHO’S SORRY NOW? was, as always at The Ear Inn, a rhetorical question:

Dan Barrett bursts into song on James P. Johnson’s ONE HOUR and acts out the innocently naughty vaudeville created by Vic Dickenson — its implication being that one hour wouldn’t be enough to enjoy all the imaginable delights:

When it’s played like this, Walter Donaldson’s LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is so engaging that its title stops being an ultimatum — and this version has affectionate nods to Jack Teagarden and Lester Young, as well as a vertiginously brilliant final bridge from Dan:

“Say, you live in New York City or nearby and you’ve never been to The Ear Inn on a Sunday when The EarRegulars are playing?  What a remarkable version of self-denial that is!”

May your happiness increase.

TOO GOOD TO IGNORE: The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn (March 25, 2012)

Eddie Condon, when the band was romping through a lengthy IMPROMPTU ENSEMBLE at Town Hall, would encourage a musician to take another solo, and say, happily, “Too good to ignore!”  That’s the way I feel about the music I experienced at The Ear Inn on March 25.  So here are four more sterling performances by four Jazz Masters, no exaggeration there.  They are (from the back) Greg Cohen, string bass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, taragota, trombonium; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet.

And here are the four — as the Brits say (I think?) TWO UP, TWO DOWN.

Let us start with a wistfully swinging SOMEDAY SWEETHEART — or, as Pee Wee Russell used to call it, SOMEDAY SWEATSHIRT:

Then something even more searching and sweet — Scott begins observing the dusk with AT SUNDOWN:

A romp through the Orientalia of the early twentieth century with CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN:

And a nod to Bix Beiderbecke with SAN:

Wonderful tumbling interplay, great listening among the players!

And as a P.S. — today, May 8, is Mister Kellso’s birthday.  We owe him thanks and hugs for all the beauties he creates!

May your happiness increase.

“WHO, ME?” “YES, ‘YOU’!”

My silly title shouldn’t distract you from the hot jazz to follow.  The song is YOU (no, not the Cole Porter classic) — music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Harold Adamson, performed first in the 1936 THE GREAT ZIEGFELD.  I think of it as the songwriter’s solution to the problem of potential sheet music buyers being unable to remember the title. 

Here’s a hot performance of YOU by Ray Skjelbred’s First Thursday Band — at the New Orleans Restaurant in Seattle on March 1, 2012: Steve Wright, alto; Ray, piano; Dave Brown, string bass; Mike Daugherty, drums:

I know that in this century we value NEW and IMPROVED very highly, but music isn’t detergent.  And what I love about this rocking performance is the way it eagerly and expertly brings musical styles of “the past” into “the present” so convincingly that these distinctions fall away.  Since everything is transitory, we may live in the Moment that this music offers so generously.  Yes, Virginia, people did play this way before Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Jimmy Garrison, and Max Roach changed the musical landscape — to say nothing of Ornette Coleman, whose radicalism is now fifty years old . . .

Anyway, put aside the musical categories and critical “schools” and listen to the beautiful swinging sounds: the sweet racing turns of Steve’s alto; the rollick and frolic of Ray’s right and left hands; the sustaining heartbeat of Mister Brown to You on the bass; the exuberant slap and dance of Mike’s drums. 

Music for YOU, YOU — and especially YOU!

Thanks to “islandstarfish” and “swr2408018,” a great team, for making it possible for us to see and hear this wonderful jazz.

OUR IDEAL: THE EARREGULARS at THE EAR INN (January 29, 2012)

Very simple, no flourishes, nothing fancy: just four of the best musicians you’ll ever hear honoring the melodies, improvising at lightning speed, making a wonderfully cohesive little band right there in the corner at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) last Sunday night from 8-11 PM.  By the summer of 2012 the EarRegulars will have pulled off such secular miracles for five years, which stands as an amazing record for creative consistency.

Last Sunday’s Peerless Quartet was Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass.  Here are five varied and luminous performances from that evening:

The Claude Hopkins-Alex Hill declaration of gracious acquiescence, I WOULD DO [MOST] ANYTHING FOR YOU, which also became the Hopkins theme song.  I always wonder whether it reflects the leader’s mood if the MOST is included or left out.  Scholarly research, anyone?

Then a leisurely exposition of the 1922 Youmans SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY, at a tempo that recalls Lester Young and his gorgeous Keynote session:

So many “traditional” and “Dixieland” bands have claimed THE SHEIK OF ARABY for their own that one is in danger of forgetting what an effective swing tune it is.  Here, Matt and Jon-Erik launch into the appropriately Middle-Eastern verse in a manner that recalls the eternally memorable Hot Lips Page session for V-Disc:

A lovely tune, not often played by jazz improvisers, is the Irving Berlin CHANGE PARTNERS — of course associated with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

And a sweet, musing version of Walter Donaldson’s MY IDEAL, recalling both Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday:

I was thrilled to be there . . . and I had very good company — new young friends, Travis and Jillian, who were digging the music in the most heartfelt way.  Shazam, you cats!

The EarRegulars will be taking Sunday, February 5, 2012, off, because of the Super Bowl — but they will be back on the 12th with Matt, Jon-Erik, Mark Lopeman, and Nicki Parrott — prepare to swing!

LET ME DREAM SOME MORE: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, DAN LEVINSON, JOHN SHERIDAN, JON BURR, RICKY MALICHI (JAZZ AT CHAUTAUQUA 2011)

Trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso knows how to have a good time, and to make sure that the fun envelops everyone in the room.  He showed this from the first notes of his set at this year’s Jazz at Chautauqua — one of the informal sessions that took place in the parlor on Thursday night, September 15, 2011.

He also knows how to plan sets: a nice Thirties medium swinger by Walter Donaldson, a pretty ballad associated with Louis, a nod to John Sheridan’s Dream Band and Fats Waller in a little-played pop tune of the period, and something really sweet to send us off to bed (the Beloved called it “melty” and she was of course correct).

Of course Jon-Erik had the finest kind of friendly assistance from Jon Burr, bass; John Sheridan, piano; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, reeds; Ricky Malichi, drums.  (By name alone, Ricky might have felt left out of this jazz poker hand — but he’s such a fine drummer that we don’t care what his first name is.)

Here’s IT’S BEEN SO LONG, made memorable by Bunny Berigan, Ruby Braff, and many others:

Then, the lovely expression of gratitude — complete with the verse (only Jon-Erik plays this!) — THANKS A MILLION:

And something delightful — the 1935 pop song I associate with Fats Waller and a soaring Bill Coleman, DREAM MAN (“Let me dream some more!”):

And something stunning in its simple hymnlike beauty, Johnny Mercer’s DREAM:

The stuff that dreams are made on!

TRULY SWEET, TRULY HOT with CONNIE JONES, TIM LAUGHLIN, CHRIS DAWSON, CLINT BAKER, MARTY EGGERS, HAL SMITH, and CHLOE FEORANZO (Sept. 3, 2011)

Yes, the Champions sports bar was somewhat exuberant in its general atmosphere, but that did not stop these masterful musicians from creating sweet and hot jazz at the music festival of the same name held in Los Angeles in September 2011.

Here’s a memorable trio of selections from a great band — Tim Laughlin on clarinet; Connie Jones on cornet; Clint Baker on trombone; Chris Dawson on piano; Marty Eggers on bass; Hal Smith on drums; and (sitting in) Chloe Feoranzo on reeds (dig that party dress and that Miss Chloe just can’t keep from dancing — it comes through in her playing, too!).

Walter Donaldson’s lament for his deceased wife is such a beautiful song on its own — MY BUDDY — that the jazz players of the Thirties picked it up and made it their own (I think of Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, and Coleman Hawkins — some triumvirate).  This band does it justice:

Two clarinets need some sweet music to work on: here’s SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, expression of wishes and desires that may come true in the indefinite future.  No, right now — while this band is at work and at play:

Finally, hot rhythm of this caliber could make even the most solid citizen feel a little rebellious, willing to kick over the traces and make every day a casual Friday.  Hence, CRAZY RHYTHM:

What a band!  Hot lyricism in every bar . . .

THEY’VE GOT RHYTHM: REBECCA KILGORE QUARTET and MARK SHANE (Sept. 3, 2011)

Here’s a beautifully swinging interlude from the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival. 

This detour into happiness was created for us by the witty and light-hearted singer Rebecca Kilgore, the ebullient Dan Barrett (trombone and ebullience); Eddie Erickson (guitar and practical philosophy); Joel Forbes (string bass and pragmatism), with a special guest appearance by the always-enlightening Mark Shane (piano).  They offer the Walter Donaldson classic YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY with a side glance at the Reno Club in Kansas City:

This quintet is the real thing . . . accept no substitutes!

“JAZZ LIVES” GOES TO A PARTY (August 9, 2011)

Marc Caparone and Dawn Lambeth are dear friends and superb musicians.  When they heard that the Beloved and I were coming to California for much of this summer, Marc proposed a jazz evening to be held at their house, and spoke of it in the most flattering way as the “Michael Steinman Jazz Party,” a name that both embarrassed and delighted me.

And it happened on Tuesday, August 9, 2011.  You’ll see some of the results here: great music from good-humored, generous people.

The guests — of a musical sort — were a small group of warmly rewarding musicians.  Besides Marc (cornet and string bass) and Dawn (vocals), there were Dan Barrett (trombone, cornet), John “Butch” Smith (soprano and alto saxophones), Vinnie Armstrong (piano), and Mike Swan (guitar and vocals).  The listeners included the Beloved, Bill and Sandy Gallagher (fine friends and jazz enthusiasts), Cathie Swan (Mike’s wife), Mary Caparone (Marc’s mother), James Arden Caparone (four months but with a great musical future in front of him), and a few others whose names I didn’t get to record (so sorry!).

Jazz musicians take great pleasure in these informal, relaxed happenings: no pressure to play faster, louder, to show off to an already sated crowd.  In such settings, even the most familiar old favorites take on new life, and unusual material blossoms.  We all witnessed easy, graceful, witty, heartfelt improvising on the spot.  And you will, too.

Jazz itself was the guest of honor.  Everyone knew that their efforts were also reaching the larger audience of JAZZ LIVES, so this happy cyber-audience was in attendance as well, although silent.

The first informal group (Dan on cornet, Butch on soprano, Vinnie, Marc on bass, and Mike) led off with Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY, performed at what I think of as Lionel Hampton 1939 tempo:

Then, evoking memories of Jim Goodwin and the Sunset Music Company (more about that later), the band created a buoyant homage to Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh, to Duke Ellington, and to Bill Robinson, in DOIN’ THE NEW LOWDOWN:

A request from the Beloved for ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET (in 1945 Goodman Sextet tempo) was both honored and honorable:

Dawn — sweetly full of feeling and casual swing — joined the band for S’WONDERFUL:

After Dan told one of his Ruby Braff stories, Dawn followed up with BLUE MOON, one of her favorites, and you can hear The Boy (that’s James Arden) singing along in his own fashion:

Then the band shifted — Marc put down the string bass and picked up his cornet to lead the way alongside Dan, now on trombone, for ROSETTA:

And a really fascinating exploration of a song that isn’t played much at all (although Billie, Lester, Roy, and the Kansas City Five are back of it), LAUGHING AT LIFE, explored in the best way by Marc, Butch, and Vinnie:

Mike Swan joined this trio for a truly soulful IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN:

Without prelude, Mike launched into the verse of WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS (Dan couldn’t help himself and joined in): what a singer Mike is (and he’s listened hard to Crosby, always a good thing)!

Mike also began MELANCHOLY with Dan — wait for Marc and Vinnie adding their voices to this improvisation:

And the session ended with GEORGIA ON MY MIND, scored for a trio of Dan, Mike, and Vinnie:

The informal session came to a gentle stop there, but the music didn’t go away.  Butch had brought with him a video (taken from Dutch television in 1978) of the Sunset Music Company — a band featuring banjoist Lueder Ohlwein, cornetist Jim Goodwin, trombonist Barrett, reedman Smith, pianist Armstrong.  Since Vinnie and Dan and I had never seen the video, we all retreated to the den and watched it.

It was both moving and hilarious to see the men of 2011 watching their much younger 1978 selves, as well as a moving tribute to those who were no longer with us.  I wish there had been time and space to make a documentary about those men watching themselves play. . . . perhaps it’s possible.

I feel immensely fortunate to be surrounded by such beauty, and to have my name attached to it in even the most tangential way is a deep honor.  I can’t believe that it happened, and I send the most admiring thanks to all concerned.  Even if you weren’t there, unable to witness this creation at close range, I think the generous creativity of these musicians will gratify you as well.  This post is a gift also to those who will see it and couldn’t be there: Arianna, Mary, Melissa, Aunt Ida, Hal, June, Candace, Dave, Jeff, Barbara, Sonny, Clint, David, Maxine, Ricky, Margaret, Ella, Melody . . . the list goes on.  These gigabytes and words are sent with love.

A postscript.  JAZZ LIVES is so engrossed with music that I rarely write about anything else, but if you are ever in the Paso Robles, California, area, I urge you to consider spending a night (as the Beloved and I did) at the accurately-named INN PARADISO, 975 Mojave Lane (805-239-2800: innparadiso@att.net).  We have never stayed at a more satisfying place.  Everything was beautiful and comfortable — from the room to the view to the quiet to the dee-licious breakfast, to the gentle friendly kindnesses of Dawna and Steve — making it a genuinely memorable experience.  I want to go back!  See for yourself at www.innparadiso.com.

“NOTHING BUT LOVE”: ROB HECHT, TAMAR KORN, GORDON AU, ROB ADKINS (May 19, 2011)

Walter Donaldson knew “what makes the world go round,” and it was displayed in many ways at Teddy’s (that’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York) on the night of May 19, 2011.

Violinist Rob Hecht (he plays a five-string fiddle) was joined by singer / actress Tamar Korn, trumpeter Gordon Au, and string bassist Rob Adkins for a few sets of familiar music made new. 

I was there with the Beloved. and UK comrades Sir Robert Cox, his wife Bobbie, and sons Tom and Ed — representing the Empire most happily amidst barbecued spareribs and appropriate beverages. 

Here are seven performances from that evening: musicians in love with the music, creative artists able to focus on making beauty in the midst of an amiable crowd enwrapped in their own conversations.  I make a point of the chatty crowd not to rebuke them — they’re used to background music. even if it’s coming from live musicians.  But I applaud the unselfconscious integrity and focus of these (and other) musicians who shut out the distractions and go straight ahead, sending beauty and swing into the world even if the world seems not to pay much attention.  Musicians know that there’s always someone listening . . . !

Here’s some optimism.  THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR THE SUNRISE (which we are reasonably sure will come again tomorrow morning):

Another kind of optimism is a little more didactic.  There’s only one thing to do, so WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS:

I suppose it’s hard not to take it personally, but YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, which Tamar sings with great good humor (and the verse!) rather than rancor or frustration:

Donaldson’s paean to domestic bliss, from whence this posting’s title comes, MY BLUE HEAVEN:

A sweet old-fashioned song (Wayne King’s theme), THE WALTZ YOU SAVED FOR ME, gets a beautifully delicate and convincing performance here:

STARDUST, a song that doesn’t grow old:

Do you run your hands / through silv’ry strands?  You might be BLUE, TURNING GREY (OVER YOU) or over someone:

Beautiful music, bravely made!

“PERFECT!”: THE EARREGULARS “COAST TO COAST” (May 1, 2011)

My title comes from a wonderful Bobby Hackett Capitol record date where Bobby (New York by profession, Massachusetts by birth) went out to California with one Jack Teagarden and played with the West Coast boys — COAST CONCERT or COAST TO COAST.  Years ago, such sessions were both novel and fashionable — one side of a Columbia lp devoted to Eddie Condon, the other to the Rampart Street Paraders, or “battles” between East and West Coast players.

No battle here, no head-cutting or manicuring, just beauty.

Last Sunday, the EarRegulars were having a wonderful time at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) — they were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Frank Tate, bass.  They devoted their first set to GREAT JAZZ CITIES OF THE WORLD (without saying a word): thus, CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME; ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS; a slow-drag CHICAGO; ST. LOUIS BLUES; MEMPHIS BLUES, and a few others.  Exquisite soloing, interplay, and creativity.

But I had noticed two familiar faces who nearly surprised me off my barstool — the great San Francisco acoustic guitarist Craig Ventresco and the singer Meredith Axelrod.  They were in town for a flying unannounced family visit — celebrating Craig’s parents’ fiftieth anniversary (hooray for Mr. and Mrs. Ventresco of Maine, hooray!).

Matt Munisteri, bless him, had known Craig was coming . . . so he brought a second guitar for Craig to play.  And lovely things happened.  I knew Craig from my jazz rebirth in 2005 — he played with the Red Onion Jazz Band as well as other floating ensembles (often in the noble company of Kevin Dorn, Jesse Gelber, Barbara Rosene, Michael Bank): he is the poet of archaic music that should never be forgotten — waltzes, stomps, blues, rags, tangos, pop songs — but he also brings depth and richness to any ensemble he’s in.  And Meredith is an unusual combination of demure and passionate, as you’ll hear.

After the set break, everyone settled in for four long sweet performances, which I present here with great delight and pride.  You’ll hear musical jokes, echoes of Lonnie Johnson and Eddie Lang, the Mississippi Delta coming to Soho, and a great ocean-swell rocking swing . . . music to live for!

They began with the seductively rolling WABASH BLUES — its climbing and descending lines gaining momentum although never getting louder or faster.  Jon-Erik preached through his plunger mute (his sermons are secular but compelling); Pete Martinez showed himself a wonderful dramatic actor on the clarinet, alternating between the primitive and serene; Matt’s lines rang and chimed; Frank brought forth his own brand of casual eloquence.  And Craig played as if sitting on the porch, with all the time in the world:

“Perfect!” you can hear Terry Waldo say — the only thing anyone could say!

After some discussion, the quintet arrived at ROSE ROOM (was it a memory of Charlie Christian or just a good tune to jam on): I savor the conversation between Jon-Erik and Pete in the second chorus, followed by the string section and Pete.  Then there’s Mister Tate, the Abraham Lincoln of the string bass — every note resonating with joy and seriousness.  He knows how to do it, he does!  And then the band, led by Slidin’ Jon Kellso, eases into a rocking motion that would have made the Goodman Sextet of 1941 happy.  (I thought also of the way Ruby Braff slid and danced over his two guitars and bass viol in 1974-5, not a bad memory to have.)  Matt winds and sways in his own fashion — it’s like observing a championship skater improvising on the ice, isn’t it?  And those deliciously playful conversations between Pete and Jon-Erik, then Matt and Craig . . . then some powerful riffing and jiving.  Wow, as we say!

Charlie Levenson, patron saint of informal jazz, suggested SOMEDAY SWEETHEART, and although it was late and ordinary circumstances a closing hot tune would have been the only choice, it was clear that the EarRegulars were having such a good time that no one wanted to end the music a moment too soon.  The EarRegulars and Craig immediately settle into a kind of well-oiled glide that summons up Joe Venuti, Eddie Lang, Jack Teagarden, and Benny Goodman — or perhaps an imagined Vanguard Records session — swaying sweetly for a good long time.  Soulful is the word for this performance:

For the closing song, Jon-Erik brought Meredith up for MY BLUE HEAVEN — that pastoral / domestic celebration.  Only a very few singers are invited to sit in at The Ear, but Meredith stepped right into the role!  Celebration was what I felt, and I daresay that my joy was shared by many people at The Ear — with more to come because of these videos.  And — since I love cats — Pete’s solo reminds me so much of a kitten with a toy furry mouse, turning it over and batting it around.  He is at the very apex — ask another clarinetist, such as Dan Block!  While the fellows were playing, the political news was on the television above — and Jon-Erik wove DING, DONG, THE WITCH IS DEAD! and YOU RASCAL YOU into his solo — although JAZZ LIVES isn’t about politics but sharing beauty:

This is what Fifty-Second Street must have sounded like.  Only better!  And it exists here and now.  What blessings!

THE REYNOLDS BROTHERS AND FRIENDS: DIXIELAND MONTEREY, March 4, 2011

If you’d never heard the Reynolds Brothers, you might not give them sufficient credit for being Gods of Hot Jazz.

After all — one fellow plays an amplified National steel guitar, sings, and whistles in the best Crosby manner (that’s John); his brother holds a washboard with a cymbal mounted on top, blows a referee’s whistle to signify when a musical foul has been committed, and has a fine walrus mustache (that’s Ralf).

Most times they are joined by the eternally cheerful and swinging Katie Cavera (smart hat, glowing smile, string bass, vocals) and Hot Man Supreme Marc Caparone (cornet, a wide assortment of mutes, the occasional vocal, and manifester-of-Louis).

It sounds like a truly mixed bag, and when they first appeared at the 2011 Dixieland Monterey weekend, they had the extra added attraction of clarinetist, satirist, and uninhibited man-about-town Bob Draga . . . sitting somewhere between Omer Simeon and Groucho Marx.

Here are eight hot tunes from the Golden Era, complete with odd and occasionally semi-illicit stage behavior: you’ll have to watch for it.  But do they swing!

They started with something everyone knows — LADY BE GOOD.  And it swung from the opening phrase and only got hotter:

Then, after some rodomontade, badinage, and commedia dell’arte, Bob called for HELLO, MA BABY — although from a different corner of the jazz universe, it was a success as well:

ROSETTA used to be a song that everyone played — now, it’s a rare treat.  And to hear Marc swing out on it — a la Red Allen (cornet AND vocal) — is precious:

AT SUNDOWN speaks of pastoral pleasures, and it’s so fitting to have sweet unaffected Katie sing it — one of those Walter Donaldson compositions that works beautifully at many tempos.  And the hilarious unscripted interplay is an extra bonus:

I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY celebrates Fats Waller and 1931 washboard ecstasy — John brings us in, an utterly convincing singer:

OUT OF NOWHERE was another 1931 hit for a fellow from Spokane named Crosby.  Bob finds his way cautiously through the first chorus and is secure in time for what follows:

I love THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN, but have never been able to make up my mind about it.  Is it an exultation of life without materialism, a life lived in Nature in the best Emerson / Thoreau way, or is is another Depression-era attempt to say “You lost your job and your house and your family: isn’t sleeping outdoors with nothing at all such fun?”  Comments appreciated — but it’s a great song:

SWING THAT MUSIC begins with some fascinating dialogue, worth considering closely, and eventually goes into the most unusual clarinet / string bass duet in recorded history.  Was it the “feather-nesting” Katie sang of before, or was it Bob’s locally sourced apple juice?  One never knows.  I think I did a good turn for surrealist drama by recording this for posterity:

Thank you all for helping keep LIVE MUSIC ALIVE!

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SUE, EDDIE, and CHRIS: “HOW THEY HYPNOTIZE!” (Hidden Valley Music Seminars: March 4, 2011)

I had an extraordinarily good time at Dixieland Monterey 2011 (March 4-6) which took place at the Convention Center and other venues.  For those who might quail at the word “Dixieland,” there wasn’t a sleeve garter in sight — at least not among the musicians.  And there was plenty of soaring hot jazz, as my videos will show.

But the weekend started off in a more lovely pensive fashion: Sue Kroninger (vocals, commentary, washboard); Eddie Erickson (vocals, banjo); Chris Calabrese (hot piano) gave a lighter-than-air presentation on five great American songwriters — Irving Berlin, Walter Donaldson, George Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, and Hoagy Carmichael.

All this took place at the Hidden Valley Music Seminars in Carmel Valley, California — in a beautiful room with wood walls, a lovely piano, a delighted audience.  Click here for more details: http://www.hiddenvalleymusic.org/.

Here is the whole precious program (I couldn’t bear to keep a note of it to myself).  Catch the wonderful interplay, wit, and feeling.  Unlike other programs of the sort I’ve seen, this one is beautifully balanced among the three players, who obviously like each other a great deal.  And Sue knows her stuff without being stuffy!

(A note to the suspicious, something perhaps superfluous.  Some of my readers will see a woman with a washboard and two whisks to keep time, a banjo player, a pianist . . . and they will think, “Oh, no . . . ” and skip these videos.  I understand their terror — their primeval fears.  But this trio makes such beautiful swinging deeply-felt music that nothing they do could scare off anyone.  I promise.  Or your money back.)

Sue began the program with a 1913 Irving Berlin tune, AT THE DEVIL’S BALL — which features both hilarious vaudeville lyrics and a tune that, once heard, is impossible to extract from your cortex.  And Sue is having the time of her life.  And ours:

Then, Eddie took on a wonderful song (I associate it with Louis and the Mills Brothers — can you blame me?) from 1927, THE SONG IS ENDED.  It might seem an odd choice for the second song of a program, but it’s such a good song!  And Eddie, dear Fast Eddie, sings it so beautifully:

Finally (for Berlin), Chris took a wonderful turn at ALWAYS — with hints of the Master, Dave McKenna:

Less well-known than Mr. Berlin was Walter Donaldson (but think of AT SUNDOWN, MY BUDDY, and fifty others).  Sue called for Eddie to perform a hit from the early Twenties — nothing could be sweeter than Eddie singing CAROLINA IN THE MORNING.  Hear the variations he brings to his timbre and delivery — and how Chris rocks:

Then a rollicking rarity (a bit of social commentary) that Sue explains, with the irreplaceable title YOU HAVE TO PUT A NIGHTIE ON APHRODITE TO KEEP THE MARRIED MEN HOME (or words to that effect).  I think hearing that song was worth the airfare from New York.  Hope you agree.  Sue is a born entertainer who grabs any audience as soon as she opens her mouth to sing:

And what might be the best-loved song in America (easier to sing than STARDUST), MY BLUE HEAVEN — with the lovely verse, delightfully played by the quiet man Sue calls “Mr. Excitement”:

Onward to the deservedly famous — and short-lived — George Gershwin, with an old favorite, SOMEBODY LOVES ME, winningly sung by Sue.  She isn’t Lily Pons or Sarah Vaughan when it comes to a four-octave range, but this is all to the good: her casual, understated delivery comes from the heart:

STRIKE UP THE BAND shows off Chris (and friends) without ever being militaristic:

Then, a high point for me — Eddie’s rendition of EMBRACEABLE YOU.  Eddie gets terribly embarrassed when I praise him, so I’ll go easy in print here (but I might just say very quietly that I’ve called him “our Sinatra” and I mean it).  Chris’s subtle traceries make me think of Tommy Flanagan:

Changing the mood, here’s Johnny Mercer’s cheerful life-affirmation, AC-CEN-CHU-ATE THE POSITIVE, always good advice:

From a title that’s nearly impossible to spell to one of the simplest — Chris leads the trio through a jaunty version of DREAM:

And as a special favor to me (I had said that I would like to hear Sue “unplugged”) she indulged me with an acoustic JEEPERS CREEPERS, happy as the day is long:

The trio’s version of RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE calls to mind the young man from Davenport, Hoagy Carmichael’s pal Bix — note the funny little personalizing Sue does with the bouncy lyrics (after Chris makes sure that the joint is entirely jumping):

LAZY RIVER (not UP A) shows off the easy grace of Mr. Erickson, Louis-inspired without a bit of gravel in his hopper:

And — instead of the more hackneyed Fourth of July closing — Sue chose one of the most tender songs in the last century, the Carmichael-Loesser TWO SLEEPY PEOPLE, where the melody, the lyrics, and the loving wit come together exquisitely for Sue, Eddie, and Chris:

My weekend at Dixieland Monterey was off to the most gratifying start: these three dear artists already had me floating with pleasure, and it wasn’t even lunchtime.

CELEBRATE THE LIVING MUSICIANS: CLICK HERE!

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TAMAS SITS IN (Nov, 23, 2010)

Visitors to this blog will already know Tamas Itzes as more than the director of the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band, the spirit behind twenty years of delightful jazz festivals in Hungary, and the inventor of “OhYeahDay,” covered in the previous posting. 

Tamas is also a swinging violinist and pianist.  And he and his friends visited New York City for a few jazz-filled days and nights. 

I caught up with Tamas and Co. at The Ear Inn and then at Club Cache, where he sat in with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks for two numbers.  (The Nighthawks were, along with Vince, Jon-Erik Kellso, Mike Ponella, Jim Fryer,Andy Stein, Ken Salvo, Arnie Kinsella, Andy Farber, Dan Block, and Dan Levinson.)

First, Tamas borrowed Andy Stein’s Stroh phono-violin to double the string section for SAY YES TODAY, a song originally performed by the Roger Wolfe Kahn band (composition by Walter Donaldson, arrangement by Arthur Schutt):

Then, in the last set, Tamas came up to play the piano for a swinging, loose version of Earl Hines’s ROSETTA:

Tamas, your visit here was too brief: do come again!  And for the complete and total path to enlightenment, without climbing mountains, visit http://www.myspace.com/VinceGiordanotheNighthawks.

CHRIS TYLE’S SILVER LEAF JAZZ BAND, May 1, 2010

I was tempted to title this post CHRIS TYLE STRIKES AGAIN! but held back that impulse, fearing it would make the estimable Mr. Tyle sound like a Thirties bank robber.  But it’s how I feel.  Chris is a wonderful cornetist, drummer, clarinetist . . . a fine homespun singer and obviously a fine bandleader.  Here he is in what I’ve never thought of as the jazz capital of the Pacific Northwest*, playing and singing that Walter Donaldson perennial, IT’S BEEN SO LONG — with a first-rate crew of musicians whose names are mostly new to me:  Craig Flory, clarinet; Dave Loomis, trombone; Dave Brown, string bass; Candace Brown, banjo/guitar; Benji Bohannon, drums:

Yes, the video’s a little informal, but the solos are right on target and the rhythm section knows what to do (catch the fine drumming, even at a distance).  Chris is also a casually erudite jazz scholar, and his website — http://www.tyleman.com. is more than worthwhile.  I hope to have more videos of his bands to share with my viewers in future. 

*But there’s a Bellingham Traditional Jazz Society — and obviously they have good taste in musicians!

HEAVENLY! (THE CARDS AND ANDREW NEMR, Feb. 27, 2010)

Here are four more performances from the Cangelosi Cards’ Feb. 27, 2010 evening at the Shambhala Meditation Center in New York.

Everyone knows or should know by now who the Cards are, but if you’ve come late to this particular version of swing enlightenment, they are Tamar Korn, vocals; Jake Sanders, banjo; Dennis Lichtman, clarinet and electric mandolin; Marcus Milius, harmonica; Gordon Au, trumpet; Debbie Kennedy, string bass.  Thanks to Paul Wegener for booking the Cards at Shambhala for what I hope is a long series of memorable evenings.

I first saw the Cards perform amidst dancers, who reflected the music in their ecstatic, sometimes homegrown spins and dips.  At the Shambhala, however, they turned the stage over to Andrew Nemr — someone I hadn’t known — a divinely inspired tap dancer who brought his own tiny wooden stage.  Here’s Andrew working out on a Charles Mingus blues, MY JELLY ROLL SOUL:

And what could be more traditional than the Cards jamming on I GOT RHYTHM around Andrew:

Then, Tamar resumed her place onstage to sing YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY, complete with two sets of lyrics to the verse.  There’s a subtext here: Tamar said, with a hint of wicked glee in her eye, that Jake always gets a little worried when she calls this song, wondering if Tamar means him in particular.  Watch Tamar’s face when she gets to the title of the song: if that isn’t great comic acting, I don’t know:

Finally, a wistful but swinging reading of Walter Donaldson’s paean to domestic bliss and home ownership — MY BLUE HEAVEN.  I know this was one of the songs the Cards performed when I first saw them, and I delight in their reading, including the verse: 

Heavenly!

MORE FROM THE CARDS! (Feb. 27, 2010)

Thanks to Paul Wegener, Jake Sanders, Tamar Korn,Gordon Au, Debbie Kennedy, Marcus Milius, and Dennis Lichtman.

Here’s a romp on that 1929 tongue-twister by Walter Donaldson, ‘T’AIN’T NO SIN:

And an energetic excursion through James P. Johnson’s OLD-FASHIONED LOVE, one of those songs that sits well at a number of tempos:

Finally, a poignant reading of BODY AND SOUL, with sorrowful work by Marcus and Tamar:

More to come!

LOCAL HEROES: THE EAR REGULARS (March 21, 2010)

Why do some combinations of musicians coalesce memorably, and others not?  I suspect that it is a matter of forces the players themselves can’t explain.  They can tell you in detail why things don’t work: someone’s tired or annoyed; X dislikes that tempo; Y can’t stand the song; Z doesn’t feel well. 

But when all the stars are in alignment, the music is uplifting.  And the players look contented when they hear their colleagues; the smiles you see at the end of a song add up to a contented glow around the band.

This unpredictable magic happened on Sunday, March 21, 2010, at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, New York City). 

Two of the Ear Regulars were the valiant co-leaders: guitarist Matt Munisteri and trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, brave and true, who have led their little band on Sunday nights for thirty months now, a delightfully consistent series of small-band jam sessions.  One of the horn players, clarinetist Pete Martinez, had played there a week ago in concert with trombonist Harvey Tibbs.  And Scott Robinson has been a Regular, off and on, since the start — but this time he was featured on bass sax (with a surprise appearance on piccolo late in the evening). 

Were they especially happy to be playing together, although they knew each other from other appearances?  Was pleasurable anticipation, soon realized, in the air?  I don’t know.  But on this Sunday, the Ear Regulars reminded me of the great New York sessions of my youth — small groups featuring Ruby Braff, Vic Dickenson, Bobby Hackett, Milt Hinton, and others — lyrical, singing hot jazz.

Here are nine performances from this wondrous constellation of players, with guests coming by.  I know that the videos aren’t the same as being there, but perhaps if you raise the volume and get in the groove, you’ll catch the fervent spirit.  And I know it wasn’t just my happy hallucination: you can ask Jackie Kellso, Kevin Dorn, Doug Pomeroy, Molly Ryan, Dan Levinson, Barbara Rosene, and the elated Friends of The Ear whose names I didn’t catch. 

After a spirited warmup on THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE, Jon-Erik did something unusual by suggesting an even faster CHINA BOY.  It summoned up the drive of the Bechet-Spanier HRS session, with a good deal of Adrian Rollini added, as well as some Quintet of the Hot Club of France flavoring from guitarist Julian Lage:

Then, the Ear Regulars decided to try that very pretty Arthur Schwartz song, I GUESS I’LL HAVE TO CHANGE MY PLAN (associated in my mind with Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden), happily asking Scott to take the melody statement, a splendid idea:

Do you associate LOUISIANA with Bix, Bing, or Lester and Basie?  Whichever version you prefer, this one rocks:

I don’t know who thought of CREOLE LOVE CALL, but any time Jon-Erik takes out his plunger mute, I listen attentively to the secret messages he’s sending:

And the set closed with a minor romp, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME, which gave Pete another chance to sear us with his lovely exuberant upper register:

After a break for dinner, it was time (however late) for a sensitive reading of Walter Donaldson’s AT SUNDOWN, at a lovely ballad tempo:

Cornetist John Bucher had come in when the second set started, and Jon-Erik invited him aboard for I NEVER KNEW, with closing riffs reminiscent of the 1933 Chocolate Dandies record:

Guitarist Dave Gross joined in for the final two numbers: a beautifully articulated IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN:

Finally, after some discussion, the Regulars chose WHISPERING to end the evening:

This music speaks for itself.  If you’ve never been to The Ear Inn on a Sunday, you’re denying yourself rare pleasure.

ONE MORE FOR BIX: Bern, 1993

The “New York All-Stars” were Randy Sandke, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Ken Peplowski, clarinet; Scott Robinson, C-melody and bass saxophones; Mark Shane, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar / vocal . . . and a bassist and drummer I don’t quite recognize: Gregor Beck and Dave Ratajczak?  Someone will enlighten me.  This concert from 1993 in Berne was televised, and “michaelsjazz” (that’s cornetist Michael Supnick) on YouTube has posted clear videos on YouTube.  Possibly familiar . . . but how young they all look, and how nicely they balance the Bix “originals” with their own inspired improvisations!

Let’s begin with a hot reading of MY PRETTY GIRL, which shows why the Jean Goldkette band scared its competitors (including the Henderson band) to bits:

Here’s SORRY:

And a fast RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, which easily moves into Fifties Condon territory to good effect:

Ken Peplowski hates the obligatory comparison to Goodman, but here, he, Mark Shane and the rhythm tear through CHINA BOY in a way that does recall the great 1936 trio:

Since very little could be faster than that, here’s Mark Shane’s quietly respectful solo IN A MIST:

And a nice minor THERE AIN’T NO SWEET MAN THAT’S WORTH THE SALT OF MY TEARS, with Marty Grosz stepping in for young Mr. Crosby:

Something more positive in the name of Romance — Walter Donaldson’s jaunty BECAUSE MY BABY DON’T MEAN MAYBE NOW with neat interludes from Shane and Dan Barrett:

Dan Barrett goes beyond the superlatives, as far as I’m concerned: here he takes the pretty but little-played WAIT ‘TILL YOU SEE ‘MA CHERIE’ as his feature:

And a feature for Marty Grosz, whose mixture of Hot, sincerity, and mockery is irreplaceable — CHANGES:

Then, an instrumental version of CANDLELIGHTS (does this draw upon Joe Lippman’s arrangement for Bunny Berigan, I wonder?):

I’m not wild about the idea of running SINGIN’ THE BLUES and I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA together, but perhaps that is the only way to handle two ground-breaking ballad masterpieces (and Randy’s playing of Bix’s solos is beyond compare — as is Marty’s Eddie Lang):

And FIDGETY FEET, paying homage to Bix and to the generations that came after, doing him honor on the bandstand and in the recording studios:

“MKG and FRIENDS” (Feb. 6, 2010)

Another jazz gift from some brilliant musicians, ably captured by Rae Ann Berry!

MKG and Friends, on February 6, 2010, at the Sounds of Mardi Gras in Fresno, California.

That new acronym, translated, adds up to MARC Caparone, cornet; KATIE Cavera, guitar; GEORGIA Korba, bass; along with Mike Baird, alto sax; Chris Tyle, clarinet and vocal; Ray Skjelbred, trombone; Jeff Hamilton, drums; and Carl Sonny Leyland, piano.

They were intended to perform as a trio, but this happy aggregation just grew, in a friendly way.  The overall ambiance reminds me of a late-Thirties record session (the Varsity Seven with Benny Carter, Joe Marsala, Coleman Hawkins, and George Wettling), or a Lionel Hampton Victor, perhaps a Keynote band — the same loose, groovy feeling.  Two of the musicians are happily and ambitiously playing instruments they aren’t always associated with: Ray is well-known on piano, Chris on trumpet and drums.  But their knowledge and love of the music comes through powerfully.

Speaking of “powerfully,” might I suggest that readers who aren’t on the West Coast or who aren’t familiar with his work need to pay close attention to Marc Caparone, whose hot playing is a highlight of this set and of the New El Dorado Jazz Band.  Rough or polished, intense or pretty, he’s a great trumpet player, subtle or driving.  He loves the obvious Masters, but you’ll hear a good deal of those glorious eccentrics Red Allen and Jim Goodwin in his ferocities. 

And I’ve singled out the nifty Jeff Hamilton for praise at other times in this blog — but he’s having a wonderful time here, getting the sounds out of a drum kit that say Swing Is Here.

Here is a spirited reading of Walter Donaldson’s MY BUDDY, originally written as a lament — but that was before Hawk (in France) and Hamp (in the US) latched on to it.  Wow!

Here’s another lament, defined by Katie Cavera as “the saddest song” she knows — NOBODY CARES IF I’M BLUE.  It’s not true, Katie — we would worry about you if the lyrics were true.  Could we make you some soup or a cup of tea?  

I delight in her girlish angst, as if Annette Hanshaw had somehow found herself in the Vocalion studios circa 1937, and in the ghosts floating through this performance — not only Pee Wee Russell and Red Allen but Sandy Williams or J. C. Higginbotham. 

DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME reminds me of Vic Dickenson, who liked it, and of Jon-Erik Kellso, who continues to do so.  A rocking performance of a sweet old tune, it has the sound of a Condon Town Hall Concert — with Jeff’s splashing cymbal summoning up Mr. Dave Tough, his accents suggesting Wettling or Catlett. 

Here’s something pretty and winsome from the singular Dawn Lambeth, who takes AS LONG AS I LIVE at the easy, convincing tempo she likes (with deep-down work from Marc, who seconds the emotions).  Nobody sounds like Dawn, and the embellishments she creates in her second chorus are delightful:

Time for something slow and romantic, a dance for the lovers, explicated by Dawn: hold your Beloved tight as Dawn and the band do BLUE MOON:

For the pastoral poets among us, a song I associate with Duke Ellington, Louis and the Mills Brothers: IN THE SHADE OF THE OLD APPLE TREE.  Dawn brings Nature inside for a few minutes:

A rocking boogie-inflected version of ST. LOUIS BLUES:

Finally, a swinging version of LINGER AWHILE, entirely in the spirit:

“Groovy!” I thought to myself, in its pre-1967 meaning.  You could look it up.

PLAY IT AGAIN, BOYS!

Brought to you through the good offices of Rae Ann Berry, another brief trip to San Diego (November 27, 2009) to visit with the Yerba Buena Stompers.

Make yourself to home.  Coffee?  Campari?  Seltzer? 

A great deal of music strikes me as pleasant and competent, but I need to hear it only once.  “That’s nice,” the mind says, “and now we can move on!”  But some performances, whether subversively quiet or shouting, make me think, “I have to hear that again,” my reason for posting the three clips below. 

This edition of the Yerba Buena Stompers is led by John Gill, banjo and vocal; Marty Eggers, piano; Clint Baker, tuba; Hal Smith, drums; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Tom Bartlett, trombone; Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger, trumpets.  This band is my imagined version of what the Oliver band must have sounded like at the Lincoln Gardens: it has the same steady rock at medium tempos.  And the sweet interplay between Leon and Duke is a visual metaphor for Papa Joe and Little Louis.

Oddly, two of these performances have to do with melancholy; the first, BROKEN PROMISES, comes from the Lu Watters book, and is a simple song — almost a country-and-western lament, but it sticks in the mind.  Leon’s half-chorus (backed by Hal on the cymbal) is a delight.  Unfortunately, we can’t see John singing, but he still comes through:

The other bit of sadness is MAMA’S GONE, GOODBYE, which starts with the verse, new to me. 

When SFRaeAnn first posted this on YouTube, I started the clip and went some fifteen feet away to the kitchen.  But the second instrumental chorus — a duet between Duke, part-muted, and Marty’s incisive piano, made me abandon the caffeine and come back to the monitor, delighted.  No pyrotechnics but great skill!

The two performances made me think, not for the first time, about jazz musicians and singers who take the edge off of sad music (and lyrics) by raising the tempo, pushing the rhythm.  When you’re thinking about your Hot Mama, who’s gone, or those Broken Promises, you can’t be quite so despairing if you’re tapping your foot.  Billie Holiday and Teddy Wilson get credit for this — consider Billie’s acidly swinging TRAV’LIN’ ALL ALONE — but it was happening before either of them was born.

And there’s MY LITTLE BIMBO (Down On A Bamboo Isle), a Walter Donaldson song whose subject is cross-cultural adultery.  Could I ignore a song that describes the sultry Love Object as having a “shape like a ukulele”?  Joy abounds. 

DANCE, SIN, and HEAT

 no sinUsing Walter Donaldson’s melody and Edgar Leslie’s lyrics, Spats Langham, Mike Durham, Paul Munnery, Norman Field, Martin Litton, Frans Sjostrom, and Debbie Arthurs explain this trio of concepts to the crowd at Whitley Bay, even though it was pleasantly cool in the room. 

But two pairs of dancers — one of them stride wizard Paul Asaro (in the checked shirt) and the energetic Bridget Calzaretta — didn’t need the song’s lyrics to encourage them.  (If the other couple sees this and wants to identify themselves, they can have their names immortalized here, too.)

And for those of you who’d like to have something to sing to yourself as you mop your brow, here are the lyrics, both verse and chorus:

Verse: Dancing may do this and that, and help you take off lots of fat.

But I’m no friend of dancing when it’s hot.

So if you are a dancing fool, who loves to dance but can’t keep cool,

Bear in mind the idea that I’ve got.

Chorus: When it gets too hot for comfort, and you can’t get ice cream cones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When the lazy syncopation of the music softly moans,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

The polar bears aren’t green up in Greenland, they’ve got the right idea.

They think it’s great to refrigerate while we all cremate down here.

Just be like those Bamboo Babies, in the South Sea tropic zones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Chorus: When you’re calling up your sweetie in those hot house telephones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

When you’re on a crowded dance floor, near those red hot saxophones,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.

Just take a look at the girls while they’re dancing. Notice the way that they’re dressed.

They wear silken clothes without any hose and nobody knows the rest.

If a gal wears X-ray dresses, and shows everything she owns,

Tain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.