Tag Archives: Woody Allen

THEY’VE GOT THAT THING: DAWN LAMBETH and CONAL FOWKES (June 24, 2017)

The clearly indefatigable RaeAnn Berry captured some wonderful performances at the 27th Annual America’s Classic Jazz Festival in Lacey, Washington.  So far, I am most fond of these duets between the consistently delightful singer Dawn Lambeth and the nimble, sensitive pianist Conal Fowkes.  Here’s a selection.

Conal runs the risk of being typecast as Cole Porter in Woody Allen’s films, but he bears up nobly under the burden, we think.  Here’s his sparkling solo rendition of Porter’s YOU’VE GOT THAT THING (to be defined ad lib) — I think of this as Park Avenue barrelhouse:

The Festival’s sound system doesn’t do Dawn’s rich voice justice, but you can get a good idea of the sweet subtleties that endear her to us on MORE THAN YOU KNOW:

Dawn charms us with the evergreen (certainties undermined in swingtime) I MAY BE WRONG.  Incidentally, I read somewhere that the conceit of the lyric is that the optimistic singer is seriously visually impaired, so the song then makes better sense:

The moral of MOONBURN — Hoagy Carmichael’s first song for films, composed with Edward Heyman — might be “Always carry protection,” or not.  Most of us know it from a wonderful 1935 Decca recording featuring Bing Crosby and Joe Sullivan.  Dawn and Conal make me want to research lunar moonscreen:

Harold Arlen’s song of emotional confusion (I guess?) BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, occasion for a lengthy and splendid Frolick by Conal:

Finally, for this posting, here’s that paean to the magic powers of caffeine when mixed with love, YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE:

To see and hear more from Dawn and Conal, and other glowing artists recorded live, visit SFRaeAnn — our video benefactor’s YouTube channel.  Another thousand subscribers would please her mightily.

May your happiness increase!

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DAWN LAMBETH and CONAL FOWKES (SAN DIEGO JAZZ FEST: November 27, 2016)

DAWN headshot

The music that Dawn Lambeth and Conal Fowkes create sounds real, fresh, and full of feeling.  Here they are at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest: the last set I saw on Sunday, November 27, 2016, a divine way of wrapping up a splendid weekend of music and friendship.  And since this isn’t a studio session, with engineers to help things along, you can see and hear its authenticity: we watch and listen as it is being made.

CONAL

and another Walter Donaldson bouquet, this one associated with Billie in 1936:

I hope that 2017 will bring more opportunities for this pair to perform and record . . . and there are a few more shining examples of heartfelt music from this set I will share with you.

May your happiness increase!

CONAL FOWKES PLAYS WILLARD ROBISON (San Diego Jazz Fest, November 27, 2016)

To some of my readers, neither name in my title will be dramatically familiar.  I plan to change that quickly in this blogpost.  First, here’s Conal Fowkes:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

He is a magnificent pianist (and, yes, a string bassist, singer, composer) at home in many genres.  And in demand!  You might have seen him playing and singing as Cole Porter in Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.  If you go to hear Woody and his band, Conal will be there.  If you’re in search of down-home rock, Conal is the man: often with John Gill’s Yerba Buena Stompers, having a fine time on PINEAPPLE RAG or HEEBIE JEEBIES.  Conal also shows up alongside banjoist Eddy Davis and multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson (they just captivated an audience at The Django last Saturday night) . . . and if you were around New York in the glory days of The Cajun, Conal was there — as is only right — regularly.  Of late, I’ve seen and captured Conal with Barbara Rosene and with trumpet hero Danny Tobias.

Here‘s Conal’s website where you can find out about his other film appearances, his recordings, his gig schedule.  What his site won’t tell you, I will: he is one of the kindest and most reliable people on the planet, just the fellow you would want around when you need help.  (One, at a festival, he quietly told me that my clothing was unzipped where it should not have been — without embarrassing me.  THAT is a true nobleman.)

Conal is a modest fellow (although his talent is in no way “modest”) who is just as happy to be a splendid sideman.  So he isn’t always issuing solo CDs, which is a pity.  But he did step into the limelight for slightly under an hour at the 2016 San Diego Jazz Fest, as solo pianist and in duet with the irreplaceable Dawn Lambeth.  I’ll share those duets in future posts, but a lengthy Conal solo on a first-rate piano is a major event.

The texts for Conal’s mellow sermon come from the hand of the gifted and unusual American songwriter / pianist / singer Willard Robison . . . whom some of you will know for OLD FOLKS; A COTTAGE FOR SALE; ‘T’AIN’T SO, HONEY, ‘T’AIN’T SO, ‘ROUND MY OLD DESERTED FARM, GUESS I’LL GO BACK  HOME THIS SUMMER, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, TRUTHFUL PARSON BROWN, and many others.  Mildred Bailey loved Robison, as did Ralph Sutton and Jack Teagarden, and in our own time Matt Munisteri has performed his works with deep understanding and feeling.

But here’s Conal.  He is an artist with many sly, subtle personalities — appropriate to the material he is creating — but the personalities come out of the same deep roots: lyrical singing melodies, a sweetly propelling rhythmic sense, a delicate touch, and a willingness to serve the song rather than to stand in front of it, obscuring our view.

It doesn’t get better than that — those dozen minutes of gentle searching music.

May your happiness increase!

CONAL FOWKES, MUSICIAN

CONAL FOWKES

Conal Fowkes is a fine fellow. He plays piano — delicately or stomping; he is a first-class accompanist.  He is a splendidly romping string bassist (think Pops Foster with a subtle harmonic sense), a compelling singer, arranger, and more.

He’s at home with Woody Allen and Wynton Marsalis, with John Gill and Bette Midler, with Sam Manning and Scott Joplin, at The Ear Inn and the Cafe Carlyle. He can play New Orleans funk circa 1911 or post-bop or sweet melodies or naughty calypso, rocking salsa, or deep Cuban music.

He has elegance, taste, and wit, but isn’t pretentious in person or in his music.

I first heard him in 2006, at The Cajun, but millions of people have heard him singing and playing on the soundtrack of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS — for which he won a Grammy. Virtue rewarded, I think.

All these nice — and true — words are because a friend pointed out Conal’s new website, which is nicely designed and worth a visit.  I’m waiting for the next Conal Fowkes CD, which I hope will come soon.

May your happiness increase!

CONAL FOWKES HAS GOOD NEWS (and GOOD GIGS)!

Pianist / singer / actor / string bassist / composer Conal Fowkes always delights us — a sly wit, a romping pianist, a propulsive bass player, an all-around civilized man.

CONAL

So it was a special pleasure to read Conal’s most recent good news, which I pass along to you.  He deserves the award and a great deal more.

It is with great pleasure that I can announce that I, along with my dear friends and colleagues Eddy Davis, Yrving Yeras and Lisa Yeras, won a GRAMMY at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for my work on the Oscar winning film Midnight In Paris.  I can be heard throughout the movie as the voice and piano of Cole Porter, played by French actor Yves Heck, and also as part of the Yerason Trio, playing “Barcarolle” by Offenbach, with Yrving and Lisa Yeras (violins) in an arrangement written for the movie by Eddy Davis. The news came as a big surprise but nevertheless a great thrill!

Let me take this opportunity also to tell you of a few up-coming gigs I have in the NY /Tristate area.

Sunday, Feb. 17th, I’ll be playing in duo with the amazing, ridiculously talented, Scott Robinson (various reeds, brass & sonic devices). Shanghai Jazz, Madison NJ. 3:30pm-5:30pm http://www.shanghaijazz.com/ This is an event run by the New Jersey Jazz Society so it doesn’t appear on the Shanghai Jazz website, but we WILL be there!

Thursday, Feb. 21st, I’ll be in a quartet with singer Barbara Rosene http://barbararosene.com/ — and Andy Stein (violin) and Pete Martinez (clarinet). Birdland, 315 W 44th St, NYC http://www.birdlandjazz.com/ This gig will be to release Barbara’s new CD “Nice and Naughty,”at the 5:30 pm show (one set).

Saturday, Feb. 23rd, I’ll be performing with veteran singer Judi Marie Canterino*, guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli, and bassist Jerry Bruno, at the Church of the Holy Communion, Norwood, New Jersey: 5-6:30 pm.

*And a word from JAZZ LIVES: “veteran singer Judi Marie Canterino” sang duets with Jimmy Rushing at The Half Note — Spring and Hudson Streets — when I was there in 1972.  That’s a seriously impressive credential.

May your happiness increase.

“CATEGORY: MUSIC”: THE NEW EL DORADO JAZZ BAND PLAYS “SALTY BUBBLE” (Seaside, Oregon, Feb. 2012)

Sometimes YouTube has just the right idea.

Here is the New El Dorado Jazz Band, performing at the Seaside, Oregon Jazz Festival during February 22-24, 2012 — that’s Hal Smith, washboard; Katie Cavera, banjo / guitar; Dave Brown, string bass; Carl Sonny Leyland, piano; Mike Baird, clarinet; Howard Miyata, trombone; Marc Caparone, trumpet.

The song is SALTY BUBBLE, composed by trumpeter / vocalist Papa Ray Ronnei, and catapulted to fame by Woody Allen, who used it in his film WHATEVER WORKS.  (SALTY BUBBLE does have a certain kinship with a famous Twenties song about an Asian gentleman who puts people to sleep in the nicest ways, but no matter.)

Back to YouTube.  Without meaning to do so, they have cut through the ideological chatter that continues to afflict jazz.  Is this New Orleans jazz, Dixieland, traditional jazz, small-band swing . . . what-cha-call-em-blues?  No, without knowing it, they have taken their cue from Eddie Condon and his brother-in-law Sidney Smith, who chose to call what Eddie and friends played simply MUSIC.

And that it is!  More to come from Seaside and the New El Dorados, courtesy of the fine band and of our steady videographer “islandstarfish“.

SUBTLY SWINGING: DAN LEVINSON, MOLLY RYAN, MARK SHANE, CONNIE JONES, HOWARD ALDEN at SWEET AND HOT 2011

That title, I hope, says it all.  This session took place at the 2011 Sweet and Hot Music Festival in Los Angeles — on September 4, 2011, at the upwardly mobile aerie called Cheap Seats, a tiny room on the eighteenth floor.  It was crowded, for very good reason, and I had to use all my wiles and obstinacy to get in, stay in, and video-record over the protests of a well-intentioned volunteer concerned about the fire laws, but I am glad I practiced my passive resistance a la Thoreau and captured this session for JAZZ LIVES.

It began as yet another chamber-jazz outing for the trio of Dan Levinson (clarinet and tenor); Mark Shane (piano); Molly Ryan (voice and rhythm guitar), with the astronomical marvel (much more than “guest star”) cornetist Connie Jones.  Later in the set a noble visitor came in: the title gives it away, but Howard Alden is always welcome on the bandstand: here he brought his acoustic guitar and added so much to the proceedings.

The quartet began the set with a sweet / silly Thirties song I associate with Shirley Temple in a film — but more to the point, with Edythe Wright and Tommy Dorsey’s Clambake Seven.  Kevin Dorn wasn’t on the stand, so you have to imagine “Take it away, Davey,” all on your own:

Next was BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, which went from sweetly rustic / nostalgic very quickly.  Don’t look away from the monitor to check on dinner, for around 2:20 Dan comes back into camera view apparently dragging a miscreant (a jazz “perp”) onto the stand . . . Mr. Alden, who manages to unpack and join in the choruses:

Molly Ryan is a very agreeable young woman, so it would make perfect sense for her to sing the anthem of assent, ‘DEED I DO:

On a Hines-Noone kick?  Here’s BLUES IN THIRDS:

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS usually closes the night’s entertainment, but here it shows off the brilliance of Howard Alden, who performed it so memorably (behind the scenes) in Woody Allen’s SWEET AND LOWDOWN:

One of the wonderful quasi-spiritual exhortations of the early Thirties, suggesting that music could cure one’s tendencies towards evil, SING YOU SINNERS:

The set ended most beautifully — not with a rouser full of climaxes, but with something tender and most sweet, SAY IT WITH A KISS (echoing Maxine, Billie, and a bygone era of love songs):

Just a family note: the fellow to the left (blue flowered shirt, video camera) isn’t me by some trick of telekinesis: that’s Molly’s devoted father, eager to record every note for posterity.  And rightly so!