Tag Archives: Wycliffe Gordon

“TELL ME YOUR TROUBLES: SONGS BY JOE BUSHKIN,” BOB MERRILL and FRIENDS

It’s always a generous idea, karmically, to honor the Ancestors.  If you’re trumpeter, singer, and composer Bob Merrill it’s not only easy but gratifying, because the Ancestor in question is his late father-in-law Joe Bushkin, pianist, trumpeter, singer, and composer.

The formulaic way to pay tribute to Joe would have been to assemble a band and have them play transcriptions of his famous recordings — from Berigan, Condon, Spanier, to his own performances.  But that approach might have run into obstacles early.  Joe was a singular pianist, whether he was musing his way through RELAXIN’ AT THE TOURO or dazzling us on HALLELUJAH!  And fifteen minutes with YouTube shows Joe at his best as player and singer.

But Joe’s talents as a writer of songs have been overshadowed by his brilliance at the keyboard.  He was fortunate in that Sinatra and Lee Wiley recorded OH, LOOK AT ME NOW; Bing sang HOT TIME IN THE TOWN OF BERLIN; Louis gave Joe and his new bride the wedding present of recording LOVELY WEATHER WE’RE HAVING.

Bob Merrill’s new CD, “TELL ME YOUR TROUBLES,” devoted to Joe’s songs — and it’s the first volume of several planned — is rather like Joe himself: melodic, light-hearted even when the lyrical thread is slightly somber.  It’s a wonderfully varied offering, and rather than describe it first, I offer samples here (scroll down to the lower half of the page).

Not a simple presentation of songs with the same approach and instrumentation, the CD could have been called THE MANY FACES OF JOE BUSHKIN’S MUSIC, with each track a little dramatic presentation in itself.  Some of the tracks so wittily and cleverly develop the theme that they sound like display numbers for a yet-to-be produced Broadway show. Consider HOT TIME IN THE TOWN OF BERLIN, which begins as if it were an unissued 78, with Bing’s wife Kathryn singing over a hot band, then morphs into the twenty-first century embodiment of the Andrews Sisters — Kathryn, Bob, Shannon Day, and Lisa Gary, over a modern arrangement for hip vocals over a shouting band.  Nicki Parrott convincingly masquerades as a diner waitress for several minutes on BOOGIE WOOGIE BLUE PLATE.

MAN HERE PLAYS FINE PIANO has not one, but three pianists soloing and trading phrases: Rossano Sportiello, Laurence Hobgood, and John Colianni. Other pleasures here are the wildly virtuosic trombone of Wycliffe Gordon, who turns in a fine vocal — seriously evoking Hot Lips Page — on GOIN’ BACK TO STORYVILLE. Eric Comstock is responsible for a number of smooth, winning vocals: I especially admire his reading of WISE TO MYSELF, a song well worth performing in this century, and Bob himself sings splendidly (with a touch of New York wryness) as well.  In case you don’t know his trumpet playing, it’s expert and swinging: he’s never at a loss for notes, and his brass battle with Wycliffe, who could overwhelm lesser players, is truly a draw.  Bob has the best musical friends, as you will have noticed, in Nicki Parrott, Howard Alden, Bucky Pizzarelli, Harry Allen, Steve Johns, and Adrian Cunningham.  Yes, the CD is a loving evocation of Joe’s many talents, but son-in-law Bob is operating at the same level of swinging joy.

If this sounds like an exuberant, vivid musical package — full to the rim and never monotonous — you have a good idea of what TELL ME YOUR TROUBLES offers.  And the music is framed by two wonderful anecdotes about Joe, told by his remarkable friends.  At the close of the CD, Red Buttons delivers a sweet, naughty elegy which ends with a story about Joe, Bing, and some sleeping potions delivered in an unusual way.  And the CD starts with Frank Sinatra, Joe’s long-time friend, telling a story about Joe and illicit stimulants.  That tale is worth the price of admission in itself.  And, for once, the CD itself comes in a splendid package with notes, stories, and photographs — much better than any download.  You can buy this generous offering here.

May your happiness increase!

“JOE BUSHKIN QUARTET LIVE AT THE EMBERS 1952: BUCK CLAYTON, MILT HINTON, PAPA JO JONES”

Jazz fans get very wistful when dreaming of scenes that were only captured in words: the twenty chorus solos young Lester would take; Louis on the riverboats; Lips Page singing and playing the blues at the Riviera.  But the recording machine has been the time-traveler’s best friend.  Because of a variety of electrical devices, we have been able to go uptown to hear Frank Newton and Art Tatum; we’ve heard Charlie Christian, Oscar Pettiford, and Jerry Jerome in Minneapolis; we can visit YouTube and hear Lester sing A LITTLE BIT SOUTH OF NORTH CAROLINA.

This new issue, explained boldly by its cover picture, is one of those time-travel marvels.  I was alive in 1952, but no one was taking me to the Embers to hear Joe Bushkin’s quartet with Buck Clayton, trumpet; Milt Hinton, string bass; Jo Jones, drums.  But now — somewhat older, thanks to this beautifully-produced disc on the Dot Time Records label — I can visit that club and hear exalted music any time I want.

This was a celebrated quartet, and for good reason.  Buck and Jo were a fulfilling pair from around 1936 for perhaps forty years; Milt and Jo were also one of the most gratifying teams in the music.  The three of them were at their peak in this period (although one could make a case that they were among the most consistently inventive musicians in Mainstream jazz).

I’ve left the leader for last, because he’s rarely got the attention he deserved — although he certainly appeared with the greatest musicians: Bing, Billie, Louis, Lester, Bunny, Tommy Dorsey, Bobby Hackett, Lee Wiley, Eddie Condon . . . a Bushkin discography is astonishing.  Musicians knew, admired, and valued him. But his glistening style has led some casual listeners to hear him shallowly, the vivid, mobile approach to the piano as a display of technique.  But when one hears Bushkin closely, there is a real lyricism underneath the facility, and an equally deep love for the blues: in the ancient argot, he is a real barrelhouse player, even in a pricey Upper East Side supper club.

And although Joe was not allowed to chat or to sing on this gig (a matter of arcane tax laws in cabarets) his bubbling sense of humor, his ebullience, comes through in every note.  With a different pianist, Buck, Jo, and Milt would have still made great jazz, but the result wouldn’t have been as much fun.  And “fun” wasn’t a matter of goofy quotes or scene-stealing: Joe was a perfectly sensitive accompanist.  (I saw three-quarters of this group: Jo, Milt, Joe, and Ruby Braff — create a ten-minute MOTEN SWING in 1975 — and Fifty-Fourth Street has never been the same.)

Unlike other reissues, this disc sparkles for another reason — explained beautifully in the liner notes by Bushkin’s devoted son-in-law, trumpeter Robert Merrill, here.  That reason is the most gorgeous recorded sound you’ve ever heard at a live gig: there are people in the room, but their presence is not intrusive, and each instrument is heard as beautifully as if this session was in a studio.  To learn more about the label’s Legends series, visit here.  (Dot Time has also issued recordings by Mulligan and Ella — and a magnificent Louis series is coming out.)

As I wrote above, Joe ran with the best.  I’ve posted this once before, but everyone sentient in the known world needs to hear and re-hear it:

And here’s Joe being interviewed by the genial Stuart Klein in 1985:

2017 is Joe’s centennial, so there are a variety of celebrations going on, appropriately.  Recordings of the Joe Bushkin Songbook are on the way, and there’s something to leave the house and the computer for, a Highlights in Jazz (a series in its 45th year) concert: the Joe Bushkin Centennial Concert
featuring Wycliffe Gordon, Harry Allen, Eric Comstock, Ted Rosenthal, Spike Wilner, Nicki Parrott, Steve Johns and John Colliani, under the musical direction of Bob Merrill — and a surprise Guest as well.  It will take place at 8 PM, on Thursday, May 4, at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center at Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007.

One can purchase tickets by calling the box office [212-220-1460] or visiting www.tribecapac.org.  Those who find the Post Office more consoling can mail a check made payable to highlights in Jazz for $50 per ticket (still a bargain, for those who have been to a club recently) to Highlights In Jazz, 7 Peter Cooper Road, Apt. 11E New York NY 10010.  (Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope).

A concert celebrating Joe Bushkin will be fun.  And the CD is a thorough pleasure.

May your happiness increase!

HARMONY AND HIJINKS: DUCHESS, “LAUGHING AT LIFE”

duchess-portrait

DUCHESS: Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner, Melissa Stylianou

The superb vocal harmony group DUCHESS has released their second CD, LAUGHING AT LIFE, and it’s a wonder.

duchess-laughing-at-life

Here’s a sample of their originality, energy, and fun: EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, at the Jazz Standard, accompanied by Michael Cabe, piano; Matt Aronoff, string bass; Jared Schonig, drums.

 

For those of you who, like me, didn’t catch every rapid-fire turn of the new “original” lyrics, here they are in slow-motion print:

How did the Bozzie’s do their rapid-fire scatting
When they yes-siggle-dirred when they double dogged their Latin
There were so many words just a flyin’ and a rat-n-tatting how?

Vet, Martha, Connie gave us all the Heebie Jeebies
Said Duchess ought to try it but you know it isn’t easy
So we gotta tip our hat to the Bozzie’s oh, they really dazzle, wow!

Harmony and hijinks are the currency we deal in
Though we love the Bozzie’s honey, no we ain’t a-stealin’
Got a style that’s all our own and we know it’s so appealing here and now!

There’s only one problem with that gloriously expert and exuberant video.  A casual viewer might assume, “Oh, that’s a Boswell Sisters cover band,” in the odd parlance of this century, drop this versatile trio into a convenient classification, and be completely wrong. Someone else might misread the group because of their “vintage” twentieth-century repertoire.

But DUCHESS is not a tour of the local museum of past greatness, and no one pretends to be anyone else.

The glory of this group is their quirky sweet transforming energy, which enables them to do so many things so beautifully and with such deep emotions. LAUGHING AT LIFE is a wonderful showcase for their swinging versatilities.

The CD’s delights begin early, with a modern-Basie version of SWING, BROTHER, SWING — where one can delight in the three piquant voices and their distinctive blend (as well as a solo by postmodern intergalactic rhythm ‘n’ blues tenorist Jeff Lederer).

Then they move into familiar (and possibly dangerous) territory . . . the 1930 SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, a song that I would guess no one has ever called “dangerous.”  But as a song, it has become over-familiar and thus open to formulaic run-throughs in the same way as PENNIES FROM HEAVEN.  But halfway through this track, after a pleasing rhythm-section interlude, something magical happens.  Whitney Balliett called a similar instrumental passage “slow-motion leapfrog,” and on this track, the three voices slide over one another, each singer starting a phrase in a different place, creating a kind of three-dimensional cathedral of sounds.

There’s the rubato voices-plus-Michael Cabe’s sensitive piano reading of the verse of LAUGHING AT LIFE.  Then, Amy Cervini’s quite definite reading of GIVE HIM THE OO LA LA, with a fine solo from guitarist Jesse Lewis, a wooing WHERE WOULD YOU BE WITHOUT ME? featuring Melissa Stylianou, and a down-home frolic by Hilary Gardner on HALLELUJAH, I LOVE HIM SO!

The tender ache of EV’RY TIME WE SAY GOOD-BYE is followed by the hilarity of STRIP POLKA (thank you, Mister Mercer!).  And the bonus track, DAWN, a song known to only a few, is immensely touching — its author is someone we honor for other reasons.

Buy the CD and find out all.  I didn’t linger over every track for its delights: you can find the little bowers of bliss for yourself.

DUCHESS fans already know this, but it bears repeating: each of the three singers is a very distinctive soloist, but their blending is impeccable: their intonation and diction are splendid.  The clever and witty arrangements are complex, but only truly attentive listeners will understand just how beautifully layered they are — a key change here, an almost unnoticed shift from a lead voice with support to a unison ensemble, and more.  Incidentally, there are guest appearances by clarinetist Anat Cohen and trombonist / vocalist Wycliffe Gordon to add to the mix.

Learn all the secrets here, and follow Duchess on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook if you while away the hours in such revelries.  But most important, here you can purchase / download the CD through Bandcamp. Amazon, or iTunes.  You’ll find it extremely rewarding.

May your happiness increase!

 

STILL SPARKLING: JOE BUSHKIN AT 100

joe-bushkin-on-piano

I suspect that everyone who reads JAZZ LIVES has heard the magical sounds of Joe Bushkin‘s piano, songs, voice, and trumpet.  My birthday celebration for him is a bit early — he was born on November 7, 1916, but I didn’t want to miss the occasion.  (There will also be birthday cake in this post — at least a photograph of one.)

He moved on in late 2004, but as the evidence proves, it was merely a transformation, not an exit.

I marvel not only at the spare, poignant introduction but Bushkin’s sensitive support and countermelodies throughout.

“Oh, he was a Dixieland player?” Then there’s this:

and this, Joe’s great melody:

A list of the people who called Joe a friend and colleague would include Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Bunny Berigan, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Condon, Lee Wiley, Joe Marsala, Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden, Bobby Hackett,Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra, Bunny Berigan, Fats Waller, Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton, Zoot Sims, Bill Harris, Buddy Rich, Hot Lips Page, Sidney Catlett, Judy Garland, Jimmy Rushing, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Spargo, Red McKenzie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Tough, Brad Gowans, Benny Goodman, Joe Rushton, Roy Eldridge, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Ruth Brown, June Christy, Barney Kessel, Pearl Bailey, Gene Krupa, Stuff Smith, Chuck Wayne, Jake Hanna . . .

Here’s a sweet swinging tribute to Irving Berlin in 1951 that segues into Joe’s own homage to Miss Bankhead, PORTRAIT OF TALLULAH:

He’s on Billie’s SUMMERTIME and Bunny’s first I CAN’T GET STARTED; he’s glistening in the big bands of Bunny, Tommy, and Benny.  He records with Frank Newton in 1936 and plays with Kenny Davern, Phil Flanigan, Howard Alden, and Jake Hanna here, sixty-one years later:

But I’m not speaking about Joe simply because of longevity and versatility.  He had an individual voice — full of energy and wit — and he made everyone else sound better.

A short, perhaps dark interlude.  Watching and listening to these performances, a reader might ask, “Why don’t we hear more about this wonderful pianist who is so alive?”  It’s a splendid question.  In the Thirties, when Joe achieved his first fame, it was as a sideman on Fifty-Second Street and as a big band pianist.

Parallel to Joe, for instance, is Jess Stacy — another irreplaceable talent who is not well celebrated today.  The erudite Swing fans knew Bushkin, and record producers — think of John Hammond and Milt Gabler — wanted him on as many record dates as he could make.  He was a professional who knew how the music should sound and offered it without melodrama.  But I suspect his professionalism made him less dramatic to the people who chronicle jazz.  He kept active; his life wasn’t tragic or brief; from all I can tell, he didn’t suffer in public.  So he never became mythic or a martyr.  Too, the jazz critics then and now tend to celebrate a few stars at a time — so Joe, brilliant and versatile, was standing behind Teddy Wilson and Art Tatum, then and now.  He was also entertaining — someone who could act, who could do a television skit with Bing and Fred, someone who could fill a club by making music, even for people who wouldn’t have bought a Commodore 78.  Popularity is suspect to some people who write about art.

But if you do as I did, some months back, and play a Bushkin record for a jazz musician who hasn’t heard him before, you might get the following reactions or their cousins: “WHO is that?  He can cover the keyboard.  And he swings.  His time is beautiful, and you wouldn’t mistake him for anyone else.”

One of the memorable moments of my twentieth century is the ten-minute YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY /  MOTEN SWING that Joe, Ruby Braff, Milt Hinton, Wayne Wright, and Jo Jones improvised — about four feet in front of me — at the last Eddie Condon’s in 1976.  “Memorable” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Consider this: Joe and his marvelous quartet (Buck Clayton, Milt Hinton or Sid Weiss, and Jo Jones) that held down a long-running gig at the Embers in 1951-2:

Something pretty and ruminative — Joe’s version of BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL:

And for me, and I suspect everyone else, the piece de resistance:

For the future: Joe’s son-in-law, the trumpeter / singer / composer Bob Merrill — whom we have to thank for the wire recording (!) of SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY —  has organized what will be a stellar concert to celebrate his father-in-law’s centennial.  Mark your calendars: May 4, 2017.  Jack Kleinsinger’s “Highlights in Jazz” at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. Ted Rosenthal, John Colianni, Eric Comstock, Spike Wilner, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Steve Johns, drums; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Adrian Cunningham, clarinet; Bob Merrill, trumpet; Warren Vache, cornet; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; and of course a surprise guest.

Here’s the promised photograph of a birthday cake.  Perculate on THIS:

louis-birthday-cake

Thank you, Joseephus.  We haven’t forgotten you.

May your happiness increase!

NOBLY DONE! (THE SECOND NOBILIS NIGHT, FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2016)

Nobilis logo

What does that lovely calligraphic logo have to do with jazz or JAZZ LIVES?

Easy.  Let’s start with someone I admire, the fine musician Emily AsherIf you’ve been paying attention to the scene for the last ten years, you’ve heard and seen Emily — an inventive trombonist, a winning singer, a delightful composer, arranger, and leader of fine appealing ensembles — on her own, with her Garden Party, her Endangered Species Trio, with Wycliffe Gordon, with Shannon  Barnett, as a charter member of Mighty Aphrodite, around New York and the Pacific Northwest . . . wherever good music can be found.  I’ve featured her on this blog (visit the handy search bar when you have an hour or so).

But Emily is more than a fine, consistently inspiring musician.  Early in her career, she was leading groups — sometimes an unrewarding experience — and from that, she learned a great deal . . . practical knowledge about how to survive in that thing called “the music business,” where dealing with clubowners, getting gigs, maintaining good relations with other musicians, being paid fairly — all the things that audiences don’t see when the band takes the stage.  Emily has a big heart as well as a big range, so rather than jealously keep her wisdom to herself, she founded the Nobilis Music Group with the idea of helping other musicians and groups avoid pitfalls and — dare we say it — happily make a living.

She was not content to print up business cards, rent office space, and sit at a desk behind a sign reading Sole Proprietor. That’s not her style.  (Emily runs marathons.)

Last month, on April 2, Nobilis held its first evening — six bands showed what they could do (and more) to an intent and amazed audience. Here is the YouTube playlist of the musicians who performed that night.  Although some might call Emily’s usual music a cross between Old Time Modern and New Lyrical (she writes and sings songs that are reminiscent of her idol Hoagy Carmichael) the range of music under the Nobilis banner is astonishing, from 1926 Hot to twenty-first century Modern to surrealistic rock-opera.  All of it genuine, original, lively.

Nobilis May 13 banner

The second Nobilis evening (as depicted above) will feature Marshall Gilkes, Eric Doob, and Matt Clohesy; Michele Zayla; Nadje Noorhuis and James Shipp. All of this will happen on Friday, May 13, from 7-11 PM.  (Twenty dollars for four hours of music is a deep bargain, as jazz listeners know.)  This energized creativity will take place at Club Bonafide, 212 E 52nd Street, Third Floor, New York, New York 10022.  And you can learn more here.

Here is the Facebook event page, and here is the link to purchase tickets (inexpensive ones for a night of music) online.

I urge you to drop by (Club Bonafide is very inviting — cozy, too — not for the usual platitudes.  “For the good of the music.”  “To keep live jazz alive.”  “To support a worthy venture.”  Those are all true, but I know, from the first Nobilis evening, that you won’t yawn, scowl, feel bored, or feel the need to check your phone.  Rare experiences in this time and place.  The press release describes the three bands as “sonically luscious.”  If that isn’t an inducement to show up, look at yourself closely in the mirror next time you pass by and ask, “Who is that person?”

May your happiness increase!

SVETLANA and the DELANCEY FIVE MAKE “SOCIAL MUSIC”

I wrote about the singer Svetlana Shmulyian and her band, the Delancey Five, more than two years ago here, and I am happy to report their first full-scale CD, NIGHT AT THE SPEAKEASY, is more than pleasing.

svetlana pro mo

I found it an engaging session, balancing more contemporary originals and lively versions of venerable jazz and pop classics. Here’s a neat audio-visual sample:

In his notes to the CD, Will Friedwald points out that both Svetlana and Jonathan Batiste prefer the term “social music” to “Hot Jazz” or Swing,” and this CD lives up to that definition: friendly, engaging, warm improvisations in many moods, music that welcomes listeners in.  As you can hear in the video, Svetlana strives to be engaged with her audience, whether she is describing her own motivations, singing standards, or writing new tunes.  And her band operates in the same happy spirit: Wycliffe Gordon, trombone / vocals; Adrian Cunningham, reeds / vocals; Charlie Caranicas, trumpet; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Vinny Raniolo, guitar; George Delancey, string bass; Rob Garcia, drums. The very appealing arrangements — tight without being constricting — are by Wycliffe, Rob, and Adrian, and they often suggest a much larger band that happens to be streamlined and focused.

Svetlana and Wycliffe give their own flavoring to two songs I always associate with Louis and Ella (from two decades): YOU WON’T BE SATISFIED and UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE; two Twenties classics, SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY and TEA FOR TWO, and two Ellington favorites, DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME and JUST A SETTIN’ AND A ROCKIN’, are refurbished and shined-up.  Svetlana and the band give a warm quirky embrace to GOD ONLY KNOWS from the Beach Boys, and BECAUSE from the Beatles.  There are also originals — ALL I WANT, TEMPTATIONS, DANCE IN BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS (Rob Garcia’s neat composition which should easily become an anthem for the crowds who come to see the band whether it’s south or north of Fourteenth Street), and Svetlana’s lovely acknowledgment of her Russian heritage, trumpeter Eddie Rosner’s YOU ARE LIKE A SONG, sung in her native tongue.  Whatever the language and whatever the material, she swings in admirable ways.  As does that band!

Here’s Svetlana’s own Facebook page, and here is the band’s page.

Let’s suppose you are properly taken with the band and their new CD.  What would be the surest way to afford yourself a double pleasure: seeing the band and purchasing the CD?  May I propose you visit here — to find out all you’d need to know about the band’s CD release party / performance on January 15 at 8 PM, at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 W 42nd St, New York, New York 10036.  Get ready to swing and be moved.

May your happiness increase!

SVETLANA SWINGS WITH WYCLIFFE (June 7, 2014)

The singer Svetlana Shmulyian is a very engaging improviser in the great tradition of lilting melodies over a swinging background. Happily, she has a new New York City show coming up on June 7. Here’s what I wrote about her first CD release, and — so you can see and hear for yourself — I offer a few videos from 2012 and from 2013.

Her band is called Svetlana and the Delancey Five in honor of its Lower East Side residency, but this gig is at B. B. King’s (with more information on Facebook here) as part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival.  Svetlana likes to sing with the best musicians and this gig will feature the remarkable Wycliffe Gordon doing what he does so well.  She tells me that the Lucille Room also has a great hardwood dance floor, so you can sit and listen or dance the hours away. Shows are at 7 and 9:30 PM.  (Doors open one hour before for each show.)

SVETLANA June 7
I would be there if I could.  The other musicians will include Adrian Cunningham (reeds), Charlie Caranicas (trumpet), Dalton Ridenhour (piano), and Rob Garcia (drums): melodic swingers for sure.
May your happiness increase!

BEAUTIFULLY IN BALANCE: REBECCA KILGORE AND FRIENDS at the ATLANTA JAZZ PARTY (April 27, 2014)

This is how it’s done. 

The masters of melodic improvisation here are Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Paul Keller, string bass; Ed Metz, drums — at the twenty-fifth Atlanta Jazz Party in April 2014.

Becky and Bucky, romantics, quieting the room with their duet on TRES PALABRAS (and what courage it takes to begin a set with such a tender ballad):

Southern pastoral in swing (recalling Lester Young and Anita O’Day), JUST A LITTLE BIT SOUTH OF NORTH CAROLINA, with delicious playfulness all the way through:

Becky so sweetly and tenderly honors Judy Garland, Clark Gable, and Roger Edens, YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU (and Dan Barrett has Vic on his mind, too):

She and the band give us an ebullient finish, with JEEPERS CREEPERS:

This set was so  very satisfying, lyricism and swing, feeling and expertise intermingled throughout: I wouldn’t change a single note. And I’ve listened to the twenty minutes of music here, over and over, delighted, moved, and amazed.

Rebecca has two new CD releases: JUST IMAGINE (with Dan Barrett and Paolo Alderighi) and I LIKE MEN (with Harry Allen, Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes, and Kevin Kanner) for those of us who find our appetites for tenderness, joy, and subtlety stimulated (not satiated) by these four videos.

And if you’re in New York City on Monday, May 19, 2014, in the early evening, you should seriously consider visiting Becky and friends at Symphony Space for the Sidney Bechet Society’s tribute to Mat Domber . . . particularly apt here because Mat and Rachel Domber recorded so many sessions for their Arbors Records label that are as beautiful as this live performance. “All-Star Tribute to Mat Domber & Arbors Records“: Anat Cohen, Wycliffe Gordon, Bob Wilber, Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Randy Sandke, Warren Vache, Harry Allen, Rebecca Kilgore, Ed Metz, Joel Forbes, John Allred, Rossano Sportiello, and Rajiv Jayaweera.

May your happiness increase!

WHILE IT’S HOT: TWO CONCERTS, COMING SOON

I revere the jazz Past: the recordings, the actual men and women, their stories, their holy artifacts.

But I would not want this art form to become a museum, where we can only hear the Great Dead People.

So I encourage my friends to seek out occasions where we can live in the present moment: hearing living men and women play and sing their own versions of this lovely music right in front of us. It’s an experience different and deeper than listening to the Electrobeam Gennett you just got on eBay, although I am not making fun of that pleasure, not at all.

Enjoying the present makes me think of fish and chips, which I will explain below.  Trust me, it’s relevant.

The two concerts I am reminding you all about are put on by the Sidney Bechet Society in New York City. Were I there, I would be there. They take place on Monday, at 7:15 (a nice serene early hour) at Symphony Space at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street.

Monday, April 21, is the second “Jam Session of the Millenium,” led by our own Dan Levinson:

SBS.April.Show.Flier.V6 (Neal Siegal)

If you’re one of those Jazz Lovers who wonders, “Who are these kids and are they any good?” you and your skepticism are in luck — because someone (thank you, Anonymous Person) recorded the first Jam Session of the Millennium in its entirety.  Consider this!

Monday, May 19, is a tribute concert in honor of Mat Domber, who made so much good music possible for all of us (along with his wonderful wife Rachel, still with us) on Arbors Records from the late Eighties onwards.  The audience of jazz listeners thanks him as do the musicians — and some of them gather onstage to say it with music: Randy Sandke, Wycliffe Gordon, Anat Cohen, Dick Hyman, Bucky Pizzarelli, Warren Vache, Joel Forbes, Rebecca Kilgore, Ed Metz, Rossano Sportiello, Harry Allen, John Allred, Rajiv Jayaweera, and Bob Wilber!

Tickets are $35 (students $10) ahttp://youtu.be/TfKz2nIok-Qnd the Symphony Space contact information is 212.864.5400 / www.symphonyspace.org.

Fish and chips, Michael?”

Yes.  In one of my favorite Irish novels of the last few decades, THE VAN, by Roddy Doyle, two fellows open a mobile fish and chips “cooker” out of an old van — a very funny and touching novel.  But one of their selling points is a sign that says TODAY’S CHIPS TODAY. Get this music while it’s HOT.

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!

EHUD ASHERIE’S NEW GIG!

Ehud Asherie is one of my favorite pianists — with a deep inventive swinging sensibility.  He knows many more intriguing songs and is a sensitive accompanist and ensemble player as well as a hot soloist.  He isn’t limited by one narrow conception: in his heart, Bud Powell and Willie the Lion Smith talk amicably about where they get their suits and what Chinese restaurants they like.

Ehud has a new New York City gig!

He will be playing (solo with guests) Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 10 / 11) from 9:30 – 12:30 PM at the Knickerbocker — 33 University Place at Ninth Street.  Ehud says, “This might become a weekly solo gig so come on down! Musicians are welcome to sit in — please come! I get so lonely when I play solo.”

Here’s a sample of what Mr. Asherie accomplishes with such grace:

If you visit here and click SCHEDULE, you can keep up with his September gigs (solo, trio, with Wycliffe Gordon, Hilary Gardner, and more).  And if you see a man listening and watching intently at the Knickerbocker, with or without camera . . . it might be your faithful blogger, enjoying himself.

May your happiness increase!

EMILY ASHER’S DREAMS TAKE US ALOFT

Something good.  And about time!  It’s trombonist / singer / composer / arranger / bandleader Emily Asher’s debut CD, sweetly titled DREAMS MAY TAKE YOU.

Along with Emily, you will hear Wycliffe Gordon, on sousaphone and trombone; Bria Skonberg, trumpet, vocal; Philip Dizack, trumpet; Dan Levinson, tenor sax, clarinet; William Anderson, alto sax; Nick Russo, guitar, banjo; Gordon Webster, piano; Kelly Friesen, bass; Rob Adkins, bass; Kevin Dorn, drums; Rob Garcia, drums.  For those of you familiar with the hot New York scene, those names are a guarantee of fine swinging inventive jazz.

Much of the repertoire would appear to be “good old good ones,” including SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET and SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, but the CD is anything but by-the-numbers.  Emily is more than a fine trombonist and a sweetly winning singer: she is an imaginative musician, so the CD doesn’t bog down in the same thing; every track is its own vignette.

It begins with a romping version of ORY’S CREOLE TROMBONE, which Emily delivers with a fine gutty fervor (and her own version of a trombone cadenza).  The soloists share Emily’s high-flying enthusiasm, and the rhythm sections couldn’t be better.  So the chestnuts have a delightful 2012 Condonite bounce and looseness.  The CD’s title comes from an Asher original — by Emily’s father — called LULLABY FOR A LITTLE ONE, on which Miss Asher sings with winsome charm.  (And she knows when to leave an audience wanting more: the LULLABY is a delicious cameo, slightly over two minutes.)  It’s followed by a New Orleans “second line” version of CHANGES MADE, which would cause the sedentary to start dancing.  The original SWEET PEA is part cowboy-ballad, part rocking barcarolle, with touches of Fifties West Coast cool arranging.  HEY, LOOK ME OVER is Emily’s childhood party piece — which begins in an easy waltz-time before morphing into sleek swing — that won me over when I saw her do it (with apt choreography) at Radegast.  A streamlined EMPEROR NORTON’S HUNCH has shed all its two-beat trappings, and bursts forth gracefully.  SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET features the duet stylings of Asher and Skonberg — neatly warbling the hip variations I associate with John Birks Gillespie — before the ensemble gives way to a piano / trombone duet.  Emily’s original GREAT BIG WALL will be the only song you know (I would guess) that mixes Latin rhythms and Middle Eastern tonalities.  Successfully, I must add.  YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE begins with a slide guitar / trombone duet and then blossoms, lyrically.  MUSKRAT RAMBLE begins with the Hot Five introduction and rocks from the first note (not too slow, not too fast, either) — with a splendidly tapping drum solo by Kevin Dorn in the middle.  SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, taken at a brisk clip, is another trombone-piano outing, very delicate in its earnestness, with a straight-from-the-shoulder vocal by Emily, taking the lyrics with a gentle seriousness that would have pleased its creator.  And the disc ends with LIMEHOUSE BLUES, a version that had the energy of the World’s Greatest Jazz Band of fabled memory.

Nothing’s dull or forced on this CD: it’s one of those rare creations where you want to play it over again when it ends.

I couldn’t attend Emily’s May 29 CD release party at Radegast — a true Garden Party, I hear — but the CD is its own jubilant party.  You can purchase one here — either as a digital download or a physical CD.

And the GP will be strolling around the New Jersey Jazz Society’s JAZZFEST on Saturday, June 16, which begins at noon and ends at 9 PM.  And when Emily and company need a rest, you can hear Jon Burr,  Lynn Stein, Andy Farber’s Swing Mavens featuring Champian Fulton, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, the Tony DeSare trio, Eddie Monteiro, Swingadelic, and more.  Tickets can be ordered at 908.273.7827 or online at http://www.njjs.org.

Look out, world: here she comes!

May your happiness increase.

JAZZ FOR FREE: 2011 SAVANNAH JAZZ FESTIVAL (Sept. 18-24, 2011)

I’m not a big fan of “free jazz,” but “jazz for free” is entirely a different matter.  And it’s happening this September in Savannah, Georgia.  The festival has been going on since 1983, built by local talent (Teddy Adams and Ben Tucker) and has featured international jazz stars as well, from Carmen McRae and Lionel Hampton to Jimmy Knepper and Art Blakey . . .

All events are free and open to the public.  Here’s the schedule:

Sept. 18 — 5-8 p.m. – Jam Session led by Teddy Adams  

Sept. 19 — 7-9 p.m. – “Ninety Miles” — a movie on Cuban Jazz (cosponsored by Psychotronic Film Society)

Sept. 20 — 7-10 p.m. – Howard Paul Quartet w/Scott Giddens & Jody Espina

Sept. 21 — 7-10 p.m. – George Petit 4 & Bob Masteller & Jazz Corner Quintet

Sept. 22 — 7-11 p.m. – Forsyth Park BLUES NITE

Bottles and Cans, Eric Culberson and Super Chikan

Sept. 23 – 7-11 p.m. Forsyth Park

Huxie Scott & Friends (Hall of Fame Members), Stan Killian Quartet and UNF Band w/Allan Harris

Sept. 24 – 4-11 p.m. Jazz Composers Sextet

Robert Lewis, Sax; Randall Reese, Sax AASU; Bill Schmid, Trumpet GSU; Dave Springfield, Piano VSU CofC; Frank Duvall, Bass CofC; Steve Primatic. Drums AASU; JB Scott/Lisa Kelly Quintet and Deborah Brown Quartet

Savannah Jazz Orchestra Featuring Wycliffe Gordon & Ron Wilkins, Pat Martino Trio w/Pat Bianchi (B3) and Shawn Hill (Drums)

For more information, visit http://www.savannahjazzfestival.org/main.html

BOB BARNARD’S NEW YORK (Part Two)

Having warmed up his trumpet on Tuesday night (September 21) with the Nighthawks, Bob Barnard returned on Wednesday to sit in with David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band at Birdland. 

His credentials were (as Dizzy Gillespie would say) unimpeachable, because he was the only person in the room who’d actually played for Louis (as a member of Graeme Bell’s band). 

And, aside from George Avakian, who was seated nearby, delighting in it all, I think Bob could safely say that he was the only person in Manhattan who had seen Louis and the All-Stars on four tours of Australia. 

But Bob didn’t need to explain any of this to get up on the Birdland bandstand — the musicians in the LACB knew him well and were happy to have him join in: Jon-Erik Kellso, Wycliffe Gordon, Dan Block, Ehud Asherie, David Ostwald, and Dave Gibson.

And they performed three classics from the Armstrong book:

STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE:

SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY:

SWING THAT MUSIC:

More to come!

TWO JAZZ NIGHTS (APRIL 2010)

My jazz friend Stompy Jones wrote to see if I was feeling well . . . he noted that blogging had slowed for a few days.  Never fear: I was on the prowl with a new video camera — whose fancy innards are still mysterious — to capture some Hot jazz.

On Wednesday, April 28, the Beloved and I went to that midtown oasis, Birdland, to catch the early evening set led by David Ostwald — his band being the Louis Armstrong Centennial Band, a group that will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in May.  This edition of the LACB had, in addition to David, Kevin Dorn, Ehud Asherie, Dan Block (on alto as well as clarinet), Wycliffe Gordon, and Gordon Au.  Here they perform a stately version of Fats Waller’s BLUE TURNING GREY OVER YOU, homage to Louis’s mid-Fifties tribute, SATCH PLAYS FATS:

And here’s a song no one sings anymore, for good reason — but Louis, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman and others found it good material to improvise on — SHINE or S-H-I-N-E, take your pick:

The next night, I went to Shanghai Jazz, David Niu’s cozy restaurant-with-music in Madison, New Jersey, to hear Dan Levinson’s Palomar Trio.  It was supposed to be Dan, pianist Mark Shane, and Kevin Dorn, but Kevin (rare for him) fell ill — with an able replacement found in young vibes wizard Matt Hoffmann, who began his career as a drummer.  Here’s the trio on A SAILBOAT IN THE MOONLIGHT, recorded by both Billie Holiday and Johnny Hodges:

And a jaunty version of I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

I offer two postscripts as evidence that sometimes the real fun happens off the bandstand with people who don’t play instruments or sing for a living. 

There was a time-honored tradition of musicians walking around the room, playing or singing softly at each table (for tips or for pleasure).  I was telling someone recently about hearing the trumpeter Louis Metcalfe do just this at Jimmy Ryan’s, moving from table to table, playing a medium-tempo soft ROSETTA, putting his Harmon-muted horn almost in my ear — a brief unforgettable experience. 

Birdland isn’t set up for “strolling violins,” but the Jazz Acupuncturist, Marcia Salter, paid us a visit between sets on Wednesday.  When the conversation turned for a moment away from music, I told Marcia that the Beloved’s back was hurting her.  Without so much as a “May I see your insurance card?” Marcia was showing both of us acupressure points to relieve pain.  It was a characteristically generous display (Marcia, of course, operates on the principle of “What would Louis do?”) and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a medical house call in a jazz club.  Marcia’s hours, for the moment, are Wednesday from 5:30 – 7:15, but you can catch her at other venues. 

The next night, at Shanghai Jazz, I was seated next to the jazz enthusiast and amateur tenor saxophonist Ray Cerino, someone I haven’t seen in some time.  Midway during the evening, Dan asked the audience for requests, and Ray suggested MY FOOLISH HEART.  (Aside from being an all-around Good Fellow, he is also a Deep Romantic.)  Dan played it beautifully, and then Ray delivered a brief impromptu disquistion on the lyrics, the only man I’ve ever heard use the literary term “conceit” in a jazz club.  And Ray knew what he  meant!

Reasons to be thankful!

KEVIN DORN AND FRIENDS (Dec. 18, 2009)

I originally called this post RINGSIDE AT THE GARAGE, homage to one of the great recordings: a series of live performances by Eddie Condon and his band in 1951-2, taken from the Doctor Jazz radio broadcasts and packaged (by Savoy Records in their characteristic slippery fashion) as if they were live recordings captured on the spot at Condon’s club.  Exuberant and stylish, these performances feature Wild Bill Davison, Cutty Cutshall, Ed Hall, Gene Schroeder, Bob Casey, and George Wettling (although Buzzy Drootin or Cliff Leeman might be in there as well.  

The drummer and deep thinker Kevin Dorn has led the Traditional Jazz Collective for several years; I first heard the TJC at the Cajun five years ago, where they had the Monday-night slot, although I had already been delighted by Kevin’s playing with other bands.  Although Kevin reveres the Condon band of the Fifties, he would sooner give up playing than imitate a note on those recordings.  What he aspires to is an energetic, self-reliant creativity.  I saw and heard it in action at the downtown New York club “The Garage” on Friday, December 18, 2009.   

Kevin’s band is doubly satisfying.  For one, when he can, he hires people who are not only fine musicians but also people who like each other.  So the atmosphere on the stand is friendly.  This doesn’t translate into hi-jinks to please the crowd, but the happiness on the stand permeates the music, which isn’t always the case.  And my thinking about the cheerful atmosphere he and his friends inspire gave me what I think is a more appropriate title, not only for this post, but for the videos that follow below. 

For this gig, he had the splendidly energetic trumpeter Simon Wettenhall, who can climb mountains on his horn but also deliver a forceful lead in the manner of Fifties Louis.  Next to Simon (in a delightfully retro cardigan sweater) was the multi-talented J. Walter Hawkes, composer, trombonist, and singer — also a ukulele player of note, but he left his four-stringed buddy home on Friday.  Walter is a virtuoso brassman: someone who can shout, whisper, and croon in the best high-register Tommy Dorsey manner.  His playing is the very opposite of “Dixieland” formulaic: no tailgate cliches.  He’s harmonically sophisticated, rhythmically subtle, and a fine ensemble player – -someone who’s absorbed more modern styles (he admires Bennie Green) without sticking out of a free-wheeling band like this.  And he’s a remarkable singer — engaging, wheedling, sincere without being sticky.  The TJC usually has a pianist, but this edition had the nimble Nick Russo on banjo and guitar, filling the gaps, adding harmonies, driving the rhythm.  Nick’s banjo playing is powerful without being metallic; his guitar lines entwine and support.  Doug Largent, one of the TJC’s charter members, is a little-known wonder: New York City is full of bassists, and Doug is one of the best . . . although he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves.  Steady time, beautiful intonation, lovely plain-spoken phrases.  George Duvivier would approve.  I’ve written a good deal in praise of Kevin — as drummer and leader — so I will only say that the great individualists of the past live through and around him, but the result is personal rather than derivative.  Although he might hit a Krupa lick on the cowbell, he knows about being in the moment, and the moment is always NOW, even when it is informed by the past. 

This gig was also a quiet welcome-back to the clarinetist Pete Martinez, who’s returned from another tour of duty in the military.  I am thrilled he is back and playing: he is a technically brilliant player who avoids the usual Goodmania or the fast-high-loud tendencies lesser musicians favor.  Pete, who is quiet by nature, looks to the mercurial Edmond Hall for inspiration — and he has captured all the shadings of Hall’s tone, from rough-hewn to subtone caress, as well as the cascading phrases Hall pulled out of his hat without fanfare.  Pete is also a wonderful guide: he sets riffs for the front line, and (although I didn’t see this happen at the Garage) he is a jazz scholar whose arrangements and transcriptions are peerless.  Welcome back, Pete! 

And there were musical guests in the audience: the sweetly compelling singer Barbara Rosene, who whispered to me that she had a new CD ready to emerge — where her cohorts were people like Wycliffe Gordon, Randy Sandke, Howard Alden, James Chirillo: the best we have.  And the joint was jumpin’ with singers, as the wistful Molly Ryan came up to sing a few tunes as well.

Here are two sets (of a possible three) that I captured at the Garage.  Never mind that many of the people were there for reasons that had nothing to do with the TJC’s cheerful brilliance: perhaps they could absorb beauty, heat, and musical intelligence through a kind of subliminal osmosis.  I hope so.

Kevin kicked things off with a rousing EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

Then, what used to be called a “rhythm ballad” — a romantic song with a swinging pulse — IF I HAD YOU:

The TJC version of HINDUSTAN reminds me happily of the good times that Hot Lips Page and Specs Powell had on their V-Disc version of THE SHEIK OF ARABY:

A version of Carmichael’s ROCKIN’ CHAIR that lives up to its name:

In honor of Bix and Hoagy, in honor of Eddie and the Gang, RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE:

To some, BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME summons up the Jimmy Noone-Earl Hines recording, but the TJC’s outing is straight out of Columbia’s Thirtieth Street studios:

I’ve had the good fortune to hear Barbara Rosene sing I’M CONFESSIN’ many times in the recent past, but this rendition impressed me even more with its deep feeling:

I don’t know what — if any — emotional scenario Barbara had in mind.  It could simply have been “ballad, then an up tune,” but after confessing her love, she is ready to switch everything around: THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

It’s always fascinating to stand with a video camera in a New York City club, and SOMEDAY SWEETHEART captures several fascinating moments.  Fortunately, the music continues even when the screen goes dark — a large young man in a down jacket stood in front of me, amiably unaware until another observer suggested he might move over.  That he did, politely, but not before pointing out that the back of his head and of his coat were now in my video, and that he would like to be properly credited.  All I could think was, “Someday, sweetheart!”:

In honor of the season (and perhaps anticipating the snow that covered New York City twenty-four hours later) Molly Ryan offered WINTER WONDERLAND:

And Molly closed the second set with her version of the 1930 song I always think of as ‘ZACTLY, but the sheet music properly titles it EXACTLY LIKE YOU:

I’m so glad I made it to “ringside” to hear Kevin and his friends — energetic, fervent, and hot.

COPYRIGHT, MICHAEL STEINMAN AND JAZZ LIVES, 2009
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Steinman and Jazz Lives with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

TUESDAYS WITH SIDNEY*

*The Sidney Bechet Society.  We haven’t been able to spend Tuesdays with Monsieur Bechet for a half-century, but time spent with his youthful heirs will be just as satisfying.  Don’t be left out!

Wycliffe Gordon’s “History of Jazz Trombone”

Symphony Space, Broadway & 95th St., New York City       Tuesday, September 29, 2009       2 shows: 6:15pm & 9:00pm    

The Sidney Bechet Society presents trombone sensation Wycliffe Gordon leading a “History of Jazz Trombone.”  Wycliffe & the band will remember the legends of this soulful instrument, jazz titans like Kid Ory, Jack Teagarden, Lawrence Brown, Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol, Tommy Dorsey, J.C. Higginbotham, Tyree Glenn, Al Grey and Buster Cooper.  Joining Wycliffe will be Anat Cohen, reeds (Jazz Journalists’ Assoc. 2009 Clarinetist of the Year); Etienne Charles, trumpet (winner: 2006 National Trumpet Competition); Ehud Asherie, piano; Zaid Shukri, bass; Marion Felder, drums; Terry Wilson, vocals.   Tickets are $25, available at the box office, by telephone and online at http://www.symphonyspace.org (use code “RAC102” when ordering online).  Special 2 show discount: get our Sept. 29 & Oct. 27 shows for $44.  This offer is good at box office & phone only—use code “SBS 01”

www.sidneybechet.org

“Remembering Stuyvesant Casino & Central Plaza” with Vince Giordano

Symphony Space, Broadway & 95th St., New York City         Tuesday, October 27, 2009     6:15pm & 9:00pm

The Sidney Bechet Society presents a tribute to two legendary jazz venues: Stuyvesant Casino & Central Plaza.  Joining Vince will be Randy Reinhart, trumpet; Mark Lopeman, reeds; Jim Fryer, trombone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Kenny Salvo, banjo; Rob Garcia, drums, and Ricky Gordon on washboard.  During the 1940s and 1950s, these were the hotbeds of traditional Jazz in NYC. All the greats played there. Vince Giordano will lead a hot band recreating the music one would hear at both establishments. Special guest stars are pianist Marty Napoleon & clarinetist Sol Yaged, who played at both venues. Marty & Sol are 88 and 87 years old, respectively, and still swinging hard!  Tickets are $25, available at the box office, by telephone and online at http://www.symphonyspace.org (use code “RAC102” when ordering online).  Special 2 show discount: get our Sept. 29 & Oct. 27 shows for $44.  This offer is good at box office & phone only—use code “SBS 01”

“WHERE’D YOU GET THOSE EYES?”

Daryl Sherman knows the answer to that question, and so much more.  Here she is, having the time of everyone’s life, on June 8, 2009, at the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, paying tribute to Johnny Mercer — with the able help of Wycliffe Gordon, who also seems to be enjoying himself. 

The song (music by Harry Warren) comes from an otherwise frail movie, GOING PLACES, where Louis Armstrong sang it to a horse, conveniently named “Jeepers Creepers.”  This must have been one of those films where Faulkner, Huxley, or Fitzgerald had nothing to do with the screenplay.  But the equine clamor Wycliffe invents late in his solo is obviously a tribute to Louis, the film, and — dare I say it? — his own brand of horseplay.

If you’d like to hear more of Miss Sherman and Mister Gordon paying tribute to Mister Mercer, check out Daryl’s new Arbors CD — it’s a beauty!

OUR NEW YORK JAZZ HOLIDAY (June 7-10, 2009)

It wasn’t really a holiday.  I still had to get up and go to work, which I proudly did, even when mildly wobbly.  The Beloved had her deadlines to meet, too. 

But last Sunday – Wednesday were a jazz feast in New York City, and (remembering my loyal readers who don’t always get to the same gigs we do) I brought my trusty video camera.* 

I won’t rhapsodize about the music.  As Charlie Parker told the terminally unhip Earl Wilson, “Music speaks louder than words.” 

The week began on Sunday (that’s The Ear Inn calendar rather than the Julian or the Georgian) at 8 PM, when New Orleanian Duke Heitger joined Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, and Neal Miner for hot, soulful jazz.  Here, from the first set, is a rollicking yet serious WEARY BLUES:

Those who know their Hot History will already be aware that Duke comes from a musical family (his father, Ray, is a splendid clarinetist) but that Duke himself was inspired to dig deeper and soar higher by his exposure to another Michigander, Maestro Kellso.  So this was a playing reunion of two friends, brotherly improvisers. 

The second set at the Ear usually brings surprises.  Trombonist Harvey Tibbs had joined the band at the end of the first set, and he was joined by Dan Block on clarinet and the truly divine Tamar Korn, who sings with the Cangelosi Cards. 

Tamar’s final song (of three) was a genuinely ethereal MOONGLOW — and even the rocking head of the woman in front of me couldn’t distract me from the beauty Tamar and the band created.  Not only did Tamar become one lonely Mills Brother; she became Eddie South; she sang most touchingly.  And, in the middle, Jon-Erik and Duke growled, moaned, and plunged; then Harvey and Dan summoned up the ghosts of Lawrence Brown and Barney Bigard.  When it was all over, Jackie Kellso turned to me and reverently said, “That has to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard,” and I wasn’t about to argue with her. 

Monday found the Beloved and myself dressed up for a visit to the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel — where singer / pianist Daryl Sherman was performing a centennial tribute to Johnny Mercer with the help of Wycliffe Gordon, James Chirillo, and Boots Maleson.  Daryl, bless her, gave my favorite unknown Mercer song its “live premiere,” as a sweet duet with Wycliffe.  THE BATHTUB RAN OVER AGAIN, for that’s its name, has never been performed much — but its classic debut was on a 1934 Decca session where Mercer himself sang it (he was a wonderfully wry singer) with the help of Jack Teagarden, Sterling Bose, and Dick McDonough.  The recording’s hard to find but it is a prize, as is this performance, impish and sweet at the same time.  (Matilda, the Algonquin’s resident cat, now thirteen, was snooty as always to us, but beauty is its own burden, even if you’re a Ragdoll.  Perhaps especially so?)

Tuesday found us uptown at Roth’s Westside Steakhouse for a duet session by Duke and pianist Ehud Asherie.  They began with a dreamily romantic YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME at a slow tempo, which suggested to me that the advantage-taking was something sought after.  Without imitating anyone, Duke evoked Ruby Braff and Bobby Hackett; Ehud’s stroll had the leisurely pace of great slow-motion stride playing. 

Then, the duo performed one of my favorite 1939-40 Basie classics, Lester Young’s dancing TICKLE-TOE, with true gliding style.

Duke and Ehud then decided to explore ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE (thought by some to be the sole property of “modern” jazzmen — how wrong such narrow thinking is!) — complete with its lovely verse.

Trombonist John Allred, who had been waiting for his steak to arrive, decided to jump forward to dessert, so he joined Duke and Ehud for a rousing TEA FOR TWO:

Duke and Ehud then created a sprinting version of James P. Johnson’s RUNNIN’ WILD:

After dinner, John came back for a jubilant THEM THERE EYES:

 On Wednesday, I met the Beloved at Birdland (which could be the title of a good Thirties pop song) for a special assemblage — David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Centennial Band (David, Anat Cohen, Dion Tucker, Kevin Dorn) plus guests Duke Heitger and Dick Hyman.  Here they are for a beautiful, hymnlike reading of Ellington’s SOLITUDE.  Duke’s Louis-lyricism and Hyman’s chiming chords are specially moving here:

Clarinetist and prankster Ken Peplowski had been in the club (before the music began) for an informal photo shoot, and he came onstage to join them for a frisky version of Don Redman’s HEAH ME TALKIN’ TO YA (or YOU, for the formal):

 

More to come!  Watch this space! 

*The asterisk is to remind any cinematic auteurs that my cinematography is at best functional: the music’s the thing, no matter how many people walk through my shot or sit in front of my lens.  I haven’t managed to make any dark, cluttered, noisy club into an ideal set, but I keep trying.

LORNA SASS’S JAZZ PORTRAITS (June 2009)

People know Lorna Sass’s brilliant photographs of Sicilian wildflowers, Utah rock formations, blossoms in Central Park, and urban landscapes: gargoyles and animals leering from apartment buildings, fences and benches, the architecture we don’t always see.  But how many people know her as a superb jazz photographer, someone who catches sound and emotion while they’re still fresh?  Here are some portraits taken in the last few days.  They resonate.  And if you don’t know Lorna’s fauna and flora, visit www.lornasassatlarge.wordpress.com

Daryl Sherman and Wycliffe Gordon at the Oak Room

Daryl Sherman and Wycliffe Gordon at the Oak Room

Duke Heitger, John Allred, and Ehud Asherie at Roth's Westside Steakhouse

Duke Heitger, John Allred, and Ehud Asherie at Roth's Westside Steakhouse

David Ostwald, Kevin Dorn, Ken Peplowski, Anat Cohen, Duke Heitger, Dion Tucker at Birdland

David Ostwald, Kevin Dorn, Ken Peplowski, Anat Cohen, Duke Heitger, Dion Tucker at Birdland

Ehud Asherie studies Dick Hyman at Birdland

Ehud Asherie studies Dick Hyman at Birdland

FRANKIE MANNING FEST (May 21-25)

This four-day New York celebration was planned to celebrate the 95th birthday of dancer, choreographer, generous spirit, and inspiration Frankie Manning — who, as they say, departed this earthly life a bit too soon.  But the festivities go on — featuring, among others,

Dancer Norma Miller, musicians Wycliffe Gordon, Houston Person, Evan Christopher, Matt Munisteri, David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band, the Cangelosi Cards, a number of documentaries, and an abundance of swing dancing.  Here’s the schedule.  Even if you’re going to be miles away from Manhattan, or if you move sluggishly on the dance floor, visit www.frankie95.com.

Thursday, May 21

3:00 PM Open registration & Contest Sign In Manhattan Center Lobby

6:30 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

6:45 PM Special screening of the documentary Frankie Manning:

Never Stop Swinging Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

7:30 PM Talk with Norma Miller Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

8:00 PM Hellzapoppin’ contest registration ends Manhattan Center Lobby

9:00 PM Dancing begins with The New Orleans Jazz Vipers and Gordon Webster;

Performances;

Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

9:00 PM Competitors’ Meeting Grand Ballroom-Balcony Level

11:30 PM Hellzapoppin Wildcard round Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

1:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

3:00 AM Dance Ends

Friday, May 22

9:00 AM Memorial Service Jam begins, featuring Benny Powell, Frank Wess, Yvette Glover, and others. Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

(5th Ave & 55th st)

10:00 AM Memorial Service Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church

12:00 PM Second Line From Church to Park led by David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band Fifth Avenue

12:30 PM Central Park Dance with George Gee & His Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra & David Ostwald’s Gully Low Jazz Band Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

1:30 PM Break World Records Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

3:45 PM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

4:00 PM Registration Check In Opens Manhattan Center Lobby

5:00 PM Central Park Dance Ends Central Park Naumberg Bandshell

6:30 PM Competitors’ Meeting Hammerstein Ballroom-3rd floor Balcony Level

6:30 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

7:00 PM Presentation: Remembering Frankie Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

9:00 PM Dancing begins with The Blue Vipers of Brooklyn and Ron Sunshine & Full Swing;

Performances

Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

12:30 AM Hellzapoppin Semi-Finals Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Late Night Entry (As space permits) Manhattan Center Lobby

12:40 AM Late Night beings with The Cangelosi Cards and The Paul Tillotson’s Trio;

Performances Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

2:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

4:00 AM Dance Ends

Saturday, May 23

9:00 AM Masters Auditions Alvin Ailey School

9:00 AM Registration Check In Opens Manhattan Center Lobby

10:00 AM 1st Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

11:30 AM 2nd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

1:00 PM 3rd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

2:30 PM 4th Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

4:30 PM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Rain back up. 424 West 34th St.

4:30 PM Lindy Hop & Big Apple: A History Program for Kids by Cynthia Millman Professional Children’s School

6:00 PM Competitors’ Meeting Hammerstein Ballroom-3rd floor Balcony Level

6:00 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

6:30 PM Savoy Era Panel Discussion Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

8:30 PM Dancing with George Gee & His Make Believe Ballroom Orchestra, The Harlem Renaissance Orchestra, and Frank Foster & The Loud Minority;

Hellzapoppin Finals (approx. 9:25PM);

Frankie95 Worldwide Routine;

All Band Super Finale Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Late Night Entry (As space permits) Manhattan Center Lobby

2:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

4:00 AM Dance Ends

Sunday, May 24

10:00 AM Registration Check In Opens Manhattan Center Lobby

11:00 AM 1st Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

12:30 PM 2nd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

2:00 PM 3rd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School/424 West 34th St.

4:00 PM Presentation:

The Story of the Big Apple

The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

5:30 PM J & J Competitors’ Meeting Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

6:00 PM House doors open for seating to the show (first-come first-serve basis) Grand Ballroom/ Hammerstein Ballroom

7:00 PM Ambassador of Swing: The Frankie Manning Story

Starts Manhattan Center-Grand Ballroom

9:15 PM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Semi-Final Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

10:00 PM Dancing with The Boilermaker Jazz Band and Jonathan Stout & His Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander;

Competition Awards Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

12:00AM World’s Biggest Jack and Jill Final; Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Late Night Entry (As space permits) Manhattan Center Lobby

1:30 AM All Star Band Jam with Evan Christopher;

Performances Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

2:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

4:00 AM Dance Ends

Monday, May 25

10:00 AM Open registration Sign In Manhattan Center Lobby

11:00 AM 1st Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School

12:30 PM Presentation:

Dawn Hampton: Bhangra The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

12:30 PM Informal Picnic in the Park;

Unguided Harlem Tour (explore on your own)

Central Park-Sheep Meadow

12:30 PM 2nd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School

1:30 PM Presentation (Tentative) 424 West 34th St.

2:00 PM 3rd Workshop begins Alvin Ailey School/LaGuardia High School

2:00 PM Presentation:

Everything Remains Raw:

Connecting Jazz Dance and Hip Hop The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

3:00 PM Presentation 424 West 34th St.

3:30 PM Presentation:

The History of Swing Dance

led by Peter Loggins The Gymnasium at 424 W.34th street (between 9th and 10th avenue)

6:30 PM Ballroom Opens Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

7:00 PM Discussion Panel: The 80’s Revival: Re-Discovering Frankie and Lindy Hop Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

9:00 PM Dancing with the Houston Person Quartet and the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet & the Battle of the ‘Bones;

Performances Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

11:59 PM Birthday Countdown Manhattan Center-Hammerstein Ballroom

1:00 AM Registration Closes Manhattan Center Lobby

2:00 AM Event Ends

2:00 AM Afterhours Party: Frankie Forever with Kim Nallie Dance Sport Studios (22 W. 34th st, 4th floor)

6:00 AM Afterhours End

WE LOVE GEORGE AVAKIAN! (PORTRAITS BY LORNA SASS)

These four photographs are the handiwork of Lorna Sass.  Camera at the ready, she captured moments in the darkness at Birdland last Wednesday, when we gathered to celebrate George Avakian’s 90th birthday, each photograph a small essay in itself. 

avakian-band-2

At first, this might look like a typical study of the band in action, but Lorna captured Randy Sandke’s exultant shout, cheering Anat Cohen on in the midst of her hugh-flying solo.  Jazz camaraderie!

avakian-wycliffe-3

 Wycliffe Gordon, intense and serene, at one with the music sweeping through him.

avakian-ms-4

Happy to be here!  Left, Michael Steinman (your humble correspondent); right, George himself.

avakian-1

I hope with all my heart that George gets whatever he wished for at that moment.  Certainly he’s made so many of our jazz dreams come true.   

Photographs copyright 2009 by Lorna Sass.  All rights reserved.