Tag Archives: Yeats

A FEW BEAUTIFUL SECONDS OF LESTER YOUNG ON CLARINET: THE FAMOUS DOOR, 1938

The sound of Lester Young’s clarinet is beautiful and elusive.  Whitney Balliett, I think, who always had the right word, called it “lemony,” and it lingers on the mind’s palate in just that way.  There isn’t enough of it on record: a few solos with Basie, on record and live; the Kansas City Six session . . . but now we have about nineteen seconds of beauty — thanks to Loren Schoenberg, Bill Savory, and Herschel Evans, whose BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL (a close relation to CAN’T WE TALK IT OVER) is the foundation for this wistful, too-brief piece of music.

Play it once, play it a dozen times: music when soft voices die lives long in the memory.  We celebrate Lester Young as we say a sad goodbye to him.  A tender man, a joyously elliptical soul, too tender for this rough world, he blazed and left.  “What made us think he would comb grey hair?” said Yeats of another man, dead too soon.

May your happiness increase.

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YES! NEW MUSIC FROM THE CANGELOSI CARDS

The Cangelosi Cards provoke enthusiastic affirmations wherever they go. 

And recently they’ve gone as far as I can imagine — to the House of Blues and Jazz in Shanghai, China for a three-month residency.  They’re returning for gigs between October 22 and November 4, including a stint at the Nanjing Jazz Festival,  October 22nd-28th. The group will also make a four-city tour including Nanjing, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. 

I am cheered by their widening circle of friends.  But for those of us who can’t drop everything and follow the Cards to China, there’s new musical evidence to savor.

When I first heard the Cards at Banjo Jim’s some years ago, I was moved by their swinging momentum and deep feeling — unaffected sentiment with a rocking pulse.  The singular instrumental voices always sounded like a conversation — intimate yet fervent — that I was privileged to eavesdrop on.  When Tamar Korn began to sing, the experience became otherworldly, music coming from what Yeats called “the deep heart’s core.” 

Tamar and the band loved the music of the Boswell Sisters — not only the beautiful repertoire and hot solos but the vocal harmonies and sophisticated arrangements.  I saw Tamar and her sweetly singing friends Naomi Uyama and Mimi Terris create their own variations on the Boswell repertoire.  I remember their acapella rendition of MOONGLOW performed on the sidewalk outside Banjo Jim’s brought me to tears. 

Now that experience has taken tangible shape, for Tamar, Mimi, and Naomi,  as “The Three Diamonds,” have recorded a mini-CD of three selections backed by the Cards (Gordon Webster, Dennis Lichtman, Jake Sanders, Matt Musselman, Cassidy Holden, and Marcus Milius). 

It’s extraordinary music — connected by a celestial theme: STARDUST, MOONGLOW, and the lesser-known WHEN MY BLUE MOON TURNS TO GOLD AGAIN.  The EP will be available at the Cards’ shows and can be purchased online at www.losmusicosviajeros.net for $3 plus shipping.

And since the Cards are back in New York City for a moment, they can be experienced at Harefield Road, where, to quote Jake, they’re “inviting a bunch of folks out this Sunday, some good friends-fine players from other groups.”  Harefield Road is on Metropolitan between Graham and Humboldt in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the third stop on the L.  The Cards will play from 5 to 9. 

Members of the band will also be playing at MOTO (http://www.cafe-moto.com) on Friday nights from 9 to midnight. 

And they will also be presented in concert by the New Jersey Jazz Society — at the Bickford Theatre in Morristown, New Jersey, on October 11.  The concert begins at 8 PM: tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.  The Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum: On Columbia Turnpike/Road (County Road 510) at the corner of Normandy Heights Road, east of downtown Morristown.    The hall is near Interstate 287 and the Route 24 Expressway.  It seats 300 and there’s ample on-site parking and wheelchair access.  Weeknight concerts are one long set (8 to 9:30 PM).  Tickets may be purchased via credit card over the phone by calling the box office at (973) 971-3706.  The box office can also provide information and directions, or email Jazzevents@aol.com.

MARTY GROSZ: “EARLY BENNY”

I first saw Marty Grosz at close range in 1974 when he was an invaluable member of Soprano Summit — at a concert at the New York Jazz Museum (Bob Wilber, Kenny Davern, Marty, bassist Mickey Golizio, and the unsurpassed Cliff Leeman).  I recall that he introduced one of his vocal features, ISN’T LOVE THE STRANGEST THING? as having been composed by the house detective at a large hotel in St. Louis.  So his comedic credentials are solid.  And everyone knows him as a peerless rhythm guitarist in the old style.  Fewer appreciate his singing, especially his Red McKenzie-inspired ballad crooning, and fewer still know what a stellar arranger he is.  And a jazz historian of the first rank, someone who was there and has done his research.  He remains one of my heroes, because he is such fun — even when his wit is at its most acerbic — and because he stubbornly, even perversely, goes his own way against the tide of fashion.  The day I see Marty lugging an amplifier to a gig, then Yeats’s Second Coming surely is at hand.

All of these talents were on display at Jazz at Chautauqua, when Marty presented a program devoted to the early works and associations of one Benny Goodman, with five performances from the second half of the Twenties.  Several crucial factors make this performance even more amazing.  One, none of the musicians had ever seen the charts before, which testifies to their incredible professionalism.  And two: this session began before ten o’clock on a Sunday morning, when some of the players had concluded their last set with the Nighthawks at 1:20 in the morning.  Awe-inspiring fortitude!

Those players: Scott Robinson and Dan Block on reeds; Arnie Kinsella on drums; Vince Giordano on bass sax, aluminum string bass, and tuba; Marty on guitar and banjo; James Dapogny on piano; Andy Schumm on cornet; Bob Havens on trombone.  None of the songs is familiar, so a keen listener might discern some momentary uncertainty with the chord sequence, but I defy any of my readers to be so deft at this hour!

The program began with WHY COULDN’T IT BE POOR LITTLE ME? — a universal plaint at certain times in people’s lives.  I admire Arnie Kinsella’s introduction, Dan Block’s great enthusiasm, and James Dapogny’s romping second chorus:

Perhaps in deference to the early hour, Marty slowed things down (after some comedy) with BLUE (and BROKEN-HEARTED), a pretty song that no one plays in this century.  On the original recording, if memory serves, Goodman also played cornet, although not as well as Andy Schumm:

I don’t believe Marty’s recital of being personally intimidated by Vince so that he would perform this song, but (as with other improvised narratives of Marty’s) it makes a piquant anecdote — preface to I’M WALKING THROUGH CLOVER, originally recorded by the Red Nichols-led “Louisiana Rhythm Kings”:

I associate SENTIMENTAL BABY with one of Red McKenzie’s later vocals, perhaps on a Bud Freeman date for Keynote; Marty took it as a lyrically swinging instrumental, with a simple rocking Thirties riff to end (at a beautiful tempo).  Catch Bob Havens’s coda at the end — shades of Mister Tea:

Finally, a tune with some permanence — at least up until the Forties in Goodman’s repertoire — with a title Marty chose not to explain, THE WANG WANG BLUES.  I leave such linguistic and semantic mysteries to my erudite readers:

“Plenty rhythm” indeed!  Thank you, Marty and cohorts (who range in age from 23 to 81, give or take) for keeping on so nobly.  It was a privilege to be there, to hear and record this session.