Even as jazz as an art form prides itself on “moving forward,” it’s always been affectionately retrospective, cherishing the deep past and the recent past in performance and recordings. Think of Louis bringing his mentor’s DIPPER MOUTH BLUES to the Henderson band, even though Joe Oliver was probably continuing to play it; Bix and Tram recording the ODJB’s OSTRICH WALK; Bird playing Lester’s solo on SHOE SHINE BOY. (I am indebted to Matthew Rivera for reminding me of this idea through his radio broadcast on WKCR.)
One of the most rewarding institutions to come out of jazz’s desire to both honor the past as itself and to make it new was the New York Jazz Repertory Company. Not only did the NYJRC perform at the Newport in New York jazz festival, it brought its “shows” worldwide, most often under the leadership of the brilliant Dick Hyman. I saw Louis and Bix tributes in the early Seventies, and they were electrifying; even better, the NYJRC idea was a staple of the Nice Jazz Festival, and some of the concert performances were broadcast on French television. (I’ve posted a ninety-minute tribute to Benny Goodman recently here.
Trotting through YouTube last night — the cyber-equivalent of my getting on my bicycle when I was thirteen and riding to the public library — I found two half-hour NYJRC delights, posted by others in 2015, that I hadn’t seen before. I predict that you will enjoy them also. The first is a Basie tribute, from July 12, 1978; the second, Duke, July 17, 1977.
Those expecting note-for-note recreations of recordings will be, I think, pleasantly surprised by the openness of the arrangements and the leeway given the “contemporary” soloists to play their personalities. Everything is reasonably idiomatic but there are delightful shocks here and there.
The “Basie band” here is Sweets Edison, Cat Anderson, Jimmie Maxwell, Joe Newman, trumpet; Benny Powell, Dicky Wells, John Gordon, trombone; Paul Bascomb, Paul Moen, Bob Wilber, Pepper Adams, Earle Warren, reeds; Dick Hyman, piano; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Chubby Jackson, string bass; Bobby Rosengarden, drums. I count at least six venerated Basie alumni.
JUMPIN’ AT THE WOODSIDE (Paul Bascomb, Harry Edison, Benny Powell, Bob Wilber, Dick Hyman) / ONE O’CLOCK JUMP (Hyman, Paul Moen, Dicky Wells, Bascomb, Joe Newman, Hyman) / ROCK-A-BYE BASIE (Wilber, Moen, Sweets, Hyman and Chubby Jackson) / HARVARD BLUES (Bascomb, Newman, vocal) / BROADWAY (Wilber, Sweets, Hyman, Wilber, Bascomb, Pepper Adams, Powell, John Gordon, Earle Warren, Cat Anderson, Moen):
and “the Ellington band,” made up of many of the same champions, Hyman, Rosengarden, Wilber, Pepper Adams, Maxwell — with Jon Faddis, Pee Wee Erwin, Joe Newman, trumpets; Eddie Daniels, Zoot Sims, Billy Mitchell, reeds; George Duvivier, string bass, John Mosca, Billy Campbell, Earl McIntyre, trombone:
EAST ST. LOUIS-TOODLE OO (Wilber, Pepper, Daniels, Erwin) / DOUBLE CHECK STOMP (Maxwell, Wilber, Billy Campbell) / JUNGLE NIGHTS IN HARLEM (possibly John Mosca, Maxwell, Daniels) / DOCTOR E.K.E. (composition by Raymond Fol, piano; Mosca, Mitchell, Faddis, Sam Woodyard, drums) / HARLEM AIR-SHAFT (McIntyre, Faddis, Daniels, Joe Newman) / BLUE GOOSE (Wilber, Maxwell, Zoot, Mosca, Wilber) / JUMPIN’ PUNKINS (Duvivier, Pepper, Rosengarden, Hyman, Rosengarden) / CHELSEA BRIDGE (Hyman, Zoot, Hyman, McIntyre):
Honoring the originals and their creators but giving plenty of space to honor the present — a lovely balance. And if you’d rather hear the Basie Deccas and Ellington Victors, they will still be there, undamaged and pristine.
This music is especially poignant — joyous and sad in equal measure — because we lost Dave Frishberg yesterday, November 17, at 88. His last years were not easy, but he had given us so much — memorable compositions both sardonic and tender, sung in his distinctively whimsical voice. But while the obituaries remember him for I’M HIP and MY ATTORNEY BERNIE, I remember him as a peerless jazz improviser, a wonderful soloist and inspiring ensemble player. Jimmie Rowles was his model (a summit he would be the first to tell you he’d never reached) but he clearly loved Ellington and Basie and their delightful waywardnesses. I encountered him in person twice, and our one brief conversation showed him to be very modest to the point of shyness, a very endearing personality written in lower-case cursive. There won’t be another like him, and it will take a long time before we stop missing him.
I didn’t get to The Half Note until some six years after this recording, so I missed a great deal, but I remember it as a welcoming place. The friendly Canterino family, the Italian food, the splendid music. Here’s a brief sample — a radio broadcast, no less, with the master of ceremonies Alan Grant, featuring Zoot and Al, tenor saxophones; Dave Frishberg, piano; Major Holley, string bass; Mousey Alexander, drums; Jimmy Rushing, vocal.
It’s a slightly dim copy, but the music bursts right through the tape hiss: HALEY’S COMET / EXPENSE ACCOUNT / [Art Farmer announced] I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME (vocal JR):
Cities never stay the same, so in the sorrowful name of SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI, when I’ve walked to The Ear Inn at 326 Spring Street, I pass by the corner where The Half Note once flourished: it’s a deli now. But they can’t take our memories away from us.
And a postscript: my friend Mal Sharpe, also no longer tangibly with us, told me he wanted to have a bumper sticker that read HONK IF YOU MISS JIMMY RUSHING. I loved the idea, but told him I would be wary, because I’d never know the clear intent of someone honking at me. But we miss them all so deeply.
Once I was a hero-worshipping autograph-seeker (“hound” is so dismissive). Beginning in 1967, I asked Louis, Teddy Wilson, Jo Jones, Vic Dickenson, Sonny Greer, Buck Clayton, Bobby Hackett, Zoot Sims, and others, for theirs. Oddly, only Jo, who had a reputation for being irascible and unpredictable, asked my name and inscribed my record “To Micheal.” Other musicians I would have liked to ask but either found them intimidating, or — since I was a criminal with a poorly concealed cassette recorder — thought it best to stay hidden.
Autograph-seeking presumes reverential distance. I am a Fan, you are The Star. The Fan approaches the Star, timidly, politely, holds out a piece of paper or some other object, and asks for a signature or an inscription. In that ten-second interchange, the Fan feels seen, and the Star may feel exhausted or be gratified by the appearance of a Fan or a line of them. (In my literary life, I asked Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Richard Ford, and Julian Barnes to sign books. And Whitney Balliett.)
But I no longer chase Stars. Were I to have asked Jim Dapogny, Connie Jones, Jake Hanna, or Joe Wilder for “an autograph,” they would have found the request strange, because I had been talking or eating with them as a presumed equal. I am sure the anthropologists have a name for this kind of cultural transgression, as if your mother made special waffles for your birthday and you left her a tip, even 25%. In my world, at least, many of the Stars have become Friends: whether formality is a thing of the past or my stature has changed, I have no need to investigate.
I will say that, a few years ago, when a musician-friend of mine, thinking to praise me, said I was “the best fan” he knew, I snapped, “I’m not a Fan!” and then explained what I associated with the term. He changed his designation, to what I don’t remember, and it felt better.
Yet I think autographs are sacred — here is a photograph that Sidney Catlett held and wrote on. The Deity comes to Earth for thirty seconds and touches down. I have bought or copied pieces of paper signed by Pete Brown, Rod Cless, Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell (who wrote his first name as two separate words, should you wonder), Adrian Rollini, Claude Hopkins, and more.
I continue to keep track of such holy relics on eBay, as people who follow JAZZ LIVES know. In that spirit, here are manifestations of the autograph dance.
Someone came to Cab Calloway — anywhere between 1942 (when the record was issued) and his death in 1994, and asked him to sign this lovely purple OKeh 78, which he did, with his signature phrase, in the white ink used for record labels:
I have seen enough Cab-signatures to think this one authentic.
And here he is — in his best passionate mode, with a very early reading of Alec Wilder’s classic:
This autograph’s closer to home for me:
Again, completely authentic. But from what I know — from my own experience of Ruby (and this could have been signed any time between 1954 and 2002) I am reasonably sure that when the admiring Fan approached him, Ruby would have said something dismissive, because he disdained his early work vehemently. I recall when I first met him in 1971, praising his MY MELANCHOLY BABY on a new Atlantic recording by George Wein’s Newport All-Stars, and Ruby’s response was terse, curt, and precise, “THAT shit?” Difficult to find shades of ambiguity in that response.
Here’s Ruby’s ELLIE (one of his few compositions) from that date, with Johnny Guarnieri, Walter Page, Bobby Donaldson:
Some artists, remarkably, used the occasion to impart a message — in this case, a moral lesson. Saxophonist Don Lanphere, later in life, was born again and changed his life completely . . . so much so that an inscription became a chance to spread the Gospel:
It feels as if Don had more than a momentary acquaintance with Debbie, Ron, and Bob, but I may be assuming too much.
Here’s his beautiful DEAR OLD STOCKHOLM from the 1983 sessions, a duet with pianist Don Friedman:
Those three examples suggest face-to-face contact, and certainly a few words being exchanged. The closing artifact, here, comes from another dance entirely. For instance, I have a photograph signed by Connee Boswell, in her distinctive hand, and then personalized by her secretary, and I presume this all was done by mail, that the Fan wrote to Miss Boswell asking for an autographed picture — and that Connee, sometime, somewhere, sat down with a pile of them and signed her name a hundred or five hundred times in a sitting, and the photos could then be sent off. (Better, mind you, than Benny Goodman requiring people who worked for him to copy his signature onto photographs.)
I had to do some quick research to find out (to remind myself) that the 8-track tape was popular between 1965 and the late Seventies . . . it was replaced by the smaller, more flexible cassette tape, which could also be recorded on. I saw these tapes and players in action, but neither my parents nor I had an 8-track deck in our respective cars.
But some people did. Thus . . .
I note with amusement the ages of the attractive couple on the cover: would you think that in 1970 they would be close-dancing to Harry rather than the Stones? I doubt it. And inside:
This was on sale on eBay for a very low price: $10 plus 3.99 shipping, and I asked a dear friend who admires Harry if he wanted it as a gift, and he snorted and said, “Please,” in the way that people do when they really mean, “I’ll kill you.” I amused myself by imagining the scene of the person or couple coming across the dance floor to Harry at the set break and asking him to sign their new treasure, which he did quickly and without fanfare. But I was wrong, because a return to eBay showed two other signed sets, which suggests to me that Harry spent some tedious hours at home or in a hotel room, signing set after set, box after box. Hence:
At least those purchasers got a “Sincerely.” I remember sets packaged by the Longines Symphonette Society, but can’t recall whether they were offered on television after 11 PM, and whether the autographed sets cost more.
Here’s a favorite recording by Harry, the October 1939 SLEEPY TIME GAL, in three tempos, with just the rhythm section — Jack Gardner, piano; Brian “Red” Kent, guitar; Thurman Teague, string bass; Ralph Hawkins, drums:
I hope you noticed the profound Louis-influence there, starting with the opening references to SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH. It’s the perfect segue to this delightful photograph — place, date, and photographer unknown (thanks to Loren Schoenberg for the Facebook “Rare Jazz Photos” group) of two men beaming love at each other. Feel free to invent appropriate dialogue:
First, some music. I’m told it speaks louder than words. Ephie Resnick, trombone, and Marty Grosz, guitar — the epitome of passionate tenderness in IT MUST BE TRUE:
and the same pair of brave improvisers, energized beyond belief, for ROSE OF WASHINGTON SQUARE, a frolicsome RUNNIN’ WILD, and STRUT MISS LIZZIE:
My first post on Ephie Resnick, based on a phone conversation we had on July 6 (and a few postscripts afterwards) here, got some deserved attention. Some time later, Ephie’s remarkable friend Cyra Greene called and we chatted at length; she told me that Ephie had more stories for me. I was elated and said I would be delighted to write more, so the phone rang and it was Ephie, who — after brief courtesies — said, “Thank you for making me relevant,” and we agreed to extend his musical memoir a bit more. It is more a free-association than a chronological journey, but these gaps Ephie and I were eager to fill in.
I was in London for ten years, and I played with a Dixieland band — and the leader, I wish you’d put his name down, Chas McDevitt — incidentally, he had an uncle who was a trumpet player, who was a doctor, and he told me, it didn’t matter what time he came home, how tired he was, he would go into a room and play for half an hour, to keep up his chops. So I thought that was a great thing. With Chas, we played almost every week. We played clubs all over the country. We did some festivals, and we did a record. And on that record I play a couple of solos that are the most beautiful solos I’ve done on record. I don’t have a copy. Maybe I can ask him for one. And that’s that.
I did a six-week tour with the pianist Billy Taylor. The other guys in the band, except for the trombone player, who was Eddie Bert, were all from a black collective. It was a black band except for Eddie and myself, and Billy Taylor was a beautiful guy, and I just wanted to mention that.
I’m on the recording of the original HELLO, DOLLY!, and they had a black DOLLY, and I’m on that recording too. That was with Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway, and that was superlative, something special.
I studied with Lennie Tristano. I took a couple of lessons from him, and he said I was a schizophrenic trombone player, because I played Dixieland and I wanted to play his stuff. He was a popular teacher then, and he had sessions, like once a week, with his regular people and a lot of students. I never worked with him, but he played with us. The idea was not to repeat yourself if possible. Whatever you’re doing, don’t repeat yourself. So you have to keep searching. That was an important experience for me, I loved that.
The trumpet player Charlie McCarty was a sub-leader for Lester Lanin. I worked a lot for Lester Lanin. And Meyer Davis, if you remember that name. Both of them were horrible people. Just absolutely horrible. But they worked a lot. Meyer Davis, he was busy. He worked two jobs every day. So he bought an ambulance. After the first job was over, he’d get in the ambulance, change his clothes, and with the siren blowing, he’d get to the next job on time. I don’t know, that’s sort of interesting. About Charlie, when the business was ending, and he was getting sick, we started having sessions in his house, for about five years, every week, with all kinds of people. He was very good.
One of the guys I played with with Billy Taylor called me and said there was a benefit for somebody. And at the time, I’d had an accident and I was out of work again. So I got up on stage and in a couple of minutes Teddy Wilson walked in, and he played four or five tunes. He was old, but beautiful nonetheless.
I did a record with Stan Getz, well, not with him, but with an orchestra behind him. He did two of those things — big, splashy things. FOCUS by Eddie Sauter is one of them, the other with a small band. I was on the one with the big band. He had his son with him at the session, and from the beginning to the end, he didn’t make one mistake. Everything was perfection. Absolute perfection.
In the early Forties, I started to play with all kinds of people, I ran into Willie “the Lion” Smith. We played a couple of — not jobs — but a session, and he invited me to come back to another one. He was crazy. He was wonderful.
I worked in that Buddy Rich group with Sweets Edison and Zoot Sims. Buddy was mean. Mean and cantankerous and sort of rotten. He exuded evilness, or something. He would make the band get up on the stand at the time we were going to play, but he wouldn’t get up. He’d stay down, maybe ten more minutes, and then he’d get up. Somebody once said, “Why do we have to get up here early? Why aren’t you up here?” and he said, “I want you there.” Once in a while he’d invite a drummer from the crowd to come up and play, and then he’d play something as fast as he could play. The greatest drummer in the world, absolutely sensational. He could do anything. He could play a roll with brushes that sounded like sticks. He used to play theatres with his big band, and he couldn’t read, so all he had to do was hear something once, and he knew it. So he was positively a genius of some sort. Zoot and Sweets were sweet people, wonderful people. And the band just swung. No fancy arrangements, we just played standards. It was fun. Beautiful, easy.
I didn’t see Monk, but can I tell you a story about Monk? I was listening to a religious station, and the guy talking, he was a schoolteacher then, and he was supposed to play for us. He told the story that someone walked in — he had a funny hat on and he sat akimbo on the piano stool, and then he started to play, and it was weird stuff, he didn’t understand what he was doing, and then after a while he came to the conclusion that this guy was special. He was wonderful. And it was Thelonious Monk. And coming from a religious guy, that amazed me. He was willing to hear.
Kenny Davern and I played together a lot when we were younger. He had a peculiar style, but it was his own style of playing. Nobody played like him. He was wonderful.
I saw Charlie Parker quite a bit at Birdland, because it was cheap — I think it was two dollars — so I went a lot.
Eddie Condon was such a sweet man, but he was drunk all of the time. ALL of the time. But when I played with him, occasionally, subbing for Cutty Cutshall, once in a while with Wild Bill. But he said when I came there that he wouldn’t call his guitar a porkchop. He’d call it a lambchop. He knew I was Jewish. So I thought that was nice. He was a funny man. And for what he did, he was the best. His chords were good, his time was good, he’d really fill in, whatever you’d need. He was wonderful in his own way of playing. George Wettling was a sweet, wonderful guy until he got drunk. Then he was a terrible person.
I went down to see Bunk Johnson. I didn’t play with him, but I saw him a lot. I was really into that music, and I loved that trombone player, Jim Robinson, he was one of the best I’ve ever heard for that type of music. He didn’t play much but he stuck those notes in in absolutely correct and invigorating places. And Bunk, nobody played like that, nobody ever played like that. Beautiful. And there were crowds every night when he was there. Dancers. It was an exciting time.
I loved playing with Max Kaminsky. I worked a lot with him, for years. He was a simple player, but he kept the time. His time was great. I played with Jimmy McPartland, but I never liked him much, except on old records. But when I played with him in person, I didn’t like him. His wife was wonderful. I loved her. I played with her a couple of times, with him. She was a total piano player, boy, she was great.
I have a book that a friend gave me a couple of months ago, and my picture’s in that book — it’s called THE BEAT SCENE. In the back there are signatures. Barbara Ferraro is one, Gregory Corso and his address, 170 East 2nd Street, George Preston with an address, then Jack Kerouac, Seven Arts Coffee Shop, 82 Club, 2nd Avenue, the Cedar, Chinatown, the Five Spot — that’s where he hung out, in case you wanted to get him. And then there was Dean Dexter, Artie Levin, Bob Thiemen. I never played at the Five Spot or the Open Door. I didn’t do that.
[I’d asked Ephie — of all the musicians he’d played with, who gave the greatest thrills, and he sighed.] Look, when I was playing badly, I didn’t care who I was playing with. When I was playing well, it didn’t matter to me. They all were above me. Every one of them was above me.
Ephie wanted me to make special mention of Max Steuer, that when Ephie went to London and stayed for ten years,” that Max — reader emeritus at the London School of Economics, who liked jazz — and his wife Christine (who, as Christine Allen, worked as an agent for jazz musicians to help them find broader audiences) were very kind to him, subsidized his CD NEW YORK SURVIVOR, and that he lived with them when he first came to the UK. (By the way, Ephie’s British friends, thanks to Malcolm Earle Smith and Chas McDevitt, have sent me wonderful stories — loving and hilarious and insightful — that will appear in a future Ephie post.)
Speaking of real estate, Ephie told me that he had lived in Jackson Heights, New York, for sixty years before moving to Brooklyn, and that his rent in Jackson Heights had started at ninety-five dollars a month.
Incidentally, to someone unaccustomed to it, Ephie’s voice can sound gruff, but I’ve learned through these telephone calls that his heart is large, and he has people who love him all over the world. And he has a sweet puckish sense of humor. In another phone conversation, when he inquired about my health with the greatest sincerity, I said, “I’m going to call you Doctor Resnick,” and he said, not missing a beat, “My father was ‘Dr. Resnick.’ He was a dentist. And we always got mail for ‘Dr. Resnick.’ When I moved out, and I started getting mail for ‘Mr. Resnick,’ I felt cheated.”
I’ve mentioned that Ephie is very deeply engaged in what I would call informal physical rehabilitation, and in our conversations, I revealed myself as seriously sedentary (it takes many hours in a chair in front of a computer to create blogposts like this) which concerned him. At the end of our second conversation, there was this wonderfully revealing sign-off from Ephie, whose compassion for someone he’d never met before the summer of 2020 is beautiful. I present it here so that you can hear his voice, and because I am touched by it:
I will have more to share with you about this remarkable human being, whose singularity does not stop when he is not playing music.
Jake Hanna said it best, “You get too far from Basie, you’re just kidding yourself.” So this post and the performance it contains are as close to Basie as anyone might get in 1975 — the loose jam-session spirit of the 1938-9 band at the Famous Door. Some of the originals couldn’t make it for reasons you can investigate for yourself, but more than enough of the genuine Basieites were on this stage to impart the precious flavor of the real thing.
For the first song, JIVE AT FIVE, the composer, Harry “Sweets” Edison was on hand, among friends: Buddy Tate, Zoot Sims, tenor saxophone; Earle Warren, alto saxophone; Vic Dickenson, trombone; Johnny Guarnieri, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; George Duvivier, string bass; Ray Mosca, drums.
Then, LESTER LEAPS IN, with the addition of Lockjaw Davis, Illinois Jacquet, tenor saxophone; Clark Terry, Joe Newman, trumpet. And deliciously, Miss Helen Humes recalled those sweet songs from her Basie days, SONG OF THE WANDERER / BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL / DON’T WORRY ‘BOUT ME.
I’m certain Jake would have approved, and the Count also.
The splendid people at jgautographs (on eBay) have reached into the apparently bottomless treasure chest and come up with an assortment of photographs for sale. The auction has a time limit, so don’t (as we say) dither.
Bill, Kenny, and Bob, also riding the range, although dressed like city slickers.
Question: what do Bobby Hackett, George Barnes, Flip Phillips, Bob Wilber, Bud Freeman, Connie Jones, Max Kaminsky, Joe Venuti, Lou Stein, Joe Wilder, Zoot Sims, Ralph Sutton, Kenny Davern, Dick Wellstood, Scott Hamilton, Milt Hinton, Bucky and John Pizzarelli, Greg Cohen, Dick Hyman, Urbie Green, Trummy Young, Vic Dickenson, Hank Jones, Bob Haggart, Dick Cathcart, Jess Stacy, Joe Bushkin, Dave McKenna, John Best, Franz Jackson, Wild Bill Davison, Butch Miles, Jack Lesberg, Dick Johnson, Bob Havens, and a few others have in common . . . . aside from their musical glories?
Urbie, the one, the only.
Answer: They were all caught in performance by Al White and his roving camera (many of them at Dick Gibson’s Colorado jazz parties) — asked to sign the photos — the ones I’ve seen have all been inscribed to Al — and these 8 x 10″ black and white beauties are now being offered at the site above.
In 2000, Al and Ralph Sutton’s biographer James D. Schacter created a large-format book, JAZZ PARTY, with over a hundred of these inscribed photographs, but that book is now out of print, although copies can be found.
Al started life as an amateur drummer and jazz fan, then put on concerts and parties in Arkansas . . . . and at some point began to specialize in candid shots of the musicians he admired.
The noble Dick Cathcart.
The photographs offered on eBay have, for me, a special resonance. For a moment in time, Bobby or Urbie had to touch this piece of paper to sign it, so they are beautiful artifacts or relics or what you will.
I’ve been running out of wall space for some time now (and it would be disrespectful as well as damp to start hanging photographs in the bathroom) so the field is clear for you to visually admire and place bids, even though I might be tempted in two days and twenty-something hours.
I thought you might like some jazz-party-jazz, so here is the priceless 1977 color film (102 minutes) of the Dick Gibson party, “The Great Rocky Mountain Jazz Party,” featuring everyone:
Less than a week ago, I published a post here, marveling at the riches made available in an eBay auction by “jgautographs” which have been all bought up now, including this glorious relic.
I don’t know how much Lester’s signature fetched at the end of the bidding, but Mr. Page’s (with the telltale apostrophe, another mark of authenticity) sold for $147.50, which says there is an enlightened and eager audience out there. That auction offered more than 200 items, and I would have thought the coffers were empty.
Now, the gracious folks as “jgautographs” have offered another seventy items for bid. I can say “gracious with certainty,” because I’ve had a conversation with the head benefactor.
Thisis the eBay link, for those who want to get in line early. The new listing has only one item held over from the past sale, and it is full of riches (including blues luminaries). I’ll mention only a portion: Ellington, Brubeck, Armstrong, Cootie Williams, Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges, Horace Silver, Stan Getz, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Desmond, Don Byas, Dizzy Gillespie, Cat Anderson, Alberta Hunter, Little Brother Montgomery, Coleman Hawkins, Sippie Wallace, Rex Stewart, Ruby Braff, Lee Konitz, Zoot Sims, Jay McShann, Flip Phillips, Billy Butterfield, Phil Woods, Buck Clayton, Buddy Tate, Benny Carter, Bud Freeman, Thad Jones, Charlie Ventura, Teddy Wilson, Eubie Blake, Roy Eldridge, Sweets Edison, Erroll Garner, Tommy Flanagan, Kenny Dorham, Sonny Rollins — you can explore these delights for yourself, and if you have disposable income and wall space, some treasure might be yours. Those whose aesthetic scope is larger than mine will also see signatures of Chick Corea, Archie Shepp, and Keith Jarrett among others . . .
For now, I will offer only five Ellingtonians. And as David Weiner pointed out to me years ago, a sloppy signature is more likely to be authentic, since musicians don’t have desks to sit at after gigs.
Incidentally, “jgautographs” has an astounding website — not just jazz and not just their eBay store: spend a few hours at www.jgautographs.com.
Bob Wilber with the superb drummer Bernard Flegar, after their gig in Bülach, Switzerland, June 11th 2005.
Once again, it is my great privilege to have asked Hank O’Neal to talk about the people he knows and loves — in this case, the recently departed jazz patriarch Bob Wilber, whom Hank knew and recorded on a variety of rewarding projects.
But even before we begin, all of the music Bob and other luminaries (Earl Hines, Joe Venuti, Zoot Sims, Dick Wellstood, Dave McKenna, Lee Konitz, Ruby Braff, Dick Hyman, Buddy Tate, Don Ewell, Mary Lou Williams and dozens more) created can be heard 24/7 on the Chiaroscuro Channel. Free, too.
Here’s the first part, where he recalls the first time he saw Bob, and moves on — with portraits of other notables — Marian McPartland and Margot Fonteyn, Eddie Condon, Bobby Hackett and Vic Dickenson, the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, Teddy Wilson, Bobby Hackett, Soprano Summit, Bobby Henderson, Pug Horton, Summit Reunion, and more:
Bob’s tribute (one of many) to his wife, singer Pug Horton, from 1977, with Scott Hamilton, Chris Flory, Phil Flanigan, and Chuck Riggs:
With Kenny Davern, George Duvivier, Fred Stoll, and Marty Grosz, SOME OF THESE DAYS (1976):
Here’s the second part of Hank’s reminiscence:
and a magical session from 1976 that sought to recreate the atmosphere of the Thirties dates Teddy did with his own small bands — the front line is Bob, Sweets Edison (filling in at the last minute for Bobby Hackett, who had just died), Vic Dickenson, Major Holley, and Oliver Jackson:
Summit Reunion’s 1990 BLACK AND BLUE (Bob, Kenny Davern, Dick Hyman, Milt Hinton, Bucky Pizzarelli, Bobby Rosengarden):
and their 1995 WANG WANG BLUES, with the same personnel:
Too good to ignore! DARLING NELLY GRAY:
and my 2010 contribution to the treasure-chest or toybox of sounds:
I wouldn’t have known of these programs (now shared with us on the Musikladen YouTube channel) except for my good friend, the fine drummer Bernard Flegar. They are rich and delicious.
The WGJB lasted from the late Sixties (when they were a development of the Nine / Ten Greats of Jazz, sponsored by Dick Gibson) to 1978. In some ways, they were both a touring assemblage of gifted veteran players — I believe Robert Sage Wilber, known to his friends worldwide as Bob, is the sole survivor — and a versatile band that echoed the best of the Bob Crosby units, big and small. The WGJB came in for a good deal of sneering because of their hyperbolic title, which was Gibson’s idea, not the musicians’, but from the perspective of 2019, they were great, no questions asked. And they weren’t just a collection of soloists, each taking a turn playing jazz chestnuts (although JAZZ ME BLUES was often on the program); Haggart’s arrangements were splendid evocations of a Swing Era big band with plenty of room, and the WGJB brought its own down-home / Fifty-Second Street energy to current pop tunes (I remember their UP, UP, AND AWAY with delight). And they played the blues.
I remember them with substantial fondness, because the second jazz concert I went to (the first was Louis in 1967, which is starting at the apex) was held in Town Hall, with Gibson as host, probably in 1970, and it featured the WGJB — Vic Dickenson and Eddie Hubble on trombones — and a small group with Al and Zoot, possibly Joe Newman, where they performed THE RED DOOR and MOTORING ALONG, titles no one would forget, and Gibson told his anecdote of the white deer.
These two programs seem to have been sophisticated television offerings: multi-camera perspectives with a great deal of editing from one camera to the other, and beginnings and endings that suggest that these were not finished products. The absence of an audience — or their audible presence — on the first program seems odd, but I don’t mind the quiet. The WGJB could certainly add its own charging exuberance — hear the final ensemble of CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME — that few bands have matched.
The first program features co-leaders Yank Lawson, trumpet; Bob Haggart, string bass, arrangements; Billy Butterfield, trumpet; Bob Wilber, clarinet, soprano; Bud Freeman, tenor saxophone; Bennie Morton, trombone; Sonny Russo, trombone; Dick Wellstood, piano; Gus Johnson, drums; Maxine Sullivan, guest vocalist, and the songs performed are BLUES / MERCY, MERCY, MERCY / DOODLE DOO DOO / THE EEL (featuring its composer, Bud Freeman) / THAT’S A PLENTY (featuring Bob Wilber and Dick Wellstood) / A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY (featuring Maxine Sullivan) / THE LADY IS A TRAMP (Maxine) / SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE/ MY INSPIRATION (closing theme) //:
And here’s another forty-five minute program, presumably aired October 17 of the same year, with certain personnel changes — this time there’s an audience but the band is also dressed with great casualness: Ralph Sutton, piano; Al Klink, tenor saxophone; Peanuts Hucko, clarinet; Bobby Rosengarden, drums; George Masso and Sonny Russo, trombones; Lawson, Haggart, Butterfield, and Maxine, performing AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL / BASIN STREET BLUES (featuring Masso) / CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME (featuring Sutton) / BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME (featuring Lawson and Butterfield) / LIMEHOUSE BLUES (featuring Russo and Masso) / HARLEM BUTTERFLY / EV’RY TIME (featuring Maxine Sullivan) / ST. LOUIS BLUES / STAR DUST (featuring Klink) / RUNNIN’ WILD (featuring Hucko) / BIG NOISE FROM WINNETKA (featuring Haggart and Rosengarden) / SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE / MY INSPIRATION //:
The repertoire for the longer program is more familiar, with few surprises, but that band could roar as well as play pretty ballads and its own version of Thirties funk. What unexpected treasures these programs are.
Duet playing in any genre is difficult — making two into one while keeping the individuals’ individualities afloat. Improvised duet playing, as you can imagine, might be the most wonderful soaring dance of all but it is fraught with the possibility of disaster. Can we agree on a tempo? Is one of us rushing or dragging? Do we agree on the changes? Do we play the tag at the end of every chorus? Do we change key for the final chorus? Or, as Vic Dickenson said, “How do you want to distribute the bounces?”
Evan Arntzen, photograph by Tim Cheeney
But I am sure that some of my most enthralling moments have been as an open-mouthed spectator at some duets: Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines or Buck Washington, Al Cohn and Jimmie Rowles; Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins; Ruby and Dick Hyman; Vic and Ralph Sutton; Eddie Lang and Lonnie Johnson; Zoot Sims and Bucky Pizzarelli, Andrew Oliver and David Horniblow, Marc Caparone and Ray Skjelbred . . . . and and and. Now I add to that list the two fellows photographed above . . . on the basis of two songs in concert.
Here are two lovely examples of how improvised duet playing — by two people, expert and intuitive — can touch our hearts while we marvel at the risks taken and the immense rewards. Pianist Dalton Ridenhour was playing a solo set at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, and gave us a surprise by inviting his colleague and neighbor, clarinetist Evan Arntzen, to the stage for a dozen memorable minutes.
The tender and evocative THAT OLD FEELING:
The song I call CHANGES MADE (and then someone insists that THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE is the properly pious title . . . . what-ever):
I dream of a venue and an occasion where Dalton and Evan could play as long as they wanted . . .
Here is the first part of my conversation with Hank, about an hour — and a post that explains who he is and what he is doing, in case his name is new to you.
Hank O’Neal and Qi, 2003, by Ian Clifford
Hank is a splendid storyteller with a basket of tales — not only about musical heroes, but about what it takes to create lasting art, and the intersection of commerce with that art.
Here’s Hank, talking about the later days of Chiaroscuro, with comments on Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, John Hart, Borah Bergman, “Dollar Brand,” Abdullah Ibrahim, Chuck Israels, and more. But the music business is not the same as music, so Hank talks about his interactions with Audio Fidelity and a mention of rescuer Andrew Sordoni. Please don’t quit before the end of this video: wonderful stories!
The end of the Chiaroscuro story is told on the door — no pot of gold, but a soda machine. However, Hank mentions WBIA, which is, in its own way, the pot of music at the end of the rainbow — where one can hear the music he recorded all day and all night for free — visit here and here:
I asked Hank to talk about sessions he remembered — glorious chapters in a jazz saga. The cast of characters includes Earl Hines, Joe Venuti, Flip Phillips, Kenny Davern, Dave McKenna, Dick Wellstood, Buck Clayton, and more:
Hank and I are going to talk some more. He’s promised, and I’m eager. Soon! And — in case it isn’t obvious — what a privilege to know Mister O’Neal.
Although this CD is rather unobtrusive, no fuss or ornamentation, it captures a truly uplifting musical event, and I do not write those words lightly: music from tenor saxophonist Ted Brown, a mere 88 at the time of this gig, and a splendidly unified, inventive ensemble.
I’ve only known Jon De Luciafor a few years, but I trust his taste completely, and his performances always reward me. Now, if I know that one of Jon’s groups is going to perform, I head to the gig with determination (and my camera). He asked me to write a few lines about this disc, and I was delighted to:
Some jazz listeners disdain “West Coast jazz,” “cool jazz,” or any music in the neighborhood of Lennie Tristano (not just East 32nd Street) as so cerebral that it’s barely defrosted. Jon De Lucia’s Octet shows how wrong that perception is: this music is warm, witty, embracing, not Rubik’s Cube scored for saxophones. Rather, the playful, tender spirit of Lester Young dances through everyone’s heart. This impassioned group swings, even when the players are intently looking at the score. For this gig, the Octet had a great spiritual asset in the gently fervent playing of Ted Brown, a Sage of melodic invention. Also, this session was recorded at one of New York City’s now-lost shrines, Michael Kanan and Stephanie Greig’s “The Drawing Room,” a sacred home for all kinds of music. I am grateful that Jon De Lucia has created this group: so delightful in whatever they play. You’ll hear it too.
Here’s what Jon had to say:
Saxophonist Jon De Lucia met the great tenorist Ted Brown in 2014, and got to play with him soon after. He was and is struck by the pure lyricism and honesty in his improvising. One of the original students of forward thinking pianist Lennie Tristano in the 1940s, Brown, along with Lee Konitz, is among the last of this great school of players. Later, when De Lucia discovered some of Jimmy Giuffre’s original scores from the Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giuffre session of 1959, which Brown and Konitz both participated in, he knew he wanted to put a band together to play this music with Ted.
Thus the Jon De Lucia Octet was formed. A five saxophone and rhythm lineup with unique arrangements by the great clarinetist/saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre. The original charts featured Lee Konitz on every track, and the first step in 2016 was to put a session together reuniting Brown and Konitz on these tunes. An open rehearsal was held at the City College of New York, Lee took the lead and played beautifully while Ted took over the late Warne Marsh’s part. This then led to the concert you have here before you.
De Lucia steps into Lee’s shoes, while the features have been reworked to focus on Brown, including new arrangements of his tunes by De Lucia and daughter Anita Brown. The rest of the band includes a formidable set of young saxophonists, including John Ludlow, who incidentally was a protege of the late Hal McCusick, who also played on the original recording session of Lee Konitz meets Jimmy Giuffre, and plays the alto saxophone, now inherited, used in the session. Jay Rattman and Marc Schwartz round out the tenors, and Andrew Hadro, who can be heard to great effect on “Venus De Milo,” plays the baritone. In the rhythm section, Ray Gallon, one of NYC’s most swinging veterans on the piano, Aidan O’Donnell on the bass and the other legend in the room, the great Steve Little on the drums. Little was in Duke Ellington’s band in 1968, recording on the now classic Strayhorn tribute …and His Mother Called Him Bill, before going on to record all of the original Sesame Street music and much more as a studio musician.
The show was sold out at Brooklyn’s now defunct Drawing Room, operated by Michael Kanan and Stephanie Greig. Along with the music previously mentioned, De Lucia had recently acquired some of the original parts from Gerry Mulligan’s Songbook session, which featured Konitz, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and Allen Eager in another great sax section recording, this time arranged by Bill Holman. Here the band plays “Sextet,” and “Venus De Milo” from that session. Brown, here making the band a Nonet, plays beautifully and takes part in every tune, reading parts even when not soloing. Not included in this CD is an extended take of Konitz’s “Cork n’ Bib” and Giuffre’s piece for three clarinets, “Sheepherders.” Possible bonus releases down the line!
Since this concert, the Octet has taken on a life of its own, covering the repertoire of the original Dave Brubeck Octet, more of the Mulligan material, Alec Wilder, and increasingly De Lucia’s own material. De Lucia continues searching for rare and underperformed material, rehearsing regularly in NYC and performing less regularly.
Earlier in this post, I wrote about my nearly-obsessive desire to bring my camera to gigs, and this session was no exception. However, I must preface the video below with a caveat: imperfect sight lines and even more imperfect sound. The CD was recorded by the superb pianist Tony Melone — someone I didn’t know as a wonderful live-recording engineer, and the sound he obtained makes me embarrassed to post this . . . but I hope it acts as an inducement for people to hear more, in delightfully clear sound:
If you gravitate towards expert warm ensemble playing, soloing in the spirit of Lester, a mixture of romping swing and tender introspection, you will applaud this CD as I do.
You can buy it here, with digital downloads available in the usual places.
No, JAZZ LIVES is not going away. Nor is there some crisis. Nor am I asking for money. However, I would like my viewers to devote themselves to what follows, which will take perhaps ten minutes.
That man is pianist Junior Mance, born in Evanston, Illinois, in 1928. Before he was twenty, he had begun recording with the stars we revere: Gene Ammons, Howard McGhee, Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, Dinah Washington, Clark Terry, Paul Gonsalves, Clifford Brown, Maynard Ferguson, Israel Crosby, Chubby Jackson, Art Blakey, Johnny Griffin, Cannonball Adderley, Sam Jones, Nat Adderley, Jimmy Cobb, Carmen McRae, Wilbur Ware, Bob Cranshaw, James Moody, Jimmy Cleveland, Bill Crow, Art Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie (he’s on the duet with Louis of UMBRELLA MAN), Leo Wright, Harry Lookofsky, Lockjaw Davis, Johnny Coles, Ray Crawford, Paul Chambers, Bennie Green, George Coleman, Eddie Jefferson, Louis Jordan, Irene Kral, Joe Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Ben Webster, Kenny Burrell, Mannie Klein, Shelley Manne, Etta Jones, Benny Carter, Jim Hall, Joe Newman, Milt Hinton, Richard Davis, Frank Wess, Wilbur Little, Jimmy Scott, Marion Williams, Les McCann, Dexter Gordon, George Duvivier, Carrie Smith, Ken Peplowski, Howard Alden, Milt Jackson, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Al Grey, Houston Person, Joe Temperley, Benny Golson, Jay Leonhart, Jackie Williams, Andrew Hadro . . . and I know I’ve left two dozen people out.
Next, in the world of jazz, one would expect a tribute. Or an obituary. Or both.
But not a love story, which is what follows.
A few days ago, I was contacted by Sarit Work, co-producer of SUNSET AND THE MOCKINGBIRD, a not-yet-finished documentary about Junior and his wife, Gloria Clayborne Mance. They have created a Kickstarter to help them finish the documentary. The headline is “The love story of jazz legend Junior Mance and Gloria Clayborne Mance. As he loses his identity to dementia she reckons with her own.”
Being a man (although this may not be typical of my gender) I have less ability to cope with illness than women I know. It’s terribly irrational, but I cringe at visiting people in hospitals, visiting the ailing, the dying . . . and so on. There must be a name for this — call it “testosterone terror”? — which makes people like me hide under the couch, if possible. Or in the car. And dementia is especially frightening, because I am closer to being a senior citizen than ever before. But Sarit was very politely persuasive, so I watched the trailer.
And it hit me right in the heart.
Junior has a hard time remembering, and he knows this. But he knows he loves Gloria. And Gloria, for her part, is a lighthouse beacon of steady strong love. It is not a film about forgetting who you are so much as it is a film about the power of devotion.
So I urge you — and “urge” is not a word I use often — to watch the trailer, and if you are moved, to help the project along. It will be a powerful film, and I think that helping this project is very serious good karma. Maybe it will protect us a few percent?
Hereis the link. Yes, the filmmakers need a substantial amount of money. But anything is possible. And, yes, I’ve already contributed. And from this day (or night) the filmmakers have only EIGHT days to raise the sum they need. So please help — in the name of jazz, in the name of love, or both. In my dictionary, the two are synonyms.
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:
The string bassist Leonard Gaskin (1920-2009) could and did play with anyone: from Forties bop small groups (including Bird, Miles, Max, Cecil Payne, J.J., and more), to Billie and Connee, to Louis Armstrong to Eddie Condon to pickup groups of all shapes and sizes. Like Milt Hinton, he was steady, reliable, with a beautiful big sound that fit any ensemble: backing Odetta, Solomon Burke, Earl Hines, Butterbeans and Susie, as well as LaVern Baker, Cecil Scott, Ruby Braff, Kenny Burrell, young Bob Dylan, and Big Maybelle too.
Hereis Peter Vacher’s characteristically fine obituary for Leonard. (I’d like Peter to write mine, but we have yet to work out the details.)
And if you type in “Leonard Gaskin” on YouTube, you can hear more than two hundred performances.
Leonard was the nominal leader of a few “Dixieland” sessions for the Prestige label in 1961. Another, led by trumpeter Sidney DeParis, was called DIXIELAND HITS COUNTRY AND WESTERN (draw the imagined cover for yourself) with Kenny Davern, Benny Morton, Charlie Queener, Lee Blair, Herbie Lovelle. . . . from whence this sly gem comes:
Here is a loving tribute to Leonard from the singer Seina — it will explain itself:
And since anything even remotely connected with Miles Davis is judged important by a large percentage of jazz listeners, I offer the very Lestorian FOR ADULTS ONLY from February 1953, with Al Cohn (tenor, arranger) Zoot Sims (tenor) John Lewis (piano) Leonard (bass) Kenny Clarke (drums):
and from another musical world, the 1950 poem in praise of awareness, from a Hot Lips Page date, where Lips and Leonard are joined by Jimmy Buxton (tb) Vincent Bair-Bey (as) Ray Abrams (ts) Earl Knight (p) Herbie Lovelle (d) Janie Mickens (vcl):
Now, why am I writing about Mr. Gaskin at this moment?
Sometimes I feel that the cosmos tells me, gently, what or whom to write about — people or artistic creations to celebrate. I don’t say this as a great puff of ego, that the cosmos has JAZZ LIVES uppermost in its consciousness, but there is a reason for this post.
Recently, I was in one of my favorite thrift stores, Savers, and of course I wandered to the records. Great quantities — wearying numbers — of the usual, and then I spotted the 1958 record above. I’d owned it at one time: a Condon session with Rex Stewart, Herb Hall, Bud Freeman, Cutty Cutshall, Gene Schroeder, Eddie, Leonard, and George Wettling, distinguished by a number of songs associated with the ODJB. (A completely uncredited Dick Cary is audible, and I am fairly sure he would have sketched out lead sheets and spare charts for the unfamiliar songs.) An interesting band, but not the apex of Fifties Condonia.
I debated: did I need this hot artifact. Then I turned it over, and decided that I did, indeed.
I suspect that signature is later than 1958, but the real autographs are usually not in the most perfect calligraphy. And, as always, when a record turns up at a thrift store, I wonder, “Did Grandpa have to move? Did the folks’ turntable give out? What’s the story?”
I won’t know, but it gently pushed me to celebrate Leonard Gaskin.
And for those who dote on detail, I’d donated some items to this Savers, and so the record was discounted: I think I paid seventy-two cents. Too good to ignore.
Is surrender capitulating to an enemy, saying “I give up. You are stronger.” or is it an enlightened act, a realization that there are powers we can’t conquer and that the idea of conquering anything is futile?
I’ve always found I SURRENDER, DEAR — so powerfully connected to Bing Crosby — both touching and mysterious. As Gordon Clifford’s lyrics tell us, the singer is saying, in effect, “Take me back. Here is my heart. I give up all pretense of being distant. I need you,” which is deeply moving, a surrender of all ego-barriers and pretense. But I’ve never been able to figure out whether “Here, take my heart,” is greeted with “I’d love to welcome you back,” or “No thanks, I’m full.” Other songs hold out the possibility of reconciliation (consider IN A LITTLE SECOND-HAND STORE or WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE) but this one ends unresolved. It’s also one of those songs that lends itself to a variety of interpretations: both Bing and Louis in the same year, then a proliferation of tenor saxophonists, and pianists from Monk to Garner to Teddy. And (before the music starts) probably thanks to Roy Eldridge, there’s also an honored tradition of slipping into double-time.
Here, however, are ten versions that move me.
January 1931: Bing Crosby with the Gus Arnheim Orchestra. Note the orchestral flourishes:
Later that same year: Victor Young and the Brunswick Concert Orchestra, featuring Frank Munn, not enough of the Boswell Sisters (acting as their own concert orchestra) and a few seconds of Tommy Dorsey. I think this was an effort to show that Paul Whiteman didn’t have a monopoly on musical extravagance, and I’ve never seen a label credit “Paraphrased by . . . “. I also note the vocal bridge turns to 3/4, and Munn sings “are doing” rather than “were doing,” but we wait patiently for the Sisters to appear, and they do:
Imagine anyone better than Ben Webster? Here, in 1944, with our hero Hot Lips Page:
Forward several decades: Joe Venuti, Zoot Sims, John Bunch, Milt Hinton, Bobby Rosengarden 1975:
1978 — a duet of Earl Hines and Harry Edison:
Raymond Burke, Butch Thompson, Cie Frazier in New Orleans, 1979:
and something I was privileged to witness and record, flapping fan blades and all, from February 2010 (Tamar Korn, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Marcus Milius, Debbie Kennedy):
Ray Skjelbred, Marc Caparone, Jim Buchmann, Katie Cavera, Beau Sample, Hal Smith, at the San Diego Jazz Fest in November 2014:
Nobody follows Louis. 1931:
and the majestic version from 1956:
A little tale of the powers of Surrender. In years past, I would drive into Manhattan, my car full of perishables, and search for a parking spot. Of course there were none. I could feel the gelato melting; I could feel my blood pressure rising contrapuntally. Frustrated beyond belief, I would roll down my window and ask the Parking Goddess for her help. “I do not ask for your assistance that often, and I admit that I cannot do this on my own. I am powerless without your help. Will you be merciful to me?” And I would then circle the block again and a spot would have opened up. My theory is that such supplication works only if one is willing to surrender the ego, the facade of one’s own power. Of course it has also been known to work for other goals, but that is an essay beyond the scope of JAZZ LIVES.
For now, surrender whole-heartedly and see what happens.
I first became aware of Bob Byler — writer, photographer, videographer — when we both wrote for THE MISSISSIPPI RAG, but with the demise of that wonderful journalistic effusion (we still miss Leslie Johnson, I assure you) I had not kept track of him. But he hasn’t gone away, and he is now providing jazz viewers with hours of pleasure.
“Spill, Brother Michael!” shouts a hoarse voice from the back of the room.
As you can see in the photograph above, Bob has always loved capturing the music — and, in this case, in still photographs. But in 1984, he bought a video camera. In fact, he bought several in varying media: eight-millimeter tape, VHS, and even mini-DVDs, and he took them to jazz concerts wherever he could. Now, when he shares the videos, edits them, revisits them, he says, “I’m so visual-oriented, it’s like being at a jazz festival again without the crowd. It’s a lot of fun.” Bob told me that he shot over two thousand hours of video and now has uploaded about four hundred hours to YouTube.
Hereis his flickr.com site, full of memorable closeups of players and singers. AND the site begins with a neatly organized list of videos . . .
Bob and his late wife Ruth had gone to jazz festivals all over the world — and a few cruises — and he had taken a video camera with him long before I ever had the notion. AND he has put some four hundred hours of jazz video on YouTube on the aptly named Bob and Ruth Byler Archival Jazz Videoschannel. His filming perspective was sometimes far back from the stage (appropriate for large groups) so a video that’s thirty years old might take a moment to get used to. But Bob has provided us with one time capsule after another. And unlike the ladies and gents of 2016, who record one-minute videos on their smartphones, Bob captured whole sets, entire concerts. Most of his videos are nearly two hours long, and there are more than seventy of them now up — for our dining and dancing pleasure. Many of the players are recognizable, but I haven’t yet sat down and gone through forty or a hundred hours of video, so that is part of the fun — recognizing old friends and heroes. Because (and I say this sadly) many of the musicians on Bob’s videos have made the transition, which makes this video archive, generously offered, so precious.
Here is Bob’s own introduction to the collection, which tells more than I could:
Here are the “West Coast Stars,” performing at the Elkhart Jazz Party, July 1990:
an Art Hodes quartet, also from Elkhart, from 1988:
What might have been one of Zoot Sims’ last performances, in Toledo, in 1985:
a compilation of performances featuring Spiegle Willcox (with five different bands) from 1991-1997, a tribute Bob is particularly proud of:
from the 1988 Elkhart, a video combining a Count Basie tribute (I recognize Bucky Pizzarelli, Milt Hinton, Joe Ascione, and Doc Cheatham!) and a set by the West End Jazz Band:
a Des Moines performance by Jim Beebe’s Chicago Jazz Band featuring Judi K, Connie Jones, and Spiegle:
and a particular favorite, two sets also from Elkhart, July 1988, a Condon memorial tribute featuring (collectively) Wild Bill Davison, Tommy Saunders, Chuck Hedges, George Masso, Dave McKenna, Marty Grosz, Milt Hinton, Rusty Jones, John Bany, Wayne Jones, in two sets:
Here are some other musicians you’ll see and hear: Bent Persson, Bob Barnard, Bob Havens, the Mighty Aphrodite group, the Cakewalkin’ Jazz Band, the Mills Brothers, Pete Fountain, Dick Hyman, Peter Appleyard, Don Goldie, Tomas Ornberg, Jim Cullum, Jim Galloway, Chuck Hedges, Dave McKenna, Max Collie, the Salty Dogs, Ken Peplowski, Randy Sandke, Howard Alden, Butch Thompson, Hal Smith, the Climax Jazz Band, Ernie Carson, Dan Barrett, Banu Gibson, Tommy Saunders, Jean Kittrell, Danny Barker, Duke Heitger, John Gill, Chris Tyle, Bob Wilber, Gene Mayl, Ed Polcer, Jacques Gauthe, Brooks Tegler, Rex Allen, Bill Dunham and the Grove Street Stompers, Jim Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band, the Harlem Jazz Camels, and so much more, more than I can type.
Many musicians look out into the audience and see people (like myself) with video cameras and sigh: their work is being recorded without reimbursement or without their ability to control what becomes public forever. I understand this and it has made me a more polite videographer. However, when such treasures like this collection surface, I am glad that people as devoted as Bob and Ruth Byler were there. These videos — and more to come — testify to the music and to the love and generosity of two of its ardent supporters.
On January 28, 2016, I had the rare privilege of seeing / hearing / recording a duo session (under the aegis of project142) featuring the eminent Bill Crow — at 88 still a peerless string bassist, engaging raconteur, and surprisingly effective singer — and his friend and colleague, guitarist / singer Flip Peters. (Thanks to Scot Albertson for making this all possible!)
Here, in six parts, is that evening, one I won’t ever forget for swing, elegance, humor, feeling, and the joy of being alive, the joy of playing music. And here is what I posted about the evening as prelude — don’t miss Flip’s beautiful words about Bill.
Bill describes his childhood immersion with music — all the way up to hearing Nat Cole for the first time:
Bill’s sings and plays SWEET LORRAINE for Nat Cole; his arrival in New York, memories of Birdland, Lester Young and Jo Jones, of Charlie Parker and Stan Getz:
More about Stan Getz, Claude Thornhill, Terry Gibbs, and the Detroit players: Billy Mitchell, Paul Chambers, Curtis Fuller (with a wicked cameo by Miles Davis) — then Bill and Flip play YARDBIRD SUITE:
Working with Marian McPartland and with Gerry Mulligan, and a swinging vocal from Flip on NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT:
Studying with Fred Zimmerman, a concert with Duke Ellington, then (in tribute to Duke) ROSE ROOM / IN A MELLOTONE:
Bill on his writing career, tales of Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and a touching bonus, his vocal rendition of a forgotten 1936 swing tune, SING, BABY, SING:
I hope some person or organization, seeing these videos, says, “Let’s have Bill and Flip spend an evening with us!” You know — for sure — that they have more music to offer and certainly more stories. And their rich musical intimacy is wondrous. To learn more about Bill, visit www.billcrowbass.com/. To find out about booking the duo, contact Flip at email@example.com or call him at 973-809-7149. I hope to be able to attend the duo’s next recital: watch the videos and you will know why, quickly.
Bill Crow is one of the finest jazz string bassists ever. But don’t take my word for it — hear his recordings with Marian McPartland, Jo Jones, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Al Haig, Jimmy Raney, Hank Jones, Jimmy McPartland, Manny Albam, Art Farmer, Annie Ross, Jimmy Cleveland, Mose Allison, Benny Goodman, Cliff Leeman, Pee Wee Russell, Joe Morello, Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Jackie and Roy, Bob Wilber, Ruby Braff, Eddie Bert, Joe Cohn, Mark Shane, Jay McShann, Al Grey, Barbara Lea, Claude Williamson, Spike Robinson, and two dozen others.
Here’s Bill, vocalizing and playing, with guitarist Flip Peters on SWEET LORRAINE:
And if you notice that many of the names on that list are no longer active, don’t make Bill out to be a museum piece. I’ve heard him swing out lyrically with Marty Napoleon and Ray Mosca; I’ve heard him lift the room when he sat in with the EarRegulars, and he plays just as beautifully on JUST A CLOSER WALK WITH THEE as he does on a more intricate modern piece.
Bill is also a splendid raconteur — someone who not only has a million stories, but knows how to tell them and makes the experience enjoyable. You should know of his book JAZZ ANECDOTES, which grew into a second volume, and his FROM BIRDLAND TO BROADWAY, a charmingly casual but never meandering autobiography. (Like his colleague and friend Milt Hinton, Bill is also a wonderful photographer.)
And did I mention that Bill recently turned 88?
I don’t know which of these three offerings of evidence should take precedence, but put them all together and they are excellent reasons to join in the musical pleasures offered this Thursday, January 28, 2016 — details below:
Thurs. – Jan. 28, 2016 – 8:00pm – 9:30 pm. – The DiMenna Center for Classical Music – NYC – Bill Crow Project 142 Concert with Flip Peters – 450 West 37th St. (between 9th & 10th Aves.) – Benzaquen Hall (elevator to 1st Floor) – Doors open @ 7:30p. – $15.00 Concert Charge @ door.
I asked the delightful guitarist / singer Flip Peters to speak about his relationship with Bill:
I first became aware of Bill Crow in the early 1960s when as a young jazz fan I heard him with Gerry Mulligan. I remember around that time reading a quip in Down Beat about bass players with bird names, Bill Crow, Gary Peacock, and Steve Swallow.
In the early 1980s, I began to read Bill’s column, “The Band Room,” in the Local 802 paper, Allegro. That column is a highlight and I turn to it first each month when I get that paper. I received a copy of his Jazz Anecdotes as a Christmas present a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I first played gigs with Bill in 2014. The first one we played on together was a Gatsby-themed party with Marti Sweet’s Sweet Music (www.sweetmusic.us). On that gig Bill doubled on bass and tuba and I was struck by his mastery of the tuba. After that we played private party gigs and some Dixieland gigs with trumpeter Tom Keegan. Then in 2015, I played on gigs with Bill in Rio Clemente’s band (www.rioclemente.com). On one of those gigs, Bill asked me to join him at Shanghai Jazz where he had been hired to speak and play for the Jersey Jazz Society. After that gig I decided that it would be a good idea to present this to a wider audience. Anyone who loves jazz would be fascinated to hear Bill recount some of his many stories, and of course to hear him play.
I am honored and thrilled to play music with Bill. He is a rare person and musician. Not only is he a virtuoso on his instruments but he is a true gentleman. When you are in his presence you can’t help but feel comfortable. When he relates his experiences, everyone present feels as though they are sharing those moments with him. And he continues to play at an extremely high level. He has truly stayed at the top of his game for many years. He maintains a busy playing schedule and plays with the energy of a young musician who possesses the experience of an elder statesman.
You can find out more about Bill at his websitebut I politely urge you to put the phone down, back away from the computer, and join us on Thursday night to hear Bill and Flip, in music and story. Evenings like this are rare.
Pianist Hod O’Brien is a master of melodic improvisations. If you missed his July 2015 gig at Mezzrow with bassist Ray Drummond, the evidence is here.
But here’s the beautiful part. Some jazz musicians keep words at a distance and their expressiveness comes out through the keyboard, the brass tubing, and so on. But Hod has written a pointed, light-hearted memoir that operates the way he plays. His words seem simple, his constructions are never ornate, but he gets to the heart of things and leaves the reader enlightened, renewed.
The first thing to say about this book is how pleased I am to read a book by someone who, like Hod, has been an active part of jazz for six decades. It’s not “as told to,” nor is it embellished by a jazz scholar as a posthumous tribute. Here is part of Hod’s preface, which reveals much about his character:
“This book is not intended to be a strictly biographical text, but, rather a collection of funny, little incidents and stories I’ve witnessed and heard along my way, on my path as a freelance jazz musician over the past 60 years of my professional life.
It’s intended mostly for fans of mine, whomever and wherever you all are, and fellow musicians, who might be interested in hearing a little bit more about me from another perspective, rather than from just my music and recordings alone. . . . The jazz community is a small, but hip part of the world, of which I’m happy and proud to be a member, and to whom I wish to express my deep gratitude — to those of you in it and interested in my work.”
I was immediately struck by Hod’s self-description as “happy and proud,” and the book bears him out. “Proud” doesn’t mean immodest — in fact, Hod constantly seems delighted and amazed at the musicians he’s gotten to play with, but his happiness is a great and reassuring undercurrent in the book. (When was the last time you met someone deeply nourished by his or her work? Hod is that person.)
His book moves quickly: at the start he is a child picking out one-finger melodies on the piano, learning boogie-woogie, hearing JATP and bebop recordings; a few pages later it is 1955 and he filling in for Randy Weston at a gig in Massachusetts, hearing Pepper Adams, getting threatened by Charles Mingus, meeting and playing with Zoot Sims and Bob Brookmeyer. Oscar Pettiford (called “Pet” by Thad Jones) gets a longer portrait. The O.P. portrait is so good that I won’t spoil it, but it has cameo appearances by Bill Evans and Paul Chambers, Chet Baker, and Philly Joe Jones. In case you are realizing that Hod has managed to play with or hear or meet many jazz luminaries in the past sixty years, that alone is reason to buy the book. There’s J.R. Monterose and a defective piano, a compromised Wilbur Ware, friendliness from Max Roach and Arthur Taylor.
The book (and Hod’s life) takes a surprising turn with Hod losing interest in his jazz career, studying with Charles Wuorinen, and delving into physics, higher mathematics, and early computer programming. But a reunion with his old friend Roswell Rudd moves him back to performance and the club scene.
Interruption: for those of you who can only read about doomed heroic figures, victims, or the chronically self-destructive, this is not such a book. Hod has setbacks but makes friends and makes music; he marries the fine singer Stephanie Nakasian, and they remain happily married, with a singer in the family, daughter Veronica Swift (born in 1994) — who just won second place in the Thelonious Monk jazz competition. Now back to our regularly scheduled narrative.
Hod’s experiences as a clubowner are somewhere between surreal, hilarious, and sad — but his reminiscences of Sonny Greer (and a birthday gift), Joe Puma, Chuck Wayne, Al Haig, Stan Getz, and the little East Side club called Gregory’s (which I remember although I didn’t see Hod there). There’s Hod’s playing a set with Dizzy, Ornette, Ed Blackwell, and Teddy Kotick . . . and much more, including more than fifty photographs, a discography, and a list of Hod’s compositions: very nicely done at 122 pages.
You can buy it here — and you can also find out more about Hod . . . such as his return to Mezzrow on March 18-19, 2016. But until then, you can entertain yourself with a copy of HAVE PIANO . . . WILL SWING! — a book that surely lives up to its title.
What I mean is . . . here is a nearly eleven-minute improvised blues performed by six absolute masters of the idiom at the 2015 Allegheny Jazz Party (September 10, 2015): Dan Block, Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Dan Barrett, trombone; Ehud Asherie, piano (with all sorts of delicious jazz in-jokes); Frank Tate, string bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.
Is the overall ambiance Basie-esque, Ellingtonian, Four Brothers, or do the riffs come from Blue Note hard bop, Gene Ammons, Al and Zoot? I don’t know and I am sure that someone will leap right in and inform me. But until that day, I will happily listen in a state of deep swing gratitude.
Such delightful interludes happen all the time at the Allegheny Jazz Party. You should know.
(And, as an aside, I picked the graphic at top of green fruits because it was one of the few inoffensive ones that emerged when I idly entered “delicious” into Google Images.)