One of the more reassuring aspects of the New York jazz scene is that a few steady gigs remainthe Sunday and Monday night hoedowns at Arthur's Tavern on Grove Street; the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn on Sundays; Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks (now on Monday and Tuesday) downstairs in the Hotel Edison. And this year David Ostwald's Louis Armstrong Centennial Band (or Gully Low Jazz Band) began its second decade of early-evening sessions at BirdlandWednesday from 5:30 to 7:15.
Last Wednesday the Beloved and I took our accustomed table and I prepared to record the festivities. And festive they were for sure, with David on tuba and patter; Marion Felder on drums; Ehud Asherie on piano; Harvey Tibbs on trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso on trumpet, and special guest Bob Wilber on two sopranos, straight and curved, and clarinet (in sequence, not at once). And David even arranged for the two singers in the audienceDaryl Sherman and Pug Horton (Mrs. Wilber) to come up and do a Louis-themed duet.
In his own way, Wilber is the last of a great breedwhether you think of him as Bechet's curly-haired boyish protege, half of Soprano Summit / Summit Reunion, or in his many other rolessomeone who's been playing his heart out for over six decades. And the LACB was delighted to have him on the stand and inspired by his presence: Jon-Erik and Harvey played majestically and with slippery grace; Ehud was as nimble as ever; David provided his own special propulsion, and Marion once again taught us all how to swing on the often-ignored snare drum (no monotonous ride cymbal for Maestro Felder). Here's what the festivities sounded like:
The opening, seguing from WHEN IT'S SLEEPY TIME DOWN SOUTH into INDIANA, was the start of Louis's concert appearances with the All-Stars for a long time:
Then, a moody classic Louis recorded in 1931 (playing the Reverend in front of his Chicago band full of New Orleans homeboys), THE LONESOME ROAD:
And an experimenta Hot Five song that the LACB hadn't tried before, one of the lesser-known recordings, WHO'S IT (or I've also seen it typed as WHO'SIT) which the band not only handled beautifully but made swing out in a long, leisurely rock:
A lovely feature for Wilber, Hoagy Carmichael's ROCKIN' CHAIR (which summons up not only Louis but also Jack Teagarden, Bix Beiderbecke, and Mildred Bailey):
I don't think I'M A DING DONG DADDY (by Phil Baxter) would have had its famespreading to the Benny Goodman small groups by way of Lionel Hampton, who appeared on Louis's original recordinghad it not been for Louis, even with the wonderful tongue-twisting lyrics:
And another romperCHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN (all hail Lips Page, too!):
Because the Birdland audience held not one but two singersDaryl Sherman and Pug Horton (Mrs. Wilber)David decided to call them both up (a first!) and they essayed a loose, friendly version of JEEPERS CREEPERS, which (as you know) Louis originally sang to a horse of the same name in the film GOIN' PLACES:
And the session closed, as it always does, with a rousing SWING THAT MUSIC:
Thanks to all the musicians (and singers) in the house for the good sounds!
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.