Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Perfect Rag

Morten Gunnar Larsen
Norwegian pianist Morten Gunnar Larsen is a great interpreter of the piano pieces composed by Jelly Roll Morton, below is inserted some examples from recently uploaded live performances. - Here is first Mr. Larsen's interpretation of Morton's Perfect Rag (- also known as Sporting House Rag)


Next Morten Gunnar Larsen plays his version of Morton's Wolverine Blues 


Morton's show piece to challenge the stride piano players of New York, Finger Breaker, ends this small presentation by Morten Gunnar Larsen - enjoy!


Morten Gunnar Larsen's latetst CD released 2016 was recorded at a live concert in Denmark containing music by Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Eubie Blake a.o.. The CD has been uploaded in full length at You Tube and is available for listening here 
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Jo
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Countless Blues - Kansas City Five & Six 1938

Commodore, LP 6.24057 (1979)
Quiet days, showers of rain, grey sky and sunshine once in a while - this is the summer holiday season at my spot of the globe. No need  going to a jazz festival without jazz - the word 'jazz' has lost its meaning nowadays, I'm afraid. Well, I don't want to set the world on fire regarding this, I just like to point to a couple of famous sessions featuring notable musicians from days long ago when the word 'jazz' still meant something to somebody.
John Hammond, talent scout and record producer
John Hammond arranged a recording session with a selection of musicians from Count Basie's orchestra on March 18, 1938 in New York. The five musicians participating in the session were Buck Clayton (tp), Eddie Durham (el-g), Freddie Green (rh g), Walter Page (b) and Jo Jones (d). Four titles were recorded: Laughing At Life, Good Mornin' Blues, I Know That You Know and Love Me Or Leave Me. The session was labeled as Eddie Durham and His Base Four, but was later changed into Kansas City Five.
Discographical info by Tom Lord, click to enlarge
John Hammond had originally produced this session to be released by Brunswick Records. But when they declined, he sold the sides to Milt Gabler, who issued the music on his Commodore label as by Kansas City Five.
Eddie Durham (el-g)
The session is deservedly famous for introducing and exposing the electric guitar ( - as played by Eddie Durham) in a regular jazz setting. Here is the audio of Laughing At Life from the March 18, 1938 session


Lester Young (ts)
On March 27, 1938 Milt Gabler arranged a session with the same musicians for his Commodore label, but now the ensemble was extended with Lester Young (cl,ts) to a sextet. This ensemble, labeled as Kansas City Six With Lester Young, recorded five titles (- two takes each) which belong to some of the most relaxing and excellently played swing jazz of the time. The session took off with a version of 'Way Down Yonder In New Orleans


Next was recorded two takes of Countless Blues, a tune attributed to the producer Milt Gabler


Freddie Green (rh g, voc)
Freddie Green (rh g, voc) contributed the singing at Them There Eyes in the next recorded tune


Buck Clayton (tp)
Buck Clayton on muted trumpet and Lester Yong on clarinet shared the solo parts in the next title, I Want A Little Girl (- Clayton has the last chorus on open horn)


Walter Page (double bass)
The last recorded title of the March 27, 1938 session by the Kansas City Six With Lester Young was a blues named Pagin' The Devil attributed to double bass player Walter Page and the producer of the session, Milt Gabler. Walter Page opens and closes the music contributing great playing


The Kansas City Six featuring Lester Yong recorded again for the Commodore label in March 1944, but this session had different personnel (- and a different sound and atmosphere) compared to the March 1938 recordings. The two sessions recorded March 1938 definetly belong to classic jazz that should be in the collection of any jazz fan, I think.
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Jo
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Monday, June 12, 2017

Some Impressions of Ètienne Comar's Film "Django" by Georg Lankester

Official film poster
The Dutch Django Reinhardt connoisseur, Georg Lankester writes about his impressions of Ètienne Comar's  film "Django" which opened the Berlin International Film Festival this year and had its premiere in The Netherlands on May 3rd.

Introduction
More than 60 years after the legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt died, a film dedicated to his life during the war was launched.

The official première took place during the German film festival “Berlinale” in March of this year, but 2 months later the movie was also introduced to the Dutch audience. In the town of Wageningen, where the official capitulation of the Germans was signed at the end of WW II, the première was scheduled on May 3rd, so prior to the Dutch Memorial Day for the victims of World War II.

I had the privilege to introduce the film for a sold out cinema and described the life of the famous gypsy and his importance for the jazz world. As to the war time I referred to Dr. Schulz-Köhn, the Nazi officer who admired Django’s music and protected him as well as the Hot Club de France organizers in Paris.
Film actor Reda Kateb as Django Reinhardt
A Mixed Story
The Django movie includes a few historical facts with regard to Django’s habits while moreover several exciting band sessions with Django’s fabulous guitar playing can be seen and heard. However, Django’s endeavors to escape to Switzerland as shown in this production are not based on history but fiction.

Producer Etienne Comar on the one hand shows his audience something of the remarkable life style of the guitarist (played by Reda Kateb) and on the other hand brings into focus how the Nazis successively destroy the gypsies, whereas Django was kept out.

A Few Words on Django’s Real War Years
At the outbreak of the war, Django (who then played in England with the quintet) hurried back to Paris. The violin was replaced by a clarinet and his new Hot Club quintet was at once immensely popular. In those first war years, the formation still did some travelling and went e.g. to Belgium where recordings were made in small groups and with orchestras.
Django’s war-time Quintet with lady singer Josette Daydé, c.1941  (photo: Georg Lankester collection)
Unlike most of the people then, Django had a good life. As a celebrity he had lots of engagements and plenty of money. His latest composition, “Nuages” was such a hit that one could hear people singing this melody all over Paris. However, the influence of the German occupation became more and more noticeable and because of this ongoing threat the guitarist tried three times to escape to Switzerland, which however failed.

Back to The Film
It is certainly not my intention to give away the story. Here in a few lines some short impressions: The first part is rather spectacular with Django and his quintet in full action. The guitarist is then invited to play in Germany, but wants to withdraw from this. After more and more pressure – frightened - he and his family leave Paris. The gypsies settle near Thonon, preparing plans to escape and still occasionally make music together. Again there is pressure to perform for the local Germans, which happens with a dramatic ending. Django survives, and can be seen after the war bringing homage to all gypsy victims.


The Film Music
Finally something that people should know about the music in this film: the guitar solos (recorded in the studio) are played by Stochelo Rosenberg who deserves great compliments. He absolutely puts himself in Django’s shoes!
Stochelo Rosenberg
As to actor Reda Kateb, it took him abt. one year to show the left hand technique as Django performed when playing solos with his crippled hand. 
Reda Kateb emulating Django's playing technique
It is all by all certainly an interesting, special war film on Django’s life and that of the French gypsies. One can enjoy some hot quintet sessions which do remind us of Django’s unequalled guitar playing. Recommended, if you like a few moments of nostalgia.
The soundtrack CD of the film
The “Django” film is available for streaming at your computer, more info to be found here. - The original soundtrack of the film may be purchased here.
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Jo
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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tico-Tico Revisited

Zequinha de Abreu

Everybody seems to know a version of Zequinha de Abreu's Tico-Tico no Fubá, which may be the most performed choro ever. The tune was composed by Zequinha de Abreu in 1917, which means the tune has been around for 100 years. It was first recorded in 1931 by Orchestra Colbaz and later made famous trough Carmen Miranda's recordings and performance of the tune in movies and on stage in the USA. However, here we'll set focus on some instrumental versions of Tico-tico. - Here is first the original piano score version as played by the Brazilian pianist Lord Vinheteiro



Tico-Tico was soon adopted by all kind of musicians both in Brazil and elsewhere. My all time favorite instrumental version of the tune was recorded by Oscar Alemán y su Quinteto de Swing in 1943



Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra had a hit with the big band version of Tico Tico in the 1940s



Also be bop alto sax giant Charlie Parker recorded a version of the tune in 1951



Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo play a guitar duet version of Tico-Tico in a live performance, an excellent example of a contemporary interpretation of the music



To end this, here is another piano version of Tico-Tico as played by New Orleans piano wizard James Booker 


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Jo
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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Just A Little While To Stay Here

Billy Novick (clarinet), Guy Van Duser (guitar)
Enjoy some great music as played by one of my all time favorite jazz duos - clarinetist Billy Novick and guitarist Guy Van Duser. Here is first the duo's interpretation of an old New Orleans spiritual recorded earlier this year


Billy Novick and Guy Van Duser have played and performed together for more than 40 years, the mutual understanding of what swing is all about always shines through in the duo's performances 


To end this, here is the duo's excellent version of Stardust 

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Jo
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Chocolate Dandies - 1928 - 1940 Studio Ensembles

Don Redman
Taking their name from a show written by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, a small group led by Don Redman recorded in the late '20s as the Chocolate Dandies. Redman also used the name for some McKinney's Cotton Pickers record dates. During the early '30s the name was picked up by other musicians, notably Benny Carter, who used it for a string of recordings he made with Coleman Hawkins, among others. Carter revived the name in 1940, again with Hawkins recording some small group jazz sides. - Below I'll insert some examples of recordings made by the various Chocolate Dandies studio ensembles.

Star Dust_Okeh 8668
Don Redman directed McKinney's Cotton Pickers in four titles recorded October 13, 1928 in New York for Okeh as Chocolate Dandies. Personnel included Don Redman (as,dir), Langston Curl, John Nesbitt (tp), Claude Jones (tb), Milton Senior (as,cl), George Thomas, Prince Robinson(ts,cl), Todd Rhodes (p), Lonnie Johnson (g), Dave Wilborn (bj), Ralph Escudero (bb), Cuba Austin (dm). Besides the shown Star Dust the titles included Paducah, Birmingham Breakdown and Four Or Five Times





Benny Carter
On September 9, 1929 another combination of Chocolate Dandies recorded two titles for Okeh in New York. Personnel this time included Benny Carter (as,voc), Don Redman (as,cl,voc), Leonard Davis (tp),  Rex Stewart (co), Coleman Hawkins (ts), J.C. Higginbotham (tb), Cyrus St. Clair (tuba), Fats Waller (p), Unknown (bj), George Stafford (dm). The recorded titles were That's How I Feel Today and Six Or Seven Times 



Dee Blues_Columbia 2543-D
December 1930, Benny Carter recorded two dates with a sextet of musicians drawn from Fletcher Henderson's orchestra as Chocolate Dandies for Columbia in New York. Personnel included Benny Carter (as,cl,voc,arr), Horace Henderson (p), Bobby Stark (tp), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Jimmy Harrison (tb,voc), Benny Jackson (g) and John Kirby (sb). On December 3 was recorded only one title, Goodbye Blues, but on December 31 were recorded Cloudy Skies, Got Another Sweetie Now, Bugle Call Rag  and the shown Dee Blues 



Blue Interlude_Decca 18255 A
Benny Carter recorded another session October 10, 1933 under the name of Chocolate Dandies, this time for Okeh/Decca. Personnel included Benny Carter (as,tp,arr), Max Kaminsky (tp), Floyd O'Brien (tb), Chu Berry (ts), Teddy Wilson (p), Lawrence Lucie (g), Ernest "Bass" Hill (sb) and Sidney Catlett (dm). Recorded titles besides the shown Blue Interlude were I Never Knew, Once Upon A Time and Krazy Kapers 


Krazy Kapers_Okeh 41568


Coleman Hawkins
Benny Carter was featured with Coleman Hawkins in a session for Commodore May 25, 1940 and recorded three titles under the name of Coleman Hawkins and The Chocolate Dandies. Recorded titles included Smack!, I Surrender Dear and I Can't Believe That You're In Love With Me. Participating musicians were Benny Carter (as,p), Roy Eldridge (tp), Coleman Hawkins (ts), Bernard Addison (g), John Kirby (sb), Sidney Catlett (dm)
Smack!_Commodore 533 A


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Jo
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Joe Pass - Solo, Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975

Joe Pass 1975 (photo courtesy Tom Marcello Webster, Wikipedia)
Joe Pass (1929 - 1994) is generally considered to be one of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century. His sophisticated style of chord-melody, with an outstanding knowledge of chord inversions and progressions, extensive use of walking basslines, and melodic counterpoint during improvisation, opened up new possibilities for the jazz guitar and had a profound influence on later guitarists.
In addition to his ensemble performances, Joe Pass is regarded as an influential solo guitarist. His solo style was marked by an advanced linear technique, sophisticated harmonic sense, counterpoint between improvised lead lines, bass figures and chords, spontaneous modulations, and transitions from fast tempos to rubato passages. He would regularly add what he called "color tones" to his compositions, to give what he believed was a more sophisticated and "funkier" sound. He would often use melodic counterpoint during improvisation, move lines and chords chromatically or play melodies by solely shifting chords, and descending augmented arpeggios at the end of phrases. - As Pass made the transition from ensemble to solo guitar performance, he preferred to abandon the pick altogether, and play fingerstyle. He found this enabled him to execute his harmonic concepts more effectively. (info excerpted from Wikipedia, here
Joe Pass at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 (OJC CD, 1997)
Joe Pass recorded four studio albums of solo jazz guitar with the title Virtuoso for Norman Granz's Pablo label during the 1970s, these recordings are considered essential in demonstration of Pass' solo style. However, aside from studio recordings there were also released some live recordings of Pass' solo performances by the Pablo label, among them were the shown Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 recorded during two concerts on July 17 and 18. The LP issue was reissued on CD 1997 by OJC and is still available for purchase, here
There are eleven tracks from the solo live performance of Joe Pass at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 on the CD, mostly standards but also three Pass compositions (info, here). The performance at the two concerts July 17 and 18 was also recorded on video, below I'll insert a couple of examples uploaded at You Tube. Here is first Joe Pass performing Stevie Wonder's popular tune You Are the Sunshine of My Life 


Another video fragment from the same live performance has Joe Pass playing Ray Noble's The Very Thought Of You 


To end this small presentation of a magnificent jazz guitar solo live album, I'll insert the uploaded audio video from You Tube of Joe Pass' solo performance of Django Reinhardt's Nuages - enjoy!

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Jo
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