Monday, July 31, 2017

St. Louis Blues Times 9

One of W.C. Handy's most celebrated compositions is "St. Blues Blues," which has been recorded countless times and become a blues and jazz standard. At the East Coast Blues Conference in 1988 in Washington DC, Joe Savarin, then Head of the Blues Foundation, stated it was the most recorded song ever, a statement that may or may not be true, but no question it has been done countless times. Here is a number of performances of this classic number.

First, here is W.C. Handy's Band performing this classic number 

While there is a film short of Bessie Smith performing this, 
here is her recording with Louis Armstrong on cornet

Here is Louis Armstrong's 1929 Recording of the song

Bill Williams was a marvelous fingerstyle guitarist who was influenced by Blind Blake 
and did a wonderful rendition 

Here is an early country blues recording by Sylvester Weaver & Walter Beasley

Here is the great Sidney Bechet

Earl 'Fatha' Hines did a wonderful "Boogie on the St. Louis Blues

Johnny Copeland heard doing this classic

Then the tough tenor sax and band of Booker Ervin

And I could found easily another dozen renditions. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Introducing Roy Roberts

Roy Roberts
Introducing Roy Roberts
New Moon

New Moon Music continues to document the Virginia-Carolinas blues scene with this debut album of Roy Roberts. After years of playing the Carolinas, Virginia, Georgia, and West Virginia, backing numerous soul legends, and a stint playing country, he has turned to the blues with a soul-tinged release comprised mostly of his own originals.

There’s nothing flashy about Roy Roberts as either a singer or guitarist, but his fleet playing is tasteful and his mellow, soulful singing sounds like he might be at home with Jerry Butler songs. His songs are idiomatic, if not particularly distinctive. The highpoint is Roberts’ back-door man blues, Comin’ Thru the Back Door, where his best friend has been messing with his girl friend. The backing is first-rate, with Skeeter Brandon on piano and Phil Mazarick’s B-3 organ especially standing out. The band plays in a tight manner with effective horn charts.

Roberts’ soft delivery may not impress on first hearing, but his genial delivery grows over time. Nothing earth-shaking, but Roy Roberts has something to offer with his mellow and soulful approach. 

I likely received a review copy from the record label. This review originally appeared in the February 1995 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 198). This should still be available. Here is Roy Roberts performing at the 2010 Pocono Blues Festival.

Friday, July 28, 2017

John Pizzarelli Sinatra & Jobim at 50

John Pizzarelli
Sinatra & Jobim at 50
Concord Jazz

John Pizzarelli cites Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim as major influences on his vocals and his latest release commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Grammy Winning collaboration between the two legends. He pays tribute to those recordings on this set with eight tracks being songs that Sinatra and Jobim recorded at a 1969 session along with two originals, and Michael Frank’s ode to Jobim. Among those with Pizzarelli on this recording are Jobim's grandson Daniel, and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca, bassist Mike Karn and piano player Helio Alves.

On this recording, both Pizzarelli and Jobim channel the elder Jobim more than Sinatra, who admittedly was understated compared to his usual style on the celebrated recordings. The musical tone on most of these selections is more like Getz-Gilberto than the Claus Ogerman or Eumir Deodato orchestrated sessions. The result is delightful performances in their own lightly swinging fashion including then marvelous "Agua De Beber," as well as the lovely medley of "Meditation / Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," with Daniel singing the latter number in Portuguese before Pizzarelli sings softly in English along with his soft guitar chording, and the pretty "Dindi." There is also the delightful lightly swaying bossa nova medley of "I Concentrate On You / Wave," with Alves exquisite in his accompaniment and Pizzarelli taking a brief acoustic chordal break. Pizzarelli's father recorded "Two Kites" with the elder Jobim, with Daniel taking the vocal on this remake with a vocal chorus with its celebration of the kites flying in the sky. There is also a wonderful tenor saxophonist on a few selections including Michael Frank's "Antonio's Song."

As indicated this is a delightful recording, full of charm and elegance that might not quite reach the level of the legendary Sinatra-Jobim collaboration, but is enjoyable and laudable with its own considerable merits.

I received my review copy from Concord. Here is a video of "Baubles, Bangles & Beads," from this recording.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Jazz Loft According to W. Eugene Smith

The legendary photographer, W Eugene Smith, in the fifties through the early 1970s when he was evicted after a dispute with his landlord, rented floors in a Sixth Avenue building in the 'Flower District' of Manhattan. Smith had been a famed photo journalist for Life Magazine and is renown for his pictures of Pittsburgh. Through the mid-fifties until the mid-sixties, his space became a focal point for jazz musicians as well as Smith's own photography. This documentary from WNYC Films and directed by Sara Fishko, and available on DVD from FilmBuff, follows up a coffee table book from Sam Stephenson, and a WNYC radio series (that I believe Ms Fishko produced) to tell this fascinating story of this photographer and the space that was both home and his work space.

Jazz musicians then, and now, continue to struggle in funding places to play and rehearse, as well as live. When Smith moved into his loft in the mid-fifties, others were doing the same thing, illegally setting up homes and work places in  a commercially zoned area of New York City. Smith had been famous for his photo stories in Life Magazine, but with an obsessive nature, including his desire to control the layout of his photo stories, eventually became estranged from Life. In the fifties, when he was associated with the Magnum Agency, he was contracted to do a book of 100 pictures in Pittsburgh. He ended up taking thousands which he then tried to go through in the home about an hour up the Hudson from New York City.

With slow progress on a book getting done, and Smith failing to pay taxes, he moved away from his family and the house to the Manhattan loft. He set up a dark room, started shooting out the window, and started recording not only the music played by musicians, but his phone calls and the like as he spread out proofs on the walls and more. and word got out about his loft and musicians of all stripes would play there. He even drilled holes in the ceiling to place mikes on the floor above to capture the music. Obsessive about documenting everything, he had many reels of tape as well as his photos he took. 

Musicians like Freddie Redd, Ronnie Free, Gerry Mulligan and others were there and can be seen in some of the photos. Free even started living there as well as often serving as house drummer, and one of the other musicians he met then introduced him to heroin. He went on the road with Sarah Vaughan, but his habit made him so unreliable, he returned to the loft not long after. 

 Bill Crown is among those interviewed and here is a clip of him interviewed for the film

Smith's focus on his photography (and there is considerable discussion about his skills not simply in capturing the moment, but his darkroom and printing skills) and recording the music and all the goings on in the loft sometimes had him forget mundane things like paying the rent (or paying back someone like Hall Overton who lent him money (and is supposed to have threatened Smith with pinning him to the wall if he did not repay). 

Overton is another central figure besides Smith. On the faculty at Julliard, he was equally comfortable in either classical and jazz contexts and at the loft,m started teaching composition and other matters with students including Carmen Moore, Carla Bley and Steve Reich. Besides this, he also collaborated with Thelonious Monk on Monk's Town Hall concert which was significant in that at the time Monk had lost his cabaret card and unable to play in Manhattan clubs, but could play concerts. 

 Here is a CNN documentary on The Jazz Loft Project

A mix of rehearsal tapes, photos of the two working together take us from Monk teaching Overton how to play his music to working out concepts and arrangements of the music that would be performed. We hear from Harry Colomby, who was Monk's manager at the time, participants in the concert like alto saxophonist Phil Woods and french horn player Robert Northern about the experience, and the rehearsals with commentary from Monk's son T.S. Monk, monk biographer Kelley and the prominent contemporary pianist Jason Moran. One hears Phil Woods discuss the difficulty of the music, and  Robert Northern mention how Monk helped him get beyond simply his academic treatment of the notes to get the rhythmic feel down. The results of the three odd weeks of rehearsal was a musical triumph.

Here is a brief overview of Eugene Smith's contribution to photography

Nothing lasts forever, and the eventual demise of Smith's loft is discussed. Throughout this documentary, Smith's photographs and audio from the performances as well as his own life are skillfully weaved in with the interviews with musicians and others making for some fascinating viewing. This is a superb film that will intrigue those into either/and jazz and photography. I purchased this as a download although it is available on DVD and can be rented if one does not wish to purchase. For more information visit which includes a trailer for the film. Finally we have a clip of Sara Fishko and Calvin Skaggs discussing the film at Docs NYC in 2015.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

George Gershwin Inducted Into DownBeat Hall of Fame

George Gershwin's An American in Paris

In his August 2017 article on George Gershwin that accompanies his selection by the Veterans Committee to the DownBeat Hall of Fame, John McDonough writes that Gershwin is the most important figure in the literature of the jazz repertoire. He notes that if one looks at the list of the 100 most performed songs there are 11 titles from Gershwin (starting with "Summertime" and ending with "S'Wonderful." The next closest composer is Duke Ellington with seven and then Cole Porter with four. Simply look at "I Got Rhythm," and the structure and changes of it has "served as the harmonic support chassis for more original jazz titles — contrafacts, as they're called — than any song ever written."

 Here George Gershwin plays "I Got Rhythm."

The timelessness of Gershwin's music is seen and heard from the Broadway adaptation in 2015 of the 1951 film, "An American in Paris," was made into an exuberant Broadway Music with brilliant choreography as well as the timeless music. I had the pleasure of seeing it on Broadway, although it is now on tour in the North American (and will be at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC over the holidays this winter). Of course this composition is echoed in Bud Powell's classic "Parisian Thoroughfare." 

Here is Billie Holiday 1939 recording of "The Man I Love,"

Of course, "Rhapsody in Blue," first performed at Paul Whiteman's Aeolian Hall concert in 1924, is a classic of American Music.Let us continue to enjoy the legacy he left over the next century. And here are some more samples of this legacy.

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong performing "Summertime."

 Here is Charlie Parker performing his "Anthropology," a contrafact of "I Got Rhythm."

Finally here is Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail," featuring Ben Webster on tenor sax 
and also a contrafact of "I Got Rhythm."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Greg Hatza ORGANization Diggin' Up My Roots

The Greg Hatza ORGANization
Diggin' Up My Roots
Flip Records

Hammond B-3 master Greg Hatza was playing boogie woogie on the piano at the age of 5 growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania. Growing up on classic R&B, he becoming obsessed with the Hammond B-3 after hearing Jimmy McGriff and Jimmy McGriff. Baltimore Colt legend Lenny Moore caught Hatza playing at a hotel in Reading, and asked him to perform at a club that he was opening in Baltimore. Moore would also became his manager and Hatza moved to Charm City, and recorded a couple albums for Coral Records at this time. Subsequently he led pretty diverse career, including playing other electric keyboards and later studying tabla and sitar. He met Joey Defrancesco in 1994 who advised him the B-3 was undergoing a popular renaissance and returned to playing that and forming the Greg Hatza ORGANization, who currently also consist of Robert Shaid on drums, Brian Kooken on guitar and Peter Fraise on saxophone.

The title of this disc refers to the R&B and blues songs that Hatza heard growing up and there are eight interpretations of "High Heel Sneakers," "I Got a Woman," "Back at the Chicken Shack," "Night Train," "Please Send Me Someone To Love,""Hand Jive,""Something You Got," and "Stagger Lee." There are also three originals, including a couple of vocals. The mood is set on the opening, bouncy blues, "Baltimore Strut," that allows Fraise to get down as Hatza lays down a greasy foundation before Kooken solos while Shaid and the leader maintain the groove. An original blues "Big Big Back," opens with some down-in-the alley organ before Hatza takes a vocal about his baby having a big behind. Hatza is ok as a singer, but he sounds off-mike for most of it before the closing vocal where the rest join him. It is followed by Tommy Tucker's "High Heel Sneakers," with a funky riff providing a fresh take on the blues classic.

The last original, "Headin On Down South," is another slow blues with some bluesy guitar from Kooken and a decent vocal. The renditions of "I Got a Woman," "Back to the Chicken Shack" and "Night Train" are straight-ahead organ group performances with everything played at a relaxed tempo. "Night Train," is partly adapted from the James Brown recording with Fraise's sax solo evoking Jimmy Forrest. The longest performance is the moody take on "Please Send Me Someone To Love," with some fine bluesy solos from Hatza, Fraise and Kooken. There is also a peppy take of the John Otis hit, "Hand Jive."

Digging up his musical roots, Greg Hatza has produced a solid, blues-drenched Hammond B-3 led jazz recording that will delight organ and soul jazz fans.

A publicist provided download files for the review. This review appeared in the July-August 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (issue 373). Here is The Greg Hatza ORGANization in 2011 performing Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack" from the now-defunct New Haven Lounge.

Monday, July 24, 2017

DownBeat's Hall of Fame Celebrates Eubie Blake

Eubie Blake in Berlin in 1972 playing several of his most famous compositions, 
Charleston Rag, I'm Just Wild About Harry and Memories of You.

Among the three individuals selected by the Veterans Committee for DownBeat's Hall of Fame was James Hubert Blake (February 7, 1887 - February 12, 1983), known as Eubie Blake. Blake was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtimejazz, and popular music. In 1921, he and his long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans. Among the compositions he is still remembered for are  "Bandana Days", "Charleston Rag", "Love Will Find a Way", "Memories of You" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry". The musical Eubie!, which opened on Broadway in 1978, featured his works.

Blake was born in Baltimore of two former slaves, and the only one of eight children to survive infancy. He worked first in a bordello, then a Black and Tan Club and then on a medicine show circuit. Blake said he composed the melody of the "Charleston Rag" in 1899, when he would have been only 12 years old, but it was not committed to paper, however, until 1915, when he learned to write musical notation. In 1912, Blake began playing in vaudeville with James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, which accompanied Vernon and Irene Castle's ballroom dance act. 

After World War 1, Blake first joined with Noble Sissle to work as a vaudeville act, and then they worked on Shuffle Along. The Blake-Sissle partnership ended in 1925, but Blake continued to evolve. In 1930, he collaborated with Andy Razaf on Blackbirds, which introduced, among other numbers, “Memories Of You” and “You’re Lucky To Me.”

Louis Armstrong's classic recording of You're Lucky To Me.

After decline in interest in ragtime, his career went on an upswing in the 1950s when interest in ragtime revived and Blake, one of its last surviving artists, found himself launching yet another career as ragtime artist, music historian, and educator and recording with 20th Century Records and Columbia Records. Additionally another ragtime revival engendered by the 1973 film The Sting—along with the 1978 musical Eubie!—helped to elevate Blake’s profile during his final decade. 
Through the last decades of his life lectured and gave interviews at major colleges and universities all over the world, and appeared as a performer and clinician at top jazz and rag festivals as well as appearing on television as a guest on the Tonight Show with John Carson and Merv Griffin, and was featured with orchestral performances conducted by Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Fiedler.

A 1932 film of Eubie Blake and His Orchestra that includes the Nicholas Brothers

Terry Waldo, author of This is Ragtime, said of Blake "He lived long enough to convey to later generations all of his knowl- edge about the whole history of American music, and the ways in which black music was entwined within it.” Furthermore, in the DownBeat article accompanying his selection to the Hall of Fame, Ted Panken observes that "younger musicians imbued with an “all jazz is modern” aesthetic, such as vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Ehud Asherie, continue to find inspiration in his works. It is quite a legacy.

The material in this appreciation is taken from Blake's Wikipedia entry and Ted Panken's article in the August 2017 DownBeat. We close with a clip of Eubie Blake with John Denver as Eubie plays and they announce the Best New Artist award on the 1979 Grammy Awards TV show.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Looking back at John Hammond on Vanguard and Pointblank

John Hammond
Verve & Pointblank Releases
Verve / Pointblank

Jerry Wexler writes in the notes to John Hammond’s new Pointblank release Trouble No More that Hammond is the greatest roots blues practitioner of this generation and Hammond sings “the deep and natural blues like some blind man on the corner in Opelousas, Louisiana.” Despite Jerry Wexler’s renown as a producer and recording industry mogul, the latter statement will provoke disagreement among some who find Hammond often sounding as if he is trying to sound like a street singer. Regardless of Hammond’s dedication to the blues, his vocals are inconsistent, and some will find him on occasion, irritably contrived, particularly when he tries to sing tough like Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters. Admittedly he can be engaging when singing in an unforced manner. 

Vanguard has compiled a useful cross-section of his work for that label that dates from the sixties forward, You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover. After an awful vocal on the title track, this reviewer almost didn’t listen to the rest. While his choked vocal also sounds forced on Muddy Waters’ I Can’t Be Satisfied, he is convincing on Leroy Carr’s Midnight Hour Blues, which also sports solid guitar by the late Billy Butler, and the still active Jimmy Spruill (active when review was originally written and published). While some will find the presence of Mike Bloomfield, Duane Allman and the Hawks (better known as The Band), of interest, there is no electric guitar playing here that tops Butler and Spruill. Those who like Hammond’s vocals will have no reservations about this, and for others, like this reviewer, this does provide a useful sampling and there are a number of engaging performances here. 

Hammond’s backing on Trouble No More. on Pointblank includes Little Charlie and the Nitecats on several songs, slide guitarist Roy Rogers on others, and Charles Brown’s piano and Danny Caron’s guitar are on renditions of Brown’s Trouble Blues and Fool’s Paradise. Hammond’s singing is more relaxed here, although occasionally coming across as mannered. He continues to exhibit an eclectic repertoire and his rendition of That Nasty Swing has a bit of Jimmy Rodgers flavor, although Hammond doesn’t attempt a blue yodel. The album’s highpoint is a nice, wistful version of Blind Willie McTell’s Love Changin’ Blues. Trouble Blues is a credible remake, of a Charles Brown classic but Hammond is overshadowed by Brown’s kinetic accompaniment. However, Hammond has produced an engaging and likable release for the Pointblank. 

I likely received review copies from the record companies. This review originally appeared in the April 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 190). One may have to purchase theses used or as downloads, although their are other collections of Hammond's Vanguard recordings available. Here is Hammond doing Fool's Paradise from the Trouble No More CD.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Charlie Owen Worth the Wait

Charlie Owen
Worth the Wait

Like the prodigal son, DC native Chartlie Owen has returned to the DMV (Distict-Maryland-Virginia) after decades on the West coast where he fronted the Dynatones as well as part of the house band at various venues. Now he has this release produced by Jim Pugh, who was the keyboardist for the Dynatones, as well as others including Etta James. In addition to Pugh (and Owen's own trumpet on 4 tracks), among those heard in the backing including saxophonist Nancy Wright, drummer Paul Revelli, Jon Cleary (piano on one track) and Curtis Salgado (a duet on one track).

This is mostly an album of southern soul and blues ably played and capably sung. Owen shows clear affection for this material and his renditions of the O.V. Wright classic "I Don't Know Why," James Carr's "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," Little Milton's deep blues "So Mean To Me" and classic urban soul "We're Gonna Make It," Johnny Adams' "It Ain't the Same Thing," and Johnny Taylor classic "Cheaper to Keep Her," show him an able singer although his renditions do not reach the level of Carr, Milton, Adams and Taylor, as capably sung and played as they are. His affection for New Orleans R&B  is reflected in the Adams cover along with a nice treatment of Allen Toussaint's "On the Way Down," along with surprising, and well-sung recreations of Tommy Ridgely's "Let's Try and Talk It Over," along with Lloyd Price's "Just Because."

A couple of ballads stand out including his rendition of Jesse Winchester's "No Pride At All," and Allison Moorer's "Soft Place To Fall," that closes this recording. These have a warmth and do not suffer from unavoidable comparisons with some soul legends. Owen is a very good singer, and fans of classic soul with a dose of blues should find "Worth the Wait" quite entertaining.

I received my review copy from a publicist. He is performing Sunday evening, July 23 at JV's in Falls Church, Virginia and I hope to enjoy his music live. Here is Charlie Owen performing "Can I Change My Mind."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Herbie Nichols Honored In DownBeat Hall of Fame

Herbie Nichols recording of The Third World

"It's about time" was a common comment on Facebook regarding the selection of Herbie Nichols to DownBeat's Hall of Fame. Nichols was one of three selected by the Veterans Committee (the others being Eubie Blake and George Gershwin) and it is gratifying that he is receiving such recognition so long after his early death from leukemia in 1963 at the age of 44.

Perhaps at the time of his passing, he was perhaps unfairly compared to his friend Thelonious Monk. I became acquainted with his story from the chapter devoted to him in A.B. Spellman's classic book,Four Lives in the Bebop Business. Recently we are fortunate that Mark Miller wrote a full biography of Nichols, Herbie Nichols: A Jazzist's Life

Herbie Nichols recording of Lady Sings the Blues.

He was born in San Juan Hill area of Manhattan and grew up in Harlem. Wikipedia succintly observes  that "During much of his life he took work as a Dixieland musician while working on the more adventurous kind of jazz he preferred, and he is best known today for these highly original compositions, program music that combines bop, Dixieland, and music from the Caribbean with harmonies derived from Erik Satie and Béla Bartók." 

The quirkiness of his compositions perhaps leads to superficial comparisons to Monk. He became friends of Monk while working at Minton's, although he was not fond of the competitiveness of that venue. He became friends of Monk then and was also a journalist who was perhaps the first to write about Monk.

Herbie Nichols playing 2300 Skidoo.

After serving in the Military during World War II, he pursued his career as a composer and pianist. Mary Lou Williams was the first to record his compositions, and after "several years of to persuade Alfred Lion at Blue Note Records to sign him up, he finally recorded some of his compositions for the label in 1955 and 1956, some of which were not issued until the 1980s. His tune Serenade had lyrics added, and as Lady Sings the Blues became firmly identified with Billie Holiday. In 1957 he recorded his last album for Bethlehem Records." His Blue Note Records are compiled on The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols, and his Bethlehem recordings available on Love, Gloom, Cash, Love.

His efforts to work as a modern musician were limited, and as noted he often had to play Dixieland, which is where he met Steve Lacy and Roswell Rudd, both who were champions of his music after his passing and who were involved in various recordings of his compositions, including a number that were not recorded during his life. Miller notes his music was viewed by his contemporaries as a bit out and also his straight personality contributed to him being outside the jazz scene at the time. 

Misha Mingelberg is heard leading a group playing Herbie Nichols music.

Spellman's chapter is well worth reading nearly five decades later and Miller's biography fleshes out his remarkable, if tragic, life. A sampling of his recordings and an interview with Miller discusses his life and music is on an archived radio broadcast,

In 2015, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art presented the US Army Blues to celebrate the music of Herbie Nichols. A couple days later, the US army Blues presented the same program. This second performance was broadcast on video, which is available on youtube. They have presented the Music of Herbie Nichols additional times as well. in 2019, it is likely the Take 5 series held at the Museum of American Art will have another celebration of Herbie Nichols and his music.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A.K.A. Doc Pomus

A couple decades ago I wrote a review of Johnny Adams album, "Walking On a Tightrope" for Living Blues and out of the blue I received a call from Doc Pomus telling me he enjoyed my review, especially an observation I made about the recording and its overall sound, not simply the excellent singing from Johnny Adams. It was my only contact with this giant of American music. This 2012 film documentary, conceived by his daughter Sharyn Felder and directed by Peter Miller, along with the 2007 biography by Alex Halberstadt, "Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life And Times Of Doc Pomus," provides not simply the details of his life but a sense of the man who went from being a blues singer on crutches to a songwriter who crafted (often with others) some of the most memorable songs of the past 70 years.

The documentary, through interview clips from a variety of family, friends, artists, producers and music scholars traces his growing up in Brooklyn, contracting polio, hearing Joe Turner's recording, Piney Brown Blues, and becoming a blues shouter in Greenwich Village and Brooklyn, making a number of rhythm and blues recordings before chance has him starting to write songs for artists at Atlantic Records, including his hero, Big Joe Turner, including Chains of Love, which he states he sold the rights to. It would launch a career that had him spin out classics like Ray Charles' Lonely Avenue. Then there would be his Brill Building partnership with Mort Shuman where they penned so many songs like Why Do I Have To Be a Teenager In Love, This Magic Moment, Sweets For My Sweet, Suspicion, Save the Last Dance For Me, Viva Las Vegas, Little Sister, Go Jimmy Go, Can't Get Used to Losing You and so many more. 

This wonderfully crafted film interweaves his personal life along with his professional life including his marriage, the songwriting partnership with Shulman, moving to the suburbs as well as hanging in Manhattan. Some of the backstory for some of his songs is given as well. Save the Last Dance For Me has a moving story as it reflects his wedding night where he couldn't dance with his wife but insisted she dance, and later she mentioned enjoying the dancing but was saving her best for him. Ben E King, who sang lead on the Drifters classic recording, mentions how he was affected before he recorded it, knowing the story behind it. 

And we are taken to Elvis calling him at 2 in the morning with Doc thinking it was a prank at first and the fact he and Shuman produced a number of songs for Elvis movies. The movie takes us through the bad times as well such as after the partnership with Shuman broke up, and his marriage broke up, how he coped as well as how he became a center of late night hangs at his hotel lobby with all sorts of night folk. Later Doc would be mentoring young songwriters like Kenny Hirsch with whom he wrote There Is Always One More Time for Ray Charles. 

(In the clip immediately below, Doc talks about writing for Elvis in interview clip not in the film but from interviews used in the clip)

Doc was admired by many and he recounts going to a BMI dinner which he regarded as professional obligation and he was seated next to John and Yoko Ono with John Introducing himself which Doc found funny as if he did not know who Lennon was. His daughter Sharyn recalled how Doc and John would meet in the neighborhood wearing disguises and one day she saw John and Yoiko in a supermarket and introduced herself with Lennon responding "DOC POMUS" and then singing Save the Last Dance For Me. And Doc recounts how Dylan once asked him to supply lyrics for some music, which Doc found incredible.

There are so many stories about how Doc would go out of his way to help folks in different ways, his efforts to revive his friend Jimmy Scott's career (and it took Doc's f**kin g funeral to get Scott a recording contract), assist Big Joe Turner including an anecdote that he was pissed because he thought The Cookery was over-working Big Joe by having him play three shows that night, taht he left in a huff and ha his driver call in a bomb threat that emptied the club and made sure Turner did not do a third set that night

Doc was a larger than life person that it one wrote a novel about, no one would believe. This is a movie I have watched over a half dozen times and it moves me each time and I learn something new each time. Truly a remarkable film about a remarkable person.

I purchased this as a download. The trailer for the film is at the top of this somewhat inelegant blog post. Here is Mike Stoller's comments on A.K.A. Doc Pomus.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Don Cherry Honored By DownBeat Hall of Fame

Congratulations to Don Cherry for his selection in the DownBeat Critics Poll to the magazine's Hall of Fame. Cherry, with his pocket trumpet was an important part of Ornette Coleman's "Change of the Century." In addition to being a vital part of Coleman's pioneering group, he later played with Sonny Rollins, recorded with John Coltrane, as well as joined Steve Lacy for an album devoted to Thelonious Monk's Music. He was a member of the New York Contemporary Five with Archie Shepp and John Tchicai and recorded with Albert Ayler and Gato Barbieri. He also recorded for Blue Note as a leader including the albums Complete Communion and Symphony For Improvisors.

With Coleman alumni Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, and Eddie Blackwell, he was a member of the group Old and New Dreams who had four albums on Black Saint and ECM. He then became involved in world fusion music, including the "world jazz" group Codona, a trio that consisted of Don Cherry (trumpet, melodica, organ), Collin Walcott (tabla, sitar, percussion), and Nana Vasconcelos and recorded 3 albums for ECM. 

Cherry also recorded duets with Eddie Blackwell and several world music albums under his own name including Brown Rice, and MultiKulti. He passed away from liver cancer at the age of 58 in 1995. 

Here are several videos to celebrate his music. First the Don Cherry Trio in Paris in 1971.

Here is Don Cherry in a group performing in 1980.

And finally Don Cherry's "MultiKulti" in 1991.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Vince Giordano - There's a Future In Our Past

This is a trailer for a film I recently purchased as a download. For those not familiar with Vince Giordano, he has led a small big band, The Nighthawks for about 4 decades that focuses on the hot and sweet music of the 1920s and 1930s, often playing arrangements dating from those years and trying to replicate the sound of the bands as heard on recordings from that era. This band has been employed on a number of films including those by Woody Allen, The Aviator, as well as on the HBO TV series Broadway Empire, in which the band actually was scene performing in some episodes.

This documentary examines what is entailed for him to actually engage in such activities, how he became interested in this music and his ongoing obsessiveness, his collecting of original stock arrangements (he has tens of thousands of such arrangements), the musicians who are in his band and what is entailed in keeping the band afloat and regularly performing.

He is scene performing at (among other locations) Sofia's where he had a regular gig for several years, The Iguana where they currently perform two nights a week, the Newport Jazz Festival (with George Wein off to the side enjoying their set) at a Lincoln Center summer performance, and Wolf Trap as part of a Prairie Home Companion broadcast from that venue. There is scenes of a recording session for Broadway Empire and him on radio promoting a Town Hall concert that celebrated the 90th Anniversary of Paul Whiteman's Aeolian Hall Concert which included the premiere of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Towards the documentary's end we are taken to a NYC Hot Jazz Festival where a number of younger performers discuss Vince's influence and the Nighthawks are joined by vocalist Catherine Russell for a number.

It is a fascinating look at a gentleman who triples on bass saxophone, tuba and a steel bass, in addition to leading the band, singing and so much more in filling a certain, and important musical niche. This should be available as a download or a rental as well as hard DVD. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Muddy Waters Paris 1972

Muddy Waters
Paris 1972

A part of Norman Granz’ Jazz at the Philharmonic Series of recordings (that includes albums by Ray Charles and Cannonball Adderley) this is a valuable new live recording of Muddy waters from a quarter-century past. He’s with his then working band of Pinetop Perkins/piano, Mojo Buford/harp, Calvin Jones/bass, Willie Smith/drums and Louis Myers on guitar, filling in for then ailing Sammy Lawhorn, and relegating himself to a mostly supporting role.

This is a “what you see is what you get” sort of recording. Muddy sounds in good form, singing robustly and plays a fair amount of slide guitar , Pinetop Perkins shows what a fine backing pianist he is, and even Mojo Buford, not my favorite of Waters’ harp players, acquits himself well on his steady, if unspectacular accompaniments. The material should be fairly familiar, with Clouds in My Heart, Hootchie Cootchie Man, Blow Wind Blow, Honey Bee, Walkin’ Blues and Got My Mojo Workin’.

Produced in cooperation with Waters’ estate, this is a lively, highly entertaining addition to Waters’ discography.

I likely received a review copy from Fantasy Records who owned the Pablo catalog. This review appeared originally in the July-August 1997 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 223). Here is Muddy in 1976 performing "Rollin' and Tumblin'."

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tas Cru Simmered and Stewed

Tas Cru
Simmered and Stewed

One of Tas Cru's earlier albums was titled "Grizzle n' Bone" and that is a fair approach to his blues with roots accents. His crusty, seasoned singing is matched with his very adept songwriting and solid, adept guitar, ably supported by some fine studio musicians. In fact he redoes "Grizzle n' Bone" in a rollicking performance (terrific piano from Chip Lamson) as he sings about used to get biscuits and gravy and now all he gets is grizzle and bone.

"Feel I'm Falling" is a stark call for help set against a trance groove in the manner of Otis Taylor with swirling repeated guitar riff and some biting slide guitar before it segues into a more emphatic, driving segment displaying his skill at arranging his material as well as singing and playing with Dick Earl Erickson adding haunting harmonica. On the plaintive ballad, "Time and Time," Erickson's mournful harmonica again adds to the mood. "Road To My Obsession" has a dynamic groove as Tas heads down a lonesome road with 200 miles to go to pay his dues, as he will play them blues and recounts his experiences playing. The closing track is a reworking and interpretation of Jackie Wilson's hit "Higher and Higher," that builds to its jubilant climax

This is a consistently strong recording that displays why Tas Cru has become a popular performer on the blues circuit. His music is fresh and original, wonderfully played whether he is playing acoustically or getting a rocking groove on, and with a gravelly, honest vocal approach making for a first-rate recording. And he is even better live. For more information on Tas Cru, visit the website,

I received a review copy from VizzTone. This review originally appeared in the July-August Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 373). Here Tas Cru performs "Grizzle n' Bone."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The New Vision Sax Ensemble Musical Journey Through Time

The New Vision Sax Ensemble
Musical Journey Through Time
Zaki Publishing

Based in southern Florida, The New Vision Sax Ensemble is a saxophone quartet comprised of Diron Holloway on Soprano, Alto Sax and clarinet; James Lockhart on Alto Sax; Jason Hainsworth on Tenor Sax and Melton Mustafa on Baritone Sax. It was formed by Mustafa in 1999 and its members are music educators as well as musicians. While able to play all genres of music but focuses on Jazz as its core.

While inspired by the 29th Street Sax Quartet and the World Saxophone Quartet, on the present disc they play more traditionally in their renditions of jazz classics as well as material from the ragtime era to modern show tunes in a lively manner opening with a spirited bebop rendition of Bobby Watson's "Conservation" featuring Holloway's alto sax along with Mustafa's baritone which provides the bass anchor as well as takes a brief, gruff solo, followed by an equally appealing bop-flavored rendition of "A Night in Tunisia." The old classic "Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey," has the spotlight on Holloway's twisting, at times squealing, clarinet lines, as well as the tenor sax of Hainsworth.

And here is a nice, straight rendition of Monk's "Round Midnight," along with a lengthy "Selections From Porgy and Bess" with considerable lyricism as well opportunity for each member to take the spotlight. Lockhart is featured on a lyrical rendition of "My Favorite Things," saying close to the lyrics throughout and followed by a joyful reading of "I Feel Pretty" from "West Side Story." "Selections From Scott Joplin" is a chamber ensemble medley several familiar numbers from the great ragtime composer including "The Entertainer" and "Maple Leaf Rag," before the moving closing performance of "Amazing Grace,"

As noted, the performances here are straight forward, and one is impressed by the full ensemble sound throughout so one does not miss a rhythm section when enjoying this highly engaging recording.

I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the July-August 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 373). Here they are in performance doing "Round Midnight."


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Kim Wilson That’s Life

Kim Wilson
That’s Life

Kim Wilson’s second Antone’s album showcases his considerable talent as a singer, harmonica player and songwriter. It is comprised of Wilson’s originals and some covers of tunes that haven’t been done to tedium.

Opening with a rocking jump blues, Baby Please Don’t Lie To Me, Wilson confidently delivers his vocal on a lyric suggestive of Percy Mayfield. In contrast Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You sounds like a cover of an unissued Sonny Boy Williamson Checker recording , although Wilson’s harp echoes Little Walter on his fine treatment of Jimmy Rogers’ Blues Leave Me Alone (with tasty harp fills and a solid solo from guitarist Rusty Zinn) and on the harp features, Humpin’ to Please, and Lowdown, both exhibiting his relaxed and fluid phrasing and full tone. Wilson salutes the second Sonny Boy Williamson on She’s My Baby, and his harp also echoes Williamson on a rocking rendition of Junior Parker’s Pretty Baby.

In addition to Zinn, Duke Robillard, Derek O’Brien and Clarence Holliman are also heard on guitar, and Gene Taylor adds piano. The only tune that perhaps comes off flat is Wilson’s straight reworking of Irma Thomas’ classic soul hit, Time is on My Side. Otherwise, Wilson’s songs, vocals and harp recapture the feeling of the classic blues from the fifties and sixties on a set that is much more than simply nostalgia.

I likely received a review copy of this from the label or a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 194). Here is Kim from a somewhat recent performance.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

John Nemeth Feelin' Freaky

John Nemeth
Feelin' Freaky
Memphis Grease Records

The veteran blue-eyed blues and rhythm singer and harmonica player has a new release featuring his band, The Blue Dreamers, along with some crack Memphis musicians on eleven Nemeth originals. The Blue Dreamers are Danny Banks on drums, Matthew Wilson on bass and guitar, and Johnny Rhodes on guitar and they are joined by the organ of the legendary Charles Hodges, horns and strings for a recording that often evokes the classic Hi Records sound behind Nemeth who sings soulfully as those already familiar with him would expect.

The high-points often are those selections that are in the Hi Records style including the opening "Under the Gun," with its lyric directed against gun violence and the pressure living where there is gun violence; "Rainy Day," as Nemeth sings about the rainy day and he has nothing saved including not having saved his love; and the closing "Long Black Cadillac" about a young love and how he lost his love and the long black Cadillac took his baby away with some pithy harmonica adding to the performance. There are a couple of solid tracks not in mould such as "S.T.O.N.E.D." The title track is a dance number with Nemeth playing upper register harmonica along with his high pitched vocal. It is an entertaining performance perhaps, if not a memorable one, as is the similar "Get Offa Dat Butt," which evokes people to get up and boogie.

As indicated there are some exceptional performances here, along with solid ones and a a few that are entertaining, if less compelling. As a result, John Nemeth's latest recording one that should appeal to soul as well as blues enthusiasts.

I received my review copy from a publicist. Here he performs "Long Black Cadillac."


Monday, July 10, 2017

Larry Newcomb Quartet With Bucky Pizzarelli
Living Tribute
Essential Messenger

Blessed with a marvelous tone and a swinging melodic sense, guitarist Larry Newcomb's latest album is a tribute to some individuals who had a significant impact on him as a guitarist such as the late Dick Hall, Jim Hall, and Bucky Pizzarelli (who Newcomb studied under and adds his acoustic archtop guitar, mostly playing rhythm in a Freddie Green fashion to 7 or the 11 tracks) and in other ways as his family. He adds comments to various selections that link the song to a particular individual or individuals. Newcomb and his quartet of pianist Eric Olsen, bassist Dmitri Kolesnik and drummer Jimmy Madison are also joined by vocalist Leigh Jonaitis on two selections.

Newcomb captivates with his beautiful tone, single note lines and carefully placed chords with his swinging backing band starting with a sonorous "I Remember You," as well as the Cole Porter gem "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To," the Jim Hall recording of which inspired him to become a jazz guitarist. Jim Hall's duet with Ron Carter of "Alone Together," inspired the rendition here with Kolesnik's bass being the dominant solo voice with Newcomb's only solo judiciously employing chords against a spare backing. "Morningside Heights," one of Newcomb's seven originals, is a driving blues with Pizzarelli adding a short, rhythmically emphatic chord-rooted solo after effervescent solos from Newcomb and Olsen. Another original, "Band of Brothers," dedicated to his sons, is a lovely waltz with Olsen's adding deft accompaniments along with a solo complementing the leader's playing on a charming original. Jonaitis adds her lovely vocal to "One Heart Ain't As Great As Two," with Pizzarelli's rhythmic chording anchoring this performance to which Newcomb adds pithy obligatos to her vocal, as well as "Love Is Here," with its breezy samba groove and Newcomb's understated support and charming solo.

Much of the charm of the performances on "Living Tribute," are because of the restraint often shown along with the invention and lyricism manifest throughout in the solos and the solid ensemble playing. This is a jewel of a recording of swinging, guitar jazz.

I received a review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the July-August 2017 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 373). Here are the two guitarists performing "Swing To Bop."

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Paul Rishell Swear To Tell The Truth

Paul Rishell Swear To Tell The Truth
Tone Cool / Rounder

Boston area blues artist Paul Rishell works both in an acoustic as well as an electric band vein. Swear To Tell The Truth is his second Tone-Cool album, and like his earlier one features both sides of his blues persona, although the focus is mostly on his acoustic side. 

Guitarist Ronnie Earl and harmonica player Little Annie Raines help out, along with producer Richard Rosenblatt who adds harp to Bukka White’s Shake ‘Em On Down and Drinkin’ Water From a Hollow Log, where Rishell plays a Fred McDowell slide part on the Rolling and Tumbling theme. Rishell’s skill on guitar is quite notable, particularly when he handles East Coast blues as his version of Blind Boy Fuller’s Mamie is exquisite. 

If he can’t make one forget Howling Wolf with Somebody in My Home, Ronnie Earl’s striking electric guitar on Earl Hooker’s Swear To Tell the Truth is first rate. Perhaps the finest track is his rearrangement of Charlie Patton’s Some of These Days, which Rishell aptly describes as ‘wistful.’ His fingerpicking guitar is delightful, with Michigan River Blues showcasing his clean picking. 

A very well conceived and produced collection.

I likely received a review copy from Rounder Records. This review appeared in the September 1994 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 1994). Here from two decades later, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines perform "Some of These Days."