Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spreadin' Rhythm Around - Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five Feat. Hilary Alexander

CD front, Spreadin' Rhythm Around (WON Records, 004) (2017)
Swing jazz music emerged in the USA during the 1930s with the rise of big bands and the spread of radio networks broadcasting live music. Swing jazz was at its peak from late 1930s trough the WW 2 years in the 1940s supporting an ever-increasing need for entertainment and dance music at a difficult time. The popular swing orchestras of the period were presented by their leaders such as Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, Charlie Barnet a.o.. Both the full orchestras and the smaller ensembles drawn from the big bands had success with the public through records and live performance. Today, this stage in jazz music is mostly neglected, but fortunately there are exceptions. A revival of the interest in swing music emerged in the last decades of the 20th Century, especially among serious dancers searching for appropriate music to support the various dance styles - suddenly it became hip among a young generation of dancers to work out the steps of Jitterbug i.e., a dance style first made popular during the WW 2 period. The need for accompanying music led to the formation of organized ensembles that resumed the music of the original swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. An excellent example of such an ensemble is represented by Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five in focus here.
Jonathan Stout and The Campus Five feat. Hilary Alexander (promo photo by Monchette Gonda)
Bandleader Jonathan Stout is the guitarist of the Campus Five. As a guitarist he has specialized in pre-bebop jazz guitar drawing inspiration from the varied styles of jazz guitarists such as Freddie Green (of the Count Basie orchestra), Charlie Christian, Allan Reuss, Django Reinhardt a.o.. Jonathan Stout also writes a noted blog on swing guitar, accessible at the website of the Campus Five, here.  Like co-bandleader Hilary Alexander, the vocalist of the Campus Five, Jonathan Stout is an experienced dancer with a deep understanding of the interaction between Swing music and dance. The arrangements and choice of material for the performance by the Campus Five further reflect the band's and it leader's serious involvement with the original sources of the Swing music idiom.


This version of Honeysuckle Rose is inspired by the Count Basie orchestra's 1937 recorded version for Decca and is featured as the first track of the latest CD by Jonathan Stout and his Campus five, Spreadin' Rhythm Around (WON Records 004) released in June this year. The CD is the fourth by the orchestra and contains 15 tracks of danceable swing jazz drawn from the original sources as well as presenting a couple of new compositions by Jonathan Stout. Besides Jonathan Stout (g) and Hilary Alexander (voc) the Campus Five include Albert Alva (ts,cl), Jim Ziegler (tp,voc), Christopher Dawson (p), Wally Hersom (b) and Josh Collazo (d) and there are a couple of guest performances by Brian Shaw (tp) and Marquis Howell II (b). 
Photo collage copied from campusfive.com
The repertoire of the disc include well known standards like Cheek to Cheek, Limehouse Blues, Sunday, Rose Room, Undecided and the Billie Holiday hits Miss Brown To You and the title track of the CD, Spreadin' Rhythm Around. Also featured are lesser known tunes like Sir Charles Thompson's Tunis In, Just About Right For Me (- originally recorded c.1945 by vocalist Kay Starr and The Lamplighter All Stars), You've Got Me Woodoo'd (- a 1938 hit for Louis Armstrong, also recorded by Charlie Barnet a.o.), Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives To Me (- swing versions recorded by Gene Krupa, Peanuts Hucko and Sidney Bechet 1950-51) and Sweets, a composition by Count Basie and Harry 'Sweets' Edison originally recorded by The Red Callender Six in 1945 and the Count Basie Octet in 1950. There are further two compositions by Jonathan Stout, the instrumentals Mill House Stomp and Dance of The Lindy Blossoms, both fitting perfectly in and supporting the swing feeling of the disc. My overall impression is that the music is performed with due respect to the sources without actually copying the original recordings but rather carrying on the spirit of the music in a much enjoyable way directed both at a dancing audience and the engaged listener, who are rewarded with all killers and no fillers to quote an old marketing blurb. - From You Tube uploaded live performances by the Campus Five I'll insert a couple more examples of music featured at the CD, which is available for purchase and listening in streaming audio like the previous three outputs at the band's Bandcamp website, here -  Here is first Hilary Alexander's vocal featured in Just About Right For Me


Next, here is a live performance of Jonathan Stout's Mill House Stomp



To end this small presentation of Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five featuring Hilary Alexander, here is the band's version of Rose Room, heavily inspired by the 1939 recording of the tune by the Benny Goodman Sextet featuring Charlie Christian  - enjoy!


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Jo
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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Friday, August 4, 2017

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
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

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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
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com


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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
keepitswinging.domain@gmail.com

Retrospect Keep Swinging (old) Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions