Here is a weekend roundup of diversions or attractions for those Rifftides readers with nothing better to do on an August weekend; dodging Hurricane Irene, for instance.
1: Lester Young. This is one of the rare instances of The President performing on film. It is a kinescope of an episode of Art Ford’s Jazz Party, from the era when virtually all television programming was live. Ford’s show on WNTA-TV in New York survived for a few months in the late 1950s. He presented a cross-section of musicians as various in style as the venerable New Orleans clarinetist George Lewis and post boppers like alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley.
In this instance, Young found himself in the company of pianist Willie The Lion Smith, clarinetist Pee Wee Russell and trumpeter Charlie Shavers, among others. He played one of his favorite tunes, “Mean to Me.” Guitarist Dickie Thompson is visible. The bassist appears to be Vinnie Burke. We don’t see the drummer, but Lester turns to him in mid-solo and requests “a little tinky-boom.” Prez was definite about what he expected from drummers. Note the allusion near the end to “Tain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It”perhaps another gentle message to the percussion section.
For a Lester Young ballad performance from the Jazz Party, see this Rifftides archive post.
2: Bill Crow: The eminent bassist and raconteur sent this message.
I’ve been the guest lecturer for the last four Tuesdays at the Jazz Museum in Harlem’s series called “Jazz for Curious Listeners.” You can see the listings here:
They didn’t get their recorder working for the first one, but the second and third have audio, and the audio for the fourth will be up soon. I’m doing the last one next Tuesday, on the Benny Goodman trip to the Soviet Union. We’ve had nice audiences, and they have been very responsive. It’s been fun to do.
If New York survives Irene, the museum is open and you are in town, I strongly recommend that you go listen to Bill’s stories about the legendary, and legendarily uproarious, 1962 Goodman Russian venture. There is nothing like hearing Bill in person, but if you happen to be in, say, Reykjavik, Rawlins or Rome and can’t book a flight to Harlem on short notice, go here for his written account.
3: Radio Tip: Jim Wilke is best known as a talented broadcaster. He is also a skilled recording engineer. Among his recent audio captures were some of the performances at the Port Townsend Jazz Festival on Washington’s Olympic Peninsual. He will be airing one of them on his Jazz Northwest program tomorrow on the Tacoma-Seattle station KPLU-FM. Here is Jim’s description of the festivities, illustrated with his slightly grainy but atmospheric photo (I’m a visual arts critic on the side).
This performance took place at The Upstage and brought together a bi-coastal group including saxophonists Gary Smulyan and Joel Frahm and drummer Alvester Garnett from the East Coast, and Bruce Forman, guitar, Tamir Hendelman, piano and Doug Miller, bass, from the West Coast. All were members of the faculty of the week-long Jazz Workshop which precedes the Festival on the last weekend of July. Each of the six musicians has numerous recording and touring credits and brings a wide variety of experience to this set which ranges from tender ballads to be-bop burners.
With no rehearsal beyond talking through the tunes and deciding on solo order during the gig, this is a great example of the magic spontaneity of jazz as the six musicians turn in a performance that sounds like they’ve been playing together for years. The audience surrounds the musicians on three sides and two levels, and no one is more than a few steps from the musicians making it a very participatory experience.
Air time is 1:00 pm PDT Sunday. To hear Jazz Northwest, go to the KPLU website and click on “Listen Live.”
Have the best possible weekend. Stay dry.