The Original Cornell Syncopators, from left: Sarah Cohn-Manik, Lior Kreindler, Hannah Krall, Colin Hancock, Niki Love, Robbert VanRenesse, Amit Mizrahi, Rishi Verma, Stephen Newcomb, Noah Li, Kieran Loehr and Troy Anderson, at Cornell University on March 25, 2018. (photo courtesy Original Cornell Syncopators via Facebook)
When the Original Cornell Syncopators appeared at Maxie’s Supper Club and Oyster Bar in Ithaca, New York, on May 6, they were missing their founder and leader—22-year-old cornetist Colin Hancock—but they didn’t miss a beat!
While Hancock, now a junior at Cornell University, studied abroad this semester soaking up culture and cuisine in Italy, his bandmates led by reedwoman Hannah Krall confidently carried the torch of trad-jazz that he had so brilliantly ignited at Cornell University over the past three years.
Hancock and the Syncopators were the subjects of a cover story in The Syncopated Times in February 2018. After tirelessly researching the music of Buddy Bolden for several years, the multi-instrumentalist from the Austin, Texas area organized the Original Cornell Syncopators to commemorate the Original Dixieland Jass Band’s 1917 recordings of what are widely considered the earliest jazz sides. The initial Original Cornell Syncopators was a quintet just like the ODJB, but the Cornellians expanded to include up to 13 musicians credited in various combinations on their 2017 studio disc, Wild Jazz.
Eight of the nine players on May 6—Krall, reedman Troy Anderson, trumpeter Lior Kreindler and Niki Love, drummer/arranger Noah Li, tuba player Sarah Cohn-Manik, keyboardist Amit Mizrahi, and trombonist Mather Pareles subbing for Rishi Verma—are still in their 20s. Only banjo master Robbert van Renesse—who’s also an accomplished ukulele player and swing dancer—clocks in at over 50. Regardless of their ages, these young musicians have enthusiastically embraced the joyous music first heard during the earliest days of jazz. Hancock’s deep desire to authentically recreate those sounds have led him to dig up charts for often obscure tunes, many of which the nonet played on May 6.
They opened with Bennie Moten’s “Kater Street Rag,” got down and dirty with Lucille Bogan’s advisory “Shave ’Em Dry” and eased into Fats Waller’s mid-tempo stroll, “Squeeze Me” featuring adventurous improvised leads by trumpeter Lior Kreindler and pianist Amit Mizrahi.
The Moten-Thamon Hayes standard, “South” percolated swingingly before Kriendler sang a sweet version of Nat Cole’s spelling song, “L-O-V-E.” Penned by Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler in 1965, it’s likely the most recent number in the Syncopators’ repertoire.
Following the King Cole hit, drummer Noah Li’s wonderful woodblock work kept time for a seductively slow drag by Los Angeles-based composers John and Reb Spikes, “That Sweet Something Dear.” That tune had been waxed by King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators in 1926. In the third set, the Syncopators covered another Spikes Brothers’ composition, “My Mammy’s Blues.”
Maxie’s audience of three dozen diners and listeners enjoyed several other rarely heard numbers including “18th Street Strut” by Fats Waller and recorded by Bennie Moten in 1925, “Steady Roll” by Mel Stitzel recorded by Jelly Roll Morton and others in the early 1920s, and “Oh Sister, Ain’t That Hot” an upbeat romp by Harry White and Will Donaldson waxed by Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra in 1928.
Second trumpeter Niki Love sang the blues, “Who Can Your Regular Be,” a Holman-Riddick composition recorded in 1924 by the Arcadian Serenaders featuring trumpeter Wingy Manone.
When they hear the title, “Purple Rose of Cairo,” most people think of the 1985 Woody Allen movie starring Jeff Daniels, but the Syncopators perform the song that inspired the director, Armand Piron’s composition from 1920.
Among the more familiar tunes played by the Cornell Syncopators May 6 in Ithaca were “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” the Jerome Kern-Otto Harbach number from the 1933 musical Roberta, the traditional murder ballad “Frankie & Johnny,” and an absolutely rousing rendition of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s 1918 hit, “Fidgety Feet”
Although three of the nine musicians who performed that day—Krall, Love, and Mizrahi—are graduating from Cornell this spring, Colin Hancock will return from Europe in the fall. He’ll be happy to be back at the Syncopators’ helm and his bandmates and audiences will be delighted he’s home.
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