Jazz Jottings September 20175 minute read

Igor Glenn, a.k.a. Igor the Jazz Cowboy, a.k.a. Igor the One Man Band, on The Gong Show (ABC-TV) this year after a 39-year hiatus. He’s still got it!


Hal Smith, whose prolific writings over the years have qualified him as a jazz historian in my book, has long admired trombonist Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973). As Hal points out, “Ory gained an enviable reputation as leader of one of the finest bands in New Orleans, using dynamics that could bring the sound down to a whisper, a light, lifting rhythm feel, and play just the right tempos for dancers.”

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The All Star Jazz Group assembled in 1944 for The Orson Welles Almanac, from left: Ed Garland, bass; Buster Wilson, piano; Marili Morden, proprietor, Jazz Man Records; Jimmie Noone, clarinet; Mutt Carey, trumpet; Zutty Singleton, drums; Kid Ory, trombone; Bud Scott, guitar. (photo courtesy wikipedia.org)

Ory went to California in the early 1920s, and his band was the first African-American jazz band to record (including his own famous composition, “Ory’s Creole Trombone”). He moved to Chicago where he played with three of the most revered groups in the history of recorded jazz: King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators, Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers and Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five. During this period, he also wrote two other jazz standards: “Muskrat Ramble” and “Savoy Blues.” Out of music for an extended period, Ory was redicovered in 1944 by Orson Welles who featured his band of New Orleans veterans on his Orson Welles Almanac radio broadcasts.

As a tribute to one of his many idols, Smith has organized the On The Levee band, which was the name of a San Francisco nightclub owned by Ory where his band performed (1957-61). Hal has recruited multi-instrumentalist Clint Baker on trombone, plus five busy NOLA musicians: Ben Polcer, trumpet; Joe Goldberg, clarinet; Kris Tokarski, piano; Alex Belhaj, guitar; and Joshua Gouzy, bass. Hal will do his best to emulate Kid Ory’s drummer, Minor Hall.

The group has an upcoming engagement for the Jazz Society of Pensacola as part of the Foo Foo Fest’s Janet Knowles Memorial Jazz Gumbo at Phineas Phogg’s at Seville Quarter in Pensacola on November 13, beginning at 6:30pm.

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Drummer Danny Coots and stride pianist Brian Holland have just recorded their sixth album as a duet, Swingin’ for the Fences, and then were joined by Carl Sonny Leyland for a trio album, Old Fashioned. The energetic duo put together a quintet (adding Evan Arntzen, clarinet-sax; Marc Caparone, cornet; Steve Pikal, bass) that took the Durango Ragtime Festival by storm last March and will be releasing a tribute CD to Thomas “Fats” Waller titled This Is So Nice It Must Be Illegal in October.

The Coots-Holland combine has a busy upcoming schedule on the road, appearing at the Pentastic Jazz Festival in British Columbia and the Central Pennsylvania Ragtime & American Music Festival this month; the Sun Valley and Pismo festivals in October; and the Arizona Classic Jazz Festival plus the Kansas City and West Coast ragtime festivals in November.

Joining Danny and Brian in Chandler, Arizona will be guitarists Andy Reiss and Pat Bergeson. Andy is one of the top studio musicians in Nashville, tours with Vince Gill, and is a member of the Time Jumpers, a Western swing band composed of session singers and musicians. Pat, who is also proficient on the harmonica, performed with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall early in his career and has toured with Chet Atkins and Lyle Lovett.

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Dick Hyman, whose enduring brillance warrants far more than a mere proclamation, in our opinion.

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July 18 was proclaimed “Dick Hyman Day” by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and also served as the kickoff for the 33nd annual 92Y Jazz in July Festival. The legendary pianist, composer and arranger celebrated his 90th birthday in March, became an NEA Jazz Master in April, and received an honorary doctorate from the Julliard School of Music in May.

Hyman was 92Y’s artistic director for 20 years and co-creator of the Jazz in July Festival. He will be joining fellow pianist Bill Charlap, the current artistic director, for an October 14 concert at the Upper East Side cultural and community center located at the corner of East 92nd Street and Lexington Avenue.

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Co-founders Bria Skonberg and Molly Ryan have announced the faculty lineup for their 2018 New York Hot Jazz Camp, which will be held April 2-8 in the Big Apple. Catherine Russell will direct the vocalists, while the instrument instructors include Randy Reinhart, trumpet; Evan Christopher, reeds; Jim Fryer, trombone; Justin Poindexter, banjo/guitar; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Nicki Parrott, bass; and Rob Garcia, drums.

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Igor Glenn obviously never read Thomas Wolfe’s novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Thirty-nine years ago, he was a three-time winner on Chuck Barris’s original Gong Show on NBC, doing his famous “Motorcycle Song” astride his bass fiddle and imitating the sound of a motorcycle on a kazoo. The 21st Century version of the Gong Show is now back on ABC, and there was Igor on the July 20th episode doing his one-man band routine for the benefit of three million viewers. The self-proclaimed “World Tour Troubadour” didn’t bring home top-honors, but showed at age 75, he is still very much at home on stage.

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I occasionally get asked to participate in one of those “favorite musician” polls, which basically are popularity contests. Hot House magazine, which since 1982 has been a guide of where to find jazz in New York City, is the latest to sponsor a NYC Jazz Fans poll of musicians based and performing in the metropolitan area. The results will be announced in October.

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Among the finalist nominees are Dan Levinson, Ken Peplowski and Anat Cohen, clarinet; Adrian Cunningham, alto sax; Harry Allen and Jimmy Heath, tenor sax; Bria Skonberg, Jon-Erik Kellso and Jon Faddis, trumpet; Wycliffe Gordon and Vincent Gardner, trombone; Bill Charlap, piano; Nicki Parrott and Jay Leonhart, bass; Russell Malone, guitar; Paul Midiri, vibes; Glenn Crytzer Orchestra, Best Group; Catherine Russell, female vocalist; and John Pizzarelli, male vocalist.

Related: 5th annual “Fans Decision” Jazz Awards- NYC’s Top Jazz Artists Recognized

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Cynthia Sayer will give a lecture/performance on “America’s Unlikely Jazz Instrument: the 4-String Banjo” on Sept. 19 at the Lincoln Center Jazz Academy in New York City. The free presentation starts at 7 pm.

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Jazz Jottings September 2017

Bassist-tubist Sam Rocha had some cogent thoughts to share following his first experience as a counselor at the 2017 Sacramento Teagarden Jazz Camp: “Watching and listening to the young musicians transform and grow in their skills and confidence over the span of one week was an awe-inspiring experience and has truly inspired me to lend more of my time to music education. I’ve also been adopted by a crew of people who function as not only as an efficient team of counselors, but as a family. The talent pool that is the faculty and the counselors is more like a sea. Needless to say, I was also learning new things along with the campers.”

(Ed.Note: Just hanging out with old pros like Bill Dendle, Terry Myers, Bill Allred and Eddie Metz is a learning experience.) but as a family.

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The New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old Mint has opened a “Women of Note” exhibition that portrays the role of women in the history of jazz in the Big Easy. Among the early artists featured are Lil Hardin Armstrong, Sweet Emma Barrett, Blue Lu Baker, Jeannette Kimball, and the Boswell Sisters. Also recognized is Banu Gibson, a longtime fixture on the local scene, who is still very much an active performer.

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For the second straight year, renowned guitarist Charlie Christian has been denied posthumous induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Christian revolutionized the electric guitar and is best known as a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet and Orchestra (1939-41). He was raised in Oklahoma City and was one of many musicians who jammed along the city’s “Deep Deuce” section on N.E. Second Street. He died in 1942 at the age of 25. In 2006, Oklahoma City renamed a street in his honor in the Bricktown entertainment district.

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“Change is always happening. That’s one of the wonderful things about jazz.” – Maynard Ferguson


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