March 2024

On the Cover


Drummers’ Summit: Let’s Talk About Morey Feld

Hal Smith: Well, Brother Kevin…It seems like forever since we “talked shop” for an article in The Syncopated Times. Before another year slips away, what do you say we talk about one of our favorite drummers; someone who is consistently overlooked, but deserves to be much better known? That would

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Whisper Darkly: Shining a Light on Secretive Jazz Age Theater Project

YouTube is just full of surprises, isn’t it? For instance, today I learned that there’s a channel called Electro Swing Thing, which recently uploaded a compilation video called “Electro Swing Mix – Best of 2023.” This surprised me, as I was under the impression that electro swing—that fist-pumping cocktail of

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Benny Goodman’s Female Singers – 1939-49

During the Swing era, bandleaders had a variety of different opinions about the importance of employing a female singer. Some, such as Artie Shaw, considered most of his vocalists to be a necessary evil, a bit of window dressing that was needed to help make his band more accessible to

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The El Dorado Jazz Band, Part Two

Jeff Barnhart: Welcome back, dear readers. This month we’re continuing our discussion of a unique traditional jazz group that had its heyday in the 1960s in California, the El Dorado Jazz Band! Hal, at the end of last month’s column, you indicated there was about to be a personnel change.

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97 Years of Jazz: Happy Birthday, Dick Hyman!

Multi-keyboardist Dick Hyman, born March 8, 1927, will turn 97 years old this month. With a prolific career behind him he’s no longer performing publicly, but it’s important now to highlight his broadly diverse accomplishments in jazz music in all idioms. From his younger days as a professional musician working

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Bobby Burns Berman: ‘Hollywood’s Entertainer of the Stars’

From the 1920s to the 1940s my great uncle Harry Berman had a multifaceted career as a performer on stage, screen, records, and radio. His professional name was Bobby Burns Berman, but he was also known as B.B.B. or simply Bobby. B.B.B. started out on the Keith-Orpheum Vaudeville circuit before

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Quarter Notes

Cold Winds Outside, Hot Jazz Inside!

When we hit New Orleans this past January it was 32 degrees and very windy! The Mississippi encourages bitter winds through the Quarter and creates a somewhat miserable environment. But step inside any music venue and the notes and vocals keep you warm as toast! The block and a half

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Jazz Travels

Louis and Bria in NYC

On a rainy Friday, December 1, I made my second trip to the Big Apple in just under two months. My main purpose was to see Bria Skonberg’s quartet at Birdland, where she was in the midst of a four-night residency. To make the most of the trip, I explored

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Recording Pioneers

Helf and Hager Set up Shop on Tin Pan Alley

In the latter 19th century, a few daring publishers decided to try and combine their hustling status with the phonograph. In the 1890s it was still a very far fetched idea to combine these two aspects. In 1897 Russell Hunting and a few other prominent recording artists teamed up to

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My Inspirations

My ‘Dear John’ Letter

In previous columns I’ve shared stories regarding the people who paved the path I’ve traveled to become, musically—and sometimes so much more, who I am today. From my piano teacher Jay Hickerson to banjoist/vocalist Bob Price to the entire Galvanized Jazz Band, mentors kept appearing at exactly the right time

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Blowing Off The Dust

David Reffkin and the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival

There was a knock at the door and when I answered the fellow introduced himself as David Reffkin (not to be confused with Joshua Rifkin and not related). David was interested in the upcoming ragtime festival and had arrived four days early to help. So, after a get acquainted conversation

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Static From My Attic

All Your Eyeballs Belong to Me!

This week I felt it entirely necessary to buy myself a huge computer monitor—though not the largest one that was available. As my eyesight sinks slowly in the West (floaters not withstanding), I could no longer endure my twenty-two inch screen. My new one is twenty-seven inches, and just about

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It Was a Gas!

Soviet Son

Said What? It was at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival while we were preparing to start our first gig, when I was approached by the trumpet player from the Australian band which had just finished their set. A very talkative, congenial chap, he kept referring to the time we had played

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Jimmy McPartland
Jazz Birthday

Jimmy McPartland

Jimmy McPartland was born on March 15, 1907, in Chicago. Jimmy played violin as a child, and at 15 switched permanently to the cornet. In the early 1920s, he met a group of fellow jazz enthusiasts who became known as the Austin High Gang. They were inspired by the ODJB,

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Rudiments of Ragtime

Rudiments of Ragtime Installment 14: James P. Johnson

James P. Johnson is another gifted performer/composer whose music bridged the span between ragtime and jazz and he was an early innovator of Harlem stride. Johnson was born in New Jersey and grew up in New York City where heard original ragtime played and was fascinated by the music. After

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Ragtime Vignettes 

Brian Patrick Keenan • Heartland

The music of Brian Patrick Keenan—introspective, melodic, and texturally firmly-built—has always appealed to me. His 2003 piano piece Heartland is a tango in simple ternary form in the luminous key of D major. When listening to Heartland, I can’t help but recall pieces by Scott Kirby and George Winston which

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Steve Pistorius Southern Syncopators at French Quarter Festival
Festival Roundup

The Festival Roundup March 2024

42nd annual JAZZ BASH BY THE BAY (Monterey, CA) March 1-3, 2024 The 42nd annual Jazz Bash By the Bay Monterey takes place March 3-5, 2023, in the beautiful Conference Center and Portola Hotel & Spa with eight venues. Invited bands for 2024 include: Blue Stree, Brass Nickels, Bye Bye

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News and More

Wham Re-Bop-Boom-Bam: The Swing Jazz of Eddie Durham

Wham Re-Bop-Boom-Bam: The Swing Jazz of Eddie Durham premiered February 1st on many public television stations nationwide. The 60-minute documentary has been receiving considerable praise from the jazz community for its helping to unearth the legendary accomplishments of an often-unheralded pioneer of jazz. Hailed as a “delight” in a recent

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Eli and the Chocolate Factory

The Music Never Stops: A Report from Israel

Many TST readers, like me, are of an age that we can recall Pearl Harbor, the camps at Auschwitz, and the atrocities of the Japanese soldiers in Burma and the Pacific. We also remember the wonderful music of the time—Benny, the Dorsey brothers, Artie Shaw and more. Today, two generations

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Dick Hyman century of Jazz Piano

Dick Hyman’s Century of Jazz Piano (5 CD + 1 DVD Box Set)

Within Dick Hyman’s Century of Jazz Piano (Arbors), a five-disc CD set totaling 121 selections, pianist Dick Hyman seeks to demonstrate the development of jazz piano from its pre-ragtime beginnings to its near present (recorded mainly in 1996-7). This includes accurate early styles and techniques (far from primitive) to the

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Jabbo Smith

Better than Louis?

In response to the list of Armstrong’s rivals in Lew Shaw’s column (“Jazz Jottings,” February 2024), I think Jabbo Smith could (and in fact, did) give Louis a run for his money. Ikey Robinson told me that he and Jabbo were high and out on the town and walked into

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Off the Beaten Tracks

Malo Mazurie Taking the Plunge cover art

Malo Mazurié • Taking The Plunge

I have read praise for cornetist and trumpet player Malo Mazurié for years and have enjoyed listening deeply for him in several groups where he was a member. These were groups playing artistic traditional jazz and “Chamber Jazz,” a term sounding much more caged than it should to describe what,

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Front Cover Art, The Felicity Sessions, Sunny Side

Sunny Side • The Felicity Sessions

This album got lost in the shuffle, many of my notes date back a full year and I needed to refamiliarize myself with many of them. The only unusual thing about that is I have not let this album slip into the mass of over a hundred that, though more

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Juliet Varnedoe Jazz Band • Cajun Bleu

This album extends outside of our normal range at TST, but I see Tom Rigney’s zydeco band scheduled at nearly every festival and I think an important segment of our readers will enjoy Juliet Varnedoe. This six-track album features a very New Orleans form of entertainment, inflected by zydeco and

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Legends & The Lost • Rare and Hot Jazz 1925-1930

It has been a few years since I last reviewed an album of Golden Age jazz. The peak of which in my reckoning being that amazing flowering of hot creativity in the second half of the 1920s. Many factors came into that event. One of them was the introduction of

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Nights at the Turntable

Inspiring Elvis: The Music Behind the King of Rock and Roll

Although I never thought that I would have the name of Elvis Presley in any of my Syncopated Times reviews, the recent compilation Inspiring Elvis from Upbeat will be of interest. Its 25 selections have been chosen as examples of the type of music that inspired Presley in his early

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16 Jonah Jones LPs released as two album CDs

Few swing era sidemen had as much commercial success in later years as Jonah Jones (1908-2000). A hot trumpeter with Stuff Smith’s combo on 52nd Street in the 1930s and Cab Calloway orchestra and small groups (1941-52), Jones was an exciting player who could create explosive solos as he showed

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Down in Jungle Town

Doc Evans • Down In Jungle Town

Jazz Classic of the Month Doc Evans (1907-77) was a reliably hot cornetist who spent much of his life living and playing in Minnesota. He was offered many opportunities to play outside of the Midwest. Evans spent 1947-52 working in Chicago and made his first record dates (Apr. 25-26, 1947)

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Pete Allen’s 45th Anniversary Album

Pete Allen has been leading bands for 45 years and, although the personnel of his sextet has changed many times, his brand of joyful and freewheeling jazz has stayed consistent. Allen is a very skilled clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist who also plays banjo and takes occasional vocals. Early on

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