This is the eighth album Ms. Miwa has recorded as leader. It is in standard piano trio format with Yoko on piano, and husband drummer Scott Goulding and bassist Will Slater on all tracks except Brad Barrett on final track. It is a lovely mix of 11 tunes, more than one hour of delightful music—with about half original tunes and the rest by Monk, Mingus, Lennon & McCartney, Marcelo Camelo and Joni Mitchell.
At least some readers will be, like me, unfamiliar with Ms. Miwa’s background; perhaps a brief biographical sketch is in order. She was born in Kobe, Japan and was classically trained on piano. Her interest in jazz was initiated when she studied with Minoru Ozone, late keyboardist, educator-club owner and father of pianist Makoto Ozone. She subsequently enrolled in Koyo Conservatory of Music, a Berklee affiliate school. She later auditioned for a scholarship to Berklee. To her surprise, she won it! On moving to Boston, she met and married her classmate, drummer Scott Goulding.
The tunes selected are varied in tempo and quality but are always listenable. It is apparent that this group has worked together harmoniously for some time as each performer contributes to the quality of the whole.
One mild drawback, from this reviewer’s viewpoint, is the lack of extensive liner notes. This, I believe, would enhance the appreciation for this excellent CD. There are, however, good examples of her work on YouTube and a bio on the internet. It is recommended that the reader sample some of Ms. Miwa’s work on the internet.
Song list: Keep Talkin’–Yoko Miwa In Walked Bud—Thelonious Monk Secret Rendezvous—Yoko Miwa Sunset Lane—Yoko Miwa Boogie Stop Shuffle—Charles Mingus Golden Slumbers/ You Never Give Me Your Money—John Lennon & Paul McCartney Tone Portrait—Yoko Miwa Casa Pre-Fabricada—Marcelo Camelo Conversation—Joni Mitchell If You’re Blue—Yoko Miwa Sunshine Follows the Rain—Yoko Miwa
Pensacola residents will find this recording at the Jazz Room of the downtown West Florida Public Library.
Take Five: The Public and Private Lives of Paul Desmond By Doug Ramsey with foreword by Dave and Iola Brubeck Parkside Publications, Inc. Seattle
There was a sign in our hospital medical library which read: “Any book is new until you’ve read it.”
Certainly this can also apply to Doug Ramsey’s elegant biography of saxophonist Paul Desmond (11-25-1924 to May 30, 1977). The book has been out of print for several years and I obtained my copy through interlibrary loan. It is an oversized book, clothbound at 10” x 11”. The paper is high-quality and the photographic illustrations, some two pages, are equally elegant.
Ramsey and Desmond were friends for a long period. After Desmond died, the editor of Parkside Publications sought out Ramsey and persuaded him to write the book. Ramsey has a musical background and was a writer, so it was a fortuitous fit.
The book details how Desmond was only child whose father was a musician-composer in the San Francisco area. His mother had some psychological issues such that Paul was sent off to live with relatives from elementary school age until his late teens. His father suggested that he switch from violin to clarinet. Then it was a logical move to alto saxophone.
Of course, the author goes into detail about Desmond’s long association with Dave Brubeck and family. Most readers likely are familiar with that musical combination and recordings.
Lesser known, however, are the personal traits of Desmond. Whereas, Brubeck was a dedicated family man, Desmond was a very private person. There was an early marriage for Desmond but for various reasons, it didn’t work out. There were no children by that marriage and long thereafter Desmond was the man-about-town with multiple romances, some serious and some extremely casual. In this area, Desmond was a private person. For example, many of his acquaintances never knew that he’d been previously married.
Desmond made the move from the San Francisco area to New York where he spent his remaining years. He enjoyed his friendships with both musicians and writers, sometimes telling casual acquaintances that he was a writer. And, in fact, he was a prolific correspondent, carrying his Olivetti portable typewriter with him even on his foreign trips. There are several photos of Desmond in Europe carrying the portable typewriter case.
There was a period of time when Desmond left Brubeck and performed with small groups. Interestingly, usually these were with guitarists—notably Jim Hall and Canadian Ed Bickert.
Desmond was a heavy smoker, several packs a day, as well as a drinker who could play well while “in his cups.” Lung cancer accounted for his decline and death at age 52.
Although this book is out of print, there are occasionally copies available in the used book ads, some priced at $100 or more. I read that the electronic version is available for around $15.
Thanks to Parkside Publications and author Dave Ramsey for this “labor of love.”
Likely Dave Bartholomew will be remembered by most as the composer of the song Blueberry Hill (1956), which Fats Domino made famous.
He was born in Edgard, Louisiana, and his parents later moved to New Orleans where he took music lessons from Peter Davis who had also tutored Louis Armstrong. As a teenager Dave was performing with various bands in New Orleans.
In 1949, he co-wrote The Fat Man with Fats Domino in 1949. His first hit was Country Boy in 1950. He was associated with various record companies — Trumpet, Mercury, Liberty — and his own record company, Broadmoor in 1967.
In addition to Domino, his compositions have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson and others.
Bartholomew died of heart failure at age 100 at East Jefferson Hospital in Metairie, La., on June 23, 2019.
My only encounter with Bartholomew was in 1995 for the memorial stamp release of the Louis Armstrong stamp. After the ceremony, there was a celebration at the Blue Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown New Orleans. Three trumpeters performed that night — Bartholomew, Doc Cheatham and a much younger Nicholas Payton.
It was a red-letter day recently for Vickers, and, I believe for Jazz Pensacola. On May 28, 2019, two of my favorite blogs had artists who had performed for Jazz Pensacola previously.
Michael Steinman’s blog, jazzlives.wordpress.com, featured a group from the West Coast that included jazz pianist Carl Sonny Leyland, clarinetist Jacob Zimmerman, bassist Marty Eggers and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The post included several videos from the March 3, 2019 Monterey Jazz Festival.
So why was this especially important to me? Jazz Pensacola has been blessed to have pianist Sonny Leyland and bassist Marty Eggers to appear at our JazzFest in the early 2000s. And having seen them at jazz festivals elsewhere, it was like a visit from old, dear friends. Also, Michael Steinman is a good friend to us as well. When drummer Hal Smith brought his Kid Ory tribute group for our November 2017 jazz event co-sponsored by ACE (Arts, Culture, and Entertainment), the event was videotaped and Steinman featured it on his blog.
Jazz writer Marc Myers’ jazzwax.com blog recently featured vocalist Stephanie Nakasian. There are several clips of her performance from outstanding recordings, including one video of her performing with a band led by Pete Rugolo who was Stan Kenton’s composer/arranger.
The significance is that The Jazz Society of Pensacola had Stephanie and her pianist husband Hod O’Brien in Pensacola for a performance in the 1980s. Then, in the early 2000s, Stephanie and Hod performed again for Pensacola JazzFest. At that time, their 13-year-old daughter Veronica sang a number with her mother. Subsequently, Veronica, now performing as Veronica Swift, has graduated from Frost School of Music in Miami and has embarked on her own singing and recording career.
In the interview, Myers leads Stephanie through various stages of her career including Hod’s death in 2016.
I have had opportunity to review both of Marc’s books, “Anatomy of a Song” and “Why Jazz Happened.”
In addition to writing a daily jazz blog, Myers also is a regular columnist for the Wall Street Journal — one column is weekly and the other is monthly. His interviews with interesting persons are not all related to jazz; they can be authors, actors or other persons of interest.
To the credit of both Michael Steinman and Marc Myers, there is a long index of their previous work so this information is readily available for those who are interested. Thanks, Michael and Mark for making my day!
SUPERSTRIDE A Biography and Discography of Johnny Guarnieri by Derek Coller pp. 253, Jazzology Press $24.95
This 6”x9” book, like the subject, is small in size but packed with good things. British author Derek Coller has done an excellent job of summarizing the life of pianist/composer Johnny Guarnieri (1917-1985.) Baseball was Johnny’s sport of choice and each of the nine chapters in the book is entitled with a baseball theme.
Please allow a personal reference: Little did I imagine when I was a teenager just at conclusion of WWII and dancing to Summit Ridge Drive–small group recording at Artie Shaw’s address of same name as the tune with JG playing harpsichord–that I’d get to see/hear him perform in person in Mobile, Alabama, in 1983, two years prior to his death.
JG was born to an Italian immigrant family in Manhattan. His father was a classical violinist and musical repairman and was descendant of the famous Guarnieri family of violin makers. His father hoped he would continue in the family tradition as a violinist, but, instead, JG took to the piano with his father’s blessing. JG had small hands, which make for a disadvantage in playing stride piano in the style of James P. Johnson and Thomas “Fats” Waller. But Johnny overcame the small-hands disadvantage. In the ’30s and ’40s, he had opportunity to perform with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Jimmy Dorsey.
Johnny had poor eyesight, which got him a deferment from draft during WWII, during which time he made many recordings for Armed Forces Radio. During the ’40s and ’50s there were recording engagements, radio work as well as performances. Johnny’s personal habits were of clean-living, so he was spared some of the difficulties of drugs and alcohol that plagued many of his colleagues. He was an inveterate pipe-smoker, however. And, during those times, he could smoke on the job. One of the “tricks” mentioned in the book — and I observed it myself during his Mobile, Alabama, stay — he’d re-light his pipe with a match while his left hand played arpeggios. Unless one were looking, it would be unlikely that the ear would detect that only the left hand was playing.
There was a second marriage during JG’s New York and subsequent New Jersey residence. Then he moved to the Los Angeles area in the ’60s. It was hoped that he’d get more studio work, but it didn’t meet his expectations. However, performing and recording opportunities came his way and there was opportunity to tour both the U.S. and Europe. One long-time engagement was a restaurant-lounge on LA’s Ventura Blvd. called Tail of the Cock. The book details some of JGs regular attendees — musicians, movie-stars and others. Pianist Johnny Varro, now living in the Tampa area, was one of his substitutes when he toured. In my recent conversation with Varro, JV reported, “Yes, and Johnny G. would substitute sometimes for ME when I needed to be away from my gig for a while.”
During the Los Angeles years, JG was a frequent visitor to the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee (and its subsequent slight name-change). There was a special event called the Pianorama where the jazz pianists with the varying bands at the festival got to play solo piano for short periods. Sometimes JG might be the master of ceremonies or share with pianist/bandleader Bob Ringwald. As an occasional visitor there, myself, the Pianorama was a special treat for me.
The biographical portion of this book is only 125 pages, but it is packed with interesting facts and has multiple photos of musicians and bands with whom JG performed. The remainder of the book contains discography, tributes from fans and protégés including Herb Mickman, “Vinny” Armstrong and Jim Turner.
For the musical scholar, pianist virtuoso Dick Hyman has a short piece about his interactions with JG and has included some musical transcriptions as examples of JG’s expertise.
Author Derek Coller, now in his ninth decade, has produced a valuable and interesting addition to our jazz history. Somewhere up there, JG must be smiling and playing great jazz piano.
While in medical school at Emory University in Atlanta, I discovered a blind guitarist named Blind Willie McTell, who played at a drive-in near my rental apartment.
He was an interesting singer who played a 12-string guitar, the first I’d ever seen and heard. I was intrigued by this man because of many reasons. For example, how does a blind man navigate to the various cars at the drive-in to find willing customers for his vocal and guitar performance? The answer: His walking stick was metal-tipped. His tap-tap with the cane both helped him locate the parked autos and advertised his availability for hire. He would sing and play your requests for tips, a drink, or both.
So, my pattern would be to study until about 10 p.m. and then drive to the nearby Blue Lantern Tavern on Piedmont Avenue. I’d then hear Willie’s tap-tap and invite him to play and sing for me. Normally, he would stand by the car window and sing for tips. As I got to know him better and request a longer session, I’d open the rear car door so that he could sit with his feet on the pavement; this being satisfactory to accommodate him and his large 12-string guitar. For a session such as this, I’d buy him a beer in addition to the usual tip. He had an unusually large repertoire of songs. He’d composed Statesboro Blues, a lament about Statesboro, Ga., where he spent time while growing up. A favorite song of mine was Talkin’ Blues. This had been recorded by many but, as far as I can determine, not by Willie. I’d take notes when he performed this because he’d added verses I’d never heard.
I related my discovery of the blind 12-string guitarist to my uncle, Dr. Frank Norman Gibson of Thomson, Ga. He had also attended Emory Medical School in the 1930s and he had heard him in that era when he was performing at the Pig ‘n Whistle drive-in (opened in 1927 and operated continuously until the 1960s). At that time in the ‘30s, he was performing as Pig ‘n Whistle Red.
Over the two year period (’54-’56) in which I’d listen to him perform for 15 to 30 minute intervals about twice weekly, there was not much time to take a detailed “medical history” but we did talk about his travels. He had performed along the eastern seaboard and had spent a short time in New York. There was never mention that he had recorded on various occasions. In the early days of recording, equipment wasn’t so elaborate that it required a studio. Many field recordings were made by putting the equipment on a truck and going to the folk-artist instead of vice-versa.
My next revelation about Blind Willie came when I was visiting a jazz museum in New Orleans. Part of my medical training was on Tulane service at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital (’59-’61). In going through a stack of LPs, I found an album with Willie’s photo on the cover. It was astounding, because in our meetings over a two year period, no mention was ever made of his having recorded anything. Then some further research uncovered a number of recordings from the late ‘20s until 1956. So I saw him in the last good year he had. He died in 1959 of diabetes and dementia.
It turns out that Willie and my mother were born just before the turn of the century—1898, she in Thomson, Georgia, and Willie in Happy Valley, a rural area near Thomson. It is unlikely that they ever met as Willie moved with his mother to Statesboro during his youth.
I wrote Gray and briefly outlined my encounters with Willie and offered to speak with him should he desire. The author called me from a vacation spot in France. He was able to fill in some of my areas of interest and, he was interested in hearing from someone who had seen and heard Willie. Gray asked about Willie’s appearance, dress and speech. His speech was articulate and more refined than the average man of his age and background. We both agreed that it was likely that this influence was from his attendance at blind schools, giving him a better education than average.
For the person who is interested further, there are a number of YouTube offerings that will give an appreciation of his vocal and guitar skills. A number of rock artists who have recorded his songs, notably the Allman Brothers Band which recorded Statesboro Blues and Bob Dylan recorded a 1983 song Blind Willie McTell. Also, one may get an overview from the Wikipedia section on Blind Willie.
Thomson, Georgia, has an annual music festival related to McTell.