I must take a break from Louis and Mosaic Madness to quickly mention that this Sunday is the event to end all events for lovers of traditional jazz and swing: the Second Annual New York Hot Jazz Festival. Seriously, if you within a 50 mile radius of The Players Club in New York City on Sunday and you choose NOT to go to the NY Hot Jazz Festival....all I can say is, for shame....
I don't think I have seen a lineup quite like this one, with a unbeatable mix of established veterans in this field like Vince Giordano (who will be featuring the great Catherine Russell), David Ostwald and Ken Peplowski, coming together with some of the emerging young stars like Bria Skonberg, Adrian Cunningham and the Hot Sardines. Take a minute and just look at the schedule....I still don't think I've wrapped my mind around it.
And I'm honored to be taking part and representing Pops throughout the first half, as I'll be showing five hours of Armstrong footage in the first floor grill room. Now, with so many living, breathing musicians in the building, I wouldn't suggest spending the first five hours watching old videos. But it IS Louis and as I wrote last year, these are Louis's grandchildren so even if you just need a breather to get "Dipp-ed" for a minute, please say hello! (I still haven't finalized my clips but do expect rare appearances of Louis on TV, in films and concert, as well the complete rarity of rarities, Satchmo the Great.)
The festivities start at 1 p.m. and will be running at the Players Club until 1 a.m., with an after-after party at Mona's from 1 a.m. until, I don't know, maybe Memorial Day. Last year, I was one of the few and proud who was there from the first note through the last and I expect to do the same this year. (Special thanks to coffee...a great invention I didn't discover until I turned 33 last September!)
Now, if you haven't noticed, the hot jazz movement has been building steadily for the past few years. Last year, it erupted in the first annual Hot Jazz Festival on August 25, 2013. If you don't mind, I'd like to quote some of what I wrote back then because I think it holds true (if you'd like to read the entire original post, click here):
"Hot jazz hasn't exactly been in the mainstream of modern pop music, but it's never gone away. Anyone who has spent just a few minutes at my brother Michael Steinman's Jazz Lives blog, already knows that this swinging style of music is alive and well both in New York and California, while friends of mine have told me about scenes in Boston, Portland, Austin and elsewhere (not to mention New Orleans, where I don't think it has ever slowed down)."
"Of course, don't tell this to the jazz mainstream press. Anytime a writer from the New York Times or Down Beat or whatever decides to go slumming into a city's traditional jazz scene, it's always to write a "nostalgia" based piece. None of the musicians who play this music get the cover of Jazz Times (hell, can anyone name the last time Louis was on the cover of a jazz magazine? 2001?). Bop came in in the 1940s, everything before it got relegated to the museum and that's pretty much been the story for the last 65 years, with every magazine and column covering the modern-bop-free stars of today and yesteryear, but turning a blind eye to anyone who just wants to swing and play hot music, preferably for dancers."
"Well, even though the above cities I listed all have popular, if underground, traditional scenes, the reality is for any kind movement to really gain traction, it has to blow up in New York City at some point. And that's what is happening now....I've noticed it for years now: more and more young musicians popping up all over NY interested in Louis Armstrong and the pre-bop style, musicians who find more of a challenge in ensemble interplay than running Coltrane substitutions. (Disclaimer: no disrespect to Coltrane or any of the other modern jazz stylists. I love all kinds of jazz, though my heart is with the traditional/swing stuff. The point is, it's a big world and there's plenty of room for anyone to play any style they like. There might not be plenty of gigs for that, but I see no need in reviving the jazz wars of the 1940s and to start calling out moderninsts and for them to start mocking the traditional players. No one's getting rich, so can't we all just play the music we want? End of rant.)"
"I've said it for years (to no one in particular) but the whole pre-bop aesthetic, to me, has always seemed like the only type of jazz that really gets people going, makes them want them to dance, makes them want to scream. I've been in those types of audiences, where the surge of emotion and noise is coming from both directions, on and off the bandstand. I've been in plenty of concert halls and respected plenty of quiet policies, but at some point, it's fun to let loose. I listen to broadcasts and concerts from the 1950s all the time--Louis, the George Lewis band, "Dr. Jazz" broadcasts from Central Plaza, etc.--and it's always blown me away, hearing the sounds of obviously younger people screaming and clapping for this style of music. That generation wanted to have fun and this music encouraged it. When the other styles of jazz said, "Shh, pipe down and listen," those fans got up, went to rock and roll, went to Ray Charles, went to Motown, and went right on down the line of American pop music, leaving jazz in the dust. But I've seen it for myself too many times now that when this style gets cooking, it elicits the same reaction in young people in 2013 as it did in 1953, 1943, 1933 and 1923. And it's not about nostalgia, it's about music that makes you feel good and want to move."
That was written BEFORE the first Hot Jazz Festival. The actual day's events ended up going down as one of the most memorable days I've ever spent as a jazz fan. The music was great, needless to say, but there was something about the audience that was especially heartening: about 80% seemed to be younger than 35 and they were not there from an ironic perspective. As I wrote in the previous paragraph, they were there to have a good time....and brother, they did. I'll never forget standing wall-to-wall in a crowd of people, standing, drinking and dancing to the music of trumpeter Bria Skonberg. At one point, she threw it to soprano saxophonist Aurora Nealand for a thoroughly New Orleans-ized (?) version of "Margie." People were going nuts. I was happy to be standing next to David Ostwald, who has been immersed in this music since the early 1970s. Even he had never seen anything like it. When everyone was screaming to "Margie," I turned to David and screamed, "Listen to this! They're screaming their heads off and dancing to a song written in 1920 by Con Conrad and J. Russell Robinson!" We just shook our heads in disbelief and went back to enjoying the music.
Fortunately, some videos popped up so if you think I'm just running my mouth for the helluva it, check these out.
Mona's Hot Four doing Bechet's "Chant in the Night":
The Hot Sardines tackling "Them There Eyes" (the opening "woo" is by the aforementioned David Ostwald):
And a few videos of the jam session shot by yours truly. First, everyone singing along (at about 1 a.m.) to "I'll Fly Away":
And finally, another jam session number, "Shine":
There's even more videos on Facebook but I'm going to quit while I'm ahead. So if you need me on Sunday, you'll know where to find me (and you might know where to find me on Monday, too: bed). But like last year, I'll leave Louis with the last words, taken from a letter he wrote to young trumpeter Chris Clifton on February 6, 1954 (you can read the whole thing here), after Clifton wrote him and told him he was a young trumpeter playing "Dixieland." Take it, Satch:
"‘Man, – you haven’t the least idea – how thrilled, I am, to
be able to sit down and write to a ‘Cat, who feels the same way that ‘I
do about the greatest music on this man’s earth,—DIXIELAND…
‘Lawd-today…’Gate—you’re a man after my own heart… I’ve always
said—Dixieland is Universal… From one end of the earth to the other–the
music’s the same, so help me….."
"Which again, makes my word come true, especially when I said –
music is, er, wa, – Universal….. You yourself – could have done the
same…Because, from the way that I dugged your very fine letter, – you
take your horn serious the same as ‘I do…. God Bless Ya Son [...] And
every country that we travel into, our music was the same… So you see in
case you’d decide to make a tour to anywhere in the world, have no fear
because our music (I’d say) is more of a Secret Order [...] real honest
to goodness dixieland music will live for ever – without a doubt…"
was a certain big time musician, who made a nasty crack, as to,
Dixieland Music, is ‘first grade music… Now – maybe you dont pick up on
this Cat…But, I, being in the game for over forty years, etc, can easily
see, that this young man who said it, the reason why he said it because
he hasn’t the soul enough to express himself in dixie land music like
he really would like to… So, he’ll say those slurring words knowing that
the country’s full of idiots (also) who will believe him for a while,
thinking that there really is such things as to different grades of
music for the world to abide by [...] Where I came from, there weren’t
but two kinds of music, – good or bad [...] Anyway my friend…Don’t let
no one change your mind…Play the music that your heart tells you to
play…There will always be somebody to gladly live it with you…"