Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Orleans Blues and Jazz / Christmas 2015 NOLA

As I continue to travel to New Orleans to see my son, there is an ambiance to the air surrounding NOLA. The ora  to which I mean is the feeling you get once you step out of your vehicle and detect the vibrations of music playing around you. Images almost seem to settle in ones conscience when they hear the music playing in the background but whether or not music is playing at a bar around the corner or not, soon there will be some playing just within reach of your ears and heart.  I arrived Christmas morning and exchanged gifts with my son and drove downtown to NOLA Christmasfest 2015.  Everything was closed (that we could see but before arriving in NOLA) (I cheated and checked out some things that would be opened Christmas day and it so happened that the civic center was opened with Christmasfest 2015 in full operation.  We had a great time, it's a winter wonderland to say the least and music galore.  An ice-skating rink that I dare not try nor was David interested.  We made ourselves around to the far wall and Stephen Wagner (pictured below) was working on his mural of  beads.  He has a declaration from the Guinness World Records for placing the most beads on a mural,  see www.guinnessworldrecords.com.  I placed one bead just to say I helped with the project.  You can look below at the treble note, in which was my favorite part of the mural.  The whole evening was magical and yes it was Christmas, a new memory but a long lasting one.  Waffle House was opened Christmas night so that is where we ate dinner. 

Saturday Dec. 26 (up ate breakfast at Starbucks) and shopped a little.  (Crescent City Comics and Origami for lunch).   
We drove to the French Market for food and fun.  Heard some great music and met a few new people.  Stopped at the Balcony Music Club where I filed this report:

Lefty may be a drummer, but he’s still a blues bandleader, one who’s set up a residency of sorts on Decatur Street, usually holding it down for French Quarter blues at the Balcony Club. 
And if the live show is anything like this disc, it explains his steady gig, although these performances work better as a resume than as a portrait of where he’s at right now.

If you’ve heard Volume 1, you know that Keith sticks to the classics—that first batch contained solid if unremarkable versions of warhorses like “The Thrill Is Gone,” “The Things That I Used to Do,”
 “Everyday I Have the Blues” and “The Blues Is All Right.” Likewise, well-worn blues standards litter this volume, which was recorded live here, in Arkansas, and in Massachusetts between 1997–2011, 
but there are twists: the True Blues do “Lovey Dovey” like Roland Stone, not the Clovers, and their take on Muddy Waters’ “I’m Ready” is so Blasters-style uptempo it’s almost rockabilly.

Of the three eras, the best stuff happens in Jonesboro, during the band’s brief Burnside Records tenure, with Fred Sanders behind the mic. Their renditions of B. B. King’s “Outside Help,”
 Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What You Want Me to Do” and T. Bone Walker’s deathless “Stormy Monday” sound the loosest, the most free-spirited, the most like a jam. Then again, lone original 
“You’re So Fine,” clichéd as it is, is so expressive in its Cape Cod performance it’s practically jazz.

Lefty can do shuffles, West Coast blues, Chicago electric, and New Orleans soul, but if you want to hear what he’s doing on Decatur—and what standards end up on Volume 3—you’re just 
gonna have to go down there.

Again, I heard them Saturday Dec. 26th, the day after Christmas when everything is supposed to be relaxed and The True Blues were in full sound.  I heard three songs, their SRV (Stevie Ray Vaughan) "Pride and Joy" was simply awesome. The Balcony Club has no smoking inside so it was wonderful inside the bar. The music was crisp and clear. Lefty and the True Blues are out of this world excellent.  The Balcony Music Club 1331 Decatur Street, houses some of the best blues bands of  New Orleans.

On Sunday Dec. 27, I met with Jamie Wight at Jazzology (1206 Decatur Street) NOLA. 70116 phone (504) 525-5000.  Jamie and I spoke about my novice approach to "the blues and jazz" and he helped me again with my ongoing research of learning about this unbelievable art form.  Jamie took time out of his Sunday to meet with me because the rest of my stay in NOLA was going to be limited because of spending the time with David so he didn't mind at all helping me and I appreciated him for doing so.  The feeling of complete warmth when you walk in this place (if you could understand what was happening), it would take over you (in gulf you) and you'd understand everything about blues and jazz.  So I walked up the stairs to my interview and Jamie (whom had just played at Preservation Hall (723 Saint Peter Street) just the night before, was receptive to every question that I had.  Again as I've said before he's forgot what I wished I'd learned about this art form. It'd take me all night to type everyone of the people he suggested me listen to in understanding whom was worthy of "keeping in mind about the blues"  Hundreds and even thousands of people that were instrumental in creating the art of "The Blues and Jazz."  Just to name a few of the artists that was from "old blues school" that I was taught about: Willie Brown, Teddy Darby, Ed Bell, Bobby Grant, George Thomas, Rube Lacy, George Carter, Dad Nelson, Freezone, Nehemeah Skip James, Jelly Roll Morton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ida Cox, Blind Blake, Buddy Boy Hawkins, Charlie Spand, Blind Roosevelt Graves, Belle Street Sheiks, Papa Charlie Jackson, Will Ezell,  Johnnie Head, Tampa Red, The Hokum Boys and Banjo Joe, Alice Moore, Viola Bartlette, Elzadie Robinson, Lucille Bogan   Ivy Smith, Madlyn Davis, Mary Johnson, Leola Wilson, Art Hodes and the list continues......George Lewis, Scott Hamilton, Santo Percora, Frank Wess, Paul Barbarin, Helen Humes, Arnett Cobb, Wendell Eugene, Dave "fat man" Williams, Browne & Wight Jazz Band, Harold Ashby, Wooden Joe Nicholas, Creole George Guesnon, Nick LaRocca, Sonny Stritt, Sammy Price and if I keep on (listing names) I'll never make my point but there are so many more wonderful singers, artists that made our lives better by their beautiful music.  Just in this class Jamie told and taught me so much, almost to much to consume in one day, it'd take you months even years to learn about this style, the people whom wrote and whom played the blues and jazz.  I feel as if I'll learn forever about this style of music, I should have started years ago.  It is interesting and so wonderful to learn about.  Sometimes about the people whom played and sang it just as much as the music itself.    There is a feeling of relaxation and excitement about this sentimental music.  In just a few minutes I'll have a  video for your entertainment and learning pleasure.  In his early years George Buck's vision which is now JAZZOLOGY, was to do just that learn about and collect blues and jazz, he however dedicated his entire life to the art form where I chose to learn about classical, imagine what and where I'd be if I began so many years ago learning about the blues and jazz where I'd be now.  Great men like Walt Disney, Neil Armstrong, Lewis and Clark all had great visions of something they needed to do. Buck was a visionary that knew from a young age that music was what he had to do to make him whole.   

George Buck, who parlayed a youthful passion for classic jazz to a lifelong business which produced more than a thousand LPs and CDs on nine different labels.

Buck sold newspapers on the street during World War II and put his earnings into savings bonds. To his father’s dismay, he cashed them in, hired his favorite musicians, and put out a 78-rpm set of the sides, featuring cornetist Wild Bill Davison, his all-time favorite, with clarinetist Tony Parenti's band. The label grew slowly and steadily, though fifteen years later there were still only ten albums in the catalogue. 

George Buck went into the radio business and made a living buying and selling small stations – he'd find an under performing outlet, turn it around with a new format and more efficient management, and sell it at a profit.
 He used the profits from radio to subsidize the labels, and as small record producers gave up, he'd buy their catalogs and reissued them on one of his labels, each of which was devoted to a different genre. 

Buck's operations were originally centered in New Jersey, and he was later in Columbia SC and Atlanta GA before finally relocating to New Orleans in 1987. Jazzology/GHB shares quarters on Decatur Street with the Palm Court Jazz Café, which is run by his widow, Nina. The facility includes a recording studio and the firm’s massive collection of master recordings. 

The ownership of the firm was transferred to the George H. Buck Jazz Foundation, organized by Buck to insure that the catalog of music he assembled would remain in print eternally. Unlike most record companies, GHB/Jazzology never deletes records from the catalog – virtually every CD in the catalog is in stock and 
always will be. Unfortunately, most of the firm’s LPs were lost to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the firm’s warehouse and remain unavailable. 

George Buck retained his boyish enthusiasm and zest for jazz throughout his life. He knew everyone in the jazz business, particularly his end of it - traditional jazz – and when he was younger he traveled all over the world to hear his favorites in festivals and jazz parties. Very few people get to spend their lives doing what most of us dream about – George Buck was able to make a living from a music most people eke out a living at – no one in his right mind would try to make a living from a music thought to be extinct about the time he started his label. He kept his firm running successfully for over sixty years and had a lot of fun doing it.   
  • American Music Records (founded 1944) — authentic New Orleans style jazz, acquired from founder and composer Bill Russell in 1990
  • Black Swan Records (founded 1921) — re-issues of Paramount Records, acquired in the 1990s
  • Solo Art Records — piano jazz
  • Audiophile Records — classic American popular songs
  • Circle Records (founded 1946) — big bands, acquired in the 1960s
  • Southland Records (founded 1948) — authentic blues, acquired from its founder, Joesph P. Mares (1908–1991), in the 1960s
  • Progressive Records (founded 1950) — modern music
  • World Broadcasting System, Inc. (founded 1929) — entire library of radio transcription discs, acquired in 1971
  • Langlois & Wentworth, Inc. (founded 1933) — entire library of radio transcription discs, acquired in 1982

George Buck passed away from a heart attack Dec 16th, 2013 his complete obit can be found on this website at the title

NEW ORLEANS (continued) Sassyfras, Blues, Jazzology, meeting new people in New Orleans (2015)

When George Buck passed away he could have not wanted better people to run and be curators of his legacy other than Jamie Wight and Larz Edegren.  Jamie has helped me more times than I can count and I am honored to call him my friend and teacher.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hal Pearl remembered




Hal Pearl at the Aragon Ballroom WurliTzer

Hal also played the organ for presidents Harry Truman and Richard Nixon, and at the 
tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Bill Rieger recalled that 
Mr. Pearl would play at the Aragon for the "corn beef and cabbage" fund- raisers held 
by Mayor Richard J. Daley. 
During the 1970s, WTTW produced "The Toy That Grew Up," featuring Pearl's accompaniment
to classic silent films. The show was broadcast on more than 30 public television stations.
More recent, Mr. Pearl was the headliner of organists at the reopening of the Chicago

My story of Hal Pearl might begin as any other with a persistence and determination to find out about a legend. My call began to the Chicago Tribune when realized that Ken Griffin was from the same city (or had passed here) and Ken was friends with Hal Pearl not Ray Pearl the great jazz orchestra leader (also from Chicago), to whom I was first told.  You remember Ken Griffin was born in Columbia, Missouri. His biggest hit was "You Can't Be True, Dear" (1948),  my favorite is The Cuckoo Waltz (flip side of "You Can't Be True Dear" (1948), composed by Emanuel Jonasson, which you can read the WHOLE story on this blog. "You Can't Be True Dear" which was first released as an instrumental, and later that year re-released with a vocal by Jerry Wayne dubbed in. Both versions became popular, selling over 3.5 million copies. He also starred in a 1954-55 syndicated television series, 67 Melody Lane. He recorded on a variety of recording labels, especially Columbia.It was in the 1940s in Aurora, Illinois, that Griffin broke into the nightclub circuit, playing at the Rivoli Cafe nightly. The sessions at the Rivoli cafe were broadcast on the radio station, WMRO, and the program became popular. Griffin died on March 11, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 46, of a heart attack and was buried at Lincoln Memorial Park in Aurora. Columbia had many hours of Griffin's unreleased recordings on tape, and continued to release "new" recordings of Griffin's music for a number of years after his death. I found out what Hal Pearls phone number was and called that October morning of 1998.  He was a delight to speak with, told me stories that including drinking, partying and most of all "enjoying life". Most of all Hal shared with me his passion for playing organ.  He boasted about being better than Ken Griffin even though Ken did release several albums. I laughed and then we both did. I knew he was lonely and wanted to talk music as I spent most of my lunch hour on the phone with this legend of delight.  Most of his pictures are posted here that he sent me and I will never forget that wonderful conversation with him. A couple years later (2000) I'd find out from his nephew he'd passed away and Chicago morns a great legend but his music will float in our minds for years.