Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Jazz Performance - "Everybody Loves My Baby" - Shirazz

This week we're focusing in on some Traditional Jazz from down under in the form of Shirazz a six piece Dixieland Band from Melbourne, Australia.

Here we see and hear Shirazz playing Everybody Loves My Baby in their own special way!

Everybody Loves My Baby was written by Spencer Williams and Jack Palmer and was published in 1924. That year it immediately began it's long career as a recorded song being recorded by the likes of Aileen Stanley and the International Novelty Orchestra (9-19-24), Louis Armstrong with Clarence Williams' Blue Five (11-6-24) as well as Fletcher Henderson (11-24-24) and many others.

Shirazz at the Grampians Jazz Festival 2014

Here we have Aileen Stanley singing the tune with the International Novelty Orchestra.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Tribute to the Original Crane River Jazz Band by the Ken Colyer Trust Jazz Band CD Review by George A. Borgman

The Ken Colyer Trust New Orleans Jazz Band performs on this recording in tribute to the Original Crane River Jazz Band which attempted to emulate the black New Orleans jazz sound. The band pays tribute to the Cranes and does not attempt to copy them, according to Big Bill Bissonnette's album notes.
This CD features great ensemble playing from the front line and interesting contrapuntal support for the solos and melodic leads. Hugh Crozier takes excellent piano solos and the rhythm section is very solid with Malcolm Hurrell playing fine rhythmic banjo, Terry Knight plucking very well the bass strings, and drummer Male Murphy does everything correctly, using all the accouterments of his drum set.

The tunes have been well selected. "Down in Jungle Town," the opener, from 1908, immediately presents the listener with various elements of the New Orleans sound with trombonist Dave Vickers doing his stuff from the beginning backed by the steady rhythm section.
In 1923, reedman Art Kassel (leader of Chicago "sweet" dance and stage bands) and drummer Vie Berton (manager of Bix Beiderbecke's Wolverines, beginning in 1924) wrote "Sobbin' Blues." Since then there were numerous recordings of it by such bands as King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band (Okeh label), the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (Gennett), Ted Lewis' (Columbia), Lew Brown's (Bluebird), Bunny Berigan's (Victor), and Artie Shaw and His Strings (Brunswick). On this rendition of "Sobbin' Blues," clarinetist Norman Field plays very good counterpoint behind the melodic line.
"Wolverine Blues" (1923) was written by Jelly Roll Morton along with, according to some sources, the brothers Benjamin F. and John C. Spikes. It was recorded by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings (Gennett 5102, 1923); by Morton, on solo piano (Gennett 5289, 1923-24) and by his Red Hot Peppers (Victor 21064, June 10, 1927); and by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra (Victor, 25863). Here, in a rendition that is more than seven minutes long, there is great stride piano during several choruses followed by some lively playing by the clarinet, Norman Thatcher's and Sonny Morris' trumpets and the trombone in wonderful togetherness.

In 1939, Morton copyrighted his "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say," also known as "Buddy Bolden Blues," and here it is performed wonderfully with a fine piano solo and some nice duet choruses from the trumpets. Another excellent trumpet duet is heard on "Pretty Baby," a Tin Pan Alley tune that was introduced to the public in 1915 through A World of Pleasure, a Broadway musical, and it was interpolated by Dolly Hackett in The Passing Show of 1916, also a stage musical. Subsequently, "Pretty Baby" was featured in a dozen motion pictures. And the group does very well on "Wabash Blues" which features a wonderful piano solo.
On this compact disc, the superb musical sounds, influenced by the Original Crane River Jazz Band, are those associated with old New Orleans. This CD is one of Jazz Crusade's better releases in recent years.   - George A. Borgman, IAJRC Journal

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tap Dancing Legend Bunny Briggs Dead at 92

Tap dancer extraordinaire Bunny Briggs died at the age of 92 in Las Vegas on November 15, 2014. 

"Bunny" Briggs was born Bernard in Harlem on February 26, 1922 on Lenox Avenue. His mother was Alma Briggs who in 1920 was living with her mother Abrialla and her brothers and sister. Briggs got his nickname "Bunny" from his grandmother. Every time she would come home from work he'd quickly scoot out of the room and get her slippers for her. 

Bill Robinson
Show business was in his family. His Aunt Gladys was a chorus girl who in 1925 was performing at the Lincoln Theatre. Brigg's mother took him to see her perform around this time. Upon seeing tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, dance at the same theater he told his mother he wanted to be a dancer. "He started dancing and I just sat there in awe. At that time, I knew, what I was going to do." After this incident it was basically cast in stone that he was going to be a dancer.

After learning tap dancing from the streets of Harlem, by 1927 he was dancing with a children's group called Porkchops, Navy, Rice, and Beans. They would perform to tunes like Bugle Call Blues at ballrooms across New York City. 

Bunny Briggs tells the story best himself. "I started performing tap in the street. The record store used to put the "Amos n' Andy" show on the loudspeaker so people in the street could stop and listen to it. The owners would say, 'Bunny, as soon as 'Amos n' Andy' goes off, we'll put a record on and you start dancing.' And that's what I did. People would throw money at me and I'd take it home to my mother, which I was very happy to do. I was around 5 or 6." 

Luckey Roberts
He was quickly "discovered" by jazz pianist Luckey Roberts. Again Briggs tells how it was, "Next thing I knew, Luckey Roberts was in my house talking to my mother, and I was working with his orchestra, Luckey Roberts and his Society Entertainers. We went into houses of the blue bloods: the Astors, the Wanamakers, the Fords, the DuPonts. It was excellent. All I could smell was gardenias and champagne. They bought me toys, they sent my mother all kinds of gifts-the apartment filled up."
In August 1931 he was accompanying Roberts and his sextet on a weekend cruise of the, "French line steamship Paris, to Bermuda."
He was only seven years old when he appeared with Luckey Roberts at the Cocoanut Grove in Palm Beach, Florida where the local newspaper reported, "In addition to the regular cakewalk which never fails of high entertainment... there will be special features. "Lucky" Roberts... song composer from New York and Bunny Briggs a seven-year-old whose song-and-dance numbers created such unusual interest last Wednesday night will be included."

When he was around ten years old he took part in his first stage show at the Harlem Opera House with Cab Calloway, but things didn't go so well, "I had stage fright. The music played but I just froze. I didn't care." However, Briggs appeared, billed just as "Bunny," in the 1932 Steppin Fetchit film Slow Poke

Being a professional dancer as a child and dancing at one engagement after another could cause problems. New York's Gerry Society whose official name was the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children forced Briggs to stop all his engagements and attend school.

His mother Alma must have been happy that he was no longer performing because she was never thrilled with her son being an entertainer. Charlie Barnet wrote that his, "mother didn't like show business and once told me that she would rather see her son running an elevator than doing what he was." Barnet also suggested that Briggs' mother had influence over him and stated that, "he had a strong mother-complex which I think eventually kept him from being a big star."

It was about 1940 when Bunny Briggs seems to have begun dancing again professionally. From this time on he would be dancing with some of the biggest Big Bands in the business; Count Basie, Earl Hines, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet and Duke Ellington.

Since he would improvise when he danced and wasn't working from a set routine, he could move from one band to another and easily adapt to their varying styles.

"I was always an improvisation dancer. I never danced to the same tune more than two or three times. My style is carefree. It’s carefree and hard, but I try to make it look easy.” He created a paddle-and-roll style of tapping, but he never bothered naming or labeling any of his specific steps and moves.

Briggs was performing in a Baltimore at a club in 1940 where he would dance on a table for part of his routine, when Charlie Barnet who was performing at the Royal Theatre, stopped by and saw him dance for the first time.

In his autobiography, Those Swinging Years, Barnet said he thought Briggs was, "one of the most talented performers I have ever seen. He was quite young... he really had it all. He was a sensational dancer, had a distinctive singing style and a great personality... He made several records with us and one in particular, East Side, West Side, was a big hit. It didn't matter whether we were at the Apollo or the Paramount, before a black or a white audience, Bunny broke up every show and was always a smash hit."
In early 1942 he worked a long stint at Small's Paradise a night club in Harlem. He would then sign up with Crane Management, run by Louise Crane, in June.

On August 13, 1942 Briggs began an eleven week run at New York's Kelly's Stable. On November 2nd he started at Club 666 in Detroit which was his second night club appearance outside of New York at that time.

During the 40s Briggs was being billed as the Prince Charming of Taps touring with several bands.

From November 10, 1945 until the closing show on June 29, 1946 he played Cicero in the Broadway musical comedy Are You With It?
Briggs was appearing with the Charlie Barnet and His Famous Orchestra in 1947 and in late 1948 he was touring with Boyd Raeburn and His Orchestra.
Oct. 1948 with Erskine Hawkins Band.
By the end of the 1940s Briggs began his numerous television appearances. On the December 12, 1948 he was on the Ed Sullivan Show making an appearance.
In the first half of 1949 Fox shot a Movietone short of the Charlie Barnet Orchestra with Bunny Briggs playing the Western Union delivery man. He did another stint on the Ed Sullivan show on October 30, 1949.

Briggs was featured dancing in the May 1950 Universal short film King Cole Trio & Benny Carter Orchestra. He was also featured on the television show Cavalcade of Bands at least once in the 50s.

On May 27, 1951 he made another appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and a few years later on March 12, 1955 he was the guest dancer on the Jackie Gleason Show.

In early September 1956 Briggs appeared for a week with the Lloyd Price big band in Washington, D. C. With the help of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker Briggs developed a style of tap dancing that worked well with bebop. At the 1960 Monterey Jazz Festival, Briggs danced with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Soon he was being eluded to as, "Duke's dancer," because he worked with him so often.
1962 Newport Jazz Festival. Bunny on right.
By 1962 when he appeared with several other tap dancers at the Newport Jazz Festival the newspapers were billing tap as a "dying art." Around the same time he was a guest on the Tonight Show that August.

Duke Ellington asked Briggs to be the solo dancer for his David Danced Before the Lord number that had been featured in the 1961 film Paris Blues. It was to be part of Ellington's Concert of Sacred Music and would be performed in a church.

Briggs who had earlier in his life contemplated being a Catholic priest was a very religious man and hesitated to accept Ellington's offer in the fear that tap dancing in a church could prove sacrilegious. "When I first heard the song, I thought it was pretty, but I didn't want to dance to it in the church. Because in the church you can't go for laughs, you can't go for applause." But after praying for guidance he decided to do it. "I prayed to God. I asked God to give me the routine." Later, he wasn't even aware of what he actually danced. "A haze came over me, and I wasn't drunk. I was together."
The performance premiered at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on September 16, 1965. This concert was filmed and has been highly praised.

Briggs continued dancing to the piece over the next several years with Ellington's Orchestra. He performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1966 and later that year at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church for the New York premiere the day after Christmas. Again he performed it on December 2, 1967 at Constitution Hall in Washington, D. C. and once more at the  Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on January 19, 1968. Later other tap dancers would perform to this number including Baby Laurence, Buster Brown and Rich Rahn.

In the 1970s he continued touring and made more appearances on the Tonight Show, Apollo Uptown and Monk's Time as well as performing on cruise ships. Saxophonist Houston Person invited Briggs to dance on his recording of the Jerry Jeff Walker tune Mr. Bojangles for his album Broken Windows, Empty Hallways in 1972. 
Starting with the 1979 documentary No Maps on My Taps, Bunny Briggs' television appearances picked up and he had a career Renaissance. Tap dancing made a reasurgence in the 80s. Bunny Briggs and many of his fellow tap dancers were touring and making appearances more and more.
On television in 1980 he was seen in Uptown: A Tribute to the Apollo Theatre. He performed in Sweet Saturday Night in Europe and then worked on the Broadway production, My One and Only in 1983.

Briggs toured Europe with The Hoofers which included Briggs and the tap dancers Lon Chaney, Chuck Green, Jimmy Slyde, and Sandman Sims. He then appeared in Motown Returns to the Apollo, a two hour NBC Special in May of 1985. He was included in the 1986 video compilation, Doctor Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce. He also acted in the television movie Mike's Talent Show which aired in 1987.

1989 was a big year for Briggs starting on January 26th 1989 he played a hoofer in the popular Broadway musical Black and Blue for which he was nominated for a Tony Award in 1989. He appeared in the Gregory Hines movie Tap where he does a great job singing the Dorothy Fields-Jimmy McHugh song On the Sunny Side of the Street. He further appeared in Tap Dancers in America the same year which aired on PBS' Great Performances.

On January 20, 1991, Black and Blue played its final performance. A few months later, on May 3rd the film A Rage in Harlem was released in which his wife, the former harpist, Olivette Miller Briggs acted in.

Oklahoma City University honored Briggs with an an honorary doctorate of Performing Arts in 2002.

His wife Olivette died on April 27, 2003. Three years later, in 2006, he was inducted in the Tap Dance Hall of Fame.

Bunny Briggs died in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he had lived for many years on Saturday, November 15, 2014.

Here is a great page that I encourage people to check out!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Jazz Performance - "Lovesick Blues" - Tuba Skinny

There was nothing that George A. Borgman loved more than young people playing Traditional and Old Time Jazz. Tuba Skinny is a perfect example of this.

The group is a blues and jazz band based out of New Orleans that was formed in 2009. They are known for their street performances and have played all over the world. They specialize in recreating the music of the 20s and 30s but also play more modern tunes as well as their own creations.
In this video performance filmed on Royal Street, in New Orleans on April 22, 2010 we hear singer Erika Lewis sing Lovesick Blues.
Lovesick Blues was originally published as I've Got the Lovesick Blues in 1922. It was written by Cliff Friend and Irving Mills for the musical Oh! Ernest where Anna Chandler first performed it. It appears to have been first recorded by Jack Shea for Vocalion in the Summer of 1922.
It became a fairly popular tune to record over the years but became a hit for Country artist Hank Williams in 1949. In fact, Erika Lewis incorporates the yodeling that both Emmet Miller used in the 20s and Hank Williams used in the 40s.
In this performance we have a seven member band made up of Shaye Cohn, from Boston, on cornet, Todd Burdick on tuba and Kiowa Wells on guitar. Burdick and Wells, I believe are credited with starting the group. Also, in this video are Robin Rapuzzi on washboard, Barnabus Jones on trombone and finally the clarinet player might be John Doyle.
A great article online that sums up the band and its history can be found HERE!