RANDOM NOTES FOR THE SUMMER
MORE ANDY KAHN ISN’T ENOUGH
The name of Andy Kahn appears often in this space. That’s because I love his playing, I can’t get enough of it, and I want everyone to hear him. In the 50 or so years of our personal and professional association, I’ve heard him advance and evolve in a thoughtful, intelligent and sometimes exploratory manner. What you won’t hear from Andy Kahn are “licks” of any kind. Not Oscar’s. Not McCoy’s. Not Bill Evans’. Not Chick Corea’s. Not Paul Bley’s. Not Bernard Peiffer’s. Okay, 24 years ago he did quote from a solo by Harry “Sweets” Edison.
What’s particularly gratifying about his playing is, of course, his Great American Songbook repertoire, and that listeners won’t even be aware of licks or the lack of them. Quite simply, Andy Kahn makes a beautiful sound.
Right now, he holds the Thursday night spot at center city Philadelphia’s Prime Rib restaurant, and Fridays at Girasole in Atlantic City. I have no doubt that all or some of the other five nights per week will be eventually filled.
MARY ELLEN DESMOND AND OTHERS
Right next door to the Warwick Hotel’s Prime Rib is a space called Tavern17. Featured there not too long ago was singer Mary Ellen Desmond, backed by pianist Tom Lawton and bassist Lee Smith. It was one of the more wonderful evenings of music I’ve ever had. For the complete story, check out the re-cap on the JazzTimes.com Community Pages.
DRUMMERS…BY THE BOOK
How many drummers in history have accompanied Jimi Hendrix, Count Basie, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Charles Mingus and Charlie Ventura? And how many drummers have been on network television five nights per week for almost 30 years? Only Ed Shaughnessy. Ed has written a superb book about his life and his drumming and it’s available from Rob Cook at Rebeats.com and other outlets.
The daughter of the late and great Jake Hanna has let us know that the long-in-preparation book about her dad should be available early this fall. Jake was a colorful character and a one-of-a-kind drummer, and I know first-hand that the book is chock full of great musical stuff, and great “Jake Stories.” Check out Amazon.com for release date.
Stephan Peiffer, son of pianist Bernard, and pianist/educator/musicologist Don Glanden are the behind-the-scenes “powers-that-be” responsible for the release of “Bernard Peiffer: Improvision.” Part of the Universal Music “Jazz in Paris” series, “Improvision” is the first “new” Peiffer release in a half-dozen years. This stellar project issues, for the first time on CD, two incredibly rare LPs: “Bernie’s Tune” from 1956, “Modern Jazz for People who Like Original Music” from 1960, and some private material from the 1970s. “Astounding” is the only word for this project and for Bernard. For more details, log on to the Jazz Times Community Pages.
WANT TO KNOW ALL ABOUT JAZZ? VISIT ALLABOUTJAZZ.COM
I’ll be doing more work in the near future with Michael Ricci’s AllAboutJazz.com web site. Michael was one of the first out of the box, in 1995, with a comprehensive jazz site, and it’s only gotten bigger and better as time goes on. Latest development is a wide-ranging venture that will bring to visitors—via web pages and an app—every jazz and jazz-related event that is going on in your particular town. “Jazz Near You” is slated for a September launch.
How many folks visit Michael’s site? I can only say that, as you read this, my “How to Guide” on how to book jazz into a restaurant or club will have been read by nearly 4,000 people. That’s a lot of readers,and hopefully, a lot of eventual gigs for all.
JAZZ BRIDGE TOWN MEETING EVENT
I doff my cap to Suzanne Cloud, Wendy Simon-Sinkler and all other involved parties at Philadelphia’s Jazz Bridge, who worked tirelessly to put together what I consider to be one of the most important jazz events of the decade. This was a Town Meeting, hosted by Jazz Bridge and the newly-formed Philadelphia Jazz Coalition, and it was a forum to address the great, near-great and not-so great issues that face jazz musicians in Philadelphia and nationwide. Once again, for my take on that memorable evening, visit the Jazz Times’ Community Pages.
BRUCE-O GOES TO ATLANTIC CITY
My recent visit to Atlantic City was done in secret. I wanted to be alone while visiting old haunts and keep an open mind when visiting new ones. Some nice folks from Caesars’ security staff let me know that business seems to be on the upswing. That is as it should be. It’s the summer season. The beach was packed, the new, Michigan Avenue stores seemed busy; every Jitney that passed me was full and casino floor—even in mid-day on a weekday—appeared to be doing well.
There’s even some jazz to be heard here. Pianist Orrin Evans had a recent date as a part of what was called the “Chicken Bone Beach Fesitval,” and the honchos at what once was the Playboy/Golden Nugget/Bally’s Grand/Hilton—and now the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel—are booking jazz on Sunday nights. Recent visitors included pianists Alan Broadbent, John Coliani and Jim Ridl, often heard in duo formats. How about booking jazz seven nights per week?
With the untimely death of Resorts co-owner Dennis Gomes in February, surviving partner Morris Bailey was looking for another co-owner and has found one in the form of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. These folks know what they’re doing and hopefully will continue to breathe new life, a new life started by Dennis Gomes, into A.C.’s oldest casino.
The same old problems still exist here, however. Urban blight and decay, abandoned lots and homes are on view, often yards away from billion-dollar hotel/casinos. Regular Atlantic City visitors are used to this. Newcomers are not. Doesn’t anyone down there realize that no one wants to see this in what is supposed to be a resort town? And what happened to the promises that were made from the day gaming was legalized in 1978? Until things are really and truly cleaned up, this town will continue to be in trouble.
MARVIN HAMLISCH: 1944-2012
Composer/conductor/pianist Marvin Hamlisch’s sudden death at the age of 68 on August 6th was a shock. He did a conducting gig as recently as July 21 and had just completed the score for the musical stage play of Jerry Lewis’ “The Nutty Professor.”
Hamlisch was not a jazz man, nor did he profess to be, but he was the last of a breed of “old time tunesmiths” in the tradition of Great American Songbook composers. Call me a cornball if you will, but you could whistle Hamlisch’s tunes. And you could dance to them. There was elegance, wit, musical logic and exquisite simplicity in many of his tunes. Even Sinatra dug him and tried to make a hit out of Hamlisch’s “There’s Something About You,” written in tandem with frequent partner, Carole Bayer Sager.
Sadly, and I didn’t know of this until his death, Marvin Hamlisch was being strongly considered to replace Philly Pops’ conductor Peter Nero after Nero’s planned departure at the end of the 2013 season. That would have been great for this city. And for music.
ROBERT BRASLER: AN APPRECIATION
Bob Brasler’s obituary did not appear in Down Beat magazine, and the flag in front of the A.F.of M. Local #77 wasn’t flown at half-staff upon his death. That’s because Bob was best known as being one of this area’s most innovative real estate developers and forward thinkers, responsible, in good measure, for Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.
But musicians loved Bob Brasler, who passed away at the age of 75 in June, and Bob Brasler loved musicians. It didn’t matter what the nature of the social or charitable gathering was. All he needed was a piano player, and Bob would end up singing half the night.
The trio of pianist Andy Kahn, bassist Bruce Kaminsky and yours truly, accompanied Bob frequently through the years, often at the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis Foundation headquarters (an organization, by the way, that Bob and his darling wife Sibby virtually put on the map) and most recently at his 75th birthday gala. Bob’s singing was an important part of these occasions, with charts, keys, lyrics and song lists submitted to us long, long in advance.
When Bob died, I got a call from Sibby, saying that Bob insisted, shortly before his death, that our trio play at his memorial service. I wasn’t surprised, but I was touched and honored.
This guy put on a show. And a heck of a show it was. He was one hell of an entertainer, and one hell of a human being. Wherever Al Jolson has been residing since 1950, I know he said the following when hearing of Bob Brasler’s arrival: “Brasler’s here? Oh, shit.”