Jazz: A Collector’s Treasure Trove

23 01 2012

“…jazz is real play.” (Leonard Bernstein)

Jazz is arguably one of the few forms of music that had its birth in the United States.  New Orleans is the matrix out of which this fun and playful musical expression emerged.  Its penchant for variety and heartfelt expression and improvisation is why so many of us enjoy it so much.

I’ve been enriched by many different things as I’ve journeyed through life with my family.  Every member has brought joy to my life as they’ve shared their passions and interests.

My stepfather, Dr. Paul Gorelick, has shared his love of many forms of music with me for 35 years now.  Jazz is a favorite of Paul’s, especially traditional and Dixieland.  So I was delighted to digitize a couple of rare jazz treasures for him as we’ve welcomed a new year.

The Epsilon Jass Band was a collection of fine jazz musicians who played in and around the Traverse City, MI, area.  In the ‘70’s, my stepdad would fly his Piper Cherokee up to this region from Michigan’s thumb area to rest and repose from his very busy medical practice in Lapeer, MI.

Their album, Volume Two, has a variety of favorites—in different forms.  Traditional jazz, rags, blues, swing, etc.  The swinging “Hard Hearted Hanna” has a distinct blues feel, earthy vocals courtesy of Jeannie Harrison.  Gig Stewart’s vocals on the well-known standard, “Mack the Knife” sounds reminiscent of Louie Armstrong.  Satchmo and Bobby Darin would be proud.

There are a host of other pieces as well—“Sugar,” “Tin Roof Blues,” “’Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” just to name a few.  Front and center with this recording is the outstanding horn work.  As well, banjo is central to Dixieland jazz—an instrument special to Paul, as he played banjo for many years. There’s nice banjo work on “Tin Roof Blues.” There is variety on this album, now out of print—slow tempos and sprightly, at times in-your-face meters.  The dynamics on this record are outstanding.

Papa French and his New Orleans Jazz Band (formerly the Papa Celestin Band) made their home and mark in New Orleans.  Headed by frontman Albert “Papa” French on banjo, this is Dixieland jazz at its best.

A Night At Dixieland Hall Vol. 1 opens with the very full, brassy reading of “Rampart Street Parade.”  Joseph “Cornbread” Thomas handles the vocals with heart and guts on cuts like “Marie Laveau,” “Shine,” and the iconic “Mack the Knife.”  Classical guitarist Andrés Segovia has said, “When the music is loved, it lives.”  Playing music well, especially jazz, means it must come from the inside, the heart.  There can be no compromise and this music demands your attention because of its passion.

Jazz, to be effective, has to have a strong rhythm section.  As someone has said regarding their own ensemble, “This only proves that when your rhythm section is very good (as this band is) you don’t even know they are there. You just float on the cushion of a solid beat with the right chords. So it is easy to see how you could forget Scott, a fine player, always in the pocket.”  These records embody Gershwin’s phrase “I got rhythm.”

These two albums have special value to my stepdad because they were all signed by the musicians who made them.  You can see this in the picture at the head of this post.

Jazz is play and fun.  Paul has other favorites—among them Dave Wierbach and Pete Fountain. But the larger point in this post is this: Share what you love with those you love.  I’ve been privileged to share my stepfather’s love of music and have grown as a musician and a person as well.

You should do the same.



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