Two very special birthdays today, March 6. The city of Toronto celebrates its 180th year of incorporation, still going strong despite our recent comically absurd appearances on the world stage. Also the great visionary, fiddler, bandleader and forefather of Western swing Bob Wills would have celebrated his 109th. Living in one and inspired by the other, I hope anyone reading this finds some small way to celebrate the places we live and the people we admire. “Ah… hahh!”
It took a chance encounter with a record shop in Birmingham UK to find an album’s worth of Willy Girard material. A contemporary of the early jazz violinists, Girard held a long stint with former Duke Ellington trumpeter Louis Metcalf whose international bebop band would regularly perform at Cafe St. Michel, a reputable jazz hole in the bustling musical community of 1940s Montreal.
Available for the first time on YouTube, a well spirited performance of a Willy Girard original resurrected from relative obscurity and digitized forever (lest we forget!)
Yours truly bobbing his head alongside Toronto’s only remaining Western Swing band, The Double Cuts. Here’s a standard called Fan It, originally penned (I think) by Frankie Half-Pint Jaxon in 1928.
In compiling an intermission playlist for my show The Double, I leaned heavily on Eddie Condon & The Dixieland All-Stars, whose album Midnight In Moscow does well to treat swarthy continental melodieslike Dark Eyes and Meadowlands in a wash of uproarious New Orleans-inspired jazz. The liner notes tell of a casual day in the studio under the laid-back leadership of Condon, whose recording philosophy is described in two words: “Be there.” The buoyancy of the performance coupled with the playfulness of the arrangements is balanced against the elegance and regality of the melodies with less effort than a breeze through wild flowers. Presented here for your consideration is Theme From Swan Lake, as cheerfully interpreted by one of America’s great bygone jazz masters.
He’s missing a few fingers and he’s shot a man in the face. Here’s a nugget for chicken enthusiasts everywhere.
Keeping somewhat in step with the charming story of Charles Bradley- and everyone’s penchant for a rags-to-riches tale- I’d like to share a tune from Texas mainstay-turned-country star James Hand.
In 2006, after 40+ years of spirited devotion to songwriting and the stage, James Hand released his first nationally distributed album to roaring applause and critical acclaim. Co-produced by heavyweights Ray Benson (Asleep At The Wheel) and Lloyd Maines, The Truth Will Set You Free is a an effortless balancing act of honky-tonk, Western swing, rockabilly, outlaw, and other sub-genres of country music often neglected by the mainstream.
His deeply emotive and tremulous voice proves an appropriate vessel for delivering stark- often witty, often heartbreaking- lyrics and an inescapable reminder that James Hand is, as Willie Nelson describes him, “the real deal.”
Here for your enjoyment is the opening track from his aforementioned breakthrough album.
A post mutually dedicated to Pete Seeger on his belated 94th birthday and all my unemployed friends with smoking habits & English degrees.