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Every Now and Den

Dan Morgenstern By
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It's been so long since the last Den that it should perhaps be renamed, "Every Now and Den." But here I am with some of the events that stand out from the past five months or so, not necessarily in chronological order.

I've never missed the annual Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans, and the August 12 edition was, as always, a delightful experience, climate down yonder notwithstanding. Among the excellent seminar participants from up North were David Ostwald, who interviewed me about my times with Pops, and director Michael Cogswell and Ricky Riccardi from the Armstrong House Museum and Archive in Queens. Ricky again came up with some great new stuff from film and TV: Michael interviewing a first-timer, Stephen Maitland-Lewis, a businessman and author who first met Louis in his native England as a teenager, which led to a lifelong friendship. And George Avakian, whose memory at 92 is better than mine, talking to Ostwald about recording Armstrong.

The absolute highlight of the musical presentations was 101-year-old Lionel Ferbos, starring with Lars Edegran's Ragtime Orchestra. Ferbos played his trumpet as correctly and in-tune as always, and offered two delightful vocals in a strong and clear voice, on "Sister Kate" and the charming "Kiss Me Sweet," by A.J. Piron, who bought "Sister Kate" from young Armstrong for 50 bucks. Delfeayo Marsalis led a kicking big band that offered a surprise among selections of more recent vintage, a fine reading of Benny Carter's classic "Symphony in Riffs." Congrats to Marci Schramm and her staff for an excellent production—and come on down, y'all, for Satchmo Summerfest 13—always the first week of August, Thursday through Sunday. Free!

Back home in pre-Sandy New York, Anat Cohen offered a most unusual four consecutive nights at the Jazz Standard, each presenting the clarinetist/saxophonist in a different context. Called her Invitation Series, it began and ended with a duo. First came the wonderful Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo. They had worked together before, but never in this intimate relationship, and it turned out to be marvelous, in a program featuring jazz standards, Brazilian pieces and originals. On clarinet and tenor, Cohen and Lubambo made beautiful and often moving music, including a swinging "All the Things You Are," a soulful "Darn That Dream," and a delightful choro—the New Orleans jazz of Brazil, with much in common with ragtime, and in which Cohen is at home. It's based on improvisation and, like blues and ragtime, sprang from many world influences. Choro (SHOH-roh) means "to cry" in Portuguese, referring to the weeping qualities of the instrument, usually a flute or clarinet.

The second night paired Cohen with another guitar virtuoso—one she has often duetted and recorded with—none other than Howard Alden, plus special trumpet guest Jon-Erik Kellso, with whom she's often played in tubaist David Ostwald's Gully Low Jazz Band. Standouts were Duke Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp," renamed by clarinetist Kenny Davern and pianist Dick Wellstood as "Fast as a Bastard," which indeed it was, with Cohen on soprano, and Jelly Roll Morton's "Shreveport Stomp" in the pocket. With Kellso, there was a peppy "Weary Blues," with appropriately superb ensemble work, and a properly Slavonic "Dark Eyes," with plunger stuff. They wrapped with another fast one, "Limehouse Blues," with Cohen on tenor, with the Flip Phillips line that he bequeathed to Alden.

Night three featured Cohen with her big band, and here my note-taking was sketchy. There was a very hip Johnny Griffin original, I think from the Clarke-Boland book, on which Cohen's tenor showed she has her own conception on the horn, as she does on clarinet, which came to the fore on "Oh Baby," a recreation of Benny Goodman's 1946 version; lots of fun but without tongue in cheek, and on "Cry Me a River," which she has already recorded in a big band setting.

Cohen's partner on night four was the splendid pianist Fred Hersch, and this was very special from the start—the challenging "You Stepped Out of a Dream," as "Lee's Dream" (guess which Lee), and quoting saxophonist Charlie Parker's line as well. An Egberto Gismonti original came to a happy choro-like end and featured special piano moments, while "At the End of the Day," another Hersch original, showcased Cohen's flawless intonation, and "Songs with Words Number 4" evoked a languid duet. The set ended with a Cohen special, "Memories of You," the best I've ever heard her do, abetted by a repeated phrase from Hersch. All told, a wonderful four nights. One hopes that at least some of them will live again on record, though those in attendance (there were many) will not soon forget.

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