19 January 2017

Post 468: SHAKE 'EM UP JAZZ BAND AT ABITA SPRINGS

Molly Reeves
In the summer of 2016, Shaye Cohn put together in New Orleans a traditional jazz band comprising only ladies. We are lucky to live at a time when so many of the greatest traditional jazz musicians are ladies and when so many of them happen to have settled in that city.

And in this band, you find SIX of them making up what may well be one of the greatest all-female bands ever.

Another interesting feature of this band is that Shaye Cohn is playing trombone - something I've never seen her do before. Is there nothing that young lady can't master? Even before this, she had become established as one of the finest trad jazz piano and cornet players of all time, as well as being very good on violin, string bass and accordion. The other ladies are of course Chloe Feoranzo, Marla Dixon, Dizzy, Julie Schexnayder, and Molly Chaffin Reeves - every one a heroine of our musical times.

Shaye's original purpose was to give a demonstration of traditional jazz at the Girls' Summer Band Camp in New Orleans. But the all-ladies band - once formed - was too good to waste and fans pleaded for them to play elsewhere.
At first, the band had no name but somebody (John Dixon, I believe) had the idea of calling it The EQP Jazz Band (EQual Pay). However, by November, Shaye seems to have decided to call it The Shake 'Em Up Jazz Band.

Whatever the band's name, the Good News is that they were invited to play at the famous Abita Springs Opry on 19 November. 

The concert they gave was traditional jazz of the finest kind - tasteful and yet always exciting and full of intelligent ideas. They opened with Some Day Sweetheart and then continued with Root, Hog; or Die!, Sugar Blues, When You Wore A Tulip, Make Me A Pallet on the Floor, and - to finish - Hindustan.

Having done the good work behind the scenes, Shaye gave herself a secondary role in performance, leaving Marla to play the trumpet, lead the band and do the announcing.

Everyone was interested to see how Shaye would fare playing her newest instrument, the trombone.
What she did was exactly what we might expect of her: she played a perfect and accurate though simple and basic line, fully conscious of the harmonising and rhythmic responsibilities of the trombone in our music. On Sugar Blues (played in the rarely-used key of G) she took a complete solo chorus and the audience loved it.

Root, Hog; Or Die! - played in C minor - romped along, with plenty of mini-solos and Marla providing the vocal.

Among the highlights of the concert were a beautiful two-chorus solo by Chloe on Make Me a Pallet (which they played in F) and an exquisite vocal duet at the end of When You Wore A Tulip (played in Ab) with Chloe singing the melody and Marla perfectly harmonising on lower notes. Chloe was also the vocalist on Sugar Blues, which she sang with great passion.

(I am mentioning keys because they differ from those sometimes used for the tunes in question.)

Pumping the band along, Molly on guitar and Julie on string bass provided the chords very solidly, four to the bar; and Dizzy as ever maintained metronomic gentle percussion on the washboard, and took very neat solos, including a full chorus on When You Wore a Tulip.

Molly is, of course, also a fine singer and gave a lovely rendition of Make Me a Pallet.

In fact, I am coming round to the opinion that Make Me a Pallet is my favourite performance in this video. Molly reminds me of Carol Leigh singing with Kid Thomas; and every member of the band plays it beautifully, with terrific teamwork.

Chloe's clarinet was stunningly eloquent throughout and Marla was her usual exuberant self – passionately singing and also playing some wonderful stuff on the trumpet. On this occasion she did not use her famous Derby mute but her playing with the plunger mute on Sugar Blues and Pallet on the Floor was outstanding.

What a treat for us all! Let's hope this band will continue to get together from time to time and that there will be many more videos for us to enjoy all over the world.

You can watch the Abita Spring's video of the performance by going to Abita Spring's own site and then clicking on the name of the band:
http://www.abitaopry.org/html/AO2016-11.html
It is also to be seen here:
https://vimeo.com/201161078

I am deeply indebted to my blog-reading friend and Louisiana resident Michael Brooks for supplying me with information.
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Here are extracts from two emails I received shortly after the above was published:

(1) As you and I have said before, we are living in a new golden age for traditional jazz.  These aren't just the best female musicians that our music has to offer but among the best no matter the gender.  I wonder what the old timers from the early days of New Orleans jazz would say?  Women were relegated to piano back then.

(2) Well, I read your blog over breakfast, and then watched the band ...
... and I just had to have another breakfast.
WHAT A WAY TO START MY DAY ... SIX VERY LOVELY AND TALENTED LADIES, TWO CUPS OF COFFEE AND A PLATE FULL OF CROISSANTS.
Life doesn't get any better!
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By the way, you might like to have my Book:

For more information, go to the Amazon website and type 'Enjoying Traditional Jazz' into the Search Bar. The book is the price of a cup of coffee; it contains over 60,000 words and you can free-sample a few pages before deciding whether to download it.