I like dancing. I like it even more with great live music. This was a fun weekend for that here in DC. Actually, more like Glen Echo Park in Maryland. The Boilermaker Jazz Band played the Bumper Car Pavilion on Friday night while The Tom Cunningham Orchestra held its monthly dance in the Spanish Ballroom on Saturday evening.
It was a beautiful Friday night for the Boilermakers. Donna Barker and Mike Marcotte hosted Paul Cosentino on clarinet and saxophone, Rich Strong on drums, Mark Kotishion on piano, and Ernest McCarty on bass with Jenny Luvv singing.
The band sounded great as usual, but Ernest put on a clinic on bass. He doesn’t solo very much, but he was much more assertive that night. I could tell he was feelin’ it when he practically jumped us with his outstanding playing during “The Nearness of You” towards the end of the first set. A fairly mellow song, but he added a little extra something to his solo and accompaniments that would have made one of his former band leaders, Erroll Garner, proud.
In fact here’s a rare clip of Ernest playing with the that piano legend in 1972 . Thanks to Luke Albao for forwarding this clip to me.
It’s a tribute to his versatility and musicianship that he can play such different styles of music and stay true to himself.
I’ve gotten a better appreciation of how each of the members contributes to the overall sound of the band. In July, the Boilermakers rolled through Jam Cellar with only Mark and Rich to play with Paul. After only hearing them with a piano and drums, it was interesting to hear how Ernest “rounds” out the sound of the rhythm section with the deep thum thum thum of his bass. I remember overhearing another bassist complain how hard it was to fill the Spanish ballroom with his sound, but it’s not something Ernest has a problem with. I was reminded of that the last time they played Glen Echo in August when I heard his thumping bass lines from the other side of the park while they played their version of “Truckin’.”
Finding any musician, especially a bassist who can play in the vintage styles with that kind of skill, flair, and power is pretty rare. An artist in many senses of the word. He’s not just a musician as his many artistic passions including sculpture, painting, poetry, and play-writing. Check out his website at www.McCartyArt.com.
On Saturday, I got to hear the big band sounds of the Tom Cunningham Orchestra. I don’t get tired of listening this band, mostly because Tom Cunningham has such a diverse book of arrangements. You have to admire a guy who specifies on his play list to the sound guy that the “Opus One” version they’re playing that night is the Gene Krupa one.
The band started out with some solid mid tempo numbers to warm up the crowd including one of my favorite Artie Shaw tunes, “Shine On Harvest Moon” and the Ellington slow burner, “Happy-Go-Lucky Local.”
It’s hard to single anyone out in such a large band (21 people total including all the vocalists), but I really dug pianist Russell Wilson (not the same guy who leads a few bands in North Carolina). Russell also plays piano for “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band at the White House. Here’s a clip of him competing in the 2008 Old-Time Piano Championship.
It was fun to see Rev. Arnold come into the ballroom at the same time the band started “Cow Cow Boogie” and watch as his walk turn into a strut to match Wilson’s easy going, western boogie woogie playing that accompanied vocalist Betsy Kipperman. Then Russell really turned it on in his opening in the Count Basie flag waiver, “The King.”
That same song also featured my other standout of the night, tenor saxophonist Will Tytch, who was blowing all night like he was sitting in on the Basie band itself. He had a lot of smoking solo’s all evening especially a few I noticed during the last set. They included another Basie tune called “Pound Cake” and the up tempo “Elks Parade” originally by Bobby Sherwood. I don’t remember hearing the last song before this past weekend, but the way the band played it convinced me to track it down.
Miraculously, I also dug up a video featuring all the people I just mentioned in the last few paragraphs. (Including Arnold but not Basie and Sherwood) Even though TCO played “Wham” this past weekend, the video is of them doing performing it last year.
As much I enjoyed the instrumentals a bit more, the vocalists also did a great job. Andre Enceneat did a great scat during “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing.)” The band did Ellington’s 40’s version of that song complete with vocal trio and violin solo by Jeff Reynolds. I tend to prefer that version over the original 1932 version with Ivie Anderson singing because of the way the band crescendos at the end. Hearing all those instruments come in all at once live is a heck of a sound to behold in person.
The band ended the evening with “Lindy Hoppers’ Delight.” Yet another reason why I love this band: Their tireless devotion to playing Swing Era songs not limited to the standards. How many big bands out there know that “Lindy Hoppers’ Delight” even exists? Let’s all thank Betsy Kipperman for convincing Tom to added it to their repertoire.
I hear rumors of a new cd being produced as we speak. I look forward to hearing it. Keep an eye on their website for more details.
I also recommend the Boilermakers’ newest CD, “Jump for Joy” which you can order online, or purchase next time you see them in person.
And to bring this full circle, a little birdie told me that you can catch the aforementioned Betsy Kipperman singing with the otherly aforementioned Boilermakers at Lindy Focus in North Carolina later this year.