Greatest of Jazz Parties

No matter what the headlines or what one’s persuasion might be, this is in at least one respect the best of times.

Back in the Day when I was teaching, I offered a course in Jazz and Literature.  The basic idea was to let students explore the ways artists tried to bring the jazz experience into another medium–stories, novels, films.  Students heard a lot, read a lot, watched a lot.  They had the chance to see some of the jazz greats and most learned (my quiet motive) to love the music.

The difficulty was that there was not a lot of material to work with–especially in films.  I invested in quite a few videotapes (a word we used Back in the Day) and got help from reference librarians.  Still–not that much to work with.

Would that I were still doing that course.  There is a flood of material available–much of it thanks to Jazz on the Tube.

In 1963 Dick Gibson started throwing an annual jazz party in Colorado and he continued doing that for some thirty years.  The World’s Greatest Jazz Band, The Yank Lawson-Bob Haggart combination, grew out of a Gibson Gala.  

Now we can all go to one of his parties.  Here is an absolutely incredible film.  

Imagine Ruby Braff getting out of an old car, trumpet in hand, and walking toward Clark Terry, trumpet in hand.  It’s like a very happy Gunfight at the OK Corral.  Or the aged Eubie Blake and the young Jon Faddis playing a duet on Blake’s “Memories of You.”  Or Billy Butterfield playing “Hello Dolly” for Mrs. Lucille Armstrong, Butterfield sounding as much like Armstrong as anybody can.

Working musicians don’t get to see each other very often.  Reunions like these parties make for happy times.

If I have to pick my own favorite moment, it comes shortly after the twelve minute mark.  There is a jam session, a tenor sax soloing and three or four horns riffing behind him.  That tenor sax is Flip Phillips, a heroic figure of my youth and still one of my icons.  And he sounds just as great as he always did.

Don’t miss this one.  It is a great film.