You have no items in your shopping cart.
BOB: Dave McKenna has been a part of Pug's and my musical life for many, many years. I worked with Dave and Bobby Hackett on Cape Cod and in New York. We were all so young! In addition to New York gigs we worked together, with the Bob Crosby band. I was fortunate to spend a great deal of time on Cape Cod at my family's summer home and during this time, I worked with Dave, with Bobby Hackett's Band, Dave and he both had homes on the Cape. Dave had a repertoire second to none, it consisted of a complete knowledge of jazz tunes including Dixieland, Swing and early Bebop and songs from the musical theater. PUG: There are a myriad of stories about Dave, for he was a great character and from time to time, like us all, slipped from grace!! He was as Bobby Hackett frequently said when introducing him..’Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce you to Dave McKenna the world's greatest pianist,’ note I did not say jazz pianist!!! Dave himself always said he was 'a saloon pianist' (see Whitney Balliet's profile on him in The New Yorker 1979). He had a style that no one knew from whence it came, a strong rolling left hand, it’s like a ten ton truck, roaring down Rte 9. There are so many aspects to his playing …his attempts at 'stride' piano' in the style of James P. or Ralph Sutton, was so unusual, best described as quirky, good but quirky!!!!! Especially on one of his favorite tunes 'The Kerry Dancers' he liked to (hearken) back to his Irish roots. His other wonderful trait on his solos was to start playing a tune with a girl's name, this would continue with varying tempos as he surprised the audience with zillions of different women's names. The whole solo bound together with different moods. Truly a genius! My first encounter with Dave was from my years living in Albany NY, where me and my doctor husband John, a fine trombone player comfortable in classical music and jazz, often sat in with him on his regular sojourns to the Tri-State area. He was a particular friend of Mike Flanigan, owner of the Petit Paris restaurant and jazz venue. Mike was a hugely talented bass player who managed to divide his time between his culinary duties, performing with the Albany Symphony Orchestra and first call bass fiddle on all jazz gigs in the area. In fact Albany and Schenectady became a home away from home for Dave, except of course when The Red Sox were playing in Boston. I will never forget calling Dave to say we could line up a possible tour of England, (Dave, an Anglophile-loved Ray Noble tunes, he was a prolific reader and obsessed with all things English, including home-made apple pie???) He quickly replied "Well I'm not sure, Pug the Red-Sox may win the pennant'!!!” He worked for several years at the Copley Plaza in Boston with this in mind, I am sure! BOB: from a musical point of view, Dave was one of the most exciting and original pianists in the history of jazz. He always denied being able to read yet he would romp through my originals, giving them his unique treatment. I have been privileged to play with all time great pianists, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Willie 'The Lion’, Dick Hyman, Dick Wellstood, Ralph Sutton, Teddy Wilson and many others, but playing with Dave was something very special. He had an almost childlike innocence with his huge frame hunched over the keyboard, his quiet demeanor and set features as myriad musical passages came through his swinging fingers, amazingly! He understood perfectly every nuance of every tune. I have admired Pug since meeting she and her husband at Eddie Condon's in the early '60's. They were good friends of pianist Dill Jones. Going back those many years to the night that I met her-she was sitting demurely at a table and I found myself looking at the most beautiful woman I had ever met. We engaged in mutual conversation. As the band re-assembled I reluctantly returned to the stage. After the first number the band leader, Max Kaminsky announced we have a great friend of the band in the audience, a lovely English lady who happens to be a great singer. I was utterly astounded to see this same lady I had been seated with throw off her mink coat and come striding down through the tables and up on to the stage. Maxie asked her, 'what do you want to sing baby'? she replied 'St Louis Blues in C -1 2 3 4 - I was flabbergasted to hear the words “I hate to see” etc. in the style of Bessie Smith!!! I was truly hooked!!! . Years went by and in 1976 I was doing a concert at Carnegie Hall presenting the 1930's music of Duke Ellington for the New York Jazz Repertory, I was a charter member of the board. The band was set but we needed a singer to re-create the songs of the great Ivie Anderson. At the first rehearsal we mulled over a number of singers but none seemed to fit the bill! I suggested a gal I knew who would be perfect, beautiful, elegant and a marvelous singer. I called and offered her the gig. Imagine my shock when she told me 'she knew little about Ivie, but thanked me for thinking of her? I did however succeed in persuading her. She subsequently received brilliant reviews from the N Y Times jazz critic, John Wilson and others. Shortly after that we became a team both musically and as a couple. Bob, Dave and Pug was born! and along with some very special bass players and drummers my dream team came true! Performing with this group has been a highlight of my '70' years in jazz! Special thanks to Doug and Steve McKenna for their permission to release these recordings. Dave Bennet for his dedication and time spent recording and bringing order to this project. To Irv Kratka who deserves kudos for his love and pursuit in preserving'classic jazz'. And to the many fans worldwide who loved Dave McKenna!!!
|Soloist/Artist||Bob Wilder, Dave Mckenna & "Pug" Horton Quintet|
|Composer||Bob Wilder, Dave Mckenna & "Pug" Horton Quintet|
|Accompanist/ Conductor||Bob Wilder, Dave Mckenna & "Pug" Horton Quintet|
Customer Reviews (5)
- Highly RecommendedReview by CD Reviews
McKenna was an affable, self-effacing and humble man. He had a tendency to minimize his own huge talent, though it was obvious to all around him. When introducing Dave, Bobby Hackett often referred to him as “the world’s greatest pianist” (note: not even “Greatest jazz pianist”)! Whilst I certainly wouldn’t go that far, it illustrates just how respected was Dave McKenna, the man and the musician.
Dave is the only ever-present on all these tracks: he plays solo piano on tracks 7, 8, and 9 of CD 1 and track 6 of CD 2. Dave was a big man and his playing was larger than life: a powerful rolling left hand, balanced by an unerring ability to never wander far from the melody, defined his playing. He always described himself, in his modest way, as “just a bar room pianist.” He was far more than that.
Sharing center-stage on these CDs is the wonderful Bob Wilber. As I write, Bob is in his 88th year or so, I guess, doesn’t perform much anymore. At the time of these recordings, Bob would have been about 50 and playing at his immaculate best. Though Wilber played all the reed instruments, he sticks to his favorite curved soprano sax and clarinet here. In fact, he only plays clarinet on 6 tracks, Nobody’s baby, Everywhere You Go, Melancholy Blues (on which he also plays soprano), Clarion Song, Did I Remember, and Wequasset Wail. His clarinet playing was just exquisite: just as Goodman (who was classically trained), Wilber has a beautiful, round, fluid tone on the instrument. It was no coincidence that Bob was chosen to play Goodman’s role in the 50th anniversary of Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, which later toured over here.
However, it is mainly for his soprano playing that Wilber is noted. He was a pupil of Sidney Bechet (though Bechet played the straight version of his instrument). In stark contrast to his clarinet playing, Wilber’s approach to the soprano, heavily influenced by Bechet, displays a marked broad vibrato, similar to the style adopted by many early New Orleans clarinetists.
The third featured artist on the CDs is Joanne ‘Pug’ Horton (Mrs. Wilber). She sings on only nine of the twenty-six tracks. Her voice is powerful and she knows how to get the best from a lyric. My favorite vocals are Mean to Me, Lotus Blossom, and Did I Remember. As an aside, the fourth track on CD 2 is given on the CD cover as Melancholy Baby, whereas it is actually the tune Melancholy Blues, recorded by Louis Armstrong in 1927.
These recordings are excellent, the rhythm section of Ron Rubin and Derek Hogg does a great job but the undoubted stars of these recordings are Bob Wilber and the underrated and understated Dave McKenna. Two of the very best at their very best.
(Posted on 8/26/2015)
- Must HaveReview by The Midwest Book Review
- 5 StarsReview by Live From London
- RecommendedReview by Jazz Lives
I was stirred to write this because of a gratifying 2-CD release called LIVE FROM LONDON -- recorded over five nights of performance in April 1978. The place was Pizza Express, and the band was Bob, reeds and compositions; Dave McKenna, piano; Pug, vocals; and UK stalwarts Ron Rubin, string bass; Derek Hogg, drums. It comes from recordings made by the sound wizard Dave Bennett, and the results are issued on Irv Kratka's resourceful Classic Jazz label, CJ 36. It is a consistently gratifying two-and-a-half hours of soaring yet casual music. For those of my generation, it is a wonderful window into those New York nights of the Seventies and beyond where a glorious little band would play a three-hour gig and keep delighting and surprising us.
The sound is excellent, the music superb. Wilber has often been minimized as one of the great Followers -- understandably, because he studied with Bechet -- and smaller-minded listeners have been so enraptured by "his" Bechet, Hodges, Goodman, Bigard, and others, that they have forgotten the Wilber-energies that made those sounds come so alive. I think of him as someone like Buck Clayton -- completely individual -- an artist who made his own identity complete and satisfying while letting the great energies of the Ancestors flow through him. (Is it heresy to write that his Goodman evocation improves on the King?) His sounds are his own (and his compositions are very satisfying as well -- whether nicely-shaped "blowing" vehicles like JONATHAN'S WAY or Thirties-evocations like EVERYWHERE YOU GO). Wilber is in fine form here, eloquent and relaxed . . . a modern equal to the great reed masters.
Pug (born Joanne) Horton, Bob's devoted wife, is also singing beautifully on these discs. Although she harks back to the dark ferocity of Bessie and the lighter tenderness of Ivie, she is immediately identifiable and delightful: her sound a purr with British tendencies. And she swings deliciously.
And Dave. There has never been a pianist like him and few have come close in the years since his passing. A whole orchestra, a rhythmic-melodic train barrelling down the tracks at us, but a melodic improviser of sweet gossamer subtleties. Each disc has a solo feature or two, and they are magnificent: effusions I would play for any classical pianist who thought jazz players were somehow limited.
With the two expert yet gentle UK rhythm players, this was and is a dynamic, varied, shape-shifting quintet, and the CDs are a compact way to travel to a time and place most of us never got to, to enjoy evenings of brilliant heartfelt music. The songs are I'M NOBODY'S BABY / JONATHAN'S WAY / BLACK AND BLUE / MEAN TO ME / HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT / I'M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT / I FOUND A NEW BABY / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU / EXACTLY LIKE YOU / EVERYWHERE YOU GO / LOTUS BLOSSOM / PUGGLES / FREEMAN'S WAY / 144 WEST 54th STREET // ROCKS IN MY BED / I GOT IT BAD / 'DEED I DO / MELANCHOLY / CLARION SONG / I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA (which turns into a McKenna medley of songs with women's names) / DID I REMEMBER? / ALL OF ME / WEQUASSET WAIL / ROSE OF THE RIO GRANDE / DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE / INDIANA // (Nice and modest liner notes by Bob and Pug, too.) (Posted on 7/30/2015)
- RecommendedReview by Scott Yanow
The music on the two-CD set Live From London was recorded during five nights at London’s Pizza Express in 1978 and has never been released before. Featured is Bob Wilber (in top form on soprano, alto and clarinet), pianist Dave McKenna and singer Pug Horton with fine support from bassist Ron Rubin and drummer Derek Hogg.
The joyful swing music, which includes both standards and obscurities, finds Bob Wilber (50 at the time) at his musical prime, which continues to the present day and has lasted over 65 years. He hints at Benny Goodman on some of his clarinet numbers (such as “I’m Nobody’s Baby” and “Did I Remember”), emulates Johnny Hodges a bit on alto and is most distinctive on soprano. His fluency and steady flow of fresh ideas on his three instruments is quite impressive. Pug Horton is in fine form, appearing on around half of the selections, taking gentle and straightforward choruses. However Dave McKenna, swinging so hard with his rollicking bass lines, sometimes steals the show. Fortunately he has several showcases including memorable versions of ‘I Found A New Baby” and “Exactly Like You.” The swinging by the group in general is quite stirring, especially on the original “Jonathan’s Way,” “Freeman’s Way” (Bud Freeman’s line on “My Honey’s Loving Arms”) and “Indiana.” Live From London, which is filled with timeless music, is highly recommended and available from www.innercityjazz.com.
(Posted on 7/27/2015)
Write Your Own Review
%s1 / %s2