“I’m Swingin’ Heah!” Hot Jazz on Vacation in the Big Apple

Seeing is believing, and yesterday I believed more than ever in the power of “old music”: a quintet of straw-hatted, suspendered, bow-tied young Dixielanders were able to stop passers-by (of all ages, under forty) dead in their tracks along Washington Square Park.

A Few Members of the Crowd Look On with Delight (Intentionally Cropped Out to Preserve Anonymity)

More accurately, the impromptu audience wasn’t so much stopped as they were diverted from appointments and sights to hot brass and popping rhythm undergirded by “just” (the word seems powerfully ironic) banjo and bass. Tunes like “Shine,” “Basin Street Blues” and “Crazy Rhythm” were called with the sense of history and respect given to the Parker standards holding sway at nearby jazz clubs in the village, and the tenor sax man played with a weighty ochre and slippery melodicism recalling days before Bird.

I didn’t have a chance to get the names of all the players, but the trombonist told me that banjoist/vocalist Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton leads the group. Some Internet research revealed the cornetist to be Satoru Ohashi. From what I can tell both players are regulars on the New York and cyberspace circuits. From what I observed yesterday (and no doubt tonight when I go see Vince Giordano’s band), even digital downloads and the calculated commercialism of the music industry can never take away the thrill of live music, and music is never “old” or “dead” if it’s being played live.

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