Listeners weigh in and vote for their favorite Riverwalk Jazz performers and performances and the winners are heard on this radio show. Guests garnering the most votes include, reedman Bob Wilber, vibist John Cocuzzi, traditional jazz revivalists Leon Oakley and Mike Walbridge and jazz piano legend Dick Hyman. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band takes center stage, kicking off the festivities with their sizzling, hot rendition of Jelly Roll Morton’s 1929 composition “Burnin’ the Iceberg.”
Dick Hyman’s long career recording, concertizing, composing, arranging and scoring for film covers vast areas of contemporary and historical American music. Currently living in Florida, Hyman continues to compose new music and tour, often performing his own original works, or new works in collaboration with other artists. Topping the charts with his many appearances on our radio show, Riverwalk Jazz listeners have chosen four tracks featuring Mr. Hyman, two of them from our popular boogie-woogie shows. “Roll ‘Em,” composed in 1937 by Mary Lou Williams for Benny Goodman, is one of many two-piano collaborations between Hyman and Cullum Band pianist John Sheridan. “Cow Cow Boogie” was written for the 1942 Abbott & Costello film Ride 'Em Cowboy at the height of the national boogie-woogie craze in pop music. Hyman’s collaborations with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on this program also include George Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me” and Rodgers and Hart’s “Thou Swell,” both evergreen standards from the classic period of songwriting between the 20th century’s two world wars, often referred to as the ‘Golden Age’ of the Great American Songbook.
Vibist John Cocuzzi grew up in the Washington, DC area and now lives in northern California. In demand at jazz festivals and cruises worldwide, Cocuzzi frequently appears with former Jim Cullum Jazz Band clarinetist Allan Vaché. On this broadcast, John Cocuzzi offers his performance of the jam session standard “Oh Baby, (Don’t Say No, Say Maybe)” harking back to the sound of Swing Era vibes masters Lionel Hampton and Red Norvo.
Saxophone and clarinet master Bob Wilber is widely considered today’s foremost interpreter of the work of New Orleans jazz pioneer Sidney Bechet, with whom Wilber studied in New York in the late 1940s. Wilber’s early career found him working in bands led by Bechet, Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden, among others. For our show this week, Bob Wilber picks up his clarinet to team up with the Cullum Band on two classic Sidney Bechet tunes picked by our listeners: “Le Marchand de Poissons (The Fish Vendor)” and an international hit for Bechet in 1953, “Petit Fleur.”
San Francisco Bay area cornetist Leon Oakley and Chicago tuba player Mike Walbridge are both leading exponents of the traditional jazz revival. Oakley had a long association with San Francisco bandleader Turk Murphy and Walbridge continues to perform with the Original Salty Dogs, a Midwestern band with a long legacy in traditional jazz. When these two guest artists align with The Jim Cullum Jazz Band, the resulting sound is close to that of the Lu Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band of San Francisco, progenitors of the 1940s classic jazz revival. Our listeners’ selection for this duo turns out to be “Some of These Days,” the signature song of vaudeville star Sophie Tucker.
The show closes with another boogie woogie listener favorite as Dick Hyman joins The Jim Cullum Jazz Band on “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar,” a salute to Texas piano man Peck Kelley.
Photo credit for Home Page image: Bob Wilber. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick © 1994