On July 17, 1993 the Riverwalk Jazz broadcast crew descended upon the Red Blazer Too, a Manhattan jazz club on West 46th Street. Their mission was to capture a New Year's Eve jam to be broadcast six months later. A hot and humid afternoon turned into a muggy evening as the crowd snaked around the corner and into the club. Dressed in short sleeve shirts and summer dresses, the audience didn't take long to get into the mood—making believe it was New Year's Eve instead of mid-July.
The Jim Cullum Jazz Band swings in the New Year with featured artists Dan Barrett on trombone, piano legend Dick Hyman, Broadway's Carol Woods, jazz singer Stephanie Nakasian, and Marty Grosz on vocals and guitar. Also on the bill—singer and trumpeter Doc Cheatham who was then 88 years old.
Trombonist and bandleader Dan Barrett calls California home and leads the popular festival circuit band BED with singer Becky Kilgore and guitarist/singer Eddie Erickson. On our New Year's Jam, Dan tackles the well-known Eddie Condon original "Wherever There's Love."
Regular listeners of Riverwalk Jazz are familiar with pianist Dick Hyman, who has the distinction of racking up the most guest appearances of any artist on our show. Tonight Dick shows his mastery of the style of Jelly Roll Morton with two classics, "Frog-I-More Rag" and "Black Bottom Stomp."
Doc Cheatham was playfully called "the greatest 90-year-old trumpet player who ever lived." Before his passing in 1997 Doc's musical career spanned the history of jazz, having worked in bands led by Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Fletcher Henderson, and Benny Goodman, among many others. At the Red Blazer Too Doc joined Jim and the Band on a soulful rendition of "I've Got the World on a String."
Singer and actress Carol Woods was appearing on Broadway in Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl when she joined us at the Red Blazer Too in 1993. Recently she appeared in the hit movie Across the Universe featuring the music of the Beatles. On our broadcast Carol welcomes the New Year with three classics from the golden age of songwriting: Johnny Mercer's "Too Marvelous for Words," "I Remember You," and Harold Arlen's "Blues in the Night."
Stephanie Nakasian is a leading light of jazz singing. Besides her prolific concertizing and recording, Stef teaches jazz voice and vocal jazz improvisation at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and is the author of instructional books and CDs. Apropos of the season, Stef favors us with her authentic, swinging versions of "What are You Doing New Year's Eve?" and "Seems Like Old Times."
Known for his acerbic wit Mary Grosz has long been a champion of the unamplified or "unplugged" style of jazz guitar playing made famous in the 1930s by studio giants Carl Kress and Dick McDonough.
Marty says, "This makes me either the last remaining proponent of the acoustic guitar tradition in jazz or the lone harbinger of a new non-electric movement." The evidence suggests the latter to be the case, as legions of younger players today discover the joy and swing of playing au naturel without the "box" behind them.
It's back to the future with a night on the town in Manhattan and an all star cast swinging in the New Year as Riverwalk Jazz kicks off another season of weekly radio broadcasts.
Photo credit for Home Page: Revelers at the Red Blazer Too, NYC, 1993. Photo courtesy P. Shcaaf.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2009