Sometimes, as the proverb goes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We’re about to prove the point, pairing up some of our favorite jazz artists in a Riverwalk Jazz broadcast of swinging duos. On their own, each one of these musicians lights up the stage, but together, they’re off the charts.
Two New Orleans natives take center stage as trumpeter Nicholas Payton teams up with vocalist Topsy Chapman. San Francisco Bay Area traditional jazz favorite Leon Oakley, picks up his cornet to pair off with Mike Walbridge on tuba. Known for his many Prairie Home Companion performances, fiddler Andy Stein steps up to the mic with guitarist Marty Grosz to kick things off.
Marty Grosz is known for his acerbic wit, delightful singing, and acoustic guitar playing in the style of 1920s’ virtuosos Karl Kress and Dick McDonough. Grosz is an advocate of the non-amplified or “un-plugged” approach to jazz string playing, an important ingredient of swinging rhythm often missing in more modern jazz.
In addition to his frequent performances on A Prairie Home Companion on public radio, jazz violinist Andy Stein has worked with a wide range of artists, from opera star Placido Domingo to pop icon Bob Dylan and piano legend Dick Hyman. Together they pay loving tribute to the classic, swinging recordings made by the very prolific New York team of the 1920s—violinist Joe Venuti and guitarist Eddie Lang.
Trumpet star Nicholas Payton teams up with frequent Riverwalk Jazz guest singer Topsy Chapman. Both are devotees of jazz in the style of their hometown of New Orleans.
In interview segments with hosts Jim Cullum and David Holt, Nicholas and Topsy tell of their musical origins and pay tribute to the timelessness of the Crescent City’s musical legacy—ultimately, the font of many of the threads of America’s music—especially jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock.
Leon Oakley and Mike Walbridge continue to be two of the leading exponents of the great Classic Jazz Revival that started in the late 1930s. San Francisco-based Oakley played cornet with the legendary Turk Murphy, and these days works a regular gig in the Bay Area.
Chicago-based Walbridge was the tuba player with the Original Salty Dog band and still performs frequently at jazz festivals and parties worldwide. Walbridge is an avid record collector and has amassed a great body of knowledge about pre-WWII jazz performance practices and lore.
This week on Riverwalk Jazz, repertoire from our swinging duos ranges from 1920s’ Joe Venuti pieces with Andy Stein and Marty Grosz, like “Doin’ Things” and “Hells Bells and Hallelujah,” to jazz standards with Topsy Chapman and Nicholas Payton, such as Ellington’s “In My Solitude” and Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin,” to jazz classics with Oakley and Walbridge, like “New Orleans Stomp” and “Wang Wang Blues.”
Photo credit for Home Page and Recent Radio Broadcast Page: Guitarist Marty Grosz. Photo courtesy Tri State Jazz Society.
Text based on Riverwalk Jazz script by Margaret Moos Pick ©2008