Photos by Michael B. Friedman
David Ostwald tuba ,Ed Polcer cornet, Adrian Cunningham – clarinet,
Harvey Tibbs trombone, Vince Giordano banjo
Ostwald and his Louis Armstrong Eternity Band at Birdland
day after New Year’s Eve was dreary, very cold, most people home recovering
from the night before. However the cure for the day-after blues was a blast of
heat that happens every Wednesday at the famous jazz emporium, Birdland, where
David Ostwald and his Louis Armstrong Eternity Band channel the music
of the 20’s and 30’s.
A colorful figure now in his 14th year of residency
there, Ostwald, who takes requests “on the back o a $100 bill”,
states “I am the delivery man for Armstrong’s spirit, not just his music but
the kind of man he was”.
Ostwald, who sets the pace and chooses the songs as he
goes, leads a magic meld of multigenerational music meisters that varies
slightly from week to week.
This evening’s syncopating sextet featured
New Jerseyian Ed Polcer, a cornetist who was the leader
of the famous Eddie Condon band;
Harvey Tibbs, up from Virginia on trombone,
the celebrated Long Islander Vince Giordano of the
renowned Nighthawks (now at the Iguana Mondays and Tuesdays) on banjo and
And the youngest and most astonishingly talented Adrian
Cunningham from Australia, who delivered an innovative style and substance
rarely heard on clarinet and alto sax
Experiencing the group is like listening to a musical
conversation. Ostwald chooses the subject and sets the tempo, and the group
joins in. One instrument, sometimes the cornet, or the ‘bone, delivers a
straight forward melody. Then each instrument takes its turn making its own
statement, variations on a theme. One by one they improvise on it, dancing
around it, the tuba driving it along and keeping it grounded, the percussion
providing the foundation in a steady beat with the banjo player/singer adding a
frisson of levity to it all. These “conversations”: may seem spontaneous and
intuitive but underneath they are highly and traditionally structured but each
musician may be as articulate as he wants with his solo. The drummer usually
has the last word before the group brings it all home.
Opening with easy relaxed tempo version of “Until the Real
Thing Comes Along”, perfect to draw in the crowd, they then eased into a more
lively “Home Again in Alabama” complimented by Vince Giordano’s friendly
vocals. It was Cunningham who took the melody on his jaunty clarinet then
handing it over to Polder on the cornet, who added some Condon-esque riffs
before Tibbs’ trombone lent it an earthier quality, each instruments adding a
little more dimension to the piece. Then Saylor took over in a flamboyant
percussion solo that silenced the room until Oswald’s tuba ended the
The old chestnut “Tin Roof Blues” was a down and dirty
drag tempo rendition with a slow struttin tuba, the trombone sliding into the
melody, the cornet jazzed it up bringing it back to the band who syncopated
it, over to the clarinet who caressed it starting slow and low ultimately
signing off with Giordano’s banjo.
Ostwald then signaled an up tempo to ”liven it up” with
“My Chinatown”, a tune famous in the 30’s that Armstrong composed in the ‘teens
which proved a fast paced jubilant staccato work enhanced by Cunningham’s
joyous sax and Ostwald’s pulsing tuba.
Throughout the performance the musicians showed their
respect and generosity towards each other as Oswald and Giordano periodically
left the stage to provide a better view of their new drummer Saylor to display
his virtuosity and indeed his rhythms were compelling, At times Polser and
Tibbs left the stage to accommodate Cunningham’s multi octave, multi layered
Vince sang “Dinah” a 1933 Armstrong opus that can be seen
in a Scandinavian concert on UTube,
A terrific version of the blues classic “St. James
Infirmary” gave the trombone the melody which he delivered with appropriate
mournful sounds, soon t be echoed by the versatile band as Vince Giordano
delivered its poignant message.
“Its getting a little dark in here – let’s liven it up”
said maestro Ostwald and they did with the happiest tune of the evening,
Armstrong’s 1930’s piece “Mahogany Hall” to which Giordano added a bit of
Armstrong’s famous “scat” style.
The set cooled down with a soothing “Till the Right Man
Comes Along” an ended with an all out version of another Armstrong number as if
to emphasize their mastery of the genre.
As the photographer and frequent visitor Michael Friedman,
whose pictures are featured in this article, said “sometimes they’re good,
sometimes they’re great and sometimes they’re out of this world. But they are
never bad. Tonight they really connected”.
Named for alto saxophonist and jazz pioneer Charlie "Bird" Parker who
dubbed it "The Jazz Corner of the World," Birdland opened on December
15th 1949. For 60 years it has been home to jazz legends, from Parker, John
Coltrane Duke Ellington and Count Basie to Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, Diana
Krall and everyone in between. The original 52nd street location was a cultural
barometer and meeting place, inspiring the songs "Birdland" and
"Lullaby of Birdland," and serving as a regular haunt for celebrities
and cultural figures. The modern incarnation is a state of the art nightclub
featuring award winning Southern and Cajun cuisine, first rate sound and
lighting and a who's who of contemporary musical artists, 7 nights a week.
Birdland Jazz Club is pleased to announce their
thrilling line-up of
TICKET INFORMATION: Purchase tickets at: www.BirdlandJazz.com
315 W 44th Street
For more information and reservations call 212-581-3080.
Ticket prices will vary by performer. At the tables, there is a
$10 food/drink minimum per person in addition to the music charge. At the bar,
the music charge will include one complimentary drink with no additional