Krupa CD Review by arwulf arwulf
Krupa CD Review by arwulf arwulf
Pete Siers Trio
featuring Dave Bennett & Tad Weed
2013 PKO 061
Please take note, because this is good news of the highest order. Percussionist Pete Siers, clarinetist Dave Bennett and pianist Tad Weed have put together a tribute to drummer and bandleader Gene Krupa, and it’s guaranteed to alter your central nervous system in all the right ways. Usually remembered as the dynamo behind Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing”, Krupa also attracted attention when he magnified the impact of his own orchestra by featuring Roy Eldridge and Anita O’Day. Although he began recording as a leader in 1935, Krupa’s discography really reaches back to 1927 when he strained the parameters of studio recording technology as a member of the Eddie Condon Mob. Krupa’s inspirations and influences constitute fundamental links with the very bedrock of traditional jazz drumming. They included Warren “Baby” Dodds, Zutty Singleton and Chick Webb.
For this project Pete zeroed in on the trio recordings that Krupa made for Columbia and V-Disc in 1945, and for Clef, the precursor to Verve, in 1952. Pete’s choices are characteristically insightful and astute. Maybe you’ll notice a pair of intriguing titles amongst the more familiar struts, stomps, swing tunes and ballads. “Number Ten Richie Drive” was the street address of Krupa’s pad up in Yonkers, while “Fine’s Idea”, originally arranged by saxophonist Charlie Ventura, is largely based on the chord progressions of Edgar Sampson’s “Blue Lou”. It occupies a special niche in the collective classic jazz discography alongside “The Count’s Idea” and “The Duke’s Idea” by Charlie Barnet; the bop standard “Ray’s Idea” and something called “Pig’s Idea” which was recorded in 1940 by a Chicago-based pre-bop string band billed as the Cats and the Fiddle. Collectively credited to Krupa, Ventura and pianist Teddy Napoleon, “Fine’s Idea” is a lively modern-sounding piece of work, very like the mercurial maneuverings of Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five. It’s worth noting that during the Korean War, Krupa’s threesome took themselves all the way to Tokyo where Ventura startled fans at the Ernie Pyle Theater by whipping out a bass saxophone.
Cut to Southeastern Michigan nearly sixty years later, and if you’re like me the Pete Siers Trio’s Krupa is likely to knock you on your ass. Tad Weed’s creative dexterity is nothing short of breathtaking. A monstrously adept improviser, he is capable of reinventing the wheel while the rig is rolling in fourth gear. Remember how Jaki Byard could invoke the entire history of jazz piano at one sitting, and sometimes within the construct of one tune? Tad is comparably brilliant. Dave Bennett sometimes conveys the impression that he can play the clarinet inside out. Taken in combination with Mr. Weed’s disarming ingenuity, Bennett’s virtuosity is downright jaw-dropping. He combines the fluency of Buster Bailey, Rudy Powell and Benny Goodman with the early modern sensibilities of Artie Shaw, Marshall Royal and Buddy De Franco. Pete’s extraordinary command of the drum kit is the direct result of a lifelong devotion to Krupa and a sanguine pantheon of drummers from all over the traditional spectrum. Watching him at work is always a gas. Last time I heard him with the Easy Street Jazz Band, Pete appeared to be nonchalantly conjuring the spirits of Big Sid Catlett as well as Condon cohorts George Wettling and Davy Tough. How’re you going to beat that?
I’m ready to throw done at this point and declare without exaggeration that Pete Siers’ Krupa is one of the great jazz albums of the past quarter century. The overall effect is that of a vitamin shot and several deep breaths of fresh night air garnished with black coffee and tiramisu. The ballads are superb, and the upbeat numbers—most of the set—are precisely what the doctor forgot to order. For selection, interpretation, inspiration and sheer musicianship, what the Pete Siers Trio has given us here is an exceptionally wonderful offering. I’m fully convinced that Mr. Krupa would be pleased, proud and thankful.
arwulf arwulf – august 2013