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Bebop Spoken There

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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

The Chicago Cellar Boys @ Bix Virtual Jazz Fest 2020 - August 1

Andy Schumm, John Otto, Natalie Scharf (reeds); Paul Asaro (piano, vocals); Leah Bezin (banjo); Dave Bock (brass bass) 

This year's Bix Jazz Fest, scheduled to take place at the Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport, Iowa, took refuge in the now familar online world in which many musicians, however reluctantly, now reside. Now in its forty ninth year - and not to be confused with the 'other' Bix Fest in Racine, Wisconsin held earlier in the year - the event is a celebration of the music of Leon Bismark Beiderbecke. 

On Saturday afternoon (August 1) Andy Schumm's Cellar Boys performed a socially distanced set, not from Iowa, rather from their base in Chicago, Illinois. Seated under an awning in 25° mid-summer heat, bandleader Andy Schumm lead his hot (in every sense of the word!) sextet in a set of approximately forty five minutes featuring standard repertoire with one or two originals included for good measure. 

Multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Schumm left it to pianist Paul Asaro to introduce the numbers to the band's virtual audience. The conclusion of each number was greeted with an eerie silence. It must have been somewhat disconcerting but perhaps the Cellar Boys kept telling themselves that hundreds, possibly thousands, were applauding out there in cyberspace. 

After Awhile got things underway and each and every subsequent number demonstrated the band's exemplary ensemble work. The front line reeds - Messrs Andy Schumm and John Otto and Ms Natalie Scharf - read their 'pegged out' charts (many of them transcribed and arranged by Schumm) as the guys (and gal!) in the engine room - Asaro, Leah Bezin and Dave Bock - endeavoured to keep cool under an Illinois sun. 

A Bix arrangement of Somebody Stole My Gal, a three-clarinet feature on Riverboat Shuffle with much adjusting of pegs to combat a summer breeze blowing in off the Chicago River, and Asaro singing Hot Lips ensured the set list held broad appeal. Schumm and Otto jousted on Love Me or Leave MeStampede (Schumm's arrangement of Fletcher Henderson) really did scatter the pigeons, and Asaro stuck with the Henderson pad to sing Here and There

As has become the norm, the live stream wasn't without its buffered interludes but, all in all, this was a top notch concert in this year of virtual performance. To close, Schumm had an idea. Calling out the number in the pad, the Cellar Boys signed off with Andy's Idea.   
Russell

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