Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright
|In Tune -- by Eric Seddon
Additions, comments, corrections, contributions
to Eric Seddon % Earlyjas, or e-mail:
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning for
Jazz Advancement and Socialization
Introduction to Eric Seddon . . . .
On a chilly night in April of 2014, I was asked by George Foley to play at Bon
Vivant in Shaker Heights. It was to be a trio gig--I’d be joining my clarinet to
George’s piano and Bill Fuller’s drums. Having the chance to work in an ensemble
so reminiscent of the original Benny Goodman trio with a real stride man like
George, I jumped at the opportunity. Bill and I had played once before, only
briefly, and we hadn’t really had the chance to get to know one another. The
evening at Bon Vivant was different, though—three sets that stretched well into
the evening, giving us chance for a real dialogue, both musically and personally.
Talking to Bill between sets confirmed what his playing had already revealed:
Here was a kindred soul—a player whose drumming influences aligned uncannily
with my own clarinet influences. We talked about the history, beauty, lyricism,
and soul of early jazz; about its rich history in Cleveland and, most importantly,
about its future.
Our paths didn’t cross again until this past winter, when I was called to play
with Gene’s Jazz Hot as part of the EARLYJAS festival in Hudson. I was so
grateful to play with Bill again, that I blurted out a question in the parking lot that
night: What would he say to the idea of me starting a New Orleans style ensemble?
His response: “I’d say it’s about time! Sign me on.” About a month later, Eric
Seddon’s Hot Club debuted as part of ChamberFest Cleveland, and has begun
gigging regularly on the scene here in Northeast Ohio, with Bill supplying the home
cooking we need from the drum set.
There is a certain poetic justice, then, that I’ve been asked to contribute to Bill’
s “In Tune” column. We’ve talked about his substantial contributions housed in
the archive of the EARLY Jazz Rag, and of my own ideas, which I hope will
provide members with my own perspective on early jazz and its continuing place
in our culture.
I believe we live in a very exciting time in jazz history, with opportunities akin
to those of the great revival movements that invariably reemerge in this resilient
music. While the economic challenges to performers are undoubtedly as tough as
they have ever been, the potential to reach a local, national, and global audience is
simply unprecedented. When I was a teenager growing up in the 1980s, for
instance, unless one knew an old timer with an extensive record collection they
were willing to share, there simply was no access to early jazz knowledge. These
days, teenagers and twenty-somethings are discovering Sidney Bechet, Louis
Armstrong, Acker Bilk, and others via YouTube; they are enthusiastically forming
their own bands and listening to performers their own age in such festivals as those
put on by the EARLYJAS Society and Hot Jazz Festival of New York (which just
received rave reviews in JazzTimes).
All of us who play and write about Hot Jazz know that for decades it has
primarily been a labor of love. The good news is that such labor has paid off:
Organizations like EARLYJAS have kept this art a living tradition. I look forward
to contributing with my horn, but also through this column. I’d like to thank Phil
Cartwright (EARLYJAS Rag editor) and Bill Fuller for offering me the chance to
share my thoughts here with you. And though I’m introducing myself here, Bill
still has a few columns left in the vault and he and I will alternate columns for the
next few months. - - Eric Seddon