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RECORD REVIEWS - DOWN THROUGH THE DECADES

Submitted by johnnycase on Sat, 02/13/2021 - 11:35am

Reviews of vinyl records, cassette tapes, CDs and CDRs issued by John Case from 1969 to 2020. The reviews appear in no particular order, chronological or otherwise.

 

Five Reviews of JAZZ POTPOURRI:

 

JAZZ POPOURRI by John & Jerry Case - Priority Records PRS-406  Vinyl LP issued 1978

Nuages / Empathy / Amends / Waltz for Debby / Excursion / High Stakes / Soul Searchin'.

JERRY CASE, 7-string guitar; MAURICE ANDERSON, pedal steel guitar, JOHN CASE, piano; JIM PERKINS, acoustic bass; BILL WALKER, drums.

Note: Nuages, Waltz for Debby and Sould Searchin' are unacconpanied guitar performaces by Jerry Case. All selections recorded June 22, 1977 at A T P Studios, Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Preliminary Review in Jazz Forum Magazine - Issue 55, International Edition 1978

"This album, with its unassuming title, is a real surprise.. The seven solid, swinging numbers are played with verve and skill. Although little known to the world at large, the Case Brothers and their crew sound like a vital  addition to the contemporary mainstream. The inclusion of Django Reinhardt's Nuages suggests where guitarist Jerry Case is coming from. Anderson's work on the pedal steel guitar, an instrument usually associated with country music, makes one wonder why few people have ever explored its jazz possibilities before."

 

Review by Carl Brauer in Jazz Forum Magazine - Issue 58, International Edition 1978

"To a large extent, musician-owned record labels are dominated by the more avant-garde styles. But there are exceptions. One of these is Priority Records, operated by John & Jerry Case out of Ft. Worth, Texas. What the Case brothers play is a relaxed, laid-back yet very swinging brand of jazz with a pinch of country music for flavoring. This, their latest recording, serves up a variety of settings and moods in a jam session-type atmosphere, hence the title.

Particularly memorable are Nuages, Waltz for Debby and Soul Searchin', three solo guitar performances by Jerry Case. He brings to each piece first-rate technique coupled with a keen harmonic sense such that his approach has an original stamp to it. At a time when the jazz world seems blessed with many highly talented guitarists covering the whole spectrum of musical styles, it would be unfortunate if a musician as singularly talented as Jerry Case was overlooked.

The remaining four cuts are originals featuring the complete quintet, with each number allowing everyone ample space to show his chops. Empathy might have profited from some judicious editing as it carries on longer than its substance warrants. Just the opposite problem hampers High Stakes. Following a short Bill Walker drum solo, the piece abruptly ends leaving the listener hanging. One other minor quibble: With nearly fifty minutes of music on the two sides, the recording level has been lowered to the extent that both the bass and drums are not nearly as up front as the piano and guitars."

 

​Review by Bob Rusch in Cadence Magazine - May 1978,  page 28

"The Case Brothers have a new release "Jazz Potpourri" (PRS-406) on their Priority label. I'm not sure when this was recorded. I'm not sure since my copy has only a front cover design and no back liners or information whatsoever - curious? This is the John and Jerry Case's seventh (Cadence Sept '76, p. 11 & 13) and to my ears, their best. The record opens very strongly with Django's "Nuages", a beautiful solo statement by Jerry Case's guitar. Two originals follow, "Empathy" and "Amends" and bring together the whole group with John Case's piano, Maurice Anderson's steel guitar, Jim Perkin's bass and Bill Walker's drums. "Empathy" is a lengthy piece which swings along at a brisk walking tempo, featuring fine solos by the Cases, Anderson and Perkins. It is interesting to hear John Case's work quite adventurous within the bop figures. Side One closes with Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby" again a solo for Jerry's guitar, a great show of of lyric beauty and sense of thought and structure. Jerry Case is certainly one of the best bop guitarists around and he continues to prove it on side two which opens in strong fashion with "Excursion" one of three originals that make up the side. As fine as Jerry's playing is, one should not overlook the very fine and unusual jazz work of Maurice Anderson's steel guitar. The steel guitar is an instrument usually found in country or Hawaiian music. Anderson makes it feel equally at home in jazz. "Jazz Potpourri" closes with "Soul Searchin'", the third Jerry Case solo effort. He is a bitch of a guitarist and this is a bitch of a record - guitarists will especially dig this."

 

Capsule Review by Randy Savicky from on the record: in JAZZ Magazine - Spring Issue 1979,  page 67

"surprisingly sympathetic acoustic vignettes with an unusual duet out front - 7-string and steel guitars."

 

Capsule review in Contemporary Keyboard Magazine - September 1978. 

Note: Featured artist listed is the pianist. 

"Some nice, laid-back mainstream jazz with Case on piano in a group that also includes guitar and steel guitar as well as bass and drums. Guitarist Jerry Case's three unacconpanied selections are the high point of the album."

 

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Tom Bingham reviews the first four LPs issued by John Case -  "LITTLE LABELS" article (re: "Jazz in the South" and "Dawn Records") published 1975 in the WIUS TIPSHEET, a periodical for Indiana State University's public broadcast station.

"JAZZ IN THE SOUTH - When you hear about Southern music, it's natural to think of rock 'n' roll, blues, country, bluegrass. Jazz, on the other hand, ia considered a more cosmopolitan style of expression. Nevertheless, jazz was originally a Southern creation, the fusion of black folk and popular music (blues, ragtime, etc.) with white popular and march structures.

Though historians now downplay the "born in New Orleans" theory,(Louisville and St. Louis appear to be key cities in jazz' development as well), it is equally true that New Orleans style, both authentic (King Oliver, Freddie Keppard) and diluted (Original Dixieland Jazz Band) was by far the dominant form in the music's early history. Through Louis Armstrong's expansion of the soloist's role, New Orleans jazz was to set the stage, directly or indirectly, for virtually all forms of the music to follow.

By the 20's, though, jazz had moved out of the South and into the city ghettos. For the last 50 years and more, the key centers have been (at various times) in the East (New York, Philadelphia), midwest (Chicago, Kansas City), and West (Los Angeles). However, major contributors continued to move to these centers from the South, often adding freer, bluesier touches to the music of more self-conscious Northern bands. Many of the greatest swing era musicians were born in the South. Though space limitations preclude an adequate delineation of their talents, a Southern swing "Who's Who" would include the names Cat Anderson, Herschel Evans, Freddy green, Jimmy Hamilton, Lionel Hampton, Fletcher Henderson, Budd Johnson, Gus Johnson, Frankie Newton, Hot Lips Page, Gene Ramey, Buddy Tate, Dickie Wells, Cootie Williams, Teddy Wilson, and many more.

Much of the transition from swing to bop was foreshadowed by Lester Young and Charlie Christian. Bop itself has had several significant Southern pioneers and popularizers, including Dizzy Gillespie, himself, plus Fats Navarro, Kenny Dorham, James Moody, and the Adderley Brothers. Even the vapid "cool" 50's, jazz' darkest hours, were enlivened by the contributions of Red Callender, Gerald Wilson, Jimmy Giuffre, and guitarists Johnny Smith, Mundell Lowe, and Tal Farlow.

The 60's were significant for many reasons, not the least of which was the influx of many Southern saxophonists who woodshedded in R&B bands, and kept the R&B tone and emotion in their music - Texas Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders from Little Rock, and Charles Lloyd, who played with B.B. King and Bobby Bland in Memphis. (Archie Shepp and John Coltrane were also born in the South, but grew up in the North.) Even the urban spaceman, Sun Ra, comes from Alabama, while two of his key soloists, Joh Gilmore and Marshall Allen are from Mississippi and Kentucky, respectively.

The tragedy of this extremely incomplete roll-call is that every one of these brilliant musicians had to go up North to establish his reputation. Except for the leftover traditionalists in New Orleans and a couple of enclaves in Texas, the jazz scene in today's South is either nonexistant or so commercially blanched to meet the tastes of the more "sophisticated" dilettante as to be musically worthless.Once in a while, a Ronnie Kole will record for an independent Southern label, but even these musicians play watered-down pop-jazz. Southern jazzmen must either move up North (or West) or provide their own breaks by setting up private record companies to try to disseminate their work.

DAWN RECORDS - Not many have tried the latter route, but two who did are Texan pianist John Case and his guitarist brother Jerry. To date, the Cases have issued four albums on as many labels (same address, though) and in a variety of styles.

The most atypical of the four is a John Case album called Vibra-Dream Currents (on the RPC custom label, SLP-TWO), a set of unaccompanied vibes solos (plus a token piano track). The side-long "Vibra-Sleep Currents" begins as a collection of arpeggios and scales, but develops into a lively, cosmic dance of complex phrases, rhythms, overtones and glissandos. Side two is rather redundant, offering more of the same in six short tracks.

More representative is John and Jerry Case's Pleasant Dreams (Dawn DSLP-401). John Case has evolved a recognizable piano style, with full left-hand chords, a melodic right hand which lags slightly behind the beat, and a firm touch which lets you know he means every note. Jerry Case is a first-rate jazz guitarist with a taut yet clean sound, original solo ideas, and a unique usage chords. He owes as much to Grant Green as he does to Johnny Smith. Side one has two tracks, the restrained minor-key "Strange Dream" and the more boppish "Summons". Side two is a five-cut trio session (with Jerry switching to bass), with John Case at his very best.

Without question, the most "Southern" of the Case-produced albums is the Maurice Anderson-Tom Morrell Sextet Session (on the Mail-Order label, SLP-1). Anderson and Morrell are true rarities - jazz steel guitarists. Western Swing bands have shown in the past that the steel guitar is an excellent improvisational instrument, with its varied tone colors, unique methods of chording, swooping notes, and the like. Anderson seems more at home with the subtly swinging mainstream jazz of the four tracks (all standards) than Morrell, but both bring a refreshing country-influenced dimension to jazz.

The best of the Case albums is John and Jerry's Contrasts In Jazz (Priority PRS-402), which combines the styles of the above two albums. "Fire", which consumes side one, is from the 1970 Pleasant Dreams session, with a long, continuously inventive piano solo by John, and a cooker of a guitar solo by Jerry.  Maurice Anderson triumphantly returns for side two's "Full Moon" (recorded in '74), which demonstrates even greater maturity in both John and Jerry's work.

These records raise a very important question. How many other talented, creative, yet totally unknown jazz musicians are hidden away in the South, unable to record and distribute their own music? Perhaps the folk-derived forms don't tell the whole story of Southern music after all."

Note: Tom Bingham ends this article with info pertaining to the purchase of albums by John & Jerry Case.

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CONTRASTS IN JAZZ by John & Jerry Case Quartet / Quintet - Priority Records PRS-402   Vinyl LP issued 1974

Side 1: "Fire" featuring JOHN CASE, piano; JERRY CASE, guitar; CHARLES SCOTT, bass; WAYLAND SMAJSTRLA, drums. Recorded August 22, 1970.

Side 2:"Full Moon" featuring JOHN CASE, piano; JERRY CASE, guitar, MAURICE ANDERSON, pedal steel guitar; JIM PERKINS, electric bass; BILL MINER, drums. Recorded February 5, 1974.

 

Capsule Review of Contrasts in Jazz in Guitar Player Magazine - October 1974.

Note: Featured artists listed as Jerry Case and Maurice Anderson.

"Jerry's clean and tasty jazz guitar is supplemented on side two by Maurice Anderson's amazing pedal steel for a quintet cut that's hard to match."

 

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Bob Rusch, publisher of Cadence Magazine  (Review of Jazz and Blues), is introduced to the music of John & Jerry Case.

Speaking Their Piece... a recurring column in Cadence Magazine devoted to independent record releases of creative improvised music. This installment appeared in the September 1976 issue.

"In the same way that Columbus claimed to have "discovered" America, we at Cadence have the feeling of "discovering" the music of JOHN & JERRY CASE.  Discovery is rather presumptuous since one can hardly discover something that was already there, and like most "discoveries" it is more of a final awareness, the background and history of which we know very little about. What is evident is that John & Jerry Case have been recording their music out of Fort Worth, Texas since 1970, and up to this time have produced six consistently good jazz albums, five on Priority Records and one on Dawn Records. To be more exact, they are: "Sextet Sessions" (PRS-401) from 1972; "Contrasts in Jazz" (PRS-402) from 1970 and 1974; "Serenade" (PRS-403) from 1974; "Eclipse" (PRS-404) from 1975; "Two Moods" (PRS-406) from 1975 and "Pleasant Dreams" (DSLP) from 1970 and '71.  John Case is a pianist in the Bud Powell, Wynton Kelly tradition; On PRS-403...he plays bass. Jerry Case is a guitarist in a lineage that is rooted in Christian to Montgomery, all of their music is characterized by an easy, floating rhythm, and a purity of jazz voicing that, with the exception of an odd release here and there along with the Concord Records guitar masterpieces, is not often heard in today's fusion market. Aside from the straight ahead, very satisfying music which they present, there is also present on four of the albums, a rather new sound for Jazz - the use of steel guitar. Tom Morrell does most of the steel guitar work on these albums and it's highly distinctive and complimentary in a Jazz setting. The steel guitar is present as part of a sextet recording on the "Eclipse" date which produced "Birderic". "Birderic" is a John Case composition loosely based on "Scrapple From the Apple" whick "expresses some of my (John Case) feelings about Charlie Parker and Eric Dolphy...something like "Scrapple" would have sounded if Eric Dolphy had written it." John Westfall, a strong, decisive slide trombone player also is present on this session (and on PRS-405). The end result, "Birderic" sounds very much like a Lennie Tristano composition produced and arranged by Jaki Byard during one of his imaginative brainstorms, bold and assertive music and less confusing and disjointed than this commentary."   ---  Bob Rusch, 1976

 

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Noted percussionist and educator SAM ULANO includes albums by John & Jerry Case in the record review section of his 1970's-era periodical, The Guitar Teacher.

Capsule Review of SERENADE by John & Jerry Case Quartet - Priority Records PRS-403   Vinyl LP issued 1974

Serenade / In The Air / In The East / Back Again / Cold Spell / In The  Air (Part Two)

JERRY CASE, 7-string guitar; TOM MORRELL, pedal steel guitar; JOHN CASE, bass; Don Sowell, drums. Recorded September 1974.

"The John & Jerry Case Quartet on Priority Records  No. PRS-403. On this album Jerry Case plays a 7-string guitar. This is another solid album on the PRIORITY LABEL. Other were mentioned in issue No. 3 of THE GUITAR TEACHER. This group comes out of Fort Worth, Texas...They are commers (sic)  and you'll be hearing a lot about John and Jerry Case QUARTET."

Sam Ulano - The Guitar Teacher, Spring - April 1975 

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Capsule Review by Don Menn in Guitar Player Magazine - August 1975:  Serenade by John & Jerry Case Quartet (Priority Records PRS-403)

​"Veterans of the self-produced album (this is their fourth venture), these two brothers continue making mellow jazz in a quartet that features John on bass, Jerry on 7-string guitar, Tom Morrell on steel guitar, and Don Sowell on drums. Jerry's cool approach to the guitar is nicely matched by Morrell's understated steel work. Nothing really razzle-dazzle, but certainly acceptable music for after-hours fans who need to unwind."

 

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Three Reviews of CREATIVE EXPLOSIONS by John Case with Don Anderson, Chris Clarke and Mark Lignell - Priority Records PRS-408  Vinyl LP issued 1981

BOB RUSCH review in Cadence Magazine - September 1981

Number 1; Number 2; Number 3.

JOHN CASE, piano; MARK LIGNELL, percussion. (Nos. 1 & 2)

DON ANDERSON, tenor & soprano saxophones, percussion; JOHN CASE, piano; CHRIS CLARKE, acoustic bass, kalimba, percussion; MARK LIGNELL, percussion and additional sounds. (No. 3)

Nos. 1 & 2  recorded January 1981 at Precision Sound Studios in Dallas, Texas. No. 3 recorded February 1981 at Cowtown Studios in Fort Worth, Texas.

"After an absence of over three years in these pages, it is a pleasure to announce a new release by the Fort Worth, Texas-based Priority Records. This label is run by the Case Brothers, guitarist Jerry and pianist John. For a look at their earlier recordings see the May '78 Cadence (p.28) and the Sept '76 issue (p. 11; also a revealing letter from John in that same issue - p. 13). Their previous releases were fine examples of straight-ahead, highly inventive swinging jazz with a slight nod to Western Swing. However, this new release by JOHN CASE, CREATIVE EXPLOSIONS (Priority PRS-408) covers a whole new terrain. Subtitled "Free Improvisations," the album's title is as accurate a description of the music as one could ask for. Recorded in 1981, the album consists of three improvisations entitled "No. 1," "No. 2," and No. 3." The first two find Case in duet with percussionist Mark Lignell. With its churning energy and dense chording, the pieces can't help to invoke images of Cecil Taylor's music. "No. 1" contrasts more lyrical piano sections with some high-energy, rapid-fire keyboard flurries. About half-way through there is a nice understated solo from Lignell that provides an effective contrast.  "No. 2" continues along the same lines but here Case shows some fine sensitivity and a delicate touch.

The third improvisation takes up all of the second side and finds the duo joined by saxist Don Anderson (any relation to pedal steel player Maurice Anderson who has appeared on earlier Priority releases?) * and bassist Chris Clarke. The performance has some highly effective moments as the four players work together as one. For the most part the piece is more reflective with only occasional bursts of manic energy. Anderson's playing on tenor and soprano (his tone on the latter makes it sound like a double reed instrument such as a shanai) is assured without overly dominating the music. Bassist Clarke has a couple of short solo spots and his strong tone anchors the music. Case and Lignell continue in the same form that made the first side so successful.  Recording quality is generally good although Case's piano isn't the best sounding one I've ever heard. Hopefully there will be more Priority releases on the way (how about one from Jerry Case?)."

* (no relation to Maurice Anderson).

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Review by Earl Weed in Texas Jazz periodical - February 1982

"Creative Explosions by John Case with Mark Lignell, Don Anderson and Chris Clarke (Priority Records PRS-408) represents a remarkably bold experiment directed toward the Dallas/Fort Worth jazz record market: a "free jazz" session conducted by local jazz musicians, recorded and produced for local sale in one of the most conservative big city musical environments in this country. The musicians that participated include Lignell on drums, Clarke on bass, Anderson on sax, and Case on piano leading the ensemble.

They all deserve out thanks for making the attempt to expand the ears of their neighbors. Beyond this, however, there is also much real talent in evidence on this recording. This is something more than merely "a good try". There can be heard an abundance of sympathetic listening and heartfelt playing.

On the other hand, I think it is unlikel that the music on this record will change very many people's thinking about abstract music. This is very thorny, hard core, free form jazz, not at all easy to listen to. As best I can tell, the pieces on this album are entirely improvised. They lack the unifying structure one finds in such masters as Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, both of whom tend to work around recognizable motifs guided by a pre planned superstructure, thereby giving the ear some things to hang on to.

Still, this album deserves applause simply because it exists at all. It is available from Priority Records, P.O. Bos 4049, Fort Worth 76106 ad (sic) $5 a copy."

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In 2005, CREATIVE EXPLOSIONS was reissued on CDR and was among five Johnny Case-issued discs reviewed by Frank Rubolino in the June 2005 issue of Cadence Magazine. Here is the excerpted portion pertaining to the reissued album of free jazz. 

"A totally different Case is heard on CREATIVE EXPLOSIONS (Musicase 6). This reissuing of a 1981 recording pits him with percussionist Mark Lignell, plus saxophonist Don Anderson and bassist/percussionist Chris Clarke on the last cut (Three Jazz Dialogues, 44:12, 1981, Dallas, TX, Ft. Worth, TX). Case eschews the ballads and popular tunes favored in recent years and instead concentrates on piano explorations based on an aggressive improvised platform. Kernals of his lyrical style glean through at times, but the music takes a wide-open stance where Case maneuvers unencumbered while exchanging free, interactive dialogue with Lignell. Case turns introspective at times, brooding over the keys, and then he breaks the mood and muscles his way out of his melancholy frame of mind. On the quartet cut, the band erupts. Case penetrates with percussive low-register punctuation around his upper-key flights, causing Anderson to respond with anguished saxophone wails of mystic spiritualism. Case's abandonment of time is in stark contrast with his melodic playing of late, making this date a tasty morsel for the adventurous listener."

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Roy Lee Brown and his Musical Brownies - WESTERN SWING HERITAGE, A Tribute to Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies (Priority Records PTS-3001). Cassette album reviewed by RICH KIENZLE in the March-April 1990 issue of COUNTRY MUSIC MAGAZINE.

Opening Theme / If You Can't Get Five Take Two; Texas Hambone Blues; Stealing; Right or Wrong; House at the End of the Lane; Four or Five times; Roseland Melody; One of Us Was Wrong; Don't Ever Tire of Me; You're Tired of Me; I Had Someone Else; Old Watermill; Chinatown My Chinatown; My Mary; Closing Theme.

Roy Lee Brown, vocals & leader; Wes Westmoreland, fiddle; Randy Elmore, fiddle & electric mandolin; Tom Morrell, pedal steel guitar; Johnny Case, piano; Billy Luttrell, rhythm guitar; Leon Rausch, bass (electric) and harmony vocals; Bob Venable, drums.  Recorded August 1989.

"The Musical Brownies: It's an established fact that Milton Brown and his band, The Musical Brownies were the first real Western swing band. Their records for Decca through 1935 and 1936 were, in the eyes of of some swing aficionados better than Bob Wills' early recordings since The Brownies included pioneer electric steel guitarist Bob Dunn and pianist Fred "Papa" Calhoun. 

This past summer, Milton's brother Roy Lee, now in his seventies, recorded a Brownies tribute, Western Swing Heritage (Priority PTS-3001). This cassette-only release doesn't recreate The Brownies note-for-note, which would be impossible since most of its ex-members are dead, but even with its more modern sound, Roy Lee has revived The Brownies' infectious joy and spirit. 

These 14 numbers feature some excellent vocals from Roy Lee (whose physical resemblance to Milton is ghostly) backed by such outstanding Fort Worth musicians as guitarist Billy Luttrell, pianist Johnny Case, fiddler Wes Westmoreland, steel guitarist Tom Morrell, fiddler and electric mandolinist Randy Elmore and former Texas Playboy Leon Rausch, electric bass and (harmony) vocals. Brownie favorites "Four or Five Times", "If You Can't Get Five Take Two", "Texas Hambone Blues", "Chinatown My Chinatown" and "My Mary" are complemented by the only known recording of the band's closing theme song, which is untitled on the cassette."

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JAZZ JOURNEY by Johnny Case (Priority 412). CDr reviewed by Frank Rubolino in Cadence Magazine, Vol. 31 No. 6 - June 2005, page 31.

Collective Personnel: Johnny Case, piano; Charles Scott, bass; Dave Breashears, drums; Bill Atwood, flugelhorn; Chris White, flute & bass; Don Sowell, drums.  Recorded 1990 and 1991 at Patrick McGuire Recording, Arlington, Texas. Issued in late 2001.

"Pianist Johnny Case is showcased on...JAZZ JOURNEY (Priority 412), his work primarily is cut from the blues cloth with a strong foundation in the post-bop tradition. Case, who has been active on the Dallas/Fort Worth jazz scene for a number of decades, plays in two trio settings with either bassist Charles Scott and drummer Dave Breashears or bassist Chris White and drummer Don Sowell. Two other selections feature a quintet augmented by flugelhornist Bill Atwood and White switching to flute. Case intersperses original material with several classic jazz pieces that fit the swinging mold he adeptly forms (Blues for Mister Bruce / St. Thomas / Softly As in a Morning Sunrise / One Too Few / Birderic / Song of Solange / Things Ain't What They Used to Be / Back at the Chicken Shack / What's New / Here's That Rainy Day / Quarry's Plight / Ode to Jean Genet / The Open Sea / Headin' Home. 69:32, no date or city listed). Cole's (sic) style is bold and assertive, he clearly perpetuates the straight-ahead genre using vibrant and resonating currents of energy and ringing chords. His galloping solo on "Quarry's Plight" definitively captures his musical personality of the time.  While the execution is flawless, the message is one heard countless times throughout the years."

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COUNTRY SWING STEEL GUITAR by Chuck Caldwell - Priority Records PRS-407  Vinyl LP issued 1980

Elevation / Lawton Blues / Cold Cold Heart / A New Moon / Perdido / Divisio / Stomping at the Savoy / All Night Gig / I Love You Because

CHUCK CALDWELL, pedal steel guitar; JERRY CASE, guitar and bass; JOHN CASE, piano and bass; DON BRIERTON, drums.  Recorded October 23, 1977 at Nesman Studios in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Capsule review by Rich Kienzle in "Buried Treasures" section Country Music Magazine (early 1980's - exact date not available).

"Steel guitar albums never get much notice most of the time. They're unprofitable for the major labels and, right or wrong, are often noticed only by other steelers. Chuck Caldwell's Country Swing Steel Guitar (Priority PRS-407) is just such a record. Caldwell came out of Western swing, but never achieved the legendary status of a Buddy Emmons. Unlike most steel players he uses a flat pick to play impressive renditions of Cold Cold Heart, I Love You Because and jazz standards like Stomping at the Savoy in a mellow, swinging style."

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....more to come

JAZZ AWARD - An Acknowledgement by Johnny Case

Submitted by johnnycase on Fri, 09/25/2020 - 7:55pm

 

The news was totally unexpected, and an exciting surprise when in February 2020 I heard from pianist/musical director Arlington Jones (Sammons Jazz) that I had been chosen to be among the recipients of this year's annual awards presented by D'JAM (Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month). Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the April 4 D'JAM Open House, where award presentations would occur, had to be postponed and eventually cancelled. In early September, the Dallas Jazz Appreciation Committee, with help from Arlington Jones, graciously made certain that I would take possession of this beautiful, distinctive award. It features a striking, modernist three-dimensional artwork of dark blue glass ascending above an elegant base. Upon the nameplate this description - D'JAM 2020 Jazz Legend Award - precedes my name and category (Musician).

I am deeply honored to be the recipient of this beautiful award and I wish to thank the D'JAM Committee members, Arlington Jones and Sammons Center for the Arts for their dedication to America's native art form and its active, living representation in our north Texas communities. A virtual "Zoom" version of the D'JAM Awards Ceremony took place on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.  Recipients in other categories for 2020 are: John Murphy (Educator); Chuck Mandernach (Supporter) and Caleb McCampbell (Innovator). For more information on Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month and a list of previous Jazz Legend Award recipients, please see D'Jam at the website JazzDallas.com - maintained by Sammons Center for the Arts.

THE TERRITORY AND THE ADVENTURE

Submitted by johnnycase on Wed, 03/25/2020 - 6:31pm

April 2020 is the scheduled publishing date for a new book about the innovative jazz musician Ornette Coleman, whose revolutionary approch to jazz improvisation and composition influenced innumerable musicians in the 1960's and continues to have a strong impact on successive generations. Maria Golia, the author of Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure, has diligently researched her subject and brought forth the most extensive biographical study of this musical maverick to date. Although the Fort Worth-born saxophonist faced extreme hardship and.lack of acceptance during his early years while living in his native city and later in Los Angeles, Ornette Coleman remained true to his belief in an individualistic creative process outside the accepted conventions of his time. In a career that spanned six decades, he proved to be a persistent music rebel who stirred controversy among the reactionaries yet won the hearts of listeners possessing an open mind and receptive ear. This new study was a labor of love for its author, and her book has already received enthusiastic reviews by the likes of jazz critic Gary Giddins and guitarist/composer Pat Metheny. As a longtime follower of Ornette Coleman's varied music adventures since circa 1965, I can strongly recommend this book, not only to fans of the avant garde or free jazz, but to anyone interested in the history and evolution of America's native art form.

Johnny Case - March 2020 

DESCRIPTIVE NOTES

Submitted by johnnycase on Mon, 01/14/2019 - 12:45am

 

DESCRIPTIVE NOTES - Entry 1:

Compilation, 2019: OTHER REALMS Exploratory and Esoteric Music    

All the selections on this CD-R were recorded at my favorite studio (since 1989), hence the audio quality is fine and more consistent than with Commemoration Set, comprised of material from a wide time-span (50 years!) and from many varying circumstances, some of which were sub-professional in audio quality. That is not the only difference, of course. Here, the disc showcases the most uncommercial musical tendencies I've engaged in during the past 27 years. My prior studio recordings of extremist expression took place in 1980 and 1981. I am not including my 1969 debut record of unaccompanied, totally improvised music on vibraphone. Although Vibra-Dream Currents occupies a unique place in my recorded output, it is not a studio recording. This current production is a catholic mixture including the opening art song for soprano with jazz trio accompanyment. Song of Solange is not improvised music, it is a musical setting inspired by a passage in The Maids, a play by Jean Genet. 

Track Two, titled Run Free, is totally improvised avant garde jazz, although I freely and periodically use a melodic motif from another art song which is presented on the following track. Group interplay is of the essence in this type of music, and I was fortunate to have musicians who showed no fear of total freedom. 

Love's Bitter Rage is sung in a Spanish version by the mezzo-soprano Claudia Gonzalez.  The long intro and outro encase the core song with a hymn-like reverence for its truth and powerful social message.

From Where Strays Never Call Home presents a return to all-out improv in the free jazz mold. I am joined here by Jeremy Hull on bass and Daniel Tcheco on drums for some engaging three-way interplay

Lewis Worrell begins with piano and arco bass. There is no stated pulse until the theme is re-stated with drums added. What is perhaps not evident with the duo opening, is that the tune is a 12-bar blues. This is my tribute to a bassist heavily associated with the jazz avant garde, whose significant achievements were from 1964 through 1967, after which he left the national jazz scene and has seldom been heard from since. Byron Gordon solos with Duane Durrett on drums..

Song of No Return, is the most conventional piece heard in this set, and it concludes my portion of the CD program. It has a strong Latin flavor and includes a piano solo with solid support by bassist Byron Gordon and percusssionist Joey Carter.

Frank DeVol (1911-1999) wrote and conducted music for motion pictures, television, and the popular music market of the mid-twentieth century. Three Cues by Frank DeVol is from his soundtrack to the 1956 Robert Aldrich war film "Attack!". Having long been intrigued by this music, and the film for which it was written, I approached the talented Nathan Phelps for his assistance in making a new recording to "bring  back to life" (in Phelps' words) this unusual and haunting music for lower voices. The viola heard on Cue #2 is played by a very gifted young musician, Jacob Burk. He needed no reference note in tuning his viola, and although I had indicated I would want three takes, he played the piece perfectly the first time...then gave me two more perfect takes!  It is rare for a musician's pitch to be "dead center" in accuracy, as Burk's intonation consistently registered on the equipment at Patrick McGuire's studio. This most fitting addition to my more adventursome recording endeavors completes this 2019 CD, issued to celebrate my 50th year as an indie artist /recordist.. 

All selections on this disc were recorded at Patrick McGuire Recording in Arlington, Texas.

I wish to thank the folowing people for their help in various projects that are represented in this compilation. They are: James Vernon, Charles Whitehead, Patrick McGuire, Kitty Case, Charles Duke, Bryan English, Dr. Misha Galaganov, Nathan Phelps and Joey Carter.

 

DESCRIPTIVE NOTES - Entry 2:

Alternate compilation acknowledging my 50th anniversary as an independent artist / record producer - completed in November, 2019. 

JOHNNY CASE - PRESENCE      Musicase CD-R    catalog number 350

Descriptive Notes: This set opens with the newly recorded De Vol music which closes the two previous compilations. "Three Cues" is followed by "Song of Solange" which is the first track of the second compilation. This is followed by a long track of "Three Free Pieces" combined to represent an organic unity in commitment to freedom and expressive musical creation. The three pieces are: "Conjuration" (Parts One & Two) followed by "A Celestial Presence". The first two feature John Case piano; Mark Lignell, percussion; Chris Clarke, acoustic bass & kalimba; Don Anderson, tenor & soprano saxophones and percussion. The third piece features John Case on vibraphone. 

The entire program is presented in reverse chronological order:            Three Cues by Frank De Vol  - recorded 2019  

                                                                                                                          Song of Solange   - recorded 1992    

                                                                                                                                     Three Free Pieces:                                                                      

                                                                                                                  Conjuration (Parts 1 & 2)   - recorded 1981

                                                                                                                     A Celestial Presence  - recorded 1969

 

                                                                                                        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

STEEL REFLECTIONS   John & Jerry Case plus Pedal Steel Guitarists.  Musicase CD-R Compilation, issued in 2018.

The program: 

1. Serenade - featuring Tom Morrell; 2. Empathy - featuring Maurice Anderson; 3. Elevation - featuring Chuck Caldwell; 4. Perdido - featuring Tom Morrell; 5. In the East - featuring Tom Morrell; 6. Excursion - featuring Maurice Anderson; 7. In a Mellow Tone - featuring Maurice Anderson; 8. Steel Guitar Ride - featuring Chuck Caldwell; 9. Lawton Blues - featuring Chuck Caldwell; 10. In the Air - featuring Tom Morrell; 11. Full Moon - featuring Maurice Anderson; 12. Bags' Groove - featuring Maurice Anderson; 13. Divisio - featuring Chuck Caldwell; 14. Birderic - featuring Tom Morrell; 15. Hudson's Blues - featuring Maurice Anderson; 16. Stay Loose - featuring Maurice Anderson ; 17. Hag's Move - featuring Tom Morrell; 18. Passing Through - featuring Tom Morrell; 19. A New Moon - featuring Chuck Caldwell; 20. Excursion Out - featuring Maurice Anderson.

The featured steel guitarists are heard with:

JERRY CASE, 7-string guitar (bass 0n 9, 15 & 19); JOHNNY CASE, piano (bass on 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 & 13); JIM PERKINS, bass (2, 6, 11 & 20); CHARLES SCOTT, bass (4, 7, 12 & 17); DON SOWELL, drums (1, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12 & 17); JESS HUDSON, piano (15) & bass (16); BILL MINER, drums (11, 15 & 16); DON BRIERTON, drums (3, 9, 13 & 19); TED WASSER, drums (14 & 18); KERBY STEWART, bass (14 & 18); BILL WALKER, drums (2, 6 & 20). JOHN WESTFALL is the trombonist heard briefly on 14 & 18. On the out-chorus of Perdido, Maurice Anderson plays the first half of the bridge.

 

STEEL REFLECTIONS - Notes by Johnny Case

My entry into the music profession occurred  at the best possible time and place, given my dual interests: learning modern jazz despite logistics that restricted my actual working experience to the country swing dance bands which nevertheless nourished my love for steel guitar. Had these opposites not inhabited my reality, I would have missed the newly emerging modernity related to the instrument that had fascinated me since childhood.

Although my instrument is piano, the modernists in my midst were frequently guitarists and pedal steel guitarists. Accessibility to complex harmonies not previously heard on steel guitar was made possible by the advent of pedals. A whole generation of uniquely gifted steel players born in the 1930's were in their prime when I first began to learn about their modern steel guitar music, circa 1962. That's when I first heard Gene Pooler with the Johnnie Lee Wills band. My older brother, guitarist Jerry Case, had encouraged me to go with him to hear this top western swing band in person, playing a rodeo dance in Hugo. Oklahoma. Pooler had a full, rich tone and a harmonic concept far more sophisticated than was intended for much of the music being played. The versatility of the band, however, was such that their repertoire included Stardust, Relaxin' and (reportedly) April in Paris. The inclusion of a fine tenor saxophonist and trumpeter enabled the band to play convincing renditions of this pop material, especially with tasteful embellishment from Gene Pooler on pedal steel. In fact, Pooler often added sumptuous harmonies to the more country-oriented material as well, utilizing an abundance of sophisticated passing chords in otherwise simple structures. In my hunger to hear more of this type steel playing, savvy musician friends directed me to specific recordings on which uncredited giants such as Curly Chalker and Buddy Emmons could be heard.    

In 1963 Buddy Emmons recorded "Steel Guitar Jazz" for Mercury. I learned about it from an advertisement in the trade publication Billboard Magazine to which my mother subscribed. So eager was I to hear the new LP, I'm quite certain my special order through a local record store was among the first sales of this benchmark album. Curiously, my hometown of Paris, Texas seemed an unlikely place to hear the hottest C&W band in the nation perform live, yet Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours were booked into the fairgrounds coliseum for a Wednesday night performance. My parents J.C. and Floy Case were longtime friends of Tubb, which gave us the exceptional honor of visiting with him on the band bus just prior to their show. My mom proudly told E.T. about my older brother Jerry Case playing guitar professionally, and that I was becoming a piano player. On my behalf (I was shy) she asked if Emmons was still with him. He said "no" but was quick to praise his new steel man, Bud Charleton. This primo band, which Tubb featured generously on his show, was incredibly inspiring with its front line consisting of the impressive Leon Rhodes on lead guitar and his new musical partner on pedal steel. Charleton proved to be an exciting and authoratative player. The up-tempo instrumentals designed to showcase their talents have often been labeled "Country Jazz".

When the Case family moved to Dallas in the summer of 1964, I found myself in the midst of cutting-edge steel guitar modernists. I had advance notice, having recently become aware of two particularly talented pedal steel men based in Dallas. I will give more detail elsewhere regarding the encounter of Jerry Case and Maurice Anderson in Las Vegas, and my own subsequent meeting of Maurice (at a live event where I heard him play an entire gig) that followed within two weeks in Paris, Texas.  His playing was for me an education in the expert application of modern jazz concepts to country music's jazz counterpart: western swing. During this same time frame, I had also learned about another steel master, whom I first heard playng incredibly swinging standard guitar on a live telecast. The inside word was: "You oughta hear him on steel". This individual was also a business associate of Maurice, and soon after my move to the Dallas area, Maurice introduced me to Tommy Morrell. He was frequently on the road with a legendary band, the Western Starlighters. Although I saw him quite often when he was in town, it would be a matter of years before I actually witnessed his phenomenal abilities on pedal steel. 

In 1969, Jerry Case (on bass), Tom Morrell (on standard guitar) and I performed on Volume 2 of "The Moods of Maurice Anderson".  Three more cuts with this same group appear on Volume 3 of the set that would eventually total five LPs. I felt honored to be part of these recordings. The experience helped advance my own ideas about independent representation via self-produced record albums. Before 1969 had ended, I began my own series of recordings, with a primary objective being to feature creative improvised music, totally free of commercial considerations. In the jazz sessions of the 1970's, my brother Jerry Case, a unique jazz stylist on 7-string guitar, is heard in a variety of settings. Without question, however, the most unusual feature in my series was the inclusion of pedal steel guitar on these free-wheeling jazz dates. Anderson and Morrell were described in Down Beat magazine as "premier exponents of the instrument". On these sessions Anderson and Morrell (together and separately) are documented in a manner unlike any of their other recordings. Each player often stretches out for multiple choruses, and we hear some remarkable extended improvisations, unedited and unaltered in any way. The Anderson tracks 15 and 16 are live performances from 1966 when Jerry Case was a member of Maurice's band The Triads, performing in Dallas, Texas at the Willow Club. I brought my semi-professional reel-to-reel recorder to their gig one nght and captured some 40 minutes of music. The surprising circumstance of this particular night is something I will describe in my intended article on Maurice Anderson, because its one-of-a-kind challenge and how Maurice dealt with it, exemplify this man's transcendent musical abilities. 

By 1977, I had become determined to document the obscure and elusive Chuck Caldwell from Lawton, Oklahoma. Jerry Case had worked with him in late 1963 and early '64 in the band of the ill-fated "Little" Joe Carson. Chuck played non-pedal in those years but later switched to pedal steel. Ideally, I would have liked to capture his non-pedal work which is scarcely represented on recordings. Many comments from primo western swing musicians whom had worked with Chuck attest to his remarkable prowess and the unorthodox techniques he masterfully utilized to accomplish musical statements of a poetic naturalness. The great Tom Morrell reflected on the non-pedal work of Caldwell, more than once referring to him as a "wizard of non-pedal steel". Alas, my mission came too late for the realization of such a treasure as might have been. With numerous problems to plague this project, a session in Wichita Falls yielded an album, issued on my Priority label in 1980.  Four cuts from that date appear in this compilation. In addition, the brief "Steel Guitar Ride" is a rowsing Caldwell solo excerpted from 1974 recordings furnished to me by Lawton musician and Caldwell friend, Carl Cooper. 

This 20-track set is producd in homage to these individualistic steel guitarists, the likes of whom will never be heard again. I intend to add extensive information on Anderson, Caldwell and Morrell (separate articles for each) under the Performer Profiles heading found elsewhere on this website.

TOM MORRELL (1938 - 2007)

CHUCK CALDWELL (1934 -2010)

MAURICE ANDERSON (1934 - 2013.

 

                                                                                                                                

to be continued...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

List of Original Compositions

Submitted by johnnycase on Wed, 01/09/2019 - 5:27pm

The format of this listing is title of work followed by date of recording. Works of musique concrete, different in nature from notated music, are identified as such. John Case is a member of ASCAP.

 

ADRIFT - 2005;  AMENDS - 1977;  ALIENATION (Musique Concrete) - 2005;  AURALAIRE (Musique Concrete) - 1990; BIRDERIC - 1975 & 1991;  BLUES FOR TED CURTIS - 1975;  BUCKBOARD BOUNCE - 2007; CONTEMPLATION - 1971; COUNTRY WAYS - 2003;  CRUDSCRAPER BLOOZE - 2005; DAYBREAK - 1971;  DEBRIS (Musique Concrete) - 2005;  DRIFTING BACK - 2005 & 2007; EMPATHY - 1977;  EXCURSION - 1977;  FIRE - 1970;  FULL MOON - 1974;  GLOBAL JUBILATION -  2005;  HAUNTINGS MAGNETIQUE (Musique Concrete) - 2014;  A HEART TO STEAL - 2003;  HIGH STAKES - 1977;  IN THE EAST - 1974;  JUST IN SONG - 2003;  LAMENTO (alternate titles: LOVE ASTRAY (PIANO'S LAMENT) - 2008;  LEWIS WORRELL - 2003;  LOST COUNTRY - 2005; LOVE'S BITTER RAGE - 2005;  LOVE SURVIVES - 2005;  MID-AFTERNOON - 1971:  MIGA SOUNDSCAPE (Musique Concrete) - 2015;  MIGRATION STATION (Musique Concrete) - 2014;  MORNING SONG - 1971;  A NEW MOON - 1977; NO LITTLE LAMENT - 2005;  ODE TO A CAPTOR PARAGON (Musique Concrete) - 2014;  ODE TO JEAN GENET - 1991;  ONE AMONG THE DALTONS - 2003;  ONE BUD LEFT TO BLOSSOM - 2008;  ONE LOVE - 2003; ONE TOO FEW - 1991;  THE OPEN SEA - 1991;  PASSING THROUGH - 1975;  QUARRY'S PLIGHT - 1991;  RANCH HOUSE RENDEZVOUS - 2007; REMNANTS (Musique Concrete) - 1982; RIDING HIGH - 2007;  SERENADE - 1974 & 1975;  SONG OF NO RETURN - 2005;  SONG  OF SOLANGE - 1991 & 1992 (vocal version);  STRANGE DREAM - 1970;  SUMMONS - 1970; TURNING POINT - 1971;  THE VEILS - 2001;  WAITING FOR THE MOMENT - 2003: WESTERN SAGA SWING - 2007.         

IN MEMORIAM - FLOY CASE (April 20, 1911 - June 14, 1988)

Submitted by johnnycase on Thu, 06/14/2018 - 2:36pm

June 14, 2018 marks thirty years since the death of my mother, Floy Case. Her name is well known to scholars of early country music because she was a "Pioneer Country Music Journalist", as officially recognized in 1983 by the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition, she wrote songs (one was recorded by Ernest Tubb for Decca Records) and she helped manage programs and fan mail for Bill Case and his Melody Boys, with whom my dad J.C. Case was mandolinist and harmony vocalist. In her writings she often praised young talent she heard on the live music radio broadcasts of the 1930's and 40's. She gave Hank Thompson his first publicity when he was still in Waco, Texas. He never forgot this boost to his career, which became among the biggest in country music history. In the 1950's her feature stories appeared in newstand publications such as Folk and Cowboy Songs and Country Song Round-Up.  Again, Floy Case was the first to recognize a young talent when she wrote about Charlie Walker and correctly predicted that he would became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Other favorites of hers included Billy Walker, Justin Tubb (and his legendary father), Merle Travis, Jimmy Wakely, the late Jimmie Rodgers who had inspired a whole generation of performers including Gene Autry, Jimmie Davis, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and countless others. Through an introduction by E.T., my mom became a close friend of Carrie Rodgers, the widow of the "Singing Brakeman". Carrie lived to promote the work of her late husband Jimmie Rodgers, and to keep his name and career before the country music public. In her later years when illness prevented Carrie from writing all assignments (including liner notes and magazine articles) my mother became Carrie's ghost writer. Out of a sense of loyalty my mom never divulged this fact until the historian Ronnie Pugh virtually pulled the information from her in an early 1980s interview, more than twenty years after her friend's death.

My mom was a greater influence on me than I realized when she was alive. Now, I recognize that she still influences me a lot. It's a most positive influence and I am grateful that she loved music and was a source of encouragement for young aspiring performers. It was a gift she was known to give. 

 

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: Dec. 1 @ Arts Fifth Avenue

Submitted by johnnycase on Sat, 12/02/2017 - 3:19pm

The program entitled "REMEMBERING SARDINES", a fundraiser to help Kenny Hardee get a liver transplant, surpassed my hopeful expectations. The entire event was a great outpouring of love and support. All of the talented musicians played their hearts out with no monetary compensation. Every item in the silent auction was sold and numerous donations in addition to the cover charge totaled $4100 after venue expenses were subtracted.

Kenny and Adrienne Hardee are a very gracious young couple who are valiantly facing this life-threatening challenge. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who gave so generously to this worthy cause. My sincere thanks extends to those in the media who exemplified human kindness in publicizing this memorable event.  Donations may still be made online by visiting www.youcaring.com/Liverforkenny

2nd and FINAL UPDATE: SPECIAL FUNDRAISING CONCERT AT ARTS FIFTH AVENUE

Submitted by johnnycase on Sat, 10/14/2017 - 12:39am

The event describled below is SOLD OUT !!   Many thanks to everyone who will attend and to those in the media who helped publicize this event.

ARTS FIFTH AVENUE, Fort Worth's premiere performance space, will present "REMEMBERING SARDINES" on Friday, December 1, 2017. The event will offer a night of live jazz and Italian cuisine in remembrance of the now defunct venue Sardines Ristorante Italiano, which was a Fort Worth landmark from 1979 through 2011. All proceeds from this event will go to help Kenny Hardee (one of Sardines' former managers) who is in desperate need of a liver transplant. Although Mr. Hardee is employed and has medical insurance, out-of-pocket costs for this operation add up to a daunting 100,000 (!). Please join Gracey Tune and Deb Wood along with pianist Johnny Case, multi-instrumentalists Joey Carter, Chris White, Keith Wingate and others for this worthy cause.

A silent auction will offer an impressive selection of collectible items: Tommy Tune Lithograph, Arts Fifth Avenue Django Reinhardt gift pack, framed 1989 Cliburn poster with artwork signed by Robert Rauschenberg, Sardines crew poster photograph by Michael Bodycomb, abstract oil painting by Johnny Case, sax player painting by Johnny Case, original line art drawing of bassist Charles Scott by Michael Pellecchia, Suzan England's flute, antique trunk owned by Suzan England, golf package donated by Colonial Country Club, a Sardines T-shirt, a gift pack of Sardines memorablia, and more.

Master of Ceremonies for this event will be Ray Conrow, assisted by Kitty Case. Guest musicians will include saxophonist Jeff Todd; trombonist Pat Brown; bassman Ray Conrow plus a few surprise guests. Gracey Tune, Deb Wood and Kitty Case will prepare Italian food for all attendees to enjoy in fond remembrance of a unique venue known for its fine acoustic jazz and romantic atmosphere as well as its Southern Italian food. Admission price is $25.00 each. Dinner is included in the cover charge. Please note: If you've not made reservations but plan to attend,  make your reservations ASAP.  The number of people expected to attend is important for food planning purposes. Call: 817-923-9500. Event hours are 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM at Arts Fifth Avenue, 1628 5th Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76104.

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