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Carol Sudhalter

Back to basics By Elzy Kolb

Carol Sudhalter spent April and May winning a bout with COVID-19, and the months since have been a time of introspection for the multi-instrumentalist. “When time slows down like this, you can look at your patterns and habits. I’ve discovered there are so many things I could be doing differently, and I see it without putting myself down, without judgment, without failure trips,” muses the saxophonist and flautist. “There’s so much you can’t see till your mind slows down.”

A daily diarist since age 8, Carol has come to recognize that every item on her to-do lists has had an equal weight, and it’s not a light one. “Each task, from easy to hard, added a 50-pound weight to my shoulders. Even a phone call to someone I enjoy had the same weight,” she notes. “Now I’m asking myself if that’s really worth 50 pounds. If I can get that weight off my shoulders and brain, think of how much I could achieve. It helps to write things down and get to work on them.”

She’s finding satisfaction in switching her routines and trying new things. After watching instruction videos online, Carol has fired up a sewing machine she bought several years back. She’s practicing her instruments differently, and taking a shot at arranging music, something she always wanted to do but never learned. And in areas like friendships and forgiveness, the big picture has come into sharper focus.

“These are things you wouldn’t notice at our usual frenetic pace,” she points out.

A renowned baritone saxophonist, Carol hasn’t come away from the devastating virus unscathed. Though she has high hopes for full recovery, medical tests have verified a vision change in her left eye, and some fluid accumulation around her heart. “There’s a difference in my horn playing, in my breathing,” she says. “I have to stop before I’m ready, but I play a little all day long with my students. I’ve noticed a gradual improvement, but I feel bratty and want it to go away now.” Nevertheless, “I feel like the luckiest person in the world.”

Maintaining a busy teaching schedule, via FaceTime and Zoom instead of commuting to students’ homes, contributes to Carol’s sense of well-being. “I never depended on gigs for a living. That’s very different from so many of my musician friends. With the pandemic I thought, No one will want lessons, everyone will be broke.” Not only has that not been the case, some families have actually upped their weekly commitment.

Her regular monthly gig, running the Louis Armstrong Legacy Jazz Jam, funded by the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, is still in full swing, though it too went virtual. Rather than gathering at Flushing Town Hall, its usual venue, players now perform live from home or record tunes and submit them for a Facebook livestream.

Carol has honed her arranging and tech skills, overdubbing all the parts on a four-baritone version of a tune Armstrong often sang, “Let My People Go,” which premiered during a virtual jam. “I’d never done anything like that before, I’m not in that age group, so it was a little challenging,” Carol reveals.

The theme for the upcoming jam, livestreaming on Facebook on September 9 at 7 p.m., is “September and all its qualities: the season, the joy, the changes, the sad moments, like September 11. Plus, there are so many jazz tunes with September in the title.” Saxophonist Ray Blue is this month’s special guest.

With New York slowly finding its way out of pause mode, the veteran musician wonders how the events of recent months will impact the music she loves. The collective trauma of club closings, sheltering in place, seclusion and uncertainty, combined with changes in technology and communications, more time spent in the woodshed and in personal reevaluation could make itself felt over the long run. The onset of the pandemic was “so strange and so sudden, I went into emergency mode,” she recalls. “I wasn’t thinking of what I’d miss. I wasn’t thinking of going out or seeing friends. It was too strange to comprehend.”

She continues, “Is this going to change the face of jazz in some way? Everything happening in our lives, in our world, is filtering over into jazz. It may change the nature of jazz and bring it to a new phase.”

There are a multitude of things Carol would like to see continue after the COVID era. “Keeping those 50-pound weights off my shoulders,” tops her list. She’d also like to see ongoing social activism and involvement. “I hope the social justice protests will continue. I hope people will take responsibility, form independent organizations to get something done, take things into their own hands. It doesn’t have to be in the streets, it could be small farming, roof-top gardens. I would like to be part of a community garden, an intentional community, an ecological community. That would be a silver lining.”

<span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:" times="" new="" roman";="" mso-fareast-font-family:"times="" roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"times="" color:black"="">To listen to the Louis Armstrong Legacy Virtual Jazz Jam live on Sept. 9, go to:; for details on submitting music for the virtual jam, including tips on recording audio and video, go to:; submit music by emailing

Photo by Gus Philippas

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Joe Farnsworth

Joe Farnsworth: A One for All Drummer By George Kanzler

The hard-bop reincarnation sextet One for All came together from a gig drummer Joe Farnsworth had in the mid-1990s at Augie’s, the club on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that later became Smoke Jazz & Supper Club. Originally a quintet with trumpeter Jim Rotondi and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, Joe invited trombonist Steve Davis to join.

“The three horns together was magical,” Joe remembers, “but we needed a piano player. I had heard David Hazeltine with Brian Lynch and we hired him; he was a little bit older but wiser, and he had the arranging abilities we needed.”

That band, with a variety of bassists along the way, has been performing and recording since 1997, with Joe happily serving as the drummer and rhythmic foundation of the band. His one-for-all attitude toward the ensemble also reveals itself in his approach toward his latest recording project, Time to Swing, his first album for Smoke Records as a leader, due out this month. It is a one-off, all-star affair, anchored by a trio of drummer Farnsworth, bassist Peter Washington and pianist Kenny Barron, joined by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis on four tracks.

Joe was still in high school when he first heard Wynton’s album Black Codes (From the Underground) and realized, “Wow, the tide was turning, that is something new and different.” Almost two decades later, Wynton invited Joe to be his drummer in a quintet he assembled for a benefit concert and recording, Live at the House of Tribes (Blue Note).

“Wynton told Charlie Rose on TV that he had heard about me from a lot of guys who said I couldn’t play nothing on the drums so he said that if all these guys are telling him this then I must be good. Then I showed up for the gig in my suit, and he really liked that too,” Joe reveals.

The drummer acquired his sartorial taste from working with older musicians like Curtis Fuller, Benny Golson and Art Farmer. “They always had suits on,” he recalls, “Art would even have a suit on when we traveled on a plane. I got that from them and Wynton really liked that.”

He continues, “It was a great record too. It was really important for me; I loved the way his rhythmic phrasing on the trumpet was a perfect, natural fit for me and the way I play the ride cymbal. They fit together really nice.”

Joe has also played with Wynton in a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra tribute to Thelonious Monk and in the quintet the trumpeter leads on Edwin Norton’s current film, Motherless Brooklyn (streaming on HBO). So he felt the time was right to invite Wynton to be a guest on his own album.

Although Time to Swing opens and closes with Joe’s originals, he cedes much of the repertoire choices to his all-star sidemen. With Wynton, they reprise “Hesitation,” an original from his first album, as well as his suggestions “Darn That Dream” and “Down by the Riverside.”

With Wynton already committed, Joe knew he needed a pianist “who could really take it up to the next level, and of the cats who are still here, Kenny Barron is number one.” So even though he’d “never played a note with Kenny,” the drummer recruited him for the album.

“When you get a Kenny Barron,” he asserts, “you want to use every aspect of Kenny Barron, so why play what I want to play when what I want to play is what he wants to play? He’s Kenny Barron and you want him to shine as bright as possible. He came up with the Billy Strayhorn tune (‘Star-Crossed Lovers’), I never would have come up with that. And he was sitting there warming up at the piano on ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ as a bossa, so we did that.”

The quartet and trio sections of the album are bridged by a solo drum piece, “One for Jimmy Cobb,” the drummer who died in May at 91. Jimmy was not only an inspiration but a friend of Joe’s, who brought students coming to him for drum lessons to the veteran player. “Why take a drum lesson from me when you’ve got Jimmy Cobb of Kind of Blue right here in New York?”

Joe says he learned much more than drumming from the likes of Cobb, Arthur Taylor and Billy Higgins. “It’s not just a person playing on a record, it’s a human being there, a guy trying to survive in this world.”

Joe Farnsworth’s livestream from Smoke Jazz & Supper Club is on Sept. 25 and 26.

Photo by Jimmy Katz

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Dave Post

Dave Post: On Leading Swingadelic for 22 Years By Don Jay Smith