CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Concerts - visiting Musicians, New Zealand Jazz Gigs

Auckland Jazz Festival 2014

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This is great news Auckland.  The inaugural Auckland Jazz Festival opens on the 17th October, followed by 9 days of gigs across town.  Put together by Ben McNicoll and the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) team, which guarantees the excellence and diversity in programming.  A number of bars have enthusiastically come onboard and Jazz lovers should reward their commitment.  Because there are smaller venues or bars in the mix there will be some gigs with no cover charge, while others will charge a modest entry fee.  For pricing, bookings and programming visit the Auckland Jazz Festival website (below).  The headline gigs will be held at the CJC with the Mike Nock Trio (Australia) appearing on Tuesday 21st October, followed by the Benny Lackner Trio (Germany/USA) 22nd October and Francisco Torres/Roger Fox (USA/New Zealand) on the 23rd.   the-troubles

It would be crazy to miss any of these three gigs, in fact hire a babysitter or cat minder and cancel anything that gets in the way.  I know that I will endeavour to catch as many gigs as I can.  If this is well supported it will likely become a feature of the Auckland City arts calendar.  The gigs vary in style with each unique in some way.  Opening the festival at the ‘Portland Public House’ Kingsland is Wellington’s, fabulously wild anarchic band ‘The Troubles” (who I can’t wait to see again).  There are also offerings from the early swing era, groove funk, experimental improv and more besides.

Benny Lackner Trio

An Auckland Jazz Festival of this sort is long overdue and sensibly it’s run along the lines of a fringe festival.  There are no big sponsors calling the shots, which means that the choice of artists is in the hands of the organisers.  In the absence of any taint of commercialism you can expect edge, cool and excellence.  Think of it as a crowd sourced festival in which you have a vital part to play.  I have attended Jazz festivals run along these lines before and I prefer them, as they offer intimacy and a listening experience which you just can’t find in the larger venues.  The Montreal ‘L’Off’ festival immediately comes to mind.  It is important that we show our support by attending as many gigs as we can and don’t forget to visit the web site and ‘like’ the various gigs on offer (you know the drill, it is an important indicator of support).  The organisers and venue’s have put time and money into this and all we need to do is attend and enjoy ourselves.  Let’s show them that we appreciate it and put to bed the tired old myth that Auckland never gets behind the arts – see you all there.

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What: www.aucklandjazzfestival.co.nz   (Live link)

Where: At a number of prime small venues about Auckland including, CJC (Creative Jazz Club), 1885 Britomart, The Portland Public House, Tom Tom, The Golden Dawn, Hallertau

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Straight ahead

Brian Smith quartet 2014

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For a man who says that he’s “taking it easy these days”, Brian Smith is remarkably active.  He has been a strong supporter of the recent CJC Sunday Jam sessions,  he still teaches and regularly fronts CJC gigs.   Many regard him as the elder statesman of the tenor saxophone in New Zealand and he certainly has the credentials to fit that title.  It is only when you see him playing his Cannonball or Selmer tenor that you realise just how youthful he is.  Like many experienced tenor players he appears ageless on the bandstand.  That is the alchemy of the instrument and the alchemy of the born improviser.

Advertised as Brian Smith (tenor saxophone), Kevin Field (piano), Kevin Haines (bass) Frank Gibson (drums) but on the night Oli Holland replaced Kevin Haines on bass.

It takes a lot of space to list Brian’s musical credentials and it is all too easy to miss out important elements, but here is a brief summary that I have gleaned from elsewhere;

‘Brian relocated to London in 1964, performing at Ronnie Scott’s and working & touring with such names as: Humphrey Littleton, Alexis Korner, T-Bone walker, Georgie Fame,Alan Price, Annie Ross, Bing Crosby, Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks, John Dankworth, & Tubby Hayes. He was a founder member of ‘Nucleus’ alongside Ian Carr, which won the European Band competition in Montreaux in 1970, resulting in gigs at Newport Jazz Fest and tours of Italy, Germany, Holland, and America. In 1969 he started working in the Maynard Ferguson band, staying with them until 1975 including touring and recording. He also backed acts like Nancy Wilson, The 4 Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Donovan, Dusty Springfield, Sandy Shaw and Lulu.’

The programming at the CJC is mostly centred around musicians projects.  The gigs are therefore heavily focused on original material or perhaps an oblique take on a particular oeuvre.   We do hear standards but seldom more than one or two a gig.  The exception occurs when international artists arrive in town or when iconic musicians like Brian Smith front a gig.  On occasion it is nice just to sit back and enjoy familiar tunes.  Letting them wash over you, being able to anticipate the lines and comparing them in your head to the versions that you have grown up with.  The very fact that some tunes become standards implies that they have a special enduring quality.  These are vehicles well suited for improvisation and having musical hooks that invite endless exploration for listener and musician alike.  Standards composers are the greatest writers of the song form, but the inside joke is that these wonderful tunes often came from musicals which failed miserably.

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It was great to hear the quartet play ‘You and the night and the music’ which is a firm favourite of mine.  Composed by Arthur Schwartz  (lyrics Howard Dietz), it came from the musical ‘Revenge with music’ which closed on Broadway after a few months.   Frank Sinatra and Mario Lanza revived it and it became popular with Jazz musicians for a while during the 50’s and 60’s.  While the earlier popular renderings tended toward the saccharine, Jazz musicians like Mal Waldren purged the tune of its syrupy connotations.  It was the obscure tartly voiced Lennie Niehaus Octet version (with Lennie on alto, Jimmy Giuffre on baritone and Shelley Manne drums) which won me over.  Over a decade ago I heard HNOP and Ulf Wakenius perform a killing version of it at the Bruce Mason centre and I had not heard it since.  That is until last Wednesday.

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Another great standard was Horace Silvers ‘Song for my father’.  Standards have the power to move us deeply and this tune in particular brought a lump to my throat as my father was slipping away that very week.  One of pianist Kevin Field’s tunes ‘Offering’ was also played and while not a standard it is a favourite about town.   Everyone played well that night with  Oli Holland and Kevin Field up to their usual high standard; Frank Gibson on drums was in exceptional form.  His brush work and often delicate stick work was perfect and it reminded everyone why he is so highly regarded about town.

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I have chosen a video clip from the gig which is arguably the most famous standard of all.  Cole Porters ‘What is this thing called love’.  Cole Porter would always say that the song and lyrics wrote themselves and this version is certainly a worthwhile addition to the selection.  Unlike many of the vocal versions it is fast paced and authoritative.  IMG_1278 - Version 2

Who: Brian Smith Quartet – Brian Smith (tenor saxophone), Kevin Field (piano), Oli Holland (bass), Frank Gibson Jr (drums).

Where: CJC (Creative Jazz Club), Britomart 1885, Auckland, New Zealand –  June 25th 2014   http://www.creativejazzclub.co.nz

 

 

Avant-garde, CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, experimental improvised music

NOiCE @ CJC

Rosie Langabere

The North Island Creative Ensemble is a project dear to Rosie Langabeer’s heart and one of many projects that she has on the go.   Rosie has been out of New Zealand for some time although NOiCE did perform at the CJC over a year ago.  Her musical journey most recently took her to the USA where she worked for three years with leading experimental improvisers and artists.   Her compositions and playing have won various awards and so I made certain that I there as I missed the last NOiSE gig.

This is music that is hard to pin down, as it deliberately defies conventions while somehow flirting with them.   There is a sense of structure which provides a touch stone, but don’t grasp too firmly as the forms will dissolve as quickly as they appeared.  This is music which carries you forward if you let it, holding you in the eternal moment.

NOiCE is an assembly of highly creative musicians; coming from a variety of North Island towns and cities.  The music is experimental in nature and it is definitely adventurous.  Most of these musicians are well-known and leaders in the field of New Zealand experimental music.   Jim Langabeer (Rosie’s father) is a stalwart of the Auckland Jazz scene, but he has also worked with international musicians like Gary Peacock, Sammy Davis Jr and even the Bee Gees.   He is a multi reeds and winds player and because of his proficiency on a variety of instruments he has been in demand over the years.  I recently saw his name come up in the music credits of the New Zealand film ‘Mr Pip’.   His innovative flute work is probably what he best known for.

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Jeff Henderson is also a multi reeds player and he is at the very heart of Auckland’s experimental music scene.   He can often be seen at ‘Vitamin S’, a small club dedicated to experimental music located just off Karangahape Road, Auckland.   Jeff has worked with a large number of cutting edge musicians over the years, William Parker, Steve Lacey, Mike Nock and many others.   He delights in pushing against the boundaries and when he performs he seldom holds back.  While his scalding solos often reach beyond mere form, his ability to integrate seamlessly into an ensemble creates a filigree of contrasts and textures.   A delicious aura of inventive unpredictability hangs over him.  IMG_8613 - Version 2

Chris O’Connor (drums) is a firm favourite with CJC audiences.  A recipient of the Chapman Tripp Award for original music, he has also worked with the soprano saxophonist Steve Lacey, avant-garde pianist Marilyn Cryspel, Don McGlashan and numerous other well-known groups or individuals.   Chris is one of those drummers that other drummers revere and the last time we saw him at the CJC was with vibist John Bell.

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Ben McNicoll (reeds and winds), Joe Callwood (guitar), Gerard Crewdson (brass) and Kingsley Melhuish (brass), Nicky Wuts (vibes) and Patrick Bleakley (bass) round out the ensemble.   They are all experienced musicians and most of them have worked with NOiCE for some time.  Ben McNicolls is the best known to CJC audiences as both the technical director of the club and a frequent performer.  A good reader with a nice sound he, is happy to take on any project, from standards gigs to out-ensembles.   Gerard Crewdson and Kingsley Melhuish are versatile and sought after brass players and both have played the CJC before.   The musicians that I was less familiar with were Patrick Bleakley (bass), Joe Callwood (guitar) and Nikky Wuts (Vibraphone).

I’m relieved to see another mallets player on the scene as New Zealand has very few of them.   John Bells departure earlier in the year left a yawning chasm.

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All contributed something unique as this is a truly democratic ensemble.  One where individual voices rise and then subside; emerging seamlessly into the collective consciousness of the group

 

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Concerts - visiting Musicians, World Jazz Day/Month

Paul Van Ross – Album Release

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On Wednesday 27th March several visitors arrived in town from Melbourne Australia.  Visitors but not strangers, because saxophone player Paul Van Ross has played in New Zealand four or five times previously and drummer Mark Lockett is an expat New Zealander, originally from Wellington.

These are very friendly guys.  Actually I find most Jazz musicians unfailingly cheerful and friendly.  It is unlikely that this good humour arises from job security or because they have just managed to upgrade the Porsche .  I stick cameras in their faces, ask searching questions during set breaks and pin them down for set lists when they are suffering from jet lag.   Instead being told to clear off they indulge me.  This goodwill must be pumped through the air conditioning unit of the CJC (Creative Jazz Club).  It is a place like ‘Cheers’ where everyone has a smile and ‘everybody knows your name’.

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One of those who indulges me is Steve Garden of Rattle records.  A few weeks ago I received a tidy package of CD’s from him and among them was ‘The Buck Stops Here‘ led by Paul Van Ross.  I had a lot of material to write-up at the time and I was working on the ‘Jazz Month’ program with the Jazz Journalists Association.  I played my way slowly through the pile of releases as time allowed.  It was not until I had received the CJC newsletter that I realised that Paul Van Ross would be doing an album release there in three days.   I sorted through the CD’s and put it out to listen to but it was not until the day before the gig that it finally reached my Hi Fi.   It was a really great album and I played it through three times.

How had a missed this I thought.  This should have been one of the first things that I put on.  Apart from a John Zorn obsession, I also suffer from an excessive liking for B3 combos.  This album featured B3, guitar, drums and saxophone.  I listened over and again while the textures and compositions reeled me further in.  This is a very good example of the ‘new sound’ in organ/guitar/saxophone/drums.

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Make no mistake, I love ‘chitlin circuit’ groove Jazz of the sort that Brother Jack, Joey ‘D’, Pat Martino, Wes and Grant Green created.  My friend Michel Benebig is a B3 master in this field and he can groove you to the depths of your soul.   That music will roll you out of bed and have you dancing like a fool before you gain your sea legs.

There is however another type of B3 sound and that reaches for new horizons.  Jamie Saft (Zorn’s Dreamers), Tom Watson (Manu Katche’s new album) and Dr Lonnie Smith (Jungle Soul album),  come to mind.    The music still has a deep groove but there are no locked in drums and this subtle loosening up of the vibe makes space for a particular type of guitar work and gives a horn some room for exploration.  This is a sound that absorbs influences from a diverse Jazz palette while still retaining a solid groove context.  The Paul Van Ross Trio (and quartet) are of this latter kind.  Their music draws on a wide spectrum of post and pre millennial Jazz; not just tugging at the heart and feet, but engaging the intellect as well.

Paul Van Ross is an exciting tenor player and I can’t help wondering if he studied under George Garzone.   There is something different about tenor players who have studied under Garzone and Paul fits that bill.  His rapid fire lines and fluidity never obscure the musical ideas that flow from his horn.  On ballads he could wring a tear from a walnut and when playing uptempo he navigates the terrain with ease.  His compositions are engaging.

The CJC launch gig employed a smaller lineup than on the album.   Organist Alan Brown subbed for Kim Kelaart on the New Zealand leg of the tour and he needs no introduction to New Zealand audiences.  Alan is another musician who takes the groove genre to new and exciting places.  His keyboard skills are legendary.   Choosing him was a sensible choice and while his style is a little different to Kelaart’s, it afforded Ross and Lockett opportunities to stretch out in different ways.  Mark Lockett is a delight as he imparts humour into everything he does.   His drumming is quirky in the best possible way and he is the drummer of choice for many bands.  Like Paul Van Ross and Alan Brown he has also recorded as leader.

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The first track on the album is the title track ‘The Buck Stops Here”.  It was the first number up on the night (all of the material has been written by Ross).  On this track in particular Lockett’s contribution was noteworthy.  A solid New Orleans beat is laid down while edgy post-bop lines blow over that; the organ under Alan’s hands comps insistently in the background and this gave the tune a great feel.  I saw a ‘second line’ parade in San Francisco a few months ago and this particular drum beat tells that kind of story.  A story about a beat that bounced between the Americas and Africa until it became pure voodoo.  I like everything on this album and so choosing video clips was hard.   In the end I have opted for ‘The Buck Stops Here’ (filmed by Jenny Sol).   Other standout tunes from the album are ‘Swami in the House’ and the beautiful ballad “Uncle DJ’.  A number performed on the night but which is not on the album is ‘Break a Tune’ (filmed by John Fenton)

I must also mention the guitarist Hugh Stuckey who knows when to shine and when to merge into the mix.  His lines are clean and impressive, with an approach to melody that is modern.  This is the direction that Rosenwinkel and Moreno mapped out and it sits well with this lineup.   A guest guitarist Craig Fermanis appears on track one only.

You can buy the album now from ‘Rattle‘ at http://www.rattle.co.nz        I recommend it highly.

Who: Paul Van Ross trio; Paul Van Ross – tenor sax, Alan Brown – C3 hammond organ, Mark Lockett – drums ( add Hugh Stuckey and Craig Fermanis – album)

Where: The CJC (Creative Jazz Club) Auckland.

What: Album Release by ‘Rattle‘.

John Fenton

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CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Jazz Journalists Association, World Jazz Day/Month

‘Jazz April’ – How to avoid being an April Fool

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Notwithstanding the obvious resemblance between these grizzled old guys, Jazz April is no joking matter.   To avoid being an April Fool participate in as many Jazz April activities as you can.  Remember to ‘like‘ and ‘share‘ this and any other Jazz April pages that you come across.  Don’t monkey about; ape the trend-setters and brand your Face Book picture with a Jazz April badge like cousin Boris (left) and I (right) did.  This is a month set aside to promote and honour Jazz and its practitioners.  The best way of achieving this is by sharing our enjoyment with others.  If they see and hear what we experience they will want to participate.  Take the pledge and agree that you will visit as many Jazz events as possible during April.  If that is difficult you should at least participate online.

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I have posted some logos which you should share indiscriminately.   If the internet slows down due to the volume of ‘shares‘ we will know that you have done your bit.  Think of it as a ‘Wikileaks’ for music lovers.  The world needs to know this secret. 485163_335421036512615_1393706890_a

There will be hundreds of Jazz April celebrations occurring world-wide and the events will culminate in UNESCO’s  ‘International Jazz Day‘ which is April 30th 2013.  The venue for the main Jazz Day event this year is Istanbul Turkey and Herbie Hancock is joined by a number of Jazz Luminaries like Hugh Masakela, Marcus Miller and Manu Katche.  If your city does not have an event planned you could consider hosting one.  If you do let me know and I will pass the information on to the Jazz Journalists Association.

In New Zealand the ‘Waiheke Jazz Festival’ and the ‘Tauranga Jazz Festival’ can be considered a good segue into Jazz April as they are both held over Easter weekend.  Auckland has a number of Jazz April events occurring and there will be a satellite party celebration at the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) during April.  Check out the CJC website as there is a good gig guide.

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The best place to locate the logo badges and banners (twibbons) and to find out how best to participate, is to click on this link to the Jazz Journalists Associations Jazz April Website   or the   Jazz Journalist Jazz April Face Book page .    

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In Auckland the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) will be featuring some spectacular Jazz April Gigs and we will be making a presentation to a few deserving local musicians at a JJA Satellite Party (date to be announced shortly).    The CJC line up so far is Nacey/Samsom/Haines (3rd April), Brian Smith Quartet (10th April), Kevin Field Trio (17th April) …more gigs to come.  For those who missed last years satellite party at the CJC, Roger Manins was inducted as a ‘Jazz Hero‘ by the Jazz Journalists Association.

A highlight event will be the Nathan Haines ‘Vermillion Skies’ album Release on the  6th April at the ‘Q Theatre’, Queen Street, Auckland.  This amazing album involves a number of our best-loved Jazz musicians and it will be a high point in the Auckland Jazz calendar.  Don’t miss this event or forget to buy the album (available in download/CD/vinyl).  644217_10152395531247588_299377990_n

There will also be gigs at the ‘Ponsonby Social Club‘, the ‘Grand Central‘ (both in Ponsonby Road) and for experimental improvised music ‘The Wine Bar ‘Vitamin S‘ St Kevin’s Arcade, The Auckland Jazz and Blues Club (Tuesday evenings Pt Chevalier RSA), The ‘Titirangi Music Festival’ Titirangi Village (where the Alan Brown band is playing in the ‘Tool Room” on Friday the 5th April@ 7: 30pm).

Jazz April is now a world-wide event and I know that NZ will not let the side down.  My April posts will be profiled on the JJA Facebook page and or webpage.  The choices Auckland is offering over April 2013 are many and varied.  Locals have absolutely no excuse for not supporting Jazz this month, so see you all there.  

John Fenton

JazzLocal32.com    –   Jazz Journalists Association member

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Concerts - visiting Musicians

Sean Coffin (AUS)@ CJC

On Wednesday the 24th October we had an overseas visitor playing at the club, tenor saxophonist Sean Coffin.   This has been a great year for the Auckland Jazz scene and especially for the CJC (Creative Jazz Club) as a number of interesting local bands, out-of -towner’s, and overseas acts have appeared.  It’s the clubs imperative to offer genuine diversity, and this has caused the CJC to extend its reach.   Because Roger Manins has such a well established Australasian reputation and because the CJC is increasingly seen as a great club to play in, the net is ever-widening.   We are on the Oceania Jazz circuit fair and square.  

Sean Coffin is known in his native Australia for his stellar educational work, but it is his high level tenor playing that draws people to him.  He is among the best that Australia has to offer.   For many years he has been accompanied by his brother Greg (piano) and the work of this formidable pair is well recorded.   Sean studied at the Berklee School of Music and later as a postgraduate at the Manhattan  School of Music.  Among his many teachers I would single out George Garzone, as this world leading tenor player appears to have created a cadre of exceptional students in Australasia.  

At the CJC Sean showcased his most recent compositions and they were mostly themed around his children.  This proved a good source of inspiration as the numbers ranged from heart-felt ballads to some faster paced offerings (one referenced children at play).   These lovingly drawn compositions were well crafted and executed and no one had difficulty relating to them.   It is arguably risky to focus exclusively on family material, but the gamble paid off because the improvisations were tender without once descending into introspective noodling.   The integrity of the compositions as Jazz vehicles was always evident.  A lovely ballad to ‘Garz’ (dedicated to George Garzone) rounded things off nicely.

A local rhythm section was put together for this gig and in due deference to the visitor he was given the best.  Ron Sampsom (drums) and Oli Holland (upright bass).  With Kevin Field overseas, Dr Stephen Small took the piano chair.  No one needs to puzzle over my views on Ron Sampson and Oli Holland as my support for their work has been constant over time.  These two go way beyond the merely competent; they are solid, reliable musicians and they are also gutsy enough to handle new challenges without flinching.   Listening to them live or in a recorded situation will tell you everything you need to know.

Seeing Stephen Small again was an unexpected pleasure, as the patch he normally patrols is on the periphery of the Jazz world.  Because he teaches classical piano at Auckland University it would be easy to overlook the fact that he has other strings to his bow.   He is a madman on keyboards and I have seen him cut loose on banks of synthesisers during a Jazz fusion gig.   To say that his fusion performance was riveting would be an understatement.  He created textural layers of sound which swirled and soared alternatively.  Put him together with a fusion versed guitarist like Nick Granville or Dixon Nacey and he will take your ears apart in the best possible way.  Stephen is also a highly talented, straight-ahead, post-bop pianist and judging by the whoops of delight as he negotiated his solo’s he needs to get down to the CJC more often.   I am casting my vote for one of his Jazz fusion gigs.

Sean worked hard all evening and at the end he invited Roger Manins to the bandstand.   There was obvious respect between the two men but that didn’t stop them from going hard out.  When the best tenor players occupy the same bandstand, it generally ends up being a joyful celebration rather than a cutting contest.   This was respectful but no quarter was given.

CJC Creative Jazz Club gigs, Concerts - visiting Musicians

Mark Lockett Trio – album launch @ CJC

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Drummer led bands have never been commonplace and drummer led trio’s even less so.  Just because the leader is a drummer does not mean any more or less than it would if the leader was a bass player or a saxophonist.  A leader is there to impart a creative vision and this trio rose to the task.

On Wednesday the 4th of July the Rattle Records/ ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’ launch tour arrived at the CJC in Auckland.   The prior and subsequent tweets or Facebook posts have pointed to the success of the gigs, which have been well received throughout New Zealand.  To read my earlier review see below ‘Mark Lockett – Sneaking Out After Midnight’ from this blog site.

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The band that toured New Zealand may not have featured New Yorker’s, Joel Frahm (sax) or Orlando Le Fleming (bass) but we did extremely well with their replacements.  Mark had wryly commented that the former were unable to tour ‘for tax reasons’.    The Australian Alex Boneham replaced Orlando Le Fleming and his work is already well-known to the Auckland Jazz community.    Alex has previously toured here with the Steve Barry trio and I doubt that any of us will ever forget the telepathic interplay between Steve Barry (piano), Alex Boneham (bass) and Tim Firth (drums).   This is an in-demand bass player who recently won the ‘Best young Australian musician of the year award’.  He is both attentive and inventive and what you get is skillful interplay and adventurous improvisation.

The third trio member was Australian alto player Julian Wilson, who has worked with Mark Lockett for many years.   He acquitted himself well.

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What particularly struck me was just how musical Mark’s drumming was and when he and Alex fell into lockstep it was riveting.   To purchase copy of ‘Sneaking Out After Midnight’ contact Rattle Records Ltd  (link).

I have streamed one track from the album titled ‘Mr Pickles’.  Mr Pickles is the story of Mark Lockett’s cat and an unfortunate neighbour – a hapless man who thought that he could outsmart a cat.   Being a great respecter of cats and their place in the Jazz story I could not help but include this.  This is as good a cat story as you will hear.