Daily Archives: March 5, 2008


Well, the line from “When I Take My Sugar to Tea” isn’t temporally accurate: the Sunday sessions at The Ear Inn (www.earinn.com.) begin around 8 and end somewhere around 11:15 (JMT, Jazz Musicians’ Time) but the sentiments are still apt. When the Beloved and I are sitting underneath the huge ceramic ear, reading the specials off the blackboard, Monday morning is far away, another time-space continuum.

The amazing synergy that jazz musicians accomplish so casually happened again last Sunday, with the Ear Regulars (Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Mark Lopeman, tenor sax; Joel Forbes, bass) suggesting a Tiny Ellington Orchestra, walking through a growly, amused “Just Squeeze Me.” Lopeman was again in shining form, spinning lovely constellations out of his horn on an energized “Tea for Two” and “I Cover the Waterfront.” At times, this spare trio suggested a late-life Ruby Braff evocation as well as the magic Fifties sessions Lucky Thompson made with Oscar Pettiford and Skeeter Best. And when guitar marvel Joe Cohn joined them, his rhythmic pulse and looping lines nailed everything in place. Dan Block, on alto for a change, joined the group on the second set for a darkly funky “The Intimacy of the Blues,” a Billy Strayhorn composition that sounds as if Bobby Timmons wrote it for the Jazz Messengers. It has a great impassioned thump to it, and Kellso’s solo – as is his habit – built chorus after chorus, full of Detroit-and-environs soul. (This uncluttered performance ran for fifteen minutes, my idea of jazz bliss when the soloists have eloquent things to share with us.) Lopeman had a groovy “Everything Happens to Me” all to himself in that set and he made that often self-pitying song rock and saunter.

This coming Sunday, March 9, the Ear Regulars will once again have Kellso and Block on the tiny postage-stamp square of floor that is their bandstand. They’ll be joined by guitarist Chris Flory, whose winding lines faithfully come back to the blues, and the eloquent, steady bassist Lee Hudson. This quartet worked together splendidly (with Larry Ham and Chuck Riggs) on Block’s most recent CD, Almost Modern, (Sackville 2069) the result of a five-year investigation by Dan and Chris into that under-explored period of jazz which encompasses late, harmonically sophisticated swing playing and early bop. They brought forth compositions by Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins, Illinois Jacquet, Don Byas, the unacknowledged pianist and composer Sir Charles Thompson (still with us!), Howard McGhee and others. This music combines the easy, polished swing of the late Thirties and onward with the broader harmonies and occasionally less predictable rhythms of Bird and Dizzy.

And Monday morning? Shhhhhh! The Ear Regulars are playing! Join us as we make Carpe diem a joy rather than a gloomy necessity.



I first heard Kevin Dorn play drums at Ray Cerino’s birthday party in October 2004, with Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Levinson, Mark Shane, and Vince Giordano – the best in their line. And I was astonished. Who was this young man who had so thoroughly learned the lessons of George Wettling, Gene Krupa, Cliff Leeman, Dave Tough, and Sidney Catlett? He knew everything about swinging, steady, unobtrusive time, about varying his timbres behind each soloist, about kicking a band into a hollering outchorus. He wasn’t imitating anyone – he was himself, in the moment, which made his playing creative, energetic, and fun. And we had a cheerful conversation between sets about the spiritual rebirth possible through close listening to Bud Freeman and his Famous Chicagoans (Columbia, 1940).

Good fortune followed, as I got to hear Kevin lead his own band – the Traditional Jazz Collective – many evenings at the now-vanished Cajun. It was “traditional” in repertoire but hardly in approach and instrumentation. Some nights there was a trumpet player (Kellso, Charlie Caranicas, Dan Tobias) and often the wonderful singer – trombonist J. Walter Hawkes, but often it was a reed-based band featuring Michael Hashim on alto and soprano saxes and Pete Martinez on clarinet, with a rhythm section of Jesse Gelber on piano and Doug Largent on bass. Hashim and Martinez sounded like a wild enthusiastic stretching of Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra, led by Edmond Hall with a rhythm and blues Doc Poston, the rhythm section attuned to every idiosyncratic risk-taking. It was an egalitarian band, with tempos, solo orders, and repertoire determined by amiable consensus: one of the few working jazz ensembles where no one was annoyed by anyone else, week after week.

The TJC made two fine CDs on the Little Simmy label (check out the soundbites on Kevin’s website, www.kevindorn.com.). But they haven’t had a home base for a while, which is a pity. And Pete Martinez temporarily put his clarinet down, choosing the luxury of a steady paycheck. But he’s back! And the originals – Kevin, Pete, Michael, Jesse, and Doug — will be reassembling this Friday night at The Garage, from 10:30 PM to 2 AM for a splendid downtown bash. The Garage Restaurant (www.garagerest.com.) is at 99 Seventh Avenue South (212-645-0600). I’ll be there to savor the TJC’s unbuttoned approach to “Chinatown” and the blues, to ballads and stomps. The photo below shows Hawkes, Largent, Hashim, Dorn, Gelber, and Martinez — a happy gathering of jazz transcendentalists shaped by Eddie Condon, Thoreau, archaic video games, a dog named Truffles, James Whale, Vitaphone shorts, Tiajuana Bibles, and other arcana.

“Check it out, check it out,” as they used to say on Forty-Second Street. tjc-jpeg.jpg