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.