This performance — faster than usual, happily so — took place last night, Sunday, June 21, 2009, at The Ear Inn. Wedged into their usual corner were that night’s brilliant edition of The Ear Regulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Jon Burr, bass. The song — written by (among others) Jule Styne in 1927 — is usually taken at an easy lope, but the Regulars tore through it as a change of pace.
To look at this band, you’d think them entirely involved in giving and receiving pleasure: they listen in a kind of rapture to each other’s solos; they construct witty, pointed, empathic backgrounds and riffs. And the communion, creativity, and joy we sense are obviously coming from deep inside them, individually and collectively. But there’s a paradox at work in this performance: everyone on this bandstand had only learned that day of the death of trombonist Joel Helleny — someone they had all respected, played alongside, and known. One way to handle their grief might have been to refuse to play, to go off somewhere to grieve in solitude. But these artists chose to heal themselves by offering their energies as only they could. Their spirit and their choruses healed us.