Sunday night at The Ear Inn, the performances that moved me the most were three love songs — interspersed with up-tempo romps on I NEVER KNEW, LINGER AWHILE, WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS, and THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE.
The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet and moral guidance; Mark Lopeman, tenor sax and clarinet; Chris Flory, guitar, Joel Forbes, bass. Not to downplay the fervor of anyone in the quartet, I would hand the palm to Lopeman, whose muscular, tender improvisations hark back to Lester but look forward to Lopeman.
For some bands, the first song of the first set is a shakedown cruise, a tentative warm-up of muscles both physical and emotional. But not this quartet, who had everything magically in place from the first notes of SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART.
A grammatical digression: I prefer the title as written above, which seems a hopeful entreaty. “Someday, sweetheart, we’ll . . . (fill in the blank).” SOMEDAY SWEETHEART is ambiguous. Someday you’ll be my sweetheart?
The melody is sweet, but the song’s lyrics are accusatory: a precursor to SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY. And since Louis part-dreamed of the melody of GOODNIGHT, ANGEL, it is possible he dreamed of the emotional aura of SOMEDAY, SWEETHEART: “you will be sorry / for what you’ve done / to my poor heart”? The subconscious is wonderfully mysterious.
The EarRegulars take this pretty, ancient Morton-inspired song at what I think of as the Venuti-Lang All-Stars tempo: a sweet-natured jog. Not too slow, not too fast:
Then, someone suggested EMBRACEABLE YOU, usually taken at a rhapsodic-operatic tempo. Here, it’s slightly more animated, as if some embracing was actually on the menu (Charlie Parker tempo?) and it made space for an absolutely eloquent melodic improvisation by Lopeman:
Finally, there was ON THE ALAMO, which some people think a cousin to THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS, but it’s actually a sweet 1922 song about love-longing. The lyrics are nineteenth-century, as the singer waits at the garden gate for the Love Object to return, although Jon-Erik and Chris both had the Benny Goodman Sextet in mind:
The fact that these sessions are getting informally recorded for posterity by me, Stanley, and Jim makes me happy. This is timeless music, even with the occasionally blurry focus and odd angle, the crash of dishes and the shouts of “I need a Bailey on the rocks!” It’s a privilege — and that’s no cliche — to share it here. But that no record company executives come to The Ear Inn is sad and strange. The floating lyricism everyone displays here is irreplaceable. Embraceable, too. Till next week!