Last Sunday at The Ear Inn, November 22, 2009, the compact, eloquent quartet — The Ear Regulars or the Earregulars, depending on what region you come from — performed two lovely Ralph Rainger ballads, PLEASE and WITH EVERY BREATH I TAKE. (In case you are new to this scene, The Ear Inn is at 326 Spring Street in Manhattan and the Sunday music goes from 8-11 PM.)
That quartet? Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson, Matt Munisteri, and Pat O’Leary.
But there was a good deal of exciting Hot being played that night as well. “Hot,” as I don’t have to tell this audience, was the name of a certain kind of exciting improvisation when jazz was young. It didn’t have to be fast or loud, but it did have to be focused, intense, rhythmic. The Earregulars know how to GET HOT without raising their voices.
After a brief discussion, Jon-Erik called “a good old New Orleans tune,” I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY — which I always remember in the version by the Capitol Jazzmen (1943) with Jack Teagarden, Jimmy Noone, Joe Sullivan, and even Billy May capably playing the jazz.
This version was neither lachrymose nor apologetic: it was the musical equivalent of, “I’m really sorry. I won’t do it again. Have a Boddington?”
Then, a wonderful pop / jazz tune (from Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer), TOO MARVELOUS FOR WORDS, which doesn’t get played enough, although both Lips Page and the elder Teagarden recorded it splendidly:
And, finally, a lengthy, driving SUNDAY — long enough to require two parts for YouTube, but attentive viewers will hear that Jon-Erik begins the second segment with a quotation from another song from the same era, MY MONDAY DATE. Fun with calendars!
And the conclusion:
I’ve heard versions of this quartet before at The Ear, and have always come away deeply impressed. The horns beautifully complement each other: Scott takes surprising, winding solos that balance Earl Bostic, Lester, and outer space, while Jon-Erik digs deep and always finds quietly impassioned things to say. Matt shines in the darkness, whether he’s finding ringing single-note lines or rocking the band chordally, and Pat O’Leary keeps time so beautifully (no small feat) and plays eloquent, stirring lines. At once, they sound like the entire history of swinging jazz AND like themselves — two simultaneous noble accomplishments.