I remember that once an interviewer, trying to find out whether Ruby Braff was playing a cornet or a trumpet, asked him, “What is that?” pointing at his horn. Ruby, characteristically, responded at top speed, but in italics: “That? That is a musical instrument.” Ruby would have approved of the jazz played at the end of the night on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009, at The Ear Inn, where gifted improvisers seemed to come from everywhere.
After an easy-going opening set by the Earregulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Block (on tenor sax and clarinet), Chris Flory, and Jon Burr, some sterling players came in: cornetist Dan Tobias, bassist Gary Cattley, clarinetist Attilio Troiano, and (new to me and quite impressive) trumpeter Gordon Au. (To read and hear more about Gordon, visit http://www.gordonaumusic.com/html/slideshow.php.
Jon-Erik first offered his chair to Dan Tobias and said, happily, “It sounds too good. I’m going to take notes,” and he watched happily as Dan chose one of his favorite songs, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE, for a genial run-through that reminded me of one of Ruby Braff’s late-period groups.
Then someone suggested THE PREACHER (perhaps by Horace Silver, although the version I know is by a pair of fellows named Bing and Louis). To my ears, it’s really not much of a composition, and Jon Burr pointed out that its chord structure resembles I’VE BEEN WORKIN’ ON THE RAILROAD, but everyone swung out.
Finally, Jon-Erik ended the evening on a triumphant note by calling for STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, complete with an upwards modulation at the end. Trumpets all out! (You knew, of course, that the title of that song — translated into current slang — would be WALKING AROUND WITH MY HOT GIRLFRIEND FOR EVERYONE TO SEE? It has nothing to do with brisket or hot dogs.)
P.S. Victor, the Ear’s guiding spirit and bartender, set the mood before any of the players had come in — by playing Bix and Norvo, Berigan and Condon . . . turning his head to the speakers, Jon-Erik said, “We know we’re in the right place!” and he was correct.