Jazz is full of songs that have BLUE in the title that aren’t actually blues, whether 8, 12, or 16 bars. And the EarRegulars played two of the nicest ones last Sunday night, December 6, 2009, at The Ear Inn (that’s 326 Spring Street, New York City).
For that night, the EarRegulars were anchored by their co-founders, Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri. The other members of the quartet were trombonist Harvey Tibbs and bassist (often vocalist) Nicki Parrott.
Harvey Tibbs is a quiet, jovial person — not someone looking for his moment in the spotlight, so he hasn’t received as much recognition as his talent deserves. It’s a real pity: although I’ve heard him play with the Gully Low Jazz Band and with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks in person, and with Buck Clayton’s Swing Legacy Band on CD, I’ve never heard him lead an ensemble for a gig. He knows a wide variety of music and would fit in anywhere. His style is low-key but effective: his technique never outruns his feeling, and he fits his playing into the song, rather than the reverse. Officially, he was Sergeant First Class with the West Point Jazz Knights for 22 years, and he continues to pop up in a variety of settings (from “swing dance” bands to “Dixieland” and “Latin” bands and the pit orchestras of Broadway shows. Listen closely to what he plays on these two selections: his fellow musicians know just how fine a player he is.
Nicki Parrott is such an ebullient personality on the stand — singing or not — that audiences have been seriously distracted from her fine bass playing, which has continued to develop as she plays alongside different musicians in a variety of settings. At the Ear (as well as at Chautauqua), I admired Nicki’s steady time, her thoughtful, melodic phrasing (she knows how to take a breath!) and her innate swing.
Jon-Erik and Matt were themselves . . . nothing more needs to be said!
My videos include the back of a pretty grey-haired woman’s head. I didn’t ask her to move, because she is Jon-Erik’s sweetly amiable Aunt Debby, whose presence added to the video rather than detracted from it.
The first “blues” was the Twenties novelty tune, BLUES (MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME), made famous in a jazz context by Jimmy Noone and his Apex Club Orchestra, although I am sure it was a hit in vaudeville as well. Here it’s taken at a vigorous Condon-in-the Fifties tempo:
The quartet also ventured into Benny Carter’s pretty, moody BLUES IN MY HEART, which dates from 1931 but still sounds so fresh:
These compositions are not official “blues,” but are unmistakably rewarding jazz.