Last night at The Ear Inn, I kept thinking of Emerson’s lines from “Self-Reliance”:
It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great person is one who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
I saw this acted out in front of me for two joyous sets of jazz, as Pete Martinez, clarinet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neil Miner, bass, pretended that a noisy crowd and a rainy night didn’t exist.
They didn’t glower at the young woman near me, talking loudly to her friend while she twiddled away at her glowing BlackBerry; they took no notice of the man at the bar (I couldn’t see him) whose dialogue with his buddy was unceasing and tediously vulgar; they improvised singly and collectively as if none of this mattered. And it’s a tribute to their love of their art and their focus that it didn’t.
Matt was exhausted, having just flown in from Zurich with no sleep; Harvey was continually trying to find a place to play and not get entangled in the parade of oblivious people in the narrow corridor in front of the band; Pete was placed by the door, which opened and shut more than I would have liked. Only Neil had a small sanctuary, and he was pressed in among pipes and a low ceiling.
Here are three performances by an even-tempered, good-humored, spiritually uplifted and uplifting quartet — another casually brilliant version of the Ear Regulars, keeping their independence while improvising collectively, offering us perfect sweetness. I know some of the people in the room heard it; I hope that even the talkers got some subliminal blessings from this group.
Here they do that most brave thing — a rhythm ballad which, you’ll notice, didn’t keep the level of conversation down. It’s I COVER THE WATERFRONT, perhaps appropriate to the rain and the Ear’s proximity to the river. and a quiet homage to Billie, Louis, and Lester:
In the second set, someone called for ‘DEED I DO, always a bright message of affirmation:
And, right after it, a “Dixieland classic,” a “good old good one,” JAZZ ME BLUES, neatly and comfortably sitting somewhere between 1927 and 2010 in the place where Bix and Don Byas trade solos:
Inspired jazz conversations throughout — as well as Pete’s bright-yellow hot sound, echoing Ed Hall but not copying him, as well as Harvey’s old-time-modern approach to his cumbersome horn. Matt didn’t let tiredness get to him, spinning out long, ringing solos, and Neil reminded us, once again, of the beauties of the acoustic string bass in this idiom.
Emersonian, and transcendental, too.