Monthly Archives: April 2010

THE SECOND SET (THE EAR INN, April 25, 2010)

I have had a great deal of pleasure listening to jazz in many places, but the second set at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street in New York City) on a Sunday night when The Ear Regulars are playing is a true oasis.  

After their set break, the musicians are content, relaxed.  Their tempos rock; their music is stirring.  And there are usually some sterling additions, surprise guests who bring their horns and their talents.

Last Sunday, April 25, 2010, the Ear Regulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Harry Allen, and Neal Miner.  “Some band!” as Charlotte would say. 

They played a stellar set, which I captured in a post here, logically called THE FIRST SET (https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/the-first-set-the-ear-inn-april-25-2010/).

Even better, some official Ear Pals came in: Andy Farber with his tenor sax; Danny Tobias and his cornet; Chris Flory (without a guitar but ready to borrow Matt’s), and Jim Whitney (ditto for Neal’s bass). 

In another world, the combination of two tenors, two trumpets, and a rhythm section might have stirred up competition.  But not here.  High notes and long solos aren’t the rule at these sessions; no, they are much more like a group of friends having a good time. 

The original quartet started off the second set with a leisurely saunter through a Ben Webster line (a composition twice removed?), DID YOU CALL HER TODAY?  In the interests of full disclosure, I must say that Ben is supposed to have substituted another verb in the title.  CALL is based on the chords of IN A MELLOTONE, which is based on ROSE ROOM.  The source of ROSE ROOM is yet untraced:

Beginning with Neal, here’s the second part:

Continuing the Ellington-out-of-Riff mood, Jon-Erik called for THE JEEP IS JUMPIN’, a Johnny Hodges version of I GOT RHYTHM — and invited Andy and Danny to the bandstand:

Here’s the rocking last chorus:

Jon-Erik passed the scepter to Danny, who called one of his favorite songs, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE:

Keeping the amorous subtext going, someone (was it Chris Flory, now ready to play Matt’s guitar?) suggested COMES LOVE, a favorite of Kenny Davern and Bob Wilber’s.  Jim Whitney had taken over on bass for Neal:

Here’s the conclusion:

Finally, the group (with Chris on guitar but Neal back on bass) romped through LINGER AWHILE, a song that makes me think of a Dicky Wells record with Lester Young, Bill Coleman, Ellis Larkins, Freddie Green, Al Hall, and Jo Jones on board:

I couldn’t linger for too long, but I can’t wait until next Sunday.  You come, too!

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THE FIRST SET (THE EAR INN, April 25, 2010)

It was just another extraordinary Sunday night at The Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street.  The Ear Regulars — Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Harry Allen, and Neal Miner — embodied all the jazz anyone could ever want in about an hour.  Bix and Louis floated by; King Oliver looked in the doorway; Don Byas and Count Basie sat a spell; Billie, Lester, and Ben made themselves to home. 

And in the corporeal audience, New York Times jazz critic Nate Chinen and his wife Ashley sat close to the band, Nate taking notes and feeling the rhythms, Ashley smiling. 

Many bands play ROYAL GARDEN BLUES fast and faster; the Ear Regulars looked back to the easy stroll of a Basie small group.  The first few seconds of the video are disconcertingly blurry, but they improve and the music is always in sharp focus:

SOME OF THESE DAYS is a finger-waggling song — “You know, you do that one more time and I’m gone!”  This band doesn’t have it in its collective heart to be threatening, but they certainly had fun with this melody:

Then it was time for a pretty song of romantic jubilation, at “rhythm ballad” tempo, I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME:

LIMEHOUSE BLUES is too interesting a song (especially with its dramatic verse) to be consigned to oblivion, so the Ear Regulars make a point of bringing it out regularly:

What would life be like without a beautiful ballad by Harry Allen?  Here. his choice was the ruminative, sad SEPTEMBER SONG:

Showing us once again that “the material is immaterial,” the Ear Regulars launched into one of the oldest “songs to blow on,” TEA FOR TWO, with delicious results:

The music was wonderful — you couldn’t miss it — but just as delightful was that Nate, bless his heart, wrote it up for the Times in a way that showed that it does mean a thing . . . and he felt the swing.  Here ‘t’is:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/arts/music/27kellso.html

THE NIGHTHAWKS ARE FLYING! (April 19, 2010)

Here are two wonderfully acrobatic performances by Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks that I recorded at Sofia’s in the Hotel Edison one week ago.  My nomination for Olympian here is trombonist Jim Fryer, but he has stiff competition!  On that Monday night, the Hawks were Vince (vocal, bass sax, tuba, string bass); Kenny Salvo (banjo, guitar); Peter Yarin (piano); Arnie Kinsella (drums); Jon-Erik Kellso, Mike Ponella (trumpets); Dan Levinson, Dan Block, Mark Lopeman (reeds); Andy Stein (violin / baritone sax). 

The Nighthawks pay tribute to a 1930 West Coast band, Paul Howard’s Quality Serenaders, with a TIGER RAG variant called CHARLIE’S IDEA that originally featured Lawrence Brown and Lionel Hampton.  You’ll see what I mean about a leaping Jim Fryer as well as the dancers on the floor and Jon-Erik’s version of HOTTER THAN THAT, another ragged tiger:

And here’s a hot jam session on EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY, with a pair of slow-motion dancers and a positively demonic solo from Arnie Kinsella (and some calmer excursions from Dan Levinson, Andy Stein on the Stroh phono-violin, among others):

And this virtuosity takes place every Monday from 8-11 PM at 211 West 46th Street!

ONE-NIGHT STAND! DAN LEVINSON’S PALOMAR TRIO (April 29, 2010)

Benny Goodman was and is such a powerful influence on generations of musicians — especially clarinetists — that there are many players still living off of the King of Swing’s solos.

But Dan Levinson, who plays a number of reed instruments with great skill and understanding, is head and shoulders above the Kinglets. 

He can, upon request, rip off choruses that will make you think you are back at the Madhattan Room with your best girl or fellow in 1937; he can play a lovely ballad.  But he’s not a copyist or an imitator at heart.  Rather, he’s someone who understands the jazz and pop of that period (and of earlier eras) so that he can improvise on a song that didn’t exist in 1937 or he can make, say, CHINA BOY, sound new. 

One of Dan’s groups (he is a man of many affiliations and associations) is his Palomar Trio, which pays tribute to the California spot where Benny and his band caught fire in front of a large popular audience.  The other members are the swinging marvel Mark Shane on piano, and the ebullient Kevin Dorn on drums. 

They’ll be appearing at Shanghai Jazz in Madison, New Jersey, on Thursday, April 29, 2010 from 7:00 – 9:30 PM.  The club is at 24 Main Street.  For reservations or information (there’s no cover charge for the music, but there is a $15 food and drink minimum per person, and the menu is — as the name would suggest — Asian), call (973) 822-2899 0r or contact info@shanghaijazz.com.  The club’s website is www.shanghaijazz.com.  

I’ll be there!

ENCORE! THE CANGELOSI CARDS (2-27-10)

The performance the Cangelosi Cards put on, casually but with great skill, at the Shambhala Meditation Center, stands out as one of the great sustained musical evenings of my life. 

The Cards are delighting audiences in Shanghai, China, as I write this — and here, for those of us who miss them badly (and for those who have not yet experienced them) I present the four songs remaining from that evening.  I’ve been hoarding these videos, but it’s time to open the treasure chest one last time.  The Cards here are Tamar Korn, Jake Sanders, Gordon Au, Dennis Lichtman, Marcus Milius, and Debbie Kennedy:

They began the evening with the song I associate with the Boswell Sisters (and, later, with Marty Grosz) — another song that celebrates love and caffeine (or tea), a good combination — WHEN I TAKE MY SUGAR TO TEA:

Then, that sweet celebration of the love that one has found at last — EXACTLY LIKE YOU.  I read in Mezz Mezzrow’s brightly colored autobiography that the Harlem hep cats who knew the inside story called this tune ‘ZACKLY, which stuck in my mind:

Tamar sat one out — Jelly Roll Morton’s mournful, mysterious WININ’ BOY BLUES (or WINDING BALL BLUES, you pick):

And every jazz performance needs a Fats Waller song to be complete, so here’s the swing masterpiece HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, which we have to remember is more than just a well-known set of chord changes with an intriguing bridge: let’s hear it for Andy Razaf’s sly lyrics:

Jake assured me that the Cards will be coming back to us!

WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE A WALK?

Yes, it is a pretty Harry Warren song from 1931.  But I mean a real walk — a jazz walk. 

Paul Blair, someone who knows his jazz, has been editing the local jazz monthly called Hot House for the past six years.   And he’s also been conducting walking tours through various New York neighborhoods.   This home-grown enterprise – operating under the name SwingStreets (www.SwingStreets.com) – began with a focus on historic local jazz addresses:  musicians’ homes and hangouts, clubs past and present.  Paul’s led outings in Midtown, Greenwich Village, the East Village, Bed-Stuy and Fort Greene-Clinton Hill. 

Lately, he’s broadened his approach and now also leads folks with absolutely no interest in jazz through particularly distinctive Outer Borough neighborhoods they’d be unlikely to explore on their own.  Still, his most popular tour remains the one covering Harlem. 
 
A typical tour (one Paul conducted two weeks ago) went like this: “We begin at 11:30 AM in front of 3940 Broadway (a prominently numbered building situated on the NE corner of Broadway and 165th St.) and, after strolling at a fairly leisurely pace, end up at the corner of Lenox Ave. and W. 125th St., near Sylvia’s Restaurant.   I’m always willing to take people further, if they wish, to see Minton’s, down on W. 118th St, near where Otto Hardwicke and Benny Carter once lived.   For those arriving from downtown for a tour, I always suggest taking a subway (either the A or the 1) to the 168th St. station, then walking three short blocks south to our meeting point.  People purchase tickets for those Harlem tours online through my website.  And many of my fellow strollers have surnames suggesting that they’re overseas visitors to the city.”

It costs $25 for two hours, and each participant takes home a free jazz CD. 

I want to see where Otto Hardwicke lived.  Don’t you?

BUZZY DROOTIN, TWICE

First, a story from the man I call The Swing Explorer — the magnificent saxophonist Joel Press:

Buzzy Drootin spent his final decades in the Boston area, initially, with brother Al’s excellent Dixie band at the Scotch and Sirloin (Al rescued him from a day gig at Manny’s Music Store in New York City), and later on the Cape and at Sandy’s Jazz Revival in Beverly, Massachusetts.

When Sandy’s reopened in the Eighties, Bob Wilber led a band which included guitarist Gray Sargent, trumpeters Jeff Stout and Dave Whitney, trombonist Phil Wilson, tenor saxophonists Art Bartol and myself.  Gray, Jeff, and I played in Buzzy’s quintet throughout the following  summer.

Buzzy retained his love for the music and his sense of humor throughout his final years. When a member of the audience requested a Latin number, Buzzy replied, “We only play American music.”

Second, a video preserved for us by archivist and musician Bob Erwig, of a Wild Bill Davison group performing in Sweden in 1984:

The other musicians are trombonist Bill Allred, clarinetist Chuck Hedges, pianist Bob Pilsbury, and bassist Jack Lesberg.  Listen to Buzzy behind the first choruses of Bill and Wild Bill, and his work in the final chorus.  You can’t hear Buzzy’s trademark growl-roar as well as you should, but the joy on his face is vivid, his energy is audible, and his pulse is wonderful.