Befire we begin our almost-weekly celebration of high incendiary art in the West Village (that’s The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street in New York City, Sunday 8-11 PM), a little history.
The title I’ve chosen for this blog refers back to a spirited song first made famous in jazz circles through a 1928 recording by Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra. Later, Eddie Condon, who had an ear for good, nearly forgotten songs, brought it back through a 1940 Commodore recording that featured Pee Wee Russell and Fats Waller (transparently incognito as “Maurice,” his son’s given name). Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern resuscitated it once more in performances as Soprano Summit and Summit Reunion. Marty Grosz loves the song and has performed it at Chautauqua and with Frank Chace. But it’s far from a part of the standard “traditional” repertoire, so I was delighted to hear the Ear Regulars begin their first set last Sunday, May 23, with it.
But here’s the history. I searched for a copy of the sheet music online (wanting, among other things, to see how the cover artist handled this exuberant there) — with no success. But the YouTube channel of “victrolaman” turned up something even better, perhaps more authentic: the 1923 Edison recording with vocal by Vernon Dalhart. Some of the lyrics are slightly hard to follow, but the general idea is quite clear — a song celebrating just how good the music is!
History class concluded; everyone gets an A; have a wonderful summer!
Back to the present or at least the recent past. Most ad hoc groups begin their first set of the night with something familiar, not too complicated — perhaps SUNDAY — but The Ear Regulars are more ambitious. So even I, with nearly three years’ happy experience of watching them in action, can’t predict what Jon-Erik or Matt is going to pull out of their imaginary song-files. I was thrilled to hear them launch into this song. By the second chorus, this band was in overdrive or turbo-charged or whatever automotive metaphor might appeal:
And the answer to the title’s somewhat rhetorical question was, of course, “Yes!”
For contrast, the Regulars proceeded to make the very familiar ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET seem new and lively:
Harking back to the Thirties (to Billie and Lester, perhaps even to James P. Johnson), they then explored IF DREAMS COME TRUE:
They were taking their time, thankfully, so here’s the conclusion:
One of the band’s friends, the most gifted guitarist Julian Lage, came in at the start, and the Ear Regulars are very well-schooled jazz hosts, so they invited Julian to join the fun, which he did on a slow, rocking WABASH BLUES. Please pay special attention to the ringing dissonances with which Matt begins his solo: he has an IMAGINATION, he does:
And here’s the second part, just as groovy, beginning with Jon-Erik’s plunger-muted magic:
They decided to finish the set with STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE, a tune “all the musicians love to jam,” here in two parts:
And the conclusion:
I couldn’t stay for the second set, but was very pleased to have been there for this musicale. Everyone was individually inspired, and inspired by their colleagues on the stand.
If I haven’t gone on at length about Kellso’s intensity, Scott’s ability to play any instrument marvelously and his urging playing, Matt’s wise risk-taking, Neil’s lovely sound and solid tempo, Julian’s delving and swooping melody lines . . . it’s because I think all of that should be evident to anyone watching one of the performances above.