Two reeds and a rhythm section!
Not the sweet crooning of Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra, the jostling-around of Bechet and Mezzrow, or the outright can-you-top-this of Soprano Summit and Summit Reunion.
No. Dare I say it . . . something better. Dan Block (clarinet and tenor), Pete Martinez (clarinet), Matt Munisteri (guitar), and Jon Burr (bass). Cornetist John Bucher looked in for a brief visit, but otherwise it was a reeds-and-rhythm soiree, and a very lovely one at that.
When I listen to these performances again, I think of songbirds having a deep conversation, or vines intertwining, gracefully and ardently. Four of the most thoughtfully compatible jazz improvisers, reveling in the sounds they could make together, their lines complementing and completing each other’s spur-of-the-minute inventions, never colliding or overriding.
Dan and Pete admire each other too much to be competitive, so the ensembles were riffing contrapuntal delights rather than a cutting contest between their Albert system clarinets (thanks to Michael McQuaid for the identification), and when Dan picked up the tenor, it was jazz with a great deal of swinging courtesy: “You play the melody and I’ll improvise around it, and then we’ll switch.”
And the other members of the quartet were having a wonderful time: Jon and Matt, working hard, creating long lines and rocking propulsion. Don’t let the darkness of their corner at The Ear make you miss out on the strong melodies they create!
Here’s a sample of the delights last Sunday at The Ear Inn (that’s 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City):
Although the dawn wouldn’t break over Soho for hours to come, Dan suggested MARIE:
Fats Waller’s encomium about his Baby (complete with exultant verse), I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY:
A logical development on the amorous theme, a slow, swaying LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, with nods to its early, memorable singer (Mr. Crosby) and improviser (Mr. Russell):
Hark, a hot cornetist — over my shoulder! John Bucher joins in for THREE LITTLE WORDS, with riffs that evoke the 1943 Commodore recording with Lester Young and the Kansas City Six:
RUSSIAN LULLABY is a song near to my heart — it works well at so many tempos, and has echoes of Ed Hall, Ruby Braff, Teddy Wilson, Joe Thomas, and Vic Dickenson attached to it (what could be wrong?) — and this version is a classic on its own terms:
And an extra minute, too good to leave out:
Dan Block suggested I THOUGHT I HEARD BUDDY BOLDEN SAY (or BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES) which turned out to be an excellent idea:
In keeping with the generally romantic repertoire and Dan’s love of Irving Berlin, A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:
Memorable creative improvisation — with more surprises to come!