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The EarRegulars — Jon-Erik Kellso, Dan Block, Chris Flory, and Jon Burr — began their Sunday session last week (at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) as a relaxed tribute to the spirit and energies of Roy Eldridge, who would have celebrated his hundredth birthday on January 30, 2011.
Roy was not available to drop in with his horn, but this didn’t deter the participants. And when the second set rolled around, Jon-Erik Kellso asked two of his colleagues what they would like to play — a nicely egalitarian gesture. Young Eric Elder from Chicago suggested the lilting hymn to romantic togetherness through domestic chores — easier to do in song than in real life: James P. Johnson and Andy Razaf’s A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID, which sweetly rocked. The jazz scholars in the audience didn’t rise to their feet and insist that the EarRegulars cease and desist because there was no evidence that Roy had ever recorded this song. Oh, no, we were having too much fun with this group that at times sounded like a modern version of the John Kirby Sextet, but looser (enjoy those riffs!) crossed with a John Hammond Vanguard date — with Chris and Jon, the string section, reaching new heights of easy elegance:
Chris then asked Jon-Erik how he felt about HAPPY FEET — always a good idea, a fine romping song with echoes of the 1933 Henderson band (an outfit that had Dicky Wells, Henry “Red” Allen, and Coleman Hawkins) as well as Bing Crosby and the Rhythm Boys. And one of our most prized secret weapons, Pete Martinez, took up his position leaning against the phone booth. Then a surprise for me — Tricky Sam, I mean Jim, Fryer, seated at the bar, playing wonderfully — Jon Burr bowing his heart out before everyone traded epigrams:
Give them a low-down beat and they begin dancing!