Maybe it was all because of the blue lights at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) last Sunday night, that things took on such a loose experimental flavor.
More likely it was the presence of Scott Robinson — a free spirit who encourages others to drop their inhibitions in a corner and proceed bravely into unexplored realms.
And Scott brought three instruments: his familiar tenor saxophone, his Hungarian taragota (originally owned and played by Joe Muranyi) — that sounds like a cross between a soprano saxophone and something else, while resembling a thick clarinet — and his German Jazzophone, a trumpet of sorts that is bent into the shape of a curved saxophone . . . with two bells, one open, the other able to be closed off for muted hallooing sounds.
This isn’t to say that Scott ran over everyone else in the EarRegulars — it’s not his style — but he did inspire one and all. The other players were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jon Burr, bass; Joe Cohn, guitar; and guests Elana James (of the Hot Club of Cowtown) on fiddle and vocals; Tim Newman on bass trombone, and Vinny Raniolo on guitar. You’ll hear a good many playful conversations (especially between old friends Jon-Erik and Scott) that take us well beyond the ordinary excellence one finds at The Ear Inn.
Here are some highlights of a luminescent indigo get-together!
From the first set, a stirring COQUETTE that keeps thinking of P-TOWN, an original by guitarist Joe’s most esteemed father — Al Cohn:
An old favorite, MEAN TO ME, takes on a new shape as Jon-Erik plunges ahead and Scott brings out the taratgota:
IF I WERE A BELL (with two bells) is a showcase for the many lives of the Jazzophone:
And a rocking PERDIDO (the missed beginning is my fault; the surprise ending is no one’s fault):
The second set at The Famous Ear always has some surprises, and July 3 was chock-full of surprising, inventive players, two on “miscellaneous instruments.”
BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME? sounds even more mournfully pleading when played on the taragota, you’ll agree:
SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET began as a feature for Tim Newman on the bass trombone. Catch the Forties Ellington band riffs under him!
‘ZACKLY (or EXACTLY LIKE YOU for the precise) shows off the double talents — fiddle and vocal — of Elena Davis, one of the sparkplugs of the Hot Club of Cowtown:
DARK EYES had guitarist Vinny Raniolo, a real swinger, taking Joe’s chair:
And a closing BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA [with a goodly outing for the Magic Jazzophone] made me sorry that this evening (the band played for more than a half-hour extra . . . having a ball!) had to end:
When I dream about inspiration and creative camaraderie, I dream of the Ear Inn and anyplace else these players can be found!