Daily Archives: November 23, 2011

CONN MEN at THE EAR INN (November 20, 2011)

The Conn men came to town last Sunday.  I don’t mean shifty-eyed slickers who shortchange you, sell you a dying car with a new paint job or a service contract on a $10 item.

No, the players at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) — the EarRegulars — were candid, frank, open and aboveboard.  Good men and true.  But enough of them were playing musical instruments manufactured by the C.G. Conn Company to make the title of this post a whimsical statement of fact.

Jon-Erik Kellso played a 40s Conn 22B trumpet; Scott Robinson an 1931 Olds French model trumpet, as well as his metal clarinet and tenor saxophone); Joel Forbes on string bass and Chris Flory on guitar had their own allegiances, but they looked pleased by the Conn job they were hearing.

I am not enough of a trumpet maven to know who was playing which horn when, so I was sorely tempted to call this blog TWO OLDS CONN MEN, but I calmed down just in time.  Whatever name you might give the horns and stringed instruments, the music was delicious.  Scott and Jon have elegant surprising fun — a pair of starlings having an energetic conversation on the fence as the sun comes up — and they clearly are laughing like mad through their horns.  Watch the great grins that blossom at the end of every performance.  Joel Forbes was in particularly eloquent and super-charged form this night: bass players should be making pilgrimages to study his lavishly huge sound, his fine time, his melodic inventions.  Chris Flory can swing seventeen men with his guitar, so what he can do for three or four is spectacularly mobile.

A tune from 1928 — a show tune, as a matter of fact — more like a delighted effusion as the title suggests — OH, BABY!:

For Billie Holiday and the great balladeers, Scott essays YOU’VE CHANGED — on both tenor sax and then trumpet.  What a combo he is!

Two trumpets paying tribute primarily to the Kansas City Six, sexondarily to a whole romping trumpet tradition: not a cutting contest, but friendly fun on ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

“Don’t forget — this was your idea!” says Scott as they start.

And a closing BLUES FROM THE HEART (my title, but no one objected):

Next week I will post a jam session JAZZ ME BLUES from the second set that mixes Bix and Basie.  I think it will seem superb.

Would I Conn you?

THANKS TWO MILLIONS, or GRATITUDE WITH SWING

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, an official holiday created for us to join with family and friends to be thankful for what we have.  But I’ve been thinking about gratitude for some time now.  (The Beloved lights the way here and in so much else.)  It’s easy to take our bounty for granted: the color of the sky, a bed in a clean warm room, clean water to drink, coffee to start the day, the affection of people near to us and those in cyber-space, and so much more.  Each one of us should have no trouble making an individual little list.

Among so many other marvelous phenomena, I am grateful to the point of tears for the music we love.  Isn’t it remarkable and beyond that we should live in a time where such creativity, such joy is possible — and we can enjoy it over and over?

I give thanks to these wonderful living musicians who have learned so much about creating beauty and having the generosity to share it with us.  Behind them, of course, is that fellow Louis.  Scott Robinson told me (last Sunday at The Ear Inn) that if you listen closely to any kind of jazz, no matter how “far out” it might initially appear, it all comes from that fellow.  Hearing this — I am very constrained in what I say, as some of you will know; I never express any emotions at all — I grinned at Scott and said, “Now I know why I love you!” and we both broke up.

So here are two versions of THANKS A MILLION: for the musicians, for the prosperity that enabled me to buy a video camera and be on the scene, for the love in the air:

That’s Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, reeds; John Sheridan, piano; Jon Burr, bass; Ricky Malichi, drums.  Recorded on September 15, 2011, at Jazz at Chautauqua.

There’s Ehud Asherie, piano; Dan Block, clarinet.  Recorded at Smalls on October 16, 2008.

And a footnote, nothing preachy.  I teach English — literature and writing — to four classes of college freshmen and sophomores, and I met with them this last Monday and Tuesday.  At the end of each class, I looked at them very sternly and said, “I have a Thanksgiving homework assignment for you.”  I can’t describe the collective skepticism in the room, because I never give “homework,” and asking students to “do work” over a holiday when the college is closed seems to them a violation of their basic rights.  And some of them know my deadpan humor.  (Others were simply waiting for me to stop talking so that their holiday could begin, and I understand this completely.)

I said, “I assume many of you are going off to have some sort of meal with family or friends this holiday?” and many of them agreed.

“OK,” I said.  “Here’s your assignment.  Find someone in that room, someone you love.  TELL that person you love him or her.”

Some of them giggled; they all looked relieved.  Maybe that’s the most important thing I will teach them this semester.

One more four-bar break.  I do, of course, have a secret purpose in all of this.  If everyone got in the habit of acknowledging their gratitude, it would be a world full of people saying and thinking THANK YOU! and I AM SO FORTUNATE, which would be lovely additions to the cosmic atmosphere.  And perhaps then we could move into the next phase: noticing those who have less to be thankful for, whether they are homeless people on the street, the Chinese workers who suffer to make our technology (see Mike Daisey’s play about Steve Jobs if you have a heart!) . . . the list is longer and sadder than I can say.  And we could then move from noticing to taking action.  What a wonderful world, then, indeed.

Wishing you all happiness — and not just on Thursday.  JAZZ LIVES wouldn’t have a reason to exist without you.

“I NEVER KNEW”: GERRY GREEN’S CRESCENT CITY SHAKERS with SPECIAL GUESTS DAN BARRETT and CLINT BAKER

Usually ignorance isn’t bliss — but when the condition of Unknowing sounds like this (a cross between a jam session, the 1933 Chocolate Dandies, and an unissued Keynote Records session done in New Orleans) it’s a very good thing.

This band — to be more serious for a few words — was having a good time in Vancouver, B.C., on November 20, 2011, as part of the Vancouver Jazz Dance festival.  Its regular personnel includes leader Gerry Green on reeds, Bob Pelland on piano, Jim Armstrong on trombone and vocal, Bill Dixon on banjo, and the very solid Dave Brown on string bass.  That would be enough for most hearers, but the two guests were truly special: Dan Barrett on trumpet, trombone, and vocal; Clint Baker on drums.

Here they are contradicting the title of the song — I NEVER KNEW.  You don’t learn to play like this in school, and there’s nothing ignorant about this music:

Thanks to the elusive but expert for capturing this performance and others with such skill!