Daily Archives: October 5, 2012

DON’T JUST SIT THERE . . . SWING SOMETHING! (Hanna Richardson, Phil Flanigan, Randy Reinhart, Stefan Vasnier, Jared Mulcahy: DO SOMETHING)

I’ve been waiting for this CD for a long time . . . and it satisfies!  Not only does it have a sweetly spiky Modernist cover; inside the paper sleeve is some of the best swinging music you’ll hear.  No hyperbole; no jokes.

“What could cause Michael to make such extravagant claims?” one might ask.  Well, some history.  In the beginning of this century, I was reviewing CDs for The Mississippi Rag, a periodical I miss almost as much as I miss its editor, the sainted and funny and sharp Leslie Johnson.  A new CD came to me featuring a singer I’d never heard of, Hanna Richardson, and a bassist I knew, Phil Flanigan.  I put it on and was immediately happy: they swung without pretense, they improvised sweetly; they made fine melodies sound better, turning them this way and that to the light.  Warmth without sentimentality was their goal, and they accomplished it on every track — often leavened with sly wit.

Eventually I got to meet Hanna and Phil, to see them in the recording studio and to delight in their live performance.  Then, through the Jazz Grapevine, news leaked out from a secret spot in upstate New York.  Hanna and Phil had picked up electrified tenor guitars (four strings, no waiting) and had added them to the Richardson-Flanigan entourage.  And videos started to appear on YouTube of a group they called — with tongue-in-cheek (but not so seriously that Hanna’s sterling enunciation was hampered) TENOR MADNESS.

Your Honor, Exhibit A, WRAP YOUR TROUBLES IN DREAMS (Hanna, Phil, Tom Bronzetti):

EXHIBIT B, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THAT GETS ME? (Hanna, Phil, Stefan Vasnier):

I rest my case.  Ain’t they something?

And now, Hanna, Phil (alternating between string bass and tenor guitar), Randy Reinhart (cornet), Stefan Vasnier (piano), Jared Mulcahy (string bass) have made what they used to call AN ALBUM . . . with the provocative title DO SOMETHING.  The songs are THREE LITTLE WORDS (with the sweet verse) / FOOLIN’ MYSELF (where Hanna goes her own wistful way, not copying Billie) / WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THAT GETS ME? / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU / A PORTER’S LOVE SONG TO A CHAMBERMAID (where housework is the way to Romance) / THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU / ME MINUS YOU (with great wit — remembering Miss Connee Boswell!) / ROMANCE WITHOUT FINANCE (for the shade of Tiny Grimes) / TALK TO ME BABY (a twentieth-century realistic love ditty) / DO SOMETHING (a call to arms!) / I DOUBLE DARE YOU / SHOW YOUR LINEN, MISS RICHARDSON (where Johnny Mercer has never sounded so good).

Not only does our Miss Richardson sound better than ever, but the band, the band . . . is a marvel — rhythm that you could use to walk to Florida, and Randy’s glowing cornet, suggesting Sweets Edison here and Bobby Hackett there.

It is possible that my readers need this CD.  Birthdays, Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, no occasion at all.  It’s a beauty.  Learn more (as we say) here.

May your happiness increase.

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DOWNTOWN STANDARD TIME: THE EARREGULARS at THE EAR INN: JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, JOE COHN, JOEL FORBES (Sept. 30, 2012)

Once again, a triumph of subtlety, precision, wit, grace from the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on September 30, 2012.  The E.R. were very special that Sunday night but they always are: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett (on a brief visit from California), trombone, vocal; Joe Cohn, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.

What particularly delights me is the blending of individual voices and styles into a wholly supportive community: the most uplifting kind of social enterprise that encourages rather than stifles the four selves on the bandstand.  Some will point out that the “tunes” are “old chestnuts,” dating from the early part of the previous century.  In the hands of Forbes, Cohn, Barrett, and Kellso, how lively they are, how full of light and shade and surprises!

WHO’S SORRY NOW? was, as always at The Ear Inn, a rhetorical question:

Dan Barrett bursts into song on James P. Johnson’s ONE HOUR and acts out the innocently naughty vaudeville created by Vic Dickenson — its implication being that one hour wouldn’t be enough to enjoy all the imaginable delights:

When it’s played like this, Walter Donaldson’s LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is so engaging that its title stops being an ultimatum — and this version has affectionate nods to Jack Teagarden and Lester Young, as well as a vertiginously brilliant final bridge from Dan:

“Say, you live in New York City or nearby and you’ve never been to The Ear Inn on a Sunday when The EarRegulars are playing?  What a remarkable version of self-denial that is!”

May your happiness increase.