Young Felix Lemerle — guitarist, teacher, composer — swings easily and with a natural grace, has a deep repertoire of memorable songs, has a real respect for melody and interesting harmonies that don’t distort the original, and gets a lovely sound from his guitar. He’s not a reactionary who’s devoted his life to copying old records, so he sounds happily like himself, and in his hands the guitar is an electrified wooden sculpture that beams love to us. And his playing breathes, as he creates a graceful balance between sound and silence. You can find out more about Felix here.
I had my first-ever opportunity to hear him on the closing performance at The Ear Inn on Sunday, August 20, but he was playing on a guitar not his own (an obstacle to most musicians, although I would not have known this through what I heard). I asked Felix — who is as gracious a being as he is a player — to let me know when he had a gig of his own. And a week later, he played an afternoon session at Romagna Ready 2 Go on Bleecker Street in New York’s Greenwich Village — the food and ambiance were lovely — with sensitive, intuitive musicians: drummer Doron Tirosh and the wonderful bassist Murray Wall. And two guests, in the second part.
A few words about Murray and about Doron. Murray is soft-spoken and light-hearted, but his music resonates long after he has packed his bass. His playing reminds me of Jonathan Swift’s definition of the ideal writing style: “the natural words in the natural order.” In Murray’s soft, wise playing, there is a floating cushion of exquisite notes, fascinating harmonies, and fine time. He never plays an ugly note or phrase.
I had known nothing of Doron except for the few words of praise from Felix. And I confess that youthful drummers new to me arouse anxiety. I become Worried Elder: “Young man, are you planning to strike that ride cymbal with those wooden sticks? Why, and how, and how often?” But Doron and I bonded over dehydration and exhaustion, and I knew he came in peace. When he began to play, my spirits rose even higher, because he is a melodic drummer in the great tradition of the Masters, of Dodds, Singleton, and Catlett. Before each number, Felix would tell Doron the name of the song, and I could see from their expressions that they knew the melody and the lyrics as well.
One anecdote says worlds about Felix. After I heard him play one song at the Ear Inn and was greatly impressed, I went on Facebook (it is 2016, after all) and said so . . . and the musicians who responded with enthusiasm nearly shut Facebook down.
Here are four very rewarding performances from the first half of the afternoon. Four more will follow.
HOW ABOUT YOU?:
I’M PUTTING ALL MY EGGS IN ONE BASKET:
LULLABY IN RHYTHM:
WILL YOU STILL BE MINE?:
(Felix thanks the very fine Tal Ronen for introducing him to BASKET and to DEEP NIGHT, which will appear in the sequel. We thank Tal, too, here at JAZZ LIVES.)
Now that you’ve seen the videos, you understand that I do not overpraise Felix, Doron, or Murray. And the horticultural reference of my title might become clearer, since the back room of the restaurant, their “garden,” has a glass roof — charming, even when I would look up and see the rain. I know the plants were happier and bushier when the trio had finished than they’d been at the start. Music does that, especially music of this caliber.
May your happiness increase!