This 1915 composition is not only one but several paradoxes. It’s a multi-strain ragtime composition, not a blues, and it is anything but WEARY. For more about Artie Matthews, who had a rich life when he wasn’t composing, click here to read an impressive biographical sketch by Bill Edwards.
Appropriately, the gentleman pictured above resembles some of us in early-pandemic, with a bundle of hand sanitizer, wipes, masks, gloves, and angst.
An electrifying performance of the WEARY BLUES is our centerpiece today. It leads us back to mid-March of this year. I won’t write about my experiences as the familiar world constricted, because everyone has their stories. But I am sure that none of your stories has such an inspired soundtrack.
This performance comes from my March 12, 2020, trip to Manhattan. Should I call it my “last” night in the city or my “most recent” one? Both are accurate, but the latter sounds more hopeful. And the music below radiates hope: created at Cafe Bohemia on 15 Barrow Street on that Thursday night by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar, Sean Cronin, string bass, and guest Josh Dunn, guitar.
As you drink it all in, please admire the beauties below: a tempo both leisurely and intense, an ensemble that knows all the strains (so beautifully directed by Maestro JEK), eloquent lessons in individual approach and timbre, graduate work in the art of building solos and ensemble playing. Although there are only five players, this performance has all the orchestral density of a composed piece, yet it’s invented in front of our glistening eyes. There was only a small audience at Cafe Bohemia that night for this set — more cautious people were huddling at home or nervous at the grocery store — but now the audience can be world-wide:
What’s the paradox here?
The song is called Weary, but it’s joyously exuberant. Let it be our theme song as we turn aside from weariness to embrace life-affirming emotions.
May your happiness increase!