INSPIRED NONCHALANCE at THE EAR OUT by The EarRegulars and Friends: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SHAYE COHN, RAFAEL CASTILLO-HALVORSSEN, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, JOSH DUNN, JEN HODGE (July 25, 2021)

By the time I began to attend live jazz happenings in New York City, 1970, the block of Fifty-Second Street once known as “Swing Street” had lost its marvelous coloration: banks and stores now stood where for, about a decade, there had been a line of jazz clubs where one could hear the most magnificent music, with musicians playing not only their own gigs but visiting others’. Ben, Bird, Billie, Big Sid, Bechet, Big T — among a hundred others. All that remained was a few dozen photographs and some record dates that tried to simulate the energies that bubbled up every night.

But in 2007, when Jon-Erik Kellso started a Sunday-night residency at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, often with guitarist Matt Munisteri — the group was not yet called The EarRegulars — those sessions were the closest thing to Swing Street glories that I had ever seen, as the original quartet would delightfully grow with friends coming to add their voices to the swinging choir.

Since May of this year, Jon-Erik has been holding sessions outside The Ear Inn, and they provide the same emotional and aesthetic uplift. The music says in every note: We are not dead. We can still create joy. And we are happy to offer our wise feeling joy to you.

This happened again — most gloriously — on the afternoon of July 25 . . . a fairly quiet time in Soho, with many people having found some way to get out of the city. But those who remained in front of 326 Spring Street will, I propose, never forget what they saw and heard.

And the musicians were similarly transported: watching the performance that follows, please note the facial expressions of the musicians: Jen Hodge’s smile, James Chirillo’s approval, so evident, even behind the double mask. I’ve posted an exuberant sample from that day — the closing performance, THEM THERE EYES, featuring Tamar Korn — and here’s another wonder, James P. Johnson’s IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:

They make it look and sound so easy, which is one of the marks of great art — what Castiglione called “sprezzatura,” or an inspired nonchalance. An extraordinarily lovely interlude by the EarRegulars plus guests, performed for all and sundry (did the passers-by feel the love as they trotted by?). The creators — bless them in long meter — are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; with Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, trumpet; Shaye Cohn, cornet, Josh Dunn, guitar; Jen Hodge, sitting in for Neal Caine, string bass. Wondrous lyricism, a great feast of sounds for our ears and hearts.

I feel so much gratitude to them and their peers: I hope you feel it also.

May your happiness increase!

2 responses to “INSPIRED NONCHALANCE at THE EAR OUT by The EarRegulars and Friends: JON-ERIK KELLSO, SHAYE COHN, RAFAEL CASTILLO-HALVORSSEN, JOHN ALLRED, JAMES CHIRILLO, JOSH DUNN, JEN HODGE (July 25, 2021)

  1. Cleber Guimaraes Ferreira

    Yeah!! Thank you Michael!! Just amazing!

  2. Dear Michael, Thank you for making me cry with joy… and longing… for the NYC jazz scene! Your writing is incredible. ” We are not dead. We can still create joy.”
    Thanks so much for sharing about this wonderful band and venue./I am (or was) a jazz vocalist, but have not been in NYC, my old stompin’ grounds, since pre-covid times. I think I may have met you at Mezzrow, you were filming, circa 2018 or 2019. Absolutely LOVE your blog, just found it today!!!!
    May you and all beings share in my happiness, May YOUR happiness increase!

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