Category Archives: The Real Thing


Some small history: The EarRegulars ceased playing their restorative Sunday-night gig at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) more than a year ago, in March 2020. About a month later, I decided to do what I could to assuage the collective grief and absence by creating a Sunday-night post where I offered video performances by the EarRegulars going back to 2009. It was a ceremonial offering of hope and joy — reminding us of the glories of past Sundays and keeping alive the idea that these communal explosions of life would come again. But my tone was elegiac, because no one could confidently say, “We’ll be right back after this brief pause.”

As of Sunday, May 2, a dream came true when the EarRegulars — Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor and C-melody saxophones, Eb tuba, and Pat O’Leary, string bass, performed “at” The Ear Inn, out on the sidewalk, in the sunshine, to a happy crowd.

Nothing is certain in this life, but optimism has taken the place of mourning, so the Sunday-night mood at JAZZ LIVES will no longer be a wistful look into the past but a celebration of what is happening NOW.

In the past few days, I’ve shared videos from that May 2 performance: I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY, DON’T BLAME ME, CHINATOWN, An EDDY DAVIS ENDING, HINDUSTAN, and GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU? — which you can visit easily by going backwards through the postings. Today, however, the most appropriate piece of music to the theme (perhaps not exactly death and rebirth, more like induced-coma-and-bringing-the-patient-back?) is the venerable Chicagoan THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:

The May 9 performance was cancelled beforehand because of rain, but I expect to have more joyous sidewalk-phenomena to share with you. Dreams do come true, and wonders never cease. Welcome back, heroes.

May your happiness increase!

“LOVE MAKES ME TREAT YOU THE WAY THAT I DO”: The EarRegulars Show Us Love (Outside at The Ear Inn: Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Scott Robinson, Pat O’Leary, May 2, 2021)

Wise humor by Maria Traversa.

I’ve always felt Don Redman’s plaintive love song deeply — posed as a question, explaining devotion to someone who needs an explanation, which makes it more poignant (“Don’t you understand why I do these things for you, my dear?”) — GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU?

Hot Lips Page, Jimmy Rushing, Billie Holiday, and Nat Cole sang it . . . but even if you know only the title, you get the feeling. And the EarRegulars specialize in feeling.

Here they are, laying it on us, outside the Ear Inn, on May 2, 2021:

Delightfully, this is not meant to be a single remarkable occasion, like the appearance of Halley’s Comet in the night sky. No, the EarRegulars have plans — pray for no rain! — for Sunday, May 9, 2021, with Kellso, Munisteri, O’Leary, and John Allred, trombone. What’s that? “It’s Mother’s Day, Michael!” “Doesn’t Mom deserve the best?

Did you miss the joys of May 2 that I’ve posted so far? Get comfortable and let yourself be pleased here. And if you understand the significance of this event and the promise of Sundays to come, you will notice more people grinning as you get closer to Spring Street.

May your happiness increase!


Yes, the stories you’ve heard are true. “It happened. I felt it happen.” Last Sunday, from 1-3:30, the EarRegulars (Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone, tenor saxophone, Eb tuba; Pat O’Leary, string bass) brought color to the cheeks of a moribund city — resuscitation or resurrection, you choose — and it was wonderful. Skeptical? See and hear more here.

And they will be doing it again on Sunday, May 9, same time, same place, only with John Allred in for Scott.

Energized whimsy by Maria Traversa.

Here’s a wondrous journey to the Exotic East — HINDUSTAN, with key changes from C to Eb on every chorus. Romping is what I call it:

This Sunday, from 1 to 3:30, at 326 Spring Street. No dress code, but expect to help the Ear by purchasing something to eat. Bring cash for the musicians, please. Good tipping is good karma. And decorous behavior: no capers in the street with your beer sloshing. But otherwise . . . bring open hearts and ears.

May your happiness increase!


I’m not being facetious at all. Last Sunday, May 2, a kind of spiritual rebirth took place outside 326 Spring Street from 1 to 3:30, when that blessed little band of swing creators, the EarRegulars, played two uplifting sets to a happy audience. They were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, C-melody and tenor saxophone, Eb tuba; Pat O’Leary, string bass.

They will return on Sunday, May 9. Details below.

Inventive art by Maria Traversa.

Here are a few of the savory performances I captured — in a small puddle (at least metaphorically) of bliss.

Because family relations between children and parents can be fraught, how about I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY?:

On a similar thread of contrition, DON’T BLAME ME:

After the music has ended, you and the family can do the right thing and take Mom to Chinatown for really good food — no fruit cup or green salad with walnuts and dried cranberries, but all sorts of delicacies. Hester Street, Mott Street, and more. Here’s the music to inspire you all:

Probably everyone sentient in the audience knew and loved Eddy Davis, and I know the band certainly did. So Scott launched them in to one of Eddy’s surprise-false-second endings, a kind of Hallelujah! Appropriate to spiritual gatherings:

So, Sunday, May 9. Mother’s Day. Celebrate it with these four mothers of inventiveness: Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, and Pat O’Leary.

Choose wisely. Tell Mom a remarkable treat awaits. You won’t be telling a lie.

However (and this is serious) please tell her that outdoor gatherings have their own set of rules: patrons need to be aware of the laws as far as spilling over beyond the Ear property, and standing around drinking outside, not bringing their own chairs and beverages, etc., or blocking the sidewalk or street. If Mom stands in the middle of the street with her open IPA or blocks traffic, these gatherings will not continue. But she’s reasonable, I know.

May your happiness increase!


For those of you who live in my aesthetic neighborhood, the sentence “Rebecca Kilgore has a new CD out,” will require no explanation. Cheering, high-fiving, messaging friends, but no explanation.

This is the magic doorway through which you can snag this fine music.

The CD was recorded in 2020, with Becky’s long-time friends and musical partners Randy Porter, piano; Tom Wakeling, string bass; Dick Titterington, cornet (on SOMEBODY and STAR only). Here are two samples, for anyone who needs to be reminded of Ms. Kilgore’s ethereal yet solid magic. SOMEBODY JUST LIKE YOU, music by Meredith D’Ambrosio, words by Dan Davis:

and the melancholy BECAUSE WE’RE KIDS, music by Fredrick Hollander, music by “Dr. Seuss”:

Characteristically — our Rebecca lives for song-treasures — much of the repertoire is a series of small surprises, delicate but powerful. Only a handful will be familiar: DEAR BIX, THE GENTLEMAN IS A DOPE, THERE’S A SMALL HOTEL, AZURE, and DAY IN, DAY OUT. The rest are “strangers” that become musical dear friends right off: RUN, LITTLE RAINDROP, RUN / TALKING TO MYSELF ABOUT YOU / OLD SOFT SHOE / I WANNA GET MARRIED / LIKE THE BRIGHTEST STAR / THAT SUNDAY, THAT SUMMER //

Messrs. Porter, Wakeling, and Titterington are sensitive musicians who listen and react — with empathy and intuition. The air is friendly rather than competitive, and their accompaniment is generous, pointing up the beauties of the song and of Rebecca’s interpretation, changing from chorus to chorus but always sustaining the mood. And their solos are wise and sweet: each track feels both spontaneous and composed. This trio’s been working together for ten years, and their working-band intimacy is rare and wonderful. (Beautiful recording by Randy Porter, as well, who knows how to do it.)

I’ve left Ms. Kilgore to last, because no one can follow her. (Except her cat.) She doesn’t shout or howl or stamp to convince you that she is, in fact, a Jazz Singer. No tricks, no gimmicks, no straining. And hers is a mature artistry. The listener never feels that she is in a hurry to get to the next rhyme to land on it with a thump; when there are emotional highs or lows in the lyrics, she doesn’t announce them in capital letters. Her voice remains warm, clear, and unaffected (with casual yet clear diction that other singers could well study). Her swing is easy and unforced, like the companion who walks next to you with a pace unhurried yet never draggy. Most of all , she knows what the song means: there’s never anything mechanical, nor is there High Drama.

Rebecca’s been at The Singing Game for a few years now, and she has a substantial and varied discography. But where other artists begin to repeat themselves: “I had a hit with ________________, so let me find a song that has some of the same mood as ____________,” Rebecca is living anew as she sings. She doesn’t want to repeat herself, for to do so would be to bore herself as well as us. So where, early in her career, she specialized in Light and Bright and Sparkling, she continues to reach out both in repertoire and interpretation so that her performances have the ring of deep authenticity. And I don’t know anyone else singing now who so convincingly can be thoughtful and playful at the same time.

Some singers work very hard to convince you of their Sincerity and to sell each phrase as Memorable. Rebecca doesn’t have to. When she sings, it’s as if a dear friend is sharing a deeply felt story without artifice. Her voice has a speaking lightness: we lean forward to catch the nuances and are happy we did. Like Rebecca, Randy and Tom are lightness and shade, swing and feeling.

The cover says “Vol. One”: I hope for many more!

May your happiness increase!


Marty in full swing. Photograph by Lynn Redmile.

Mark it down. Marty Grosz and friends will be playing an outdoor gig on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at a lovely arboretum. Tickets are $25; the venue is small (around 70 seats) and seats are going quickly. Socially distanced and all those necessary details as well. The friends are Danny Tobias, trumpet, Eb alto horn and other brasses; Vince Giordano, bass saxophone, tuba, string bass; Jack Saint Clair, tenor saxophone and clarinet. This will be Marty’s first gig since the famous ninetieth-birthday parties of March 2020. All this thanks to Barry Wahrhaftig, guitarist, musical sparkplug, and leader of the Hot Club of Philadelphia.

I don’t want to be more tactless than usual, but a Marty Grosz gig is a living reason to Carpe the __________ Diem.

Here‘s where you can get details and order tickets.

And here’s a characteristic Marty-and-friends performance from his ninetieth birthday party at the World Cafe, March 4, 2020. He picks up “the riverboat violin” for the venerable WABASH BLUES — alongside Vince Giordano, tuba; Jack Saint Clair, Dan Block, Scott Robinson, reeds; Randy Reinhart, trombone; Jim Lawlor, drums; Danny Tobias, trumpet. The impatient among you should be warned that Marty, as he is wont to do, tells a tale before the music starts at 7:50. Myself, I think Marty-narratives are valuable (have you read his autobiography, IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE: MY LIFE IN JAZZ, published by Golden Valley Press?) and the music that follows is of course also.

See you there.

May your happiness increase!


I confess I can be guilty of the parochialism that burdens many jazz fans.  Some listen with their eyes (you know what I mean) and some listen for the Name: “I never heard of __________,” translates tacitly to dismissal, based on an unspoken egotism: “I am wise in the ways of The Jazz, and if I haven’t heard of ____________, (s)he cannot be up to my standards.” 

But when a friend whose taste is unquestionably good (in this case, the erudite and friendly Fernando Ortiz de Urbina) says, “You might like this,” I put my impatience and snobbery aside and listen.

And in the case of the young trumpeter Joan Mar Sauqué, I’m seriously convinced.  You can quote me: “Everybody from Barcelona can really do that thing!”


But don’t depend on me.  Hear some brilliant evidence:

and some Jerome Kern:

You can decide for yourself who Joan “Sounds Like,” and I have my own short list of eminent names, but what he sounds like to be is delightful: lyrical but fluent, fast on his feet with every note ringing chime-like.  Airborne but serious.  He’s heard many people but — hooray! — he sounds like himself.  Joan is comfortable simply playing the melody — that great art — or embellishing it, making it shine even more.  His improvisations are harmonically wise but he never aims strings of notes at the listener as if he were firing bullets.  He makes music that “comes in the ear like honey,” but it’s never sticky or trite.  And his colleagues, guitarist Josep Traver and bassist Giuseppe Campisi, are empathic swinging partners, making music both translucent and memorable. 

If you must — does the mental algorithm demand such things now? — I’m reminded of Warren Vaché, Tony Fruscella, Ruby Braff, Shorty Baker . . . but my hope is that someday soon I will hear an unannounced track on the radio and think, “Wow, that’s Joan Mar Sauqué!  I’ve never heard that before: I hope it’s another new CD.”

The songs are BITTY DITTY / MY DREAM / RAY’S IDEA / I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU / IN THE LAND OF OO-BLA-DEE, I COVER THE WATERFRONT / KITCHENETTE ACROSS THE HALL / BILL / SHABOZZ / STRICTLY ROMANTIC / STOMPIN’ AT THE SAVOY — a pleasing mix of venerable but sometimes less-played standards and rare tunes from early bebop.  Completely melodic, easy and graceful.  

And here are Fernando’s lyrical, pointed liner notes for this CD: 

From Algeciras to Istanbul, the Mediterranean coasts are a trove of landscapes, people, good food and
good wine. They brim with beauty and history. And winds, winds so old and pervasive that they have
names, depending on their direction. In and around tiny Garrigoles, not far from the Spanish-French
border, they call the nasty, cold air coming down from the mountains, Tramuntana.

Maybe it was the Tramuntana what took trumpeter Joan Mar Sauqué (b. 1996) from Garrigoles on to
the wider world. These days, that means Barcelona, one of the main jazz hubs in southern Europe,
where his sojourn in Joan Chamorroʼs Sant Andreu Jazz Band was a stepping stone. This turned out to be
a valuable stage in terms of pure learning and the particular camaraderie that big band playing has given
generations of musicians, as well as the chance to play with visiting stars, and a particular aesthetic

That outlook rides on the quiet waves made by the writing of Tadd Dameron, Gigi Gryce and the early
Quincy Jones, the sound of Art Farmer and Kenny Dorham, the short-lived whirlpool that was Oscar
Pettiford… what might be mapped through tired old beacons as “East-Coast Black Cool jazz”. Whatever
we call it, this is where Joan Mar feels at home, firm ground from where he can soar.

In jazz circles, adopting an aesthetic framework from the past, will raise the alarm of purist revivalism or
inane imitation, but this is not the case. Despite several precedents for this kind of trio, from Chet
Bakerʼs in Europe, Nicholas Paytonʼs on Fingerpainting (Verve, 1997), or even saxophonist Lucky
Thompsonʼs with Oscar Pettiford (ABC-Paramount, 1956) Sauquéʼs main motive is not a model from
without, but a decision from within: heʼs seeking clarity in sound, an easy, uncluttered way for the
listener to appreciate the music.

With that vision in mind, aided by guitarist Josep Traver (b. 1968) and bassist Giuseppe Campisi
(b. 1991), braving the pandemic together, with no headphones, Sauqué has produced a classic-style
album—12 tracks clocking at 40ʼ—of tunes mostly from the 1940s. Beyond his instrumental skills,
Sauqué happens to be quite the scholar regarding the music he loves, which explains the rather unusual
selection of repertoire, where melodies rule.

These songs speak for themselves, but a few pointers may be needed. With the melody prevailing over
soloistsʼ egos, the trio takes one minute sharp to dispatch Thad Jonesʼs Bitty Ditty, a brief appetizer,
preceding one of the cornerstones of the session: as far as we can tell, this is only the second recording
of My Dream, after the Harlan Leonard orchestraʼs in 1940, where its composer, Tadd Dameron, served
as principal arranger. Hearing the result, one wonders why no one else had thought of this. And this is
no happenstance: Sauqué scores another goal when he unearths another Dameron gem, Kitchenette
Across the Hall from 1948, which its author never got around to record commercially. In-depth
knowledge of the past is not the cause of Real-Book fatigue, but its remedy.

A “rhythm changes” with a different bridge, originally recorded by Dizzy Gillespie and his band in 1946,
Rayʼs Idea turns the spotlight on Campisiʼs bass, fittingly, given that “Ray” was Brown, a king of the
instrument. Traver, a versatile and forceful accompanist, has a chance to shine under the spotlight too.
Both sidemen take the floor again on another Dizzy big band staple, In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee, where

Sauqué manages to sound fresh and innocent with the cup mute. That sound returns in the lyrical
highlight of the record, Gigi Gryceʼs Strictly Romantic, one of those tunes which had the composer and
his young compatriots in the Lionel Hampton band literally sneaking out through windows in order to
put them on record.

Of the more common titles, two stand out as the opposite ends of Sauquéʼs range: Stompinʼ at the
Savoy is a showcase for his ability with the pixie+plunger combo—echoes from Ellingtonian jungles—,
while on Gone with the Wind he follows the routes opened by the second generation of boppers like Art
Farmer, no screaming or screeching, with a warm tone and some double-time flying.

As an art form where excellence is a long game, jazz may not the most suitable endeavour for this day
and age. Unless, of course, it is what you feel you have to do. This is the case for Sauqué, a man with a
clear idea of what needs to be done.

And for those who can’t get enough, here is Marc Myers’ March piece on Joan, complete with interview.   But the music is what matters, so you can purchase the music as a digital download or a CD here.

Wonderful unfussy music, classic but not archaic.  And now that you’ve “heard of” these players, be sure to show off your new wisdom to your friends!

May your happiness increase!

SUNDAY NIGHTS AT 326 SPRING STREET (Part Forty-Seven) — WE NEED SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: SESSIONS AT THE EAR INN, featuring The EarRegulars (2007 – the Future)

Today the image is different, surprising, but I think appropriate:

That’s Janus, the Roman god of doorways and thresholds — the icon with two faces, one contemplating the past, one looking into the future.

Why has JAZZ LIVES descended into mythology? This post looks both ways as well. For nearly a year, I’ve been reminding viewers / listeners of the heroically uplifting music made at The Ear Inn by the EarRegulars — to keep our sprits up in the darkness of inertia and isolation. Today, May 2, 2021, perhaps while some of you are reading this, I hope to be at 326 Spring Street — live and in person, surrounded by other mortals — enjoying the playing of the EarRegulars for the first of a series of Sunday-afternoon outdoor concerts (1-3:30 PM). They will be Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Scott Robinson, and Pat O’Leary.)

So that is the three-dimensional non-virtual future, soon to be the present, yet I couldn’t leave you in silence and darkness: although this post is short (I have to run), it still celebrates what has been created.

From January 23, 2011, the EarRegulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Tad Shull, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass:

May 2, 2021, will bring its own joys and surprises. I am certain of this.

Postscript: IT HAPPENED. And it was wonderful. Those four heroes swung, soared, played, traded phrases in the most delightful way, and those who know the EarRegulars and the Ear Inn had tears in their eyes. Of relief, of joy, of a return to blissful possibilities. The Fellas (as Nan Irwin calls them) played two sets of long leisurely performances, eleven of them. Who knows? You might be able to see some of what happened. And perhaps . . . .

May your happiness increase!


You never know what you find when you look. And I hope it’s not a stray piece of carrot on the floor or checks that you should have cashed more than 180 days ago and are now invalid. Sometimes the results of the most aimless search are uplifting.

I went prowling through the archives of videos I’ve shot and not shared (many for reasons that have nothing to do with musical performance) and found this incendiary bit of music. It comes from the first set at the 2016 Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party, held at the Village Hotel in Newcastle, UK. (It’s now Mike Durham’s International Classic Jazz Party and the pleasing news is that it is scheduled for November 5-7, 2021: see the site for details.)

The premise of the set was a tribute to the much-missed Mike, trumpeter, singer, and man with plans — a really admirable man with more than one vision — who had not only thought of this jazz party but had made it work, year after year. You can hear from Spats Langham’s address to the audience how much Mike was missed and is admired.

Another reason to share this with you is because Keith Nichols, at the piano, is no longer with us, and although he is not miked as well as he might have been, his ebullient presence is all there. Here’s the band: Enrico Tomasso, trumpet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Thomas Winteler, soprano saxophone; Keith, piano and vocal; Spats, banjo; Phil Rutherford, sousaphone; Richard Pite, drums, storming through a brief but heated tribute to Louis and Bechet as well as Mike, CAKE WALKING BABIES FROM HOME:

2016 was the last year I was able to attend the Party, which happily and resiliently continued on until the pandemic. I hope, and I know I am not alone, that it goes on heatedly in November, with everyone safe and well.

And — just to keep you all comfortably warm, here are two other numbers I did post from that set of hot music:

and . . .

May your happiness increase!



“Very Blowingly.” I think Jimmy Ryan’s, a Sunday afternoon jam session, with Jack Bland, guitar; Kenny Hollon, tenor saxophone; Pete Brown, alto saxophone; Marty Marsala, cornet.



Our text for today is either SIC TRANSIT GLORIA MUNDI or THE SONG IS ENDED (BUT THE MELODY LINGERS ON) — why not both at once?

Live music of the highest order — thanks to trumpeter, bandleader, jazz scholar Yves Francois of Chicago — from January 19, 1948, Phil’s Restaurant and Grill in Waterbury, Connecticut . . . that had a house jazz band and a radio wire.

The splendors of the past!

The house band was Tom O’Brien’s Ragtime Band, and on this broadcast their guest was Hot Lips Page, who talked and played SUNDAY, BLUES, and ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET. O’Brien’s musicians were Chick Chachetti, trombone; Bill Lucard, clarinet; Eddie Boyd, piano; Nick Montello, banjo; Tommy O’Brien, drums:

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Phil’s Restaurant became Phil’s Steak and Lobster, then a used car lot, then . . . .?

And, as Lips tells us, a porkchop is a gold brick now. But his sound and warmth live on.

If you missed yesterday’s explosion of joy from Mr. Page, don’t be the last one on your block to have your mood enhanced without pharmaceuticals here. The password is BLOWINGLY.

May your happiness increase!


At JAZZ LIVES, we don’t much care what cola — if any — that you drink. But we do care about our affection and worship of Oran Thaddeus Page, of Corsicana, Texas, who lit up so many rooms and stages in his short life.

And we care about generous friends, such as trumpeter / bandleader / kind imaginative fellow Yves Francois — who dug down into his collection to share a treasure with us, something I’d not heard before. . . . a 1948 recording from a television program — Lips backed by a band fully in synch with him, although they are unidentified (I believe the pianist is Ralph Sutton), performing a novelty he’d recorded with Artie Shaw some seven years earlier. I like that TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, BABY, is a fantasy of Lips and the sympathetic young lady running off to a kind of Big Rock Candy Mountain world. I also like that a prerequisite is that she be barefoot, although I hope the terrain is welcoming. Pay close attention to Lips’ heroic momentum as he moves into his second chorus: “Atlas,” as Marc Caparone calls him. Here’s the neatly-done label (bless you, unknown archivist!) and below is the music.

Lips shows us the way to Paradise:

“Blowingly”? Lips sometimes signed autographs with his own coinage — a witty variation on “Sincerely,” just right.

May your happiness increase!


This is not the most famous of Cole Porter’s songs, nor the most heralded of Teddy Wilson’s performances. But I found myself humming it — silently — the past few days, and thought I would remind myself and you of these moments of beauty. The three-note downward motif is not complex, but it ensnares the listener, and the bridge is so lyrical that it startles on first hearing or rehearing. The version I have permanently embossed on my brain is Lee Wiley’s, but when I turned to the solo piano inventions here — Teddy at his thoughtful best — I was entranced.

Here, from a 1939-40 transcription session:

Here, for Musicraft Records, in 1946:

It’s easy to caricature the most obvious facets of Wilson’s style: the rapid tempos, walking-tenths basslines, the magnificent right-hand arpeggios, but at this tempo, the beauties of his style — sedate, grave, respectful but rhythmic — are evident. Teddy, like his colleagues of the early Thirties, knew how to honor the melody while spelling out the harmonies, and to create new melodies from those harmonies. Elegance, grace, and feeling, all in place from his introduction to Louis’ I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING. The ease of his performance, less violent than Hines, or room-filling like Tatum, could lead someone to believe that it was easy to do, but having spent some time attempting to reproduce four measures of his introduction to I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS from the 1928 “School for Pianists” recordings, I assure you that even when he simplified his style, he was creating magic. And these two performances, exploring Porter’s melody without the “smart” lyrics, have a wistful grace.

And, just because Miss Wiley’s version didn’t leave my mental soundtrack either, here she is at an Eddie Condon concert (Ritz Theatre, March 17, 1945) with Joe Bushkin, piano; Sid Weiss, string bass. That the top notes are slightly beyond her reach only adds to the poignancy of her rendition):

“Why shouldn’t I”? indeed. And not just me.

May your happiness increase!


Your love belongs to me. Or, I hope, to the music.

Even if Valentino is no longer with us, this 1920 song has a sweet energized durability — as shown here at the Grande Parade du Jazz, by four wonderfully distinctive clarinetists. I’ve retained Kenny Davern’s exasperated address to the audience because it’s as good as a four-bar break. Here are Barney Bigard, Kenny Davern, Bob Wilber, and Eddie Daniels (the idiosyncratic explorer), supported by Dick Hyman, piano; Jack Sewing, string bass; J.C. Heard, drums:

Please feel free to supply the appropriate lyrics: teach the children.

May your happiness increase!


Maxine Sullivan reminds me of sunlight coming through the window: her cheery delivery, her preference for medium-up tempos, as if saying, “Look, it’s all going to be all right,” her delight in pure singing and in improvising subtle variations. Even when she sings songs theoretically about heartbreak, such as EV’RY TIME (“I’m going to hate all you men.”) it’s clear she is grinning at the hyperbole of the lyrics, as she does with what’s really a tale of romantic betrayal, SURPRISE PARTY. She isn’t the Princess of Darkness; she is a good-humored beacon of swing.

Here’s a short set filled with songs (Maxine liked, in Louis’ words, to “keep it rolling”) from the 1980 Manassas Jazz Festival, with an extra-special band, even though only Dill Jones gets an extended solo. Maxine is accompanied by Connie Jones, cornet; Dill Jones, piano; Spencer Clark, bass saxophone; Cliff Leeman, drums; Van Perry, string bass; Butch Hall, guitar, performing SURPRISE PARTY / I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING / EV’RY TIME / A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY / THEY ALL LAUGHED / YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINA / WE JUST COULDN’T SAY GOODBYE // This video is from the collection of the late Joe Shepherd:

Sunlight, pure sunlight, streaming in.

May your happiness increase!


Listen up, as someone used to say. And I’m not reminding you to watch the Oscars. On Sunday, May 2, Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars will be performing outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York City, from 1-3:30.

That will soon be NOW. Until that moment, here’s some beauty from THEN — January 16, 2011, created by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Mark Lopeman, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass.






with Chris Flory sitting in for Matt, Miner, HAPPY FEET:

The pot is a-bubble, slowly. Maybe there will be EarRegularity in our collective futures: what a dream come true!

May your happiness increase!


The UPTOWN HALL GANG was a small group out of the overseas Glenn Miller orchestra.  They made a dozen or so studio recordings in 1945, plus four famous sides with Django Reinhardt as a star, but the material here comes from radio broadcasts, and I must thank the deep Miller collectors Tommy Burns and David Weiner for the music, which I have saved since 1984.

The collective personnel is Mel Powell, piano and arrangements; Bernie Privin, trumpet; Nat Peck, Larry Hall, trombone; Peanuts Hucko, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Addison Collins, French horn, Carmen Mastren, guitar; Trigger Alpert or Joe Shulman, string bass; Ray McKinley, drums.  Dinah Shore and Johnny Desmond sang.  The music occupies a fascinating middle-ground between Fifty-Second Street jam sessions and early harmonic experimentations of bebop, with touches of boogie-woogie and echoes of the Goodman small groups.

Here is an hour-long anthology of broadcast performances (with some announcements) taken off the radio in England from mid-1944 to he next year.  The songs are BLOW TOP / WHERE OR WHEN / HOW HIGH THE MOON / NIGHT AND DAY (Dinah Shore) / ROSETTA / LADY BE GOOD / YOU GO TO MY HEAD (Privin) / EMALINE / AS LONG AS I LIVE (Hucko) / THE SHEIK OF ARABY / SHANDY / PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE (Privin) / I MUST HAVE THAT MAN (Hucko-Powell-McKinley) / TRIPLE X / SHOEMAKER’S APRON (trio) / PLAIN AND FANCY BLUES / JERRY’S AACHEN BACK / AFTER YOU’VE GONE / PARACHUTE JUMP / HALLELUJAH! (Powell feature with the orchestra) / I WANT TO BE HAPPY (same) //



Delightful music and not well-known: thanks to the musicians heard here, to Tommy and Dave and the Miller collectors worldwide.

May your happiness increase!

Bunk Johnson FB


Many compact discs are like visits to a new restaurant with a tasting menu. The listener has course after course brought to them, and with luck, every dish is not only delightful in itself but part of a larger experience. And one makes a mental note to go back and bring friends. Sometimes, of course, one beckons to the waitperson and says, “Please, can we skip ahead? I’m not happy with this. If you’d just bring me the flourless chocolate cake and the check, that would be great.” And the CD goes into that purgatory between give-to-a-friend-or-the-thrift-store-or keep-for-the-moment-but-not-forever.

The new CD, COUNTERMELODY (Dot Time Records), by Evan Arntzen and esteemed friends, isn’t a meal: it’s a brightly-colored, many-sided journey. Details here and here if the names above have already convinced you.

Before you read a word more, two samples which will reveal much and reward more:


and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, sung by Catherine Russell:

Although the terms “old” and “new” are dangerously weighted and too binary, COUNTERMELODY is a shining showcase for “old” music (nearly a hundred years old) played as “new,” and “new” music that passionately embraces “old” traditions. SOLITARITY is delightfully weird — that’s a compliment — but it also sounds so much like a New Orleans funeral, mournful and exultant at once. And to borrow from Billy Wilder, each of the musicians here has a face, a vivid, glowing singularity — a set of big voices, and I don’t simply mean Catherine Russell’s combination of trumpet and cello and full orchestra. Speaking of singers, Evan’s vocal rendition of GEORGIA CABIN is perfectly dreamy. I don’t want him to put down his horns, but he could do a lovely vocal album.

But back to the journey I was describing. The CD begins with a half-dozen “traditional” songs — MUSKRAT RAMBLE, 18th STREET STRUT, CAMP MEETING BLUES, GEORGIA CABIN, PUT ‘EM DOWN BLUES, and WHEN ERASTUS PLAYS HIS OLD KAZOO. Connoisseurs will check off the homages to Ory, Moten, Oliver, Bechet, Louis, and Dodds. But these are not formulaic choices. They come from a deep immersion in the repertoire and a desire to do the music homage in its full glory, not in the eleven tunes that everyone plays. The performances are totally energized but also respectful of the original outlines of the songs and of performance practice. The ensembles are strong (having two trumpets who can kitten-tussle in mid-air is a great thing) and the solos fierce or fiercely tender.

Then, SMILES, usually played and sung with a certain amount of sentimentality, whether it’s by Charles La Vere or Chick Bullock: the musical equivalent of a 1925 Valentine’s postcard, cherubs and hearts crowding in. But not here:

That’s two minutes and thirty-four seconds of exuberance. My initial reaction was “WHAT?!” But I was properly smiling as Evan and Charlie chased each other around the backyard, twin five-year olds who have eaten too much Halloween candy. Honoring the innovators implies a certain amount of possibly-disrespectful but loving innovation: the result is immensely restorative. While my nerve endings were still tingling, I had the rare pleasure of hearing Catherine Russell sing IF YOU WERE MINE as no one, including Billie, ever sang it, complete with the verse, which I’d never heard. A properly churchy DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE follows, then originals by Halloran, Kellso, Benny Green, and Evan . . . and the disc concludes with two brief cylinder recordings of AFTER YOU’VE GONE and MUSKRAT RAMBLE, created by the band and the master of hot archaisms, Colin Hancock.

After that, I wanted a glass of ice water, and, after a pause, to play COUNTERMELODY again, and tell my friends, as I am doing here.

So don’t be the last one on your block to walk around humming and grinning because of COUNTERMELODY. You can receive it in its lovely package (fine notes by producer Scout Opatut) or digitally, here or here.

Postscript: someone said of me, with an edge, “Michael only writes good reviews,” to which I responded, when I heard, “I only review good music.” COUNTERMELODY is over the moon and beyond the beyonds in that way.

May your happiness increase!


What’s the connection between this:

and this?

Why, Tony Baldwin, of course. Clever of you to have discerned it.

I knew Tony Baldwin first as a superb pianist — in the Nineties, with Tom Baker’s Swing Street Orchestra, and on a Stomp Off CD, OZARK BLUES, which also featured Ian Date, Bob Henderson, and Len Barnard (and he’s recorded again in this century) — then as a lucid writer-annotator on some of the now-rare Masters of Jazz CDs . . . but he is always creating something new.

Here’s his email that arrived today:

Bonjour Michael,
This may be of no particular interest to folks who’ve heard every Bix, Bubber, Benny and Blind Blake in existence. However, it might be wacky enough to amuse you.
I live in what used to be the general store of a village in Languedoc wine country, except there’s no more Brie or baguette on the shelves — at least, none for sale. All wall space is taken up with…78rpm records, much to the chagrin of local shoppers. And the discs aren’t for sale either. 
However — and here’s the really bizarre part — since Covid began a year ago, I’ve been helping out some buddies of mine on KMUN, a community station in coastal Oregon, by spinning two hours of fairly eclectic 78s (though 75% jazz) from the shack once a week via the web. Heck, the time difference is only 9 hours, so why not?
It airs Thursdays at 11pm-1am PST (i.e. 2am-4am in NYC), at

If you don’t happen to be an insomniac, recent shows are archived at . Then you scroll down to my name.
Ok, I’m surrounded by vineyards, but on air I’m usually fairly sober. 
Best wishes, 
Tony Baldwin
P.S. The shoppers are safe, as the general store had already relocated to a new place 200 yards down the road.

Who could resist? And just to add a four-bar tag, here’s Tony’s biography as it’s offered to us at the KMUN site:

British musician, collector and sound engineer Tony Baldwin is based in provincial France, where for more than a decade he’s been playing jazz gigs and restoring vintage shellac recordings. At age 9, Tony stumbled across an old family phonograph, together with a stack of 78rpm records that he and his brothers found were great for target practice in the yard. Eventually, he tried playing one of them and was fascinated by the weird stuff that he heard, as it was nothing like the Stones or the Beatles. He’s been fascinated ever since.

Something else to bring pleasure, I think.

May your happiness increase!


Edward Meyer has written the definitive biography of Dick Wellstood, GIANT STRIDES: THE LEGACY OF DICK WELLSTOOD (1999), and an even more extensive book on Kenny, JUST FOUR BARS: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF KENNY DAVERN (2010), both published by Scarecrow Press.

When it came to his friends, Kenny Davern was a generous man who loved to share the things that gave him pleasure.  One Sunday afternoon, I had driven down to Manasquan to talk with Kenny about the Wellstood book. Elsa was away and he wasn’t working that evening, so he wasn’t pressed for time. After we finished talking about Dick, we went out for pizza, after which we went back to his house.

He  was in a talkative mood that night and we schmoozed about a number of things and people – not many of whom were connected with jazz. Several hours passed. I had to get up and go to work the next day and was facing a 60+ mile drive back to my apartment in Manhattan in Sunday night traffic. But,  just when I was ready to leave. the conversation turned to Wilhelm Furtwängler, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Kenny passionately believed that Furtwangler had never gotten the recognition due him and that he was far better at getting the best out of the musicians in his orchestra than Arturo Toscanini. who led the NBC Symphony. I had no views on the subject – mainly because I knew little about classical music and even less about the skills of either man – but that only spurred Kenny into his role as teacher.

He left the room and came back with two recordings of the same piece – one by Furtwangler and the other by Toscanini. “Listen to this,” he said, and played about five minutes of the Furtwangler recording. “Do you hear how Furtwangler brings out the individual sound of each horn? Now listen to this.” And he played about five minutes of the Toscanini recording.  “Do you hear the difference?” Fool that I was, I said that I couldn’t really tell.

That was clearly the wrong answer because we went through the exercise again. By this time, it was about 10:00 p.m., and  although I was no better informed at the end of the second round of recordings than I had been before, when Kenny asked if I could tell the difference, I nodded my head vigorously. And, before the demonstration could progress any further, I stood up and said that it was time for me to go home. And I left.

I saw him about a week later and as soon as he had a free moment he came over and gave me a short handwritten list on which he had jotted down the titles and numbers of a few Furtwangler CDs. He thought that I might like them.

Years later, I learned that my experience was not unique. If one of his friends liked something that Kenny had, Kenny would make, or buy, a copy of for him, or lend it to him, or tell him where and how to get one for himself. This didn’t jibe with Kenny’s public image: but then, very little did.

The musical portion of this remembrance was created at the Grande Parade du Jazz, June 10, 1978, in a program called “JAZZ CLASSIQUE,” featuring Wallace Davenport, trumpet; Freddy Lonzo, trombone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Olivia Cook, piano; Frank Fields, string bass; Freddie Kohlman, drums — with Kenny joining them for the last two songs, BLUES and CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN.

I asked Orange if I could post this video and he graciously wrote, The memories came flooding back. I played a lot with Wallace’s bands in those years and we were on the George Wein festival circuit frequently. We got to play with all sorts of guest stars and Kenny was one of those. This was our first time meeting. I don’t think he knew of me, but I was very well aware of him and very impressed by his playing. I was nobody and apprehensive, to say the least, to play with the clarinet star. Kenny sounded fantastic.

He always did. Kenny performed and recorded for more than fifty years. It doesn’t seem enough. We miss him.

May your happiness increase!


Before darkness fell, there was light. And although the stage lighting was sometimes an unusual deep red, one of the places where it shone brightly was the basement of 15 Barrow Street in New York City, Cafe Bohemia.

Here’s a glowing example: radiance created with unaffected skill by Tal Ronen, string bass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; John Allred, trombone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet. Heroes of mine.

But first . . . their choice of material is not the usual, but A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN — one of those popular songs given new life by improvisers. On YouTube, you can find Ted Lewis’ 1932 let-no-heartstring-be-untugged version, the 1940 Johnny Long hit (where the band sings vaguely-hip glee club lyrics) and there’s also a Soundie. But many deep listeners will know it from recordings by Edmond Hall and Coleman Hawkins, then Red Allen and George Lewis and on and on. The harmonies are not the usual, with many traps for the unwary.

The lyrics, not heard here, are a Depression-era fiction (1932) where the speaker rhapsodizes about his decrepit home in the poorest section of town, but inside there’s a “queen / with a silvery crown,” whom I take to be Ma. Another version of “We’re incredibly poor but we’re happy,” which I suspect kept Americans from rioting. Cultural historians are invited to do their best.

I thought “shanty” came from Gaelic, but it’s French Canadian. The shanty on the cover of the sheet music is really rather attractive, with electric wires visible. Even though there’s erosion, it would be listed high on Zillow.

Here’s the luminous performance by these four, shining their particular light:

I am very sentimental about performances like these: without fuss or fanfare, musicians taking little stages in New York City to illuminate the darkness and uplift us. We didn’t know (or at least I didn’t) that it was all going to stop in March. But I see glimmerings and rumblings of new life. For one thing, directly related to the joys above, Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars will be playing outside the Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, New York City) on Sunday, May 2, 2021, from 1 to 3:30. I expect that our friend Phillip (“the Bucket”) will also be in attendance.

To keep your spirits high, here is a recording that I think few know — a soaring, Louis-inspired version of SHANTY, from 1938, by Willie Lewis and his Entertainers, recorded in Holland, featuring Herman Chittison, piano; Frank “Big Boy” Goudie, clarinet; Bill Coleman, vocal and trumpet — giving that tumble-down shack wings:

Those New York days and nights will come again and are starting to happen . . . .

May your happiness increase!


Leopold Stokowski said, “There is no exhausted repertoire. There are only exhausted musicians.”

It applies to the session you are about to indulge in, from the Manassas Jazz Festival, featuring Billy Butterfield and Pee Wee Erwin, trumpet; Larry Eanet, piano; Spencer Clark, bass saxophone; Butch Hall, guitar; Paul Langosch, string bass; Barrett Deems, drums. The songs are familiar: INDIANA / I’M COMIN’ VIRGINIA / JADA / an excerpt from I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE / SALT PEANUTS jocularly leading into I FOUND A NEW BABY: twenty-six minutes of expert joy-making. None of the players would have said, “For goodness’ sake, I’ve played INDIANA too many times. Could we take out charts for an obscure Cole Porter tune, instead?” No, they enjoyed the freedom of familiar repertoire, which was in itself comforting and giving them freedom to take chances . . . while pleasing an audience that was both comforted and excited by the familiar. So everyone was happy, and I hope that happiness of forty years ago is vividly transferred to you all in 2021:

Of the brilliant incendiaries above, Billy Pee Wee, Larry, Spencer, Butch, and Barrett have moved to other neighborhoods. I am happy to report that bassist Paul Langosch (who’s also played with Tony Bennett) is very much alive and well, and giving a presentation on April 28: details here.

The fellow I do want to commemorate is trumpeter / archivist / all-around gentleman Joe Shepherd, who left us this month. I don’t know details, except that Joe was over ninety, and more generous than I could imagine. I encountered him some years ago because of the one-song magical videos he had offered on his YouTube channel, “Sflair,” videos that featured Vic Dickenson, Don Ewell, and others. I wrote to him and he made me parcel after parcel of DVD transfers, most of which you have seen on JAZZ LIVES. And until very recently, he was practicing the horn at home. A true hero, and not just because of the parcels: when I asked him what I could do in return, his answer was always that he was so happy people were enjoying the music. A resonant gentle kindness I won’t forget, nor will anyone who knew him.

May your happiness increase!


Note: the first version of this post was completely in chaos: the audio was Konitz and colleagues but the video was the World’s Greatest Jazz Band — enough to make anyone race for Dramamine. I was informed by several attentive readers, withdrew everything for repairs, and hope it is now brought into unity. Apologies! Barney Bigard’s hand gesture at the start of the video (the last seconds of his set) conveys my feelings about technical difficulties, especially when they leap right past SNAFU to become totally FUBAR.

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“Strange bandfellows?” you say. I think some festival producers operate on the principle of the one Unexpected Element creating a great Chemical Reaction, that if you line up seven musicians who often play together, you might get routines. But add someone unusual and you might get the energy that jam sessions are supposed to produce from artists charged by new approaches. Or, perhaps cynically, it could be that novelty draws audiences: “I never heard X play with Y: I’ve got to hear this!”

Here are Lee Konitz, alto saxophone; Jimmie Rowles, piano; Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, tenor saxophone; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Red Mitchell, string bass; Shelly Manne, drums, placed together at the Grande Parade du Jazz on July 9, 1978.

I’m not ranking these remarkable musicians, but this is a group of players who hadn’t always been associated in the past: yes to Konitz and Rowles, Rowles and Mitchell; Bucky and Shelly played with everyone. But Lockjaw comes from another Venn diagram.

I can imagine Lee, who was strong-willed, thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this group?” and I wonder if that’s why he asked Shelly to improvise a solo interlude, why he chose to begin the set with a duet with Bucky — rather than attempting to get everyone together to play familiar tunes (as they eventually do). At times it feels like carpooling, where Thelma wants to eat her sardine sandwich at 8 AM to the discomfort of everyone else in the minivan. But sets are finite, and professionals make the best of it.

And if any of the above sounds ungracious, I know what a privilege it was to be on the same planet as these artists (I saw Bucky, Lee, and Jimmie at close range) and how, forty-plus years later, they seem surrounded by radiance.

The songs are INVITATION Lee – Bucky / WAVE / THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU Bucky, solo / IMPROVISATION Shelly, solo / COOL BLUES, which has been shared in whole and part on YouTube, but this, I believe, is the first airing of the complete set.

All of them, each of them, completely irreplaceable.

May your happiness increase!