Tag Archives: Chris Flory

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

Brothers and Sisters, here‘s last week’s prayer meeting, in case any of you were otherwise occupied — at your country retreat or perhaps hiding behind the towels, praying for deliverance.  After fifteen weeks of this series, you wouldn’t need a map to find 326 Spring Street, New York City, but it’s pleasing to the eye:

I take you to the Ear Inn, where the EarRegulars play on Sunday nights — for one of those time-bending moments of THEN and NOW . . . in this case, May 9, 2010, “Mother’s Night,” where the inspired core quartet is Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Pat O’Leary, string bass, and Jim Masters, trombone.

For the cinematographers in the JAZZ LIVES audience, I point out that I had purchased a more light-sensitive camera, so we have emerged from the darkness, always a good thing.

From Mothers to Babies, in this case I FOUND A NEW BABY:

IT’S THE TALK OF THE TOWN, so pretty, always makes me think of Joe Thomas, who loved to play and sing it.  The EarRegulars catch the mood.  And the core quartet changes a bit: Chris Flory sits in for Matt, and Dan Block sings out on the alto saxophone:

The quintet stays for PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE:

The closing performance is LAZY RIVER, by Jon-Erik, Matt, Pat, and Jim:

As my friend, the Listening Woman (the title of a superb short story by Sylvia Townsend Warner) suggests, rapt attentiveness is the one true way, and it will help us get through the days and nights to come.

May your happiness increase!

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

Are you ready to join me on our Sunday pilgrimage to the Shrine of Sounds, where the EarRegulars and friends gambol and inspire?  I hope so.

Let us begin with music from the second set at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, on Sunday, April 25, 2010: Ben Webster’s line on IN A MELLOTONE, which was based on ROSE ROOM — Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass — asking the musical question, DID YOU CALL HER TODAY?

and the second part, the length of a 10″ 78 rpm record:

Then, another hint of Ellingtonia — Johnny Hodges’ line on I GOT RHYTHM, called THE JEEP IS JUMPIN’ — which adds Danny Tobias, trumpet, and Andy Farber, tenor saxophone to the mix . . . for ten minutes:

because it would be cruel to leave out the final forty-five seconds, here they are:

Mr. Tobias calls his favorite tune, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE, where he’s joined by Andy Farber, Harry Allen, Matt Munisteri, and Jim Whitney, string bass:

A new constellation of brilliant friends plays COMES LOVE: Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Harry Allen, Andy Farber, Chris Flory, guitar, and Jim Whitney:

and we know LOVE takes its own time to . . . . arrive:

Finally, the song that always amuses me by its paradoxical nature when it’s the last tune of the night, LINGER AWHILE, a gift from Messrs. Kellso, Tobias, Allen, Farber, Flory, and Miner:

Joy.  And while we contemplate the joys of a decade ago, let us keep our eyes comfortably fixed on a future not yet realized, but one we hope for.

May your happiness increase!

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

Here you can find five posts devoted to the truth that beauty never gets dusty.  And just below you can find the newest-historical-unaging samples from my (and perhaps your) Sunday-night worship services at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

From December 6, 2009, naughtiness from Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Nicki Parrott, string bass:

Also from that night, a deep-blue version of Benny Carter’s BLUES IN MY HEART:

And, from November 29, 2009, with Danny Tobias, sitting in for Jon-Erik Kellso, along with Dan Block, reeds; Chris Flory, guitar; Jon Burr, string bass, saying hello to Dick and Larry:

And some spiritually-enhanced jam from that session of November 29, 2009: Jon-Erik Kellso, Gordon Au, trumpet; Dan Block, Attilio Troiano, reeds; Chris Flory, guitar; Jon Burr, string bass:

Appropriately, something for Lil and Louis: Jon-Erik Kellso, Danny Tobias, Gordon Au, Dan Block, Attilio Troiano, Chris Flory, Jon Burr:

Imagine the experience we will all have when — to quote Jabbo Smith — “times get better.”  Balance between unrealistic optimism and depthless gloom; wear your mask; keep the mental-spiritual jukebox going.  We’ll get there.

And keep listening!

May your happiness increase!

WHEN INTIMACY WAS NOT ONLY POSSIBLE BUT DEEPLY FELT: JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, CHRIS FLORY, NEAL MINER (Cafe Bohemia, November 14, 2019)

To start, JAZZ LIVES endorses social distancing, properly positioned mask-wearing (plain or patterned), hand-washing, hand sanitizer, vinyl gloves, intelligent caution, without reservation.  But I miss the intimacies that were part of the common culture only five months ago, give or take a hug.  When I watch any film or television show on YouTube these days, the casual peck on the cheek given and received causes me a real pang.  And hugging?  Unendurable.

But enough of sticking hatpins in myself while I try to write.

THE INTIMACY OF THE BLUES is a haunting piece.  When I first heard it, without liner notes, I would have wagered that it was composed by Horace Silver — a dark blues march, so stark and elusive.  I was startled to learn it was by Billy Strayhorn.  And it makes me think of other improvisations that march.  OH, DIDN’T HE RAMBLE? has a very clear shouting meaning: “We’re coming back from the cemetery, where we laid our dear friend Keith in the ground.  He had a good life, it’s over, but ours isn’t, so we are going to celebrate himself and ourselves.”  INTIMACY has no such clear direction: we are going somewhere, our feet are heavy, but where are we headed?

This performance has the same haunting quality, and I treasure it.  The players, perhaps looking in to the void or just exploring a medium-slow blues, are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar.  It took place at Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, before Thanksgiving 2019.  Ironically or perhaps coincidentally, Cafe Bohemia was the site of the most recent live-jazz performance I was privileged to witness and record, on March 12, 2020.

May we all assemble there again, intimacies no longer forbidden.  Until then:

More than ever, I bless the courageous musicians who bare their souls to us. The most mournful song on the darkest stage is a statement of resilience.

May your happiness increase!

GAME OF TONES: TWO BEAUTIES FROM JAY RATTMAN, SCOTT ROBINSON, CHRIS FLORY, PAT O’LEARY at THE EAR INN (May 20, 2019)

For nearly twelve years, The Ear Inn has been my Sunday-night shrine (that’s 326 Spring Street in New York City, via the 1 or the C) because of the EarRegulars’ sublime residency.

Two Sundays ago, Jon-Erik Kellso was in New Orleans, making records (I use the archaic term) with Evan Christopher, but the band that Scott Robinson — on tenor saxophone, contrabass taragota, and trumpet — assembled for the night of May 20, 2019, was stellar: Jay Rattman on clarinet and alto saxophone; Chris Flory on guitar; Pat O’Leary on string bass.  It was less crowded than usual at The Ear, because (I am told) it was the last episode of GAME OF THRONES.  Hence my title.

Beauty paid a visit to 326 Spring Street when this quartet of masters created melodies than floated in the darkness.

And the usual caveats: yes, there are people chatting over their drinks, the image is quite dark at points, and my camera wobbles occasionally because The Ear is not the place to bring a tripod . . . but even the most finicky viewer should be able, through closed eyes, be transported by the Tones: subtle rejoicing scored for four instruments on two rhythm ballads — sweet and slow music with a definite pulse.

Art?  Yes, today:

If you don’t think that performance lives up to Berlin’s title, we must politely but vehemently disagree.  And this 1945 classic by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon is up in the same clouds:

Jay, Scott, Chris, and Pat made loveliness tangible.  As they always do.

May your happiness increase!

EV’RY STAR ABOVE / KNOWS THE SOUNDS WE LOVE: DANNY TOBIAS, SCOTT ROBINSON, CHRIS FLORY, PAT O’LEARY at THE EAR INN (May 13, 2018)

I’ve been told that I sound like a New Yorker, which doesn’t surprise me, although I think there are many strains of New Yorkishness, all subtly different. But to think I carry the inflections of my native land even when I’m in Sedalia, Missouri, for the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, is pleasing.  So before I walk two blocks to hear more delightful music, I will offer some genuine sounds of New York for you, wherever you may read this.

I made another trip — a pilgrimage, rather, to the shrine for delicate and forthright creative improvisation (call it what you will), The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, on Sunday, May 13.  And the spiritual guides for that evening convocation were Danny Tobias, various brass instruments; Scott Robinson, taragoto, tenor saxophone, and other instruments; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.  Here are three splendid songs and improvisations created for us by four splendid players.

Hoagy Carmichael’s ROCKIN’ CHAIR, at a very Bixian tempo:

Victor Young’s SWEET SUE, now ninety years old:

KANSAS CITY MAN BLUES, associated with Sidney Bechet, but theoretically written by Clarence Williams:

I couldn’t stay for the second set — my semester was still hobbling to a close — but I hope to make it to The Ear Inn more often this summer.  You should, too.

May your happiness increase!

QUIET EMOTION: JON-ERIK KELLSO, CHRIS FLORY, JOEL FORBES at SARAH’S WINE BAR (August 27, 2017)

On August 27, which seems like a long time ago, I drove up to Ridgefield, Connecticut, to spend an evening at this welcoming spot — Sarah’s Wine Bar, located upstairs at the fine restaurant called Bernard’s.  The food and service were both lovely, but I had more serious goals: Jon-Erik Kellso was playing, and Jon had with him Chris Flory and Joel Forbes.

They are three good reasons to venture out, and the music was exceedingly rewarding: thoughtful, quiet, deep, and swinging — performed in a quiet room to an attentive audience.

THESE FOOLISH THINGS:

I WANT A LITTLE GIRL:

MOOD INDIGO:

In simple math, three times three equals a mere nine.  These performances prove that the end result is uncountable pleasure.  Thanks to Ken and Marcia Needleman for their kindnesses.

And THIS JUST IN: tonight, Sunday, October 22, from 8-11 PM, give or take a few moments, The EarRegulars will be at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) with two of the heroes above — Jon-Erik and Chris — as well as Aaron Johnson, reeds; Neal Miner, string bass.  To learn about all things Kellso-musical, you can join his mailing list.  As Monk wrote, Ask Me How.

May your happiness increase!

xxxxxx

“SWIGGLE” TURNS SIXTEEN! WITH A BAND.

My little friend “Swiggle” Murchison had her Sweet Sixteen party this summer, and it was a blast.  I should explain that the Murchisons are dear friends of mine — musical and otherwise — and that everyone in their family has pet names.  Dad is “Hoppy,” Mom is “Luscious,” and “Swiggle” got her name as an especially wiggly infant who more than once nearly flew off the changing table.  Now she dances to jazz.

For her Sweet Sixteen, they hired a band — four of the finest — Danny Tobias, trumpet; Jay Rattman, reeds; Chris Flory, guitar; Joe Plowman, string bass.  But that’s not all.  Hoppy is a Broadway stage designer and Luscious is a realtor who stages houses for her clients, so they transformed (for one afternoon only) a large room in their house into a simulated jazz club. And the music was lovely. They allowed me to share a few selections.

What a delight to know Swiggle, Hoppy, Luscious, Danny, Jay, Chris, and Joe. And to have a jubilant audience to share joys with.  That’s you.

ALL BY MYSELF:

HOW’S IT GO? (Danny’s composition on the harmonies of SHINE):

LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU:

Sadly, the cake is all gone, so there’s no point in asking me for the Murchisons’ address.  But the lovely memories remain.

May your happiness increase! 

THE GREAT AMERICAN JAZZBOOK: ROB ADKINS, EVAN ARNTZEN, DAN BLOCK, CHRIS FLORY at FRAUNCES TAVERN (May 7, 2016)

Fraunces TavernHere is the first part of a delightful Saturday afternoon of music performed at Fraunces Tavern by the Garden Party Quartet: this version being Rob Adkins, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, alto saxophone, vocal; Dan Block, clarinet, tenor saxophone, on May 7, 2016.  Four more delicious performances follow below.

People who fear jazz — it makes them skittish — often say that they can’t recognize the melody.  For them (and for us) here are four standards, played and sung with loving swinging reverence by this melodic quartet.  You’ll hear the work of Hoagy Carmichael, Sidney Arodin; Alex Hill, Bob Williams, Claude Hopkins; Cole Porter; Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler.  And I daresay that the composers and lyricists would be pleased with the results.  You decide.

YOU DO SOMETHING TO ME:

LAZY RIVER:

I WOULD DO ANYTHING FOR YOU:

I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING:

Yes.  The real thing.  The good stuff.  Out there in public, too.

May your happiness increase!

A FROLIC AT FRAUNCES (Part One): ROB ADKINS, CHRIS FLORY, DAN BLOCK, EVAN ARNTZEN (May 7, 2016)

A good band is not hard to find in New York City.  One of the places I rely on is Fraunces Tavern at 54 Pearl Street for their Saturday jazz brunch (1-4) usually led by Emily Asher with her delightful small band that is the Garden Party Quartet.  Emily was on the road on May 7, 2016, but the joy continued unabated.

Fraunces Tavern

String bassist and band-wizard Rob Adkins assembled a wonderfully melodic quartet: himself, Chris Flory, guitar; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and alto.  Oh, did they fill the room with good sounds!

Of course, fault-finding viewers will note that people are talking, eating, drinking, and moving, that the room is busy, but busy-ness keeps the Tavern able to pay for live music.  Without being too acrid, I say quietly that people who choose only to sit in front of their computers when there is live music to be had make it hard for musicians to survive.  To quote Arthur Miller, “Attention must be paid.”

On to happier matters.  This little ad-hoc band is not only composed of four wonderful soloists, but these players know the sacred value of ensemble playing — so lines intertwine, there’s counterpoint, riffs, backgrounds: all the collective joy one could ever hear.

I present these performances in the order they happened, as is my habit. I think they are each small complete masterpieces, to be savored rather than gobbled.  I hope you agree.  There’s more to come.

LINGER AWHILE:

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE:

SOUTH:

Please find a way to support the music if you want it to continue.  That means going to a place where it is played, purchasing food and drink there, putting money in the tip jar, buying a CD from a musician . . . active rather than passive.  Very little is actually free in this world, the title of the third song notwithstanding.  And as a final irony, the people in this scene who are sitting at the bar, talking and drinking whiskey, are doing more by their presence to support the music they are ignoring than the most devoted “jazz fan” who lives solely off the Hot Internet.

May your happiness increase!

MELLOW / NOIR: DANNY TOBIAS, EVAN ARNTZEN, CHRIS FLORY, TAL RONEN at THE EAR INN (February 21, 2016)

The Ear Inn is its own shaded little world, but on Sunday nights even more so.

EAR INN sign

Between eight and eleven PM, all schedules subject to change, the EarRegulars turn 326 Spring Street in Soho into a cozy embodiment (note I didn’t say re-enactment) of Fifty-Second Street.  Ordinarily the EarRegulars are led, and courageously so, by Jon-Erik Kellso, but when Jon’s away, the cats still play. On Sunday, February 21, the felines were Danny Tobias, cornet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet / tenor; Chris Flory, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass.  They swung most mellowly.

Because of an idiosyncracy in the lighting, or perhaps an idiosyncracy in the camera (or its owner) I experimented with the videos I’d shot and found they looked much better in atmospheric black and white.  I wanted to warn people so that they wouldn’t think they’d wandered into a land where Rod Serling was the tour guide.  There is also an incomplete video below . . . for reasons non-musical that I will explain.

That being said . . . .

BABY, WON’T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?:

DOIN’ THE NEW LOWDOWN:

THESE FOOLISH THINGS:

I FOUND A NEW BABY (very mellow, very groovy):

SHINE (here in truncated form, the first three minutes, an aesthetic choice made necessary by three maidens, bearing full glasses, who collided with me and my camera.  You can imagine the rest):

ALL MY LIFE:

ONE HOUR:

The building that houses The Ear Inn is a Historic Landmark.  Even if it weren’t about to celebrate its 200th anniversary next year, the music and good spirits would make this true.

May your happiness increase!

PUREBREDS AT THE EAR INN (2016 and 2012)

dane_1920x1080

Thanks to photographer / chronicler Lynn Redmile, we have this shining example of what happens at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, on Sunday nights, because of the EarRegulars — and what happened on January 18, 2016.  The text for this mellow sermon is Handy’s YELLOW DOG BLUES.  Lynn explains, “Each Sunday, at the historic Ear Inn on Spring Street, NYC, the EarRegulars play some of the coolest hot jazz, with a rotating lineup of musicians in their quartet, often joined by others in a jam session. This session featured founder Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), co-founder Matt Munisteri (guitar), Evan Arntzen (reeds) and Neal Miner (bass) and joined by Danny Tobias (trumpet), Mike Davis (cornet), Balázs Szalóky (trumpet) and Paul Brandenberg (cornet).”

That’s enough to make anyone howl.

When one DOG isn’t enough . . . let us return to those halcyon days of yore, specifically September 16, 2012, when I had a video camera ready for the closing song of a Sunday evening, when the original quartet was Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass. As the evening progressed, the Friends came in: Pete and Will Anderson, Dan Block, Alex Hoffman, saxophone; Eli Preminger, Danny Tobias, trumpet; Doug Finke, trombone.

Remarkable — but just another example of the ordinary magic that happens on Sunday nights at The Ear.

And perhaps not by coincidence, the Westminster Dog Show is coming to New York City on February 15 and 16, 2016.  Will this mean there will be more sitting-in at The Ear Inn, or sitting down, or sitting and staying? We’ll see.  I’ll ask my authority on such matters, Brynn White.

“Barry!  Treats for everyone!”

May your happiness increase!

SWINGTIME IN SOHO (Part Two): JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, CHRIS FLORY, JOEL FORBES at THE EAR INN (Sept. 14, 2014)

Here is the first part of a delightful swing interlude, scored for four masters, at the Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on September 14, 2014.

The Masters were (and are) Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Chris Flory, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.  Here are the three remaining etudes from the set I recorded:

TOPSY (Eddie Durham’s irresistible minor rocker):

AS LONG AS I LIVE:

SWINGIN’ THE BLUES, which brings back the Famous Door and lives up to its name:

Great things happen at The Ear Inn on Sunday nights.  Here’s your proof.

May your happiness increase!

SWINGTIME IN SOHO (Part One): JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, CHRIS FLORY, JOEL FORBES at THE EAR INN (Sept. 14, 2014)

At The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City), the Sunday-night sessions by the EarRegulars — now in their eighth year — are always delightful. But when Dan Barrett comes back east for a visit, they’re spectacularly rewarding.  Here is the first half of the first set performed on September 14, 2014, by Messrs. Barrett (trombone and instant head arrangements); Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.

I could write at length about the swinging brotherhood of this quartet, about Jon’s exuberant energy, about Dan’s slippery ensemble work and brilliant solos, about Chris’ immense bluesy conviction, about Joel’s eloquent subtle simplicities, but the music can say all that and more, without words.

COQUETTE:

OUR MONDAY DATE:

THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL:

I SURRENDER, DEAR:

Three more to come.

May your happiness increase!

THREE MOODS, NO WAITING: JON-ERIK KELLSO, ANDY FARBER, CHRIS FLORY, MICHAEL KARN, DAVE GROSS, GARY FOSTER (The EarRegulars at The Ear Inn, September 8, 2013)

This trio of selections from another memorable Sunday-night party at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) reminds us again of a great band’s ability to move freely around in a variety of tempos, and of the beauties of melodic improvisation.

Tempo: in the last thirty years, the speed at which familiar jazz material is approached has steadily accelerated, until (to my ears) some groups have only two speeds, Fast and Faster (with an occasional ballad or slithering mood piece / blues).  The EarRegulars are intimately familiar with the glories of Medium Tempo and Rhythm Ballads.

Melody: although the musicians may chat delightedly about the harmonic feats of daring accomplished during a solo, most of us warm to the sweet melodies we know.  This doesn’t mean that they have to be replicated precisely according to the sheet music, but it does mean that BODY AND SOUL, for example, is more than a shift from one key center to another.

That’s enough aesthetic sermonizing for anyone.  To the music — which proves once again that classic standards still have enough resilience to be fascinating material for improvisers in this century — three songs written before Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term.

The players are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Andy Farber, tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, electric guitar; Michael Karn, string bass:

A romp on TEA FOR TWO:

A very sweetly evocative slither through LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

With Dave Gross, acoustic guitar, and Gary Foster, wirebrushes on paper “tablecloth,” the band took it easy on ROSE ROOM (a sweetly pastoral song in its first incarnation):

You’ve never been to The Ear Inn for a Sunday-night Frolic?  They begin about 8 PM and end sometime shortly after 11.  And they’re memorable — larger than my videos, even in HD, can contain.  (These sessions have been going on for six years now, which makes them a New York institution — but plan to show up before the EarRegulars celebrate their tenth, or their twenty-fifth anniversary.  In New York, even monuments have a habit of disappearing.  Ask any New Yorker.)

May your happiness increase!

MOLLY RYAN: “SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER”

When I first heard Molly Ryan sing, I thought, “That girl has such a beautiful voice!”  But she has more that that — innate connections to the music, to feeling, and to swing.  She knows what the records sound like, but she doesn’t imitate them: the music comes out of her essential self.

All of these lovely tendencies, fully realized, reverberate through her new CD, SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER! (with its very apropos exclamation point).

MOLLY RYAN

But first.  Something lovely for the ears: SAY IT WITH A KISS, sung so prettily by Molly, accompanied by husband Dan Levinson, clarinet; Mark Shane, piano; Connie Jones, cornet — recorded Sept. 4, 2011, at the Sweet and Hot Music Festival:

The good news about SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER! is that it is a new Molly Ryan – and Friends of the First Rank – CD.  That should be enough for anyone.

The even better news is that it is carefully thought out in every possible way, from the cheerful photos that adorn it, to the exuberant liner notes by Will Friedwald, to the varied and rewarding song choices, to the hot band and the Lady Friends who join in.

If there’s a way it could have been improved, it is beyond me to imagine it.

And all the careful planning hasn’t constricted the result — some CDs are so precise, so cautious, that they are audibly lifeless: morgue-music.  SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER! is beautifully planned but all the planning gives the musicians room to swing out, to do what they do so beautifully, to be their own precious selves as individuals and as a supportive community of swing pals.

The pals are — from the top — husband Dan Levinson, reeds, arrangements, and a vocal; Dan Barrett, trombone, arrangements; Randy Reinhart, cornet; Chris Flory and Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Mark Shane, piano; Vince Giordano, bass; Kevin Dorn, drums.  And Molly is joined by vocal swing stars Banu Gibson and Maude Maggart for one third of the eighteen tracks, more than once forming a divinely varied and subtle vocal trio.

And where some well-meant CDs bog down in a narrow or restrictive repertoire (seventy-five minutes of the same thing can get tiring quickly) this one bounces from surprise to surprise, evidence of Molly’s deep knowledge of and enthusiasm for the best music from all kinds of corners.  Here are a few of the composers: Harry Warren, Richard Whiting, Cole Porter, J. Russel Robinson, Ben Oakland, Richard Rodgers, Bronislaw Kaper, Eubie Blake, B.G. DeSylva, Jerome Kern, Victor Young — and HUSHABYE MOUNTAIN from the Sherman brothers’ 1968 film CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, no less.

You can purchase SWING FOR YOUR SUPPER here, or (better yet) you can find Molly at a live gig and ask her to sign one for you, which she will do gladly. To keep up with her musical adventures, click here.

She’s the real thing.  But you knew that already.

May your happiness increase!

DELICACY AND STRENGTH: NATE NAJAR’S “BLUES FOR NIGHT PEOPLE”

Guitarist Nate Najar knows what that wooden box with strings is for — to fill the void with lovely, surprising sounds.  And he continues to do so on his new CD, a tribute to Charlie Byrd, BLUES FOR NIGHT PEOPLE.

Nate Najar cover

I write “continues,” because I was immediately impressed with Nate and his music when he came and sat in at The Ear Inn some time ago.  Ear-people know that 326 Spring Street is a hot place for guitarists: Matt Munisteri, Howard Alden, Chris Flory, James Chirillo, Julian Lage, and some other notables.

But Nate stands out as he did that Sunday night: a sweetly melodic player who didn’t let sweetness get in the way of swinging.  “Delicacy” and “strength” may seem an odd combination — a writer’s contradiction designed primarily to catch the eye — but they live happily in Nate’s playing.  His sound is beautiful, subtle, full of shadings — but he never is content to provide pretty aural wallpaper, the guitarist’s version of Laura Ashley for the ears.

No, his notes ring and chime; his phrases have meaning and depth on their own, and they fit into the larger compositions he creates.  And “strength” is evident in several ways on this disc.  In its most obvious manifestation, it comes across powerfully in the opening blues — not harsh, but not music for people who “play at” the blues.  But strength, we know, is also a kind of wisdom: knowing where to take a breath, where to be still, so that the music created resonates powerfully even after the performances have ended.

Come on and hear.  Here.

The CD, as you can see, is Nate’s respectful but lively tribute to another down-home poet of the guitar — where he remembers but does not imitate.  It offers a variety of moods, tempos, and sounds — from lovely ballad playing to rocking Latin expressiveness to barbecue-flavored blues.  Nate is accompanied by the wonderful bassist Tommy Cecil and the indispensable Chuck Redd — on vibes as well as drums.  Beautifully recorded.   And the CD has very plain-spoken yet elegant notes written by Nate and by Charlie’s widow, Becky.  The songs are MUSIC FOR NIGHT PEOPLE (the last movement, called 4 AM FUNK) / DJANGO / DESAFINADO /SWING 59 / O PATO / A SINGLE PETAL OF A ROSE / CONCIERTO DE ARANJUEZ / HAVE YOU MET MISS JONES? / WHO CARES? / SOMEONE TO LIGHT UP MY LIFE / SI TU VOIS MA MERE / REMEMBERING CHARLIE BYRD.

It’s wise, subtle, and genuine music.

May your happiness increase.

WHERE BLISS BLOSSOMS: THE EARREGULARS and FRIENDS at THE EAR INN (September 16, 2012): JON-ERIK KELLSO, HARRY ALLEN, NEAL MINER, CHRIS FLORY, DOUG FINKE, DAN BLOCK, DANNY TOBIAS, ALEX HOFFMAN, ELI PREMINGER, PETE ANDERSON, WILL ANDERSON

The Ear Inn, as I have been pointing out for a number of years, is the place to be on a Sunday night in New York City.  When you come to 326 Spring Street in Soho, sometime between 8 and 11, you will hear wondrous music, subtle and exuberant.

A few Sundays ago, on September 16, 2012, the EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar.  That group in itself deserves a WOW!

Doug Finke joined the original quartet for ROSETTA.  And it was never too close for comfort:

(A word about Doug, who isn’t as well known as he should be in East Coast circles.  I knew his work from three CDs by the Independence Hall Jazz Band — spectacular sessions featuring Jon-Erik, Duke Heitger, Paul Asaro, Dan Barrett, Orange Kellin, Vince Giordano, Scott Anthony, Chris Tyle — and I met Doug in person last March at Dixieland Monterey (the Jazz Bash by the Bay) where he appeared with Bob Schulz, Ray Skjelbred, Kim Cusack, and Hal Smith . . . a man is known by the company he keeps!  But with Doug it is more than being able to travel in fast musical company: notice the easy way he has his own luxuriant style, having absorbed all kinds of jazz to sound entirely and happily like himself.)

The Fantastic Five did their own variations on Romberg’s lament, LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

After a brief break for nourishment, the Original Four took the stand (a figure of speech at The Ear Inn) for a leisurely, I might even say “lingering” version of LINGER AWHILE.  Savor the beautiful solos and the way each solo leads into the next — this is a band of individualists who know all there is to know about Swing Synergy.  This performance is a living lesson in craft, courage, and heart.

I think it takes a lifetime to learn how to play music like this; aren’t we lucky that these players and their friends share their masteries with us?

I would have been very happy to listen to what you’ve heard far into Monday morning . . . but my friends who play instruments wanted to add their voices to this swing splendor.  Jon-Erik invited Dan Tobias (cornet) and Dan Block (tenor saxophone) to join the party for IF DREAMS COME TRUE, and they did.  The dreams, I mean:

Jon-Erik is a witty observer of the lives around him — so in honor of the Jewish New Year (where families dip apple slices in honey at Rosh Hashonah dinner for a sweet new year to come), he called for the Woody Herman line, APPLE HONEY — with amused reverence for customs and how they can be honored in swing.  The soloists are Harry; Will Anderson (alto); Dan Tobias; Pete Anderson (tenor); Jon-Erik; Alex Hoffman (tenor); Dan Block (tenor); Chris Flory (guitar, remembering Tiny Grimes at the start);   Neal Miner (string bass) — backed by hilariously appropriate riffs:

Jon-Erik temporarily retired from the field and turned matters over to Eli Preminger, the hot trumpet man from Israel . . . and Doug Finke returned for I FOUND A NEW BABY, with Dan Block and Harry Allen in conversation, Will and Pete Anderson showing brotherly love, Dan Tobias and Eli having a swing chat before Alex and Chris speak up.  Then it’s every tub on its own bottom (with Neal being epigrammatic on the bridge):

And if that wasn’t enough, some blues to close out the night — the YELLOW DOG BLUES, thirteen minutes and fifteen seconds of hot bliss:

“My goodness!” to quote Dan Barrett.

I don’t know of another place on the planet where such collective exultation takes place on a weekly basis . . . . thank you, gentlemen, for making this joy possible (and for allowing me to spread the healing vibrations to people who live far away).

P.S.  I must also say that what and how a band plays is in some small measure determined by their audience.  It is entirely possible, and sometimes necessary, for musicians to ignore the loud or distracting people in front of them . . . in fact, if musicians got distracted from their life-purpose by the couple at the table near the window, they wouldn’t last very long in this business.  But I digress.  At the Ear Inn that night, there were many musicians and deep listeners in the audience, and I am sure this made the atmosphere even more special: Gary Foster, Frank Basile, Ben Flood [players!] and Lynn Redmile, Shelley Finke, Nan Irwin, Claiborne Ray, Marcia Salter [listeners!].

P.P.S.  After five years of fairly steady attendance at The Ear, I feel that it is a beautifully special place in my world.  It’s where I go to wash away the dust of everyday life, to get my aesthetic vitamins, to get my batteries charged.

This may be too personal for some of my readers, but I write openly that 326 Spring Street on Sundays from 8-11 is my synagogue, my church, my mosque, my sacred space, my place of worship.  I go there to get uplifted, to witness and participate once again in individual and collective Joy.  I go there to learn so much about beauty and generosity.

I wish that everyone who vibrates as I do could go there and be inspired.

And I do not overstate a word here.

May your happiness increase.

SWINGMATISM AT THE EAR INN: HARRY ALLEN, JON-ERIK KELLSO, CHRIS FLORY, NEAL MINER (Sept. 16, 2012)

More wonders from the Downtown Hot Spot of Rhythm, The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York) where memorable jazz gets created without fanfare or fuss on Sunday nights from 8-11 PM by a roving band of alchemists calling themselves The EarRegulars.

On September 16, the Regulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Harry Allen, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar.  Here are two examples of sweetly pungent mastery:

JUST IN TIME, a romp with echoes of Sinatra and Dean Martin:

I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME, originally recorded as a rhythm ballad — one of those songs that is taken faster and faster, but here returned to Charlie Christian / Ruby Braff tempo, so sweetly and persuasively:

May your happiness increase.

BLISS! (The EarRegulars and Friends at The Ear Inn, March 18, 2012)

If you think my title is hyperbolic, I urge you to go immediately to the video performances below, recorded live at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on March 18, 2012.  The players were “The EarRegulars,” a small group originally founded by guitarist Matt Munisteri and trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso.  Last Sunday, Matt was off making audible fireworks in Austin, Texas, so the personnel was Jon-Erik (on a surprisingly svelte Puje trumpet); Andy Farber, tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Neal Miner, bass.  And their friends: Alex Hoffman, tenor; Dan Block, alto saxophone.

Swing aristocrats, casually launching their sweet ideas into the unknown.  Stretching out, spreading joy, lighting up our souls.

Cole Porter’s WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED LOVE? — at “Ben Webster tempo”:

A romping COQUETTE:

I was exhausted on Monday morning but thrilled that I had stayed for this set.  If there are any logicians and semanticists in the JAZZ LIVES readership, perhaps they can chew on this apparent paradox:

1) I don’t think anyone could improve on this music.

2) The EarRegulars — in their various guises — do this whenever they play.

Blessings on all the EarRegulars and their noble friends — an uplifting community where every tub is on its own bottom — a model for us all.

May your happiness increase.

YOUNG AT HEART: THE EARREGULARS (THE EAR INN, Feb. 20, 2012)

I looked forward to inspiring music last Sunday night — Sunday night sessions at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) are always emotionally rich and enlightening.  I could trust the four swing masters a few feet away from my perch at the bar:  Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Block (clarinet / tenor); Chris Flory (guitar); Jon Burr (string bass).

After the first number had ended, Jon-Erik told us that the EarRegulars would be celebrating Presidents’ Day by honoring Lester Young — the man Billie Holiday called “the President,” after Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Much of the music made last night had direct references to Lester, and these two performances were standouts.  TOPSY was a Basie classic in the great early period of that band; WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS was not only a foreshadowing of Fat Tuesday 2012, but a reminder of Lester’s happy childhood in that city, and an evocation of the Kansas City Six.

Here’s TOPSY, that not only points to Lester and Buck, to the Basie rhythm section, but to one of Lester’s most eminent disciples, Charlie Christian — close your eyes and you could imagine this music emanating from Minton’s Playhouse circa 1941:

A romping, building ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:

The EarRegulars don’t need to make a special point of honoring Lester Young: their floating solos, resonant sounds, their awareness that space is just as essential as the notes, their twining counterpoint, and fluid swing are homages to the Master, no matter what they play.

LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING

It’s the title of a very pretty and optimistic 1920 show tune . . .

but it’s also a well-kept New York City secret — a serene below-stairs room in a 150-year old Tribeca brownstone.  The room is cozy — it holds fewer than 100 people — but it’s not cramped; there’s room for a first-rate piano and top-flight jazz improvisation. There is a menu of small plates and a very adventurous selection of cocktails.

The SILVER LINING is located at 75 Murray Street (between Greenwich and West Broadway): their phone is 212-513-1234; the website is thttp://silverliningbar.com/

I heard about Silver Lining first through the most reputable sources — the musicians themselves — who talked of a lovely room conducive to great playing.

And the musicians?  If you check the website, you’ll see fine and familiar names: Dan Block, Dan Aran, Ehud Asherie, Larry Ham, Jon-Erik Kellso, Ray Gallon, Ned Goold, Chris Flory, Sacha Perry, Eliot Zigmund, Jon Burr, Steve Ash, Spike Wilner.

The musicians are booked by Vito Dieterle — a splendid jazz player himself (a floating tenor saxophonist whose work I admired when he was playing alongside Claire Daly in Joel Forrester’s small group) — so I know things are going to go well.

Look for the Silver Lining!