Tag Archives: Chris Flory

“THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL”: YAALA BALLIN SINGS IRVING BERLIN (CHRIS FLORY, MICHAEL KANAN, ARI ROLAND: SteepleChase)

As they say, “I’m a fan.”  Not only of the wonderful, completely-herself singer Yaala Ballin, but of guitarist Chris Flory, pianist Michael Kanan, string bassist Ari Roland . . . and that Israel Baline fellow, Americanized to Irving Berlin, gleaming on a splendid new CD.

Here’s a quick video-audio tour:

and — to support the title of this post:

I can’t get enough — Yaala truly improvises! — here she is with Michael, last Valentine’s Day, telling the Ballin – Baline story in a few words:

That should convince anyone that this is music to purchase, to treasure, to share.  But a few words.

Berlin himself is — like some stocks — disgracefully undervalued.

His music has been perceived for so long as well-behaved.  No sudden shocks of the sort you find in Hart’s or Porter’s lyrics; he doesn’t always aim for the arching melodies of Kern.  Berlin’s curse is that, like Bing Crosby, he manages so deftly to appear simple.  “I could write a song as good as that.”  But you didn’t, we must point out.  Berlin can be sassy and witty: “Be careful, it’s my heart.  It’s not my watch you’re holding, it’s my heart.”  And how many of us know his arch but tender FOOLS FALL IN LOVE?  But his great strength is in his apparent plainness: the melodies that sound as if you could pick them out on the piano with one finger, the lyrics that sound like casual speech.  Of course his songs have “become part of the cultural landscape,” but that is why they get taken for granted.  Hear the singer stride into BLUE SKIES or CHEEK TO CHEEK and we may be forgiven for thinking, to quote Sammy Cahn, “It seems to me I’ve heard that song before.”  It’s easy to regard Berlin the same way one might look at the two slices of toast that accompany our eggs at the diner.  Familiar, not essential.  But his music is lit from within by a depth of feeling that makes his songs expressions of dear truths.  Think of HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN, that most passionate declaration of love couched entirely in questions, decades before JEOPARDY.

And — if we stop to listen to his songs with fresh attention, they sparkle with gentle daring.

Gentle daring also characterizes Yaala Ballin’s singing.  When I listen to her, I always wish I had a very astute companion next to me to whom I could say, “Did you hear what she just did with that tone, that pause, that phrase?” She is incapable of delivering the simplest line in a formulaic way.  Her gliding phrasing, so musical, is a kind of lively quirky speech.  A minute hesitation here, a startling rush there: she’s not locked in by the 1-2-3-4 although she keeps lovely time and swings from the start.  Her slides from one note to another summon up instrumental masters Vic Dickenson and Ben Webster.  She is a magnificently subversive actress, because we never feel that she is acting.  As you hear in the examples above, she is a quiet risk-taker.  You don’t come to one of Yaala’s songs on this CD and think, “Wow, she painted everything bright orange and nailed a chair to the ceiling for effect,” rather it’s as if a sly artist has moved one vase and two bowls in the room and everything is wonderfully improved.  Hear her second chorus of HOW MANY TIMES?  Or THIS YEAR’S KISSES, always thought of as Property of Billie Holiday — Yaala and Michael Kanan, in their first rubato duet chorus, say kindly to the Lady, “We bow low to you, but we have our own ways of getting that feeling” — rueful feeling with swing but not needing capital letters.

It would be cruel to not share it with you:

Describing Yaala’s co-equals (it would be demeaning to call them “accompanists”) — Michael Kanan, Chris Flory, Ari Roland — I find myself in the nicest critical quandary.  Are they a subtle muscular twenty-first century Nat Cole trio?  No, I think, they are the 1940 Basie band in portable form.  The tracks that began with brief instrumental introductions brought happiness from the first notes.  And their approach mixes respect and innovation.  Singers have occasionally taken Berlin very slowly: here, REMEMBER, HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? SAY IT ISN’T SO, and BE CAREFUL, IT’S MY HEART are taken at walking tempos, stripping away decades of melodrama to reveal the strong structures beneath.  Several of the songs have unexpected rhythmic underpinnings, adding freshness: for the first time ever, I was able to put Astaire aside while hearing CHANGE PARTNERS.

And the CD sounds the way these four people sound in person, so I had the dreamy sensation of having Yaala, Michael, Chris, and Ari in my living room.  Thanks to Chris Sulit and Nils Winther for making this happen.

The CD is deliciously varied: the compact performances feel just right, completely satisfying in their old-fashioned refusal to sprawl.  Little arranging touches — Yaala in duet with each of the players, split choruses and other variations — make this a splendid tasting menu.  I kept returning to some of the songs, as if it was too difficult to let go of the sensations they had evoked until I’d heard them three or four times.  I hope for a yard-length CD series of YAALA BALLIN SINGS THE __________ SONGBOOK.  (I vote for Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, but that’s just me.)

When I had finished my first hearing of the CD, I felt as if I had been given great gifts.  And then I played it again.  Deprive yourself of such pleasures at your own peril.  The disc and its digital contents are available in the usual places and the usual ways.

May your happiness increase!

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

Overheard . . . an order at the bar at The Ear Inn on Sunday night, January 16, 2011: “I need one TIGER, two of HAPPY, an order of LOVE.”  The EarRegulars, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Mark Lopeman, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Matt Munisteri or Chris Flory, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass, were eager to comply.

The videos are extraordinarily dark.  It is, after all, a New York bar in January with no light coming in from outside.  Close your eyes and enjoy.

TIGER RAG:

OLD-FASHIONED LOVE:

Chris Flory, always welcome, takes over the guitar chair for HAPPY FEET:

I WANT TO BE HAPPY, with Pete Martinez, paying his own visit:

A Shrine for Swing, which the EarRegulars create when / wherever they play.

May your happiness increase!

CHRIS FLORY’S MAGIC DEEP-BLUE SWING ENGINE (with JON-ERIK KELLSO, EVAN ARNTZEN, NEAL MINER at CAFE BOHEMIA, November 14, 2019)

I think my subject line says it all.  There are musicians who can swing when the band is swinging (they hitch onto the back of the truck and ride along).  Others can swing the whole room, unaccompanied, in eight bars.

Chris Flory is a shining example of the latter species; his playing is full of emotion but limber, and his music always feels honest.  Here he is, improvising on Harold Arlen’s I GOTTA RIGHT TO SING THE BLUES at Cafe Bohemia in the fabled past — November 14, 2019 — with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass:

Don’t let the red lighting disconcert you: everything Chris plays has, somewhere in it, indigos.  They shine, and they warm us.

May your happiness increase!

A HOT BEVERAGE, SHARED GENEROUSLY: JON-ERIK KELLSO, CHRIS FLORY, EVAN ARNTZEN, NEAL MINER (Cafe Bohemia, Nov. 14, 2019)

Care for a cup of caffeinated groove?  Here’s Vincent Youmans’ 1922 Broadway classic, performed for a quietly appreciative audience at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, New York City. The noble players here are Neal Miner, string bass; Chris Flory, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet.

I won’t write about the emotions that surround such a performance as I and others view it now: you can imagine.  We live in hope that such marvels will come again, in a recognizable landscape.  Until then, let the music help us to float from day to day, from poignant memory to poignant memory.

May your happiness increase!

“CHINATOWN”! — JON-ERIK KELLSO, CHRIS FLORY, EVAN ARNTZEN, NEAL MINER (Cafe Bohemia, November 14, 2019)

Certain simultaneous experiences resonate in my memory even though they happened decades ago.  I believe that I heard Louis sing and play CHINATOWN, MY CHINATOWN in the same year that I was first introduced to that downtown New York City neighborhood, through the kindness of S.N. Zimny, so a hot performance of that song always tastes like the first bite of roast duck chow mei fun to me.

Louis loved Chinese food, by the way.

More recently, through the good offices of Joel and Mary Forrester, I found out about XO Kitchen Restaurant on Hester Street, pictured above and below.

They are open for business!  I don’t have the psychic energy needed to go there, but I can dream.  (If you go, know that they don’t take credit cards.)

WordPress is not yet sophisticated enough for me to send you dinner through this blogpost — you’re on your own — but I can and will share a hot performance of CHINATOWN that was created right in front of me on November 14, 2019, by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Evan Arntzen, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass, at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street.

Returning to the culinary thread for just a moment, Google Maps says it’s a 1.7 mile walk from Cafe Bohemia to X O — either way — that would take 12 minutes.  They haven’t seen me walk, but no matter.

Here’s the music: as satisfying as any meal I could imagine and then some:

Perhaps 2021 will be the year when both these pleasures are once again available to us, freely and easily.  For now, you can change the dinner menu in intriguing ways — perhaps add stir-fried broccoli? — and you can watch and listen, I hope joyously in both cases.

May your happiness increase!

GROOVING, DOWNTOWN: CHRIS FLORY, EVAN ARNTZEN, JON-ERIK KELLSO, NEAL MINER (Cafe Bohemia: November 14, 2019)

An hour ago, I was on the phone with my dear friend Matthew Rivera, and when we hung up I was pierced with nostalgia for past times, joys temporarily suspended.   Nostalgia for pure New York City – Kansas City groove, first created by Eddie Durham. Nostalgia for 15 Barrow Street, Cafe Bohemia nights.  Music by Chris Flory, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Evan Arntzen, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass, created on November 14, 2019.  The title? TOPSY:

I pray these gatherings will come again, and I know I am not alone in this.

May your happiness increase!

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

I’m told it’s Sunday again.  How this happened, I have no idea, but here we are.

Sunday means that it’s time to saddle the cyberspace pack animals and head to 326 Spring Street, The Ear Inn, the home of happy ears, for a restorative session with the EarRegulars: our weekly uplift. I am assuming you can find your way “there,” to the previous twenty-two weekly posts.  If not, just ask.

Ready?  Bang your ruby slippers together and it’s Sunday night, June 13, 2010.  And although our Guardian Angel might be Billy Kyle, that night it was a quiet, witty, irreplaceable fellow from New Jersey, Bill Basie — with the swinging music being created by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Andy Farber, tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass:

Here’s Herschel Evans’ DOGGIN’ AROUND:

and a Youmans melody that started its life with Jimmie Noone and still keeps its freshness, I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW:

For Ruby Braff as well as Herschel, we have BLUE AND SENTIMENTAL:

Thinking of Lester Young, we have Andy Farber, Dan Block, tenors left and right; Chris Flory, guitar; Fumi Tomita, string bass:

Beautiful, isn’t it?  I know better times are coming, and I hope to celebrate with you all at 326 Spring Street . . . sooner rather than later.

May your happiness increase!

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)

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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!