Tag Archives: Con Conrad

BLUE AND POIGNANT. FOR BIX. FOR US: THE EARREGULARS IN EUROPE (MATT MUNISTERI, JON-ERIK KELLSO, SCOTT ROBINSON, GREG COHEN in HUNGARY: MARCH 28, 2014)

This video celebrates one of many interlocked triumphs.  For one, the wonderful elastic small group known as the EarRegulars (most often spotted on Sunday nights at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York, from 8-11 PM) made their maiden voyage to Europe.  They recorded a CD — something the faithful, like myself, have been waiting for . . . for a number of years) and they performed, as a justly featured ensemble, at the 23rd International Bohém Ragtime & Jazz Festival.

Here’s one of their performances — captured with many cameras in rapt silence (as opposed to the homespun videos I’ve shot at The Ear Inn) of a song always associated with Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, and Eddie Lang — SINGIN’ THE BLUES (by J. Russell Robinson, Con Conrad, Sam M. Lewis, and Joe Young.  Matt Munisteri, vocal and guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Greg Cohen, string bass:

Recorded at the Bohém Festival in Kecskemét, Hungary, March 28, 2014.  More info about the Bohém Festival here.

Now, the beauties of that performance will be evident to anyone willing to sit still and listen. But a few things need to be said. One is the sustained sweet delicate understatement shown by all four players, singly and as an ensemble. No one weeps or carries on; no one has to step to the microphone and sing or play LOOK AT ME, I AM SO UNHAPPY. They trust themselves, and they trust the power of the notes and words to convey the complex messages of this song.

And — rather like the Willard Robison songs of which Matt is the master — the sadness has a slight tinge of wry self-awareness. I’m singin’ the blues, my baby is somewhere else, life is so sad . . . but I am going to make something beautiful out of my sorrows.

And since 1927, when Bix, Tram, and Lang (among others) recorded SINGIN’ THE BLUES, it’s been one of the most imitated recorded performances in classic jazz. Notice, please, that the EarRegulars are not in the business of xerography, of necrography, of exact reproduction. They know the recording; they could play the solos, but they have faith in the music . . . to carry them to beautiful new places that echo old glories.

Poignant and worth several visits.

May your happiness increase!

SWEETNESS AND LIGHT AND FRIED CHICKEN, TOO: THE SUNNYLAND JAZZ BAND WINS OUR HEARTS (Part One: Oct. 18, 2012)

There aren’t many bands that would inspire me to make a 160-mile automobile round trip after a day’s work, but I did it for the Sunnyland Jazz Band and I still feel immensely gratified.

I met banjoist / guitarist / singer / composer Bob Barta at Jeff (Barnhart) and Joel (Schiavone)’s House Party the week before, and had been delighted by him as a musician and as a gentle, witty, thoughtful person.  An added bonus: I also got to meet and talk with the remarkable Sherrie Barta.

When Bob told me about the Sunnyland ensemble — a trio of trumpet, banjo, and tuba — appearing every Thursday at Bonnie Jean’s on Main Road in Southold, I packed the car with provisions, told the imaginary staff I would be home late, and headed east . . . through old haunts.

It was a delightful musical evening, as you will hear.  Bob’s cohorts are trumpeter / singer John Klumpp and tubaist John Lovett, and they work together so beautifully.  They are sweet without being sticky, light without being insubstantial.  All I can say is that I have their music firmly ensconced in my mind and heart, days after I first heard it.  A singular and touching experience!

I have to point out that Bonnie Jean’s serves real food — I didn’t hear the microwave binging anywhere.  My homemade fried chicken, sauteed spinach, fingerling potatoes, etc., were first-rate.  Good coffee, too, and all at decent prices.  The desserts looked lovely but I was full.  Even if it isn’t Thursday night, I would stop there for the food — and for the lighthearted solicitude of the amiable Jenny and Theresa.  You can read the menu and get all excited here.  Or here if you prefer Facebook.  Worth the trip!

Some of my friends and JAZZ LIVES readers might see the instrumentation here — trumpet, banjo, and tuba, and quail.  Or perhaps blanch.  I understand.  Two of the instruments in this grouping have bad reputations.  But no instrument is inherently naughty . . . it’s just the uses it gets put to by people who are more concerned with volume and effects than with making beautiful sounds.  John Lovett (hiding behind his coils of tubing) creates a resonant deep cushiony sound out of his tuba — it reminds me of a very deep French horn, mobile and sweet.  And Bob is a peerless banjo player who doesn’t see his instrument as a kind of drum that happens to have strings in front of it.  John Klumpp needs no explanation, no rationales: he sounds like a cross between three players: Jabbo, Wilder, and himself.  Two of the three men in this band are known, in addition, to break into song.  They are sweetly persuasive singers and their swinging earnestness goes right to the heart.  Trust me on this.  And you have the videos to prove it.

Bob — who has a puckish sense of humor — called A CUP OF COFFEE, A SANDWICH AND YOU as the first song.  (At the end, he told us that it was a toss-up between that and DINAH.  Think about it):

On the same theme, AUNTIE SKINNER’S CHICKEN DINNERS, although both Sherrie and I were wondering if the original lyrics contain the word “panties”:

Then, for a change of pace.  Think Al Bowlly, not Jack Nicholson, as you hear MIDNIGHT, THE STARS AND YOU:

MOONLIGHT is a Con Conrad tune that was new to me:

Even for someone who finds himself on a plane as often as I do, BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD resonates sweetly:

I think that HIAWATHA’S LULLABY had a brief moment of popularity in 1933, thanks to Adrian Rollini and others — but I never expected to hear it in 2012:

LAZY RIVER.  Oh, you dog river:

A truly rocking version of HERE COMES THE HOT TAMALE MAN even though Bonnie Jean’s is not your usual taqueria:

And the sweet question — dear and romantic — HOW COULD I BE BLUE?:

There will be two more sets from the SJB.  But you should go to Bonnie Jean’s and see for yourself.  I plan to . . .

May your happiness increase.