And the exclamation point was so well-deserved, with Warren Vaché, cornet; Allan Vaché, clarinet; John Allred, trombone; Ralph Sutton, piano; Gray Sargent, guitar; Jack Lesberg, string bass; Jake Hanna, drums. Bern, Switzerland, 1997.
As Uncle Jake used to say, “Pay attention.”
“This band doesn’t rehearse; we just play,” says Warren. And so they do, spectacularly.
YOU’RE DRIVING ME CRAZY / LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME / AFTER YOU’VE GONE (Allan) / VIPER’S DRAG (Ralph) / NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW / I’M GETTING SENTIMENTAL OVER YOU (John) / WALKIN’ MY BABY BACK HOME (Gray) / NOBODY KNOWS (Warren – Ralph) / FRANKIE AND JOHNNY (Jack) / LIMEHOUSE BLUES (Jake) / BLUES:
What swing, what proficiency, what delight, individually and collectively. An amazing band, a memorable performance . . . and I don’t usually get hyperbolic, but I do here.
This wonderful combination of like-minded creators took place on Sunday, October 17, 2021 — near the end of the magical season created by the EarRegulars at the Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.
It’s another of the improvisatory wonders that so uplifted our hearts from May – October 2021: in F, the key of love, ROSETTA (credited to Earl Hines but I believe by Henri Woode) from the EarRegulars’ All-Stars Big Band: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass; John Allred, Bill Allred, Harvey Tibbs, Joan Codina, Steve Bleifuss, trombone; Adam Moezinia, guitar.
The roadmap: ensemble with Kellso leading, John Allred, Codina, Bleifuss, Bill Allred, Tibbs, then trades in approximately the same order, Moezinia, Munisteri, then trades, Kellso, a riff from TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, O’Leary, and a Kellso-led final ensemble.
That this happened, that it happened in a city I could get to, that the musicians don’t mind my little techno-voyeurism and sharing their work with you for free. . . all magnificent gifts of these jazz Magi. Without watch chains or long hair: generously given, received with great joy.
Sunday afternoon, slightly autumnal but bright. The EarRegulars began as Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Bill Allred, trombone; Pat O’Leary, string bass. But we knew that other trombones were spotted — loyal friends and EarRegulars themselves, John Allred and Harvey Tibbs.
Jon-Erik, Bill, Matt, and Pat started things off with MARGIE, EXACTLY LIKE YOU, and WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING (the last for friends of Jon-Erik’s in the crowd, folks from the Allen Park, Michigan hood, with connections to the marching band). Then, Jon-Erik invited John Allred to join in — a family affair:
This quintet romped through ALWAYS, YES SIR, THAT’S MY BABY, BUDDY BOLDEN’S BLUES, a magnificently expansive PANAMA (twelve minutes long) and went back to its original quartet for a closing STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BARBECUE. In the photograph above, Jon-Erik might be taking a breath, but you see his pleasure on his face.
An intermission followed: conversation, food and drink, old friends and new ones.
A quartet version of I MAY BE WRONG included an apocalyptic ambulance siren: the siren was medically necessary but aesthetically wrong, and the band took it in stride. After that, an unscripted SPRING STREET BLUES.
Then, one of the great features of these gatherings, which date back to 2007, where the original quartet welcomed a proliferation of friends and guests — rather like putting the extra leaf in the dining room table to have many people to dinner, even if no one was expecting them.
Jon-Erik invited Adam Moezinia, guitar; John Allred; Harvey Tibbs, Joan Codina, and Steve Bleifuss, making a five-person trombone choir — for an easy ROSETTA (in F). The more, the merrier: Gordon Au, trumpet, joined the delightful ensemble for this happy marvel, PERDIDO (what else?) with the appropriate riffs. Photographic evidence:
Audio-visual evidence. Please note the characteristic blend of ease and intensity, the fact that everyone knows the way there and back, and the hilariously wonderful final bridge, neither immoral nor atonal, but consciously “out there,” for dramatic effect:
At the conclusion, I wasn’t standing because my tripod is in the way, but I certainly felt like cheering. What happened was more than an accidental profusion of players: it is a community of expert friends who know the common language and joyously share their craft with us.”
Bless them, every last one of them, and that includes the two who didn’t get to join in on PERDIDO — trumpeter Andrew Stephens and guitarist Lou Salcedo — who joined in for a final UNDECIDED, a joy-fest beyond our expectations. With every note, they bless us.
We all may have reasons for thinking the spring of 2021 particularly memorable — I know I do.
But I will also think of it as the season of The Ear Out, a frankly miraculous series of Sunday-afternoon soirees (or revival meetings?) with the EarRegulars preaching the mellow sermon whose text, “Isn’t it glorious to be alive and breathing?”
Do I overstate? I think not. Here’s some secular-sacred evidence from Sunday, May 16, 2021, laid down by Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass — the venerable chapter being SOME OF THESE DAYS:
That feels good. Bless this foursome, and thank them, too — and all the other memorable EarRegulars.
I learned about this video of the Friday-night concert of the 2021 West Texas Jazz Party from my friend, the great drummer Ricky Malichi — and I settled back into fifty-eight minutes of pleasure . . . not the least of it being that the video was professionally shot and edited (beautifully) and I could be a delighted spectator for once. To explicate the twenty names above, although few of them need identification . . . Warren Vache, cornet; Randy Sandke, trumpet; Dan Barrett, John Allred, Russ Phillips, trombone; Harry Allen, Peter Anderson, Will Anderson, reeds; Nate Najar, guitar; Daniele Soledad, vocal; Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Nicki Parrott, vocal and string bass; Frank Tate, Richard Simon, string bass; Rossano Sportiello, Johnny Varro, Brian Piper, piano; Chuck Redd, drums and vibes; Ricky Malichi, Eddie Metz, drums.
These selections from Friday night at the Ector Theatre are so beautifully polished, testifying to the immense professionalism of the musicians at the Party: without any commercial interruptions, it’s a wonderful advertisement for the 2022 and future WTJP!
You’ll see it’s not just a casual blowing session — there are some clever charts (who did them?) but the swinging cohesion is both typical and admirable.
Here’s the menu:
LIMEHOUSE BLUES: Sandke, Allen, Will Anderson, Varro, Tate, Redd
IN A MELLOTONE: Barrett, Allred, Phillips, Piper, Simon, Malichi
A LITTLE GIRL FROM LITTLE ROCK and LIKE THE BRIGHTEST STAR: Kilgore, Parrott, Allen, Sportiello, Metz, Redd
THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME and IT’S YOU OR NO ONE: Vache, Allred, Peter Anderson, Piper, Simon, Malichi
DOUBLE RAINBOW: Najar, Soledade
JUST FRIENDS and AFTERGLOW: Sandke, Barrett, Allen, Will Anderson, Varro, Tate, Metz
A delightful offering, and so well-produced. And thanks again to Ricky Malichi, who swings even when away from his kit.
This morning, Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, and is proving to be a very terrifying storm — on the sixteenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I know some of my friends have found safe havens elsewhere, but I send these sounds out to everyone feeling the wrath of Ida.
Ironically, the apt sounds — melancholy but with a groove — were created almost a month ago, on July 25, 2021, at the Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, by the EarRegulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass. The song? Hoagy Carmichael’s NEW ORLEANS, which I associate with Jimmy Rushing and Louis Armstrong, among others. Here it is, without words but with feeling:
I present it here as a prayer for durability and resilience of that “quaint old Southern city” and its people.
There’s an immense Groove to whatever the EarRegulars play: think Louis and Basie having a good time together.
Yes, those two deities are posing for a photographer, but I imagine them grinning at the music made by the EarRegulars one Sunday afternoon, July 25, 2021 (although any EarRegulars gathering would produce the same response).
That Sunday, the EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass — lovingly playing Louis’ 1947 composition, SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY, which I think of as the sweetest song of reproach and revenge possible:
The EarRegulars have been appearing all summer at The Ear Out, details specified above, from 1-3:30 on Sundays. Have you been?
Yesterday I shared a gliding performance of a Shelton Brooks classic, DARKTOWN STRUTTERS BALL, by Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass:
It was met with delightful enthusiasm: around 1800 views on YouTube in 24 hours. I don’t know how to explain this explosion of good taste, but it cheers me immensely. So, while we in the Northeast US wait to see what Hurricane Henri has in store for us, I’ve been playing the video of another Shelton Brooks hit loudly — to compete with the rain. The song is SOME OF THESE DAYS, which Sophie Tucker wisely made her theme song, and jazz musicians from the ODJB to Lee Konitz played it with pleasure — not to mention irreplaceable recordings by Louis, Bing, and Ethel Waters. Must be those minor chords!
This version positively romps: not just the solos, but the engaging interplay — how these masters listen to each other and conduct witty conversations in swing. Watch out for the humor in Jon-Erik’s solo (which starts low in the best 1929 Louis manner), John’s slippery epigrams, a magnificently surrealistic chord from James . . . and since the bass player is often taken as a supporting player, I urge you to replay this video to pay attention to Neal — walking the chords, improvising subversive melody lines while keeping the time right there, and his eloquent solo. Rare and uplifting sounds on Spring Street:
Thank you, Mister Brooks.
There’s more, but I didn’t want to overload anyone with spiritual exaltation. Except when there are hurricanes, The EarRegulars have been holding joy-meetings every Sunday afternoon outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, from 1-3:30. I hear tell that when the days get shorter and cooler, they will return to playing indoors on Sunday evenings, but I have no exact date for this transformation. Until then, get yourself there if you can.
Doing that easy glide! Yes, it’s the EarRegulars, spreading joy once again — in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York — on one of their Sunday afternoon spiritual- refreshment gatherings.
They are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass. And this was the very first song of their July 25, 2021 performance.
Incidentally, the song was written in 1915 and published in 1917 by Shelton Brooks, the African-American (born in Ontario) composer who we also know for SOME OF THESE DAYS.
I have a sentimental attachment to this song: it was one of those my father taught me to sing when I was about 4, even though I doubt I knew what most of the words meant. Thanks, Dad, for a life where music is always restorative.
Our culture celebrates victory, but sometimes giving in is the only way: this song dramatizes the surrender to love.
I SURRENDER, DEAR has an ache in its heart. (If you don’t know the classic versions by Bing and Louis, you owe it to yourself to visit them.) But sadness, whole-heartedly dramatized, is joy.
Thank the EarRegulars for this sustained burst of emotions, coming from The Ear Out (that’s located on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3:30 in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City). On July 25, 2021, they were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass, with NOLA guest Shaye Cohn, cornet, joining them, adding to the collective lyricism.
If you can, and you haven’t participated in these Sunday-afternoon musicales, you are seriously missing out. And you wouldn’t want to tell the grandchildren that you were too busy with the Times puzzle, would you?
Who could resist such a request? Thank you, Sigmund Romberg, of course.
And thank the EarRegulars for this sustained joy from The Ear Out (that’s located on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 3:30 in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City).
On July 25, 2021, they were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass, with NOLA guest Shaye Cohn, cornet, joining them. And here’s a masterpiece of chamber jazz, no exaggeration: solos, swing, ensemble telepathy, lyricism:
I’ve posted several other luminous performances from this session, with guests Jen Hodge, Josh Dunn, Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, and Tamar Korn: THEM THERE EYES, IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT, and ONCE IN A WHILE. They don’t need explication, although they (and this burst of pleasures) remind me of someone from the UK — obviously deep into her own preferred variety of jazz — who used to comment on my postings, “Too swingy.”
She meant it as a criticism: I take it as the highest compliment.
The EarRegulars and friends deserve our most reverent thanks. And our physical presence: every Sunday afternoon from 1 to 3:30, at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.
And a self-referential postscript: in some unimagined context, should someone ask me, “Michael, what have you done with your life? I understand you were a college professor for decades . . .” I would point them to videos like this as the achievements I’m most proud of.
They make it look and sound so easy, which is one of the marks of great art — what Castiglione called “sprezzatura,” or an inspired nonchalance. Or, bcause it’s from the Louis book, it translates as “hot cosmology.” An extraordinarily lovely interlude by the EarRegulars plus guests, performed for all and sundry (did the passers-by feel the love as they trotted by?) on Sunday, July 25, 2021, at “The Ear Out,” in front of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.
The creators — bless them in long meter — are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; with Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, trumpet; Shaye Cohn, cornet, Josh Dunn, guitar; Jen Hodge (sitting in for Neal Caine), string bass.
And their facial expressions will tell you their communal pleasure in the music they made float on the air.
“Hi, hi!” to quote Louis. Or to quote an enthusiastic friend of mine, “Wow wow wow.” More to come.
By the time I began to attend live jazz happenings in New York City, 1970, the block of Fifty-Second Street once known as “Swing Street” had lost its marvelous coloration: banks and stores now stood where for, about a decade, there had been a line of jazz clubs where one could hear the most magnificent music, with musicians playing not only their own gigs but visiting others’. Ben, Bird, Billie, Big Sid, Bechet, Big T — among a hundred others. All that remained was a few dozen photographs and some record dates that tried to simulate the energies that bubbled up every night.
But in 2007, when Jon-Erik Kellso started a Sunday-night residency at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, often with guitarist Matt Munisteri — the group was not yet called The EarRegulars — those sessions were the closest thing to Swing Street glories that I had ever seen, as the original quartet would delightfully grow with friends coming to add their voices to the swinging choir.
Since May of this year, Jon-Erik has been holding sessions outside The Ear Inn, and they provide the same emotional and aesthetic uplift. The music says in every note: We are not dead. We can still create joy. And we are happy to offer our wise feeling joy to you.
This happened again — most gloriously — on the afternoon of July 25 . . . a fairly quiet time in Soho, with many people having found some way to get out of the city. But those who remained in front of 326 Spring Street will, I propose, never forget what they saw and heard.
And the musicians were similarly transported: watching the performance that follows, please note the facial expressions of the musicians: Jen Hodge’s smile, James Chirillo’s approval, so evident, even behind the double mask. I’ve posted an exuberant sample from that day — the closing performance, THEM THERE EYES, featuring Tamar Korn — and here’s another wonder, James P. Johnson’s IF I COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT:
They make it look and sound so easy, which is one of the marks of great art — what Castiglione called “sprezzatura,” or an inspired nonchalance. An extraordinarily lovely interlude by the EarRegulars plus guests, performed for all and sundry (did the passers-by feel the love as they trotted by?). The creators — bless them in long meter — are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; with Rafael Castillo-Halvorssen, trumpet; Shaye Cohn, cornet, Josh Dunn, guitar; Jen Hodge, sitting in for Neal Caine, string bass. Wondrous lyricism, a great feast of sounds for our ears and hearts.
I feel so much gratitude to them and their peers: I hope you feel it also.
Wondrous music was made (to quote Fratello JLC) in front of the Ear Inn on Sunday, July 25. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t, you can see and hear a sample now — created by the EarRegulars on their penultimate performance of the afternoon, THEM THERE EYES, featuring the regular EarRegulars for the day, John Allred, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Neal Caine, string bass, with irregular EarRegulars Tamar Korn, vocal; Shaye Cohn, cornet; Danny Tobias, trumpet; Josh Dunn, guitar.
Leader Jon-Erik Kellso and Rafael Castillo-Halvorsen, guest trumpet, sat this one out to not have an excess of brass – but you can imagine their grins. Oh, my!
Have you been? Joys await for those who can drop in. And there’s Sunday, August 1 . . . .
I said to a friend while we were seated outside The Ear Inn, “During the pandemic, if you’d told me that I would be sitting outdoors in the sunshine, watching and listening to the EarRegulars, I would have said it was cruel to tease.”
But now it’s happened, and it’s glorious. On May 2, the band was Jon-Erik Kellso, Scott Robinson, Matt Munisteri, and Pat O’Leary. Two weeks later (rain got in the way) it was Jon-Erik, John Allred, Neal Miner, and Joe Cohn.
AND on May 23 — which is today! — from 1-3:30, the band will be Jon-Erik, Scott, Pat, and Chris Flory. So if you (in the tri-state area, of course) are sitting home amidst coffee mugs and the remnants of the Times, you could be feeling the spirit at 326 Spring Street. I don’t mean to nag. Just a suggestion.
In case you woke up and said, “Honey, what day is today?” the EarRegulars answer the question:
and this venerable song, so associated with Billie Holiday, is addressed to those who can see live music but choose to live their aesthetic lives through the computer, wherever they are:
Will there be more? Oh goodness, yes. Joy will be spread like cream cheese on a genuine New York bagel.
It wasn’t, as the expression goes, a “one-shot deal” when the EarRegulars lit up both the street and our hopes by playing two glorious sets at 326 Spring Street on May 2, 2021. Nay nay, as Louis says. Rain got in the way the next week, and a few inhospitable droplets spattered the faithful on May 16, but the skies cleared and the EarRegulars did it once again — Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass. Here are three marvels from their first set. And before you immerse yourself in video-recorded joys, let me point out that Jon-Erik, Scott Robinson, Pat O’Leary, and Chris Flory will be playing there again on May 23, 1-3:30. Neato, peachy keen, and just swell.
LULLABY OF THE LEAVES, featuring the eloquent Neal Miner:
And musically saying the YES! we all felt, ‘DEED I DO:
There’s more to come from this session, but if you can make it to 326 Spring Street on Sunday, May 26, from 1-3:30, joy and swing will be there to greet you in a now-permitted embrace. No livestream at the moment, but if you want to contribute to a virtual tip jar, let me know and I will pass the information on to The EarRegulars’ Accounting Division.
What could be better? — sunshine, friends, The EarRegulars, swinging rebirth outside The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, C-melody and tenor saxophones, Eb tuba; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass, Fats Waller’s I’M CRAZY ‘BOUT MY BABY, complete with verse:
And here’s the JAZZ LIVES Official Mobius Strip: I am posting this video on Sunday, May 16, 2021, and IF IT ISN’T RAINING (caps essential here) I will be outside The Ear Inn, digging the sounds created by Jon-Erik, John Allred, trombone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass . . . while you might be reading this post and listening to the sounds created on May 2. Don’t think too much about it: just enjoy. It’s Newton’s Law — Frank, not Isaac — “With swing, all things are possible.”
Walter Donaldson’s IT’S BEEN SO LONG could have been the theme song of the pandemic. But this performance, two months before the lights went out, is cheerful, rambunctious, uplifting.
These celestial noises were created below stairs at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, at one of their Thursday-night revels, this one featuring Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. Apologies to John for not including him in the frame: I recall trying to do so and being blocked by someone’s head, never a great accomplishment in cinematography:
Cafe Bohemia has not resumed its revels, although we live in hope. But — did you know — Jon-Erik, John, Joe Cohn, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass, will be playing outside The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York, tomorrow, Sunday, May 15, from 1 to 3:30?
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 pleasedhere. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . . . .