Tag Archives: Mark Lopeman

WHEN SPRING STREET IS SWING STREET: JON-ERIK KELLSO, MARK LOPEMAN, JOE COHN, TAL RONEN, BJÖRN INGELSTAM (SEPT. 1, 2013)

The block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on Fifty-Second Street is “Swing Street” in name only: it’s been many decades since it was lined with small clubs featuring hot jazz.

But Spring Street can claim the name on Sunday nights — at least in one reassuring spot, The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, where the EarRegulars play between 8-11 PM: inspiring music in memorable surroundings.

The EarRegulars, as assembled on Sunday, September 1, 2013, were a noble crew: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Mark Lopeman, tenor, soprano sax, clarinet; Joe Cohn, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass.  And the first appearance by Scandinavian trumpeter — now a New York resident —   Björn Ingelstam on the closing song of this series.

Romberg in swing! LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

MAKIN’ WHOOPEE, fine material for a groovy improvisation:

For Hawkins, perhaps? THE MAN I LOVE:

For Louis, Roy, Mildred, and of course Hoagy, ROCKIN’ CHAIR:

WASHINGTON AND LEE SWING (the fight song of Jon-Erik’s high school):

PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE:

May your happiness increase!

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CHERISH THE LADIES*: SPEND MOTHER’S DAY 2013 with The EarRegulars!

On Sunday May 12th, The EarRegulars move north for a few hours for a Mother’s Day Brunch at The Stage at Rockwells American Restaurant, 105 Wolfs Lane, Pelham, New York 10803.  There are three seatings, 11:30am-2:30pm. Reservations (914) 738-5881.

If you’ve been following JAZZ LIVES for more than thirty-two bars, you know how valuable The EarRegulars are to Western Civilization.  They hold regular EarRegular seances at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York — but for those north of the border, those with a Monday-morning 6 AM alarm clock, those who want to make sure that Mother is feted in the best style . . . hie yourself northward for swing!

And if you don’t know them, or you need a Serious Jazz Authority, how’s this:

“There’s nothing regular or ordinary about this group of dazzling, swinging, world class New Orleans traditional jazz phenoms who we’ve coaxed up to ‘burbs from Spring Street’s beloved watering hole to complete our Mother’s Day / Brunch / Jazz triple play celebration on May 12th. Maybe whatever short-circuited parts of the Ear Inn’s neon sign out front also sent a charge through the place, catapulting the musicians, wedged in a corner, back half a century, then down to the Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street in New Orleans, and on this occasion, to your neighborhood, at the Stage at Rockwells. Discover one of the City’s best kept musical secret, “Old time jazz swing with a modern metabolism.” – Nate Chinen, NY Times.

This splendid quartet will be Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet), Matt Munisteri (guitar), Mark Lopeman (clarinet and tenor saxophone), and Pat O’Leary (bass).

About the asterisk in my title.  CHERISH THE L ADIES is, I hope, appropriate to Mother’s Day — but I know that male accompanists are encouraged.  It had been suggested to me by a colleague that I title this post I HEAR YOUR MOTHER LOVES TO SWING, but the JAZZ LIVES Legal Department said that such a statement could lead to legal action of a prolonged and costly sort.

So — eschew the usual box of candy or bouquet of f lowers this year, and make your Mother a true EarRegular!

May your happiness increase.

THEY’LL BRING BACK THE POWER TO NEW YORK: MARK LOPEMAN, JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, ROB ADKINS AT THE EAR INN (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York)

I originally wrote this blog before Hurricane Sandy . . . and called it WHERE BEAUTY GOES ON SUNDAY.  This is still appropriate — but in view of New York being rainy and windy and with many of my friends being without electrical power, I thought I should change the title.  The EarRegulars can reset the cosmic balance — making the world EarRegular, as it were.

And (on a personal note) I write this from London, where my dear jazz friend JSA has offered shelter, good music, and solicitude — nothing new!

Last Sunday, October 21, 2012,  was dark, gray, and rainy.  The beautiful October we have been having — INDIAN SUMMER with or without Coleman Hawkins — isn’t permanent.

But the music inside The Ear Inn, created by The EarRegulars, was warming in every way.  The original co-leaders were there, beaming: Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet . . . and they were joined by Rob Adkins, string bass; Mark Lopeman, reeds.

Pay attention! — to quote the late Jake Hanna.

Here are two beauties from that evening.

A sinuous IF I HAD YOU:

A romping MILENBERG JOYS:

Thank you, dear Gentlemen, for making the warm weather stay around for a few hours more.

May your happiness increase.

OUR IDEAL: THE EARREGULARS at THE EAR INN (January 29, 2012)

Very simple, no flourishes, nothing fancy: just four of the best musicians you’ll ever hear honoring the melodies, improvising at lightning speed, making a wonderfully cohesive little band right there in the corner at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) last Sunday night from 8-11 PM.  By the summer of 2012 the EarRegulars will have pulled off such secular miracles for five years, which stands as an amazing record for creative consistency.

Last Sunday’s Peerless Quartet was Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass.  Here are five varied and luminous performances from that evening:

The Claude Hopkins-Alex Hill declaration of gracious acquiescence, I WOULD DO [MOST] ANYTHING FOR YOU, which also became the Hopkins theme song.  I always wonder whether it reflects the leader’s mood if the MOST is included or left out.  Scholarly research, anyone?

Then a leisurely exposition of the 1922 Youmans SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY, at a tempo that recalls Lester Young and his gorgeous Keynote session:

So many “traditional” and “Dixieland” bands have claimed THE SHEIK OF ARABY for their own that one is in danger of forgetting what an effective swing tune it is.  Here, Matt and Jon-Erik launch into the appropriately Middle-Eastern verse in a manner that recalls the eternally memorable Hot Lips Page session for V-Disc:

A lovely tune, not often played by jazz improvisers, is the Irving Berlin CHANGE PARTNERS — of course associated with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

And a sweet, musing version of Walter Donaldson’s MY IDEAL, recalling both Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday:

I was thrilled to be there . . . and I had very good company — new young friends, Travis and Jillian, who were digging the music in the most heartfelt way.  Shazam, you cats!

The EarRegulars will be taking Sunday, February 5, 2012, off, because of the Super Bowl — but they will be back on the 12th with Matt, Jon-Erik, Mark Lopeman, and Nicki Parrott — prepare to swing!

JAZZ WORTH READING: AN INTERVIEW WITH MARK LOPEMAN

Although the fine saxophonist and musician Mark Lopeman is articulate in person, I don’t think he has been interviewed much if at all.  Now there’s a particularly good reason: his first CD as a leader, NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, which I have written about in JAZZ LIVES here.

This brief interview of Mark in ALL ABOUT JAZZ does what the best ones do: provides a tangible sense of its subject, his voice, and his ideas in a compact uncluttered way.

http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=92300

So, if you’ve already purchased the CD, the interview will add more to your understanding of this gifted, modest man and musician.  If all of this is new to you, I propose a visit to Mark’s site (http://www.marklopeman.com) to hear some of the music from the CD, then to the interview, and back to get your own copy of the CD. Trust me on this.

QUIETLY SPECTACULAR: “NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT”: MARK LOPEMAN’S DEBUT CD

If you’ve been following the New York City jazz scene, you’ll know Mark Lopeman — a master saxophonist who’s been an invaluable addition to many bands for the past few decades.  Mark has just released his first CD under his own name, and it’s wonderful.

You can skip the prose and go right to the heart of things here

But if you’ve never heard or heard of Mark Lopeman (which I could understand) a few words might be in order.  Mark is another one of those people who proved F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong — not only are there second acts in American lives, but the plays we write and act in go seamlessly on without intermissions or other arbitrary divisions.  Mark is now in his early fifties, but this is no middle-aged man’s self-indulgent effort.  Rather it is beautiful music throughout — no pretenses, nothing antiquarian or postmodernist.  It is lively and fresh (locally sourced and organic, too), yet not a familiar running-through-an-hour-of-tried-and-true.  Readers of a certain age will know what I mean when I say it reminds me very happily of an imagined session for the Prestige-Swingville label, in better sound.  Mark and his colleagues know how to hit a variety of grooves, but the music never pokes a listener in the ribs and says, “Gee, look at how funky we are!”

Rather than retell Mark’s biography, I would direct you to his site — where the tale, involving the circus, a traffic ticket, Gerry Mulligan, and other notables, can be found here

I would offer my own narrow version of the Mark Lopeman saga.  When I first began to haunt New York jazz clubs, I heard Mark as a member of Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, someone who could work his way through the reeds without fear.  He swung hard, never missed a turn, and when it came to his feature number — a transcription of the 1939 Hawkins BODY AND SOUL — he played it with accuracy and fervor, but I could hear his personality peeking out through the transcribed notes.  Then I had the good fortune to hear him as a guest EarRegular at The Ear Inn with Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri.  To use the ancient locution, I flipped.  He swung, he soared; he was lyrical, witty, and to the point.  Ruby Braff had originally wanted to play the tenor saxophone; had he gotten his wish, he would have sounded like Mark Lopeman: wearing his heart on his sleeve but never getting in anyone’s way.

Mark is also one of those players who has thoroughly absorbed the tradition but has managed to bob along on the waves, remaining true to himself.  So a tenor aficionado will hear affectionate side-glances of Charlie Rouse and Al Cohn, Lucky Thompson and Stan Getz, but Mark is not one of those Real Book / play-along creations who coast from one learned phrase to another.  He is himself, and what a good thing that is!

Back to our story.  When I meet an artist I admire, I am not subtle or restrained in saying so.  After the first EarRegulars experience, I think I buttonholed Mark and said, “Wow, you play beautifully!  Have you got a CD of your own?”  And he looked a bit shy and said he hadn’t.  Later on, either at Sofia’s or The Ear Inn, I met his wife, the artist Susan Manley, and said (once again subtly), “Damnit, he plays so well.  When the hell is he going to make a CD of his own?”  And she agreed with me.  I can’t take any credit for helping NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT see the light of day, but I would like to think that my nagging had a point: if there were enough annoying people hanging around the Lopemans making this pesky request, perhaps the CD emerged in some small part to get us to be quiet.  Maybe?

Would you like to hear some of the music?  I thought so.  Here are a whole raft of thirty-second snippets, enough to give you a sense of the CD’s candor and variety.  Click here

You can read all about the genesis of the music in Bill Kirschner’s perceptive, concise liner notes, but I would add a few things.  Mark is joined in his lyrical efforts by a splendid rhythm section of Ted Rosenthal, piano; Nicki Parrott, string bass; Tim Horner, drums.  He plays not only tenor saxophone but soprano and clarinet, and about half of the CD is illuminated by the presence of Brandon Lee on trumpet and fluegelhorn and Noah Bless on trombone — both players who know their stuff without cliche.  The repertoire is deliciously varied — from a trotting I’M ALWAYS CHASING RAINBOWS that begins and ends with a hilariously swinging Rosenthal-plays-Chopin, to the title tune, with hints of Charlie Rouse and Monk, a hip-swinging MY KIND OF GIRL (several selections have their roots in Mr. Sinatra’s repertoire), and two very intriguing Lopeman originals, WORLD ECONOMY BLUES (a collaboration with saxophonist Chris Byars) and INTENTIONS — which also feature fascinating scoring by their composer.  My absolute favorites on this disc are two Lopeman – Rosenthal duets, EVERYTHING HAPPENS TO ME (which keeps its yearning quality without any of the self-conscious pathos this song often encourages) and the heartbreaking I’M A FOOL TO WANT YOU.  (Jonathan Schwartz would love them: I hope he gets his own copy.)

I worry that JAZZ LIVES readers will think I am always tugging at their collective sleeves (and credit cards) saying “Buy this!  Buy this!”  But this CD is quietly spectacular.  Nice work indeed, Mark — and how lucky we are that we can indeed get it.

P.S.  The cover portrait is a family affair — a watercolor done with wit and affection by Rosie Lopeman . . . another artist in the house!

THE NIGHTHAWKS, ELI GOODHOE, AND “THE MOOCHE”

Here (as promised) is the debut performance of sixteen-year old Eli Goodhoe, on banjo, with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks — playing Ellington’s THE MOOCHE on February 15, 2011 at Club Cache in the Hotel Edison (211 West 46th Street).

Vince is enthusiastic, and with good reason, about the jazz orchestra that trumpeter Kevin Blancq shepherds at LaGuardia High School — an orchestra that is full of budding talent like Eli’s.  In future, I hope to bring you more from Kevin, his young musicians, and the LaGuardia jazz orchestra.

Right now, listen to THE MOOCHE — a piece reaching back to 1927 — and consider that it is also the seedbed for a new generation of inventive hot jazz players who will, with luck, carry on the grand tradition for decades to come.

The other members of the Nighthawks are Mike Ponella, Jon-Erik Kellso, Harvey Tibbs, Dan Levinson, Peter Anderson, Mark Lopeman, Alan Grubner, Peter Yarin, Ken Salvo (stepping aside for Eli on this number), Vince, and Arnie Kinsella.  

Where the past and the present meet and make room for the future!

HONOR THE LIVING MUSICIANS: CLICK HERE! 

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