When NOLA funk comes to NYC Soho, it’s a wonderful connection of forces.
If you think I’m being melodramatic in my title, wait for the group vocal on THE BUCKET’S GOT A HOLE IN IT, from Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet and post-Guinness glass mute; Jay Rattman, alto saxophone and clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. It’s a sad tale of a plumbing problem that could lead to life-threatening dehydration:
I believe that on or before October 31, the EarRegulars, seen above as Out, will go In — reverting to their more familiar Sunday-night performances inside The Ear Inn. Know that these uplifting jazz picnics will become nocturnal soirees as the temperature drops and the days shorten.
And take good care of your bucket. Check it regularly for leaks.
Do you dread the start of the workweek? Or does Monday remind you of homework undone, bills unpaid, responsibilities that weigh? Take heart: JAZZ LIVES is here to help.
(Cue rousing music): the EarRegulars to the rescue! And they’re locally sourced and cage-free. Investigating all the corners of Earl Hines’ 1928 classic, they are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet (in a Bechet mood for a few seconds, sparking joy); Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. All of this took place at the Ear Out — 326 Spring Street — on June 6, 2021:
And just think, with Monday done and done, the rest of the week will soar (or totter) by. Wishing you safe passage — with the help of these joyous sounds.
I have it on good authority that the Sunday-afternoon revival-meetings will continue through October, with guests Don Mopsick, Evan Christopher, Dennis Lichtman, Bill and John Allred . . . don’t miss out!
But we’re in 2021, in the land of blessed live performance, not simply staring rapt at the blue Decca label, and the expression on Albanie Falletta’s face says it all:
A daring little band — the EarRegulars — performing on June 6, 2021, at The Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. The core group for this Louis Armstrong classic (written by Terry Shand and Jimmy Eaton) is Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet and alto saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. Eminent guests: Josh Dunn, guitar; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar. Please note the groovy tempo — not too fast — for this playful inducement to public and private displays of affection.
Another musical marvel, I think. Have you been? These Sunday-afternoon sessions will not happen when the frost is on the pumpkin. So get your musical blessings while you may.
I think the great artists have magical transformative abilities. These four can’t make the noisy sidewalk still or silent, but to me it feels as if they are in my — and their — living room. They are having a good time and they make sure we are also. From left, Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar and vocal; Tal Ronen, string bass; Josh Dunn, acoustic guitar; Matt Munisteri, electric guitar. Tal and Matt were part of the EarRegulars that day for the Sunday session in front of The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, New York City): Albanie and Josh were stellar visitors. he fellow in the blue shirt who’s part of the picture, early and late, is Jon-Erik Kellso, bringing the tip bucket around while he’s not playing his Puje trumpet.
Beautiful moments, captured al fresco:
And if you feel compelled to write in to growl about the people passing by, seemingly oblivious while talking, or perhaps the lack of microphones, please lie down until the impulse passes. Celebrate the magic rather than complaining about this imperfect world: magic happens all of a sudden, unpredictably, and vanishes . . . we must cherish it.
When the EarRegulars — my heroes below — played this pretty tune from the movie NEW ORLEANS, there was no Hurricane Ida. But given Ida’s power and fury, it seems so appropriate to offer it now as a hope for healing and reconstruction. (I was fortunate in my New York suburban apartment, but many were not.)
Those heroes, if you don’t already know them by now, are Pat O’Leary, string bass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, here on C-melody saxophone; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet.
Music might not be able to rebuild destroyed landmarks or cur down trees that fell . . . but it heals in its own way:
And in response to the question, “Michael, when are you going to get tired of posting videos from the EarRegulars?” the most polite answer is, “When the moon turns green.” Or you can think of your own appropriate variations signifying “Never.”
They are so reassuring in the midst of this very lopsided world. Bless them: they bless us.
Technical expertise is a great thing, but even greater when it is in the service of emotion, as it is here.
MY BUDDY is sometimes swung hard — the Hampton-Hawkins version of 1939 — but this performance (song choice and tempo by Maestro Munisteri) continues to swing while reminding us without words that the 1922 Walter Donaldson / Gus Kahn song was written because Donaldson’s cherished fiancee had died. Gus Kahn’s lyrics, powerful because unadorned, combine with the simple melody to provoke deep feeling: “Nights are long since you went away, I dream about you all through the day . . . . I miss your voice, the touch of your hand . . . ” (If you’d like to hear it sung, the most evocative versions for me are by Doris Day and Bernadette Peters.)
Here are the EarRegulars, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone, giving it their all at The Ear Out (outside of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday, June 27, 2021. What beautiful feelings they evoke without ever getting bogged down in sentimentalities:
In case you missed it — in person or in blogland — here is Opus One by the Mini-EarRegulars of June 27, 2021: SUNDAY, UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE, and BLUE LOU, performed by Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar.
And here are the three remaining delights from that first set. It was warm, but with cooling breezes: a nice meteorological metaphor for the music created so generously and nimbly by this Trio.
AM I BLUE? (a question with the easy answer NO!):
(IT’S ONLY) A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN (one of those precious pop songs of the last century that few jazz groups attempt these days, which makes this performance all the more precious) — in a performance whose focused momentum is, to me, thrilling:
Finally, the WABASH BLUES, yes, rock and roll, the old-fashioned ways:
Much more to come from this restorative Sunday afternoon session. Were you there?
“Those things are dangerous. I knew someone who lost a finger,” we hear before and after the Fourth of July. However, there are other kinds of fireworks — lighting up even the afternoon sky with no danger to life or limb — that our beloved incendiary musicians create.
When swing meets the desire to spread happiness, Roman candles go off all over the place. The evidence follows.
This was the closing selection from the EarRegulars’ session of June 27 at The Ear Out, located outside 326 Spring Street in Soho, New York City.
The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass sax, and Official Friend and Sometimes Leader of the EarRegulars, Danny Tobias, trumpet. And they sounded Vincent Youmans’ clarion call, I WANT TO BE HAPPY. (I can never write that title without hearing either Wild Bill Davison or Kenny Davern in my mind’s ear, a la W. C. Fields, “Don’t we all!”)
No dangerous explosions, just sustained joys.
AND . . . on Sunday, July 4th, Jon-Erik will be joined by Grant Stewart, tenor saxophone; Joe Cohn, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass . . . . rockets in the sky, to be sure.
As James Chirillo has been known to say after a particularly satisfying session, “Music was made.” That it was, last Sunday afternoon in the bright sunshine (and cooling breezes) in front of the Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jay Rattman, bass saxophone; Ricky Alexander, clarinet and tenor saxophone. But before a note had been played, Jon-Erik noticed that theCheckEngine light was shining from his trumpet, so he absented himself for a bit to get it looked at, secure that music would be made in his absence. (He came back before the set was over.)
This was a novel instrumentation, one that might have been either earthbound or unbalanced in the hands of lesser musicians. But the synergy here was more than remarkable, and the pleasure created in each chorus was palpable. This hot chamber trio — soaring, lyrical, rambunctious — performed six songs in their trio set. Here are the first three, to be savored.
SUNDAY, which goes back to 1926 (think Jean Goldkette and Cliff Edwards) but was also a favorite of Lester Young. Here, the Mini-EarRegulars also play the verse, an unexpected pleasure:
UNDER A BLANKET OF BLUE was one of Frank Chace’s favorite songs, and I think of the tender version by Ella and Louis. A rarity, though: when was the last time you heard a group play it?
And Edgar Sampson’s rocking BLUE LOU:
A fellow listener turned to me between songs and said, marveling, “Aren’t they grand?” I agreed, as I hope you would have also.
Another episode in the continuing story of rebirth, resurrection, and joy — through music, played by a community, played for one.
This is such a pretty song by Billy Hill (who wrote THE LAST ROUND-UP) and it’s been sung and played by Bing, Louis, Jim Goodwin, Ray Skjelbred, Marc Caparone, and others who dream. Here, it’s brought to wistful swinging life by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Jay Rattman, alto saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass, outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York City, on June 6, 2021.
Go hear some live music. It will reassure you that we are alive, always a good thing.
And if you missed it the first time, here‘s a wild (and wildly gratifying) WILLIE THE WEEPER from this session.
JAZZ LIVES’ readers are an erudite lot, so they know the story of WILLIE THE WEEPER, a craftsperson with a substance abuse problem, to use 2021 terminology. In the song’s original lyrics, of which there are many variants, Willie was a low-down chimney sweeper with a “hop” (opium) habit, which afforded him the most extravagant dreams. An engaging song even without the lyrics, it made its way into Chicago jazz and thus the larger musical world through recordings by Louis Armstrong and others in the later Twenties. And should you investigate the lyrics, you would find that WILLIE is a surrogate parent to MINNIE THE MOOCHER, a creation that Cab Calloway enjoyed for decades.
The people you see in the photographs above are heroes of mine: they give their hearts to this music, which doesn’t always pay them back generously in currency. They “play their personalities,” as Roswell Rudd told me. They know how to sit up straight and color within the lines when necessary, but they also have huge wandering imaginations that delight and surprise. One of the most delightful of this delightful crew is the quiet subversive Jay Rattman, who brought his clarinet and alto saxophone to yesterday’s heartfelt fiesta. Jay looks prudent, serene: you would have no hesitation about co-signing a small loan for him, or letting him order dinner for the group. Not only would he “help the old lady across the street,” he would even first establish that she wanted to go.
So what happened on WILLIE THE WEEPER — the fourth song of this warm breezy Sunday afternoon — was a wondrous surprise. Jay was surrounded by a mutual admiration society: Tal Ronen, string bass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet. I don’t know whether Jay was having a good time with the idea of weeping, or of opium dreams, or if he was simply basking in the joy of being outside among friends playing music . . . but his choruses are the most extravagant — and memorable — dreams. He didn’t implode the song, but he certainly tested its durable elasticity. See and hear for yourself:
To quote Jon-Erik, “Fun one, to be sure.” If you haven’t spent a Sunday afternoon in the company of these wonderful creators, I encourage you to do so. When the sun is shining, 1-3:30, in front of 326 Spring Street. And as hot as it was yesterday, the river provided cooling breezes. As did the music — thrilling, mournful, uplifting.
I can’t speak for everyone, but the fourteen-month period after mid-March 2020 felt for me like a) being locked in the basement with very dim lighting; b) a dinner-theatre production of RIP VAN WINKLE; c) induced coma with meals, phone calls, and my computer; d) a long undefined stretch during which I could watch uplifting videos here; d) all of the above.
But I feel as if spiritual Reveille has sounded, and the way I know that is that live music has been more out-in-the-open than before. (I mean no offense to those gallant souls who swung out in the parks for months.) I’ve been to see and hear the EarRegulars three times in front of the Ear Inn on Sundays (1-3:30, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) and if the sun shines, I will be there this coming Sunday to say hello to heroes Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Jay Rattman, and Tal Ronen; I am going to the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, on Thursday, June 10, at 8 PM, to see Colin Hancock and his Red Hot Eight with Dan Levinson, Abanie Falletta, Arnt Arntzen, Vince Giordano, Mike Davis, Julian Johnson, and Troy Anderson (details here). On June 13 I am driving to Pennsylvania (thanks to the Pennsylvania Jazz Society) to see and hear Danny Tobias, Randy Reinhart, Mark Shane, Joe Plowman, Pat Mercuri, and Jim Lawlor (details here).
And, one week later, June 17 — Evan Arntzen and Jon-Erik Kellso, with Dalton Ridenhour, Tal Ronen, and Mark McLean, playing music from the new Arntzen-Kellso dazzler, the CD COUNTERMELODY. Details here. Important, rewarding, exciting.
First, Bennie Moten’s 18th STREET STRUT:
and this, with the verse, no less:
Now, some words of encouragement. Some of you will understandably say, “I live too far away, the pandemic is not over, and Michael will go there in my stead and bring his video camera.” Some of that is true, although I am taking a busman’s holiday and do not expect to video Evan’s concert, for contractual reasons. (And even Michael knows, although he does not wallow in this truth, that a video is not the same thing as being there.)
I know it’s tactless to write these words, but wouldn’t you like to experience some music that isn’t on this lit rectangle? More fun, and everyone is larger. And you can, after the music is over, approach the musicians and say, “We love you. Thank you for continuing on your holy quest where we can be uplifted by it. Thank you for your devotion.” If this strikes you as presumptuous, I apologize, and the Customer Service Associate will be happy to refund your purchase price plus tax.
I hope to see you out and about. We need to celebrate the fact of our re-emergence into the sunshine.
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.
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?
Some small history: The EarRegulars ceased playing their restorative Sunday-night gig at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street) more than a year ago, in March 2020. About a month later, I decided to do what I could to assuage the collective grief and absence by creating a Sunday-night post where I offered video performances by the EarRegulars going back to 2009. It was a ceremonial offering of hope and joy — reminding us of the glories of past Sundays and keeping alive the idea that these communal explosions of life would come again. But my tone was elegiac, because no one could confidently say, “We’ll be right back after this brief pause.”
As of Sunday, May 2, a dream came true when the EarRegulars — Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor and C-melody saxophones, Eb tuba, and Pat O’Leary, string bass, performed “at” The Ear Inn, out on the sidewalk, in the sunshine, to a happy crowd.
Nothing is certain in this life, but optimism has taken the place of mourning, so the Sunday-night mood at JAZZ LIVES will no longer be a wistful look into the past but a celebration of what is happening NOW.
In the past few days, I’ve shared videos from that May 2 performance: I’M SORRY I MADE YOU CRY, DON’T BLAME ME, CHINATOWN, An EDDY DAVIS ENDING, HINDUSTAN, and GEE, BABY, AIN’T I GOOD TO YOU? — which you can visit easily by going backwards through the postings. Today, however, the most appropriate piece of music to the theme (perhaps not exactly death and rebirth, more like induced-coma-and-bringing-the-patient-back?) is the venerable Chicagoan THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:
The May 9 performance was cancelled beforehand because of rain, but I expect to have more joyous sidewalk-phenomena to share with you. Dreams do come true, and wonders never cease. Welcome back, heroes.
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.
Today the image is different, surprising, but I think appropriate:
That’s Janus, the Roman god of doorways and thresholds — the icon with two faces, one contemplating the past, one looking into the future.
Why has JAZZ LIVES descended into mythology? This post looks both ways as well. For nearly a year, I’ve been reminding viewers / listeners of the heroically uplifting music made at The Ear Inn by the EarRegulars — to keep our sprits up in the darkness of inertia and isolation. Today, May 2, 2021, perhaps while some of you are reading this, I hope to be at 326 Spring Street — live and in person, surrounded by other mortals — enjoying the playing of the EarRegulars for the first of a series of Sunday-afternoon outdoor concerts (1-3:30 PM). They will be Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, Scott Robinson, and Pat O’Leary.)
So that is the three-dimensional non-virtual future, soon to be the present, yet I couldn’t leave you in silence and darkness: although this post is short (I have to run), it still celebrates what has been created.
From January 23, 2011, the EarRegulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Tad Shull, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass:
May 2, 2021, will bring its own joys and surprises. I am certain of this.
Postscript: IT HAPPENED. And it was wonderful. Those four heroes swung, soared, played, traded phrases in the most delightful way, and those who know the EarRegulars and the Ear Inn had tears in their eyes. Of relief, of joy, of a return to blissful possibilities. The Fellas (as Nan Irwin calls them) played two sets of long leisurely performances, eleven of them. Who knows? You might be able to see some of what happened. And perhaps . . . .
Listen up, as someone used to say. And I’m not reminding you to watch the Oscars. On Sunday, May 2, Jon-Erik Kellso and the EarRegulars will be performing outside the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, New York City, from 1-3:30.
That will soon be NOW. Until that moment, here’s some beauty from THEN — January 16, 2011, created by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Mark Lopeman, tenor saxophone and clarinet; Neal Miner, string bass.
‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS:
BALLIN’ THE JACK:
with Chris Flory sitting in for Matt, Miner, HAPPY FEET:
The pot is a-bubble, slowly. Maybe there will be EarRegularity in our collective futures: what a dream come true!