A sweet and hot experience from a world in transition, in parole, as it were. Music beyond compare amidst strollers, chatters, and puppies on leash. Marvelous that it happened, and thrilling that it happened in a time and place that I and the OAO could visit. And we brought back souvenirs for you.
Here’s a rocking Louis performance that continues to inspire: ONCE IN A WHILE, with memories of Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five, performed on June 6, 2021, at The Ear Out — 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York — by the EarRegulars, who were Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Jay Rattman, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass, and guest Josh Dunn, guitar (Josh takes the first solo, and in the Louis spirit, note Jay’s WEST END BLUES at the end of his solo (2:31)).
ONCE IN A WHILE, indeed, magic filled the air. Thanks to technology (a completely obsolete Panasonic HD video camera and very solicitous RODE microphone on a reliable tripod) it can be revisited at leisure.
The summer of 2021 was memorable in many ways for jazz lovers in New York City. A resurrection of sorts, if you will. And one of the most endearing manifestations of that coming-alive impulse was the space outside of The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York, on Sunday afternoons, where The EarRegulars made us all feel joyous and free, once again. (They are back to their regular Sunday-night revival meetings, from about 8 to about 11 PM: superb community and surprises galore.)
October 17, 2021, was one of those surprises, when Bill and John Allred, father and son trombonists, got together to add to The EarRegulars, who were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, heroic warrior [to be explained below] and string bass. What Bill and John do together is part practice, part telepathy, and wholly gratifying. And The EarRegulars are always living examples of thoughtful swing, in solo and ensemble.
Here’s Irving Berlin’s ALWAYS:
and the affirmation of romantic commitment:
and — under the heading IF YOU CAN MAKE IT HERE, YOU’LL MAKE IT ANYWHERE, the heroic battle of Pat O’Leary versus The Siren:
We had a wonderful time, out there in the fresh air and bright sunshine. Memorable hours among friends and the best sounds. And it still is happening Sunday nights, so come visit.
I missed out on the Reno Club, and Fifty-Second Street transformed downwards years before my birth, but there are serious compensations. I did and do have The Ear Inn (and so do you) where The EarRegulars have been playing every Sunday night from 8-11 PM since the summer of 2007. 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.
This is one of the earliest videos I shot there . . . at a time when YouTube allowed posters to take dark-hued video and change it into black-and-white. So we have my version of film noir, bowing to Ida Lupino, to the Reno Club, to wartime Greenwich Village jazz, to building intensity through backgrounds and riffs. All priceless.
Fault-finders are encouraged to floss with a cactus needle, then take Nipper out for a constitutional.
The song? Handy’s BEALE STREET BLUES. The performers? Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Dan Block, clarinet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass. Heroes all. They know what to do — no one needs a GPS — and they do it beautifully, individually and collectively. And they know how to sustain and build a mood, gently but dramatically, for twelve minutes.
And, yes, such things are still possible. But you do have to get out of your chair and find them where they are happening . . . real players, too substantial for any lit screen. Bless them when you see and hear them, too.
Wikipedia, where almost-cooked facts are arranged for our pleasure, tells me today that Bob Barnard, “an Australian trumpet and cornet player,” born November 24, 1933, died yesterday, May 7, 2022. I heard the news yesterday from the very fine friend of the music John Trudinger. My first reaction was double: I felt as if I’d been pierced right through my chest, but at the same time I heard a great golden sound, that of Bob’s glowing horn. And I thought of what Bobby Hackett had said of Louis Armstrong’s “death,” that Louis was alive as long as we could hear him.
I was fortunate to see and hear and even chat with Bob on his visits to New York and to Jazz at Chautauqua, which is why I start with his rare character. He had his own center, a sweet equanimity. He was ready to find the world both welcoming and amusing, and although I never heard him tell a joke (or be mean at someone’s expense), he always looked as if he was ready to start laughing — of course, not when the horn was at his lips, when he was completely serious. I think of him with a gentle amiability, head slightly cocked at the latest absurdity but ready to make everything right through music.
Along with that ease in the world, and perhaps its foundation, was a lovely mature courage. When he led groups at Chautauqua and elsewhere — musicians who didn’t usually play together or who (let me whisper this) always know more obscure repertoire, he was beautifully unflappable. He called tunes that he knew everyone would enjoy, but when he announced BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS or GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE I could see the faintest looks of “What the hell is this? How does the bridge go?” among the very experienced musicians on the stand. Bob called a medium tempo and started playing the melody . . . wordlessly teaching by example, “THIS is how it goes. Follow me and I won’t let you get lost.” And no one did.
I hope that my readers know what an unforgiving instrument the trumpet (or cornet) is, how demanding . . . and if they don’t know, they pick one up sometime and attempt a clear tone, held notes, the barest semblance of agility.
Bob is — not was — an absolutely spectacular brass virtuoso. But one with deep-seated taste and grace. He came out of Louis and Bix, but with a keen sense of their songful lyricism: the only one who approached his mastery in this is Connie Jones. He was also fearlessly agile all over the range of the horn. I think of Bob’s limber, audaciously sweet playing as skywriting or acrobatics on the highest diving board.
Here’s a sample from Bob’s visit to The Ear Inn, September 26, 2010, with Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass:
and also in sweetly Louis-inspired mode, performances with John Sheridan, piano; Arnie Kinsella, drums, at Jazz at Chautauqua, September 16, 2010.
I LOVE YOU, SAMANTHA (from High Society):
LYIN’ TO MYSELF (from the glorious Deccas):
and, finally, THE SKELETON IN THE CLOSET. Originally I thought that bringing this performance forward to mark Bob’s moving on would seem a failure of taste, but I think he would laugh at the juxtaposition, never one to take himself too seriously:
And a beautiful interlude from Bob’s last recording session, JUST MY LUCK, with guitarist Ian Date in March 2016:
Bob made his first recordings in 1949, and readers who know him will have their own favorites. But you can hear his style, his joy, his lyrical exuberance in these performances. And if you knew him, even glancingly, as I did, you hear the friendly singular man, in love with melodies, in every note.
At the end of last summer, one of the great pleasures was the Sunday sessions created by the EarRegulars outside of the Ear Inn on 326 Spring Street. I’ve been sending their wonderful music out slowly, a performance at a time, hoping to come to the end of the 2021 gifts as the 2022 summer sessions begin again. Cue Helen Humes singing I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?
On October 3, the EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Neal Miner, string bass. And here they are musing their way, collectively and singly, through Jelly Roll Morton’s SWEET SUBSTITUTE, with delicacy and fervor:
Accept no substitutes. Ask for The EarRegulars wherever better music can be found. (They have resumed their Sunday evening sessions indoors, from 8-11, loosely, and those gatherings at 326 Spring Street are also life-changing, in subtle ways.)
When I awake and the news is typically violent (even though I remind myself that cruelty and bad behavior are wonderful copy) and the temperature is oddly cold, I look for spiritual uplift through the magical sounds created by people I admire. Some get up and meditate; others pray. I look at YouTube and Facebook to see if anyone has shared their versions of healing blessings through sound.
And here’s a delicious example — new to me, although performed and recorded a year ago. Four of the finest: Mikiya Matsuda, lap steel guitar; Dennis Lichtman, mandolin; Albanie Falletta, resonator guitar; Matt Weiner, acoustic string bass. And the text for their mellow sermon is a song I love, Victor Young’s WAS I TO BLAME (FOR FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU) which I came to revere through Louis’ blue-label Decca recording. No trumpets today and no singing, but you won’t miss them in the deep sweet lyricism created here.
Mikiya’s YouTube channel can be found here — better than homeopathy, I promise. And you can find everyone above in their own nests:
And this is all related to an event — the Centrum Red Hot Strings Workshop, May 25-29 in Port Townsend, Washington: details here. Matt Munisteri’s the Artistic Creator, so that is the Good Housekeeping Seal, and Jonathan Stout, Aaron Weinstein, Joel Patterson, and other luminaries will be there. I am not going to make it there in person, but there will be streaming.
And I’ll bet all the instruments and discs in my living room that the music will be wise, joyful, and healing.
“Where shall I go?” seems one of the deepest questions we can ask ourselves, perhaps because the answer is always tinged with “I have no idea,” and it then opens into “How did I get here?” “What am I supposed to be doing?” “Can I make sense of this day / my time on the planet?” Lucky are the people who KNOW their path: “After work I’m going to Target to get some new clothes for the kids, and then home, and tomorrow is another day.”
Fortunately for us, the plaintive SONG OF THE WANDERER — which I always hear, in my mind’s ear, Helen Humes singing — can stand alone without such existential ruminations as a swinging expression of the simple joy of making the best sounds, in company or alone. That’s what happened at The Ear Out (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) last October 3, when the EarRegulars — then Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet, Matt Munisteri, guitar, Harvey Tibbs, trombone, and Neal Miner, string bass, got together to explore the song:
Those four heroes sure as anything know where they are going, and what a gift it is that they take us along.
My sources tell me that this is the official fight song — composed in 1910 — of Washington and Lee University. It was also the song that Jon-Erik Kellso played with his high school marching band, if my sources are correct. And I believe there were Allen Park alumnae in the audience on this balmy October 17, 2021, afternoon — outdoors at The Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City. The brilliant players are Jon-Erik, trumpet; Bill Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass. Notable highlights here are Jon-Erik’s soliloquy for buzz mute, Bill trading phrases with the rhythm section, Matt’s ringing single notes, Pat’s eloquent swinging comedy:
Two weeks from now, more or less, the calendar says it’s Spring. Can these outdoor rambles be far behind? They made a post-pandemic paradise for us. We live in hope. Always
No, this post isn’t about cross-species jam sessions.
But the material chosen for the group improvisation in the October afternoon sunshine was Herschel Evans’ DOGGIN’ AROUND, a line on familiar chords much beloved by the 1938 Count Basie band. The wonderfully skilled musicians — a pocket orchestra with the delicacy and force of the Basie band transported decades forward — are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Neal Miner, string bass. Expertly capering.
Marcus has given the paw: he approves, and we surely do.
Thank you, Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, for one of the most durable swing-songs and love songs (also the harmonic basis of TAKE THE “A” TRAIN), the 1930 EXACTLY LIKE YOU. It became an international hit early — Tom Lord’s online jazz discography lists more than 800 versions, and while I am writing this, some band is playing it and someone’s singing it.
Notice that ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET came from the same show:
Speaking of “some band,” we are fortunate that The EarRegulars chose to take EXACTLY for a stroll on one of their outdoor revival-meetings at The Ear Out (I am not alone in hoping that they resume this spring) on October 17, 2021. The nimble participants are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass; Bill Allred, trombone:
Since I am now at a point in my life where “I know why I waited / Know why I’ve been blue / Waited, dear, for someone EXACTLY LIKE YOU” has more meaning, I am even more in favor of swinging renditions like this one. Ex-actly. But enough about me. Listen once, listen again.
Life is a banquet of imperfections, as I can tell you from experience.
And I am about to offer you a performance that is sonically restorative while at the same time it is visually flawed. For only the second time in its mechanical-technical life, one of my cameras has proven rebellious: about twenty-five seconds in to this “video,” the image freezes and remains a still photograph.
But the music pulses delightfully on.
It would have pained me (and perhaps the shade of Ferdinand LeMenthe) to have consigned this to the darkness . . . so I present it to you here with the caveats above. It’s lovely rousing music, with daring solos and splendid ensemble interplay by The EarRegulars, people who know how to do the Charleston without leaving their seats: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet (perhaps his Harry B. Jay model?); Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Neal Miner, string bass.
All this medicalized joy took place at The Ear Out, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, on Sunday, November 3, 2021. Now you know it all, and can savor the healing powers of hot jazz:
As to the rebellious camera, perhaps it will go to an over-55 senior community, where it can tell tales of the many hours of music it recorded for all of us.
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.
I had to choose: if I’d called this post A WANDERING RODENT, that would have given the wrong idea. And this photograph might not have helped, except as an advertisement for better dental hygiene:
But it’s only my comedic way of introducing a glorious performance of MUSKRAT RAMBLE by the EarRegulars at the end of their 2021 summer season at The Ear Out. The naturalists whose music charms us so are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Harvey Tibbs, trombone; Neal Miner, string bass — taking this venerable composition at the proper rambling tempo:
Goodness, how they swing. What a gift to us. And to Louis, too.
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.
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?