THIS JUST IN. The regularly scheduled evening gigs (8-11 PM) and afternoon delights (4-6 PM) will be recorded on both days. It will all be open to the public.
On January 15th, the band will be Jon-Erik Kellso, Matt Munisteri, John Allred, Pat O’Leary and guests Chris Flory and Scott Robinson.
On January 29th, Kellso, Munisteri, Allred, Neal Miner, and guests Jay Rattman, Scott Robinson, and Evan Christopher.
And I am sure there will be many other good surprises.
Great news from JAZZ LIVES’ hero Jon-Erik Kellso:
We’re going to make a “Live at the Ear” CD for Arbors Records on Sundays, January 15th and 29th, and I really hope you can attend!
We’re going to record the regularly scheduled evening gigs, and also mid/late afternoon sessions there on those days, open to the public, and we hope to pack as many of our friends in there to create the best listening atmosphere.
John Allred, trombone; Scott Robinson, reeds and brass; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass, will be on the 15th.
John Allred, Matt Munisteri, and Neal Miner, string bass, will be on the 29th.
And we expect a few of our other favorites as special guests.
Here’s why this is exciting news.
BEALE STREET BLUES (2018):
DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME? (2016):
IN A MELLOTONE (2013):
SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL (2011):
COTTON TAIL (2010):
The Ear Inn, the oldest still-active bar in New York City, is at 326 Spring Street. The EarRegulars, a small mobile shape-changing group of players les by Jon-Erik Kellso, has been in attendance every Sunday night — time off for holidays and pandemics — since July 2007. I was there on the second Sunday (Jon-Erik, Howard Alden, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass) and have been a happy visitor ever since, bringing a video camera along in 2009.
The group — often trumpet, a horn player, guitar, string bass — has usually begun the evening session as a quartet, but has expanded to thirteen players on one memorable occasion.
TIGER RAG (in two parts, 2011):
and the tip of the tiger’s tail as it curled around the building:
The Sunday sessions at the Ear have provided some of the most intimate thoughtful music I’ve ever heard, and some of the most exuberant jamming. So I have been hoping for a formal recording since the start, and Arbors Records has the experience and expertise (thank you, Rachel Domber) to make the result a wonder.
But musicians thrive on an appreciative audience. So I hope you can attend these sessions. Details above! Mark your calendars.
Here, in the welcoming ambiance of The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on July 31, 2022, are two welcoming improvisations by The EarRegulars for that night: Danny Tobias, trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone and alto clarinet; Pat O’Leary, string bass.
The composers of the lines are, I hope, well-known to those who know: Sidney Bechet and Bud Freeman, but the memorable lines aren’t often played: Bechet’s KANSAS CITY MAN BLUES and Bud’s THAT D MINOR THING.
The jazz lineage from Bechet to Coltrane is seamless: Scott quotes A LOVE SUPREME in his trading phrases with Danny (thanks to Alessandro King for the catch).
And here’s Bud’s riff from his days with the World’s Greatest Jazz Band:
And as for the talkers in the audience: pity them their self-absorption, waste no energy berating a video-recording.
Have you ever visited the Ear Inn on a Sunday night? Talk about life-affirming! And before you write in to say, “It’s so far away and I wish I could,” which I do understand, have you seen some live jazz in 2022? I do hope so.
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.
Every Tuesday night in June, the wonderful trio of Gabrielle Stravelli, voice; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass, has an early-evening gig (5:30 to 7 PM, more or less) at the comfortable Birdland Theater, one flight down, at 315 West 44th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in midtown Manhattan.
The OAO and I were there for the first Tuesday and it was delightful and delightfully varied. I couldn’t bring back any video-evidence for you, but here are two previously unseen delights from the Dan Block Quartet’s gig at Swing 46, with Dan on tenor saxophone.
I can’t account for the meteorological theme, but since everyone talks about the weather, I hope that will hold true for these beautiful musicians and their art.
Here’s a rarity, WITH THE WIND AND THE RAIN IN YOUR HAIR, by Clara Edwards and Jack Lawrence — its first recordings from 1940. (Both Edwards and Lawrence are fascinating figures: she was a singer, pianist, composer of art songs as well as popular ones, and he is perhaps best known for the Ink Spots’ IF I DIDN’T CARE — but their biographies are intriguing.)
From the rare to the perhaps over-familiar . . . ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, like ALL OF ME, has been performed so many times that I often sigh when a band or singer calls it, but not with this band and this singer. It’s credited to Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields, although the gossip says that the melody was first composed by one Thomas Waller. Whether that’s true or not, I am reminded of Jonathan Schwartz’s anecdote about his father, Arthur Schwartz, saying to his son when they were walking in the shade, “Let’s cross over to Dorothy’s side of the street.”
Here, we can do the same thing (looking all four ways) and find ourselves in creative happiness. Catch Gabrielle’s exultant second chorus and the wondrous playing by Dan, Pat, and Michael (the last slyly reminding us of the pitter-pat, as he should):
Don’t miss Gabrielle and her friends, no matter what your phone tells you about the weather. They improve the darkest day.
Words heard after last night’s performance in the Birdland Theater, May 31, 2022 — a performance by Gabrielle Stravelli, voice; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass from 5:30 to close to 7 PM.
Gabrielle told us that each of the Tuesdays to come will have a new menu of songs, so what follows is just a list of musical blessings, but since I kept notes, you get to read them The trio started with a very affirmative ‘DEED I DO, then I WISHED ON THE MOON (tender, then swinging), a defiantly rocking A SLEEPIN’ BEE, usually taken at a slow tempo, THAT OLD DEVIL CALLED LOVE, WONDER WHY, an exultantly funky I’M JUST A LUCKY SO-AND-SO. Then, a swinging I NEVER KNEW (played so often as an instrumental but its sweet archaic lyrics completely convincing) and what was a highlight of the session, LET’S BEGIN, where I thought of Gabrielle both as most expert wooer and the host of a game show where delights waited behind the second door. GET OUT OF TOWN closed with her grinning, saying, “and STAY out!” which was hilarious, then she segued into I’LL BE AROUND, after the final notes dying away, saying, “I don’t always do ‘doormat songs,’ but that one is special.” As the set neared its close, it got even better, with TAKE THE “A” TRAIN, (an audience request that took on wings) a passionate BORN TO BE BLUE, and closing with a romping FOR YOU, FOR ME, FOREVERMORE.
I’d heard this trio (with Dan Block and Danny Tobias added) about two months ago at a party and thought, “They are touching my heart more each time I hear them,” but the Birdland session was the embodiment of heartfelt chamber jazz.
Gabrielle is in superb voice, with operatic strengths but also whispers, side-of-the-mouth secrets, and the occasional growl — all dramatically used to reveal a song’s center. Pat not only sustained the harmonies and the drive but reminded us all that a splendid bass solo is something too precious to talk through, and Michael swung, commented, brought sweetness, comedy, and warmth as needed, as prescribed. At times Pat and Michael reminded me of Ray Brown and Jimmie Rowles, even Hinton and Basie or Jimmy Jones. And the trio is clearly a telepathic band: Gabrielle called a tune, pointed out the key if it needed to be pointed out, and they were off, sharing one perfectly shaped performance after another.
Another lovely aspect: the Birdland Theater is clean and quiet; the piano is well-tuned; the sound system is transparent and unobtrusive. And the substantial audience was near-reverent, as they so often are not. A wonderful place for a pre-theater or escaping-rush-hour gig, and when we emerged, the sky was still bright. And the music rang in our ears.
I was too absorbed to take phone photographs and the management frowns on interlopers with video cameras, so you’ll just have to get there yourself. They’ll be one flight down at 315 West 44th Street, just west of Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan every Tuesday in June. Why deprive yourselves? Or, as the Sages say, “Support gigs, they blossom; stay home, they wither.”
A WEAVER OF DREAMS, music by Victor Young, lyrics by Jack Elliott, published in 1951, is both notable and obscure. It’s been recorded by so many people (Lord’s discography lists 154 recordings): Carmen McRae, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, John Coltrane, Kenny Burrell, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis, Cedar Walton, Lee Konitz, Tony Bennett come to mind, but I couldn’t remember hearing it performed on a gig until Gabrielle Stravelli sang it with Dan Block, tenor saxophone; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass, at Swing 46, on December 14, 2021.
This version is pensive and lovely. I hope more people add this song to their repertoires, and, as always, I hope to expand the fan clubs of Gabrielle, Dan, Michael, and Pat — working band of four friends:
This band and these musicians are reasons I plan to stay in New York: they make what could be an urban desert bloom and keep blooming.
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
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.
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.
Today is January 1, 2022, one of those dates that have a good deal of joyous ceremony (and hope) attached to it. Although some may say, “it’s just another day!” I choose to celebrate the turning of this page with optimism. And I offer beauty in the service of that feeling: Scott Robinson, playing a ballad — dedicated to his mother, who was a Doris Day fan — outdoors on August 28, 2021, with friends Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.
These creators, and the sounds they make, move us and bless us. Let joy guide us into 2022 and the years to come.
Going slowly can be a true art, enabling musicians who understand to get behind the song and let light shine through, also. The four people in these two performances are masters of those subtle arts: Gabrielle Stravelli, voice; Dan Block, reeds; Michael Kanan, piano; Pat O’Leary, string bass. They don’t double the tempo; Gabrielle doesn’t reduce the beautiful lyrics to scat-rubble. What emerges, bar by bar, is magic.
First, the Hoagy Carmichael – Johnny Mercer SKYLARK, translucent, tender, intense:
Mercer again, this time with Victor Schertzinger, for I REMEMBER YOU, with the brief but touching verse:
This neat little band has been attracting fans and friends on early Tuesday evenings at Swing 46 (349 West 46th Street, New York City) for more than a few months . . . and it deserves to have its names up in lights. Leader Dan Block (tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and bass clarinet) gives equal time to the wonderful Gabrielle Stravelli (vocals), Michael Kanan (piano), and Pat O’Leary (string bass). Here they are — about two months ago — tenderly moseying through the Waller-Razaf AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — which is truly a love song about fidelity and joyous discovery — at a tempo that makes it emotionally meaningful, rather than a race to the outchorus:
What lovely playful sounds! And in their three sets on a Tuesday night, this splendid quartet creates marvel after marvel. You mean to say you could have visited them at West 46th Street and haven’t . . . ?
This, the second tune of the evening, was completely prescient, because by the end of the evening the impending drizzle had indeed turned to rain and it was, thank you, Harry Warren, September. But these four lovely intrepid musical explorers soldiered on in the nicest ways: Dan Block, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Pat O’Leary, string bass; Paul Bollenback, guitar. All this goodness happened on one of Dan Block’s Tuesday soirees (5:30-8:30 PM) at Swing 46, 349 West 46th Street, New York.
and that swinging Sinatra-rooted ultimatum, ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL:
and after an intentionally other-worldly prelude, Arlen’s OUT OF THIS WORLD:
Finally, at the close of the evening, when it really DID begin to rain, THIS CAN’T BE LOVE, with the multi-talented Michelle Collier (a fine singer herself) scurrying to batten down the hatches:
All praise to this quartet, including the resonant even when invisible Pat O’Leary! And they will be back in November, on the last two Tuesdays (say that quickly — I dare you) to lift our spirits and create joy. Swing 46 has an “inside,” with a piano and a stage, so you won’t have to think about your underwear. Unless, of course, you’d like to: then who am I to stop you?
When Louis Armstrong was going to play ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS with his All-Stars, he might say, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to take you down to my home town, to jump a good old good one . . . ” and after Billy Kyle or Marty Napoleon had played a piano introduction, the band would play it at a fairly fast tempo. But it wasn’t always so: the 1922 recording by the “Dixie Daisies” is quite moderate, and the 1927 Bix-and-Tram excursion even more so, although bands took the song faster as the decades went by.
Here, for context, lyrics, verse, and more — and it’s a delightful recording! — is the first recording of the song:
I find that version perfectly charming. Perhaps fifteen years later, Lester Young (who remembered NOLA fondly) performed the song at a faster tempo, but Lester being Lester, there was a good deal of elasticity in his approach to the song as it rollicked by, stretching out over the beat like a cat waking from a nap.
The EarRegulars, that phenomenal jazz-repertory-company of lower Manhattan and environs, took up ‘WAY DOWN YONDER IN NEW ORLEANS at their holy gathering of August 29, 2021. Taking it very easy, but with a purpose, they glide through the “good old good one,” a hymn in praise of the Crescent City, in a very Lester-Buck-Durham-Page-and-then-Rollini mood (you could look it up).
They are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor and bass saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass, at The Ear Out — that’s on the sidewalk outside The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York:
Transformative and lovely. The EarRegulars, since Halloween, have gone indoors — Sunday nights from 8-11 (approximately) and I hope to bring myself and my camera there and money for our friend Phillup the Bucket. Maybe we’ll get to say HELLO! (in our Fats-voices or not).
It was below forty degrees this morning — good-bye, t-shirts and sandals; hello, scarves and bowls of soup. But the chill can’t spoil our joys as long as we have enlivening music: the kind that the EarRegulars make (they’re now back inside The Ear Inn on Sunday nights, 8-11). A heartening sample follows.
The composition is called BEAN SOUP, and it’s based on the harmonies of TEA FOR TWO. Coleman Hawkins, referred to as “Bean” for decades — the late Phil Schaap told us whenever he could that the monicker began as “The Best and Only” and was then shortened — has composer credit.
The creators here are our friends: Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor and bass saxophone, mellophone, cornet; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass. I’ve included a few more photographs than usual because this summer scene is now a memory, and I for one will not forget it.
Photographs taken with the lowly iPhone 10:
and now, the music:
Tasty, homemade, good to the last drop. Or spoonful. Or swinging note.
Art is all about passion: think of the great soprano arias, whether Puccini or Bechet; think of Louis or Bird — the heart on fire, so full of feelings to be shared with us. But there’s the counterbalance: passion without control might be noise. Anyone who’s tried to play or sing — seriously — knows how much exactitude is required to create the notes, the phrases, the pauses, that create that drama that didn’t exist five minutes before.
Gabrielle Stravelli and the instrumentalists surrounding her on the early-evening performances at Swing 46 not only know these truths but embody them: call it passion and control, abandonment and discipline: here are three soulful examples by Gabrielle, Dan Block, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Paul Bollenback, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.
I WALK A LITTLE FASTER (Cy Coleman – Carolyn Leigh):
BORN TO BE BLUE (Mel Torme – Robert Wells):
BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH (Oscar Levant – Edward Heyman):
The closing notes of BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH say it all.
Gabrielle and her friends (most often the irreplaceable pianist Michael Kanan) have gigs all over town (hooray!) and you can find out more here or here. Even in the ruckus that is West 46th Street, sirens and chatter at no charge, their art aims straight at us. And sticks.
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.
Puccini, Jolson, Rose, Goodman, and innumerable jazz groups — one of the reliable get-off-the-stand numbers, here performed by the EarRegulars at the Ear Out (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday, May 23, 2021. They are, from left, Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Pat O’Leary, string bass; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone and trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar (who played this song with Benny, himself).
And about this performance? All I can say is Yes.
Here’s hoping you find your love in Avalon, or someplace even closer, and you bring that person to the Ear Out on a Sunday afternoon before winter comes, as we know it will.
When you know, you know. I was at Swing 46 last night to see and hear and applaud Dan Block, alto and tenor saxophones; Gabrielle Stravelli, vocal; Michael Kanan, keyboard; Pat O’Leary, string bass. It threatened to rain all through the gig and the usual street theatre of that block was at its best (come visit and see for yourselves).
In the middle of the second set, Gabrielle called the Ellington LOVE YOU MADLY and they performed it with great enthusiastic beauty . . . at the end of the performance, Gabrielle said exultantly, as if she were Ida Lupino directing a film, “CUT! And PRINT!” looking at me, which I took as the sign of a small miracle, that an artist, completing a performance, is happy with it. I got permission from the other three, so you can enjoy this marvel, hot and fresh:
This wonderful quartet performs every Tuesday from 5:30 to 8:30. I’ve been there every week and have always come away full of joy. They’re loved . . . madly.
Here’s what I wrote about this superb quartet when I visited them on August 31:
Between 5:30 and 8:30 last night, beauty filled the air in front of Swing 46 (Forty-Sixth Street, west of Eighth Avenue, New York City) thanks to Gabrielle Stravelli (above), vocals; Dan Block, tenor saxophone and clarinet, Michael Kanan, keyboard; Pat O’Leary, string bass.
I don’t haveany video evidence for you, but with good reason: that’s a busy street, and occasionally the music was –– shall we say — intruded upon by clamor. But the music won out, of course, and it wasn’t a matter of volume, but of emotional intensity. I’ve admired Gabrielle for more than a decade now: her beautiful resonant voice, lovely at top and bottom, her wonderful vocal control. But more so, her candid expressive phrasing, matching the emotions of each song in subtle convincing ways. She’s always fully present in the musical story, eloquent and open. With witty lyrics, she sounds as if she’s just about to burst into giggles; on dark material, she can sound downright vengeful. In three sets last night, she offered a deep bouquet of ballads — and not only songs usually done slowly: FLY ME TO THE MOON; I CAN DREAM, CAN’T I?, I’LL WALK ALONE; YOU’VE CHANGED; I’LL BE AROUND. A few vengence-is-mine songs — GOODY GOODY and THE MAN THAT GOT AWAY — added spice, and her readings of the first title and the second song’s “Good riddance, good-bye,” suggested once again that she is a splendid friend and perhaps a fierce enemy. Many of the other standards — NIGHT AND DAY, JUST IN TIME, AS LONG AS I LIVE — are well-established landmarks in the repertoire, but Gabrielle made them shine. She embraces the song; her singing reaches out to us, fervently and gently.
Her delight in singing to us was matched by that of her colleagues. Dan Block is quietly memorable in any context, and his sound alone was delightful. But he and Gabrielle had flying conversations where their intuitive telepathy was a marvel. Other times, he played Lester to her Billie, “filling in the windows,” offering just the right counterpoint and loving commentary. He was matched by Michael Kanan, master of quiet touching subversions in the manner of our hero Jimmie Rowles; both he and the superb bassist Pat O’Leary not only kept the time and the harmonies beautifully in place but created their own songs throughout.
I visited Swing 46 again last night, and the four artists just outdid themselves. And although 46th Street is not ideal for video-recording, I have two to offer you. But first, some updates.
Dan brought his most magical bass clarinet to add to tenor saxophone and clarinet: he’s always astounded me on that possibly balky instrument since our first intersections in 2004. In the hustle and bustle of the street — in Gabrielle’s closing lines of AS LONG AS I LIVE, a song about how the singer wants to take good care of herself, an ambulance, lights and sirens blazing and blaring, went by — Michael and Pat created one quirky inquiring beautiful phrase after the other, supporting, encouraging, exploring, even trading musical witticisms. And Gabrielle touched our hearts in singular ways on song after song.
And this band has a splendidly expansive repertoire: two “all right” tunes — I WAS DOING ALL RIGHT and IT’S ALL RIGHT WITH ME, a seriously playful LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME and a brooding WARM VALLEY — to which Gabrielle has created very touching, simple but not cliched, lyrics; an EXACTLY LIKE YOU where it seemed as if the whole band was ready to break into laughter at something, an enthusiastic SOON, a LADY BE GOOD where Gabrielle and Dan did Lester’s 1936 solo line (!) — a few more classic love songs, FALLING IN LOVE WITH LOVE than became LET’S FALL IN LOVE (with the verse), ISN’T THIS A LOVELY DAY which perhaps subliminally led into NIGHT AND DAY. The other side of love had to be explored, and was, in LITTLE WHITE LIES and ILL WIND. There was Gabrielle’s jaunty tread through YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME, love via meteorology with A FOGGY DAY and a few more. One I cannot forget is Gabrielle’s reading of BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH — heartbreaking yet controlled.
I heard whispers that this group is considering a CD with some deep slow songs. I hope these rumors are true.
And there’s video. Imperfect but there. But it requires a little prelude.
I had checked the weather report obsessively, hoping for enough rain to bring the band and audience inside but not enough to make the sometimes-leaky building a disaster. No such luck. So when I arrived early and was greeted by the kind, resourceful Michelle Collier (a fine singer herself) I had resigned myself to no video. But, I thought, I could set up the camera, put it on the table with the lens cap on, and have an auditory souvenir. If my video and audio capers documented in this blog haven’t made it clear, I delight in having evidence of joyous creativity — to make it last forever.
I’d resigned myself to creating the modern equivalent of radio (and the black-screen audios sound quite nice) but for the third song, when Dan put the bass clarinet together, I thought, “I HAVE to capture this,” and held the heavy camera-and-microphone in my hands for nearly six minutes (hence the mildly trembling unsteadiness . . . no time to unpack my tripod and no space for it anyway) and I am delighted I did, because this LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is the most inspired conversation among a quartet:
I couldn’t hold the camera steady after that, but I found a place for it on the table, and I’m glad I did — for WARM VALLEY, with Gabrielle’s lyrics. Most lyrics added after the fact to Ellington songs seem out of place; hers do not:
I try to avoid hyperbole, but those are two masterpieces. I believe this quartet will appear at Swing 46 for the remaining two Tuesdays in September and the last two weeks in October. If you vibrate to the arts of this music, tender, solemn, hilarious, raucously swinging, you owe it to yourself to get to 349 West 46th Street, between Eight and Ninth Avenue (on the north side) on Tuesdays from 5:30 to 8:30. Gabrielle, Mchael, Dan, and Pat bestow blessings in every song.
I’m so glad and relieved that no one has written in to ask, “How come you post so much of The EarRegulars?” because then I might have to question their aesthetic. These summer revival meetings at The Ear Out have proven, performance after performance, that this band — in all its permutations — has no peer in The Groove, in swinging inventiveness. Here’s another example, Walter Donaldson’s binary ultimatum, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, a festival of daring sounds and inspired conversations:
I love them, and I hope they never have to leave us. Class dismissed.
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.