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.
And a Wednesday night at that same place — March 29, 2006 — from the cassette recorder I placed on my table, to capture the extraordinary little band led by the unpredictable Eddy Davis, banjo, vocal, and imagination; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone and a bamboo cane that was also a flute — provoking hilarity and awe; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Conal Fowkes, piano; Debbie Kennedy (whose birthday was yesterday), string bass.
Eddy could play the “standard” traditional-jazz repertoire, but his imagination was expansive, so the tunes for this fifty-minute visit to the past are far from the usual: COME RAIN OR COME SHINE (which Eddy sings and then provides a chordal roadmap for the rest of the band — before a patron wants to take a photograph of the band) / WHAT WILL I TELL MY HEART? (a song presumably new to the band, at a rocking tempo which builds a splendid momentum: I assure you I was not clapping along) / PLAY, FIDDLE, PLAY (bringing the balalaika to Eighth Avenue, then Eddy’s vocal interrupted by “miscellaneous instruments”) / WHERE BEAUTY LIES (Eddy’s original composition, which no one had seen before) / I’LL NEVER HAVE TO DREAM AGAIN (“the Conal Fowkes Show” which leads into Eddy becoming Billy Eckstine for a few bars, before Conal shows off his sweet way with a ballad, even at a trotting tempo) — songs associated with Frank, Bing, Slam, Fats Domino, Isham Jones, Connie Boswell, and more. What a mix of tenderness and assertive swing, lyricism and surprises:
Beautiful, idiosyncratic music, casting its own spells. We were so fortunate to hear and see it. And if you weren’t at a front table between 2005-6, I hope the sounds create their own magic.
Roswell Rudd said, “You play your personality,” and in the case of Danny Tobias, that is happily true. Watch him off the stand: he’s witty, insightful, but down-to-earth, someone choosing to spread love and have a good time. And when he picks up the horn (cornet, trumpet, Eb alto horn) that same hopeful sunniness comes through. He can play a dark sad ballad with tender depths, but essentially he is devoted to making music that reminds us that joy is everywhere if you know how to look for it.
Danny’s a great lyrical soloist but he really understands what community is all about — making connections among his musical families. So his performances are never just a string of solos: he creates bands of brothers and sisters whenever he sits (or stands) to play. His jazz is friendly, and it’s honest: in the great tradition, he honors the song rather than abstracting the harmonies — he loves melodies and he’s a master at embellishing them. When I first heard him, in 2005 at The Cajun, I told him that he reminded me of Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, and he understood the compliment.
But enough words. How about some 1939 Basie and Lester, made fresh and new for us — with a little spiritual exhortation in the middle:
Now, that’s lovely. And it comes from Danny’s brand-new CD with his and my heroes, named above. My admiration for Danny and friends is such that when I heard about this project, I asked — no, I insisted — to write the notes:
What makes the music we love so – whatever name it’s going by today – so essential, so endearing? It feels real. It’s a caress or a guffaw, or both at once; a big hug or a tender whisper; a naughty joke or a prayer. The music that touches our hearts respects melody but is not afraid of messing around with it; it always has a rhythmic pulse; it’s a giant conversation where everyone’s voice is heard. And it’s honest: you can tell as soon as you hear eight bars whether the players are living the song or they are play-acting. If you haven’t guessed, SILVER LININGS is a precious example of all these things.
I’ve been following all of these musicians (except for the wonderful addition to the family Joe Plowman) for fifteen years now, and they share a common integrity. They are in the moment, and the results are always lyrical and surprising. When Danny told me he planned to make a new CD, I was delighted; when he told me who would be in the studio with him, I held my breath; when I listened to this disc for the first time, I was in the wonderful state between joyous tears and silly grinning. You’ll feel it too. There’s immense drama here, and passion – whether a murmur or a shout; there is the most respectful bow to the past (hear the opening of EASY DOES IT, which could have been the disc’s title); there’s joyous comedy (find the YEAH, MAN! and win a prize – wait, you’ve already won it). But the sounds are as fresh as bird calls or a surprise phone call from someone you love. Most CDs are too much of a good thing; this is a wonderful meal where every course is its own delight, unified by deep flavors and respect for the materials, but nothing becomes monotonous – we savor course after course, because each one is so rewarding And when it’s over, we want to enjoy it again.
I could point out the wonderful sound and surge of Kevin Dorn’s Chinese cymbal and rim-chock punctuations; the steady I’ll-never-fail-you pulse of Joe Plowman; Rossano Sportiello’s delicate first-snowflake-of-the-winter touch and his seismic stride; Scott Robinson’s gorgeous rainbows of sounds, exuberant or crooning, and the man whose name is on the front, Danny Tobias, who feels melody in his soul and can’t go a measure without swinging. But why should I take away your gasps of surprise and pleasure? This might not be the only dream band on the planet, but it sure as anything it is one of mine, tangible evidence of dreams come true.
They tell us “Every cloud has a silver lining”? Get lost, clouds! Thanks to Danny, Joe, Scott, Kevin, and Rossano, we have music that reminds us of how good it is to be alive.
The songs are Bud Freeman’s THAT D MINOR THING; Larry McKenna’s YOU’RE IT; EASY DOES IT; Danny’s GREAT SCOTT; DEEP IN A DREAM; LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING; I NEVER KNEW; Danny’s gender-neutral MY GUY SAUL; YOU MUST BELIEVE IN SPRING; OH, SISTER, AIN’T THAT HOT!; I’VE GROWN ACCUSTOMED TO HER FACE; PALESTEENA; Danny’s BIG ORANGE STAIN; WHY DID I CHOOSE YOU?
On the subject of choosing. You could download this music from a variety of sources, but you and I know that downloading from some of those sources leaves the musicians with nothing but regrets for their irreplaceable art. Danny and his wife Lynn (a remarkable photographer: see above) adopted the adorable Clyde Beauregard Redmile-Tobias some months ago:
I know my readers are generous (the holidays are coming!) so I urge them to buy their copies direct from Danny, who will sign / inscribe them. Your choice means that Clyde will have better food and live longer.
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.
There are certain songs I have a limited tolerance for, and BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES TO ME is one. I revere the Jimmie Noone and Eddie Condon versions, but too many times when this song is performed by a “traditional” band someone steps forth to speak-sing it, chorus and patter. Perhaps I have NAUGHTY SWEETIE PTSD.
But not in this case. For one thing, no one in this edition of The EarRegulars burst into song. They are Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, bass.
No, the ambiance here is entirely lacking in striped-vest-and-plastic-boater-counterfeited-glee. In fact, even though none of these musicians was born in either Kansas City, there is a distinct Pres-Reno Club flavor to this, and I am sure Milt Gabler and Harry Lim approve:
Nothing particularly naughty about this — innovative, rocking, and delightful, though. Characteristically EarRegular.
Ah, a Wednesday night fifteen years ago is so far away but also right at hand, depending on which lens you use. The distant past that isn’t really that distant when we can hear it.
Here is a recording of a Wednesday night gig by Eddy Davis’ WILD REEDS AND WICKED RHYTHM (or his NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND, I don’t know what name he was using that night): Eddy, banjo, vocals, leader; Debbie Kennedy, string bass; Conal Fowkes, piano; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone.
The recording medium was my cassette recorder placed on the table; the sound feels narrow at first but give it ninety seconds for your ears to adjust. They will.
The songs are STUMBLING / THAT OLD FEELING / STARDUST / IN A SENTIMENTAL MOOD / AS LONG AS I LIVE / GOOD -BYE / AUTUMN LEAVES / MARGIE / SWEETHEART OF ALL MY DREAMS (Conal) / SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL (Conal) //
Eddy Davis was the ringmaster of his own circus, both benevolent and imperious, and he allowed us to come in under the huge brightly-colored for regular visits. His imagination was hugely expansive, and in this performance you will hear how reverently his musical colleagues had chosen to follow him.
Within the first five or six minutes of this performance, you will hear the magical intuitive synchronicity that this working band had — they are having the time of their lives while expertly navigating the curves at any tempo. The solos are casually eloquent; the interplay is at the very highest level. And there are the hallmarks of an Eddy Davis performance: the idiosyncratic stream-of-consciousness chat to and with the audience, the surprising cadenza-false endings, Eddy’s vocals that initially might sound as if he was ordering breakfast at the diner but that soon reveal passion. I also cherish the unorthodox instrumentation. Somewhere that night, a quick walk away, a jazz group of trumpet, alto, piano, bass, drums was having their own good time, but the sounds these musicians got were special: their own sonic aquarium, with the most remarkable bounce at any tempo. And they could get up a ferocious momentum that makes me think of the Bechet-Spanier Big Four or the 1938 Basie band: hear the outchorus of SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL.
The Cajun was a scene in itself even when the music wasn’t playing — a vanished world where art and commerce looked warily at each other and settled in for the evening — and I miss it deeply.
So here’s an unedited visit to that world, an ordinary night in 2006 where the music was anything but ordinary:
What a privilege to have been there; I hope you feel it too, even if you were elsewhere that night.
Postscript: if you’re charmed by Barbara Rosene’s art (and she has a wide range) you can see more of it here.
Some nine years after this performance, I think of my immense good fortune at being “there,” and being able to document these moments. In those nine years, I thought now and again, “I’m going to save these for my retirement,” and now I can say, “Hey, I’m retired! Let the joys commence.”
These two performances — perhaps from a SONGS OF 1928 set? — are accomplished, joyous, and hilarious — created by musicians who can Play while they are Playing and nothing gets lost, nothing is un-swung. For instance: the bass clarinet and taragoto figures created on the spot by Scott Robinson and Dan Block behind Dan Barrett’s DIGA solo — Louis and Duke applaud, but so does Mack Sennett. The jubilant expert Joy-Spreaders are Marty Grosz, guitar and arrangements; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, taragoto; Dan Block, clarinet, bass clarinet.
Ask yourself, “Who’s wonderful? Who’s marvelous?” and the answer is of course MISS ANNABELLE LEE:
and another hit (I hear Irving Mills’ vocalizing) DIGA DIGA DOO:
I feel better than I did ten minutes ago. You, too, I hope. Marty and everyone else in these performances are still with us: talk about good fortune, doubled and tripled.
The magic continues — situated outdoors at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, on Sunday afternoons 1-3:30.
I would guess that many jazz listeners know the Isham Jones – Gus Kahn ON THE ALAMO from recordings by Benny Goodman and Kenny Davern, but how many of us know that it was originally a song of deep love that didn’t flourish? Here’s a marvelous version by Red Nichols, with a vocal chorus by Scrappy Lambert:
That’s Red Nichols, Leo McConville, Manny Klein; Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, Bill Trone or Herb Taylor; Benny Goodman, Babe Russin; Arthur Schutt or Jack Russin or Bobby Van Eps; Carl Kress, Art Miller, Gene Krupa; Scrappy Lambert; Bobby Van Eps (arranger): New York, April 18, 1929. No one burst into song as the EarRegulars explored Isham Jones’ melody, but there is luminous music:
And, as Jon-Erik says to the woman who has enriched The Bucket, “Thank you very much!”
Do consider. What could be better than an unpublished Fats Waller composition arranged twice for all-star hot jazz band — the arrangers being Marty Grosz and James Dapogny — with the arrangements (different moods, tempi, and keys) played in sequence? I know my question is rhetorical, but you will have the evidence to delight in: a jewel of an extended performance from 2007.
CAUGHT is an almost-unknown Fats Waller composition (first recorded by James Dapogny) presented in two versions, one after the other, at the 2007 Jazz at Chautauqua, first Marty Grosz’s ominous music-for-strippers, then Dapogny’s romp. One can imagine the many possible circumstances that might have led to this title . . . perhaps unpaid alimony, or other mischief?
The alchemists here are James Dapogny, piano; Marty Grosz, banjo and explanations; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, alto saxophone, clarinet; Scott Robinson, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Vince Giordano, tuba, string bass, bass saxophone; Arnie Kinsella, drums.
Note to meticulous consumers of sounds: this track begins with immense extraneous noise, and Arnie’s accents explode in the listeners’ ears. The perils of criminality: I had a digital recorder in my jacket pocket, so if and when I moved, the sound of clothing is intrusive. I apologize for imperfections, but I am proud of my wickedness; otherwise you wouldn’t have this to complain about:
I have been captivated by this performance for years — the simple line, so developed and lifted to the skies by the performers, the arrangements: the generous music given unstintingly to us. You might say I’ve been CAUGHT.
In the name of accuracy, I must point out that TOPSY was composed by Eddie Durham and 9:20 SPECIAL (which was meant to be 920 SPECIAL in honor of the AM radio station) was written by Earle Warren — but they were both members of the Count Basie orchestra, so we associate them with William Basie of Red Bank, New Jersey.
Because of the enthusiastic response to the first posting from this session, titled simply FLOATING BRILLIANCE, I thought, “Why wait?” and here are two more performances from that happy gathering — created by Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone and trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass.
9:20 SPECIAL (catch Scott on trumpet as well as tenor!):
Of course, there’s more to come. But it also happens with real people in real time, so visit The Ear Inn at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City, on a Sunday from 1-3:30. I can’t be there every week, so if you wait for the videos, you will miss some marvels. I guarantee this.
Eager birdsong, sun and clouds, and the great pageant of humanity, no extra charge. A few Sunday afternoons ago, the EarRegulars gathered at their summer 2021 outdoor shrine to lift our spirits: Jon-Erik Kellso, Puje trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone, trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass. Here are two hosannas in swingtime.
If you want to call any version of OH, BABY! “Chicago jazz,” I can’t stop you; I prefer to think of tis performance as Lovable Mainstream:
for Louis, by Louis — usually a set-closer, but it fits right in here, SWING THAT MUSIC:
Much more to come. Have you visited the EarRegulars in their (and our) happy place? Spiritual uplift guaranteed.
This is a sort of EarRegulars prequel, since the current version got rained out of their Sunday-afternoon ecstasy at the Ear Out, in front of the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street. With luck and sunshine, they will be back next Sunday.
Watching this beautiful souvenir of hot times, I think, “Now THAT’s the way to do it!” The Thursday-night informal sessions at Jazz at Chautauqua — a weekend delight that I first attended in 2004 — were always friendly, loose, and joyous. And sometimes they “scraped the clouds.” Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Ehud Asherie, piano; Andy Brown, guitar; Arnie Kinsella, drums, all have their say and rock the room. And yes, there are heads in the way of my camera now and again, but they are the heads of friends.
I think Arnie is no longer active — is he living the life of a gentleman farmer on Staten Island? — but I bless him and the other four luminaries, who are tangible presences in my life. My goodness, do they swing!
See you any Sunday at 326 Spring Street, New York, from 1-3:30. . . . where new memories are made.
On three Sunday afternoons this month, I have had the immense privilege of watching worlds come back to life, stretch their limbs, sniff the sweet air, and create boundless joy. I refer, of course, to the al fresco sessions created by The EarRegulars in front of The Ear Inn, from 1-3:30, when the threatened rain holds off.
This coming Sunday, the quartet will be Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; Josh Dunn, guitar; Tal Ronen, string bass. Pray for cloudless skies, Brothers and Sisters.
A week ago, the trio above created wondrous floating sounds — their text being Tadd Dameron’s IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW, with Scott playing the tenor saxophone, a horn he loves:
If that isn’t love transmuted into vibration, I don’t know.
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.”
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 . . . .
Scott Robinson wrote this elegy for Eddy Davis on April 8, 2020, and I couldn’t improve on it.
I’ve just lost one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had in music. Eddy Davis was a highly significant and influential presence in my life. He was a fiercely individualistic performer… a veteran of the old Chicago days when music was hot, joyful, exuberant and unselfconscious. A character and a curmudgeon, who could hold court for hours after the gig. And a loving mentor who helped younger musicians like myself learn and grow in this music. I had only played with Eddy a handful of times when he called me in late 1998 to say that he was forming a new band to fill a weekly Wednesday spot at the Cajun on 8th Avenue. He wanted me to play lead on C melody saxophone, in a little group with two reeds, and no drums. This by itself gives a clue to what an original thinker he was.
I already knew that Eddy was a proficient and highly individualistic stylist on the banjo, who sounded like no one else. What I didn’t know, but soon found out, was that this man was also a walking repository of many hundreds if not thousands of tunes of every description, ranging far beyond the standard repertoire… with a fascinating background story at the ready for nearly every one. I quickly learned that he was also a prolific and idiosyncratic composer himself, with a wonderfully philosophical work ethic: write original music every day, keep what works, and throw the rest away without a backward glance.
Eddy was also what used to be called a “character”: affable, opinionated, hilarious, and irascible all in one, and above all highly passionate about music. What I learned over the ensuing 7 ½ years in Eddy’s little band, I cannot begin to describe. I came to refer to those regular Wed. sessions as my “doctor’s appointment” — for they fixed whatever ailed me, and provided the perfect antidote to the ills of the world, and of the music scene. Over the years we were graced with the presence of some very distinguished musicians who came by and sat in with us, including Harry Allen, Joe Muranyi, Bob Barnard, Howard Johnson, and Barry Harris.
Eddy was generous with his strong opinions, with his knowledge and experience, and with his encouragement. But he was a generous soul in other ways as well. When he heard that I was building a studio (my “Laboratory”), he had me come by the apartment and started giving me things out of his closets. A Roland 24-track recorder… three vintage microphones… instruments… things that I treasure, and use every single day of my life. When my father turned 75, Eddy came out to the Lab in New Jersey and played for him, and wouldn’t take a dime for it. When I got the call last night that Eddy had passed — another victim of this horrible virus that is ruining so many lives, and our musical life as well — I hung up the phone and just cried. Later I went out to my Laboratory, and kissed every single thing there that he had given to me. How cruel to lose such an irreplaceable person… killed by an enemy, as my brother commented, that is neither visible nor sentient.
One night at the Cajun stands out in my memory, and seems particularly relevant today. It was the night after the last disaster that changed New York forever: the World Trade Center attack. There was a pall over the city, the air was full of dust, and there was a frightful, lingering smell. “What am I doing here?” I thought. “This is crazy.” But somehow we all made our way to the nearly empty club. We were in a state of shock; nobody knew what to say. I wondered if we would even be able to play. We took the stage, looked at each other, and counted off a tune. The instant the first note sounded, I was overcome with emotion and my face was full of tears.
Suddenly I understood exactly why we were there, why it was so important that we play this music. We played our hearts out that night — for ourselves, for our city, and for a single table of bewildered tourists, stranded in town by these incomprehensible events. They were so grateful for the music, so comforted by it.
The simple comfort of live music has been taken from us now. We must bear this loss, and those that will surely follow, alone… shut away in our homes. I know that when the awful burden of this terrible time has finally been lifted, when we can share music, life, and love again, it will feel like that night at the Cajun. My eyes will fill, my heart will sing, and the joy that Eddy Davis gave me will be with me every time I lift the horn to my face, for as long as I live.
It should be clear that the passionate honesty Scott offers us when he plays also comes through his words.
Here is an audio document of one of those Wednesday nights, March 29, 2006, recorded at The Cajun. Eddy Davis, banjo, vocal; Conal Fowkes, piano, vocal; Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Orange Kellin, clarinet; Debbie Kennedy, string bass; Fernando Kfouri, trombone (on TAILGATE RAMBLE). I wish I had been less intimidated (underneath his Midwestern affability, I sensed there was a core of steel in Eddy and I initially kept my distance, although I did develop a friendly relationship and did create videos) and brought my video camera, but I’ve left everything that was recorded that night in — including Conal going in search of his car, which had been towed, between-songs chatter, and more, for those not fortunate to be there fifteen years ago or other times.