Attentive readers will note that it is not yet Sunday, so this post is to inform or remind you that a wonderful duo-concert is about to happen, featuring Danny Tobias, trumpet and perhaps Eb alto horn, with Rossano Sportiello, piano. It’s given by the Pennsylvania Jazz Society at Congregation Brith Sholom, 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I believe the times are 2 to 4:30. I don’t know the admission price, but my previous experience with the PJS has shown they are reasonable people; should any JAZZ LIVES readers show up and find themselves short of a few dollars, I will be happy to offer the official Blog-Subsidy.
In announcing and promoting concerts, I’ve always tried to offer musical evidence — the equivalent of the tasting table at Trader Joe’s — but here I am slightly at a loss. One of the most exciting aspects of this concert is that, although I know Rossano and Danny have played together, they have not yet recorded in duet. So I cannot say to you, “This is what it will sound like on Sunday!” However, Danny’s newest CD, SILVER LININGS, features himself and Rossano along with Scott Robinson, reeds and brass; Joe Plowman, string bass; Kevin Dorn, drums — so I present two delightful musical interludes as somewhat larger versions of the blisses to come our way on Sunday.
I know there will be Pretty:
and I know there will be Swing:
As Elizabethan-era bloggers used to write c. 1604, “Get thee hence.” “Thee” means you; “hence” means 1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
I started writing this post about ten days ago and wrote several mournful paragraphs to begin, then thought, “I should put this aside for a bit,” as one does. I came back to it, reread it, and thought, “If Murray read this, he would perhaps say, with a gentle tilt of his eyebrow, ‘Really, Michael,’ and then pause for more than four bars, so that I would know I had been excessive. So since he created joy, I will cut to the music, which is joyous.
But first, as they say, here is the most detailed obituary for Murray:
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, August 27, 2022
Played bass for some of the great jazz musicians
(JAMES) MURRAY WALL September 28, 1945-July 18, 2022
Murray Wall, one of Australia’s most highly regarded jazz musicians, has died in New York City after a short illness. Originally from Melbourne, yet largely unknown in this country, Wall lived and worked for almost 50 years in New York. Over his lifetime, he played and toured with some of the world’s greatest jazz musicians including Benny Goodman, Barry Harris, Jon Hendricks, Eartha Kitt, Clark Terry, Anita O’Day, Billy Eckstine and Mel Torme.
Wall was born in Melbourne and grew up in the bayside suburb of Sandringham. In 1955, at the age of 10, his sister Sheila took him to a Nat King Cole concert at Festival Hall, a performance he would later credit as having inspired in him a life-long love of music. He was largely self-taught and learned jazz by playing along to records by Oscar Pettiford, Ray Bryant, and Lester Young. He also studied classical double-bass with Marion Brajsa, the principal bassist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
Wall began playing professionally in 1962, working in dance bands with his brother Richard before progressing to performing and recording music in the Melbourne jazz scene. In 1969, he moved to Sydney to play bass in the first Australian production of Hair at the Metro Theatre in Kings Cross. Having established himself as a professional musician, he soon became an in-demand bass player for visiting American musicians such as Clark Terry, Billy Eckstine, and Mel Torme.
In 1979, Wall moved to New York and began studying improvisation with the jazz pianist, Lennie Tristano. In the early 1980s, he was invited by the legendary swing band leader Benny Goodman to join his group and continued performing with him until Goodman’s final gig the night before his death in 1986.
Wall was based in New York for his most of his working life and played with some of the most respected musicians including Ken Peplowski, Marty Grosz, Keith Ingham, Frank Vignola, Chuck Wilson, Buck Clayton, Eddie Locke, Claude Williams, Richard Wyands, Grover Mitchell, Kenny Davern, Warne Marsh, Dave Van Ronk, and Spanky Davis. He was also a regular player at Barry Harris’ renowned weekly jazz masterclasses.
Wall was hugely respected for his peerless musicianship and melodic playing as well as his friendship and camaraderie that made him widely liked and sought after by band leaders. He was generous with his time in helping younger players and Australian jazz musicians on pilgrimages to New York would seek him out for his anecdotes and advice. He was a working musician until the end and kept a regular gig at the 11th St. Bar until shortly before his death.
Wall is survived by his wife Diana, daughter Gabrielle and stepson Alexis, grandchildren Raphael and Olga, brother Richard and sister Sheila and their extended families in Australia.
Written by Guy Freer and his wife, Gabrielle, Wall’s daughter.
That’s one way to sum up Murray, beautifully. Here are four more: portraits in sound, where he is joined by Joe Cohn, Scott Robinson, and Jon-Erik Kellso on January 30, 2020.
For Hoagy, Louis, Jack, Mildred, and others, ROCKIN’ CHAIR:
THERE’LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE:
I FOUND A NEW BABY:
CREOLE LOVE CALL:
Thank you, Murray, and resonant gentlemen. Your sounds will vibrate forever.
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.
Deep. Spiritually deep. Sonically deep. Melodic, lyrical, playful, emotive yet compact. Those are the sounds Murray Wall made on the string bass. Here he is surrounded by friends, colleagues, admirers, peers: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, reeds; Joe Cohn, guitar. All of this took place on a pre-pandemic Thursday night at Cafe Bohemia, 15 Barrow Street, Greenwich Village, New York City.
And the song Louis chose to keep it rolling:
Murray, you remain in our ears and our hearts. I forego the usual closing flourishes.
Before we start, on Monday, August 22, 2022, there will be a celebration of Murray Wall’s life and music at the 11th Street Bar in New York City (510 East 11th Street, between Avenues A and B, where Murray and Richard Clements co-led a band for a long memorable time. The website says 7:00 to midnight; the bar does not take reservations, and I won’t be in New York, so any video documentation will be by someone else. (Will someone take that unadorned hint?)
But the best way to love Murray is not in memory but in actuality; I want to do that here.
Let’s go back to January 12, 2011, for the momentous occasion of tenor saxophonist Ted Brown’s first gig as a leader in forty years. It happened at the Kitano Hotel, and Ted was joined by Murray, string bass; Michael Kanan, piano; Taro Okamoto, drums.
FEATHER BED (Ted’s line on YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO):
and LULLABY OF THE LEAVES:
HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? — those loving questions answered in sound and feeling:
GONE WITH THE WIND:
and finally, a performance that Murray doesn’t play on — a duet between Ted and Michael on PRISONER OF LOVE — but you’ll permit me to imagine him at a table near the band, listening and admiring, as we all were:
And something lovely that only a few people who weren’t at 15 Barrow Street, New York, on January 30, 2020, have experienced — I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME, performed by Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, tenor saxophone; Joe Cohn, guitar, and Murray:
Murray Wall improved the spiritual landscape for anyone who knew him, even casually, and his art continues to do so today. I will have more to share with you.
Murray Wall, irreplaceable musician and man, moved to another neighborhood last month.
Here is my first posting in his honor. There will be more.
When dear and memorable people leave the planet, we don’t stop missing them in a few weeks, a few years, ever. Their absence is palpable, as was their singular presence. Murray was sweetly modest and utterly swinging; he created a beautiful foundation no matter what the context.
Here he is with Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, reeds; Joe Cohn, guitar, on a Thursday night set (January 30, 2020) at Cafe Bohemia on Barrow Street in Greenwich Village, New York:
He sent love to us; I hope he knows that love was and is sent in return, in profusion.
The clarinetist / saxophonist / arranger Frank Teschemacher, a brilliant individualistic voice in Chicago jazz of the late Twenties, didn’t live to see his twenty-sixth birthday. Everyone who played alongside him spoke of him with awe. Even though the recorded evidence of his idiosyncratic personality amounts to less than ninety minutes, he shines and blazes through any ensemble.
In celebration of what would have been Tesch’s centenary, Marty Grosz put together a tribute at the September 2006 Jazz at Chautauqua weekend. It wasn’t a series of note-for-note copies of his recordings (this would have horrified the Austin High Gang) but a sincere hot effort to capture Tesch’s musical world — with great success. I was there with a moderately-concealed digital recorder, and couldn’t bear that this set would only be a memory, so what follows is my audio recording.
Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, commentary; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Block, Scott Robinson, reeds; James Dapogny, piano; Vince Giordano, string bass, tuba, bass saxophone; Pete Siers, drums. (The voice you’ll hear discoursing with Marty is that of the late Joe Boughton, creator of this and many other festivals.)
PRINCE OF WAILS (Dapogny transcription / arrangement) / BULL FROG BLUES (JD arr) / WAILING BLUES (JD arr) / I MUST HAVE THAT MAN (possibly Marty’s arrangement) / TRYING TO STOP MY CRYING (possibly Marty arrangement, his vocal, glee club) / SUGAR (possibly Marty arrangement, his vocal) / COPENHAGEN (with Marty’s Indiana etymology / story of Boyce Brown getting fired for talking about reincarnation). Thanks to Chris Smith for his assistance.
This post is in honor of Missy Kyzer, who was fascinated by Tesch and his world a long time ago. See her work here and here.
I think of this as the Jazz at Chautauqua Thursday Night All-Star Jam Band, and after you hear and see them for nine minutes I predict you will understand why.
Thursday night sessions, before the jazz weekend began, were loose swinging affairs in the Athenaeum Hotel parlor, where we sat at the same level as the musicians (rather than below them in a large ballroom) and all kinds of good things happened, as they did on September 20, 2012.
Here are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Scott Robinson, cornet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Bob Reitmeier, clarinet; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums, romping on I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, which begins in the most sweetly exalted 1936 Teddy Wilson style. Imperishable. I can’t watch it only once. And to list all the delights would take away your pleasure in finding them, so get ready to compile your own list of astonishments:
That kind of performance — expertise, wit, enthusiasm, joy — happens often when musicians of this caliber gather and the cosmic vibrations are right, but to me this is a perfectly memorable interlude, one I treasure.
Thanks to the musicians and to the late Joe Boughton, the emperor of rare songs, swing, and good feeling.
Here’s a location in space and time where the past and present embrace, each retaining all their distinguishing features. That is, Marty Grosz, guitar, vocal, and erudition, leading an ensemble at the 2014 Cleveland Classic Jazz Party in the song first introduced by Ethel Waters, SUGAR, that was then taken up by the Austin High Gang for their 1927 record date as “McKenzie and Condon’s Chicagoans.”
The noble creators are Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Dan Barrett, trombone; Dan Levinson, tenor saxophone; Scott Robinson, taragoto; James Dapogny, piano; Jon Burr, string bass; Pete Siers, drums.
It’s clearly impromptu (but all the great performances were in some part) from Marty’s heartfelt rubato solo chorus to the split-chorus solos with special reverence for James Dapogny’s piano in glittering solo and supportive ensemble. It’s confectionary. And memorable.
Incidentally, if, after enjoying Marty and his pals, you need more sugar in your bowl, try Ethel’s version, Louis’, and the Lee Wiley – Muggsy Spanier – Jess Stacy one. And of course the McKenzie-Condon version, which is playing in my mental jukebox as I type. Then follow your own impulses to heated sweetness.
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.
I don’t know the Latin name for this delightful malady, but the lay population calls it this:
You might also know recorded versions by the Wolverine Orchestra, Fletcher Henderson, Eddie Condon, Joe Sullivan, Sidney Bechet, Humphrey Lyttelton, Doc Evans, Panama Francis, Mutt Carey, Johnny Wiggs, Kid Ory, Lu Watters, Turk Murphy, Miff Mole, Willie “the Lion” Smith, Graeme Bell, Jack Teagarden, Red Nichols, Jimmy McPartland, Ken Colyer, Chris Barber, Albert Nicholas, Buck Clayton, Earl Hines, Red Allen, Art Hodes, Dave McKenna, Kevin Dorn, Dick Wellstood, Alex Welsh, Wild Bill Davison, Kenny Davern, or other luminaries. And those recordings are in the last hundred years or so.
As I write this, some band or solo pianist is getting FIDGETY.
And I can now present to you a previously unseen performance from 2017, by the EarRegulars at The Ear Inn on a Sunday night. These luminaries are Danny Tobias, cornet; Scott Robinson, baritone saxophone, taragoto; James Chirillo, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass. Watch them go!
Thank goodness for these players; thank goodness for The Ear Inn.
Maybe that’s hyperbole, but The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) on Sunday nights — since summer 2007 — has given me and others much joy. Here’s a previously unseen document of that feeling, provided by Danny Tobias, cornet; Scott Robinson, taragoto; James Chirillo, guitar; Frank Tate, string bass. W.C. Handy’s BEALE STREET BLUES taken at a groovy lope.
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.
The past isn’t dead, as long as the evidence survives. Two days ago I posted a rollicking CIRIBIRIBIN by the group named above plus John Bucher, cornet. Here is another long-buried souvenir from Wednesday, June 7, 2006, performed at the Cajun Restaurant, New York City. Two originals and an outchorus, for those noting details. Eddy Davis, leader, banjo, vocals, composer; Scott Robinson, C-Melody saxophone; Pete Martinez, clarinet; Jesse Gelber, piano; Debbie Kennedy, string bass: THE LAUGHING BLUES / AN IDEA FROM MARIAN / I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS. I’ve left in all the conversation — at the end of the night — because to edit it out would be painful. Pretend that you were there, no, that you are there. Why not?
I don’t remember details about this particular Wednesday night at the Cajun — which was soon to close to make way for a high-rise apartment building. But my digital recorder stands in for any gaps in my memory, providing wonderful evidence of what happened more than fifteen years ago. Here is a romping sample — CIRIBIRIBIN, suggested by cornetist John Bucher, sitting in for a set with Eddy, Pete Martinez, clarinet (subbing for Orange Kellin); Scott Robinson, C-melody saxophone; Jesse Gelber, piano (subbing for Conal Fowkes); Debbie Kennedy, string bass. It wasn’t “Dixieland”; it was more an evocation of the sleeves-rolled-up music one heard on Fifty-Second Street, at Eddie Condon’s, a year or so later at The Ear Inn: loose, friendly, playful, expert but hiding its expertise. I think it’s a memorable nine minutes, and when I first unearthed this disc, more than one computer refused to transfer it, so I played it more than a dozen times in hopes that I could vault over the barrier. I loved it more each time, and I hope you will share my enthusiasm.
The building is gone; some of the musicians have moved to other neighborhoods, but the sounds they made and the emotions they evoke are so durable as to be timeless.
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.
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.