Tag Archives: Soho

SWINGTIME IN SOHO (Part One): JON-ERIK KELLSO, DAN BARRETT, CHRIS FLORY, JOEL FORBES at THE EAR INN (Sept. 14, 2014)

At The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City), the Sunday-night sessions by the EarRegulars — now in their eighth year — are always delightful. But when Dan Barrett comes back east for a visit, they’re spectacularly rewarding.  Here is the first half of the first set performed on September 14, 2014, by Messrs. Barrett (trombone and instant head arrangements); Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Chris Flory, guitar; Joel Forbes, string bass.

I could write at length about the swinging brotherhood of this quartet, about Jon’s exuberant energy, about Dan’s slippery ensemble work and brilliant solos, about Chris’ immense bluesy conviction, about Joel’s eloquent subtle simplicities, but the music can say all that and more, without words.

COQUETTE:

OUR MONDAY DATE:

THEY SAY IT’S WONDERFUL:

I SURRENDER, DEAR:

Three more to come.

May your happiness increase!

“WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?” (JON-ERIK KELLSO, WARREN VACHÉ, MENNO DAAMS, MATT MUNISTERI, JOHN ALLRED, HARVEY TIBBS, PAT O’LEARY at THE EAR INN, October 6, 2013)

Just the facts.

Sunday night, October 6, 2013.  Apprximately 9:15 PM.

The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.

The EarRegulars: Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; John Allred, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Pat O’Leary, string bass, with guests Warren Vaché, Menno Daams, cornet; Harvey Tibbs, trombone.

Text for the occasion:  THE LADY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU by Frank Loesser and Burton Lane, 1939.*

Cinema verite by Ineke Rienks.

We love it!

*Here’s the original soundtrack from the film SOME LIKE IT HOT, featuring Bob Hope, Shirley Ross, and Gene Krupa:

May your happiness increase!

FREE-WHEELING ON SPRING STREET: THE EarRegulars (JON-ERIK KELLSO, MATT MUNISTERI, GREG COHEN, TAD SHULL) PLAY HOAGY CARMICHAEL (March 31, 2013)

Those “old chestnuts” can be very tasty.

RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE (originally called FREE WHEELING) by one Hoagland Carmichael, is ninety years old as I write this.  But the tune — with its twists and turns — is flavorful and lively, especially when played by a group as energized and intuitive as The EarRegulars, the regularly brilliant quartet-plus co-led by guitarist Matt Munisteri and trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso on Sunday nights (8-11 PM) at The Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City.  The other members of this quartet — on March 31, 2013 — were string bassist Greg Cohen and tenor saxophonist Tad Shull.

Creativity — from 1923 or 2013 or a blending of the two — will never grow old.

May your happiness increase.

OUR IDEAL: THE EARREGULARS at THE EAR INN (January 29, 2012)

Very simple, no flourishes, nothing fancy: just four of the best musicians you’ll ever hear honoring the melodies, improvising at lightning speed, making a wonderfully cohesive little band right there in the corner at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) last Sunday night from 8-11 PM.  By the summer of 2012 the EarRegulars will have pulled off such secular miracles for five years, which stands as an amazing record for creative consistency.

Last Sunday’s Peerless Quartet was Matt Munisteri, guitar; Jon-Erik Kellso, trumpet; Alex Hoffman, tenor saxophone; Neal Miner, string bass.  Here are five varied and luminous performances from that evening:

The Claude Hopkins-Alex Hill declaration of gracious acquiescence, I WOULD DO [MOST] ANYTHING FOR YOU, which also became the Hopkins theme song.  I always wonder whether it reflects the leader’s mood if the MOST is included or left out.  Scholarly research, anyone?

Then a leisurely exposition of the 1922 Youmans SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY, at a tempo that recalls Lester Young and his gorgeous Keynote session:

So many “traditional” and “Dixieland” bands have claimed THE SHEIK OF ARABY for their own that one is in danger of forgetting what an effective swing tune it is.  Here, Matt and Jon-Erik launch into the appropriately Middle-Eastern verse in a manner that recalls the eternally memorable Hot Lips Page session for V-Disc:

A lovely tune, not often played by jazz improvisers, is the Irving Berlin CHANGE PARTNERS — of course associated with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

And a sweet, musing version of Walter Donaldson’s MY IDEAL, recalling both Coleman Hawkins and Billie Holiday:

I was thrilled to be there . . . and I had very good company — new young friends, Travis and Jillian, who were digging the music in the most heartfelt way.  Shazam, you cats!

The EarRegulars will be taking Sunday, February 5, 2012, off, because of the Super Bowl — but they will be back on the 12th with Matt, Jon-Erik, Mark Lopeman, and Nicki Parrott — prepare to swing!

INSPIRATIONS at THE EAR INN (April 17, 2011)

While Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri were finishing up what I hope was a rewarding weekend at the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, the EarRegulars kept swinging happily in their absence — at The Ear Inn last night (Sunday, April 17, 2011 — at 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City).

The quartet was made up of old friends and musical colleagues — people who had a lot to say to each other on their instruments: Danny Tobias, cornet; Dan Block, clarinet and tenor saxophone; Chris Flory, guitar; Frank Tate, bass.

The music was playful and conversational: the band evoked the past (the 1938 Basie band, an imagined 1944 Keynote session, a Vanguard record date) while reminding us at every turn that there were four living musicians creating beauty in the here and now.  In each of these performances, you’ll see and hear casual splendor: the inventive lines and big sound of Frank Tate, who plays the string bass as it wants to be played (no manic guitar runs for him); the irresistible rhythmic surge of Chris Flory, his lines chiming; Danny Tobias’s subtle mastery — he never plays a superfluous note, and although he’s deeply grounded in the tradition of Buck Clayton and Ruby Braff, you’d lose all your bets trying to predict where his next phrase will land; the fierce lyricism of Dan Block, lemony on clarinet, yearning on tenor — a man inseparable from the phrases he creates.

Melodies everywhere!

Pay attention! as Jake Hanna used to say — especially to the conversations between Danny and Dan, uplifting interludes in several performances.

LINGER AWHILE isn’t played that much by contemporary bands, but Bill Coleman, Dicky Wells, and Lester Young had a good time with it some decades back:

Some cautious optimism with SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY at an easy rocking tempo:

A good old good one, EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY:

Happiness is on everyone’s mind on a Sunday night at The Ear Inn, so why not play I WANT TO BE HAPPY:

And to cool the room down, a swinging JADA:

Cherish these sessions!  They’ve been going on for nearly four years . . . come visit while this music is in the air . . . .

FOR BIX BEIDERBECKE (The Ear Inn, March 13, 2011)

I do not know what memories Bix Beiderbecke had of New York.  Aside from that terrible apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, where he died, I think that many of them were good: recording for OKeh, jamming in Harlem, playing against the Henderson band, drinking at Plunkett’s.  Bixians can, I am sure, supply more.

Although Bix has been gone a long time, New Yorkers still celebrate him in many ways: a vigil on the anniversary of his death; WKCR-FM plays his music on his birthday, and (this year) the EarRegulars devoted an evening to honoring him.

The EarRegulars were Jon-Erik Kellso (trumpet) and Matt Munisteri (guitar), founding members, with Pete Martinez (Albert system clarinet) and Greg Cohen (string bass).  And they played as if Bix was seated at the bar, grinning appreciatively — which, in a way, he always is.

Here’s Hoagy’s FREE WHEELING — later named RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE, a wondrous way to start things off.  Catch Jon-Erik’s clarion, flexible lines, Greg’s fervent support.  Pete’s quotation early in his first chorus is a delicious in-joke.  As ALONE, it is the romantic number in the Marx Brothers’ A NIGHT AT THE OPERA.  And his second chorus — only Matt could follow something like that, and how nimbly he does!  Jon-Erik soars; Greg stomps, and the closing ensemble is a triumphant paradox: searing hot and cool to the touch at the same time:

It took me several choruses to recall the name of the next selection — it’s THERE’LL COME A TIME and it’s a tribute to the deep affection and deeper recall that all the editions of the EarRegulars show — not in an academic or pretentious way, but with love.  This version, deliciously, has an easy stroll to it — it could be a 1938 Basie-inspired small group recording for Commodore, couldn’t it?  (Think of Buck, Lester, Durham, Page.)  And wait until the very end — the equine commentary is here and intact:

Pianist and wit Jeff Barnhart says that SAN has the distinction of being the Dixieland tune with the shortest title.  I wouldn’t deny that, but it’s also a rocking composition — especially the way the EarRegulars launch into it, with quartet telepathy all around:

Finally, a song I take as a tribute to my serene and well-establish standing in academia — the JAZZ ME BLUES — which has the immortal line, worthy of Keats, “Professor, come on and jazz me!”  I would have responded but it would have required that I put my camera down, so I couldn’t:

Bix thanks you.  We all thank you, gentlemen of the ensemble!

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A JAZZ BOUQUET: DAN BARRETT and ANDY SCHUMM at THE EAR INN (Oct. 24, 2010)

Last Sunday, in the late afternoon, I began to fidget — perhaps two hours before The EarRegulars were scheduled to start playing at The Ear Inn.  The Beloved said to me, kindly, “What are you so anxious about?  We’ll be there in plenty of time,” which was of course true.  (She knows such things.) 

I replied, “You’re right, but I’ve been waiting two months for this evening,” which was no less true.

Why?  Let’s call the roll:

Andy Schumm, cornet (sitting in for a traveling Jon-Erik Kellso); Dan Barrett, trombone; Matt Munisteri, guitar; Scott Robinson, bass sax.

And I didn’t even know that there were going to be august guests, that Vince Giordano would sit in on tenor guitar, that Dan Block and John Otto would bring their clarinets, that I would get to hear saxophonist Ned Goold, and that I would meet the thoroughly captivating singer Jerron Paxton. 

Had I known all this in advance, I might have camped out at the bar of The Ear Inn (that’s 326 Spring Street, Soho, New York City) a day in advance. 

But we got there in time, I situated myself in proper video range (near pals Jim and Grace Balantic, Rob Rothberg, Bill and Sonya Dunham, and Lucy Weinman), and here’s what happened.  I’m thrilled by what I witnessed and recorded: a dozen beauties, a jazz bouquet.  (And I wasn’t the only one feeling blissful: look at the expressions on the faces of the musicians!)

The EarRegulars began with a bouncy CHINA BOY — recalling not just Bix and Whiteman, but also Bechet-Spanier and the Condon gang:

A rousing opener usually is followed by something in a medium-tempo, but not for these fellows: someone suggested the lovely, sad/hopeful Irving Berlin song WAITING AT THE END OF THE ROAD, which evokes Bing and Fats as well as Bix (or Secrest, you choose):

Dan Barrett called for MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS (or, as Cutty Cutshall used to say, MAHONEY’S); he and Andy knew the verse and leaped in, and then Dan vocalized — splendidly and wittily:

AT THE JAZZ BAND BALL could have been the title of this posting and an apt summation of the whole night:

A sweetly pensive SLEEPY TIME GAL (in a Red Nichols IDA mood) was next, with Scott singing out on his bass saxophone:

Clarinetist John Otto joined in, and Vince Giordano added his own special pulse to the rhythm section. Dan Barrett suggested one of his favorite jam tunes, the early-Thirties number, its title a wistful plaint, its tempo more optimistic, DO YOU EVER THINK OF ME?:

WEARY BLUES is always too joyous to live up to its name, and this version was a honey — with Scott picking up his flea-market trumpet, then (to my delight and astonishment) Dan putting his own mouthpiece on it and swinging out!

YOU TOOK ADVANTAGE OF ME demands a chase chorus in honor of Bix and Tram– Dan Block had joined the EarRegulars and the three horns conversed diligently and sagely on this 1927 Rodgers and Hart classic:

Then something even more remarkable (and cinematic) happened.  A substantial young man, handsome and casually imposing — he would have been all these things even if he hadn’t been wearing down-home overalls — was asked by Matt Munisteri to sing.  (Thank you, Matt!) 

I’LL BE A FRIEND “WITH PLEASURE” is thought of as a wounded dirge, although the Condonites tried to turn it into a romp on their BIXIELAND album.  People who know the original recording well start cringing well in advance of Wesley Vaughan’s sweetly effete “vocal.” 

When the young man started to sing, I nearly fell off my barstool.  Although his strong musical personality was evident from the first phrase, he put himself at the service of the song, with an unaffected but deeply moving style that comes from his shoes on up.  His name is Jerron Paxton; he later told me he was “half blind,” and his business card reads MUSICIANER.  Hear for yourself; he’s astounding!  (The serious bespectacled man sitting behind Jerron is photographer John Rogers, a jazz devotee of the finest kind):

Then saxophonist Ned Goold joined the band, to great effect — soloing in a deliciously individualistic way and placing himself perfectly in the band riffs.  Jerron sat out MARGIE, which swung delightfully: Bix and Tram and Lester and Jo would have been happy with this version.  Scott quoted HANDFUL OF KEYS; Dan Barrett became Tricky Dan Nanton; Andy and Matt duetted (!), and Scott picked up his trumpet once again:

I was hoping that Jerron would be asked to sing again (not being able to believe my ears) and Matt must have read my mind, for he invited Jerron for BLUE, TURNING GREY OVER YOU — which melded swing and melancholy.  Dan Barrett’s muted sound is a joy, and Scott just sang on his bass saxophone:

Even in Soho, everyone has to go home sometime, and things ended with JAZZ ME BLUES: 

Driving home, I felt thoroughly jazzed, completely elated.  Although many times the recordings one makes at the gig (audio or video) seem diminished, pallid in the unforgiving light of day, these continue to amaze.

And the young man from Wisconsin?  He doesn’t need me to trumpet his glories: music speaks louder than words, most beautifully, in Andy’s case.

Jim Balantic, seated next to me, leaned over and whispered, “This is the greatest night of my life.”  I don’t know if that statement would stand up under hypnosis or truth serum, but I certainly know how he felt. 

In case you’re new here, singular versions of this musical magic take place every Sunday night from 8-11 at The Ear Inn.  This evening was extraordinary but not in the least atypical!

DEEP SONGS AT THE EAR (Sept. 26, 2010)

It was another elevating night at The Ear Inn (326 Spring Street). 

Nothing could spoil the collective merriment — not the fact that the subways were perversely unpredictable, not the untrained owner with the overeager dog who knocked over a beer and nearly ruined one of Jon-Erik Kellso’s antique mutes, never meant for a lager-bath. 

No, when Jon-Erik, Scott Robinson (tenor and soprano this time), Matt Munisteri, and Pat O’Leary join forces, it’s a delightful and always surprising musical encounter.  And (later on) they were joined by Bob Barnard (trumpet), who’s always inventive.

But the highlights for me were the imaginative musical conversations that the quartet and quintet embarked on — each player having his say but deeply listening to what his peers were doing and being inspired by it. 

Bear in mind that these are highlights — for those of you seated at home, savoring this experience, it’s only a shadow of what really goes on at The Ear Inn. 

After an energetic I DOUBLE DARE YOU, the EarRegulars chose something that has now become mildly unusual — the pretty Ray Noble ballad THE TOUCH OF YOUR LIPS played at a slightly faster tempo, reminiscent of what Ruby Braff might have done with this lyrical melody:

LIPS like those need a good long time:

Jon-Erik handed off the trumpet chair to Bob, who dove right in to a Louis-inspired CHINATOWN MY CHINATOWN, with Scott, Matt, and Pat in truly hot pursuit:

Music for two trumpets!  Jon-Erik called for “a rocking blues,” and Bob stayed on for a lengthy BEALE STREET BLUES:

Making BEALE STREET talk:

Irving Berlin’s sweet A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY got a swinging exploration:

SLEEPY TIME GAL began with a lavish reading of the melody and became even more lovely:

Isham Jones’s ON THE ALAMO gave the quartet a chance to stretch out and explore:

Too good to draw to a close too quickly:

What lovely songs!

“IT’S GLORY”: THE EAR INN (September 5, 2010)

Last Sunday I made my way down to The Ear Inn with great eagerness.  Jon-Erik Kellso and Neal Miner were going to be there along with two players making their debuts at 326 Spring Street: altoist Dmitry Baevsky, whom I’d admired on a duet gig with Ehud Asherie at Smalls, and the remarkable guitarist Ray Macchiarola.

I wasn’t disappointed for a moment, as you shall see and hear.  And the guests in the house made the music even more delightful: Mark Lopeman brought his alto sax and sat in for part of the first set, and cornet master Danny Tobias lit up the room for one number in the second set.  I’m using the Ellington original as a title for this blogpost simply because the music at The Ear was indeed glorious.  Here are a few notable examples in a session of timelesss Mainstream jazz, full of wit, energy, and feeling: 

A leisurely I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE IN LOVE WITH ME brought back Billie and Lester and their Basie-ite friends:

SLOW BOAT TO CHINA, music for two friendly alto saxophones:

AFTER YOU’VE GONE:

And a delicious little scrap too good to erase:

WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM:

And the conclusion, which ends with a hilarious little conversation between Dmitry and Jon-Erik before they head for home:

LADY BE GOOD (which I called DANNY DROPS BY on YouTube — features courtly interplay between the two brassmen, the very soul of politeness):

BLUES (a tempo and mood reminiscent of Parker’s):

BLUES Part Two:

TEA FOR TWO:

What delicious music!

A DOWNTOWN PILGRIMAGE (May 30, 2010)

My Sunday-night trips downtown to the Ear Inn (in Soho, Greenwich Village, New York City, 326 Spring Street) are really spiritual pilgrimages in search of the right sounds to heal any of the non-musical affronts of the preceding week.  These quests let me watch artists at play, hear them improvise delightfully, to feel joy — things not to be taken lightly in this world.

Fortunately for me, the trip to The Ear is less arduous than the one Chaucer’s pilgrims had to undertake: they didn’t have the benefit of the C or the number 1 train.   

The healers I went to see last Sunday night (May 30) weren’t Doc Cooke and his 14 Doctors of Syncopation.  They were The Ear Regulars (or the EarRegulars — scholars differ on this): Danny Tobias, cornet; Chuck Wilson, also sax; James Chirillo, guitar; Murray Wall, bass.  Later on in the evening other swing gurus joined: Dan Block, clarinet; Pat O’Leary, cello and bass; and newcomer (from County Mohan, Ireland — although he’s been here for ten years), Tony Steele, bass.  

They began the evening with the most encouraging welcome: LINGER AWHILE:

And then, a slow-rocking SOMETIMES I’M HAPPY:

LINGER AWHILE made me think of the precious 1943 recording by Dicky Wells; SOMETIMES reminded me greatly of all the Keynote Records sessions — Danny’s lyrical motions and subtle (almost invisible) bandleading, his riffs and encouragements, always create the best small-band-Swing.

A tender but gutty CREOLE LOVE CALL followed:

Please notice James Chirillo’s wonderfully dissonant surprises [Charles Ives meets Teddy Bunn meets Herb Ellis]; Chuck Wilson’s speaking melodic style, Murray Wall’s lovely pulsing beat and singing solos.

Dinner for the band and conversation amongst everyone followed; then it was time for the second set.

A deliciously slow-motion EXACTLY LIKE YOU led off (proof that almost all great melodies can benefit from being played slowly):

An eager BEALE STREET BLUES:

A two-part version of AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ brought Pat back with his cello, alongside Tony Steele on bass:

And the riffing conclusion with Pat O’Leary’s cello commentaries:

LOVE ME!:

OR LEAVE ME!:

And the evening closed with a brisk, brief, speedy CHINA BOY — the original band plus Dan Block:

Feeling lost?  Downtrodden?  Does your clothing suddenly seem heavy on your shoulders?  A trek to ask the Sage for guidance won’t be necessary.  Come to the Ear Inn or any of the other jazz spots I’ve been featuring.  I predict an immediate emotional uplift in a few hours.

TUESDAYS WITH CHARLIE (CARANICAS)

Charlie Caranicas, trumpet / fluegelhorn player by night, lawyer by day, is an often under-acknowledged New York jazz hero.  He can lead a “Dixieland” ensemble with power and grace, then turn around and play Monk with subtlety and deep feeling.  Or he can create jazz that both enhances the melody but doesn’t scare away the uninitiated.  I first heard him perhaps five years ago with Kevin Dorn’s band at the Cajun, and have delighted in his playing ever since.

New Yorkers have new opportunities to hear Charlie in low-key, intimate surroundings at two restaurants. 

One of them, Pane e Vino, is in Brooklyn (www.panevinony.com).  It’s located at 174 Smith Street, thirty seconds away from the F train’s Bergen Street stop.  The music begins at 8:30 PM and goes until 11, more or less.  Charlie appears there with his own trio — a guitarist and bassist, the latter often the admirable Kelly Friesen.  The trio will be there on Tuesday, May 4th, and on May 18th. 

I visited Pane e Vino a few weeks ago and was impressed by its quiet atmosphere (the trio plays near a small collection of overstuffed chairs and sofas) and cozy darkness.  (The darkness defeated every camera that I had with me, but it lent the music a lovely intimacy.)  With Charlie that night were Kelly on bass and the very fine guitarist Mark McCarron.  The trio must have felt like honoring Benny Carter, because they began their first set with a walking WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW (Charlie played his solo into a red-and-white metal derby) that showed off McCarron’s subtle chording and Kelly’s fine flexible pulse.  After a version of DINAH that began medium-fast and then went into double-time, with Charlie bowing to Louis’s 1933 Copenhagen version, the trio returned to Carter with a yearning ONLY TRUST YOUR HEART, for which Charlie picked up his fluegelhorn, filling the room with his warm, cushiony sound.  A pulsing THESE FOOLISH THINGS made me think I had gone back in time to hear Harry Edison, George VanEps, and Ray Brown — names to conjure with!  Singer Lisa Hearns sat in for a trio of Basie-infused standards, APRIL IN PARIS, CAN’T WE BE FRIENDS, and OUR LOVE IS HERE TO STAY. 

Wednesday morning beckoned with its chill finger, so I stayed for only the first set, but it was convincing jazz — relaxed but focused swing.  I was amused to see that Charlie’s derby doubled as a tip jar, and some of the listeners seemed to know what it was for. 

I haven’t been to Charlie’s New York City gig, but he’ll be at BOOM on Tuesday, May 11th.  It’s a restaurant / lounge in Soho, also with a trio, 8:30 until 11:30.  BOOM is at 152 Spring St., just east of West Broadway (www.boomsoho.com).  Charlie’s website is www.charliejazz.com, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you asked to be added to his email list.  He’s worth hearing!