Yesterday, Sunday, January 27, was my first venture back into live jazz — since I lost my video equipment (a saga chronicled elsewhere on this blog) — and I was mildly worried. About me, I mean.
How would it be to come back to my this very familiar situation without a camera in my hands? (Someone at the first gig who knows me well asked me how I was feeling, and I said — without thinking — “denuded,” a telling choice of words.)
But I managed to keep my composure and enjoy myself, not thinking too much that the music was vanishing into the ether without passing through me, JAZZ LIVES, and cyberspace to you.
The first session — held at the Music Conservatory of Westchester — was very sweet and to the point, a celebration by trumpeter Bob Arthurs and guitarist Steve LaMattina of their new CD, JAZZ FOR SVETLANA (also chronicled on this blog).
Bob and Steve kept up a glorious yet understated musical conversation, switching roles — when Steve soloed, Bob gave him plenty of space for a few choruses, and then would begin to play encouraging backgrounds and riffs, his hand half over the bell of his trumpet. At times I thought I was listening to some version of the Basie band distilled down to its essences. They began with a medium-tempo BLUES FOR LONNIE, a trotting I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU (on which Bob sang in his husky unaffected way), I REMEMBER YOU (fast), and HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN (introspective). Then Svetlana Gorokhovich and Irena Portenko took the stage — at two pianos! — to perform a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, POINTS ON JAZZ, which began in plain-spoken elegiac simplicity and escalated in intensity before settling back down again. Bob and Steve returned for NIGHT IN TUNISIA, a “nostalgic,” slow reading of BACK HOME AGAIN IN INDIANA, with Bob’s vocal, and what was for me the highlight of the session — a beautiful one-chorus reading of Jackie Gleason’s MELANCHOLY SERENADE. Quite a lot of music packed into a small space!
The second gig was a return to old beloved haunts — The Ear Inn — to hear Jon-Erik Kellso, John Allred, Howard Alden, and Pat O’Leary — this week’s version of The EarRegulars — swing out. They began with a fast SUNDAY, then moved forwards in time for an even more vigorous FROM MONDAY ON, and secretly kept the theme going with a much more leisurely THE MAN I LOVE, which refers to Tuesday in the lyrics, a deep inside joke. Two classics of the ER repertoire concluded the set — WHEN I GROW TOO OLD TO DREAM and a key-changing HINDUSTAN. The four EarRegulars are great conversationalists — chatty fellows, you know — so the two horns kept exchanging comments (“passing notes,” if you will) on each other’s playing — with Allred providing the punchline or topper to a Kellso musical witticism. Alden and O’Leary kept up a sweet flow of rhythm that reminded me so much of the Braff-Barnes Quartet of 1974 with noble forbears Michael Moore and Wayne Wright floating the planet.
It helped me a good deal that I was among friends — Will and Pete Anderson, Emily Asher, Dan Block, Mike Gilroy, Michael Waterhouse, the talented J.P., and others . . . and many of them sweetly tendered heartfelt camera-condolences, which mean a lot. My pal Nan said, “You know, you’re much more fun without a video camera,” which I took as a compliment — I was at play more than at work, and it was a pleasure to be able to applaud freely — but I pointed out that I felt somewhat rudderless without the ability to make sure these good sounds were captured for posterity.
All of this once again posed the philosophical question, “If a band is swinging like mad or playing melodies sweetly and Michael is not recording it with a videocamera, does the music still enthrall and elate?” You know the answer to that one.
May your happiness increase.