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:
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.