Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Last Sunday was the birthday of one of the regulars, so a piss-up was naturally in order. The weather was unseasonably pleasant (whenever the weather in New York is pleasant, it's unseasonable), and we met up at a fine old local institution, the Ear Inn. The Ear is one of the oldest bars in the city, and wears its age with pride- mostly in the form of a thick layer of dust which may or may not contain flakes of George Washington's skin. Interestingly, the Ear stands on what used to be the banks of the Hudson river- sometime mid-19th century the west side of Manhattan was extended several blocks with landfill, presumably lowering property value, and increasing traffic in the men's room. (On a side note, it's good to know that if your island gets a bit cramped you can just extend it. Might bring that up at the next debate on Australian immigration. If they invite me again.) The bar gets it's name from the blacking-out of part of the neon "BAR" sign, and not, as I've never suggested, because the original owner was a bit of a cochlea, or because it's a great place to get pierced. All this is by the by, of course, as the main reason for visiting the Ear on a sunday is swinging music. Under the moniker "The Earregulars" (they're great so I'll leave that alone...), Jon-Erik Kellso and Matt Munisteri lead a drumless quartet playing classics from the swing era and before. In fact the tunes are predated only by the bar itself, and several items on the menu. Guests are invariably high-quality- Harry Allen, Wycliff Gordon, etc., and the last set usually turns into one of the most enjoyable, ego-free jam sessions in town. Here's a video from a recent Sunday (Dan and I are in there somewhere...)
The other notable musical event this week was legendary conguero Poncho Sanchez at BB King's club in Times Square. I went, even though I consider Times Square the most horrendous place I've had the misfortune to visit. A trip there usually fills me with a murderous rage, which eventually subsides, leaving a gaping hole of black nothingness and a firm conviction of society's irredeemable baseness and moral and spiritual corruption. If you've never seen it, you really must go. Anyway, Sanchez bears a passing resemblance to Dom DeLouise, and that was enough to get me there. He was great, the band was ordinary, arrangements were fairly uninspired, and BB King's is like an overpriced, outdated cruise ship with the promise of neither romance nor adventure. BB's a fine guitarist, but the man has no flair for interior decorating.
Next week, some culture! Righto!