I got a very nice mention in an article about the NY Hot Jazz Fest written by Nate Chinen in the New York Times May 19th,
"...Jon-Erik Kellso turn(ed) a running trumpet commentary into a riveting concerto: a mean feat by any yardstick, and surely in any age."photo taken at the NY Hot Jazz Fest by Aidan Grant
New York’s Hot Jazz Festival Sizzles With a Look to the Past
...Nighthawks trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso turned in particularly stirring high-note solos on ("Singin' Pretty Songs") while also blowing hot licks on “Shooting High.”
The Ear Inn
326 Spring St., (212) 431-9750
Swing may no longer be king, but it still thrives in New York; like the silver lining, you just have to look for it. A good place to start is the Ear Inn, way at the end of Spring Street, where trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso leads a feisty quartet—usually with clarinet or saxophone, guitar and bass—for two sets on Sunday nights. Although the music is usually hot and swinging (there's barely enough room to listen, let alone slow dance), it's not much of a stretch for the Ear-Regulars to do a Valentine's Day show, because virtually all the classic jazz standards they play started life as love songs. The Inn itself, built in 1817 and supposedly the oldest working bar in the city, is also a romantic setting.
In their broad outlines, the Ear-Regulars are like any contemporary jazz group: They play the melody together, then all four guys improvise on the chord changes individually and sequentially. While the solos are excellent, they're not the point. What makes this band's music so appealing is also what makes it a scene you want to experience, namely the way the four members interact with one another—and the crowd.
On the Sunday before last, "I Want a Little Girl" served as the feature for guitarist Chris Flory, who played the melody and then several choruses of variations. But it was what Mr. Kellso and clarinetist Dan Block played behind Mr. Flory that really elevated him. Their background figures not only helped direct focus to the solo, but were interesting in and of themselves. They made the difference between a jam session, where everyone's going into business for themselves (not that there's anything wrong with that), and what amounts to a miniature, four-piece orchestra, where everything fits together. The main attraction is the nonverbal conversation, usually between trumpet and clarinet near the end of a number, as on "After You've Gone." A lot of contemporary jazz could benefit from this concept—that the music can be an ongoing dialogue rather than a series of extended soliloquies.
The Ear Inn itself is an informal and highly social setting, the kind of place where jazz thrived in the early decades, but which has been gradually disappearing since the beginning of the modern era and the exodus from the club to the concert hall. There's virtually no distance, geographical or psychological, between the players and the crowds; they sit so close together that bassist Jon Burr could easily spear a buttered roll from a nearby table with his bow whenever he plays arco (as when he detoured through "Happy Feet" into "Tico, Tico"). It feels like everybody in the room is participating.
January/February 2011 By Nate Chinen
2010: The Year in Gigs
Nate Chinen reflects on the most memorable performances he saw during the year
The Ear Regulars, Ear Inn, April 25: Traditional jazz has a hardy roost in the Ear Inn, a historic Lower Manhattan bar where trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and the guitarist Matt Munisteri hold court on Sunday nights. On this night they were joined by saxophonist Harry Allen, who certainly knows his way around “Limehouse Blues.”
Old-Time Jazz Swing, but Modern Metabolism
By NATE CHINEN
Published: April 26, 2010
The New York jazz landscape has always been defined partly by its underground, with the tacit understanding that such a region is usually zoned for experimentation. That’s as true as it ever was, but it’s an incomplete truth because of all that it overlooks. One case in point would be the Ear Regulars, the traditional jazz cohort led by the trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso and the guitarist Matt Munisteri every Sunday night at the Ear Inn, on the westernmost edge of the South Village, near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.
photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times
The Ear Regulars, with, from left, Neal Miner on bass, Harry Allen on tenor saxophone, the guitarist Matt Munisteri and the trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso, at the Ear Inn.
The weekly stand is coming up on its third year, and it’s still touched by a spirit of affable contrarianism. There’s nothing forward-looking about the Ear Regulars, but neither is there anything didactic, self-important, preachy or defensive. Mr. Kellso and Mr. Munisteri specialize in small-group swing and Dixieland, music regarded as old-fashioned even 60 years ago. But the clarity of their enthusiasm and the caliber of their execution add up to a present-tense transaction.
Context has something to do with it. The Ear Inn is a beloved old drinking house with its own clientele, and the band, wedged into an alcove near the door, doesn’t disrupt the metabolism of the place. Sunday’s first set was accompanied, typically, by a background hum of conversation. (A Mets game played on one of the televisions over the bar.) Yet there was an attentive hush in the immediate vicinity of the musicians, who had no problem projecting without a sound system in a manner both intimate and casual.
This time around the Ear Regulars included Harry Allen on tenor saxophone and Neal Miner on bass, and both played with poise. Mr. Miner’s bass lines properly framed and cushioned Mr. Munisteri’s chug-a-lug strumming, whether they were walking four beats to the bar or with a jaunty two-step feel. Their foot-tapping momentum was as much a factor on the songbook standard “I Can’t Believe That You’re in Love With Me” as on a New Orleans-pedigreed set opener, “Royal Garden Blues.”
For his part Mr. Allen was impeccable, stamping “Limehouse Blues” with unpredictable turns of phrase and bringing a Ben Webster warble to his reading of “September Song.” And he fell right into step with Mr. Kellso, digging into improvised counterpoint and on-the-spot riffs. During “Tea for Two,” their rapport lit up a series of four-bar solo exchanges before locking in on an ensemble figure and finally the outgoing melody.
Mr. Kellso maintained a neatly conversational tone in his solos, sounding mellow but to the point. Mr. Munisteri went in for more dazzle, though he too kept things drawn to scale. When they ended their first set neither musician had to take more than a step or two to mingle with the crowd.
The Ear Regulars perform every Sunday night at the Ear Inn, 326 Spring Street, near Greenwich Street, South Village; (212) 431-9750, earinn.com.
Joe Lang wrote for the July/August '07 issue or Jersey Jazz: "Blue Roof Blues: A Love Letter to New Orleans" is an exceptional album. Conceived as a tribute to the city that suffered so much from the devastation of Katrina, it is a triumph that evinces both the pain and joy of the city....Trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso assembled a company of outstanding musicians who are steeped in the traditional jazz sounds of the Crescent City, but who are constantly taking the music to places where it has not been before....Kellso once again proves that his is a unique and exceptional voice on trumpet....In addition, this album highlights his strength as a composer who honors the tradition, but adds a personal and contemporary sensitivity....Suffice to say that you will find that each (track) is a gem. This is an album that is ostensibly aimed at an audience inclined toward the sounds of traditional New Orleans Jazz, and, indeed, it will certainly find great favor with those devotees. Give it a listen, however, and you will hear music that defies classification. I expect that there will be many who consider themselves modernists in their taste being drawn to the music on "Blue Roof Blues."
"Swing" (the book by Scott Yanow)
In Scott Yanow's recently published book entitled "Swing," Kellso's "Chapter 2: The Plot Thickens" received 9 of 10 stars. He is described as being "one of the finest Mainstream and trad cornetists to emerge during the 1990s."
Jon is also featured in Yanow's "Trumpet Kings" book:
An excellent hot jazz trumpeter, Jon-Erik Kellso's playing on several Arbors recordings in the mid-'90s put him near the top of his field.
After attending Wayne State University, he played with the New McKinney's Cotton Pickers and J.C. Heard's Orchestra. Kellso moved to New York in 1989 and was soon working with a who's who of mainstream jazz, including Dan Barrett, Dick Hyman, Kenny Davern, Howard Alden, and Marty Grosz.
A member of James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz band and Vince Giordano's Nighthawks, Kellso has appeared on record dates, including with Rick Fay and the Magnificent Seven; his debut session as a leader was for Arbors in 1993. Since then, he has continued to tour and integrate himself into the mainstream jazz scene, recording with heroes like Johnny Varro and receiving critical praise for his mastery of the Puje, a handcrafted wind instrument that is a cross between a cornet and a trumpet.
His debut album, "Chapter One" captured the attention of noted jazz critic Owen Cordle, who wrote, "Kellso has a fluent gift of melody and a knack for spicing it up with a Roy Eldridge-like rasp, a Howard McGhee-like excitability, and Rex Stewart-like tonal effects. Kellso debuts with a warm, swing-oriented session with no stray notes. The effortless, swinging mood is sustained throughout all 13 performances. Kellso is a most welcome discovery."
The Mississippi Rag
Jack Sohmer reviewed "Chapter 2" for the Mississippi Rag, writing, "Kellso emerges as one of today's most fulfilling mainstream trumpeters and cornetists. His poignant, rounded tone suggests a seamless combination of Buck Clayton, Bill Coleman, Cootie Williams, Frankie Newton, and Roy Eldridge, a synthesis of which anyone may be justifiably proud. From the listener's point of view, it is difficult to think of anyone, save Ruby Braff, who so successfully embodies the best traditions of the past while at the same time bringing them convincingly into the present. Kellso is telling his story in the hallowed tradition of great yarn-spinners throughout history. He entertains, informs, and keeps our interest whetted for the next installment."