The Easy Street Jazz Band
mostly for love.
Recently I dropped in at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club on West Stadium to hear Paul Klinger's Easy Street Jazz Band, which has some of the deepest roots of this whole set of groups. They're marking their fortieth anniversary, and veteran local jazzman Paul Keller, who plays bass, lamented to me that leader Klinger was so modest that he had done little to make a point about it. Not many bands, in Ann Arbor or anywhere, have lasted so long.
What's more, the band's sources go back to close to the beginnings of the Dixieland and 1930s jazz they play. Klinger, who lived for many years on Easy Street in southeast Ann Arbor, started performing in the 1950s, during the first revival of traditional jazz styles. In the 1970s he joined the New McKinney's Cotton Pickers, which had direct connections to the original McKinney's Cotton Pickers that spawned the career of jazz arrangement pioneer Don Redman. He led that band for seven years, played at Newport and in Europe, and honed his own arranger's art. He's been part of many Ann Arbor jazz ensembles, including the Bird of Paradise Orchestra, and his Easy Street Jazz Band--trumpet, trombone, clarinet, keyboard, banjo, bass, and percussion--was a weekly fixture at the late Bird of Paradise and Firefly clubs.