The Easy Street Jazz Band
The group, which features stalwarts like Keller and U-M professor James Dapogny on keyboards, brings perfect ease to whatever it plays. On top of that, Klinger is the type of presenter who can draw you into the depths of a tradition. The word "encyclopedic" is too dry, but it applies. "In the old Easy Street book, this was Q-51," Klinger says in introducing a piece, and his comments broaden out into observations on composers and repertory that you'd be hard pressed to find in a book or online. At one point in the night the band is joined by a vocalist for an excursion into the female-centered classic blues of the 1920s. Jill Hunsberger sang Mamie Smith's "My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)," which is not well known even though it's a possible source for the term "rock and roll," and she did it right.
If you heard this music on Bourbon Street in New Orleans you'd marvel at the authenticity. But it's no less authentic for being played at the Zal Gaz Grotto Club, a Masonic social hall with a made-up Persian name where a member of the crowd may call up to Klinger, in red suspenders, that he's going home to watch the basketball game. In fact, maybe the music is more authentic in such a place, where it's woven into the fabric of a community, our community. Paul Klinger and the Easy Street Jazz Band appear at the Grotto Club every Tuesday, from 6 to 9 p.m.
[Originally published in May, 2010.]