When Pat McArter got up spontaneously and sang Theyll Be Some Changes Made, with The Not So Modern Jazz Quartet, there was a lot of head bopping and toe tapping going on in the room at St. Elmos Coffee Pub in Del Ray.
The Quartet has been a regular band at the Pub on Thursdays for the last 10 years, and McArter is a fifth generation resident of Del Ray, so she sang like she was part of the show. She got to be part of the act when a song she knew came up in the play list and I just got up and sang, McArter said. Now they ask me every time.
Betsy Riddle Ruderter got to be part of the jazz show in a similar way, and is now a regular stand-up singer in the quartets weekly appearance. Ruderter does strictly Cole Porter songs, and dances around directing when shes up with the band. I try to act stuff out while singing, Ruderter said. She also sings Its Swonderful, by Ira and George Gershwin when she can.
Never heard of these songs? Well thats probably due to the fact that the group specializes in songs of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and this strain of swing era songs, perfected by big names such as Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller, are centerpieces of the combos repertoire. The faces at St. Elmos like it that way, too. The quartets signature song, What a Sleepy Song Down South, by the King of Jazz, Louie Armstrong, is one of the regular sounds on the groups playlist as well.
The music is danceable and singable, and thats what Kaye Brown likes. Shes a Del Ray resident who has been coming to jazz night for 10 years. Jazz is from a more innocent time, she said.
Even 7-year-old Mina Baucom, who was back for a second week, considered getting up and singing one of the Betty Boop songs, she said. Mina was in with her grandmother Filomena Oliveira, who was visiting from Portugal while Minas mother was having a baby.
I really like this place, now that I found the jazz, its every Thursday, she said.
The coffeehouse crowd seems to double on Thursdays, said St. Elmos employee Annie Kamin, 17, who admitted to be a fan of Frank Sinatra music. Everyone likes the jazz, it sets the mood, gives a good aura to the atmosphere, she said.
The quartet, whose numbers actually fluctuate depending on who shows up, consists of Ernie Buck on the stand up bass, Larry Eanet on the piano, Chip Kelly on guitar, Bill Rowe on drums, Norman Cone on saxophone, Dick Clark on trumpet and Henning Hoehne on clarinet. Eanet, Cone and Hoehne were not regulars with the band, but nothing is etched in stone about who plays with them on any given night, said Rowe, who is the leader of the group.
This is sort of a jam session, Rowe said. As we go, we never play the music the same way twice, he said.
The songs are played in a solo format, too. During most of the songs, each musician gets an impromptu session for a solo, and the crowd adds a light applause during the song before all the instruments kick in again. The horns used mutes for that high-pitched whine, and the Rowe used a lot of brushes on his drums.
Each member wears an official red quartet golf shirt and khakis, giving that relaxed stage appearance. Occasionally, they discuss music notes before the songs.
The quartet plays throughout the metroWashington area and recently landed a regular gig at the Westlawn Inn in North Beach, Md. The group is also available for weddings, parties, and public events. In previous years they have played at the First Night festivities in Old Town.