Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Doorman's Diary 7.22.17

For a Saturday night, we're starting out slow and easy. We're expecting to Tina-Turner-Proud-Mary it into a full-club frenzy, but right now the goal is to reach the pivot, and beyond. The pivot point is when the number of jazz patrons in the club matches the number of staff and musicians. Here is where my experience and trained understanding of human behavior as a professional doorman come into play.

A group of young customers appear at the door so I say: "Great, get in here quick...we just opened the door and since you're the first ones here you get in free. Grab stools at the bar or a couple of tables on the floor, because the place will fill up quick. And one of you definitely needs to try our Tropical Jazz Zombie cocktail -- it's one of our signature drinks!" With a sense of urgency, making them feel like special insiders, and suggesting that one of them be brave enough to try something different, we've got a mini-crowd of six seated in view of the entrance so when others arrive they don't feel like they're entering a dead club. Now I just need to answer the stare of my bartender when he is asked to make a Tropical Jazz Zombie cocktail.
The jazz club is filling and the band is deep into their version of Dexter Gordon's 1962 zinger "Cheese Cake." The crowd is in sync with the tenor's retro mood as he swings through the tune. An older man with a gray fedora tilts his head back, eyes closed, and smiles broadly. The waitress deftly tucks a fresh whisky old fashioned into the relaxed grip of his hand resting on the table and gently squeezes his fingers tight around the tub glass, completing the transaction without resting him from his music stupor.

The music glides the crowd through the delightful moody night. Well into the second set, an East Indian couple appear at the door. The man is wearing a full-length plain maroon gown and she is dressed in a traditional saree. As striking as their appearance is they easily melt into the crowd -- jazz is the ultimate melting pot and at the jazz club no one is judged.


Monday, July 24, 2017

The Doorman's Diary 7.21.17

It comes with cool summer rain... a lightness from being washed clean of responsibility for the night. Two patrons--men just north of middle-age--enter the club. One hands me a fistful of singles for the cover charge; the other, who is wearing a wrinkled black tropical-flower print shirt, carefully cracks open his leather billfold and hands me a fifty with a Ulysses smirk. I deftly slap the change into smirk-man's open palm and suggest they grab the last couple of stools at the crowded bar filled with the odd assortment of colorful birds who have flocked here for jazz.

The energy in the jazz club is swirling like the wind outside, focusing all attention to the drama-lit stage where the quartet readies to launch into a first song... their version of Freddie Hubbard's Little Sunflower. The piano player tickles the keys like the rain pitter-pattering the windows as a lovely rhythm is established and the tenor leaves his menacing sax parked next to him at the ready for the night ahead while defining the song's signature with an emotion-surging flute.

A dark-hair angel at a nearby table, sips her Manhattan in the candle glow, crosses her smooth legs, and poses in the beauty of the song. She is emblematic of the night's promise...a night of the yearning for who knows what....anything is possible.  

As the song slowly but deliberately unfolds, I need to blink hard a couple of times because I swear the club is filling with a field of sunflowers...thus is the magic of this jazz night.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Life is a kaleidoscope. Finished doormaning the jazz club when today was an hour old. Went through the all-nite gyro drive-thru … Greek burger, feta and black olives. Tipped the Mexican worker, $2 bill. Washed burger down with Jameson in my roly-poly Irish crystal. Tipsy. Slept ‘till nine a.m. phone call. Ross the roofer son needs car. Boss roofer needs help so Ross needs car. Car needs gas. Car needs new windshield from highway stone spider web crack—souvenir from yesterday. Get gas and Gatorade the color of window wash fluid. I need coffee. Favorite smart theater-seamstress waitress back from a month in Japan. Daddy had research project, mommy is from there—explains her exotic Jewish-Oriental cuteness. She asks what my plans are for today? “I’m paralyzed…too many options…Bay View Jazz Fest, great music at Pride Fest, Brady Street Art Walk, big screen showing of Preakness Stakes horse race at Potawatomi Casino, Highland Games Scottish festival, Greek Festival at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, a reading / book signing of friend’s book on race relations at a library branch, and my all-time favorite activity…doing laundry.” She said, “Add the first Milwaukee Paranormal Conference to the list—I’m going after work.” If younger, I’d assume she ended her ‘I’m going after work’ with a dot-dot-dot ellipse. Instead, I walked out into the sunglass day.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Doorman's Diary 6.28.14

There’s an edge tonight. Some are on edge; some edgy. Everyone wants to be someplace, but a map and GPS can’t find someplace. Three show up at the jazz club who are the exception. They want to be here. The jazz club is the someplace they want to be. The middle-aged couple have brought her dad here to celebrate his 84th birthday. A good-looking white-hair gentleman….he enjoys the music. A trio of women enter all wary and on edge. They calm down at the bar. One of them keeps going outside, but not to smoke or chat on her cell. I wonder… Another of the trio steps up to me and asks in a demanding tone if a little man has entered the club. Not that I recall is what I say. She grimaces and returns to her stool at the bar. Moments later, a little man presents himself at the door. He is short, but too tall to be considered a little person or a race jockey. Yet, he’s too short to be any good at table tennis or waxing a SUV. Grimace lady rushes to me waving a five—the little man lucks out. Throughout the night, he stands behind the tables on the floor thoroughly enjoying the music. A highlight for both of us is the delicately-executed solo during the quintet’s version of Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower.” The saxman sounds like he’s crocheting a lacy brocade doily for grandma’s mahogany side table. A refreshing, unexpected, and tasteful treatment from a tenor and quintet that prides itself in its hard-driving sound.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Doorman's Diary 6.20.14

When I arrive the mood of the jazz club is set by an inebriated group courtesy of the boutique brewery a couple of blocks away. We carry their beers so after taking the brewery tour, consuming massive free samples, they are shoved out the door with tokens they can cash in at the club. The concept is to expose people who get plastered for free to a club where you pay a cover to sit quietly and enjoy music. I see flaws in the logic, but what do I know… I’m just The Doorman, a piece of animated furniture in the jazz club. As the band members arrive and ready the stage, the tipsy tour starts to literally stumble out into the street. A cool jazz dude ably sidesteps a swaying guy blathering on about finding a real bar that sells beef jerky. The cool jazz dude sits down at the bar with a clear view of the stage. He removes his summer fedora and casually places it over a 5x7 sketchbook and art pen and orders a burgundy. As the quartet moves through songs by Hank Mobley, Sonny Stitt, Horace Silver, and some of their originals, I can see his appreciation grow. Later I learn he’s from the North Side and doesn’t come to this part of town without cause. The allure of jazz brought him here and his sketch of the bass player confirms that visual artists can see music. His sketch and the Romare Bearden print of Harlem jazz on the wall behind him gets my head spinning around the collision points of art and music….visual jazz.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Doorman's Diary 6.13.14

Calamity and lunacy could reign…it’s Friday the 13th and a full moon. Technically, we’re a couple of ticks beyond the official full moon night and as long as I keep thinking that today is merely the tomorrow of Thursday the 12th, everything should be fine. And a fine glittery night it is. To celebrate the impending season change, the Latin jazz band plays their version of Summertime, which sizzles in a pan of congas, guitar and deep bass played by the biggest brown bear found south of the Canadian border. The sauce is further stirred by a guest tenor whose horn adds just enough pepper. At one point, a few songs later after their frenzied take on Willie Bobo’s Haitian Lady, the band leader steps out from his drum set and in front of the congas to invite what appears to be a random, nondescript woman to the stage. “She will sing a beautiful song to us in Portuguese.” With every step to the stage she dramatically transforms into the likeness of the Lisbon-born stunner singer Teresa Salgueiro and her voice is equally beguiling. She caresses the quintet and transforms the club into Hot Clube de Portugal in a cellar in Praça da Alegria, one of the oldest jazz clubs in Europe, since 1948. Tele-transportation occurs and we’re in the dark, comfort of this Lisbon jazz club. The proof: left on the side of the congas was an old time travel decal—Portugal—just like the ones travellers in the last mid-century would affix to their hard-body luggage and travel wardrobes as souvenirs of their journeys. I’m convinced. We were there… if only for her smoldering sensuous song.