Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gypsies, Shepherds, and Jazz Musicians

 Born in Transylvania, Sánta István Csaba moved to Budapest after high school to study photography. His black and white photos are studies of light and dark. They powerfully capture the lives of gypsies, shepherds, fisherman, and everyday people waiting for trains or the market to open or coping with deep Hungarian snow. There is a sense of lots of lost time in Csaba’s photos… a feeling of trapped despair. An interesting collection in his portfolio is of contemporary jazz greats that were shot during their European tours and during Csaba’s visit to New York City (He gets to brag that he “traveled 3000 km for a concert.”). Jazz greats that he’s captured include: Joe Zawinul, Chick Corea, Sonny Rollins, Victor Wooten, Bobby McFerrin, McCoy Tyner, Béla Flack, and Benny Golson. Earlier this year, Sánta István Csaba received awards from the Association of Hungarian Journalists and as an international photography contest winner that was presented in the Parliament of Hungary.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 12.17-18.11

What if you throw a party and no one shows? Well, it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but the jazz club threw it’s annual holiday party but very few knew about it. There were no posters hung in the club. No reminder cards handed out to jazz fans as they left the club in the weeks leading up to the party. No announcements on the club’s website. Nothing. Zip. Nada. The build-it-and-they-will-come gamble didn’t quite work. We had a big table filled with delicious food. We had extra staffing. Those who came to the club enjoyed good cheer. I was feeling bummed that there were not more jazz friends here to enjoy the great live music and good food, when I learned the name of one of our customers. I think she is an elf. A young brunette woman who had stepped out for a smoke revealed her name, which reflects the spirit of the party and the season. Her name: Noel.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 12.16-17.11

As The Doorman at the jazz club I encounter the whole smorgasbord of humanity. Tonight a street person entered and I asked for the five-dollar cover. He reminded me of five things I’ve learned over the years about this fringe element. They:
  1.  Violate personal space.  
  2. Spray when they talk.
  3. Smell.
  4. Have bone-crushing handshakes.
  5. Talk with the logic of an article appearing in The Watchtower—the Jehovah’s Witness magazine. They start off seemingly making sense and then suddenly veer off into an unrelated direction, fragmenting beyond comprehension.
After politely listening to his spiel, I got him out the door quickly and focused on the trio—drums, stand-up bass, and archtop electric guitar—that was playing tonight. The trio played a lot of original music and was very reminiscent of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. There were no more than 35 customers over the night who settled in on this brisk night to enjoy the trio’s fluid, smooth delivery—an intimate smorgasbord of modern sound fused with traditional jazz.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 12.10-11.11

When I arrived at the jazz club, there was an early couple sitting across the bar enjoying cocktails. I overheard them say something to the bartender about having a babysitter for the night. Others filtered in so when I did my collection sweep for the $5 covers, before assuming my post at the door, I said to then: Did I overhear that you have a babysitter for the night? “Yes,” they responded and looked puzzled.  In that case, I said, forget about the cover—I’ve been where you’re at and suspect you don’t have enough money or time, so maybe saving ten bucks will help. Shortly there after, a good friend showed up with his two young adult children and their spouses. We had met earlier for breakfast and I had convinced him to come hear Monk, Coltrane, Hubbard, Miles. As the quintet started and my friend settled in with a smile on his face, I looked at the bright faces of the young adults flanking him, I flashed back to breakfast and the response I got from the question I had posed to the equally young and bright-eyed waitress: What are you going to do with your life?  "I want to be a photojournalist." She has a university degree, a mountain of loans to repay, and no career opportunities. “Most of the wait staff, bartenders, and kitchen help are in the same boat—in fact we have enough J-school grads here to start our own newspaper.” My friend’s children and their mates are similarly situated: college grads, in debt, with no clear paths. These 20-somethings comprise what I refer to as the Efed Generation and are at the bleeding edge of the next national financial collapse… tuition loan debt. I put in my request with the band, Play Blue Monk—but not an Oslo 1966 version—play it loud, play it hard, play it to save an entire generation.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

dark for hours --
someone somewhere
re-enacts his day
                        -  JW, 12-10-11

The Doorman’s Diary: 12.9-10.11

As The Doorman, it’s nice to encounter those for whom the jazz club is the right place at the right time. The cosmic angels smile. One such couple were at the bar. Initially they blew past me at the door. I set them straight, and once settled in… they were fine. The quartet is especially tight tonight with masterful renditions of Sonny Rollins’ St. Thomas and Softly As In A Morning Sunrise. I could tell they were jazz lovers and loving the band. It was well into the Freddie Hubbard tune Super Blue before I walked over a commented: You seem to be enjoying the music. The woman responded: “And you too – I see you nodding your head to the music.” Yes, I replied, this is my oasis from a week’s worth of cosmic calamity. “What?” she asked as the tenor released a lightning bolt wail. Chaos! I yelled. “Ahhh, chaos, I know it well,” she mused before slipping into the comfort of the descent out of Hubbard and into Coltrane

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 12.2-3.11

The word-a-day calendar word has to be melancholy. When I arrived, the owner and bartender were busy hanging plastic garland with red bows on the suspended ceiling lights. Bah humbug. I noticed the bartender was out of sorts so I asked and he told me why. A good friend of his had attempted suicide. Yikes. Then a lone wolf sat at the bar and said that his wife of 28 years had died four days ago of brain cancer—she had been diagnosed a month earlier. Geezus. The oppressive, depressive gloom began to fill the club like The Orkin Man’s roach fog. I was hoping the jazz duo featured tonight could lift everyone’s spirits. No chance, bucko. The singer and pianist launched into a set of dirges about lost loves, stormy weather, and missed opportunities. The Billie Holliday song, God Bless the Child, was pretty much the theme until they launched into Send in the Clowns, which is probably my single-most despised song. What made the first set especially disconcerting was the bubbly banter between the songs. The singer is this likeable, upbeat, quirky-funny woman between a collection of songs that clearly fill the hooded-executioner’s iPod. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

wee hour
the last taxi
            - JW, 11-30-11

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 11.26-27.11

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is not in London that our scene lies), rattling along the warehousetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty light of the neon that struggled against the darkness. We huddled in the jazz joint not expecting much in terms of weary music lovers. An occasional light – like a beacon of hope would play against the wet pavement from a passing automobile. “Would they be slowing to stop in yee publick house for a spirit and a song,” was the question in this darkest of hours. The jazz singer was at the ready with her torch songs of yesteryear. The tender in tie and braces took care of glass care while the waitress in her tiny dress adjusted her mascara. We waited and waited when it suddenly became evident that a respectable-sized throng had thrung and were here to hear the Monk, Sonny, and Miles. With smiles aplenty the band kicked in and the songsheets were flipped and folded to select the best of swing, bebop, blues-jazz, and funk. The drums, piano keyboard, trumpet, and stand-up double bass created the ooh and aah, which whet the appetite while wet shoes, umbrellas, and wind-flung hair dried to debunk the dark and stormy night outside. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Doorman’s Diary: 11.25-26.11

A crisp autumn night. Hard to tell what the traffic will be at the jazz club but the bartender, trumpet player, and I wagered our guesses. I went with the accurate but noncommittal: Hard to tell...could go either way — dead or swamped...or in-between. I collected my starter wedge and positioned myself at the door for what ended up being an in-between traffic night. The band was well into Thelonious Monk’s “In Walked Bud,” when in walked a memorable couple. A tall, lanky dude with a hint of attitude and his kewpie doll lady. She was wearing a contraption that lifted and pushed her breasts together creating cleavage with enough depth to hide a fair-sized collection of Cracker Jack prizes. Even though the unseen blinking midway lights and pointing arrows directed me to look, I didn’t. I had also been advised to watch for a guest bass player who would join the quartet for a couple of songs. Well into the night, she showed up. She took over the regular bassist’s stand-up and ably played with the band. They were well into Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll,” when it dawned on me how male dominated traditional jazz is. Sure, there are incredible female vocalists, but the musicians are almost always male. It was nice to see an accomplished woman playing jazz bass. Listening to her play, I celebrated women of all kind from the jazz bass player to the kewpie doll — and those in-between.