As The Doorman I am there to greet the public as they enter the club, comport myself in a professional manner thereby establishing an atmosphere of jazz appreciation, and collect the five dollar cover charge. The cover charge accomplishes two things: It screens out the drink-‘n-sink, non-jazz crowd and it does help pay the musicians. Tonight, the first three customers who came to the club hemmed and hawed at the cover charge before backing out. Ordinarily I would entice them in, but I wasn’t feeling generous. I discussed my frustration with the bartender who gave me the pep talk. “We’re a jazz club with live music and we don’t want just anyone – if they’re unwilling to pay a ridiculously modest five bucks to hear professional musicians play, then they are an insult we can do without.” Amen. The night of jazz turned out to be very interesting. A guest singer complemented the jazz quintet. Two other jazz singers were in the club, so over the course of the night they each had opportunities to sing as well. Three strong male jazz singers—incredible. The dance club down the block was busy, which meant the streets were alive with foot traffic. At one point I had stepped outside to make sure a couple of guests leaving our club made it safely to their car and noticed three young ladies in form-fitting mini-dresses crossing the street wearing stilettos. The one wearing hot pink was so striking she literally stopped traffic. A car full of guys literally slammed on the brakes while they ogled and made monosyllabic attempts to communicate. As the car slowly left the scene one of the guys exclaimed, “three months… three months wages just walked by.”
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Guitar quartet tonight. Played mostly original songs, which is always nice to hear. At their first break, I signaled the tenor to step outside and bring his horn. I wanted to photograph him in front of the club’s neon. I posed him with attitude in the neon’s red wash. I took several shots with my iPhone 4, but kept getting light flare in most shots. A couple out for a smoke saw my struggle and offered unsolicited advice. Then they said, “We know you – we remarked to each other, when we first arrived, that we know you from somewhere.” Unlikely, I said. I’m just The Doorman—new to the area—new identity—plastic surgery to the face—a past I’ll deny and won’t discuss. My delivery was dead serious, steady tone of voice. I put the kibosh on the who I am, what I’ve done, where I come from. When I’m in the hallowed jazz club, I AM The Doorman—nothing more, nothing less.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
He pushed past with sweat-sheen flush face and a wild look in his eyes, like a housecat with a crinkle-ball toy in his sight. Solidly 30’s, 40-something, he had prey in mind. It was very late in the night—minutes before I’d be nursing a B&B cognac and enjoying the jazz quintet’s best playing and final songs. He was quickly scanning the club while I was assessing whether to let him in—no $5 cover--or charge him 20 bucks to scare him away (or make it worthwhile to deal with his sorry butt later). “78% men,” was what he said before spinning on his heels and leaving. The club owner, who had been standing beside me in the soft yellow glow of the entryway’s light while we enjoyed each other’s quiet company, deadpanned “A little late for a hook up?” No shit Sherlock, was my response, no shit. I went outside to fold up the LIVE JAZZ & BLUES sandwich sign, which I tucked inside the front door. I paused at my post for a final review of the remaining jazz lovers and dang if that guy wasn’t dead on: 22% of the remaining crowd were women… 78% men.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
We were anticipating an additional 30 tonight… a birthday celebration, so The Doorman was at the club early in anticipation. With my silk tie knot tight, I was ready when our first customer arrived 15 minutes later--a solitary, blue-eyed young woman who was meeting a couple of friends. Being her first time at the club she oohed and aahed over all the features that make the place welcoming. Her friends—a couple—arrived and the woman told me, after admiring my professional demeanor, that I look like a French actor she named but I didn’t recognize. I wryly remarked that he’s lucky to be blessed with good looks. She nodded in agreement. The birthday celebrators filtered in around the regular time, so my premature arrival was for naught. Oh well. The birthday honoree arrived looking young, fresh and not a day over 25. She announced it’s her 31st birthday but is celebrating her 30th since last year she was pregnant and couldn’t enjoy a party. She was delightful, as were her parents who brought the birthday cake, and all of her friends. The bandleader mispronounced her Hispanic name a couple of times during the evening. In good spirit she said to him in front of the crowd, “If you pronounce my name with an O at the end, here’s who you’re calling and if you pronounce it with an A this is who will respond, but if you pronounce it with the C’s sounding like S’s you’ll be calling me correctly.” The bandleader responded, “Hell, your name rhymes with sexy, so I’ll just call you Sexy.” The three dark-haired beauties laughed and went back to the party.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
There are ups and downs, yin-yang, black and white, and hot and cold in the world. The bell curve exists. For me, The Doorman, the night was O.K., nothing special. In the big scheme, a night like tonight is necessary—just like the quiet within a jazz song is important for setting off the incredible rhythmic harmony of drums, bass, and keyboard playing together so nicely or the virtuosity of the trumpet, tenor, or guitar. The ingredients were present tonight—a near capacity crowd, percussion, keyboard, drums, and trumpet. A guest jazz singer. Everything was squeezed into our cozy club. The music was great, the crowd enjoyed themselves, and our universe seemed to line up for perfect jazz geometry. But for whatever reasons, the night did not shine my shoes.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Cool, near full-moon night. The black sky was clear as plexiglass. Traffic headlights flowed molten and the jazz band came prepared to transport us. The club filled. A steady flow of jazz lovers passed through the door. There were couples—straight and gay, small groups, and a few lone wolves. Two customer quartets stand out. Four guys from Fairbanks, Alaska here on business and two Asian couples with glossy black hair the color of midnight. The group’s sax player showed up late, rushing past me to join in for the song’s last phrase. The next song they played was from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album. I was easing into its sacred groove when the sax player jumped in with his jagged style. I cringed while thinking that this tenor chump just doesn’t understand and was yearning for a ray gun to vaporize him. Mercifully the song ended and they were on to more compatible songs. When the jazz singer joined the group is when galaxies of stars came into alignment. There were moments when I could squint my eyes and watch her through our friendly crowd and believe it was Billie Holiday there and it was 1939 in a dim-lit club somewhere in Detroit. I was lost in their mellowness.. teletransported beyond. The night culminated with their jazz version of Aretha Franklin’s Dr. Feelgood. A fine night indeed.
Friday, September 9, 2011
I had to see it before it gets packed up and shipped back to China. The “Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City” had its third, and final, stop at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It had been at The Peabody Essex Museum, near Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The MAM show ends in two days so my visiting the show became a now or never proposition. The carved and inlaid screens, thrones, and blue pottery were a part of an elaborate, secluded garden which was intended to be the Quinlong emperor’s retirement man space. The two-acre garden is located in the 180-are Forbidden City complex. As it turned out, the emperor passed the kingdom over to his son and retired closer to the center of action, never using the garden retreat. The Quinlong garden has remained unaltered since the end of his reign in 1795. Things I learned: pine, bamboo, and plum blossoms are called the Three Friends of Winter, Luoan is an enlightened disciple of Buddha, and the name of my home office has become the Studio of Exhaustion from Diligent Service (the name of a location where one of the meticulously restored screens came from). A fascinating show. Oh, I took the photo in the hall outside the exhibit since every time I tried to take a quick snap of any of the cool pieces, the museum docents would threaten to toss me out.
Monday, September 5, 2011
A cool, intermittent rainy eve. Perfect late-summer night for jazz. I arrived early with a X-Large cup from a local café. The bartender saw me put the big cup on the car roof as I retrieved my coat from its cedar hanger in back. He had two glass coffee mugs sitting out. We caught up while the band filtered in and early-bird customers arrived, including an olderish pair of couples. The first gentleman paid the cover for his pair. The second guy hesitated and said, “I thought if you arrive before nine you don’t pay!” I responded, If you have a quick drink and are gone in the next 36 minutes before the band starts, you’re right—no cover—otherwise I’ll need 10 bucks for you and your old lady. He pulled out his wallet, pried it open, releasing a couple of moths and reluctantly passed me a tenner that he stared at like it was a photo of his mom standing in front of the family 1956 DeSoto Firesweep sedan. Smart move, Mr. Big, I said while snatching the bill from his quivering hand. The jazz quintet started up and I noticed the sax was sounding distant and muddy. I caught the tenor’s attention and cupped a hand behind my ear and jerked my thumb up and down a few times. Short of semaphoric international maritime signal flags, I thought the message was clear. They played through the first set, including a couple of Sonny Rollins tunes where the sax gets to step forward, before we could connect. “Were you trying to tell me something,” the saxman asked? Ugh! A new battery for the tenor’s wireless mike and the band was back to sounding exceptional. The night’s highlight: A 10-minute drum solo where the drummer incorporated wild banshee, drum corp precision, and Ravel Bolero soft-building-to-loud drumming before smoothly emerging back into the song. The crowd loved it, giving him a standing ovation.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
We arrived and found our seats in Milwaukee’s gorgeous old Riverside Theater. Great seats probably 25 rows back on the right hand side. The warm-up band was nice -- bluesy folksy and sufficiently different from Tedeschi Trucks. The warm up band had finished and then we had to wait... and wait... The drunk woman behind us, who had punctuated the warm-up band's songs every 15 seconds with a clear, loud, no-doubt-about-it YEAH!!, added to the reasons why clearly I should not be allowed to participate in the new conceal-carry law. I know I have a low tolerance for drivel, but there is a distinction between inane and intelligent drivel. Guess which kind of drivel that drunk lady was best at while we waited? Tedeschi Trucks finally deemed that sufficient amount of delay had occurred for all of us to fully understand that they are THE headlining band. It was wonderful to see all 11 members take their posts. A smile of anticipation had formed on my face as my bro-in-law and I were commenting on how great these seats are and what a great venue this is, when (I'm not exaggerating) about seven rows in front of us three basketball-player-height guys stood up. Then the obligatory writhing young woman with spastic flailing arms stood up to show us all that she is possessed by the music. That was the cue for everyone else to stand up. With the crowd being heavily (and I use that word with full intent of its multiple meanings) populated by members of the mature generation, it was as though 40 or 50 sheets of plywood had been tossed up. I stood up and caught occasional glimpses of the band when the plywood people, NBA-dudes, and an extraordinarily tall woman with a nest on top of her head happened to gyrate an opening. The music was distortedly loud. Being a guitar-centric band, the horns were completely underutilized and Susan Tedeschi's voice never wavered beyond a wail, which was a shame for someone with such a powerful range. One of their bluesy songs was begging for a harp, which didn't happen. With two drummers, there was the incredible missed opportunity to either do the dueling drummer thing or an interesting syncopated exchange. Instead, the one drum solo of the night was with one drummer drumming away until he was getting tired and then the other drummer plopped down at his set and kicked in for a short spell before the rest of the group came back on stage and jumped in. The night reminded me why I don't like seeing popular rock acts: musicians too comfortable with the mindless adoration of tall, rude fans who act like the band is playing only for them. Tedeschi Trucks could have played tighter and better. Instead they relied on volume, a few astounding but not particularly innovative guitar solos, and a couple of cheap-shot cover songs to whip an already receptive audience into a faux-frenzy. I'm thinking my more than 100 bucks for two tickets was a complete waste, but I guess I’m not easily impressed any more.