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.
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.
As far as wildlife bird art goes, most will gravitate to Audubon, Owen Gromme, or even the national duck stamp artists. Not me. My favorite bird artist is Tom Stack, who ably captures the complex nature of birds with his clean and simple, but powerful art. His original acrylic on plywood paintings are designed to survive the test of time. Stack also creates art posters, gig posters, handbills, album art, and his signature “An Impending Doom” image is available on a t-shirt. In addition to seagulls, wrens, pigeons and other birds. Stack also captures the expressive nature of worms and grubs. Degreed in electrical engineering, Stack got sidetracked from using his EE when listening to the artistic voice in his head and picking up a paintbrush. Fortunate for us. Stack’s art makes me smile and gives me a bit of a warm glow in my belly, not unlike eating a good taco or staring into the yearnful eyes of an alpaca.
Almost from the start, the jazz club started filling. An out-of-town couple seated at the bar was celebrating the gentleman’s birthday, but he wasn’t the star of the scheduled birthday party taking place tonight. That “birthday boy” arrived ten minutes later. The birthday celebrants met and ended up buying drinks for each other throughout the night. Party goers and regular customers filled the bar as the live music kicked in. A guest flute player (or if you prefer the more pretentious, “flautist”) played with the group instead of the usual tenor and trumpet. The jazz flute was refreshing. There was also a guest vocalist which added yet another dimension to the music. Two couples were moved to dance and would smoothly interchange partners so that any given time there was just one couple dancing in a confined corner. Their fluidity inspired a pronounced pear-shape middle-aged woman and a tall elderly man to dance in the area just beyond the entrance door. They were both light on their feet but required more space than their dance moves, thus the woman’s hip girth slammed into a small table with a candle, my water glass, glass coffee mug, and dish filled with wrapped hard candies that were splayed in a 180-degree arc. They paused long enough to determine if anything broke. I retrieved the candle, glasses, dish, and half of the candies while avoiding lethal hip swivels and two-step releases. They couldn’t be bothered cleaning up – guess that’s what the help is for. Toward the end of the night the cast and supporting members from a local musical theater production of Reefer Madness held their cast party at the jazz club. I congratulated one young woman on their successful run. Her response: “Thanks, but I’m not in the cast...I clean the toilets.” To which I responded, Even so...I think it was Albert Albee who correctly observed that many a creative enterprise gets its start from the perch of a clean toilet.
There were barely enough customers at the jazz club to fill a family photo album — even a modest-size farm family. The jazz trio playing deserved a bigger audience. Keyboard, electric guitar, and drummer delivered smooth, smile-inducing original music. I watched the drummer effortlessly do all sorts of cross-over pattern drumming to accomplish innuendo in the beat. At one point, he literally knocked a stick from his hand but kept the timbre going will scooping up the fallen timber. Very cool. There was a couple sitting in one of the four known Votexes of Love located in the club. The Vortexes are cosmic anomalies where PDA (public display of affection) occur. When they sat there, I kept an eye on them to see how long it would take for the magic to occur. They were a bit rough looking and could easily fit into a Charles Bukowski poem. Sure enough, it happened. They were making out like they were in the backseat of a Camaro. Later, I was starting to shut down the door for the night when the guy motioned for me with a “Hey youse, come here.” I figure when a guy with tattoos on his hands beckons, it’s best to listen. His face softened into a 10-year-old boy when he gently asked: “Couldya take a pick-ture of me and my girl?” Sure. “And HEY, show her legs!” He handed me a cheap point-n-shoot and I tried to get her race-horse gams prominently in the frame. Click. I looked at the shot and saw her hiked-up short-skirt legs draped over his. They filled the filmy viewer, but their heads were cut off. Got it, I said and handed him the Walmart shooter before quickly beating ass to the other side of the bar for a shot of Jack.
She has a smile that could stop a freight train, which is why, when I heard the train chugging and rattling on the raised track across the street, I made sure to stick my head out the door to see how she was doing on her smoke break. Just checking, I said... want to make sure you weren’t kidnapped. “How sweeeet,” she gushed, turning “sweet” into a multisyllabic and reeling me into her vortex of charm. I quickly regained The Doorman composure and barked: Don’t stay out there long. She and her equally pulchritudinous friend are not overtly attractive, but if you violate the wild baboon rule of encounters you’re in trouble. Never look wild baboons (or these kind of women) straight in the eyes or engage them directly. Baboons become vicious; while these cuties lure you into major carve yours-and-hers-initials into tree trunks crushes. Fortunately, when I returned to my post, the jazz quintet was launching into a guan guanco Afro-Cuban rhythm version of Miles Davis “All Blues.” Thank goodness for jazz, thank goodness. Which is also the sentiment of the couple sitting at the bar within a long arm’s reach of the door. They had been sitting with broad smiles of their faces, bobbing and weaving with the music. I said, Enjoying the music...? “Thank goodness for live music, thank goodness for live jazz,” is what they said. I agreed and let my head-nodding follow the beat.
The Electric Daybook is my way of sharing the remarkable creativity I encounter in the world. Writings, art, photography, architecture and music are all of special interest. Feel free to alert me to projects you're involved in or are aware of so that I can help spread the word.
Send items for review to: Jeff Winke, The Broadway, 234 N. Broadway, Unit 513, Milwaukee WI 53202, or e-mail jeff_winke @ yahoo.com