Monday, August 29, 2011
A cool summer eve propped the front door open and pushed the leaded-glass double-hinged windows wide open. I assumed my station at the door, nodded a hello to the cops in the cherry top cruising past, and welcomed our first guests. The jazz quintet launched into their first songs that pushed plump music notes out into the street. We had several beautiful couples and an assortment of lone wolves, including my favorite jazz lover of the night: a hip, well-dressed little person who ably hoisted himself on the stool at the end of the bar. He may have stood out for five seconds when entering, but was quickly absorbed into the fabric of the club.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Jazz, as the impression many have, was played tonight. What do I mean? Disjointed melodies accented by a jagged sax. They sounded good, but it was more avant-garde than the club’s typical fare. The bandleader hadn’t played here for three years and most recently had been playing a cruise ship. He plays drums and rounding out the quartet… a tenor, standup bass, and electric jazz guitar. With a deep voice, like rusty gears grinding in a vat of molasses, he approached me before the show and gargled confidentially about a half-dozen names that he said are on the “guest list.” I told him there is no guest list. He said, “But Mikey the Melody-maker and Freddy Sawtooth Washington are like family and they’ll be asking why they got in free in the past, and not now.” I was getting perturbed and was on the verge of sarcastically telling him that his prison-yard-named friends will need more than permission from their parole officers to get in. Instead, I said, Sorry man, the door helps cover your well-deserved fee for this gig and since the 2008 global financial crisis we just haven’t had the scratch to float guests. He grumbled off to finish setting up his drum set. The club filled with a disjointed assortment—a small old man wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap was accompanied by a younger big-boned woman, a jazz-loving woman in a mid-calf-length dark trench coat and black beret (remember it’s an air-condition-required summer night), a dubious gender man-woman, and a pulchritudinously-perfect, dark-haired young woman in a form-flattering tiny black t-shirt dress (a lovely jazz angel?) were among the crowd. The band played late and among the late arrivals were a couple of brothers who had literally moved into a warehouse loft apartment located a couple of blocks away. They were hooting and hollering as a guest tenor joined the group and added another dimension. They were also busy shooting video with their phones and emailing them to their dad, “Who will absolutely love this place.”
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
(fill-in-the-blank)-a-day projects are challenging at best… a pain in the arse at worst. I admire those that can do it. Tenacious. On those rare odd days when I’m fully rested, generally caught up on the mundanities of life, feeling hyper creative, and have a full mug of hot coffee, I’ll resolve to maintain a daily creative ritual. Maybe write a poem, shoot a photo, doodle an abstract drawing, journal a single event/experience from the day, or ??? At the moment, it seems easy, doable, and reasonable. It never works. That’s why artist Randel Plowman is to be admired. He creates a 4” x 4” collage ever day and posts it to his aptly named A Collage A Day blog site. Thematically, Plowman has affinity for birds, old clip-art line drawings, and mid-20th-century popular photos / illustrations. To me, his use of songbirds and flower patterns make his collages unique. I’ve seen enough of the aint-I-cool-and-campy-‘cause-I-use-photos-and-clip-art-of-housewives-and-old-cars-from-ads-in-1962-Good-Housekeeping-and-LOOK-magazines to make me projectile vomit. But, that’s probably just me. What Plowman is doing is incredibly wonderful and worthy of praise, even though the retro panaches bug me. Visit his site and buy a couple of his collages to support him. What he’s doing is incredibly tough to do. Bravo! Mr. Plowman!
Monday, August 22, 2011
There is an ilk of jazz club visitors who are attracted to the venue as a form of entertainment… a performance to enrich their cultural lives. For them, the jazz club experience is on par with attending a play, watching a movie, seeing a parade, or being at a poetry reading. These forms of entertainment can all be seen as self-contained discrete events. There is nothing wrong with the jazz-club-as-performance-event visitors. They are attentive listeners who thoroughly enjoy the band, their performance, and the music. When they leave at the end of the night, they will tell me, The Doorman, that they really had a great time, love the club, and are happy they finally came to the jazz club. I always ask: Will we see you again? “Definitely – and next time we’re bringing friends who will absolutely love it here!” I study their faces, believing that they will become regulars and week after week passes and I don’t see them. I used to be disappointed, but now I realize that someday—maybe weeks, months, or years from now—they will return. And in the meantime, they will have a fond memory of a night of jazz at the club. Tonight our slim audience was filled with a number of the jazz-club-as-performance-event visitors as well as a few who appeared to be plain curious about experiencing live jazz. The jazz quartet gave them more than their cover charge worth of music value. They played a hard-driven version of a mellow Miles Davis’ piece and unleashed the tenor who went wild on Grover Washington’s Mr. Magic. I was disappointed that the quartet’s performance was not fully appreciated by an interesting handful of young people—all with driver’s licenses from different states. A dark-haired woman in the group was enigmatically attractive with a series of five or six lines tattooed on her arms. On her right arm the row of black stripes ran from near her sleeveless dress shoulder down to just above her elbow. The same series of stripes ran around her left arm just above her muscle. So graphically simple and on her they looked, dare I say, sexy.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Detroit. My heart aches for Detroit. In 24-hours spanning last night, 16 were shot, including 7 dead. The Detroit News also reports that the city is on pace for 350 murders this year. The city has lost 25 percent of its population since 2000, maintaining its role as the poster-child for urban flight. In 1950 it was the fifth largest city in the U.S.—a thriving, muscular industrial center of the world. This is the city which birthed the auto industry and is the home of incredible blues, gospel, jazz, rock, and, of course, R&B/soul. Now, sadly, the city is emblematic of deterioration, rust-belt rot, and despair. America has turned its back on Detroit. An intelligent blog about Detroit, Motor(less) City: post industrial despair, documents history and current state of affairs. The blog has many photos of abandoned properties, which is a photographic project of the blogger. In fact, there’s an adjunct site called 100 Abandoned Houses, which shows photos of orphaned houses. Seeing them gets me inspired about the possibilities and angry about the lack of creative solutions – which appears to be how the blogger feels. I couldn’t find the blogger’s name or contact info, which seems to match the city’s abandoned and anonymous feel. After further digging. I did learn his name but sort of have the sense he’d prefer to be anonymous, like the broken-down city he loves.
The jazz quintet must have had their Wheaties. They were on fire, playing hard. From the first notes, it was clear that it would be a good jazz night. The club didn’t do so well at the door… or at the bar. A woman came in the back door, so I approached her seated at the bar and asked for the cover. She snarled, “My husband will pay!” Not seeing anyone within six feet of her, I asked if he’s on the way? “He’s in the bathroom, tsk!!” I guess I should have known that. While walking back to my post, I encountered an old couple that had just come in, so I asked for the cover. The old guy barked, “We’re with Jack!” I was responding that “knowing Jack means jack-shit to me,” when he pushed his way past and the old lady scowled at me like I had tracked mud on her white carpeting. Clearly, they were with the woman and the restroomed husband. The water-and-soda-foursome left the bartender a couple of 50¢-off coupons for Krispy-Kreme doughnuts. Of course, over the night, I was responsible for a couple of no-pays. One was an earnest-looking man, who poked his head in and said “I just wanted to see what the place is like, never been here before.” I said, you won’t see much from the door, come in and have a drink, the cover is on me. He beamed and grabbed a stool at the bar. I got chatting with him later and learned he’s two years new to the city and is editor of the Episcopal Church’s magazine, which has been in continuous publication since 1878. He made a sacred oath to return next weekend with friends—“and we’ll all pay!” My other lapse of fiscal responsibility was a trio of later arrivals. They were out-of-towners who were a part of a huge family reunion that gets together every year at a different locale where family members live. This was our city’s turn.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
My usual parking spot in front of the club was encroached on by another car. It’s hard to believe that The Doorman does not have a reserved place of honor and respect. But as fortunes tumble and break, I must scramble like the rest. I cozied my car up close to the intruder getting within millimeters of a bumper kiss. My car’s exhaust-end hovered close to the crosswalk. Apparently it was too close, since I got a $30 parking ticket—ugh!! Being the professional I am, I shrugged it off and assumed my post at the door. Among the first few arriving were a pair of regulars accompanied by a visually-impaired gentleman and his service dog. The gentle sir offered to pay for the lady of the couple he’s with and his own cover. He flared open his wallet and I spotted a tener among the span of singles. It never crossed my thinking that here was an opportunity to “rob him blind.” The group made their way in and took a corner of the bar. The proud working pooch plopped her plump patootie on the floor behind her master. They had seated themselves well beyond the domain of the door so I refrained from saying anything. How does one tactfully say, “Pardon me, your dignified dog is blocking ingress and egress.” Sure enough, the bartender stumbled a bit over the dog that’s clearly accustomed to spreading out when idle. Having the seeing-eye-dog in the club has got me thinking I need to contact the International Academy of Doormen (formerly the Royal Academy of Doormen) for counsel regarding the extent of our responsibilities. Should I provide a bowl of water, offer to walk the beast, and should I be making sure it doesn’t impinge on other jazz lovers’ enjoyment?
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Tonight’s quartet has a different sound from the previous night. Both have keyboard, bass, drums, and sax. Tonight’s group has a wonderful jazz singer whose honey voice soothed the large crowd we had. We had the flow from the all-day outdoor jazz festival held in the nearby warehouse district. Jazz fans from the Summer Sizzle Jazz Festival filled the club. The crowd was pleasantly happy but was more of a festival crowd. It’s a sense… just a sense that I, as The Doorman, have about many of those who filled the club. It’s a feeling that the club was just an extension of their day of jazz. It’s as though we were just another stage at the festival. It’s too bad, since they all seem to have enjoyed themselves. In fact, many said as they were leaving, “We enjoyed ourselves – this is a great club.” Unfortunately, they will likely be like the acquaintance who you’ll never see again, even though they sound passionately sincere when they say, “Let’s get together soon – I’ll call you!” One jazz fan I hope to see again, was a massive man who sat at the bar drinking lite beer and appeared to be enjoying the music. I envision him coming another day dressed in a wide-strip suit, black fedora, and with an intense, Miles Davis look in his eyes beneath jet-black asphalt sunglasses. He will order, “Scotch, neat.” He could pull it off.
It’s Friday night and unpredictable. A hot summer night can go in any direction. The gnat-hallowed light showed the entrance door where customers entered into the cool, comfortable, moody-lit club, where they would be greeted by me, The Doorman. We were prepared. The jazz quartet started promptly. They were playing to a half-dozen customers. It looked like a slow, lazy night. A few more filtered in – one of which was a sax player who had played with the young sax player a few days earlier at an open blues jam. He likes the young guy’s chops and was looking forward to seeing him play in the quartet. He was not disappointed. The band played Blue Monk and then ramped it up with Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard. The young saxman didn’t hold back, perhaps knowing that a fellow seasoned musician was watching with admiration. I had hoped to get the older sax guy on the stage, mentioning to the powers that be in the quartet that he had played with Sonny Stitt at the Village Vanguard and could grab his brass from the locked car trunk if he got the nod to join in on a song or two. No such luck. The stars in the dark humid night were not in alignment for a visiting saxophonist.