A hushed desperation filled the city as I walked into the jazz club for my duty at the door. It was early. The club was empty save for the tender and a mysterious woman sitting at the bar. The music was low and the candlelight added to the drama. I needed a rumpled trench coat, my fedora, and a twitch that only a shot of bourbon and a beautiful woman could calm. "See the fog pushed you into our two-bit jazz joint, pretty lady," is what I should have said, but settled for "Hard day at work," which I coolly delivered as a statement not a question. "You know it," she responded. Okay, I thought... the script for my pulp crime novel night was almost writing itself as I settled down on the stool next to the #1 perp in the crime I'm destined to solve. "Where you work," I asked--expecting to hear about a file-shuffling job in a local insurance company? I am, after all, a realist—where else could she work? She leaned toward me and cooed in a sub-text voice the monosyllabic name of a gentlemen's club--"ever been there," she asked? I should have said, "Never had a reason to visit.... 'till now." Instead, I derailed the perfect unfolding script, with my blush-faced "No!" Geeze, what a chump, am I, was what I thought, when I realized there's no rewind button in life. The conversation shifted to weather and the quartet playing tonight. I realized that with her vivacious allure she could make a cold front seem sexy. I recognized that I was outmatched by her and that her cool confidence has tefloned her from a lot of harm. The bartender handed me my starting wedge of small bills and I knew it was time for me to assume my post as The Doorman. Once the band kicked into Thelonious Monk’s In Walked Bud, I'd be in the role. I'd be back in control.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
A couple visiting our city had received a couple of recommendations to visit the jazz club. They’re familiar with top tier venues, so comparisons would be made. As The Doorman, I was confident our venue would stack up and the quintet playing had its A-team players. I knew they’d be blown away… and they were. The club had filled. It was standing room only. There were a fair number of couples and a couple groups of women. I didn’t notice the usual lone wolves except for old Doc, whose love of jazz brings him to the club from his independent living home with his walker. Unfortunately, Doc’s now in a wheelchair so it’s more of a hassle to hoist him up the one step – the drunk-test step. I call it that because those that have drunk too much seem to falter a bit either coming in or leaving on that one darn step. We got Doc in and situated. Then filling the door was the Big-Foot-Man from a few weeks ago. He’s a massive guy with a Grand Canyon deep and full voice. “HOW’S MY MAN!,” he said with the force to move a concrete retaining wall. I’m glad he’s friendly. I’m glad he’s happy, I’m glad he likes me. It would take more than a hippo tranquilizer to slow this guy down if he charged. I got him and his lady situated at the corner of the bar. I gave them a few minutes before I walked toward them to see how they’re doing. He bellowed out, “THAT’S MY MAN—THAT’S MY DOOR MAN” which literally knocked the horns that were at full tilt in the midst of Horace Silver’s Filthy McNasty down to the level of a couple of kazoos.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
A guitar jazz trio tonight. They created such a mellow vibe, which was appreciated by the crowd. There was an irritating woman seated at the bar when I first circulated to collect the $5 cover. As with all early arrivals, I asked if she was staying for the music before requesting the cover. She said she was, so I asked. She huffed (and that's the best word for her faux indignation)… said I was rude for asking. I was about to explain the fundamental economics of a jazz club: music performed live by professional musicians = costs, ergo money collected at the door helps offset costs, but she'd have nothing to do with it and announced that she'll leave before the music starts. Good riddance, I thought and tried not to let her color my attitude for the night. The music was wonderful with each of the trio adding their unique flare to the songs. A surprising twist was a jazzed version of several James Brown tunes that was helped by tastefully placed R&B toots from a stand-in tenor who had been in the club. At the band's request, he had retrieved his sax from the trunk of his car and was able to sit in on a few songs. An absolute highlight was when the bass player laid down the defining beat. The tenor man smiled as they eased into Grover Washington's Mr. Magic. This is the signature song for the sax player so you could see him controlling the impulse to break free into an auditorium-size rampage. His strength was evident as he and the jazz guitarist exchanged new colors that filled the club with confident urban urbanity. It was incredible.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
It was early. The band was still arriving and the drummer was off in the corner warming up with brushes. Shshhh dadda shshhh dadda shshhh dadda. The man in an odd-matched couple yells out to the drummer "PARADIDDLE PARADIDDLE, which apparently is a drumming pattern. I assumed my post at the door and the club began to fill. Three women sitting at a table would knock heads together followed by a camera flash. The process repeated several times and looked almost like a deep-sea amoeba-like life form that has electrical charges. Several different couples showed up including one with a sullen woman. I couldn’t tell if she was angry, didn’t care for jazz, or just generally projects a two-foot defense-field aura. I glanced over a couple of times and noticed her face in profile looking softer and approachable, but I know enough not to poke a stick at a coiled rattler. A guest singer had dropped in and was singing Al Jarreau’s “We’re in this love together,” when I sat at the bar to have my end-of-night cocktail. I looked around at the mix of people you can only find in a jazz club… the American melting pot. I tipped my glass to the three young Asian guys sitting across the bar from me as they slammed shots of tequila before biting into lime wedges. It was getting to be time for the band’s signature last song, Satin Dolls.
Monday, March 12, 2012
The club was almost full by the time the group played. They started with trumpet pieces until the sax showed from playing an earlier gig. They played Miles Davis’ All Blue with a Latin twist, which was mighty sweet. The crowd was a mix of regulars, newbies, and a few second-visit folks, who are always appreciated. One older couple, I truly enjoy, showed up. I asked the lady if she's old enough to drink? She got indignant: "I’m 74!" To which, I said: "You’re lying--show me ID, and if I suspect it's fake, we'll have cops here frisking you in no time." She winked and said, "I'd enjoy that." The sax rushed in and literally snagged a solo before helping close the song. A pair of transvestites I hadn't seen for some time filled the doorway. Both are easily 6-foot-plus tall, broad-shouldered, and carry themselves with a practiced gait that unfortunately falls short of feminine. I welcomed them. A few more guests arrived before a too-tall man with long white hair arrived with his long-haired lady friend. They were both dressed in white and looked like house-painter jazz angels. Too-tall was easily 7-feet. It was also nice to see "Doc," who hadn't been at the club for sometime. He's a faithful jazz-loving friend of the club who ventures in with his walker. We happily accommodate his needs. And there was the gentleman in full Union soldier Civil War dress uniform and his attractive mate wearing a period hoop skirt. All in all, a delightfully odd night that I finished at the bar chatting with an incredible oil painter and mural artist. We talked about jazz, literature, and the migration of black musicians from the South. He's the artist who painted a commissioned giant jazz-theme mural on the side of a building in the city to advertise the jazz club.
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Pretty impressive to see a duo play all night. A piano and a voice. No others. They were on the mark from note one to the last “oh, yeahhhhh.” I had seen them play at the club before and was impressed with the singer’s voice range. Maybe in a singer’s world it’s no big deal, but to me… hearing her hold notes from gut’s bottom to breaking the o-zone seems remarkable. I think I’ve mentioned this singer before as being a quirky delight. She can sing a soul-wrenching Billie Holiday song with enough passion to lick the envelope of a suicide note and then be exuding her obviously fun-loving goofy personality between songs. Her husband sings as well and has a strong, honey-coated voice that could send Al Jarreau to the back of the choir stand. He was called up occasionally to join her. Their voices intertwined in a loving embrace as they sang Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” to commemorate their wedding anniversary (he announced the number of years but it defies visual logic, since they both don’t look old enough to be married that long, unless they tied the knot at birth). There was a group of four guys at the bar that could have emptied a box of Kleenex. I made sure to ask the lone wolfette who last week I had made her pinky-swear to show up tonight, whether it was worthwhile (I know… a cheap shot). With the incredible piano accompanist, she belted out “Smooth Operator,” better than Sade, “Stormy Weather,” every bit as good as Billie, and challenged Dinah Washington’s supremacy on “Sunny Side of the Street.”
Thursday, March 8, 2012
The American artist Josh Agle aka “Shag” (nickname fashioned from the last two letters of his first name and first two letters of his last) creates mod artwork. I encountered his artwork, which was displayed on a napkin, which I received along with a small slice of chocolate cake while minding my own business sitting in a jazz bar (unfortunately the woman generously handing me the cake didn’t look like any of the torpedo-breasted characters Shag creates). I immediately pocketed the napkin because the artwork looks odd, interesting, and retro-pop-artish. After doing some Google research, I learned that Shag made the napkin art and that he has quite a following among those seeking an updated twist on “1960’s style” artwork. His artwork, which often includes tiki themes, can include a dark edge… sort of George Jetson with a smirk. The problem with smirks is that they are often so ambiguous that I generally miss their intent. But in the case of Agle’s art, the smirk rescues his work from being pedestrian. So, if you want to be hep to this hipster, visit the UK-based website, modculture.com, which has a three-page interview with Shag about art, design, scooters, music, film, junk shops, and a potpourri of other mod topics. If you visit the Shagmart website, you can purchase art prints, tiki glasses, stationery sets, or a book of his artwork that could look keen on your Heywood Wakefield boomerang coffee table.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Mother Nature had shut us down last night. Slushy mashed-potato snow had slowed the city. I arrived at the club and was discussing with the bartender how the streets were empty. I was thinking of a customer from several weeks ago who had arrived on a similarly snowy night and said: “To me, jazz is winter music… I love listening to jazz when the weather is like this!” I thought of her and how disappointed she’ll be to find us closed. Yep, we closed down about the time the quartet would be digging into its first song. So, tonight I anticipated an overflow crowd due to pent-up jazz needs, as well as the regular Saturday night crowd. The early crowd was young – all under 30. Among the twenty-somethings filling the club, there was a young couple that sat at the bar near my station at the door that were Disney Channel cute. Both with chocolate-brown hair, clear skin, proportioned features, they were a matched set. While watching the bartender joke and tease them as part of his tending style, it became apparent that they were not a couple yet. It could have very well been their first or second date. They looked like such a perfect match that I almost said, “As The Doorman, I know things that most don’t. I recommend that you start researching preschools and cultivating a knowledge of good wine – start with French reds, maybe limit yourself to the Provence region.” They’d be denying the natural order if they didn’t become a steady couple that would evolve into a long-term relationship. In the swirl of a Dexter Gordon song, their future became imminently apparent to me.