From one of the city's ex-burbs they had traveled specifically to the jazz club... a couple celebrating the husband's 49th birthday. When I learned of the special day, I discreetly passed back his cover charge and wished him many more. A small token that will reverberate beyond this couple and their special night. There was only one other give-back this night. A man entered, reluctantly paid the cover, stood and watched the band play a couple of numbers, and then headed to the door. I caught him before he exited and gave him his five bucks, while saying... "It's only fair... hope you'll give us another try some other time." Meanwhile the band was cooking on their version of Eddie Harris' "Cold Duck Time," which was the flip side of the 1969 45 rpm single, "Compared to What" that was recorded with Les McCann. It sounded great. The club was full and the crowd was younger, making the almost half-century birthday boy an elder statesman. The band's second set kept everyone Krazy-Glued to their seats. They did an electrifying version of Freddie Hubbard's "Super Blue," followed by a bass driven version of Miles Davis' "All Blues," in which the bassist growled and scatted through his solo. The crowd kept coming, with a full 15 others filtering in during the quartet's final half-hour of play while I was off the clock and seated comfortably at the bar with a glass of Cabernet. Clearly, we could have remained in the Second Set Bubble for easily another hour with no complaints from the jazz-lovers filling every seat in the club.
Hope comes in many shapes. It may be Spring's first crocuses. An uptick in the Dow Jones. A comatose patient's flutter of eyelids. For me, The Doorman, hope came to the door in the shape of two young earnest-looking menone white, one blackfriends. They nervously asked if there was live jazz tonight while soaking in the club from top to bottom, left to right. I said the music starts in 30 minutes and there's a five-dollar cover. I then asked, "How old are you guys?" They stuttered out, "18, sir." Their honesty combined with a curiosity to hear live jazz made me want to break the law. I almost said, "See the high-top table in the back right next to the exit? Go outside, circle around the building, enter through the back door, sit at the table, and order two CokesDiet if you must. Any sign of a uniformed or undercover cop and I want you to bolt out the door and run like mad." Instead, I said, "I can't let you in here until you're 21." They bowed their heads in disappointment and were heading out the door, when I stopped them. "Listen," I commanded, "look me in the eyes and promise me that in three years you'll drag your sorry butts back here, because you deserve to be here." They responded, "Oh, we will... definitely!" I couldn't help but remember that when I turned 18 the drinking law had dropped a few months earlier to my age. I remember dragging friends to a jazz club I had discovered with the intent of impressing. In the process of showing off, I had unexpectedly learned to truly appreciate jazz. So, where's the hope in all of this? It gives me hope that there are at least two 18-year-old guys out there with an interest in jazz. I hope they get fake IDs that could "fool me"they need to be here. For the future of jazz, they belong in the club.