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For the second set, students at half-price admission (and with a drink or two already in them) descended on the club. Phil Woods played again on this set. After playing a couple more burners, Woods brought in the band on "Body and Soul" with a stunning solo intro that proved the highlight of his guest shot for the evening. Later in the set, Mike LeDonne made a virtuosic guest spot and Paul Shaffer took over the stage to warble through a spirited version of "Unchain my Heart." The second set was not as good as the first, but like the crowd, it was quite a bit looser, and that sort of performance has its own virtues.
At the conclusion of the set, the Iridum wait staff counted our money and hurried us out into Times Square. Walking out into that chilly January night, I made a realization. It may not be the same Uptown as it was sixty, even seventy, years ago, but places like Iridium are special. Underneath all the superficiality that is Times Square in 2008, there still exists a sediment of historic Uptown. Gurgling up from some reptilian part of the city, the spirit of jazz still has the power to renew itself, even in the most unlikely of places.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.