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The cool dual played tonight. The old pianist and the quirky singer. The keyboard guy has been playing jazz clubs for a good 40 years or so and always with a soulful, top-notch female vocalist. I call the singer quirky because her goofy personality comes out in full bloom between songs and sometimes when she squeezes out an extra note or two confirming her incredible range that starts from a low earthquake growl and reaches an octave or two beyond Minnie Mouse. One could get the impression that she just doesn't take life that seriously, even though her singing is seriously good. She takes full control of the club when she belts out Dr. Feel Good or God Bless the Child (the Billie Holiday song she, thankfully, sang twiceonce at the bequest of a drunk patron, and the second time clearly in the flow of her regular program). At one point, she invited her husband up to join her in a duet of "Unforgettable." He has a voice that would make Al Jarreau hang it up and submit an application to work at the car wash. Together they were honey and whiskey stirred smoothly into fresh-brewed coffeehot toddy, for sure. And all through the songs was the competent key-tingling of proper-pappa-pianistelegantly exquisite! The performance was so engaging I almost found myself getting irritated with the patrons entering the clubfortunately my inner Doorman caught me before I blurted, "Come on buster, it's pay or pass!" As the night wound down, and I was relishing my off-the-clock cognac, I got chatting with an interesting-looking couple who were bemoaning the economic gutter that has become the new norm in America. "You must be self-employed," I said to the artsy-looking woman who is accompanied by the equally artsy-looking man. "We are," she said. "We're both artists." She then explained that they are in the process of buying a new homea foreclosurelocated on a several-block stretch of one of the most forgettable streets in the city. She was apologetic about the location, sensing that it doesn't match their artistic personas. My advice as The Doorman: "Don't fret ityou two will make it into a hidden-away oasis of cool." Just like the very cool jazz club we're all in tonight, I thought loud enough for her to hear. She nodded in agreement.
The club received a steady stream of pleasant-looking couples all night. They all looked happy and made for each other. We could have filled a casting call for attractive-looking couples to fill the background of a prime-time TV show. I don't know if any of them could dance, but if we were in Philadelphia, then Hollywood between 1952 and 1989, they could all be on American Bandstand lip-syncing the latest singles while popping dance poses. We did have a trio of celebrities, of sorts. The two women and the man fit the spiffy-looking people theme that the couples had established. I learned that they are a two news anchors and a reporter from the local CBS TV affiliate. I apologized for not recognizing them (I don't watch TV news since it became tabloid news, although I didn't tell them that). In good nature they said, "We get that response all of the time... probably explains why our ratings are so low." About that time, another trio walked in, which included the singer who had a new CD release party at the club the night before, his cute girlfriend, and a trumpet player who performed in the group backing him up. The trumpet player was called up to join the quartet in a version of Miles Davis' All Blues. A couple songs later, the singer was invited up to sing a few songs and he sounded as good, if not better, as the night before. I was enjoying the music when a man entered the club, looking a little frazzled. "Can I just come in and hear a song or two and have a quick drink? My dog is in the car recuperating from surgery he had yesterdaya tumor removedand doesn't want to be left home." Sure, I said, he's OK out there? "Yeah, the pain killer won't wear off for another 20 minutes." I settled into my post at the door and listened to the alto in a blistering solo while the trumpet player waited his turn, and I set my internal timer at 19 minutes and counting.
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.