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February 2012

Jeff Winke By

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Jam packed from the start. At one point, a pair of scouts from a party of 10 had paid the cover and stood surveying the club looking for seating. They made it though a Sonny Rollins song and were well into a Horace Silver tune with the quintet cooking on all burners when a second couple from the group had entered the door and they conferred and were agreeing that there just isn't room for all of them. I returned the original couples' cover—only fair. I joined them outside in the wash of neon where I learned that the jazz club is the post-celebration destination for a company party occurring at the luxury boutique hotel a couple blocks away. I suggested they wait... "The band will be breaking in the next 10 minutes or so and half of the crowd will leave—there will be plenty of room, plus the second set will be even better." (Which reminds me of a project I want to pursue—recording the regular Saturday night group's second set. "Second Set" would be the best CD, since the true magic occurs in the hour before closing when the band is loose, daring and sweaty from a night of playing. Some of the best jazz ever played has occurred in that final hour.) I reentered the club and assumed my post as The Doorman—knowing that I can see or learn more by settling into the zen... the taciturn observer sees. I saw the lone jazz-loving young woman with her goofy-looking orange-knit hat. There was the friendly couple sitting at the bar, close to the door. The cute woman would step outside to smoke. As is my custom with lone women smokers, I'd poke my head out periodically to make certain she wasn't being harassed by passing wolves. When the couple left, the man thanked me for keeping an eye on his wife—"just making sure our customers are safe, sir." And there were two interracial middle-aged couples sitting on the floor... bookends. Black man / white woman at one table and a white man / black woman at the other. The couples weren't friends, but they clearly should be. It reminded me that everyone in the jazz club has a story to tell, which I want to hear, but alas... as The Doorman, there are lines of propriety I am honor-bound to observe.

February 24

It happens. By rights the club should be packed, but it isn't. I like this quartet, plus singer, a lot and was looking forward to seeing them play. The keyboard player / leader is eccentric. He lets the music take control of his body as though he were a tent-revival-preacher testifying that the spirit of God is upon us tonight. In fact, if he yelled that out while being sweaty and bug-eyed, no one would think it's out of context. I've seen him crouch over the keyboard... nose probably grazing the D key as though he's searching for a lost contact lens and then suddenly shoot up, standing while continuing to play. The weird thing is that his movements in no way reflect the music. It's not as though the jerking up move reflects a crescendo in the music. It's reminiscent of watching old, old Japanese horror films where you see 300 guys wearing white collar shirts and black pants yelling and screaming as Godzilla is preparing to obliterate them with his atomic heat-ray breath. The camera will focus on one poor chump who is babbling and WTFing, while the English voice-over comes in calmly with: "Look—out,—there—is—God—zil—la." In the same way, the actions of the jazzman don't match the music, but I love watching this guy. The slim-size crowd appreciated the group as well. The pair of middle-aged women who tried to scam their way in without paying, the young couple who became friendlier with the help of shots of tequila between their glasses of Merlot, and the two gray-temple guys with their wives who politely thanked me as they left for "a most enjoyable evening," were all in the club enjoying the wonderful jazz. Meanwhile, I relaxed at the door and tipped the brim of my handmade, midnight-grey wool fedora down low while enjoying a Miles song which lead into their version of the Les McCann and Eddie Harris classic, "Compared to What." A most enjoyable night it was.

February 25


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