They’re playing Freddie Hubbard 'Little Sunflower' and the normally dour drummer is actually smiling. It’s a frightening sight...
A slight chill in the air as I enter the jazz club. It is near empty, but the bartender is ready for anything. I straighten my vintage tie and count my wedge to make sure I have the starter amount for my doorman night. With the regular bassist back on stage, the quint is into a well-oiled groove. It is impossible for them to sound better. They're playing Freddie Hubbard "Little Sunflower" and the normally dour drummer is actually smiling. It's a frightening sight so I back closer to the door just in case his apparent glee sparks a cosmic realignment. I nearly back into a middle-age couple entering the club. The gentleman is dressed in 30-year-old dapper clothes... a dark sport coat with an assortment of lapel pins boasting Kiwanis or Moose Lodge membership and attendance at various conventions and a small flag pin from an East European country. His slacks maintain a sharp crease that only a high percentage of poly can maintain. He's wearing a black fedora. Beneath his bearded friendly smile I spot an odd-looking tie that could have come from The Doorman's collection. I say: "Splendid tie." He smiles and hands me a pair of Lincolns for their cover. I'm disappointed, because he struck me as a two-dollar bill kind of guy. The club fills with a range spanning from a table of barely legals to a pair of couples from Quebec (to which I say, "so you parly-vou," and one of the cute women sidles up to me and says in French, probably something like "that's right dofus" she sounds sexy) to an 81-year-old jazz crooner who later is asked to hobble up to the stage to sing a couple of tunes. I reconnect with the dapper eccentric gent and learn that he and his lady friend were sweethearts as seniors in high school, led separate lives, married others, each have a daughter, she divorces, his wife dies of cancer, and as the phenomena of fate happens... they reconnect at the 40-year-HS-reunion. He says: "We took it cautiously slow at first but it became apparent we have so much in common AND the spark between us is still there." Amazing... truly amazing.
To welcome the warm weather, the jazz club's door is propped open when I arrive for the night. The place is empty, which always makes it a challenge at first. The initial couple or group to arrive tend to be naïve to life at night, so they'll stand near the door inquisitive but fearful. It is so tempting to toy with them. Some night I'll laugh maniacally and holler to the bartender, "LOOK HERE...OUR FIRST CUSTOMERS IN WEEKS!!" But not tonight. The club starts filling with its wonderful mix of humanity....ahhh jazz.... how it harmonizes the disparate. The quintet was into its Latin version of Mile's All Blues when I noticed a young couple walk past the front door and warily cock their ears for a listen. With the authority vested in me by the club owner and using my Royal Academy of Doormen training, I motion them to me with a sense of command. They both have tattoo sleeves and notable piercingsshe has a septum piercing, he has ear lobe plugs. I say, "Welcome....stop hesitating, you belong here." They stammer a bit and make motions for their wallets. "Aheh, not tonight...you're guests of The Doorman, come on in." From the moment they enter until they leave hours later they are perched on the edge of their barstools enraptured. Live jazz has them captivated. I feel good that I read them accurately: They do belong here.
I love jazz because next to my kids, it's the love of my life.
I was first exposed to jazz by Joe Rico from a tiny station in Niagara Falls in 1954 when I was 13.
The best show I ever attended was Maynard Ferguson who blew the roof off Massey Hall in the late 50s.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to everything you can and then listen again.