Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Jazz, Wine, Friends, and Early Trains

I'm working on a post about what happened on Saturday in Baltimore after the Cicada Incident. I should get it up in a few days. Meanwhile, my Friday-to-Sunday Life spilled over to Monday this week.

Last night I met up with him at this place. I've been meaning to check this club out ever since I moved to this neighborhood 16 months ago... I get around to things in my own time, I suppose. Meeting Frank at the GB:NY was so much fun, so since we live near each other I've decided to stalk him. He doesn't seem to mind. >smooches<

Smoke is a very small, intimate space. Probably enough room for 20-30 people, if they don't get up and move around too much. I prefer to sit at the bar, and Frank and I were early enough to score barstools right in front at the edge of the stage. Usually in this place the cover is $25 or more, but for a weeknight jam session you just pay the $10 drink minimum at the door for two drink tickets, which are good for the basic house libations. The house red wine is a spanish Rioja - earthy, raspberry, slightly mineraly, medium-to-full bodied. A nice snack in a glass. I savored mine while Frank and I chatted about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sitting at bars with live musicians in the room, with a friend next to me and a good wine in my glass is basically Nirvana for me. A few years ago I used to spend insane amounts of money going dancing at hip-hop clubs with my best friend Jade, who now lives in Korea, which was fun, but... It was hard to get her to just sit still in a club with me and listen to someone creating music right before our ears. Dancing is a blast and very necessary at times, but the immediacy of live music just really turns me on. I quiver when I see someone doing their best at what they love - whether it's playing soccer or dancing or blowing a sax or even giving a sales pitch - I think their ability to a)be recognized and appreciated for their talents and b)get paid for it gives me hope in the world.

The jam session started at 9, and it was hot. Two saxes, drums, keys and a big bass. The featured artist was a typically artsy-hot guy on sax whose fingers were a blur, bringing a thousand notes out of that saxophone, powered by long breaths blown from well-worked lips. His original composition was called "Around the Way," and it was the most interesting piece they played. When he and the other sax played in thirds it was glorious, quick and clean and smooth.

The drums and piano were so in sync with each other that they provided a wide, taut trampoline for the other guys to play on. Keys sat all the way stage left, drums stage right, and everyone else in the middle. They were both a little older, clearly seasoned and having fun together. Keys had a lot of amusing commentary in his playing... some light and shrill, some lower and contemplative, all riveting. Drums however was just wild. That guy took off on a drum solo that I never wanted to end. Rolling snare laid the base for period thumpings of the bass drum and a steady rat-tat-tat of middle tones. I joked that he was tuning his drums before the jam began - he really was. He played as many notes with those sticks as Keys did on the piano. A little forced, rebellious, rough and raw impulses bubbling up from a controlled technique of drumming. I'll bet he drove his poor mother crazy as a youth.

The most entertaining was the Bass player. He was falling all over that instrument, feeing the BOMPs reverberating through his whole body. He was older, and completely in the music. There were a few nervous chuckles around the room - it's not often you see someone completely abandon themselves to sound like that. I was afraid he would topple over at one point... but he just kept picking and dribbling his fingers up and down the neck furiously, playing a little symphony in tones that only elephants can truly understand. His thrill was infectious and we all clapped furiously.

They closed with a Thelonious Monk tune, all of them doing their thing together, two saxes and a bass player bouncing high in the sky on that trampoline of tight rhythm stretched between the drums and the keys. I had another glass of wine and bopped in my barstool, just enjoying the feel of the sound waves thrumming my sternum, sitting so close to the stage.

Frankly I don't know exactly what time it was when we left, but I didn't look at the clock all night. At some point in the evening my accompanist friend showed up and joined us. He's a jazz pianst too, and we tried to get him to join the jam, but he's shy. When the set ended, we left, hugs all around, and when I got home I just fell into bed and slept until the alarm went off.

At 5:45AM, the headache was there, but I managed to be showered and dressed by 6:30.

Now, this never happens. I work in White Plains, and it's a never-ending source of stress to get my ass to work on time. I'm late about 2-3 times a week, on time maybe once, and early once, usually due to an adrenaline surge from stress about having been late every day. I just can't get up in the morning, even if I'm awake. I can go to bed at 10PM with a glass of warm milk and I'll barely make the 8:14 train, scuttling into work at 9:20 with my tail between my legs hoping nobody notices. I am just NOT a morning person, and when you factor in the reliability of the 2/3 train and the Shuttle to and from Times Square to Grand Central, it's a nightmare every damn morning. In the summer when we all have to show up 1/2 hour earlier, I can't schedule anything before 9:30AM, and I drink lots of milk from the stomach acid, for fear I'll get docked.

Clearly the solution to this problem is to stay out late drinking more often. It appears to be very good for me. This morning I was out of the house by 6:45, the trains were politely waiting for me, and I strolled into Grand Central at 7:05. I even managed to assemble a decent outfit! I made the 7:12 express to White Plains and was sipping coffee in my cubicle at 8:10.

It's well known that quality sleep is far better than quantity sleep... and it stands to reason that when I'm happy, I'll sleep sounder. I don't remember dreaming. And three glasses of red wine would probably knock out most gals, especially after a day of vegetarian weight-loss menus. But I was happy last night. Good music. Good friends. Good wine. Good Sleep. All coming off a good weekend in Bawlmer with another good friend.

And so far, at work, I'm having a good day. I'd better record it for posterity.

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