Friday, April 22, 2011

More Bass Sax

Sunday night at the Record Bar. That dark little gem in Westport, with the sign above the door that says-- Eat. Hear. A comfy spot with a stage full of unusual music on Sunday nights. This particular Sunday it was Crosscurrent, a band devoted to exploring the work of Lennie Tristano, to writing original pieces that evoke Lenny Tristano, and to creating new Tristano-ized arrangements of old classics, such as Skylark.

Matt Otto brought his big mother of a saxophone, a recently acquired bass saxophone, that is so big he has to sit down to play it, not holding it but sitting behind it. It's an industrial-sized hunk of heating duct, it's a great Seussian bellower, and he is like a cartoon figure playing it. He ought to be rolling it across the stage on some wild contraption with mismatched wheels.

If that wasn't fantastical enough I had a memory flash of my green 1979 Mercury Monarch, may it rest in peace. My first car ever, that Dad bought for me when I moved to Miami after college. I would kill to have that car again. It was green inside and out. It could seat about twenty. I didn't know what I had when I had it. I let it die and replaced it with a weaselly Honda Civic Hatchback. Anyway, this flash burst inside my skull when Roger leaned over and pointed out that it was his Fender Rhodes up on stage, the very one that my car had transported through Miami's streets and alleys in the late 80's. When Roger bought it more than 20 years ago, Fender Rhodes were going out of fashion, and he wondered how long it would be useful, but it turns out that the canned sound of digital keyboards soon wore thin, and musicians began pining for the old school cool of mechanically-generated sound. Now Roger's old Fender Rhodes is much in demand and is frequently borrowed by cats around town.

The following photos capture a back alley moment with the Fender Rhodes, the day after a gig at a club called "Tropics" on Miami Beach.

My awesome green Mercury Monarch.

Yes, that is Poky (of Gumby and Poky clay-mation fame), who had come along for the ride and was suffering from a bout of vertigo. I like the way my car still has a Kansas tag in this picture, even though this was August of 1988 and I had moved to Florida in January of 1987. (And what's going on with my gas cap?). I got pulled over on more than one occasion, and was ticketed each time. Once for driving with an expired tag, and once for driving with a Kansas driver's license. Silly motor vehicle laws.

 Back to the Record Bar. My reverie over the streets of Miami was abruptly broken when Roger yelled out to the stage from where we were sitting, "More bass sax!" After he had shouted this several times, the jazz writer for the Kansas City Star, who was seated nearby, turned back to look at Roger and cracked, "Who keeps calling for morbid sex?"  

I managed a grin at this, but I was very tired. I had agreed to go out to the Record Bar because I knew it would be dark and not heavily populated and I could just zone out while listening to the music.

My mom and sister had been visiting from out of town, and I was suffering the natural effects of staying up late, crashing on my local sister's couch, eating heavy foodstuffs, like brats and Smokehouse Hickory Pit beans, and walking for an hour up and down the hills of a suburban enclave known as Creek Brook Ridge, or Wood River Glen, or  Oak Pine Crest, or some such. Anyway, I was so bushed I didn't even want any alcohol. I passed on the Magic Hat ale I usually like to order, and asked for pomegranate juice instead. But the waiter came back to the table, lowering his head and whispering that they were afraid that the pomegranate juice might be going bad. So I got a Republic of Tea Raspberry Quince instead. (Raspberry-flavored tea.)

I had ordered this drink from a menu that had been made out of the old album cover for the Bread's Greatest Hits LP. The last time we were here, the menu was an old Neil Diamond album. Roger had once owned that Bread album, and loved it. When he was ten.

What about those of us who never outgrew the pop music of our childhoods?

We come here, hoping to be rehabilitated. Hoping some irregular jazz chords will blow the dust off our neurons and re-wire us for a new musical fluency. Dreaming in the old music we've known but processing some new stuff too. Finding a way to straddle both.

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