Tuesday, January 13, 2009

HOUSE PARTY

Andy-

Thanks for inviting me to the Bill Mays solo concert at your home Friday night, and insisting I stick around to meet the pianist, and hangout with your close friends. That was the first time I attended a jazz concert in the comforts of a friend’s living room. I’m still reeling. I almost convinced myself to stay home because the weatherman forecasted a blizzard. A few hours before May’s solo set began I decide to go. Driving through a snowstorm would be worth it.

I’m glad we talked Thursday night at Orchestra Hall before vocalist Sophie Milman and saxophonist Phil Woods’ performed. We discussed a blog I posted about vocalist Bill Henderson’s new album Beautiful Memory. You enjoyed reading what I wrote, and you recommended I hunt down the albums Henderson made with the Oscar Peterson Trio, and Henderson's version of the Horace Silver classic Senor Blues. Then you invited me to the concert. You also gave me your opinion, which I value and trust, of vocalist Sophie Milman.

I agree with your take on Milman. Her voice could charm a hungry bear, but she lacks stagecraft. The audience looked bored. The tree women who I sat behind dozed off. I felt bad for Milman. Her special guest alto saxophonist Wessell "Warm Daddy" Anderson couldn't shake things up. The audience behaved as if they were forced to attend. They treated Milman like she crashed an invitation only affair.

The audience clapped the loudest when her set concluded. I wondered if they did so because they were happy her set was over. The audience treatment of the vocalist bothered me. Milan is a competent vocalist. She deserved a better reception. I'm a season ticket holder. Thursday night was the first time I seen the place nearly empty and the audience disinterested.

The audience treated Woods crappy as well. Some walked out midway through his set, which I did not understand because Woods was playing some slick be bop licks. Maybe they were out way past their bedtime. But how could they skip out on a be bop legend. I wanted to interrupt the concert and demand an answer, but I set quietly and enjoyed Woods’ quintet especially pianist Bill Mays, and trumpeter Brian Lynch.

Lynch trumpeting was so strong he could've blown the audience out their sets onto Woodward Ave. Mays tickled the keys like the late pianist Sonny Clark's spirit was in Mays left hand and Bill Evan' s in Mays right hand. I purchased Mays’ album Going Home and Woods’ American Songbook vol.1. I wondered how Mays sounds unaccompanied.

I listened to Going Home on the way to your house, but I got lost. I couldn't give the album my undivided attention. I apologize for showing up late. Allow me to explain why. At 6:15pm, I left my house. I figured that was plenty time to be at your house by 8:00pm, which the concert was scheduled to start. I show up at 9:00pm. I got lost twice. I drive south on Drake approximately eight miles in the wrong direction. When I got back on course, I made a series of wrong turns. I was so frustrated I wanted to return home, but I stuck it out.

I finally located your sub-division, but I couldn’t find your house. I drove around the sub-division at least ten times. I found your house an hour later. I got lucky. I saw all these cars parked near a home, and the sound of a piano seeped out.

I was relieved I finally found your house. I was in such a rush to catch what was left of Mays performance I didn’t think to knock on the door or turn the doorknob to check if the door was unlocked. I rang the doorbell when Mays was rounding third base on a Thelonious Monk composition. You ushered me to my set. I really appreciate you not getting upset.

I missed Mays first set. I caught every minute of the second. Mays played compositions by Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. He handled the compositions with complete aplomb, but he refused to play an Art Tatum number someone requested. Mays jokingly commented Tatum’s material was too tough. I believe Mays was being modest. He could’ve easily tackled any Tatum composition I’m sure. Mays was amazing, indeed. He had the audience reeling, and surprised everybody by ending the set with a bluesy version of Amazing Grace and A Child Is Born.

Andy, I’m glad you insisted I stay after the concert to eat dinner with Mays, your mom, and your wife Diane, and three of your close friends who acknowledged they’re jazz addicts, indeed. Those guys know everything about jazz musicians right down to the color socks Charlie Parker worn the evening the owners of Birdland banded Parker.

While we ate sandwiches, cookies, potato salad, and corn chips and salsa one of your friend’s teenage son played Chopin on the piano. That was a nice to listen to while munching away. When the teenage pianist finished, Mays praised him, and encouraged the teen to listen every album pianist Sonny Clark he could track down. Producing home concert must be a nice hobby to have. It must be nice to have a hobby that make people happy. At the next concert, I promise to be punctual or at least wait to the musician stop soloing before I ring the doorbell.

-Charles
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