Fats Waller used to say, “Fine! Wonderful! Perfect!” when you asked him his opinion about something he liked. Orono, a gently sleepy small town north of Bangor, made me think of those words often.
They came into my head more than once while eating at THAI ORCHID (28 Mill Street). This isn’t a food blog, but the savory, spicy, delicate home cooking there made me stick my head into the small kitchen and applaud the chef. They have a take-out menu: call 207.866.4200, although I’m not sure that they’d drive more than five hundred miles to bring us number 97, Country Style Noodle.
Around the corner, we saw DR. RECORDS (20 Main Street), clean, organized, with jazz records and old-time prices. At the helm is Don, who studied trombone at the university and plays in the town band: we had a refreshing conversation about Wycliffe Gordon and John Allred, two of his favorites. And I picked up three records, each a delightful surprise. One I knew of but had never seen: BUD FREEMAN AND HIS SUMMA CUM LAUDE TRIO on Dot (Bob Hammer, Mousie Alexander). One was utterly new to me: BANJO-RAMA by Carmen Mastren on Mercury (with “John” Pizzarelli on guitar — that’s Bucky — and Bucky’s uncles, and “the Fabulous Riccardo” on piano. I’ll bet that’s Mr. Hyman). And the third record was one I had once had and was sorry to lose: PEE WEE RUSSELL and OLIVER NELSON, THE SPIRIT OF ’67 (Impulse). Frank Chace told me a story about those sessions — PeeWee was nervous playing with that orchestra, so the pianist Nat Pierce, a close friend, sat at PeeWee’s feet in the recording studio and kept his glass of ale properly filled. Ballantine’s to the rescue!
I won’t be able to hear this music for three weeks, but life is good when you can find well-cooked meals, knowledgeable conversation, people who smile at you on the street, and rare jazz records!