Often, when the Beloved and I go to a wonderful restaurant the second time, hoping to repeat the delicious experiences, Disappointment is one of the specials, on or off the menu. What was blissful now seems formulaic; the shine is off of everything.
So I am thrilled to report that I dared the Fates and went back to Banjo Jim’s last night to repeat the experience of one week earlier — seeing the Cangelosi Cards perform on a Monday night.
And I brought a friend: the clarinetist and reed explorer / jazz scholar / memoirist Leroy “Sam” Parkins, whose words you’ve been reading in these pages.
Or, rather, he couldn’t stay away. He had seen my January 30 posting about the Cards: CANGELOSI CARDS: SWEET SATORI! and wondered what they were like in person, and if he should bring his “Klarinette.” I gave him encouraging answers to both questions. The result was that Sam sat next to me right in front of the band for the first four songs (you’ll see them below) transfixed. In fact, if you listen closely, you’ll hear an astonished man’s voice commenting on what’s going on in a kind of jazz rapture.
Tamar and Jake were happy to meet him and delighted with the idea that he wanted to sit in once the band got itself into its groove.
The Cards began as a band-within-the-band (a neat trick for such a compact touring ensemble) in Hot Club style. Tamar Korn stood at our left, and you’ll see Karl Meyer on violin, Marcus Millius on harmonica, Jake Sanders on guitar, and Cassidy Holden on bass, pizzicato and arco both. Everyone was in splendid form, with solo honors often going to Jake and Cassidy, both of whom soloed at greater length than I had heard them do a week ago.
The set began unusually with a soulful rendition of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, one of those songs (like GOODNIGHT, SWEETHEART) I expect bands to play at the end of the night, the close of the gig. Here it was a wistful jumping-off place, quite remarkable.
Then, another piece associated with farewells (what was going through everyone’s mind?): AFTER YOU’VE GONE.
Gordon Webster, pianist of note, came in just in time to join the Cards on EXACTLY LIKE YOU — which I think of as ‘ZACKLY — and he was more than welcome.
Another admonitory song (in the “you’d better watch your step” mode) followed: SOME OF THESE DAYS.
Next to me, Sam alternated between rapture and impatience — this, after all, is truly his music, the sounds he grew up with. Ever the instigator, I suggested he politely let everyone see that his clarinet was assembled, the reed properly moist and seated happily in the ligature . . . and it worked. He was invited to the bandstand (an illusion at Banjo Jim’s) and, even better, the estimable trombonist Matt Musselman and Dennis Lichtman (usually on clarinet but initially doubling mandolin with great style and skill) came in.
Once the front line (actually leaning against the back wall and window) had settled itself in and introductions had been accomplished, someone asked Sam if he knew IT’S A SIN TO TELL A LIE. This courtesy made me smile: it’s graciousness of the highest order when the members of the band want to make sure that the newcomer is comfortable with their repertoire. But it was a kindness that Sam didn’t need, as he smiled gently and said that it was the first song he had learned to play as a young man in the Thirties. He has an innate gleeful sense of his environment, and he let them know how pleased he was that they had chosen something that was in his very capillaries.)
And did they swing out. Catch Matt grinning while Sam plays, and notice that although Tamar has taken her inspiration from Fats Waller’s recording (always a good idea!) that her scat singing goes deep inside. It’s plaintive and nearly primitive, reaching back before recordings.
After a sweet, long MOONGLOW and a deep-down TISHOMINGO BLUES (not visible here because so many eager, expert dancers — including the nimbly stomping Mimi Terris — obscured Flip’s view), the Cards decided to end their set with another surprise. Eddie Cantor’s theme, IDA, SWEET AS APPLE CIDER, is almost always done at a medium tempo. Red Nichols took it very slowly; Eddie Condon (twenty years later) repeated the same wonderful idea (Pee Wee Russell in charge, both times). But I’d really never heard it done as a stomp — which it is here. (Incidentally, all the percussive accents you hear in these clips are Tamar’s inventions.)
When this set was over, I was both elated and drained. I had said I would stay for the second one, but I ended up taking my leave by saying to Tamar, “I’m full! I don’t need to hear any more music,” and I happily drove home, thinking about the experience — which is at once jazz, country, Hot Club stomp, and music with a timeless yearning delicacy. And a good deal of my pleasure is that Flip and I can share essential portions of it with you.
It just might be that the Cards are a pleasure we can go back to again and again with no diminuition of joy or insight. At least I can testify that their brand of heartfelt, romping lightning struck twice — in the same place, no less.