On Saturday, March 27, 2010, in San Francisco, I had the good fortune to meet (in person) the tireless video chronicler of West Coast jazz, Rae Ann Berry — a delightful person, as I’d expected — and two jazz friends: Barb Hauser, the energetic friend of the music and musicians, and the peerless guuitarist and philosopher Craig Ventresco. None of them could stay long — Barb had a date, Craig had a gig at Cafe Atlas, and Rae Ann was going to document it.
Rae Ann and Craig once again worked wonders — so through the marvel of modern technology and YouTube, we take you now to Cafe Atlas to hear delicious music.
Playing unaccompanied acoustic guitar is a brave act in almost any context. Put the guitarist in the middle of an active restaurant and it rises to levels of Olympian exploits. Craig calmly sits in the midst of traffic, chatter, and distraction. Servers cross to and fro; drinks are consumed and ordered; cardboard boxes cross our view; the restroom door opens and closes.
But Craig plays on, apparently immune to the nonmusical forces around him. With his own internal rhythmic engine, he keeps the pulse going in the most restorative way, never becoming mechanical. His little rubato digressions are priceless episodes of speculation and ornamentation. Craig finds the chords that other musicians ignore, and his unadorned sound is an antidote to the buzz and hum around us.
How he does it I don’t know. I would find myself glaring at the walkers and talkers. But he immerses himself in a sea of musical inventiveness and floats above the distractions.
We are so lucky to have him and to have Rae Ann documenting it for us!
Here’s a ruminative look at I GET THE BLUES WHEN IT RAINS, even though it was sunny at Cafe Atlas:
And a stirring affirmation of possessiveness — the 1929 pop hit MINE, ALL MINE:
Life-affirming music. Emersonian self-reliance isn’t dead, and it even has a guitar.