Last night, on my way to Smalls to hear Joel Press and Spike Wilner, I walked past a Greenwich Village bar / restaurant that was advertising JAZZ on its sandwich board outside. This was exciting news, and I was hopeful and curious. I ventured in and listened for ten minutes. It seemed to be a good-natured jam session — trumpet, saxophone, guitar, drums, with one of the horns occasionally sitting at the piano and chording when not taking a solo. It was pleasing to see that the players were a diversified little group. They finished their improvisation on some mildly familiar changes and launched into the very pretty ballad POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS.
The guitarist was more than competent, but his volume was high, and it seemed as if he couldn’t wait to begin playing double-time. The drummer had a pair of wire brushes (a great thing) but was out of synch with the rest of the group — so busily accenting phrases that the time was often lost; the saxophonist had a pleasant tone but was offering a mix of famous Bird licks; the trumpeter didn’t seem to realize that he was playing a love song.
I sighed, and thought (not for the first time) that I want a second business card — in addition to the JAZZ LIVES ones now fluttering through the universe. It wouldn’t advertise anything, but would make two moral statements:
BRING BACK MEDIUM TEMPO
REMEMBER BEN WEBSTER
Does this sound like a good idea? I could leave them on music stands . . . .
P.S. Then I went to hear Spike and Joel — fellows who know these things deep in their souls, so all was well.