Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cat and Mouse Jazz

There's just no telling where the madness will end.

When the Listening Room began two years ago, it was a simple evening of acoustic music.

Then after a while, there were bands with electric instruments. Next thing we knew there were drums! Oh, my!

Well, they went and did it tonight. Or maybe I should say Antonia Begonia did it tonight.

Because she was the brilliant one who curated the first Listening Room devoted to jazz. There wasn't a folkie in sight (on the stage, anyway).

The Marcus Tenney Trio officially broke the ice, indoctrinating the crowd into this brave new world with his own songs as well as some by the bass player and drummer, whose "I'm Allergic to My Cat" proved that well-executed jazz doesn't require pompous titling.

The rock bassist sitting next to me couldn't help but drop his jaw over the bass player's nimble fingers flying over those fat strings.

Although I've seen this trio before, never had I had the pleasure of hearing them in a silent room.

Later, offstage, Tenney said that it was amazing to play for an attentive audience. "I was a little nervous," he admitted.

The audience was smaller than usual tonight and none of the regulars could figure out why.

Was it because the date fell earlier in the month? There were two kinds of brownies; there should have been hordes of people.

Don't make me go on a rant about people being close-minded about musical genres.

Smalltown was a sextet comprised of some of RVA's best jazz musicians from all kinds of bands: Fight the Big Bull, Glows in the Dark, SCUO, Jason Scott Quintet, Ilad, Bio Ritmo and probably others I don't know or are forgotting.

It was like watching a master class because of the serious talent (Clark, Burton, Ralston, Miller and Scott) on stage, including vibes by Matt Coyle who seems to be showing up a lot these days. Clearly we were a town in need of a vibes man.

Their music was penned by saxophonist/clarinetist Scott, including a song about the mouse infestation in his NYC apartment, a lively piece that made it easy to conjure up scurrying rodents.

The music was big, at times almost cinematic, and engaging enough to pull in any jazz-phobic types who may have been in the audience.

Actually, after the performance I spoke to several people who said that after what they'd heard, they felt jazz should be a recurring feature of the Listening Room from here on out.

With next month starting Year Three, there's no telling what might happen.The only guarantee at the Listening Room is that there won't be any talking while there's music.

I did get my talking fix, though, with those smart enough to show up for the music and afterwards when the scientist suggested I join him for a bite since he was starved.

Since we don't usually ever eat together, I questioned his motive.

"Well, I figured you're always up for going out," he explained, "And I haven't eaten all day."

Why not? We headed to the Belvidere and a full bar so I sat at a table for the first time probably since my initial visit there.

While he enjoyed his first meal of the day (I'd have been dead by then), I got a tour of the art show hanging in the restaurant from the artist himself.

I was taken with what I saw and hope to be the recipient of one of his symbolic and angst-filled pieces soon.

Returning to the table, the scientist and I chatted about his memories of seeing people having sex on a tony New Orleans front yard, the savvy uses of Facebook (I, at least, use it to my social advantage) and the pleasures of an expanded vocabulary.

Walking outside to discover we'd missed a light rain, I commented on the fragrant and warm damp air and he began to explain the physics of relative humidity.

No, really.

Why spend time with a scientist if you're not going to learn something?

Why go to the Listening Room if you're not open to any kind of good music?


  1. other than folk..jazz is my "tune" of choice. ... think the new listening room would be a good venue for such...the "new quiet" is always appreciated with good performances.


  2. These were definitely good performances! There was a lot of talent on that stage last night.