Saturday, June 2, 2012

Delta Casbah at Dusk

They had me at bongos and congas.

Carytown Bistro was the unlikely location where a musician friend's side project was playing a show tonight.

I arrived shortly after they started, delighted to find that they'd set up on the patio for all the world to hear.

Every table was taken except the one closest to the band and what better position for a musical idiot like me than three feet from the bass player?

The couple next to me had friends join them, making for somewhat tight quarters but it also led to us getting to know each other.

Before long fireflies were flitting around, making for a worthy addition to the evening, while the revving motorcycles and screeching cars were less so.

But there's no reason to nitpick when you're sitting outside listening to live music on a mild June evening.

The band was Chilled Mint, a fairly recent ensemble, consisting of my friend Marshall (keyboard player for Marionette) on sax, Seth on guitar, Jeff on percussion and drums and Jacob on bass.

Although the show poster had called them world jazz, they were, more specifically, Latin-based rhythms of one kind or another.

You know, mambo, samba, rumba kind of songs.

I know that only because Marshall told me that during the set break as he ate a cheese danish and Mexican Coke while I had a diced rooster sandwich.

While ordering, the owner had recognized me, asking, "You're Herschel's friend, right? I remember you."

Funny how people file you away in their mind.

As we ate, Marshall admitted being distracted and of the perils of wearing your heart on your sleeve.

I knew exactly what he meant.

Back outside, I was starting to get a bit chilly in the clear night air but when I mentioned it, Marshall said how much he was digging the cooler temperature.

"But then I have on a polyester shirt," he grinned and indeed his patterned shirt was quite jazzy and no doubt plenty warm.

Chatting around, I learned that the girl next to me had given up on teaching high school and now goes to Tech.

She was amazed when I guessed that she was studying to be a vet.

But really, how many people wear a t-shirt with a woman's hand stuck down a cow's butt?

A smiling woman at that.

She agreed that it was getting cool so we asked the owner if we could temporarily help ourselves to the two sweaters hanging inside on the coat rack.

So it was that I began the second set in some unknown girl's burnt orange cable knit sweater with wooden buttons.

"That looks great on you," the vet's husband told me. "You should keep it."

I didn't. It was enough to use it for the remainder of my outdoor evening.

The set began with "The Girl from Ipanema," particularly appropriate since a girlfriend had messaged me moments before I'd left to suggest I join her at Ipanema.

And while she's great fun, had I gone there I'd have missed so much.

Like my first time seeing an acoustic bass, for instance, and tonight played by the extremely talented bandleader, Jacob ("This is as electrified as I get," he told a fan calling for more effects).

Like drummer Jeff's non-stop hands on those bongos, congas and cymbals, as well as timbale, chimes, cowbell and claves, which he told me he'd purchased ten years ago across the street at Ten Thousand Villages.

Personally, I have to appreciate a musician who supports third world craftsmanship.

They did a combination of music, some older like the Dizzy Gillespie-penned "Night in Tunisia," plus original compositions, such as "Mediterranean" and "Delta Casbah," which I thought brilliantly named.

As the evening wore on, people passed the patio, some stopping to listen for a song or longer and others joining the audience and ordering drinks and food.

Three hours in, the band tried to decide on their last piece, finally agreeing to do "Samba of Orpheus," from the movie "Black Orpheus."

Sitting on a wooden banquette in a borrowed sweater under a waxing gibbous moon listening to sambas on a Saturday night.

If that isn't the way to be distracted wearing your heart on your sleeve, I don't know what is.

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