Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sir Duke-era Dating

Say it's the late '40s.

You want to take your date out for an evening she'll appreciate without breaking the bank.

Probably you find a good, reasonably-priced restaurant to take her to.

If you're particularly clever, you go to some place like Garnett's, where they have a date night special every night from 6-9:00.

You impress your date with a lovely summer, easy-drinking wine like Gabriele Rause Vin de Gris, which just happens to be part of the date night package.

Both of you choose an entree to enjoy while you listen to appropriately literate, hook-laden music from Jason Collett, he of the uber-talented collective Broken Social Scene.

Needless, to say, your date is enchanted.

You finish the meal with the black and white cake with coffee frosting

It's the kind of frosting that is more fat than sugar, but since it's just after the war years, everyone's still in the habit of not over-using luxuries like sugar.

You linger, finishing the wine until the moon is fully high in the sky.

Wisely, you'd already planned to walk to your next stop, Ballcieaux for the RVA Big Band.

Because, let's face it, the war's over and it's time to celebrate.

Dancing cheek to cheek with a woman is a pleasure you lived without for too long.

You steer your date to the back banquette, which you share with another couple sitting very close.

The bandleader informs the crowd that it's the bass sax player's birthday  (she looks impossibly young no matter what her age) and one of the trombone players' last nights with the big band.

Suddenly, you and your date are sharing not just swing music, but a couple of special occasions.

Does she sit a little closer because of it?

All around you, other tables are eating, drinking and watching the band.

This is the norm at a club with a live band in the late '40s.

The bandleader dedicates the next piece to Doug Richards, a local musician who also teaches in the VCU Jazz Studies program.

In all likelihood, most of the musicians in the big band have studied under him at one time or another.

He is the eminence gris. albeit a toe-tapping, thigh-slapping, head-bobbing one in a bar stool.

"This is Far East Suite," the bandleader says. "Doug Richards made sure I heard it a long time before I would have otherwise."

You realize that if your date is not impressed by this exquisite Duke Ellington composition, she's not worthy anyway.

As luck has it, she swoons over it, her legs keeping time with the music.

By the time you walk the five blocks back to the car, you feel certain she'll say yes to another date.

She does, as surely as the Allies beat the enemy.

It's good to be dating circa 1946.

Easy and with a swing beat.

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