Monday, May 13, 2013

Perverse Jazz for Barbers

I am the darling of the barbershop set today.

After this morning's encounter at Adams Barbershop, it happened again tonight.

I went to the Nile for a show, a very interesting sounding show.

When I arrived, openers Godzilla Meets King Kong Quintet had just begun.

Seats were already getting scarce, so I pulled a bar stool over to the side of the restaurant with music and perched myself on it.

Within moments, a guy walks up with a drink, points his finger at me and says, "You walk by the shop every day, right?"

Scrambling to place his face, I took a stab at it, asking if he worked at Salon Z (with the window sign that always makes me smile: "Come on in and get fresh!"), which is another barber shop on my daily walk.


Angelo asked what had brought me out and I asked the same, only to find the Nile is his usual after-work bar.

What I was surprised to learn was that his work day finished at 8:00, far later than I would have guessed guys are in for a trim.

We shut up to listen to the mega monster battle going on with instruments.

During the break, a lot more people came in, no doubt drawn by the duo that was taking the stage next.

A friend who teaches at VCU arrived and I inquired if school was finally over for her.

Not over for good, but over for the day and that was enough for now, she said, leaving to get a beer.

Soon percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani started beating on a wood block to get everyone's attention.

He introduced soprano saxophonist Michael Doneda, saying this was their 18th show of the tour and that they'd be in Norway by May 31st.

"Great times, we have," he said, grinning and sounding very Yoda-like.

Then they got down to the business of free improvisation with Nakatani doing the most amazing things on a drum set I've ever witnessed.

Using broken cymbals and metal bowls, he scraped the surface of the drums, sometimes rocking a cymbal with his fingers, sometimes using a bow on the large gong in front of him, sometimes blowing a noisemaker.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Doneda was creating the most exquisite tension with his sax, alternately blowing long, thick tones and other times almost making it stutter for a moody counterpoint to the pony-tailed Nakatani.

During one particularly interesting part, he began making big loops in the air with his instrument, making it circle around to complement what he was playing.

The music was at times frenetic and at times as hushed as distant thunder, but always completely mesmerizing.

And if you hadn't been able to see them, you'd have sworn it was way more than just two people making music.

But it would have been a shame not to see because watching Nakatani was fascinating for how many percussive things he was doing at any one time.

Even so, at one point I looked around to see no less than half a dozen people using their phones to film what was happening instead of watching it live.

I don't care how many times they can watch the video, it could never equal actually watching it unfold live in the small side room at the Nile.

Great times are had in the here and now, people, not watching later.

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