Thursday, February 7, 2019

Life Shift

We had two strikes against us right off the bat.

Listen to me, I watch the Superbowl once and now I'm spouting sports metaphors.

The last two days of 72 degree weather had been enough to motivate Quirk Hotel to open their rooftop bar for sipping and sunset-watching, so that was the first thing on tonight's to-do list. At least it was, right up until it starting raining on our parade plans.

So instead, Mr. Wright and I walked over to Saison Market, passing the art scene-devoted Parker who was headed to Gallery 5, but not without mentioning that G5 is finally getting the new roof it's needed for years.

In Jackson Ward, that's big news.

Things were quiet at Saison Market, making it easy to score glasses of house Rose and order a couple of plates. Feeling far more wintery than the weather called for, grilled and fermented turnips in black garlic sauce delivered varying textures in a hearty dish meant to stick to your ribs. Arriving on a white plate with elaborate magenta squiggles, cured Arctic char gussied up with radishes, pickled onion, croutons and herbs were arranged atop the dramatic beet yogurt design.

You can be sure that design was a sloppy mess by the time we got through dredging our char in it and scoring more Rose.

Honestly, we could have sat there all evening talking about the upcoming Architecture and Design Film Festival in D.C. or the appeal of Tuscon or Austin in January, but we had places to be.

And that's where our second strike came in.

Weeks ago, I'd gotten an email blast alerting me that trumpeter Rex Richardson was playing at the ICA and put it on my calendar. I'm a long-time Rex fan, having discovered him back in the mid aughts when I saw his Rhythm and Brass group do a performance of his original work, plus stuff by the Beatles and Radiohead.

Hooked, that was the beginning of my Rex fandom.

Can't say I knew the trumpet could be so versatile until that night, but the many performances I've gone to since have only solidified my opinion. So of course I'd wanted to go the moment I saw the announcement.

My faux pas was in not going to the event page, where I would have learned that the event required tickets. Free tickets, but reserved tickets nonetheless, a fact I only learned this afternoon when I finally went to the event page and saw a big banner screaming "SOLD OUT."

And while that might have deterred a less savvy ICA-goer, I had experience in this arena. The first time Mac and I tried to go see a film there, I'd been the idiot who'd been unaware that tickets were required (yikes, I'm starting to see a pattern).

In my defense, most Afrikana Film events I'd been to before that hadn't required tickets. Still, I'm an idiot.

But Mac and I had gone anyway and learned that because the tickets are free, some people inevitably claim them and then don't show up. I told Mr. Wright and the woman at the front desk of the ICA that our plan was to occupy the seats held by unused ticket holders.

Worked like a charm and boom, we had second row seats, just a few down from Style's jazz critic and his posse.

Introducing Rex and the band was RVA music supporter extraordinaire Tim Timberlake (hey, D!)who correctly pointed out what an all-star line-up it was. Backing Rex were Brian Jones on drums, Randall Pharr on bass, Trey Pollard on guitar and J.C. Kuhl on saxophone, musicians I've seen dozens of times and will never tire of hearing.

Rex seemed impressed by the auditorium space, mentioning multiple times how great the space was and how gratified he was to see a sold-out crowd. Pshaw, as much as the man plays out all around the world, he was probably being modest since I'm guessing sold out venues are a frequent thing for him.

The performance was only an hour, but when the talent is that good, you take what they offer. Meanwhile, a cadre of students photographed and/or videotaped every moment for posterity, moving 360 degrees around the musicians for the best possible shots.

When Rex was introducing "The Tao of Heavy D," he mentioned that there was a good story behind it, but he wasn't telling it tonight. "One of these days, you're going to tell that story," sax player J.C. admonished him.

The band played several songs off Rex's "Blue Shift" album, including songs by Brian and Randall, and of course himself.

When the set finished up and Rex thanked us, Carlos of In Your Ear Studios - the studio sponsors the series - got up and asked the crowd if they wanted another one. When the room erupted, he responded, "I knew that!"

Speaking of his admiration for Wayne Shorter, Rex said they were going to do his "See No Evil," though he couldn't do it like Wayne, so they'd do it in a different time signature. "Here's 'See No Evil' in 7/4!" he said, clearly pleased with himself. "We'll see how this goes."

You want to know how it went? Magnificently, beautifully. Between the acoustics and the talent performing, you'd have been hard-pressed to find anyone looking at their cell phone (okay, except a couple of students I spotted). Everyone there knew they were in the presence of musical magic and focused their attention on the here and now.

Walking out of the auditorium, I ran into a favorite couple, long married and very happy, I hadn't seen in months. Explaining my absence, I admitted that since meeting Mr. Wright, I've had little time for some of my former pastimes.

"Yea, relationships take a lot of time," she confirmed with a big smile. "But you deserve it. And you look radiant!"

Not bad for a woman who came to bat with a lifetime of strikes behind her.

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