- What a fun night at the Buttonwood Tree on Main Street in Middletown. Just 11 of us in the audience, the performance felt very intimate. Piano, bass, drum, and saxophone. The performance was in the cozy back room of the coffee shop. There were tall brick walls. Some lighting overhead. Thick dark blue velvet curtains dampen the sounds of Main Street. My eyes wander to the slight part in the curtains, exposing a slice of Main Street on a Friday night.
Curious shadows arrive on the side walk, with their owners soon to follow. Three long, thin shadows slowly become a man, a woman, and a child in between them.
A gentleman in a tan coat opens the garbage can and searches around inside.
Two police cars and then another move quickly down Main Street, their red and blue lights lingering in the distance, reflecting into the opening in the curtains.
A group of three young men walk slowly by, all tightly in a row as they peer into the phone screen the middle man is holding.
An older man with long white hair and a long white beard is helped up from the curb and handed a cup of coffee by a young man.
Now my eyes wander back to the venue, rejoining my ears.
A speaker sits atop an old wooden armoire of simple construction, weathered with dents and chips. Somehow it looks perfect here tonight.
Some time later, two more police cars power by, red and blue creeping in again. I think “play louder!” I want to keep the reality out.
My eyes settle on the piano player. He connects with the keys so completely. He and the piano exchange energy; giving and taking and taking and giving. At one point, he pulls both hands away from the black and white soldiers so suddenly it is as though they shocked him, bursting with sheer energy and beauty in their sounds. He, rather they, have their moments of solo performances, when the other three lower their volume and support piano man and piano. Then, there are other times when he supports, punctuating ever so slightly the other men and their instruments, with perfectly placed unbolded exclamation points. So very sensual. And courteous, always with a slight nod and smile at the audience with each eruption of cheers and applause for his solos. His legs move rhythmically during each piece, sometimes crossed at the ankles, sometimes feet side-by-side.
Next is the man playing the bass, what I thought was a gigantic cello as I was watching them set up. He takes command of his instrument. The beautiful wooden piece is a work of art, with its curves and shine. It stands as tall as its commander, and is wider than him, with a petite waist and what my stepmother referred to as “birthing hips” in reference to me at age 15- just what a 15-year-old girl wants to hear. He demands the sounds from the strings as he plucks them and presses them and pulls them. There are times when he seems to be coaxing the sounds from the strings with a gentler touch and energy. For a few minutes, he uses a bow to create a clear resounding effect that elevates to the very front of all the sounds of the instruments , but only for a moment. Then, back to wrestling the words from his bass. He too recognizes the audiences recognitions for his solos, from him a grin so big his eyes close for its duration.
The man paired with the drum also serves as the group’s spokesman and announcer for the evening. His humor has his group and the audience laughing out loud many times, even as he talks about not being able to use the symbol on the left because of rotator cuff pain not allowing him to twist and reach it. I am not sure if that was supposed to be humorous but it did gather laughter from the audience. His beat, always on, served as a metronome for the group, but not overpowering it. Until his solos, which were crisp, energized, and felt within the depth of my chest with their sheer strength. He too responded to the audience’s affections and recognition of his solos, with a subtle and brief head tilt to the side.
Lastly is the saxophone player. Front and center. His saxophone found its way in past his thick mustache and beard. He seems cool as a cucumber, working with his saxophone like he had been doing this since the day he was born. The sounds in quick succession coming from him and his; amazing. And seemingly effortless. I didn’t even see him break a sweat. He would occasionally put his saxophone down on the well worn wood-planked floor to sip from his water bottle. Just one small sip that he would swish around the front of his mouth before swallowing it. I imagine the vibration of playing a reed instrument gets to your gums and teeth, needing to be refreshed every so often. Courtesy from him, too, as he shifts to the side during drum and during bass solos to allow full attention and recognition of each soloist. And, he, too, acknowledged recognition from the audience, with a three to four head nod and ever so slight smile ( could have actually been bigger but thick mustache may be concealing its full berth).
Each member, a different connection with each of their instruments. And different temperaments. And the music they play together, woven together , complimenting one another so perfectly. Oh what a beautiful experience. A slice of Main Street on a Friday night and a slice of a jazz quartet. Thank you to my friend Faith who texted me in the middle of the day to let me know about this event!