I have invented a new sport: puddle dodging. To play, simply put on your nicest pair of shoes, and try walking from Grand Central to 44th and Broadway in New York City on a rainy day. You are bound to either spend the night wearing soaking socks and shoes, or almost get hit by a car, because you are paying too much attention to the small murky gray swimming pools that swamp the sidewalk. Take your pick, but I spent the walk yelling about pedestrian rights at cab drivers. It was not exactly a walk in the woods, but the destination was worth it.
My dad and I were out. At first I didn’t want to go, but my dad insisted, so I kept calling him my slavedriver on the way. We headed to a jazz club. When you say “New York”, and “jazz club” in the same sentence, you most likely think of a dark gray small room, with small little tables, and old lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. You think of shady guys in suits and ties with large bills stuffed in their pocket dealing out cards for another round of poker. But mostly you think of the people on the stage, like maybe a homeless musical genius on stage playing the harmonica, that a club scout found sleeping in a toilet stall in Times Square. This was not my destination.
My destination was a large room filled with smiling people, eating french fries, by candlelight. Framed pictures on the wall, in classic black and white, of famous musicians captured singing on one of the most famous musical stages in the world.
And on this stage, you see Chucho Valdes and Joe Lovano. Or at least that is what I saw. I went to Birdland, the best known jazz club in New York and maybe worldwide. All the popular jazz artists have played there, like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker, a.k.a. “The Bird”. At Birdland they always have new people playing, which is really great because then if you go a lot, you never get bored. It has a really great atmosphere and has been open since 1949. And the best part, they have the best Bananas Foster I have ever had.
A Bananas Foster is a scrumptious dessert. It is like a banana split, as in, it is a banana split in half, and there is a scoop of ice cream on top, but the special thing about a Bananas Foster is the sugary sauce. The sauce is made from melted butter, sugar, rum, vanilla, and cinnamon. There are few pictures of me eating it even though my dad took a ton of them, because it was only lit by candle light. Not Walmart lighting, if you get my drift.
The music was really great, and had groove. The only thing I didn’t enjoy about it though, was that each song went on for fifteen minutes. I probably could have written this whole post before the first song was over using my dad’s iPhone, but as the nice lady said at the beginning of the show in a very robotic voice, “Please turn of all cellular devices until the performance is over”. I really liked the first two hours of each song, though.
At the end of the performance the hostess overheard me talking about writing about Birdland in my blog, and told me that she could go get the owner for me to talk to him if I wanted. Gianni Valenti, who the hostess called Joe, was really cool. I saw him waiting some of the tables himself and checking on people to make sure they were having a good time. He was super relaxed and smiley and told me all sorts of stuff about how to run a jazz club. Tip numero uno — and he really took the time to drill this one in: it is important that the music goes with the food. Lots of people say that you can’t play good jazz, and serve food, meaning that the two don’t go together, but the food is half of what pays for the operation, so it’s got to be quality. And maybe why he’s so successful is he has really good quality Bananas Foster.
As for the rest of what he said, I’ll keep it locked away in my head, in case I ever do start a jazz club. My dad wants to start one also, so maybe we can call it “Slavedriver and Son”.
And by the way, if you wanted to know whether or not I got my blue suede shoes soaked that rainy night or not, I will not reveal that now, but maybe I will write a fifteen minute jazz song about it someday.