Mined from the notebooks and adapted from the Facebook feed, Sunday afternoon, June 24. Posted Saturday morning, July 14.
This is the Palisades JCC Jazz Ensemble, out of the Jewish Community Center of Palisades, New Jersey. That’s Steve on flute, Paul on bass, and Barbara on piano. I didn’t get their last names when Mrs M and I went up to talk with them after the show. Muffed it there. Barbara was the front man. For this gig. Other gigs, they have other front men, playing other instruments. They have other members too. Some playing these instruments while Steve, Paul, and Barbara play none, because they’re not playing that gig. Apparently the JCC Jazz Ensemble exists mainly in inchoate form, an invisible field of potential music that takes human and instrumental shape around the bodies and axes, horns, fiddles, sticks, ivories, and skins, the shape and sound varying according to who’s available to play a particular gig. Pretty much the way all bands of all genres exist and have existed throughout time. This afternoon it’s just these three. But that’s enough for the crowd, a mixture of patients and their families. The Jazz Ensemble knows its audience though and plays mostly pop standards with Barbara as vocalist. Mrs M and I “danced” to all the tunes by holding hands and swinging our arms together with our elbows on the armrest of her wheelchair. It’s the first concert we’ve been to since we left Syracuse. The first jazz band we’ve seen live since we lived in Fort Wayne and took a vacation to New Orleans.
The JCC Jazz Ensemble was formed many years ago, Barbara told us, when a rich businessman who was on the board of the community center funded a music program that would offer lessons and classes at the center. He had one condition. He was a trumpet player and he missed having other cats to swing with. A portion of the money he donated would go towards forming a band. Remembering when he was a broke musician struggling to earn money for college, he believed nobody should work for free. The trumpet player-philanthropist is long gone but the JCC Jazz Ensemble still swings.
During the show, Barbara introduced songs with stories and history lessons. Her idol and role model was Marian McPartland and like McPartland on her radio show on NPR she told her stories and delivered her lessons conversationally, gently, genteelly, in an understated way, with little embellishment, as if confident that we’re all grownup jazz fans together and we find interesting things interesting for themselves and not for their drama and scandal and we want to learn not be titillated. She introduced “All Of Me” by informing us that the composer, Gerald Marks, wrote it as a ballad but very few of the famous artists who made it part of their own songbooks sang or played it that way. Frank, Ella, you name them, made it swing. Then Barbara added, as if only to footnote her main point, that about thirty years ago she was playing for the lunch crowd in a cafe in an office building in New York City, receiving about the attention you’d expect from a lunch crowd in a cafe in an office building in New York City, which means she wasn’t thinking anyone but herself was really listening. She was making her way through “All Of Me” when she was interrupted by a hard tap on her shoulder. She turned around and found a fierce looking old man glaring at her.
“You’re playing it too fast,” the old man said.
He should know.
It was Gerald Marks.
Barbara, Paul, and Steve then proceeded to play the song as Frank and Ella swang with it. How else would we in the audience have been able to sing along?
I should close this post with a clip of Frank or Ella or Billie or whoever doing in “All of Me”. But…
One of Barbara’s other idols is Peggy Lee, and the band opened their act with one of the many songs Lee wrote the lyrics for and then made hits.
“I Love Being Here With You.”
This one’s for Mrs M…