We step into the Village Vanguard on a Tuesday night: my first night in New York City. The intensely humid, hot air from the city manages to slink with us down the stairs, but it is halted abruptly at the door. Air conditioning. It is a dark and brilliant thing to be within the Vanguard’s walls. This is what going to church must be like for the most pious of believers.
Tonight: Paul Motian, Enrico Pierunanzi, and Marc Johnson play in trio. Enrico is an old Italian and so, I’m familiar with his ways. My adoptive mother’s family is Italian. It makes me feel like an old hat who has already auditioned for the role I’m about to play. There would be some comfort in the stories I had heard before. Mixed granddaughter enters jazz club with her white Biological grandmother. They just met a few days ago. They are either a lot alike, will never understand each other. Or both. Begin Scene.
There is hard contrast between the black and white worlds I find myself dancing between in some blurred resignation. Wine helps. Black in comparison to the white and white only in contrast to Black. Since it is dark in here I can’t tell the difference in the candle light. At this moment, I don’t even care. That is how jazz makes me feel. Clearer. Better. I order a glass of Malbec and my eyes jump all over the program and around the room.
Evan, my best friend and collaborator, had just been here a week ago to see a Kurt Rosenwinkel show. He told me about coming down the stairs and –literally – running right into his idol. He was soaking wet from the rain and the Kurt just looked at him and managed, “Shit” before he passed him on the stairs. Evan had met him before. They had talked at a bar in Chicago after a show for an hour or so. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Or jazz guitar. Unimpressionable, anyhow. Rosenwinkel didn’t recognize Evan that year later in the Village Vanguard entryway dripping from his storm soaked adventure in the world outside.
This is where I find myself. I sit at our low table across from this Grandmother who expects conversation and after three days tour of Sag Harbor, the Hamptons, and New York City with a meeting of potentially every one of her friends, the time has come for Jazz and for me and Mr. Malbec to hold caucus. I want silence with Enrico, Paul, and Mark. I want to be surrounded by these men and not be expected to speak.
This Grandmother is like Evan. She’s soaked with the history we share. She has met me before in many ways through my biological mother and her story and her mannerisms and her troubles. Maybe through her own. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. All this I know and it is all I can do to mutter, “Shit” and pass her on the stairs.
“Hello, My name is Kurt Rosenwinkel.” I pen quickly in my notebook.
Paul gently pats the drum set as I drink my wine, smile coolly at this Grandmother, and focus on the sounds he makes as I make very certain not to cry.
~ Lisa Brimmer