My family and I moved back to New York in the Fall of 1969. We lived in Jamaica Estates in Queens. My mother said that the one thing she loved about living in New York City was the change of Seasons. LA was was a stark contrast and a culture shock for me. I remembered living on Riverside Drive and going to the park with all the other children and their mom’s or nanny’s. Night life was a whole different world. There was no comparison, the opening of the Los Angeles Music Center (an upcoming post) was a gala event in 1967. Limousines and everyone all glammed up ~ tux’s and evening gowns that stole the show from the stars that shone that night in the sky. Bling everywhere! Night life in the New York Jazz scene had its own magic. Everybody was a superstar. The subways meant you travelled in style. You didn’t need a limo. Besides everyone had the chance to sit next to Dizzy or Miles or Byrd and if you knew that you were in their presence, you smiled and cocked your head to greet them. There was no standing on ceremony. The only ceremony was in the club. There is something majestic about New York, snow, traffic, subways, the hot dog and pretzels stands, and I can’t forget the pervasive smell of chestnuts that were roasting signaling the holiday season was near. We took the F train in and got out on 14th Street in the Village.
I saw the red awning blanketed with snow that glistened in the evening lights, I felt my heart skip a beat. The Village Vangard’s grand opening on February 22, 1935, by Max Gordon. At first, it featured many forms of music and poetry~ folk music and beat poetry, but it switched to an all-jazz format in 1957. The Village Vanguard, is a small underground club nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village and to the best of my recollection one of the hottest places in the world to hear the best jazz, We made our way down stairs to a table that was right next to the piano. My father ordered Jambalaya and Shrimp Étouffée with Dirty Rice. A spotlight shown on the piano that was tucked into a corner. I will always wonder how the heck they got this Steinway Grand Piano down a narrow flight of stairs, so narrow mind you, you have to turn sideways to descend them. The clapping began to fill the air and Ahmad walked out smiling and bowing as he made his way to the piano. He gave my father a warm hug and bowed to our table then sat down to play Snowfall, and Frank’s Tune. These were songs my father told me they worked together on. My father said that Ahmad was like Errol Garner and Joe Henderson who had a way with the ivory that Count Basie and Duke would applaud. What a treat to be caught up in the mindfulness and sacredness of Jazz in a well established club in the Village. That night was so unique and as perfect as an individual snow flake Tom Moon, NPR musical correspondent put it like this, “Ahmad Jamal is one of the great Zen masters of jazz piano. He plays just what is needed and nothing more… every phrase is perfect.” Peace Out! JBC 😎 ❤ Happy Nu Year! Here is a snap of M. Jamal playing at the Alhambra so you can get a feel of what it was like at the Village Vanguard back in 1969. I hope you enjoy it. Peace and Love Out! JBC 😎 & ❤
Happy Holidaze 2 U from the Pacific Northwest.
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