It’d been a while since I’d done anything on a Tuesday night, over a year since I’d seen Esther (EMK), and longer still since I’d been to Smalls Jazz Club.
But as we walked down the dusty stairs into the brick-walled bunker, a flood of memories came back to me: the Sunday I discovered Smalls, Johnny O’Neal’s “I’m Your Mailman,” the four-mile bike back to Williamsburg in the rain. I don’t know Smalls’ reputation in the Jazz world, or much about Jazz really, but I have a strong appreciation for the cool, calm, and friendly environment that relieved me during my early adjustment to the chaotic and unsympathetic New York City.
Esther laughed. I was surprised to find out that Esther, who lived in Brussels, had been here before with her mother.
“Yeah. She said the Jazz was terrible!”
We both laughed. Fortunately, this night the Jazz wasn’t terrible. Half a glass of whiskey later, the sedative sounds of the improvised quartet had me entranced.
Whereas electronic music is the work of meticulous planning, Jazz is a mastery over the unexpected. The eye contact between musicians suggests a strong comradery that keeps them in sync despite the rise and fall of sounds and emotions.Their focus is intense, but the musicians convey a sense of ease. At least for me, it’s both jolting and relaxing.
By the end of our glasses, we’re near asleep. We head out.
After we said goodbye at the train station, I immediately put on my “dreams” playlist, a collection I first started when Esther was living in NYC two years ago.
Bill Evans fluttered my ears, a final toast to good whiskey, terrible jazz, and continued adventures with an old friend.