June 16, 2011
Shaggy Hair Boy plays classical and jazz piano, so every night in the city, we went to hear jazz. We’d get to each club as soon as the doors opened and get a spot where we could watch the pianist’s hands as he played.
At Birdland, we arrived 2 ½ hours early, and the little tables right up close to the piano were still empty. As we choose our spot, I noticed that an older couple had the same idea: they were sitting one row back, right in line with piano. The woman, who was wearing an elegant black dress with her silver hair twisted up, said to us: “Good choice. You’ve got the best spot in the place.”
The older couple, both in their early eighties, were charmed with twenty-year-old Shaggy Hair Boy. We spent the next 2 ½ hours talking, while slowly the room around us filled. They’d both been following jazz musicians since they were teenagers, and they’d seen just about every artist that Shaggy Hair Boy could name.
“But it’s so wonderful to find someone your age who loves jazz and knows the old standards!” Elegant Woman kept saying to Shaggy Hair Boy. She loved hearing how Shaggy Hair Boy jams every Wednesday with his grandfather.
“At our age, we’re always having to come into the city for medical tests,” her husband said. “So our rule is that if we come in for a test, we get a night of jazz.” He winked at me. “It’s getting so that I’m disappointed if I get a clean bill of health and they don’t want to run more tests.”
They kept raving about the pianist we’d come to hear — Bill Charlap — and I admit that he lived up to expectations. We sat, memorized, during the set, listening to the music and watching his hands move like crazy all over the keyboard. When the trio was finished, Shaggy Hair Boy turned to smile at the older couple. “Wow. That was incredible.”
The elegant elderly couple got up to leave: Shaggy Hair Boy and I had decided to stay for the 11 pm set. They shook our hands, and the woman said to Shaggy Hair Boy: “Meeting you was the highlight of my night. I hope someday I get to hear you play.”
Posted by jo(e)