Hearing the music from inside

Man, we were out late last nite–saw four great loud bands at Cafe NELA, the hangue de la hangues, to quote Le Figaro–and then got up this morning in time to trek down to the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach. The Hermosa Beach Pier is probably as far as you can drive within Los Angeles County from our pad in Silver Lake without crossing any serious topography, but it was an easy enough drive, and there were 69 available spaces in the parking lot (according to the digital sign out on Hermosa Avenue), which is much cheaper than parking in Glendale, seriously. Plus the Lighthouse had no cover, cheap eats, good bloodies and a band so goddamn good I nearly burst into tears when they burst into Monk. It was Chuck Manning‘s gig, and he is one of those cats whose tenor chops just get better and better, and he had with him Theo Saunders on piano who was on fire, especially this stunning, extended solo on Footprints that is simply beyond my writing chops to describe. Just profound shit. It certainly put the heat on whoever followed it, but Sal Marquez came in with a beautiful, searching almost spooky solo on trumpet. Hell, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a solo like that before. Maybe I just haven’t been around enough, or maybe it was really that special. I can still hear it as I write this, the notes floating in the mental ether, hardening into long term memory. Chuck followed, roaring, getting the crowd riled up and yelling hey’s and alrights on this, the sabbath of all sabbaths. Then bassist Chris Conner laid into another of his superb solos. His ax is like three hundred years old, a lovely thing, and the ancient warmth of its sound seemed to double in that room. No one ever talks over Chris’s solos, everyone listens and breaks into applause. I did, loudly, probably too loudly. Then Joel Taylor, on drums, came in behind him, first under and inside Chris’s solo, and then in his own tumbling interpretation of the tune that was exciting to watch. Finally all came back in on the head and played it out, swirling and melodic, the melody shining. Amazing how much music you can find in such a deceptively simple little tune. The audience was ecstatic. The set was over.

We only caught the last set and a half, but it was perfection. It was real. It was jazz, genuine jazz, which I’d been craving like you cannot believe. A room full of old pals, too, refugees from better times, we sat and listened, eyes closed, hearing the music from inside and wishing it could go on forever.

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