Smooth jazz

Me and a couple guys like me drank all of Camper Van Beethoven’s beer once backstage, though we didn’t realize it. Dove into their deli plate as well, and took up all the room on their comfy sofas. They were too small and frail to say anything, though. They just stewed and stamped their little college rock feet. We pocketed what was left and split for crazier scenes. I never came into a situation as good again until the press room at the Playboy Jazz Festival. Free everything, barrels of it, replenished continuously. Loaves and fishes and water into wine. You’d hide in there during the inevitable smooth jazz sets, and no one stomped their feet, not ever, though Kenny G gamboled about back stage, smiling and laughing and chattering. I turned down the offer of an interview, afraid the old me would come out and I’d do something awful and be banished from the press room and all its riches forever. You see, I’d learned by then. The secret of being an aging punk rocker turned jazz critic was control. Some shit just gets on your nerves, but be nice. Broken bottles are not always the appropriate response. Nor a fuck you, poseur. I was polite and tried not to loom over anybody. Just outside the door Kenny G did his Latin set. I decided to watch. It was like Lawrence Welk doing Tito Puente. The hokiest thing ever.  He didn’t even need Lawrence’s bubble machine, he was so naturally bubbly. More than bubbly even, he was effervescent, like a diet Seven Up with extra saccharine. He gamboled across the stage in his perfect white running shoes. He took extended solos that burbled and peeped and twittered. The band rocked. El Manicero swung like a huero on a dance floor. The crowd loved it, dancing and cheering. I was seething. My brother said that’s enough and took me back to the press room. We missed last call. All I wanted was a Pepsi, I muttered, just one Pepsi. We went out to the car and sat in the stacked parking forever. Look at us, I said, a couple old punk rockers sitting in our car at a Kenny G show.  We flipped on the radio. It was Boney James. I hate this guy, I said. My brother fished a beer out of his pocket. Stole it, he said. Want one? It was still cold. Sonny Rollins came on the radio, blowing ferociously, and I turned it up loud as it would go. He blew and blew, Sonny Rollins did, crazy, angry, intense, and we drank our beer amid the din and all was good.

Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins in a Mohawk, c. 1965


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