Cool air, diffuse light: September crepescular light. Powder dry soil blows in the steady wind: It’s usually not this cool and dry at the same time.
It’s has crossed from late summer to early fall: green leaves on trees, drying out. It is as if time has stopped on a swing set, at the point where the swing is going neither up nor down, the moment of suspension before release.
It is a pivot point of the year.
It is the time between harvest and death.
The week was intense: like all teachers, I lost sleep the night before the first day with students. I think my class is great. I was completely exhausted this week, and barely had time to touch the piano before Friday.
So when I got to the Black Dog, to meet with my pal Nathan, I took a moment with a café miel, and realized that I was going to have to match my playing with my internal clock: ie: Largo.
Nathan was feeling the same.
And it clicked. We took chances on new songs, visited older ones, and friends emerged into the room. And when folks are there to listen, you rise to play. Nathan’s sound was a clarion- the soprano saxophone is such a living sound in his fingers.
We finished our set just after 7, and awaited eagerly the next musical item:
Brad Bellows ( valve trombone) Donald Washington ( tenor, soprano Saxophones ++!) Pete Hennig, (drums) and Chris Bates ( bass).
There was something alive in the air. The change of seasons? Donald hit the first tune boldly, with everyone supporting him in an elastic, exciting , evolving groove. Donald and Brad matched each other’s gestures, created a structure, and departed into possibility.
Much “ free” music leaves people cold, alone, with no reference but anger and isolation.
Donald plays with so much LOVE in his sound- He can be big, expansive, filling the room with sound, and miniscule and tender in a few moments, back and forth . Everyone else picks up on this energy, like a landscape IN BETWEEN the deep forest, vast praires, and relentless rivers. The PLACE IN BETWEEN is where the most life is: BETWEEN archaic forms ( which can be stifling with no path out)
And this was not a FEATURE of just Donald: Brad took the valve trombone into new places, with a strong, decisive tone, and was a perfect blend for Donald’s voice on tenor and soprano. The feature began with Chris Bates exploratory arco ( was that a flute?) way up on the bridge: soon he and sneaky Pete were involved in an exciting groove, a habitat of tangled roots
It was utterly delightful. I wish you, and 50 other people, were there. While there were about 20 folks in the main room, I stress that there are not very many places to hear music like this. The big clubs have a commercial mindset- which is fine for nostalgia.
But the Black Dog is a habitat where new music thrives. You owe it to yourself to do some exploring. You don’t have to wear black and look uncomfortable. Just come with your ears ,( I think nearly every night of the week) and hear those of us who are not making the headlines, but making living music. IT’s not an “ either/or” situation: its “both/and” See you down at DOG! ( if you live out of St. Paul, MPls, go support your local small music venue. Love it!!!!)