Jazz with a Side of Dank Crab Head

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I was never a huge listener of jazz. Everyone I had ever met who claimed to love it seemed a little strange to me—very serious people with an odd hint of funk who reveled in music that seemed to schizophrenically jump all over the place. Most of my brush-ins with these types would be with boys or men I dated. One curly haired Irish New Englander liked to call himself the first letter of his name rather than his real name and kept pictures of me in denim shorts and a bikini top tucked under the floor mat of his car while listening to Martin Medeski and Wood. Another strange mullet haired photographer liked to wear high-heeled shoes, like Prince does to appear taller. I never knew this until the second time he kissed me after taking off his shoes in my home and he was a good few inches shorter than the first time he had tried to kiss me: all of this while his stereo surround system blared the same Thelonious Monk song over and over to oblivion. One pretentious poet, on our first date, took me to a jazz festival where he proceeded to obscure my hearing of any of the live acts because he was singing so loud next to me sloshed on wine a half-hour in. Trying to impress me that he knew all the words to all the songs by all the contemporary acts in actuality only caused me to think I hated jazz.

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But then I had a magical evening in Greenwich Village at the 55 Bar where I was privileged to be in the cramped smoky room on a night of pouring rain to hear Sweet Georgia Brown sing the blues. At a table for two, I huddled and squished with an ex-beau, his best friend from Yale and his sweet hunk of a nurse boyfriend as we were heckled, regaled, brought to tears and simultaneous hysterics by this bombastic black woman with a heaving bosom that matched time with the bliss of her voice. I never insulted jazz again.

One day I realized that I had actually accumulated a hearty list of songs in my iTunes music library that offered another perspective. I not only liked jazz, but I had become one of those weirdos myself albeit a very picky and discerning one. It still takes something special to prick my ears up to a song, but when it happens, I end up loving it just like all the other genres in my musical repertoire. After meeting the Cute Gardener, who is a major contemporary jazz head, I began to enjoy the game of finding new jazz songs to enjoy. I realized I not only loved Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane but I could fall into incredible lust with the mere act of ferocious fingers hitting piano keys ala Keith Jarrett. It was a new evolution in my cultural maturity to bypass the pigeonholes of youth whereas you stick yourself with sharp identifiers and don’t go far from your norm. Now I have learned to appreciate singular music moments for what they evoke in my soul and it has been a pleasurable experience to go to jazz concerts and see which instruments and forms strike my inner cords as well as sample from across the jazz landscape from old to new, from soft to hard, from classical to modern.

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Unfortunately jazz clubs are notorious for having bad food. You are there for the music, not the nosh. The CG and I typically make it a point to eat at home prior to a show or somewhere else nearby. We’ve seen Stanley Clarke and Eric Reed at Catalina Bar and Grill while eschewing the odd plates of hotel buffet looking meals. We attempted dinner at Café Cordiale but with very low expectations, even for the drinks. But this past weekend we decided to go out on a limb to try Dave Koz’s new supper club Spaghettini in Beverly Hills where David Benoit was playing on occasion of a new CD release. We had set a low bar in our minds but were ultimately surprised by many aspects of the dinner. The pasta for the carbonara was hand rolled and cut in nice al dente tubes. The pasta for the namesake spaghettini was curly and ramen like. The soft shell crab was perfectly crunchy yet tender on the inside and to the CG’s delight, included the dank head. The sautéed mushrooms were plentiful and the beet salad on pistachio yogurt was refreshingly light. All came on small plates meant to share in non-complicated ways while enjoying the music. We even liked the cocktails. Now, this was in no way one of our food sojourn highlights but it was delicious food we liked and accompanying the great sounds of Benoit on the keys, made for a romantic and fun night. The food and the tunes put me in such a great mood that I sidled up to Benoit in a booth at the end of the night to buy the CG a CD and let him know that my boyfriend had been a fan of his for the past 30 years.

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My favorite jazz moments of the moment:
The Georgian young genius Beka Gochiashvili’s piano playing.
David Benoit’s Moment in Hyde Park
Ahmad Jamal’s Saturday Morning
Madeleine Peyroux’s Between the Bars
Our Love Is Easy by Melody Gardot

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