On December 28, 2022

Jazzing things up

By Dom Cioffi

Recently, my wife and I (along with another couple), went to a jazz club in the city. I haven’t been to many jazz shows in my life, but I do appreciate the genre so I was happy and curious to go.

We bought tickets on the advice of another friend who assured us the performer and venue would make for a great night out.

The establishment was exactly what you would imagine if someone said, “jazz club.” The room was long and narrow with the stage placed halfway down one side. Every table was round, but they varied in sizes. Some were built for two people, others were built for four, while the largest could seat up to eight. On each table there was a candle burning and a small menu of craft cocktails.

There was a bar at either end of the room with several bartenders working each space. There were also a handful of waitresses running around taking drink orders. Everyone, from the workers to the audience, were dressed for the occasion.

Our group sat at a four-top just off one side of the stage. In fact, the piano was so close I could have reached out and touched it. We ordered a cocktail and sat back and within 15 minutes, the host came out to introduce the main attraction.

The artist’s name was Kirk Whalum. I had never heard of Whalum, but the place was packed so I assumed he must be good. As it turned out, I learned that Whalum was a Grammy-winning musician who toured with Whitney Houston for many years. He was also the man responsible for the intricate sax solo on her epic hit, “I Will Always Love you” – the best-selling single by a female artist in music history.

For just under two hours, Whalum and his small band (guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboardist) sent the house into a jazz frenzy. I may have only recognized two songs, but I was thoroughly captivated by their musicianship.

You could tell Whalum was a veteran performer by the way he worked the audience in-between songs. His style was smooth and articulate as he guided spectators through the band’s repertoire, carefully setting up each song with an interesting backstory.

When the show ended, our group headed out, comparing notes and agreeing that the experience went far beyond our expectations.

Since that night, I’ve been in a bit of a jazz mood. Most nights I’m asking Alexa to play “instrumental holiday jazz” to fill in the background environment in my living room.

So, I found it serendipitous when I went out for a run the other day and heard the sound of a saxophone emanating from a nearby house. Normally, I have my headphones in listening to a podcast, but on this occasion, I had opted to leave them off.

When I heard the sax, I stopped running and tried to listen. The song was instantly recognizable even though it was being butchered by the musician playing it. The song was “Auld Lang Syne” – the classic New Year’s Eve ditty that is ubiquitous at the stroke of midnight on December 31st.

As I walked by the house, in my head I pictured a younger person practicing the song, possibly for a school recital that was on the horizon. Like 99.9%  of the world, I sang the first line of the tune, but then mumbled the rest: “Should old acquaintance be forgot, blah, blah, blah-blah, blah, blahhhhh…”

Once I passed by, I started imagining another scenario where someone older was playing the song, perhaps practicing for an upcoming New Year’s Eve party where they planned to pull out their sax and impressive revelers.

As the sound began to fade into the distance, I started to run again. The song started me reminiscing on the past 12 months of my own life. In retrospect, things seemed to get back to normal in 2022. But the “normal” we’re all experiencing certainly seems strained on the heels of the covid pandemic.

God knows the movie industry has had a rough time getting back to normal. Ticket sales at theaters have never rebounded to pre-pandemic numbers while streaming services have altered the way films are now delivered and released.

I normally do a deep dive into the year’s best films, but honestly, I would have a rough time finding 10 qualified movies from what I’ve seen in the last year. If forced, I would say the must-sees of 2022 are “The Fabelmans,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Pinocchio,” “Hustle,” and “Tar.”

Of course, there are several more highly anticipated movies being released in the next week that will undoubtedly be amongst the best sections of the year. This includes the new Avatar film and “Babylon.”

If you still haven’t been back to the theater since the world went into lockdown, make it a point to do so in 2023. Trust me, we could all stand to spend a little more time commiserating with our fellow man.

Happy New Year! See you in 2023…

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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