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Column

Downbeat

A Jazz club minutes before the show is noir.

A gold-plated microphone stands in wait of a voice. The glossy finish of cherry-stained grand piano shines in the bright stage lighting, while the rest of the club is dim. In the back, the upright bass leans against a wooden stool next to the drum kit. Up front, three rows of space black music stands align perfectly in front of the midnight blue curtains. A black, upper case “N” centered in a backlit circle ties the room together. It means “Noce.”

Couples laugh and chat at their tables in candlelight over martinis or two tall glasses and a silver pail, topped with ice and a bottle of champagne. Behind the bar, you can hear ice cubes clacking inside a metal shaker, moving in a rhythm all its own by someone in full tuxedo. A few band members are already there bellied up, sipping on small glasses of straight whiskey and vodka on the rocks.

A waitress works the room carrying a notepad in the front pocket of a black apron and wears a flower in her hair. Underneath, she has on formal attire. She’s ready to take her voice to the stage if called upon. She’s able to hold her own with all the performers on that night’s bill.

It would be easy to see the scene filmed in back and white.

Three minutes to showtime, the sax section, trombones and trumpeters file into place. The drummer sits down and adjusts the height of his swivel chair and checks his drumheads. The piano player unfolds some sheet music which overflows on the piano top.

The singer approaches the microphone in silhouette, hair styled so high it could almost block the stage light. He grabs the mic stand with one hand, leans backward, looks over his shoulder and begins to snap a four-four beat. He glances toward the band leader and calls out “a one, two, three, four.”

Downbeat.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@jaspercountytribune.com

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