Wednesday, February 19, 2020

This Week In Jazz: Me & Kenny Jr.

My first cell phone was a fat flip phone. Think Gordon Gekko walking on the beach in "Wall Street" fat, only pocket sized. It had a digitized ringtone that I carefully chose from many rock songs. I picked "Walk This Way." When I got a call, a series of beeps played out the classic riff.

~BeedeedeeDEE beedeedeeDEEdeet~

1994 or 5, I went to see Kenny Drew Jr. play at the Village Vanguard. My friend and I sat at the bar. If you've ever been to the Vanguard you'll appreciate that though the bar is noisy---bartenders really don't give a crap about breaking ice trays or clinking glasses while the artists play---it's a bit roomier than sitting nuts to butts on the floor, knocking knees with strangers. The Vanguard is in a basement. My ring wasn't very loud, and I really didn't think I'd get any service two flights below ground anyway. So, I just stuffed it between my legs on the bar stool. It was too fat for a pants pocket and I wanted it closer than my jacket in coat check. My cell phone was still a new toy and so the idea of muting it and leaving it on the bar, a common practice now, never crossed my mind.

Kenny Drew Jr. took the stage with his trio and began a terrific set of music. After a trio of songs, he began talking about his father, the brilliant Kenny Drew, who had recently passed. The room was quiet and attentive as he talked about learning from his dad, hearing a long list of great jazz musicians up close and in person, and how difficult the recent loss had been. Drew Jr. continued,

"This next song is one of the last songs my dad wrote. It's called...

~BeedeedeeDEE beedeedeeDEEdeet~

..."Walk This Way."

Yep. My phone rang. Kenny Drew Jr. heard it from the stage and never skipped a beat. It was both embarrassing and hilarious and I will always think of Kenny Drew Jr. whenever I hear that Aerosmith classic.  He handled it brilliantly. And I was not tossed out of the Village Vanguard.

I was listening to the amazing "Undercurrent" record and I couldn't help but think about that night.


Anonymous said...

Great story, Sal.

Don't have a phone myself - those fuckers are a detriment to society.


Anonymous said...

Kenny Drew always reminds me of Dexter Gordon, they recorded together so much, being expats. A shame that he didn't get to play in Dexter's movie, Round Midnight, but that was Herbie Hancock's show.