Sunday, December 09, 2012

Jazz High in the Poconos

    So all these years after the demise of the original Birdland, when even the Faux, like Feinstein, have folded their musical tents, true jazz has literally taken to the road.  Down Route 80 to the Delaware Water Gap sits the Deerhead Inn, scene Saturday night of the birthday of the 89th birthday of Bob Dorough, legendary musician-- certainly to me.  When you mention Schoolhouse Rock, which Bob composed, even the twenty year old salesgirl at Banana Republic brightens with recognition.  But he is more, much more than that-- certainly to me.
   When I went to Paris to study music after Bryn Mawr, Bob was playing piano at the Mars Club, a cote to the rue Henri-Etienne, where the greats of the 50s, from Eartha Kitt to Blossom Dearie held sway.  At the time he was accompanying the after-hours singing act of the lead dancer in Porgy and Bess, a tall Kentucky woman who told me she was the daughter of a Cuban and a Watusi warrior, and I believed her, so charismatic and convincing was she.. and not a bad singer.  Her name: Maya Angelou.
     All these years later, Bob, God Bless him, is still warbling away, his rendition of Baltimore Oriole even more moving than was Hoagy Carmichael's.  And around him gather in the white-wooded farm-like splendor (if there can be splendor on farms) of the Deerhead Inn, a cluster of those who love what jazz used to be, and still is, at least here. Peter Grant on drums, John Eckert on trumpet, (passionate!) Tony Marino on heartfelt bass, and Steve Berger sweet on guitar, filled the clearer-than-city air with music on Saturday night.  
     Diana Krall did a hot version of Dorough's great number, "Devil May Care," but there's something pure and electrifying about Bob's own rendition.  Especially against a background of happy locals and dedicated waitstaff bringing spinach pies and salad and booze.  It is curiously uplifting to have this (seemingly) last vestige of Americana full out and free of pretension in this rural setting, one of the few places a real musician can find to hide out in public.
    In an era where you no longer make easy eye contact, as people trip down the sidewalks with glances focussed on their Iphones, it's beyond a gas, and the gas it takes to get there, to come across real musicianship.   Worth the journey.  Really a trip.