The Wine & Jazz Bar at Michael Timothy's Urban Bistro. Nashua, NH. Jan. 5, 2003
This was just about the ideal gig.
I liked the place even before walking in. There are tall windows and a wood-and-glass door in the front, so from the sidewalk you can see the whole room. The entrance way protrudes a bit into the room, so there's a small alcove left and right. On the left there's a table for two; on the right is the "stage" – just an area with no tables. But what makes it special is the photos hanging on the wall to the right. There's a big print of that famous photo of all the jazzers in front of a brownstone. Below that there's a photo of Dizzy, and – to my surprise and delight – a photo of Herb Pomeroy. (See my writings about Herb elsewhere on this site).
The Wine and Jazz Bar is a fairly small room, separated from the restaurant by a wood-and-glass door. During the evening, the wait staff passed through the door, and occasionally guests from the restaurant came into the bar through the door.
I set up in the small alcove, near the window. Just the right space for amp and stool.
The room is longer than it is wide, with a very impressive wooden bar along most of the left wall and tables along most of the right, with a few tables in the middle of the room. The decor is tasteful, with original art works and photographs. There's an enormous sculpture, almost a vase, on a shelf above the door to the restaurant. The ceiling is high, with dark crimson acoustic tiles. There's a dark crimson carpet, sort of an oriental pattern, that adds to the sense of warmth, and, as I suspected when I looked at it, added to the acoustic warmth. I took my Ampeg B-15 off the wheels, so it could sit right on the carpet. As I suspected, that gave a very soft attack to each note. Full, rich bass, with no boominess, and sweet highs.
Everything about the place was warm: the decor, the ambiance, the acoustics, the staff, the audience. Outside the windows, the snowbanks were waist-high, and later in the night snow began falling. Nice to be warm.
When I arrived, there were maybe a half-dozen people at the bar and the same number at tables. They were talking in an animated way, but at a subdued volume. I set up quickly and my wife, Mal, and I had a few minutes to sit and relax before the first set.
I started the first set at a very low volume, just above acoustic. Even so, the sound filled the room comfortably. As always, I started with some rubato chords and licks, as an intro to "Here's That Rainy Day." That gives me a chance to run the whole range of the instrument, and to try different textures, to see how the room feels. It felt great. As I settled into the head of the tune, I was delighted with how well the guitar and amp responded. Since this was going to be a four-hour gig, I was relieved to feel that the guitar was going to respond well. Four hours of solo guitar is a lot of playing. I knew I needed to stretch out more than usual. Rather than one chorus of single line (with little chord hits), and one chorus of improvised chord-melody, I did several. I was pleased and surprised to get a smattering of applause.
For the second tune, I did "Gentle Rain." Again quite a bit of single-line work, and again improvised chord-melody. This time not only did I get some applause, but a few people at the bar turned to nod and smile. I was going to enjoy this gig!
"God Bless the Child." "I Got It Bad." "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise." All the tunes where I do a lot of single-line improv got great response. I found myself playing much more inspired solos that usual, because of the responsive audience. At one point a guy came in from the restaurant and sat at the bar, but facing me, with his back to the bar. He listened to a couple of tunes, smiling and applauding, then during "Softly", went back into the restaurant. As he passed my (the door was just to my right), he gave me a thumbs up, and said, "Yeah! Play on!" You just don't get that kind of enthusiasm in Boston. Or at least I don't. This was just too much fun!
The first two sets went great. I figured that I should play my strongest tunes early in the night, in case the place emptied out later. To my surprise, it stayed pretty crowded until well after nine P.M. (It was a 6-10 gig). This was on a snowy Sunday night, just after New Years.
After the second set, the barmaid/manager, Karen, brought us pizza and salad. The food was great, but I must admit I felt guilty sitting there eating when I felt that I should be playing. But Karen said that Michael always made sure that the musicians got something to eat. It's rare that musicians get such good treatment. I really appreciated it.
By the time I started my third set, the snow was falling more heavily, and many of the customers had left. Those that remained were talking, so I played soft ballads and slow swing tunes. I tried some tunes that were a little rusty: "How Insensitive," "Just Friends," "A Child Is Born," "This Nearly Was Mine," "Milano." All those went pretty well. I also tried "Meditation," which I hadn't played for a while. It didn't come out very well; I'll have to work on it.
The last set was a short set. Just a few more ballads. There was one table of customers who stayed until the end. As I packed up, one of them, a young woman who had been talking quite animatedly, said, "You did a great job!" As I always say, you never know who's listening.
All in all, it was a great gig. I don't feel I did the gig justice in this journal. I think I'll revisit this journal entry and try to get more to the heart of the gig.
I hope I get to play there again..
Last Modified 1/10/2003