Monday, December 10, 2012

Memories of Vancouver a while ago

Aaron Chapman's great Tyee piece, Ten Legends of Vancouver's Penthouse Nightclub, brought back memories.

I visited The Penthouse only a handful of times, in its declining, maybe declined, days. In the seventies, rules governing liquor service in BC were primitive but a far cry from decades preceding. By then, people didn't visit the Filippone establishment for pairing of food and wine. More for the pairing of man and woman.

My boss at the time was a single gentleman who prowled late spots regularly. He summoned me to The Penthouse after a long dinner at one of Hys' eateries. A couple of drinks were ordered. No doubt, we would discuss the latest quarterly reports. However, my leader spotted a comely friend across the room and had to say hello to the lady.

Moments later, he's back and fumbling with himself under the table. I saw that he'd removed his belt. He mumbled about extra stashed for fortuitous encounters and, from a split on the inside of the leather, he extracted a number of $20 bills. Having apparently lost interest in discussing the quarterlies, he asked if I could find my own way home.

Another unique place I recall from early days was the Blue Horn Jazz Club on Broadway. Circa 1965, Duke Ellington's band arrived late after a concert elsewhere. One renowned sax player joined our table; we were in thrall. Then, he made a too bold effort to pick up one of the young people at our table. Me!

A different night, legendary night writer Jack Wasserman led followers to a table nearby. Waiters instantly delivered large glasses of clear soda water to Jack and friends. A moment later, the fluid was darkly coloured. I never saw a brown bag or a bottle pass over the glasses; it must have been miraculous conversion of inorganic fluid to specialized organic fluid.

Other Blue Horn memories included the great Charlie Mingus playing with a small group. Some say that Mingus' music was sometimes too difficult to play. Well, it sure the hell was that night because Charlie and the boys were drinking straight from the bottle. They could barely sit upright, but they could play. Man, could they play.

Maybe the most vivid recollection is of Canadian jazz/pop great Moe Koffman. Of course, he did the much improvised, extended version of Swinging Shepherd Blues. What knocked my socks off though was Koffman playing Herbie Hancock's Watermelon Man on two tenor saxophones - at the same time.

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  1. Seamus Blake is playing the Cellar and the Bop Tarts are supposed to play a set first. Tart's bassist, Lauren Falls, is a friend of Blake, who played for her graduating recital at Manhattan School of Music a couple of years back, as well as showing up at her parents' school jazz fest at ADSS auditorium, a Humber College connection, I think.



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