The Bop Joint (The Doorman’s Dream)

The Bop Joint (The Doorman’s Dream)

When I was younger, for a few years there, I damn-near made a career out of being a doorman.  I worked strip joints, blues bars, nightclubs, bar/restaurants and neighborhood saloons.  I never got to work at a jazz club, which would have been great.  In my teens, I had a friend named Steve Best who really knew his jazz.  He introduced me to Bird, Trane, Miles Davis, and the great singer, Johnny Hartmann.  Until then, I was  only a rock and roll and soul music fan.  Jazz was a whole new discordant and rebellious language to me.  I wanted to know more.  I was forever pestering Joe Segal at Jazz Showcase to let me work the door and, trusting his better judgment, he never hired me which was probably for the best.

I never did lose my hankering for jazz.  In New Orleans, I got to hear a lot of it; the King Oliver stuff and some pretty fair renditions of Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, but I never really acheived anything like a conniseur’s knowledge of it.  I’m still now always hearing things I’ve never heard before that have been around forever.   It’s something that, as I grow older, I like more and more; not to the point of snobbishness or dismissing everything else in favor of, though.   I love hip-hop, rap, techno; the music my kids listen to, and I still spend lots of time listening to the slow-jam soul music I grew up with.  I love real country and salsa and all other manner of musical idioms as well.  It has always made my wheels turn visually.

I loved being a doorman at music venues years ago.  I got to see shows for free and watch people enjoy music.  Some years ago, I took my son to an all-ages ska show at Metro and got a great deal of joy watching him and his friends enjoy four different ska bands.  The show was headlined by Mustard Plug, a ska outfit that’d been around forever who played with a vengence music about being young, stupid and rebellious and it was fun.

When I was a doorman, I always took great care to go easy on kids who’d had too much to drink or were out of their element or got into shoving matches.  It is a more complex job than people might think.  A careful diplomacy is the best M.O. for this job and being able to read a crowd and spot trouble before it happens.  the restaurant-bars were actually, in my experience, the most dangerous. The middle-aged guys in bomber jackets  trying to bang cheerleaders were the guys who were least predictable and for some reason, the ones with the most to prove.

A townie bar in Urbana, Illinois was the scariest place I ever worked.  A mutant mouth breather named Daskell once tried to brain me with a half cinder block while my back was turned.  It was a rough joint full of bikers and guys who’d been laid off from International Harvester and I was scared every night of my life when I worked there.   I learned a lot there; when to take a guy’s keys, the gentle art of cutting people off,  and how to protect drunk girls from the scummy types.

In every place I worked there were juke boxes with a few jazz records to play at the end of the night.  There was a Maceo Parker song I loved hearing at the end of each night; a beautiful piece called, Children’s World‘ where Maceo works his slow, low, saxaphone magic so  sublimely, it lulls one into sleep.  This piece is about how that record makes me feel.

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