The music was just loud enough. The drinks were cold and the food was hot. It was my birthday party and it was perfect!
Twenty something of us gathered that Saturday night, the Mark McKenzie Quartet squeezed into the alcove a few feet from where we claimed our space. New friends were introduced to old friends.
As any good and authentic evening of jazz demands, the party was held in a bar; Zanata on 15th Street, an understated gem and a favorite of mine. Stairways on opposite ends of the room, connect the downstairs restaurant to the upstairs bar. The stairs are many and they are deep but the rewards are great.
Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, darling, kiss me
As requested, the band played standard after standard. I snapped my fingers to them all, a good three hours and more. I kissed my darling as the quartet played It Had To Be You; a kiss to thank him for this night but also because it did, it did always, have to be him.
Perhaps it only seems we heard them all, all the greats; Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bart Howard, Cole Porter, Dorothy Fields, Duke Ellington, Fred Coots, George and Ira Gershwin, Henry Mancini, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, Irving Berlin, Irving Kahal, Isham Jones, Rogers and Hart, Rube Bloom, Sammy Fain, Victor Young . . .
As the evening evolved, many friends mentioned my parents, this music being their music passed on, and they spoke of how Ernie and Colleen were surely with us in spirit. I smiled a little smile, touched they were remembered.
The lonely night discloses
Just a passing breeze, filled with memories
Of the golden smile that introduced me to
The days of wine and roses and you
A pastry tray of cannoli and tarts was passed around, sweet closure to the night as the MMQ gave us Snapple From The Apple, a song which often ends their set and makes me happy and sad, at once.
Saturday had long turned into Sunday when Curtis poured me and my sister two final drinks; a scotch for our dad, white wine for our mom. We raised our glasses and raised our eyes, and toasted them both.
Our parents really were with us that night. Their ashes had been placed discreetly on the highest shelf of the bar, on the far edge, closest to the music. It was my birthday but the night was all about them and the music they so loved.
I couldn't imagine the party without them.
I'll be seeing you, in all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through
In that small café, the park across the way
The children's carousel, the chestnut trees
The wishing well
I'll be seeing you, in every lovely summer's day
In everything that's light and gay
I'll always think of you that way
I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you
Fly Me To The Moon; Bart Howard
Days Of Wine And Roses; Henry Mancini, music/Johnny Mercer, lyric
I'll Be Seeing You; Sammy Fain, music/Irving Kahal, lyric