My friends came to see C.R. Avery…
I’m overhearing friends talk about relationships and sex while they stand next to me in the lineup. The sounds of cool New Orleans Jazz plays intermingles with the conversation, then I realize it’s not background music that I hear. I lift myself up onto the divider separating those waiting and those watching from inside the venue. At the other end of the room I could see a black baby grand on a small stage. A man wearing a black leather hat and dark sunglasses was playing melodic jazz. I found myself bobbing my head in time with his playing, because it was a catchy kind of tune. I felt transported to an imaginary bar in New Orleans.
Is it the venue, the music, or the CBC filled the Patricia Pub to overflowing? I had found out about the event because a friend told me about it who had heard it listed on the radio and tracked it down online. The real beauty of the internet lets a real life event be successfully promoted very quickly.
The crowd was a mix that reflected the mixture of acts that were on tonight. Twenty year olds with their toques and skinny jeans were next to the older men who looked like their names were etched on the bar seats. The layout of the pub, with it’s many arches covered in beer signs, makes it difficult to know how many people were there, but it certainly feels full of energy and buzz.
Looking through the crowd while continuing to sit on the ledge, I notice the interweave of people talking and the piano playing. It’s Henry Butler from New Orleans playing at the piano. Henry is a passionate pianist and the force of his playing slowly seduces the attention of the audience. The hum of conversations begins to dim. One by one the audience becomes enraptured by his exploration of emotions and passion. Sometimes the song is forceful and passionate, while at other times it slows down and becomes seductive and sensual. Your ears are kept stimulated and attentive as you follow the story he’s telling with his keys.
Whistles, cheers, and clapping as Henry Butler rises from his piano. His first set is done. I notice the walking stick and for a flash moment see that he’s blind.
The first set is done. I meet a few friends I haven’t seen in years, so we go outside to talk and take photos of them. I see C.R. Avery and musicians from Carnival and Brass Roots Band. It seems that many of them know each other, so I ask to take photos of them together. I like C.R Avery’s style, which reflects his poetry. Cool, full of character, and a mix of human and emotion. It’s worth seeing him at an event around town.
Smoke breaks for musicians. Everything settles down after a very long 15 minute set break.
The audience is now quiet, no more idle chatter. The serious jazz lovers have stayed to witness Henry Butler work those keys.
Such passion, yet steady calm. He stamps his foot and you can feel it in the pub dance floor. The small stage shakes a little when Henry plays and stomps and moves the melody along. The end of the song lifts the audience from their trance. Henry speaks in a deep voice, one you’d expect from a man with his presence. He’s telling a story about a song and all I hear are words: New Orleans, New York, Jazz, Blues, Gospel. The song’s name is New Orleans Inspiration and I smile, I feel inspired.
Henry Butler looks straight ahead, his face barely moves as he plays in concentration. The stage lights reflect off of his dark glasses. His left shoe stomps while his right shoe taps. I can imagine him marching in a New Orleans parade – leading us along while carrying a marching baton instead of a walking stick. Marching along, the music builds, the audience claps. Their claps get stronger, the two rising together. The best part of a concert is the musician and the audience merging together.
Cheers erupt. We’re in.
I realise that having waited so long in line I didn’t have a chance to see anyone else on the Bill. I was able to hear James Danderfer Trio, and Ndidi Onukwulu before I went to the show. One of the reasons I went to the show was because I heard Ndidi Onukwulu beautiful singing voice.
So check out all the musicians from the night:
Henry Butler New Orleans Jazz pianist
Ndidi Onukwulu Blues singer
The James Danderfer Trio Jazz ensemble with pianist Miles Black on piano and drummer Joe Poole
Brass Roots Band
C.R. Avery Vancouver poet, pianist and composer