Alex’s Malibu Finds An Old Friend.Sunday, March 13, 2011
Alex’s Malibu Finds An Old Friend.
A Guest Blog by John Lekich
|Gavin Walker & friends at the Java Jazz Café and Bistro|
Alex is negotiating a tricky turn in his Chevy Malibu while a classical piece plays on the radio. Its dark out and the virtually sign-less road seems like an endless, black vein with no heart in sight. “You have no idea how much I love this car,” he says. It’s only been a short while but I’m becoming rather fond if it as well. It’s a long ride from Vancouver to New Westminster and the Malibu is threading its way past massive transport trucks with enviable grace.
We are on a quest of sorts. Our old friend Gavin Walker has a regular Wednesday night gig playing at New West’s Java Jazz Café and Bistro. Both of us have known Gavin since the days he used to wear vividly striped shirts and smoked Kools. Many years ago, Alex and I used to listen to him play sax at a legendary club in Gastown called The Classical Joint. The Joint was famous for its “dark” coffees and the kind of live music that you have to actively search for these days. In addition to being an inspired musician, Walker has always been a walking encyclopaedia of jazz history. In between playing original compositions like Up In Gavin’s Flat – one of my all-time favourites – he can keep you entertained with fascinating anecdotes on just about any jazz great you’d care to name.
The long drive to the club gives me plenty of time to reflect on the benefits of live music. For the past few years, I’ve become a kind of jazz isolationist. Deep into my fifties, I’m more or less content to listen to the stereo version of Brubeck or Coltrane in front of a roaring fire. It’s a great comfort but there’s always an element missing. The collaborative excitement of something new happening right in front of you. The kind of magic that floats through the air, tempting you with the possibility that one moment can be entirely different from the next.
We get to the club before the music starts. Alex and I order hamburgers, which are surprisingly good. The bun is fresh and lightly toasted. My beer is ice cold. I’m already content enough to be here. But, once the music starts, I begin flirting with a kind of long lost bliss. The group consists of leader Gerry Palken on piano, Cameron Hood on bass, Chip Hart on drums and Gavin on sax. They kick things off with the jazz standard There Is No Greater Love, building it into something that’s sweet enough to stop any thought of conversation. After a while, they’re joined by the club’s co-owner, Salve Dayao. A sultry vocalist who happily trades jokes with Alex in Spanish between songs.
The set features Gershwin, Rogers and Hart and Dayao’s joyful rendition of Cahn and Styne’s The Things We Did Last Summer. She smiles in our direction and I can’t help thinking how much everyone here loves what they do. It translates into a living, breathing feeling that’s capped off with a nostalgic rendition of Walker’s own Up In Gavin’s Flat. “This is for you, John,” he says.
|Gavin Walker at the Classical Joint circa 1979|
By the time we leave, I feel like the past and the present have come together in a way that only live music can accomplish. It’s as if the people making music and the people listening to it have each brought something personal to the table. Something that makes the experience want to linger like the best kind of song. On the long drive home, Alex says: “I think we did something good.” I know exactly what he means.
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