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.

Published in: on May 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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