Friday, October 07, 2011

A Little Balm at the Bistro

Music is a universal balm and it proved just so in our household last night, where news of the death of Derrick Bell came with particular force. My wife, Anita, was especially close to Derrick and his first wife, Jewel. Anita had worked with and then succeeded Jewel as director of the African American Student Center at Tufts University. So when Anita suggested we go hear some music after work today, we headed over to Favor Bistro on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, where Hubb’s Groove has a steady gig on Thursdays.

We were finishing dinner as the band trickled in and began to set up. Their demeanor suggested the easy familiarity of four guys who gathered in the basement two hours before kickoff every autumn Sunday: you could see these cats were friends.

The musical dividend of their effortless camaraderie was apparent with the first notes as they quickly settled into an eponymous groove on what memory tells me was a Stanley Turrentine standard. Their comfortably-paced two-hour set also included songs by Stevie Wonder, Grover Washington and Herbie Hancock.

The quartet was an altogether sterling unit comprising Phil Jones on electric piano, Gary Stevenson on bass, Tony Watson on soprano and alto sax, and Robert Hubbard on drums. After a couple of straight ahead numbers, Hubbard appeared to suggest the band would later get into some of the smooth jazz that is also in their repertoire but that never happened. The musicians were having so much fun doing what they love: finding a groove and working it.

It worked for the rest of us too.

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