“The Briar Patch,” says the sign on the door. And as the name implies, everyone inside is happy to have found it. We get the lacquer of a coronet that is still warm from the last set, a savory metallic note from bass guitar strings, and lots of sweet syrupiness from the pecan pie tartlets that the band is busily eating. Dusty swizzle sticks spin cherry cola whirlpools in rocks glasses. Cheroot smoke rings hang in the air like the ghosts of brass rings reached for but not grasped.
The mouth begins with more of the cherry cola but jazzed up with a bit of cinnamon. Vanilla pod drum brushes shoosh across a snare head quieted by hovering fingertips. I notice that there are mint sprigs woven through the plaited hair of the singer. She smiles broadly as she amuses the rhythm section with her vocal warmups. I have a feeling that “Autumn Leaves” will appear in the next set. Red and gold.
Bitterness announces the finish. Though that may just be the membrane that encloses every bit of joy or piece of happiness. How else are we to mark a joy as something discreet and savorable? How else might we hold a particular happiness in our memory so that it has its proper narrative? I get a bit of pecan pith, spit valve hinge grease, and a feeling of endings. Things pass. And that means honoring them for what they gave to our life. I raise my glass to the band as the familiar chords begin but they do not see me. They are inside the song and soon, so am I.
On the scale of interrogative jazz classics–
The Old Forester Single Barrel is “Autumn Leaves”–You might point out that none of the lyrics pose questions, and you would be correct. But each verse is a melodic question and speaks from a place of longing belying the equanimity of the lyrics.