LES MCCANN. THE BLUE MONK
THE BLUE MONK
The Blue Monk is located in Portland at 28th and Belmont. The bar is located just inside the door and it was filled tonight with dresses, cufflinks and even a hat. It's late, 10:30PM and the energy is rich- thick. The day's distractionns are yielding to the moment at hand. Like being on an airplane with a good book. You're isolated and resources are finite- what else is there to do. Here at the Blue Monk you are surrounded by similar definition- the elements that make a good show are all present and nothing more. The Blue Monk has a good reputation as a jazz club and it is a club downstairs in the tradition of a great New York Club like the Village Vanguard which is club at the bottom of 15 well-trodden steps below street level.
These downward steps are inside, to the right, Through a doorway, which is where your ticket is required and will call is located, left, down some stairs. The walls are adorned with music posters and prints. Miles is here. Light flows like fog from below. The sounds of the bar upstairs fade, merge and then become the low powerful hum of the hungry audience ahead, like a diesel locomotive- some marker lights flickering, idling in the train yard waiting for it's next job. A final turn right and a few more steps and the room unfolds before you.
FOOT OF THE STAIRS
I stood near the back of the room near the coustimer entrance along the wall on a landing aat the doorway of the service stairs. Suddenly the door opened carefully and it was drummer Mel Brown, holding his suit jacket. I said "hello" and identified myself. I told him I was happy to be here and was looking forward to the show. Mel Brown said, "this fourth show's energy will be high like the other three shows". He continued, "Les is makin' us work hard". I thanked Mel for his time and watched as he began drifting toward his drums on stage stopping often to talk, smile, and shake hands. Mel Brown is and has been for many years, an important musician and educator in Portland, Oregon.
Ramsey Embick was in the house. He seemed preoccupied which was later understandable when I saw him move the the keybord- on stage. He is a very talented well read, if you will musician. He knows some past and writes music. He is a great choice for a visiting musician.
It's 11:20pm. Mel is putting his jacket on. The auduience rises for the house emcee's introduction.
They begin hot. At the first break, Les jokes around with the audience. He asks for, well, any availble women. He introduces the members in his band which were: Ramsey Embick on keyboard, Damian Erkine on bass, Adrian Baxter on tenor saxophone, and he gets to Mel Brown.
Les knows Mel and his connection with us and takes an intentionally painstaking amount of time, waving in someone from offstage left to come over and whisper in his ear who that might be. The audience is erupting in shouts and whoops and applause. When Les finally says, "Mel Brown" the room erupts with adulation.
The band moves into an Eddie Harris composition called "Ignominy" released by Eddie Harris on an album called "Vexatious Progressions" in 1995. It cooks.
The next break, Les reminds, "got to go to church". "We are at church" comes a vigorous response from a nearby gentleman. "Oh yeah, give praise".
We, the audience reflexively blurted out "compared to what" when it arrived in the song. When he finished "Compared To What", he said goodnight and introduced the band again. Damian Ersdkine at his web site at the Les McCann link has a great observation recognizing the gravity of performing with the man who wrote it.
Their encore was Marvin Gaye's, "What's Goin On".