Very few restaurants provide dinner music – I’m not sure if it used to be more common or not. While music can be loud, and one of my complaints about restaurants can be ambient noise levels that make conversation difficult, I enjoy the presence of live music when it’s done well. Last night after a gallery talk we went with a friend to Bandera, a Michigan Avenue mainstay that chefs up hearty meat and potatoes type comfort food with an upscale twist – a welcome menu on a more winter than summer May day. The place also offers live music, which I noted when I made the reservation.
But I had forgotten about the music by the time we arrived yesterday; upon walking into the large but intimate space we heard some, and I immediately remembered that their website promises “Live Jazz.” Having arrived early and at the suggestion of the host, we situated ourselves at the bar while we waited for our reservation. The music was audible, but not distracting. When we were escorted from the bar to our table we passed and were seated near the source of the music – two men, one playing a black baby grand piano and one playing a string bass.
Bandera is a high volume, high enough dollar place where the proprietors have obviously been able to give quite a bit of thought to the acoustical environment – though situated quite near the jazz duo at a nice table looking out over Michigan Avenue through large windows, we had no trouble with conversation. They played the whole time and provided a welcome backdrop to the evening.
Hearing jazz always reminds me about how little I know about it. Google offers a definition, “A type of music of black American origin characterized by improvisation, syncopation, and usually a regular or forceful rhythm, emerging at the beginning of the 20th century. Brass and woodwind instruments and piano are particularly associated with jazz, although guitar and occasionally violin are also used; styles include Dixieland, swing, bebop, and free jazz.”
As I’m reading the definition of jazz right now I’m reminded of another jazz duo we saw on our way to dinner last night – a man and his boom box. The man played a decked-out clarinet and the boom box piped in accompaniment, adding value to the cityscape with a public performance for stray tourist dollars. He was quite animated, and maintained a huge smile, visible through his embouchure.
Simple exposure to the music is really the thing I’m missing most as far as my appreciation for jazz goes. As faithful readers know, appreciating new music for me has always been based on the babiest of steps, but at the end of most days and in the company of my best people, I’ll take a little well-done dinner music in whatever form it comes.
Thanks for reading.