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27 December 2005

An Evening Out with Jazz

Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars

Yes, I went to see Paula West at the Half Note Jazz Club in Athens Mets area. It was a most remarkable evening. The Jazz was sweet and intense, I met the artists of the next nights events and Sharon, one of the clubs more peculiar residents. When it was all over, I walked home, which took me about an hour...


It had started to rain when I left home yesterday evening, a steady sprinkle, not the heavy downpour so common for winter here. It did not bother me much, but I was a bit worried that I would have trouble finding a taxi, this being the second christmas day. Indeed it took me some waiting time and two tries, the first taxi dropped me off again, probably the driver dreamed of a bigger fare. But the second cab got me there, Τριβωνιανού 17, Μετς (Trivonianou 17, Mets), right opposite the main gate from Athens 1st cemetery.

The club

There were about eight people waiting in line to get inside the Half Note Jazz Club. There was more grey than black hair and I wondered if Jazz had become the field for retired accountants and managers assistants. To my surprise the cashier let me pass, but to the tune of 30 Euros and the warning "standing and packed only". Fine with me.

The room was really packed, but I liked the atmosphere none the less. In my memory it has settled as warm, wooden tones, and red brickwork, with patches of black. There is a floor with small tables, bars and seating on the sides and the middle, with some standing room in-between. They have something like a balcony with more tables above. I went once across the audience in the standing room and back, then left my jacket at the wardrobe, where I met Sharon for the first time.

Meet Sharon

Although we were formally introduced only later, I said hello and Sharon half blinked back at me. She sat next to the wardrobe girl, keeping an eye on all those strangers passing by. I guess there are just too many guys passing by for a beauty like her to notice one more of them much.

The artists in the audience

When I had pried myself loose from her fascination, and conquered the shoving masses again to my standing place, I found my view blocked by a couple of (as usual oversized) americans. They signaled the bar for gin and tonics and started conversation with a couple standing to my left. They turned out to be the artists to perform the next nights: Dave Berger and (I believe, sorry I did not remember the name) Wayne Goodman) from "David Berger and the Sultans of Swing".

Intercultural exchange

During the evening we had drops of conversation ranging from topics like what to see while in Athens (the Acropolis, eating out at night in the meat market's restaurant), where and how to drink Ouzo (in an Ouzeri is best, where they serve small dishes of food with it, but anyway never drink Ouzo without something small to eat or nibble), gas prices (Dave hasn't had a car in years, no use in New York), to politics (which country will the americans invade next, and it's likely impossible that an artist from New York would support Bush).

What I really came for

In most of the conversation I was just a bystander, and then started what I really had come for. At first the trio of musicians began to play. Piano, upright bass, drums. As I had no idea what really to expect, I was happy to note that the sound was coming along easy and agreeable. With meaning, but not overly extraverted. After one or two numbers, Paula West came on stage and started to sing. The program had described her as "cabaret style", whatever that means, but thankfully there was no such nonsense as I would associate with cabaret: No dancing to mimic the Moulin Rouge, no attempts at comedy or clown masks. What we got was a female jazz singer with a full voice, a jazzy groove, wide phonal range and depth in her song. Her mood was often amused and happy, sometimes soulish and sad, fewer times touched by the pain and melancholy of love.

So how did I like it?

I let the music vibrate in me, was swinging and tapping to it. Even though for most of the evening I had a good view on the stage, I sometimes closed my eyes and just swam in the melody and rhythm. Paula West's voice has enough power to never sound pressed. It was her last night in Athens, but I only sensed what I thought to be tiredness in the last few pieces before closing. Yes, I liked it very much, the one song that stayed with me most was "fly me to the moon", but I had many favorites.

Getting to know Sharon better

When the last applause died down, I sat on the chair that I had inherited a short while before, and I didn't move. The music was still humming inside me. When Paula West passed me by on the way to the bar I was speechless and couldn't congratulate her on her art. After the audience was thinning out a bit, I went to pick up my jacket, inquiring after Sharon's name with the girl from the wardrobe. She told me that Sharon comes here almost every night, but that she comes only when she's hungry. I was ready to doubt that, when I noticed that Sharon was sitting right next to us on a chair. At this point I introduced myself to her. After letting her sniff my hand I carefully offered to caress her neck. To my surprise she let me touch her and if it wasn't for the music, I would have heard her purr as I crawled her furry head, while she closed her eyes. There are probably only very few Jazz clubs with resident cats that are so friendly to strangers.

Evzone Guards outside
Athens Parliament 2 in the morning

The way home

Again I pried myself loose from the cat and the club and stepped out into the night. The rain had stopped, the street was still shimmering wet. There was a taxi outside waiting, but I had a desire to walk a bit first. I like walking in the night. And I like the smell of Athens after it had rained. In most parts of it, Athens is not dangerous at all at night. As I continued walking, I passed by the columns of the Olympian Zeus (wonderful smell of the pine trees after the rain), Amalias street with the National Garden, Syntagma square with the Evzone guards (see the picture that proves the guards are there at night too), then up Vassilissis Sofias Avenue (where I met more Evzone guards, marching) to Zografou. A couple of times I thought about taking a taxi, but in the end I enjoyed the walk all the way. When I finally fell into my bed, music was still ringing inside me: Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.

Posted by betabug at 15:46 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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