Is there a more inviting performance space in Athens than the Melting Point? Are there five guys in Athens with more jazz chops than the Athens Latin Jazz Quintet? And yet, we didn't stay last night beyond the first set.
When we put on our wristbands at the door, the odds already were stacked against our sticking around. One, I was down on myself for making a hash of Satin Doll at the keyboard at the Ciné jam. I managed to redeem myself a bit with Miles Davis's Tune Up, but only with the generous help of Melvin and Art and their saxes. Two, we had a couple of thirteen-year-olds in tow, and their appreciation of jazz is, shall we say, still developing. Three, we were still in the throes of PADS -- post-Athfest distress syndrome.
We grabbed a table stage right, not too close to the speakers, and the odds quickly increased that the evening would prove challenging. We ordered soft drinks -- two Diet Cokes and two Sprites. What the server brought had the coloration of Diet Cokes and Sprites, but neither the fizz nor the taste. Apparently, the fizz thing was on the fritz. It happens. But the replacement drinks were nothing to write home about, and Pat had the impression that the server had better things to do than to bring her a water to replace a "Diet Coke" that obviously had developed the tell-tale two-tone look of the abandoned soda.
We ordered. Pat picked the turkey wrap. Ian and I succumbed to the siren song of the Cuban pork sandwich. I don't remember what Chad chose. "After awhile," as we say down here in Georgia, the food came. The longish interval between the handing back of the menus and the arrival of the edibles was no big deal, at least for me. I wasn't starving. And maybe they plan it that way to allow you to enjoy the music a bit before you dine.
Anyway, the food came, and I reached for the right half of my Cuban pork sandwich, anticipating that glorious moment when the toasty warmth of tender meat and melted cheese would dock with my taste buds. But when my fingers closed around that sandwich half, well, room temperature is not toasty warmth. Later, during our debriefing, Pat said that her turkey wrap, which should have had a chilly freshness, also was room temperature. The lettuce was room temperature. The turkey was room temperature. On the plus side, we all devoured our fries and onion rings. They were special and yummy.
Technically, the quintet rocked. The rhythms were locked in the groove, Preston pulled some sweet solos from the bass, and Rand had a really inventive night at the keyboard. The full house gave it up for the guys enthusiastically. But there I sat, a bit disappointed. For one thing, my ears never really adjusted to the acoustics of the performance. The quintet seemed to be playing in a cave. I don't know whether it was the construction of the performance space or where we were sitting or the way the sound board was set or that my ears are still recovering from Athfest, but the keyboard and the vibes sounded tinny, and I didn't get nearly enough differentiation among instruments. Also, I think there might be a missing piece in the make-up of the group. I'd like to hear them as a sextet, adding a horn, or maybe as a quintet with a vocalist out front for some of the numbers.