I love me some jazz. I love all music actually: Patsy Cline is one of my favorite singers of all time; Symphony soothes my mind; R & B practically raised me; Marian Anderson is a hero to me; Corridos stir my soul; I can’t get enough of that Rock and Roll and I have danced in a park to Blue Grass. But I love me some jazz.
And speaking of jazz, the other night I caught some nice sounds at a new place in town. Seven Grand Whiskey Bar in North Park. 3054 University Avenue to be exact.
I walked up to the door with my date past two kind of bouncer looking dudes dressed in black who looked at us with “Now, there’s two good looking silver haired human beings right there.” Hey, I was in an out on the town frame a mind, ready to hear some jazz, glad to know there’s a venue not too far from my pad.
Once past the door we were in a world that seemed more ready for hunters after a day of shooting than jazz enthusiasts. I mean I looked to my left into a room with two pool tables and I counted six deer heads on a wall and I turned to my right and a wild black boar stared at me as though I was the reason for him being on the wall and, with that look, although I’m an animal’s best friend, I was glad he was on the wall. Interesting place. It’s not often you see hooves upon which one could hang their coats and sweaters or a display case with antlers arranged like flowers.
But the place had good vibes I noticed as I laid my PETA like attitudes aside. I liked a lot of what I saw. Smiling faces everywhere. Laughter all around. Plenty of seats. Lots of space. They’ve got a long bar made of dark rich looking wood upon which very friendly bartenders were setting down drinks, steadily, before as many people as there were barstools. Behind them there were racks of whiskeys and ryes and scotches and Seven Grand also serves a few beers, the local brews given birth in San Diego’s ever growing beer culture.
But I couldn’t be more pleased with what I was there for, “Gilbert Castellanos’ Wednesday Jazz Jam” featuring some great musicians, including Gilbert himself who is as good a trumpet player as there is. Rob Thorsen, born to play bass, to make it sing and fascinate. Irving Flores, who can make a piano proud to be one. Charlie Chavez, a virtuoso on the congas. Mike Holguin, master of the drums. These guys made the back room of Seven Grand hum with Latin Jazz rhythms and sounds an old man needed on a Wednesday night on the town.
What a way to end what already was a spectacular day filled with a soothing warming sun. I just let my mind go with the flow these musicians let go in the room. A couple of times I closed my eyes and I could feel the ties between these musicians and those who came before them.
I could sense Cal Tjader and Tito Puente and Machito out there somewhere smiling, just knowing that their musical influences were still alive.
Celia Cruz, in a moment, came alive to me just from a timbale kind of sound I heard the drummer put down.
The African in me couldn’t help but rise like it rose high in the psyche of Latin music many years ago, music shaped by African beats, samba, salsa, merengue, bachata, timba, evolving into African American music, mambo, bossa nova, Latin Jazz, segueing into rhythm and blues and hip-hop. Great music will never stop.
And jazz, with its origins in black America, embraces it all, gives it flavor, improves it through nuanced improvisation and syncopation, drives it with force, with energy. It’s our country’s gift to the world.
We can’t, I don’t think, have enough venues for the playing of America’s music. My hat’s off to Seven Grand Whiskey Bar for being there for a most beautiful art form.
I would tell anybody, from my experience on a Wednesday night, get yourself over there. Not only for the “no cover charge” jazz jams, but for some “responsible” drinking any of the 7 days of a week from 8pm to 2am. I can’t speak to any of their drinks but two. The Manhattan I nursed during my stay was mellow and went down nice and easy like I like them to and I heard my girlfriend say “Hmm,” when she first tasted her whiskey-sour, an “Hmm” that blended in with what the band was playing. We two good looking silver haired human beings had a good time.
Make that: we had a very good time.