A jazz combo is set up in one corner of the room — piano, drums, cello, two saxophones.
The musicians are young men, students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Music Conservatory. They are in the Jazz Program, led by Bobby Watson.
It’s a lovely time just being with friends; an evening made sweeter by a reunion with friends from 15 years past. We are eager to catch up and happily revisit old memories and restart old conversations.
Then the band starts. In my memory of the night, everything else stops.
These young men are playing with a sophistication and touch beyond their years. It’s incongruous; baby-faced young men (no disrespect!) playing with joy, elan, and wisdom. It’s like they know a secret that the rest of us are searching for.
The drummer has blonde hair, tightly cropped. He’s slender and angular, and graceful. And when he plays, he is exuberant. Every note shows on him, in his eyes, his grin. He plays with an intensity, mindful of his part in the ensemble — at times caressing the cymbals, at times a dervish of motion. But the endearing trait is how much fun he’s having, the exuberance of his play.
I looked around the room at the rest of the crowd. All were transfixed, or transported, by the music and promise of these young men. We felt lucky to be there, to be a part of it.
The fact that it was happening here in Kansas City, just a few streets from our home, made it even better. We’d expect this in New York or maybe Chicago. It reminded me that magic is not tied to places, but hearts.