At a downtown Lake Worth, Florida, store Tuesday night, a group of at least a dozen musicians stood just inside the door and posed for a photo. This wasn’t a music store. It was The Book Cellar, a bookstore that has blossomed into a community gathering place.
In fact, when I walked in Thursday to replenish my sold-out copies of Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died, a young woman sat on a blanket in a corner with a couple of children playing with toys.
The dozen or so musicians didn’t even comprise all who showed that night, since some already had performed and left. Performed? At a bookstore? Yup, the third Tuesday of each month is Jazz Jam night, whereby players from throughout Palm Beach County and beyond unleash their creative talents on a variety of instruments, including voice, to the delight of audiences that occupy folding chairs and standing-room spaces among the shelves.
This is not the Ted Mack Amateur Hour, a TV show from the late ’50s through the ’60s. (What, you never heard of it? Young whippersnappers … Shhsh!) These are professionals, who form impromptu combos that somehow churn out cohesively improvisational renderings of tunes from The Great American Songbook and more recent popular melodies.
And then there’s the occasional foreign number, such as La Vie en rose, which French chanteuse Edith Piaf wrote and recorded in 1947. Yvette Norwood-Tiger, a national and international vocalist from these parts, did a duet with Frenchman Guillaume de Chalambert that was sublime. Norwood-Tiger, who performed recently in major European cities and South Africa, displayed her lusty but silken contralto, singing in English, while Chalambert reverted to French in a tenor akin to that of Andrea Bocelli.
A potpourri of musicians on piano, bass, drums, congas, steel pan, guitar and horns showed off their prowess to an appreciative audience. The Dexter Gordon-flavored musicality of tenor saxophonist Ben Sparrow shined in solos and accompaniment for vocalists, including jazz stylist Rita Marie and the sultry-voiced Sam. All of it was ably organized by Blanche Williams.
All of this for $5, with wine, beer, coffee and snacks at the cash bar in the store’s rear café. Stay tuned for the next jam, October 16.