February 12, 2022- The songbird’s voice was reminiscent of Amy Winehouses’s. If I had wandered into the room with my eyes closed and had been living under a rock, for the past eleven years, I’d have sworn Amy was in the room. As it was, the gentle, forthright soul who was belting out tunes, over the cacophony of eclectic instruments, including her own beatbox, bore a slight physical resemblance to the late, long-suffering British master of R&B. The two other women in the room, each a talented musician in her own right, just stood and watched in awe. The rest of us, men of varying ages, were equally cognizant and appreciative of her presence, even as we were focused on our own instruments and as three of the younger among us were increasingly engaged in an improvisational spoken word trialogue, the decibel level of which was rising by the second-yet did not cancel out one word of Shawna’s powerful delivery.
For my part, I was more or less ephemeral, by choice. It had been a long while since I had sat in with the group, and many of the members were new. Shawna and her mate were the only ones I recall from last year. The others, true to the spirit of the establishment, were politely cordial, but a step short of welcoming. This is a loosely closed circle, which lets people in momentarily, and only gradually over time will accept the unfamiliar. Each member seemed to select one or two others, with whom they would interact. The rest were ignored. I was just glad that the hostility, encountered on my last visit, had gone away.
Shawna and her partner, who declined to introduce himself, once again, were otherwise gracious and accepting of all in the group. The hosts, keeping to the front of the house, eyed everyone a bit warily, understandable, given the noise level at times, but were cordial enough, as we entered and left. I’m actually glad that they abided the scene-no one was destructive, or particularly vulgar in their speech. Nine young men showed the utmost respect for the lone woman singing and playing several instruments, in their midst, as did I-the only elder in the room. May it never be otherwise.
It was, despite the reticence of its members, a fine evening of music and catharsis. It also gave me the realization that I need to bring my drum with me, on the rest of my forays. In that sense, this was the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.