Kind of true
Eavesdropping on the telepathic jazz of the Dave Elke & Greg D’Augelli Trio
Jazz, like an old friend, is not something that needs to engage you to enjoy its company—its presence is enough. And, like those of an old friend, you know its subtleties and nuances. It’s a familiar face in your mind, what some might even call comfort food for the soul.
Christian Michael’s Ristorante downtown was the place to be on Saturday, Jan. 4, if aural comfort is what you had in mind. That night’s talented jazz trio was comprised of veteran local players Greg D’Augelli on upright bass, Dave Elke on Les Paul guitar and Chico State percussion teacher Dan Kinkle on drums. The three extremely tight musicians (who have played numerous times with one another) delivered a smooth, almost telepathic, jazz set of traditional covers before a small collection of bar-bellied people tuned into the warm, friendly ambience of musicians in artful conversation among themselves.
I’m the first to admit that I hold no loyalties to any particular music genre. I love a little bit of them all. And I can’t play the part of the jazz music enthusiast who knows everything, because I don’t. I know what I like and am prepared to give my opinions, as I’m sure many people are. And this kind of jazz music I most certainly like.
Briskly running through a set of gorgeous traditional jazz classics such as Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” Dizzy Gillespie’s “Groovin’ High” and trumpeter Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” the musicians all appeared to be having fun with their own unique personal arrangements. For instance, a flourish of Latin flavor by D’Augelli would be followed with instant recognition from Kinkle on drums. These guys know the real meaning of “in sync” when it comes to music.
My friends and I nursed our drinks as we talked, the sounds settling in around us, unobtrusive and stylish, clean and impromptu. The glory of this kind of improvisational jazz is that it’s so incredibly easy to listen to, to forget it’s there and then to pick it back up again at the beat you were keeping in your head. At times, it was kind of like enjoying the unfamiliar scent of a passing stranger’s perfume.
I asked bassist D’Augelli just how the three prepared their set; was it something they did in advance or do they just play by ear? “We play as we like them,” he answered. He also mentioned the profound influences of jazz greats John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and, of course, Miles Davis.
What I surmised from talking with D’Augelli is that, for these particular performers, playing jazz was pure enjoyment, not a poke at popularity.
“We don’t arrange the set beforehand,” explained D’Augelli. “Someone calls out a song and we just go right into it. … We just can’t play loud in the dinner setting.”
But that was about all I learned, since I felt like I was bothering the poor guy on his only break, when all he really wanted to do was have an aperitif with his recently turned-15-year-old son, who was patiently waiting for him on a couch nearby.
Throughout the rest of the night, the trio’s laid-back style provided great background music for a classy bar like Christian Michael’s (although I thought the television could have been turned off, something that was a bit off-putting). In spite of that small distraction, Christian Michael’s will always be a favorite of mine for enjoying a fine meal and intimate music.
Such an enduring American art form as jazz truly depends upon the devotion of working jazz bands like this trio. It’s all about doing what you love. With this trio, you can be sure the musicians are not trying to change the world with avant-garde obscurities, they’re simply enjoying the time they have while they’re here.
And maybe, if we happen upon them at just the right time, they’ll play a couple of songs for us that fill the spaces between our own playing … and looking …and listening.
The Dave Elke & Greg D’Augelli Trio performs on Saturday nights from around 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Christian Michael’s for the remainder of January, and perhaps more in the future.