The Rent is Paid!

And our other bills are all up to date!  That’s a first for quite a long time, and we have the community to thank for it.

This past Saturday’s “Rent Party” — a 10-hour bebop concert/jam that turned out the bookshop’s neighborhood patrons in substantial numbers — was a huge success.  All of the store’s rent for November was covered by straight-out donations and substantial sales on the day of the event, so the money we started out the day with was available to cover the rest of our bills and get us caught up again.

I only wish everyone “feeling the pinch” could garner such assistance from those close by.  I well realize how lucky we are to be in a position to ask for and receive such massive help in a difficult time.  Do you wish you could help all the little businesses in the neighborhood as easily as helping us?  Throw a little extra business their way this week, and it will make a difference!

As for Bird & Beckett, the community has been incredible through all these years for their obvious goodwill towards the shop and its proprietor and staff, and for their determined support.  One day, maybe all the world will catch on to the value of working consciously to maintain a healthy center in all the little neighborhoods we inhabit.

SF Poet Laureate (emerita) Diane di Prima reads from "Poems are Angels" with Stu Pilorz, sax and Don Alberts, piano

Famed beat poet (& recent San Francisco Poet Laureate) Diane di Prima reads from Poems are Angels with Stu Pilorz, trombone and Don Alberts, piano  —  click on photo to enlarge, and use your browser’s “back” button to return to the post.

I have some work to do in order to reconstruct the day in my memory — in terms of letting you know what musicians played, how many there were all told, etc.  I took good notes for the first half and then forgot all about doing that as the day got more and more exciting.  Highlights certainly included the attendance of Diane di Prima (SF Poet Laureate Emeritus) and her improvisatory reading from a new collection called Poems are Angels in counterpoint and collaboration with the quintet on stage at midday, as well as guest performances on piano by Larry Dunlap and Benny Green — two hugely respected talents; the stunning vocals of Sandra Aran and Jesse Foster; and the reading of several marvelous pieces by poet David Meltzer late in the day.

Michael Parsons, piano; Bishu Chatterjee, bass; Jimmy Ryan, drums; Harvey Robb, tenor sax

Michael Parsons, piano; Bishu Chatterjee, bass; Jimmy Ryan, drums; Harvey Robb, tenor sax

But listing these individuals and moments tends to obscure the superb work by many musicians who are heard at Bird & Beckett often and who made a special effort to turn out for this, bringing along colleagues who had never been in the shop but who had been hearing about it enough that they didn’t hesitate to play for free on our behalf.

No discussion of Saturday’s 10-hour concert at Bird & Beckett can be sufficient without naming these musicians who have come to frequent our stage over the years and who played with superb enthusiasm over the course of the day:  Chuck Peterson, Scott Foster, Don Prell, Jimmy Ryan, Dorothy Lefkovits, Bishu Chatterjee, Michael Parsons, Harvey Robb, Don Alberts, Charles Thomas, Howard Dudune, Dean Reilly, Tony Johnson, Jerry Logas, Henry Hung, Rick Elmore, Jon Frank, Stu Pilorz, N. J. Jaramillo, Sandra Aran.  There were also a number of new and nearly new (to us) talents, including drummer Jeff Weinmann, bassists Ollie Dudek & Rob Woodcock, vocalist Jesse Foster, guitarist Jordan Samuels, and singer Kim Gill.

During the day, other renowned musicians like Vince Lateano and Noel Jewkes passed through and donated funds without trying to crowd the stage; some, like Ron Marabuto sent checks, and many stalwart supporters simply couldn’t make it, much as they’d have liked to, due to the demands of other gigs.

Glen Park audiences can be proud that the welcome they afford such musicians is so very much appreciated by the musicians themselves.

Easily the most thrilling surprise in a long day of terrifically gratifying performances was when a neighbor, the recording engineer Gary Mankin (who runs his own studio in Glen Park), appeared late in the afternoon and told me he’d been working that afternoon with Benny Green, cleaning up some pieces of live recordings for a forthcoming CD, and had told Benny as they were finishing up the day’s work about the Bird & Beckett rent party in swing down in the Village.  When Gary asked me if I’d like Benny to play, I could hardly say no to that! 

I’d been fretting that we were hitting a spot in the day without a piano or guitar and that it was going to be a challenge to get through it, and then, here’s Benny Green — a guy who merits an excited notice in the New Yorker any time he’s booked to play a Big Apple jazz venue and gets a spread in Downbeat when there’s a new album to review…

Benny, who just recently turned 50, grew up in Berkeley and was well schooled in jazz at Berkeley High, toured for four years with Betty Carter in the mid-1980s and following that experience joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  He’s worked steadily and at an extremely high level for 35 years in the music, with more than a dozen albums as a leader and countless recordings as a sideman for many of the top artists in jazz.  And here he was at Bird & Beckett playing as “just one of the cats” alongside Don Prell and Jimmy Ryan, two veterans who started their careers in the music more than a couple of decades before Benny was born, as well as saxophone colossus Jerry Logas and astrophysicist/trombonist Stu Pilorz from up on Congo Street…

I was a little concerned that gaps might materialize during the day when we’d be lacking a bassist or a chordal instrument like piano or guitar, but those gaps never came.  Just when a hole looked like it was about to open up, along would come a fantastic musician to fill it.

Scott Foster, guitar; Jimmy Ryan, drums; Charles Thomas, bass; Ray Loeckle, tenor sax; Stu Pilorz, trombone

Scott Foster, guitar; Jimmy Ryan, drums; Charles Thomas, bass; Ray Loeckle, tenor sax; Stu Pilorz, trombone

Just another Saturday at Bird & Beckett!  One that yielded $3,500 or so to get our rent paid for another month plus a whole lot of donations to the non-profit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project, which helps sustain the music here year round. 

I only wish I could name here all the individuals who donated directly during the day and before and after — and those who found other ways to support the event and the store’s longevity. Thanks to all of you!

We’re really proud to be creating an example here– very proud to be giving dedicated, serious musicians and writers a place to connect directly and intimately with people (you!) over an extended period of time.  Keep in mind, the music has been happening here in Glen Park for a decade-plus!  Anyway, their willingness to turn out to perform for free in support of the shop indicates how much they appreciate our respect for them and our efforts to give them a good venue, and how much they appreciate the audiences that assemble for them– just as the community’s outpouring of support indicates their appreciation for the culture they find here at the shop.

So much mutual respect among such a large group of people seems a rarity, but is very real and tangible.

Don Alberts, piano; Howie Dudune, alto sax; Tony Johnson, drums; Dean Reilly, bass; Chuck Peterson (tenor sax)

Don Alberts, piano; Howie Dudune, alto sax; Tony Johnson, drums; Dean Reilly, bass; Chuck Peterson (tenor sax)