January 30, 2011

A little traveling music...

My daughter had gotten us tickets at Yoshi's for the 70th birthday concert of Bobby Hutcherson, the famous jazz vibe musician. Yoshi's is a restaurant and a jazz club at Jack London Square in Oakland in two separate rooms.  The restaurant offers an excellent nouveau Japanese/California cuisine in a lively atmosphere with impeccable service.  It's family style service in a high class way.  The food presentation is highly artistic but not unapproachable.  It's as a much a delight as is the taste of the food.  We were hungry and found ourselves eating perhaps a bit too quickly, but the food was so delicious, we couldn't see a reason to dawdle.

Here's how it works.  You order tickets for the concert, probably on line and you state whether you'll dine first and you get a dinner reservation too.  When you show up, you get your concert tickets at the will-call counter and then take them over to the restaurant entry counter where they give you a reserved seat for the concert.  So you are shown in to your place in the restaurant.  It's a huge place and crowded, full of life but not overbearingly loud.  After you order, the service becomes invisible.  Even with such a crowded place, not one thing was forgotten nor were we rushed, nor do the wait staff appear to be rushed.  They move quietly and invisibly, always our next dish appearing with exquisite timing.

When it's time for the concert, you make your way to the entry to the jazz club, get your hand stamped so you can go back and forth to the restroom.  You have already been given a small map of the room with your number on it so you simply weave your way through the crowd to your seat.  The room is set up like a night club with small tables and chairs closest to the stage.  The next semi circle is a row of booths, the most sought after seating, then the next two row areas are more table and chairs and then bar stool chairs at the very back.  Truly there are no bad seats in the whole house, just some of them more comfortable.

We lucked out and were seated in a booth next to Bobby Hutcherson's in-group.  Also, we shared our booth with the bass player's dentist.  When the musicians came on stage it was obvious that Hutcherson was using oxygen, suffering from long-standing emphysema.  He didn't stand very often to perform and when he did it was for short periods and then he seemed relieved to sit down again.  Don't think that he wasn't wonderful nevertheless.  His touch on the vibes is sweet and his timing gorgeous.  He had a guest guitarist, Anthony Wilson, who has to e the best guitarist I've ever heard.  He was really the star of the night with Bobby Hutcherson overtones, but there was nothing lacking at all.  With Joe Gilman on piano, Glenn Richman on bass, and Eddie Marshall on drums, you couldn't go wrong.  If you want to catch all five on an album, WISE ONE is the album to get.

Aside from wanting to hear jazz, I wanted to go there because the place is owned (at least in part) by Akiba Roshi's wife.  Akiba Roshi is the former Bishop of the North American Soto Zen Education and International Center.  The important thing to me about this is that it makes the people who live Zen life a bit more real, living in a world of activity, doing interesting things.  Akiba Roshi certainly believes deeply in monastic training, but his wife is not a monastic.  Nevertheless, he lives beside her in this endeavor and together they go forward in the world.  He obviously has no restrictions on what women can or can't do in the public sphere.

I had such a great time and felt my world expanded in such a vibrant atmosphere.