In early November of 2001, my then-Girl and I took the morning Amtrak from DC and walked from Penn Station down to Ground Zero. The city was still in mourning. We paid our respects at the smoldering ruins.
It was bitterly cold that afternoon as we zig-zagged toward Uptown through Chinatown and Little Italy. We had espressos at Umberto's Clam House. In Greenwich Village in the early evening, I stopped in my tracks when I unexpectedly saw "Charlie Watts Tentet" on the Blue Note's marquee.
This fortuitous encounter had to be dealt with.
We paid our money, got out of the cold, and had steak, potatoes, and martinis. After dinner, the jazz orchestra took the stage and Charlie was as happy as a pig in mud. I had seen the Stones a couple of times, but this was the first time Charlie looked like he was actually having fun. The set was terrific, a boisterous yet reverent mixture of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis covers.
The boozy warmth of the Blue Note and the brassy bliss of both the performers and the audience was 180-degrees from the cold and suffering outside. The encore was Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train." Immediately recognizing the melody, the audience exploded in appreciation.
Charlie showed his love for New York that night. It went both ways.
Cole Coonce is a videographer and a contributing writer at Hot Rod magazine. He's been a contributing writer at Men's Journal and the LA Weekly.
Take the A Train With Journal of the Plague Years