Probably the greatest homage available to the heavy-duty jazz aficionado is to have a tune written for you. Mort Fega, The Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, and yours truly are among the select few so honoured.
I stopped by O’Doul’s, my neighbourhood bar which features jazz nightly, one summer evening about five years ago. Vocalist Karin Plato was on the bandstand that night. Bill Coon was on guitar and I don’t remember who else was playing. Probably Darren Radtke on bass and Dave Robbins on drums. Karin was halfway through the last tune of the set when I sat down at the bar and got my usual Hophead India Pale Ale. Song ends, a smattering of applause. I’m sitting close enough to the stage to hear Karin tell Bill,
“I’m gonna sit down and have a drink with Brian.”
“Ah, a libation with Nation,” Bill observed.
Apparently Bill decided there and then that he was going to make a song title out of it. Six months later I went to hear Bill’s trio at the Cellar and midway through his set he mentions me, points in my direction, forcing me to rise a couple of inches out of my seat nodding vaguely at the room, and launches into this great little bluesy, mid-tempo swinging number, Libation with Nation. Maybe six months after that he puts out Speakeasy, with Libation the tenth track on side one. (There only is a side one. We used to get two sides. How is that progress?) I guess it was a popular number with jazz disc jockeys because the thing is played all the time. I get phone calls from friends saying they heard me mentioned on CBC or wherever and heard the tune.
Well, I thought I’d gone as high as you could get as a jazz fan and I might as well just die now but the best was yet to come. Karin played a concert the following year and after her third or fourth number stopped to thank everyone for coming out, etc., and also thanked a few friends and others who’s helped her one way or another putting on this show and when she got to my name Bill, who happened to be in the band that night, broke into a little background Libation with Nation. It was exactly like when Bob Hope walked out on a stage the band would play the opening bars of Thanks for the Memories!
I’ve got a theme song, man.
You can hear a sample of Libation with Nation here. And while you’re on that page you might as well buy the album because it’s really quite excellent.