Smokin’

A couple of notes before I get to the heart of the matter: First, it feels spectacular to return to a regular schedule. I’ll be catching up on topics that accumulated in the interim. Subjects will include “Wish I Could … Read All Day,” “Gross National Happiness,” Salmon Dijon and excavating email.

Second, a quick update about the Ya-Yas. Sunday’s NY Times brought a fascinating essay on the international flavor of the candidates for the National Book Awards. Liesl Schillinger tied in Obama’s Nobel and last year’s criticism from the literature committee about the insularity of American fiction. Schillinger concluded that to the contrary, American fiction is world fiction. After surveying the field, she acknowledged that there are limits to the cosmopolitan view: “By the same token, why should anyone be surprised if the Middle East couldn’t care less about the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and its divine secrets…?” Poor Ya-Yas. They don’t play in Persia.

Now on to the main event. We had a hot time Saturday night at Cypress Grill when Kitty Kathryn performed with her Circle of Friends. This concert was all jazz, all the time – not the mélange of blues, rock, jazz and pop that she performed in the summer. That was good, but this was better). Kitty charmed the audience with a few stories about her days performing at the Monte Green and a wild trip to New York. And she charmed us even more with her soulful renditions of jazz classics – including my request, “God Bless the Child.”

Her circle of friends included a favorite, Paul Brown, on bass. The man is a genius of performance with a firm rhythm that can carry the tune and improvise off into the stratosphere. “The Professor” has been a leading light in the Hartford music scene for years. I’ve been enjoying his performances since the 880 was hoppin’ in the South End in the early 1990s. He also helped Jackie and Dollie McLean found the Artists Collective and on his own started the wonderful Bushnell Park Monday Night Jazz Series that is one of the best venues for jazz in the area.

I can’t give the names the rest of Kitty’s circle of friends, the sax player, the piano player or the drummer because she didn’t introduce them, except to say, “How about Baby Girl on the drums?” She wasn’t a baby, but she was certainly young enough to be the daughter or granddaughter of the rest of the ensemble.

The only stumble was the rendition of “Girl From Ipanema.” The key was too high for Kitty’s otherwise versatile voice, and the band didn’t seem to keep it together on the beat.

Everything else about the evening was spectacular, including the huge dinner we ate before hand with friends Nancy and Harvey at Puerto Villarta. I had quesadillas, figuring that it would be a smaller portion than other offerings. But no, they arrived loaded with zucchini, squash, carrots, mushrooms, bell pepper, onions, tomatoes and spinach on top of the cheese. Along the  edge of the plate, they piled quacamole, sour cream, lettuce and tomato. I managed to eat about half. Larry ate even less with his Burrito Vallarta – a single burrito stuffed – and they do mean stuffed – with crab, shrimp and chicken, topped with mushroom sauce, avocados, tomatoes and sour cream, and served with rice and beans. Harv and Nancy struggled through theirs as well.

OK, I’m reading this over and it’s getting close to dinner. Time to heat the leftovers!

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