To get the drift of this segment, you’ll have to back up a post or two on this blog . . .
If the Robin’s Egg would fail, Martin Fletcher could go on. His other resources were sufficient, if not comfortable. The club, though it “made money,” actually did very little for his personal balance sheet or lifestyle. He lived simply in a townhouse eleven miles from the club and had never been troubled by an urge to overspend. There were months at a time when his investments dipped with the market and he held his breath, but there had always been oil in the vase and bread and butter in the kitchen.
He owed nothing on the club itself and despite the decay in the area roundabout, if the club ever closed, the building would eventually sell. It had been someone’s idea of a grand house originally, and it could be at least a shadow of that again. It would take time to sell and the right buyer would have to come along, but that would eventually happen and Martin’s life would change very little, day to day.
Others, Fletcher knew, would be more deeply affected. First, there was David Davis, the club’s saxophonist. Fletcher remembered distinctly his first meeting with Davis. Thirty-five years ago and Davis a young man, then. He came to the club in the middle of the day when Fletcher was at his desk, paying the bills. Do you need a horn player here? the handsome young man had asked. Fletcher had responded that such was not his call, that the young man would have to take it up with Ron Thomas, the piano-playing leader of the trio that was then regular there, The Night Tones.
The kid waited on the porch till Thomas showed up at five that afternoon and made his pitch and got approval to bring his horn immediately and they’d sit down right now, before hours, and see how things worked between them.
Things worked fine. Fletcher could hear it all from the office.
You know In a Sentimental Mood? Thomas asked.
I know enough to follow along; fill in.
And Thomas began with the first, delicate chords, high up on the keyboard, laying open the change for the melody. He played them slower than usual, Fletcher believed, perhaps to give the candidate time to collect himself, time to put a riff together. But the kid did not play a riff or a fill or a long note to bridge things until Thomas would articulate the first phrases of the melody. No. The kid actually played the melody. That first, unmistakable phrase, his sweet notes, up and down, singing every syllable: In a Sen-ti-men-tal Moooood. The kid held the last note long and Thomas, again on the high keys, sprinkled starlight on soul. The kid had played it slow, slower even than Thomas had started, but not because he needed time to think. No. He played it slow to let the song breathe, to let its poem speak and its emotion penetrate, and it felt as if the whole club had been built for that very sound, as if the day and hour called for these very notes and no other.