You never forget your first night at the Blue Note in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
18 years or so ago, I stepped into the Blue Note and I was never the same again.
I was at the Blue Note to see Cleo Laine and John Dankworth perform. I was honored to be the invited guest of Kurt Gebaur — the Dankworth’s longtime friend, record producer, and famous manager.
I was feting my own gang of two new friends from the NEC Pager division that night and we were all delighted to watch Cleo and John bring it forth on stage. Here they are in 1965 in a classic performance of Oh, Lady Be Good:
The Blue Note was intimate and smoky — you could still smoke indoors in those days — and the second Cleo opened her mouth to sing everyone in the joint stopped jumping as our mouths fell open in unison in awe of her incredible voice.
The lesson Cleo and John taught us that night is that there are singers and then there are expert performers. You enjoy singers. Expert performers change the very essence of who you are and what you were meant to be.
Once you hear Cleo sing, everyone else who tempts the same effort wholly pales in direct comparison, and you begin to wonder how a society can place more value on spectacle over substance — and then you realize if a realignment of expectation is ever going to happen, it must start with you with a dedication and strength that not only rivals the on stage passion of John and Cleo, but ultimately surpasses it.