New is cool. But so are decades of predictable excellence. That’s what I was privileged to experience at the Refectory Jazz Night Saturday, January 28, 2012. My sister, Bobbi Fisher, and her husband Fred treated my wife, Trel, and me to a fabulous evening, combining music food and wine. Bobbi gets kudos for thinking of the idea and then giving it to my wife and me for Christmas. The Refectory hosted the evening as one of their Jazz nights, this time featuring the Dwight Lenox band.
It’s no surprise that an event hosted at the Refectory was excellent. The Refectory is one of OpenTable’s 100 Best Restaurants in America. Kamal Boulos and his team hide the effort a complicated restaurant must put forth to survive 35 years and remain among the best in one of the country’s 20 largest cities. The restaurant is so predictably good it is difficult to relate how good without sounding like you’re embellishing. Saturday’s four course Prix Fixe menu was the tops.
I expected I would enjoy the food. I’ve known Kamal for a while. What was an unexpected delight was the music. I would have enjoyed any live music Kamal allowed in the door, but Dwight Lenox and his band were excellent. This was supposed to be like a club in New York or Las Vegas. WRONG! I’ve been to live performances in both towns, and I’ve NEVER been in a setting so intimate and immersive. The room was small enough that Dwight and company freely interacted with the audience, joking and kibitzing. Dwight grew up in New York, near the Apollo, and in LA with some really great influences and it shows. We are lucky to have a great jazz gem like him in town.
In fact, Dwight Lenox’s trio was excellent and I tip my hat to them all. As a frustrated drummer, I was partial to the drums. Guy Remonko played honest to God drums, not a beat box. If you’ve seen Dave Letterman’s Drummer Week, you’ll know that his guest drummers show up with 16 or more drums PLUS assorted symbols, cow bells, blocks and of course, electronic gadgets. Guy produced amazing, but not distracting, rhythms and counterpoint with a very basic drum kit. His decades of playing and years of teaching at Ohio University show. He used every inch and both ends of the kit to produce great, subtle sounds fitting perfectly into the groove Dwight was laying down. It’s no wonder they call him “The Professor”. He produced four different “tinks” from the same symbol using the wrong end of his brushes and played for what seemed like measures at a time on the outside of the drums using the rims as just a couple of examples of his creativity. With just four drums and three symbols, Guy really improvised to get what was needed without getting in the way or making it about the drums.
So here I have to apologize to the rest of the band. Most of the audience probably didn’t notice the drums separate from the rest of the band. In the same way, I didn’t focus on the bass or piano. It all flowed together so seamlessly that it was only my interest in drums and drummers that drew my attention to Guy. So if you haven’t been to Refectory’s Jazz Night, or a Dwight Lenox show, please do go. You’ll thank me. And you can correct my oversight of what were probably world class performances by the rest of the band. Let me know what you hear!Author’s note: The “Coolumbus” tag within my blog is a response to the fact that I don’t see enough about our great city and its many cool things. So ridicule if you will, this is just my idea of what’s cool in Columbus or “Coolumbus”. Click here to read other Coolumbus posts.