A Needed Touch of Hedonism

Life is Better with Syncopation. Spread The Word!

Certain matters of local pride in a community invariably become annoyances to particular members of that community. Twenty years ago we bought a delightful Victorian house in a not-untoward section of our city. However, one day a year it feels as if we might as well have set up housekeeping in the path of a locomotive. The occasion is a 15-kilometer footrace that wends its way through our bailiwick and which has, by some miracle of promotion, gained international renown. That race goes right by our house.
Each neighborhood is encouraged to make as much noise as possible to cheer on the runners. It has become a sort of contest in which the prize is the mere distinction of being the Noisiest. Our neighborhood always wins. We got into the spirit of it for maybe two years, after which it became a question of avoidance. The music starts playing on our street at about 6:30 a.m., and it’s not Brahms or Red Nichols. So, community pride notwithstanding, it becomes incumbent upon us to get out of town.
This year, as last year, we elected to go north to the Adirondacks. The ostensible benefit was sleeping in until nine instead of being shaken out of bed before seven. Unforeseen staircases and unfamiliar bathrooms added piquancy to the visit. Our destination was a well-known tourist trap that was still not as teeming with strangers as our usual habitat.
A genuinely positive aspect to our stay was that we discovered the musical group we encountered the year before, Annie and the Hedonists, was engaged to perform at the same nearby park in Inlet, New York. And thus a routine escape from the yearly din on our street became a real pleasure trip. I found, contrary to my temperament, that I was thoroughly enjoying myself.
The group, based around Saratoga (and which often performs there at Caffè Lena), is a vocal and instrumental quartet consisting of Annie Rosen, lead vocals; Jonny Rosen, guitar; Peter Davis, clarinet, banjo, and tenor guitar; and Don Young, string bass. Their repertoire veers from Bessie Smith and Helen Kane through LaVern Baker and Jefferson Airplane.
Peter Davis, who plays a mean clarinet and who deftly changed a string on his tenor resonator guitar during the performance, sang a version of “Old Man Mose” quite different from the mildly obscene 1938 Patricia Norman recording. (Norman’s rendition, recorded under the aegis of Eddy Duchin, was such a big seller that she became forever known as “The Old Man Mose Girl.”) Davis offered a much more family-friendly lyric, which went well as a sing-along.
Many of the selections they performed are featured on their fine 2015 album Tonal Indulgence, which we purchased at their show last year. Annie Rosen is a marvelous vocalist, whether belting out blues or doing a Betty Boop turn, and the band’s vocal harmonies are excellent. And they are well-rehearsed and consummate entertainers. Their music is a definite tonic for the weary (as an Editor may often be), providing a long-overdue elevation in mood.
We also met photographer Steve Birkeland at the show again this year, and he captured the image that accompanies this column, for which I am grateful. (Other images in his album—not reproduced here—caught your Editor unawares, occasioning the epiphany that it is time curtail my own hedonism. For that realization I am also grateful.)
All in all, the weather, the music, and the mood couldn’t have been better.
The following day, having slept as long as we dared, we arrived home at approximately the time we would be rolling down the stairs for breakfast—to find the streets happily deserted. The interlopers, having run their race and having consumed their ten o’clock beers at the finish line, left town with the same alacrity which we had done the day before.
The difference was that we got to hear a good band.

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