"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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Moe Koffman

06 Apr 2002

It was the fall of 1997, I think, when the Moe Koffman Quintet played at the old Waterloo theatre. I imagine he came to promote Devil's Brew which had been released a couple months earlier, but really -- how many jazz fans are there in Waterloo? Enough to pack the theatre, as it turns out.

Bernie Senensky on piano, a laconic Ed Bickert on guitar, Moe on flute and sax. I wish I had the name of their drummer handy, because he was pretty fabulous, playing solos that could teach you what a drum solo is supposed to sound like: not a cacophony of bangs and crashes, but a composition under control. Very nice indeed. I barely remember a thing they played, though it was probably mostly off the CD, but I remember it being crisp and sparkling, if you can imagine what those words might means when it comes to music. The pieces went on with a life of their own that they never seem to take on when you hear them at home. It's always different live, always a bit more intricate, a bit more challenging, like a novel is to a short story, or feast is to a snack. 

Between sets, Moe hung out at the back, near the bar, and happily autographed CDs. It looked like he had time for anyone who wanted to say hello.

I heard him play "the medley of his hit" ("Swinging Shepherd Blues") and he made no bones about how people didn't recognize him until they made that connection. "Oh! You're the guy who did that song." Yeah.

The Waterloo Theatre had recently been a cinema, and so the stage ran pretty much from wall to wall. After they played their last number, Moe went to the mike and said something like, "This is the part where you applaud, and we hide in the wings and pretend we're going away, and then we come back and play an encore. But there are no wings here, so we're just going to play the encore." The audience loved it. One more tune that stretches on and on, them on stage, and you in the audience, with them for every note, hoping it will last all night, knowing that it never does.