Cecil Ramirez & Me in The Jazz Baroness Room!
A few weeks ago, I discovered an old friend from a past life lived and lost in the mists of time. At first glance, we have little in common. He is Filipino and lives in sunny Sacramento, whereas I am French-Canadian and live in the alternately frosty and balmy environs of Boston. He is married with grown children, and I am unmarried with a cat. (Not that I live alone—I’d never live alone! Who would I blame for all of those hairs clogging the shower drain? The cat?)
He is none other than Cecil Ramirez, the smooth jazz pianist whose Party in the Back was recently number 3 in the UK!
Cecil Ramirez and Jamme Chantler in the Jazz Baroness Room of Thelonious Monkfish.
I’d first run into Cecil while researching pianos for The Jazz Baroness Room. He is also the National Sales Manager for Mason & Hamlin, and we had spoken on the phone months earlier. Our topics were pianos, jazz, California and other silly things I like to bring up to lighten the mood—farts possibly. By the time we hung up, we felt like old mates, and I still feel that I betrayed Cecil by buying a Yamaha instead of a Mason & Hamlin! He doesn’t feel that way, though. He even promised to play at Thelonious Monkfish when he’s back in town.
The Jazz Baroness Roll and Wrapped Mussels at Thelonious Monkfish.
With a few hours to spare from his gig at the factory in Haverhill, he dropped in one Sunday for brunch, and we sat together listening to Yoko Miwa Trio and eating Sushi and Wrapped Mussels. Chef Ginger’s version is actually the Thai appetizer Hoy Tod spooned into crispy tacos.
Cecil loved it!
So did I, but when you’re chubby you try not to show excitement for fear someone will call out, “Hey, Fatty! Ever think of trying salads?” Meanwhile you’re romancing the plate, eyes glossing over, rolling back in your head, you’re groaning, drooling, your tastebuds aflame—the French should call this la petite mort!
I love Cecil’s enthusiasm for food and song and friendship! He loved the Yoko Miwa Trio. He wrote about them on Facebook: “Yoko has serious chops; she is a piano professor at Berklee College of Music. Had a great talk about piano styles, listening repertoire, album promotion, etc. with Yoko and her husband, Scott, who is the drummer. The trio is tight, great arrangements and performance.”
Cecil and I spoke of a time at the Music Conservatory when he was sitting in piano tutorial and bored out of his gourd.
The professor asked him, “What’s going on with you?”
Cecil expressed his lack of interest in the music.
“Well, what do you want to play?”
“Jazz!” Cecil replied.
So the teacher took a seat at the piano and played with expression many of the famous jazz compositions that Cecil loved. Cecil was stunned! He hadn’t thought it possible to play both classical and jazz!
They made a deal. So long as Cecil met his obligations by learning to play required repertoire, his teacher would teach him jazz on the side.
Cecil and I discussed our shared passion for melodic improvisation, my love for Miles Davis, and my abhorrence of saxophones that screech like geese when you wring their necks.
Put another way: Naima, Yes! Giant Steps, Hell No!
Do I show my musical ignorance here? Perhaps, but playing Giant Steps in The Jazz Baroness Room—a listening room for jazz loving diners—is like crying fire in a crowded theater! Even the kitchen staff would scatter willy nilly through doors and windows and cracks in the walls!
After brunch, we spoke of how most artwork represents a striving for beauty and joy. Nowadays, most people don’t think this way. Instead, they think that music and art are ways to satisfy the need for self-expression, for individuation—Mommy, look it! I made a movie! I sang a song! I made a book! I made a picture! I made a poopie!
There is a natural tendency in all of us to create; and creating brings us joy! And the perception of beauty in nature and art leads to a transcendent sense of connection with things around us and lends a deeper sense of meaning to our lives. I’ve experienced this myself–once in Santa Fé, New Mexico where I was a busboy on break at sunset staring at a tree in the courtyard of La Casa Sena Restaurant.
So this was what we talked about, across dirty dishes and empty glasses, bopping to Yoko’s piano and Scott’s drums! And this is why I love him because Cecil goes with the flow—the flow of song, the flow of wine, the flow of words and the flow of friendship.
And he likes my silly jokes!
The Jazz Baroness Room featuring a full bar and a new Yamaha C6X! (photo taken by Derek Rubinoff, architect who designed the space.)
“I’m proud of you!” he said and expressed delight over the design of The Jazz Baroness Room! “You said you would, and you did!”
As my friend Mo would say, “He’s a brothah from anothah mothah!”
I wish that you were here, gentle reader. What would you and I talk about over Chive Potstickers and Monk’s Dream Roll, chopsticks in hand?
If you’d like to read more about Cecil Ramirez, his website is at: www.cecilramirez.com.