Wes Montgomery

Modern music wasn’t doing it for me, so I had a new Wes album playing all night. The Hammond was singing and Wes was doing his octave thing, both lending themselves to a more laid-back drive.

A regular called from a place on the square. The bars were closing, and it had been a good night for him—he just found out a local paper had named him as favorite hip-hop artist of the year. He asked to stop for pizza on the way home, picked up his slices, and got back in the cab.

I motioned at the radio and looked back. “Do you like jazz?”

“I sing jazz.”

I asked when and where. Turns out jazz isn’t dying in town like I thought.

The bar crowd died down and things shifted to the morning hotel-to-airport runs.

My last call was a man getting in at the Hilton.

“I like your music.” Wes was still playing, of course.

The man and his wife had a child late in life and bought a piano with hopes the kid would play. When that failed, he decided to make use of it on his own. Never interested in playing for other people, he kept practicing classical piano pieces. We talked about Bach and Grieg. When it came to jazz, he knew nothing except he liked what I had playing. I pointed him toward a couple books, but I’m sure he’ll just stick with what he’s been doing.

Two nights later, the day of the opening game of the season, I picked up two former jocks who’d been out with buddies. They’d were feeling good after drinks all day and a win for the home team.

“I love this music, man.” This from the tall skinny one with gray hair. It was his refrain throughout the ride.

Talk shifted to music, them betting I wouldn’t know who they were talking about.

“You look like Peter Frampton, man.” Again from the tall one.

“More like Jerry Garcia.” Always with the Garcia comparison.

We dropped the shorter guy off and pulled back out of the driveway.

“Can you believe that? He only gave you ten dollars?” This on what turned out to be a sixty dollar ride, though half was covered by the voucher from the state tavern league.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, man. I love my friend, but he’s such an Italian, if you know what I mean.”

I stopped for a minute and laughed to myself. “Actually, I’m not quite sure what you mean.”

“You know, the way he acts.”

By this time, we were driving through farmland.

“It’s the next right.”

“You mean this driveway?”

“No. Keep going it’s right here.”

What else can you expect from a drunk.

After driving past and doubling back, I got him to his driveway. He payed, tipped even, and stepped out of the cab.

“You’ve got great music, man.”

“Thanks. It’s Wes Montgomery.”

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