Monday, April 2, 2007

Scotch and Chocolate

Scott and Chris playing
Originally uploaded by belleoftheblogATL.
Where to begin describing one of the best nights of your life?

Maybe at the beginning?

Our original reason for traveling to New York this past weekend was to attend a dinner party hosted by our friend Z.

Z. is an old friend of Scott's from college, actually an old girlfriend. And a really amazing person. She's smart, beautiful, works for a prestigious magazine, and travels among New York's most urbane, sophisticated circles.

Z organized a dinner and music night for Friday evening and we couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was a unique opportunity for us to mingle with a host of individuals from the art world including photographer Dudley Reed, the painter Steve Ellis (who is also one heck of a guitar player), along with half a dozen or so other editors, gallery owners, and random famous people.

The focus of the night was on good food and great music featuring the playing of Grammy-award winning mandolin player and Nickel Creek member Chris Thile; his girlfriend C, who has the voice of an angel and plays ukulele and banjo; Scott, who played several of his new songs; and Steven, who has an extensive knowledge of American bluegrass and traditional music.

Scott and I were the first to arrive at Z's. We came bearing a bottle of Bowmore Darkest Scotch and visited with Z and her beau, W., an architect, and very good cook.

Soon the other guests began to arrive and we all began shuffling around trying to find a place to land. Scott and I ended up in a corner, opposite the front door, talking with Steven and W. about Chapel Hill, New Orleans, and, naturally, music.

We soon realized what a great decision it was to bring the Bowmore instead of the typical bottle of wine. Everyone who came in expressed curiosity about it and ended up having a glass. Including Chris Thile.

When he came in the room and was offered a glass of Scotch, he got excited and said that it was one of his favorite single malts. He was the only one who had heard of it, and as it turns out, is quite the Scotch afficianado. He gave us a quick lesson on Islay Scotch and then we settled in to talking about everything from root canals to religion.

I was a little surprised that he sort of locked in on Scott and me right away. Then, it dawned on me that we were the youngest people in the room, other than Z. and Chris's girlfriend, C.

So.....after talking and enjoying a delicious supper of chili and salad, Z. asked the musicians to gather their instruments and get to work playing.

And play they did.

It was easily, hands down, the best night of music I've ever heard in my life.

Steven played first, playing a Robert Johnson song. Then Scott played his song Vampire. Chris jumped in and played mandolin on both of them.

Ultimately, between the four musicians, over twenty songs were played, more than a couple of hours worth of music with only a 5 or 10 minute break in between. Chris and C. sang and played a cover of The Decemberists, Yankee Bayonet. I thought my heart might just disentegrate from the sheer beauty of their harmonies on the song, not to mention Chris's delicate playing.

C. also played one of her originals that just really blew me away. Her voice is really magical and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to have heard her in such an intimate setting.

And, God! Hearing and seeing Chris play like that and on Scott's songs, too! Wow! Words can't do justice to what an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience that was. There was just something chemical going on between the two of them. Chris really seemed to enjoy playing along on songs he had never heard before and which weren't nececssarily easy songs to play.

I am still having chills when I remember his performance on Still Life, especially when he and Scott harmonized.

Oh! And then, there was the Bach piece he played. One of the most moving experiences of hearing classical music I've ever had in my life. I hope he records it some day, because unfortunately, it has already begun to fade from my grasp.

Really, really, really just one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. I was so proud of Scott and the fact that Chris genuinely liked his songs and enjoyed playing with him. On one song, he said, Killer chorus! And at the end of the night, he told Scott that it had been a great experience to play with him. Naturally, Scott said the honor was his.

I'm still kind of stunned by the whole thing. Mostly by the fact of what a stand-up guy Chris Thile is and what a lovely person his girlfriend is. They may be the two sweetest people I've ever met. Not to mention two of the most talented.

I'm thrilled to have had the opportunity to be there with Scott as he had the chance to play with them. They all put on a terrific performance. It was hard to believe Scott had anything left the next night, but Saturday's performance might have been even better.

I'll write more about that later.

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