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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jazzy night at Harmonious Monks

                                 The TBA Jazz Band

      My intrepid 80-something mother-in-law picked us up Monday night for another evening of jazz.  She knows when and where it's played and she is almost always there.  One of her spots is Harmonious Monks at 10550 Old St. Augustine Road.  Every other Monday night, a 19 piece jazz band plays loud and well there. The group calls itself TBA (to be arranged) band. The membership of professors, teachers, and students fluctuates a little each performance.  They are young and old, all male and, all very experienced musicians.
       On the Monday we were there, the musicians sat in three rows:  a row of 5 saxophones, a row of 3 trombones, and a row of 4 trumpets.  The drummer sat on a platform at the top, the bass player was up there near him and the keyboard was to their left.  If you add this, you see some of the 19 were not present that night.
        My mother-in-law pointed out that they all had sheet music and played by note, even the drummer.  So this is not improvisational jazz.  They played as a group, as soloist, and as small groups and the drum and bass kept up all the way.  The music was very danceable and one brave couple did get up and dance in front of a row of tables, but basically, there was not room for more than one couple.
        The musicians enjoyed themselves and the audience did too.  The group plays for tips and the bucket was passed several times.
         We had dinner there as did most of the patrons.  We thought our waiter looked like a monk in casual clothes.  He was short, a little round, balding and very cheerful and happy.  Harmonious Monks, so the legend goes (I take it with a grain of sea salt), is based on Brother Dennis, who in 1662 was expelled from an abbey in Westminster England.  He liked to celebrate life and loved great food and strong drink.  He was expelled from his abbey for having a little too much fun.
         Later, he travelled to Canterbury, built an abbey with an inn attached to it.  He enjoyed serving locals and travelers food and drink.  At the end of the evening, the monks sang for the crowd.  Their songs were beautiful and they became known as the harmonious monks.  During the Blitzkrieg of WWII, the abbey was demolished by German bombs.  There were no survivors;  only a few journals and recipes remained.
         At the Old St. Augustine Road restaurant, a huge sign hangs on the wall behind the drummer with Brother Dennis's reminder, "Celebrate Life."  Life and music are celebrated at the restaurant.  Some kind of music is happening all the time.  A Dixieland band plays on the Monday nights there is no jazz.  The waitstaff sings, there's karoke, and musical performances.

                                Play that funky saxophone


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