I don’t remember the when I first heard Jack Sheldon play. I started going to Jax in 1996. I wasn’t a huge jazz fan then, I just liked the old-school, east coast feel of the little place. It was nicely tucked away on Brand Blvd., just a few blocks from Disney’s corporate offices in Glendale. I would schedule my meetings at the corporate offices for late in the afternoon so I could grap a cocktail and go home after.
Here’s how I remember it. I had come in with my friend Frank. I was already a regular at the little pub and occasionally I would bring a friend with me to share the magic. We were there to chat, we sat at the far end of the bar, furthest from the band – so we could hear one another. In the middle of our conversation, Frank said, “sshh, do you hear that?” I gave him a baffled glance. “That, who is playing the trumpet?” I nodded and said, “Good aren’t they?” I had heard them play before, I had been coming there for a year or so and knew there was always good music at Jax. “No, you don’t understand, to make the trumpet sound like that…” That’s when I stopped and listened. It was no longer background music or ambiance. Jack can make the trumpet sing in a way I have never heard before. Even today, 25-years later I’ve never heard anyone play the trumpet like Jack – they call it West Coast Jazz style, but I think it comes from his soul.
After that night, I started paying more attention to the band and when Jack was playing. Over the years I became a Jack Sheldon fan…showing up every time he was on the schedule and travelling to hear him play at other venues.
When I would be traveling or be out of town for work – missing a Thursday night with Jack, I would often come to Jax directly from the airport. Walking into the bar from the alley entrance and hearing Jack on stage singing and blowing his trumpet, it felt like coming home. I loved walking in there and hearing Jack’s voice. Jack has a wonderful voice. I know he’s a world-renowned trumpet player, but I think I would choose to hear him sing over play.
I felt honored to be able to hear him play for so many years. He’s since stopped performing regularly, but he still puts on a birthday performance at the Catalina Club in Hollywood in November.
I will leave you with this . . . whenever I think of Jack, this is the Jack I remember. Fun, smiling, and enjoying the music and the people around him.