What possessed me to visit the Greenwich Tavern to see a quintet led by vibraphonist King Reeves and pianist Charlie Wilson almost 15 years ago I can’t say. I hadn’t heard their music yet, and I didn’t know any of the band members. So why did I go?
Maybe Kenny, a bartender at the Greenwich, hipped me to the event, which would make sense, as his enthusiasm for jazz is infectious. And maybe the fact that the vibraphone had become one of my favorite instruments had an influence.
In any case I attended the concert, where a good-sized crowd was quite vocal in its support, the cries of enthusiasm punctuating the music and inspiring the band to new heights. The quintet was on fire, and the vibes-piano duets by King Reeves and Charlie Wilson so much engaged the audience that the performance became a conversation between the musicians and the crowd.
That was nice to witness, but the concert that evening was also a bit of a head scratcher. I wondered how, when every jazz club in Cincinnati had seen its share of nearly empty rooms, so many people made it out that evening. Clearly this was a well-connected group of middle-aged and older black people who knew a great jazz group when they heard one; entering that room, I felt like I was let in on a well-kept secret. At the same time I found it interesting that music that engaging could be so obscure, and even on a local level. Talking to band members after the show, I learned that King Reeves and Charlie Wilson played very few gigs but wanted more. Later, when I asked around town, few of the jazz fans I talked to had heard of these musicians, and fewer yet had seen them.