My friend Ellen asked me several times last year, “What are you doing on Sunday evenings? If you are not working, I would love for you to come hear a great jazz band.” Knowing I had one thing or another on my schedule, I made a commitment to come at some point. After many attempts, I was finally able to get a Sunday free.
What I thought was an invitation to hear a great jazz band turned out to be an invitation to not only hear a great band but to become part of a closely knitted group of loyal jazz lovers who felt more like family.
Eat located in the Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel on Sunday nights from 5-8. The band started by the late trombonist Louis Brown is considered a Nashville institution and has been performing traditional jazz and swing on Sunday evenings since 1991. The band has moved from one venue to another but with the help of a very devoted group of regular attendees, the band formerly known as The Original Nashville Sunday Afternoon Jazz Band has been playing at its current location for the last several years.
My first visit was unannounced. I popped into Eat with a friendly hello to the surprise and delight of Ellen. She quickly introduced me to several individuals who embraced me warmly. After initial greetings, I began to recognize a few folks whom I knew from other encounters. As I was seated at an end table, I was handed a pristine white cloth by a young woman named Gail.
“This will help you get into the swing” Gail told me as she made sure I was okay. Two songs later, I understood exactly what she meant. When the band started playing an old favorite of the crowd, everyone began waving their cloths and singing along.
Gail reached over and pulled an item from her bag. Like magic, an elaborate parasol opened, and Gail started a second line around the room as the band kicked up the sound two notches. As if on cue, others joined in twirling their parasols. They were second lining as if Lowes Vanderbilt Plaza borrowed the French Quarter from the streets of New Orleans. Not one to miss a good second line when I can, I marched, whirled and twirled with the best second liners in Nashville. When the song ended and the band took a break, I sat down delighted but breathlessly as if I had run a country mile. When Ellen whispered to me that Gail was 93 and was just getting started for the night, I was speechless for a few seconds. Determined to keep up with dancers, I took a gulp of water and got ready to follow Gail’s lead. What a night!
When the band stopped playing at exactly eight, I had become an official member of the fan club of the Nashville Sunday Jazz Band.
The cover charge is $10. Eat's menu is great and reasonably priced. And Gail leads the line every time.
(See ya there!)