Calibrations | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Far removed from his kinfolk, the Calibrator spent his first Thanksgiving in South Florida with seven new friends on the ninth floor of a high-rise apartment building somewhere along the beach in Hollywood. Musically it was a splendid day all around.

Back in Pennsylvania, holiday music in Mother Calibrator's house might mean some Elvis gospel or Mantovani strings. Or it might mean Barry Manilow or some crooner heavily influenced by the dated pop musings of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Mother C. has always had some pretty tame musical tastes. At least her boy thought so for all the years it took to make his way through the thorny brambles of childhood and adolescence.

Sniveling wimp that he is, the Calibrator missed his mama this year. The upshot, however, of that particular heartache is that he had the opportunity to spend a holiday not just with new friends, but with new music.

Different moments and sounds come to mind: Sarah Vaughan and that lovely voice of hers swinging through a melodic jazz standard; Sam Cooke recorded live at some club in Miami in 1963, singing "Chain Gang" and "Cupid"; and the sweetest moments of all, Frank Sinatra, backed by the Nelson Riddle string quartet, singing a lonesome, wistful, blue ballad called "With Every Breath I Take."

They were beautiful moments, and the Calibrator scratches his head trying to figure out what they all add up to. Some nights he wonders why anyone would ever have bothered to bang on a drum or lift a voice in song in the first place. Surely whoever sang the first tune in history must have been looked on by his fellow tribespersons as a dangerous lunatic. And now, eons later, most anyone can throw on a record of Sinatra singing the blues and see what the lunatics were after and that they were right all along. Of course that doesn't change the enduring fact that any normal schlep who happens to break out in song in a public place for no apparent reason is still looked upon as a potentially dangerous psychopath. Strange, isn't it? One must never breach the haughty constraints of normal social behavior.

The Calibrator was eloquently reminded by one of his new friends that there are many venues in which to hear music. One of them is within the relative privacy of your own home. Generally that isn't a venue music writers are paid to consider, and that is probably just as it should be. On the other hand, it is in people's homes that they share the music about which they are most passionate. Likewise home is one of the great, unheralded venues where we get to hear new sounds and entertain new ideas. The Calibrator brings this up only because that's what happened to him on Thanksgiving this year, and he thought it might have some resonance with the dozen or so readers who regularly peruse this column. And, now, back to our regularly scheduled news….

The Board Room Restaurant and Jazz Club opened in Palm Beach County nearly three weeks ago. We'll save the restaurant critique for another day and, for now, just say that the room is quite spacious and tastefully appointed. Also, the tuna salad is to die for.

Essentially the jazz club is a glass-enclosed atrium outside the restaurant. Both the restaurant and club are located within the confines of 1 Boca Place, a colossal office complex a quarter-mile west of I-95 off the Glades Road exit. It can be a bit vexing finding the Board Room for the first time, but if you have the desire to try and an ear for one of the area's better jazz ensembles, here's what you'll see and hear when you get there.

Seventeen small, round tables are scattered about the atrium. Most are placed around a running fountain that itself surrounds a tall piece of modern sculpture. The ceiling of the room is four stories above its floor. Sound tends to fly all over in such a cavernous place.

There are two monster ficus trees in the atrium. One of them rises up from the middle of the room's four-sided bar. Nearby is the small, floor-level stage, on the corner of which sits a shiny, black Schumann baby grand piano. Since few clubs -- jazz or otherwise -- carry a house piano anymore, the Schumann adds a distinctive touch of class to an already dignified room.

Don Miller's Bass Station featuring Selina Baker is the house band at the Board Room. Composed of local jazz veterans -- Miller on acoustic and electric bass, Reggie Smith on drums, Felix Gomez on piano and keyboards, and budding diva Baker on vocals -- the quartet was assembled by Miller three years ago to work as the house band at Smugglers, a now-defunct club on Las Olas Boulevard. The Bass Station has kept sharp since its run at Smugglers ended by playing whatever random gigs pop up in the area.

The band can be simply mesmerizing. The finely woven interplay among the three instrumentalists nearly knocked the Calibrator off his feet the other night. Miller describes the band's repertoire as "mainstream classic jazz with some contemporary stuff in there somewhere." Whatever it is, Baker has the voice for the material. Unfortunately a room with a couple glass walls and a ceiling that reaches four stories high is no place to achieve perfect vocal fidelity. Adjustments will be made. Until then, if you don't mind your jazz a bit heavy on the natural reverb, the Board Room and the Bass Station will get you pleasantly through the night.

-- David Pulizzi

Send whatever ya got that's sweet and juicy to Calibrations, P.O. Box 14128, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302 or e-mail [email protected].