Saturday, May 25, 2024

Jackie Jocko's Piano Comes Home


Today lounge pianist Jackie Jocko’s piano came home to its old location. It is sitting in the corner of the Hyatt in downtown Buffalo where it used to sit. That corner is in the lounge of the new steakhouse Johnny D’s. When Jocko played there the restaurant was called E.B. Green’s.

I am explaining all this for the benefit of non-Buffalonians. Jocko is special to us in Buffalo still, even though he has been gone for a few years now.

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Howard is going to be playing Jocko’s piano most nights of the week as we go forward. I am going to be playing it the leftover nights. I am guessing I will have the low-rent nights such as Monday and Tuesday. That is fine by me! When I worked for The Buffalo News I used to like it when they ran my columns on those days. I figured they did that to get people to read the paper on a day when they might not otherwise.

The expert piano technician Thomas Miller did the honors of moving and tuning the piano. Here it is in its new/old spot. Before he tuned it, Howard played it. I stood by the piano and listened. I grew nostalgic thinking about how many times I stood on that spot, talking with Jocko.

“Mary!” Jocko used to beckon you over to the piano. And you would stand there.

Sometimes if he had something really juicy to confide, you would sit on the piano bench with him.

Ah, the memories. They light the corners of my mind!

I played for the restaurant owner. Howard told me to do something classical so I played Chopin’s Aeolian Harp Etude. I was happy I got through it from memory! I had not expected to do this. Grand slam! Yay me! After that I played “Over the Rainbow.”

The owner loved “Over the Rainbow.”

“I like songs I know,” he said.

So, I will be playing songs he knows. That is fine by me! I love playing classical music, it’s my thing — however you have to watch what you would play in an atmosphere like this, in a beautiful restaurant. You can’t play anything too loud or, well, anything too deep. The Beethoven “Moonlight” sonata, everyone knows it, however it is just too deep to play in this environment. You don’t want to distract people from their dinners. A lot of Mozart also falls into this category. It’s quiet, it’s simple — but it’s just too deep. Maybe I could do piano treatments of a couple of arias. I do not rule it out. However I aim to please, and I aim to please myself too, and if it’s a toss-up between Chopin and Harold Arlen, I am happy to do the Harold Arlen.

Today is a long story however the adventure ended with me taking the subway and then riding a Reddy Bike down Amherst Street in a long cheetah-print dress and sandals. This killed me — as I was nearing Delaware Park, I passed some parked cars, and this being Buffalo, a voice came out of one of them.

“Mary!” It was a woman, is all I know.

I did not want to know more! It was probably someone I love, however sometimes you cannot, you just cannot. Excuse me, I am riding a Reddy bike in a cheetah print gown and sandals.

Do I look as if my life is normal?

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