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Bohemain Hookah Cafe (Part 2)

You may recall me mentioning in Bohemain Hookah Cafe Part 1 that a band was slated to perform one evening, although I had no idea who they were. When I slipped inside I came to learn that they were the Last Boppers (what a great name for a band), who I’d heard of but never actually seen. (They’ve played before at the Loft Society, where I’ve seen lots of great jazz, but not these guys.) They were between sets, so I had a chance to chat with them. I should note here that the ensemble consisted of three people that evening but the size and instrumentation varies. One constant is Kenneth Leslie, the leader of the band, and the person I spoke to the most.

“We’ll be here on a regular basis,” he said. Reluctant to pigeonhole their music as solely jazz at the same time that he was wearing a t-shirt with images of jazz icons, Kenneth said, “We’re creative artists. We do creative music, mostly spontaneous, real spontaneous. We try to create according to the environment.”

“We’re all visual artists,” he added. “Our approach to the arts is basically in the same spirit.”

Sitting down, I watched people mosey into the café and start smoking from giant hookahs, an image that always puts me in mind of a great Marx Brothers poster that I used to see on the walls of headshops. The place was starting to fill up when The Last Boppers began their set. At first two guys were playing keyboards with preset rhythms while Kenneth blew the trumpet. The sound reminded me of the kinda funky early 1970s sound of say Les McCann or Bob James—something along those lines….Then Kenneth played some keys while someone else played sax….While listening to the music and looking around the room Leslie’s comment about creating according to the environment came back to me. This was definitely music for chilling out and smoking hookahs; even just drinking a vitamin water, I knew I had come to the right place. I got the feeling that I was watching three old friends who loved playing music together and hanging together; there was nothing but good vibes in that room. The door was open, and at times people peeked in off the street with “what the hell” faces—we call that free advertising in the business.

Using a cheap little Kodak digital camera, I have yet to win any photography awards, but I must say that on that evening I outdid myself. Check out this photo of the artists at work. I have no idea how those bubbles ended up in the photo, but it certainly underscores the far-out vibe that was in the air:

And last, but not least, for the first but not the last time in this blog, the overheard Quote of the Night: a woman walked in and sat down with a man who had been hookah smoking by himself for a good twenty minutes and said right off the bat, “Why do you look fancy when you don’t have to anymore?”

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