Published Date Written by Elizabeth Margolis-PineoMy friend Bob Greene is a very cool guy. He is tall, suave, and an excellent cook. Bob is a tennis writer who travels the world to watch famous and not-so-famous athletes whack a fuzzy yellow ball across a net at 100 mph. See what I mean? He even has a cool job.
Bob and I share two key interests: booze and jazz. Sometimes we enjoy them simultaneously. There's nothing better than sitting in Bob's basement with a hit of slivovitz listening to Chet Baker or Sonny Rollins.
Bob loves unique hooch like slivovitz, a fiery plum wine from Eastern Europe. "In other words," he says, "I'm a lush." He also likes an aperitif called Becherovka from Prague. The "bottled gasoline" he brought back from Belgrade wasn't a hit, although he says it might work fine at removing paint. He has standards.
Bob's family dates back in Maine to the 1700s and relatives are buried in the ancient Eastern Cemetery on Congress Street. This pretty much makes him Portland royalty.
Like Princess Beatrice of York, Bob had piano lessons as a child. But in high school he had a music review column in the Portland High newspaper, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Bob's birthday is on Valentine's Day. Every year he throws himself a slammin' party packed with musicians playing jazz all day and all night — a rockin' once-a-year musical happening. Guests mingle, sip and savor in Bob's packed "jazz club" in SoPo with all-stars like Bill Byrne, Tony Boffa, Flash Allen, Tony and Richard Marsters, Willie Johnson, Marc Chillemi, Ralph Norris, with vocals by Shawna Haley Bear and my crush Phil Divinsky ... and many more.
To alleviate the boredom of yet another year waiting for his birthday, Bob compiles a weekly list of jazz happenings — who, where, and what time — that he sends to his friends. "The Music Scene" is a good list to be on. We've seen and heard some mighty fine stuff by virtue of being on this list.
Bob's got our end of Maine pretty well covered with an eclectic and ever-expanding list of venues and musical choices, from The Dogfish Bar and Grill, The Big Easy, Blue, and Ginkgo Blue in Portland; Point Sebago Resort in Casco; Frog & Turtle and Avant Dance and Event Center in Westbrook; The Local Buzz in Cape Elizabeth; Old Village Inn and Admiral's Inn in Ogunquit; Schooner Landing in Damariscotta; The Whaler in Old Orchard Beach; The Olde Post Office Café in Mount Vernon; York Harbor Inn in York Harbor; Suds Pub in Bethel; Fresh in Camden; Savage Oakes Vineyard & Winery in Union; Iron Tails Saloon in Acton; and as far afield as The Press Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
I caught up with Bob at the Admiral's Inn in Ogunquit for a performance by Kim Kuzma, a soulful sassy siren with a big voice. Bob has an unabashed crush on Kim, and I don't blame him. Her vocal stylings are lounge-y and fabulous, and she can rock a soul tune like nobody's business — I love her take on R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Kim can go deep, too, dedicating "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to Bob Greene. He beams. As we nurse our Kuzmopolitans, enjoying the toasted coconut around the rim ("It's a whole meal," says Kuzma), Bob and I agree that her smile and sassy patter are infectious, the real deal. Kuzma's last concert of the summer is Friday at Grissini Bistro in Kennebunk. Bob says he's in the mood for Italian food. I say, see you there, man.
The guy has an amazing appetite for living a soulful life — cheers!
(Elizabeth Margolis Pineo is a freelance writer and creator of EpicuriousTravelers.com and a frequent contributor to UntappedCities.com.)