The Night I Met A Famous Jazz Artist

Super Hip!

There I was, standing in the lobby of the Hotel Belleclaire in New York City, late on a Saturday night. My friend was checking us into our room while I stood with our luggage making new friends everywhere I could. Something about travel makes me giddy, like too much champagne. I’m not afraid to chat up complete strangers.

To the Bellman, I asked very important logistical questions like, “Where can I get a glass of wine, right now?” “Where can I get late night pizza?” A carry over from the last two trips to NYC with my family where pizza at 1 AM was part of our daily schedule and meal plan.

While I talked to the Bellman, a couple was making an awkward entrance into the hotel, a few too many odd-sized items made opening the door tricky. They stumbled in, pulling a tiny suitcase with a long red case on top, laid perpendicular. The gentleman and his bags pulled up next to me and stood for a moment. I thought he might need the Bellman’s help but he never asked. He was waiting for his lady friend to reassemble her handbags and totes.

I didn’t know this at the time, but this was who was standing next to me.

Dr. Lonnie Smith, is one of the best B3 organists on the planet, appearing on Jimmy Fallon and having played with the world’s greats like Dionne Warwick, Etta James, Grover Washington, Jr. and Dizzie Gallespie to name a few. He’s earned countless awards, most recently, he was named the best jazz artist of the year for 2017 by the National Endowment of the Arts, the highest jazz award in the U.S.* His YouTube videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

And so it went….

“Hey, is that an instrument?” I asked pointing to the red nylon padded case with a black zipper.

“Yes it is.” He answered happily. “It’s a keyboard.”

“Ah, I kind of thought so.” I said pleased with my Sherlock skills.

“Do you play?” He asked me.

“Well, a little bit. Now my son….” And I went off on the musical talents of my oldest and how he plays five instruments, one being piano. I was one proud mama.

“He should focus on one instrument. That’s how people will know you. I get calls all the time that way.” He stopped my bragging mama moment.

“Really? Are you playing in New York? Where can I see your show?” I asked with renewed enthusiasm.

“I just played at Columbia. I’m leaving for Brazil tomorrow.” He answered.

By now, his other half joined us, her long reddish gray hair brushed neatly away from the light folds of skin on her face. I looked over at him, taking in his exotic look. He wore a blue-gray tunic with matching pants and a fez. His fuzzy white beard reached his chest and contrasted nicely with his chocolate skin. A wooden bead necklace with a red cotton tassel dangled from his neck, part of the summer fashion trend I noted. Dang! Where is he from? He can’t be American but his English was perfect.

“Where are you from?” he asked me.

“San Francisco. We just got in.” I answered.

“I was just in San Jose yesterday!”

“You were? Wow! You really get around!” I said.

“I travel all over the world!” He said, a bit exasperated. “People know me.”

“Oh, well do you have a facebook page with your schedule? Maybe I can follow you?” I asked. I felt very so hip suggesting a social media solution to see him play sometime.

“Yes. I’m on facebook. Thousands follow me.”

I kind of smoothed past the ‘thousands follow me’ part and thought of another brilliant millenial move “Hey! How about YouTube? I could see you on that, right?”

“Yeah. I’m on YouTube.”

“Well, what’s your name?”

“Dr. Lonnie Smith,” he said as he extended his hand.

“I’m Francie Low.” I smiled at him and asked, “Hey, do you have a business card?” I wasn’t sure I’d remember his name so then I went low-tech.

“My business manager does,” he said pointing to her. She dug through one of her bags.

“Here you go,” she said handing me the card. That was about the only thing she said the entire time.

“Thanks!” I said to the manager. Then I look at him, “I’ll tell my son about you!”

“Tell him to keep playing!” he said to me as he started to walk away.

“I will! Music is always on his mind.” I grinned.

He grinned back, beating his fist against his heart.

I thought this was just the coolest story, the luckiest thing ever. I love travel for this very reason: You meet really interesting people!

I told Hubby about my celebrity meeting over a dinner date. He looked up Dr. Lonnie Smith right at the dinner table and started howling! “Do you know how famous his guy is?” he says in between snickers. “I can’t believe you talked to him about YouTube and Facebook! That’s hysterical! I gotta text our music son!”

Yeah, it sure must be hysterical. Hubby wiped away tears of laughter. A few minutes go by while I waited for Hubby to tap out a message.

“You are taking a long time. Are you making fun of me?” I asked

“Not yet. I gottta explain it first. That’s what’s taking so long.” He said without missing a tap, tap, tap on his phone.

Hubby said I should blog about this and if I didn’t, he would. As long as Dr. Lonnie Smith, Hubby and my sons know, I may as well let the world.

“I do solemnly swear, I met the most accomplished jazz artist on the B3 organ, in the world. And I didn’t know it.”

Ok, it’s pretty funny.


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