When I left Bee Dees bar after the jam session last year I have a vivid memory of my talk with Jeffrey Davis on the sidewalk out front. I had been coming to this great bar to play music in the Tuesday and Thursday jam session on my visits to Shanghai for the previous two or three years. Jeff told me that there was bad news: The bar was going to close in June. The rent was going up too much for him, but he did not despair because he had a new plan he could not tell me in detail. But he said it involved music, and jam sessions, and the spirit of Bee Dees would live on.
I could never have imagined that I would return this year to find that Bee Dees is still here, the jam session is still running but Jeff is gone. He died in the fall of some kind of nerve disease, thought to be Lou Gehrig’s disease. In fact, I had learned of his death in the fall over Facebook, but I knew few details.
Upon returning to Bee Dees last night I found the great news that the bar was only closed briefly before it was taken over by a new manager, that it is been cleaned up to a degree but without losing its charm or the original concept of being like in someone’s living room, and that the jam sessions do continue in the same spirit on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And I learned a little more about Jeff’s unexpected death. It is clear, however, that Jeff would be very happy that his creation has lived on. I thought of him quite a bit last night, during the sets of the other musicians, when I hoped to see him go up with his guitar and screaming blues vocals, and when I went up to play, and thought of absence.
For the first time at Bee Dees I played with other musicians, a drummer, bassist and lead guitarist. I started solo on my “Crazy Lady,” and then did “Wicked Game” and “Mad World,” in order to facilitate playing with the other musicians.
There were some other great acts, like the guys who did the jazz fusion, and the African with his bamboo xylophone – or whatever it is. And now that Jeff is gone, the genial Nathan, of Kentucky, is acting as the organizer of the jam. Nathan is also a singer and guitar player.
Another interesting moment was my talk with a French drummer who lived in Belgium until he moved to Shanghai a week or so ago in order to look for work as a musician. He said he thought Shanghai, China was the place to go for European musicians looking for a future in music….