In his slightly bitter, self-referential movie Stardust Memories, Woody Allen laments, through his character Sandy Bates, that his fans don’t really “get” him, that all they care about are his early comedies. That may be true. Certainly Bananas and Take the Money and Run, for all their slapstick shtick, are more entertaining than the burnt-out routines Allen runs through in Small Time Crooks and Deconstructing Harry.
But at least one of Allen’s private enthusiasms seems to have struck a chord with his die-hard fans: his love of traditional New Orleans jazz. In fact, when the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band — aka “Woody Allen and his band” — trots onstage at Yoshi’s for its one-show-only gig at 9 p.m. Friday night, you can bet the farm the place will be packed.
“The show is way sold-out,” says Yoshi’s publicist Marshall Lamm. “You might be able to get a ticket on eBay. We’ll have people spending the night out on the street [to buy tickets, which went on sale July 23 and sold out immediately]. We’re gonna have people camping.”
Why? It isn’t because of a sudden surge of interest in the early-20th-century New Orleans jazz of Bunk Johnson and George Lewis, both of whom Allen claims as influences — Ken Burns’ Jazz notwithstanding. Reviewers have characterized the Woodman’s clarinet playing as enthusiastic but lacking in technique. When banjo player Davis, trombonist Jerry Zigmont, bassist Greg Cohen, trumpet man Simon Wettenhall, and pianist Cynthia Sayer sashay through “September Song” at their regular Monday-night stand at New York’s Café Carlyle, it’s safe to say the crowd is there to see Woody first and to hear the Preservation Hall-style syncopations second.
Expect the same at Yoshi’s. “It’s amazing how people are,” says a jazz critic who wishes to remain nameless. “They’ll be lined up to see a mediocre clarinet player just because he’s a movie star. But if Buddy DeFranco gigged at Yoshi’s, they’d probably be lucky to sell a hundred tickets.” That’s showbiz.