Poorest Table in the House – with Dale Barlow and Bu Baca

Maurice Diop lived in the little terrace house across the street from me. On Ada Place there were some larger terraces, but Maurice’s and mine were tiny. About ten feet across. But we were renters, Ultimo was cheap and only a ten minute walk from Town Hall Station. The local school had bilingual signs in English/Chinese. It was a damn cool place to live in 1990.

Maurice was Senegalese. He was so tall you couldn’t judge his height. He was way taller than me. I’d guess his height at six foot nine. We used to say hello, as neighbours do. I’m a chatty type so we’d end up in longer conversations. He was learning English fast but was clearly smart and persistent and keen to learn more.

We were friendly on Ada Place. Next to me lived a record-collecting guitar-playing geek. His house had an outside bathroom and you had to walk out the back door and on to the patio to get there. If I was upstairs in the morning I could see him wander out in his bathrobe to take his morning shower.

Next to Maurice lived a New Zealand bikie couple. Their house was directly across from mine. I remember waking up too early one morning, about 5am. The day was just beginning to get light. I was still dreamy and dozy. It was January in Sydney, and very hot. My bedroom window was open to let air in. At the house across the bedroom window was open too. I looked in to see the two of sleeping on their bed. As I was looking the girl sat up. She looked at me staring at her. She was naked.

There was a footbridge over Darling Harbour that ended at Ada Place so we’d often pass each other on the footbridge. I did not know where to look. I had got an illicit view of my neighbour and was caught out. I think she enjoyed my discomfort.

Then the day came when they moved out. I saw several of their friends arrive and start moving furniture so I offered to help. There were four Maori guys helping them move, and me. At the end of the work they gave us gifts as a thank you. The others each received a Marijuana plant in a pot and since I didn’t smoke pot I got a box of doughnuts.

We were all walking out the door when someone figured out they’d look suspicious walking down the street with a marijuana plant in their arms. So they put the pots in plastic shopping bags. Off they walked down the street, each holding a plastic bag with two feet of plant sticking out the top.

Maurice invited me to watch him play. He was a percussionist in Dale Barlow’s jazz band. They were playing at some fancy club at Circular Quay. He’d put me on the door. So I went down there with my girlfriend. I had no money and we were going to fancy club. At least I didn’t drink.

There’s always a little thrill when the doorman checks his list and lets you in. We walk in to the club. All the tables are in use. People are standing around the walls. This isn’t a beer drinking crowd. They drank their vodka in a martini rather than from a bottle. I walk in to the tables to make sure there’s no space and while I am looking a couple decides to get up and leave. A table opens up right at the center of the stage. It is the best table in the house.

I’d seen Dale Barlow before and I was eager to see him again. He would blaze on the saxophone. He could play hot solos and tone it down and play it cool. Jazz reviewers write flowery prose. One quote I read about Dale went something like “He plays like a steel nugget with a lava core.” He’d played with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on a couple of albums. This was as much cred as Australian Jazz gets. We do better at whiny pop singers or Country.

I sip my lemonade. Dale Barlow is on fire. At his right is Maurice, using his Senegalese name of Bu-Baca. I always thought a percussionist was one of those dorky mustachioed guys who tap bongo drums in Seventies videos. Maurice is different. He is way taller than everyone else in the band. His instrument set dominates one side of the stage. And the instruments are an array of African drums and metal bells and objects I’ve never seen before. Maurice dances and moves with the music. My six foot nine neighbour was the star of the band. His solos get louder cheers than everyone else, except for Dale’s.

The first set ends. The crowd applauds. In the midst of the cheers Maurice jumps off the front of the stage. He walks across the floor with everyone watching. He gets to our table and sits down for his break. We might have been poorest table in the house that night but we were certainly the coolest.


2 Responses to “Poorest Table in the House – with Dale Barlow and Bu Baca”

  1. 1 bachire
    April 26, 2010 at 19:23

    hello bubacare manla bachire diallo coment va tu ca va .bien merci et adama ca va buba actuellement je vie en barcalona mon tel – 0034 671 446 933 ou et el adjie appelle moi pouqoiu tu ne pas avoire des conceres a barcalone mon email. ahmed.diallo55@yahoo.es

  2. August 29, 2010 at 09:58

    I had one search here for “what saxophone does dale barlow play?” I’ll add it in in case someone else comes looking. He played a Selmer Mark VI when I saw him a few times in the early 90s.

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