Bucharest. A city where there are more cars than people. Where the roads are a mess of metal and the pavements are the car park. Remnants of communist architecture lurk between modern constructions. Great geometric slabs of filthy concrete, dripping with vegetation behind billboards. And in Old Town, a glimpse of an even more distant past, before communism. The few buildings that Ceausescu hadn’t destroyed hanging around like old movie stars. Cracks and bullet holes betraying the hard times of the last century, when cameras documented the wars, the grip of communism, the fall of Ceausescu and the scramble for wealth in a fledgling democracy.
There seems to be a division in Romania between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.With the assassination of Ceausescu suddenly there was the opportunity to gather wealth and power, and corruption is ensuring that the few are taking the lion’s share.
Tonight, we are definitely playing for the ‘haves’. We are in the most expensive restaurant in Bucharest, Casa Di David. We have eaten our food at a discrete distance from the guests, who seem to be diplomats, businessmen and very beautiful women. It is the cliche of privileged extravagance. Nonchalant diners proffered expensive wines by a Sommelier while invisible grey waiters siddle between tables with plates of Mìro. Beautiful women in black, hired for the evening, are called from table to table, decorating the promotional shtick. And all the while we swing as soft as we can in the corner.
We play two sets of hushed jazz and soul, under the watchful eye of the boss. As we edge towards a natural volume for our instruments, we are asked politely to pull it back. We hold back like true pros, playing for the room, and keeping it cool. Then we hit the bar. Hard.
While drinking Bloody Marys in our suits, we chat to one of the beautiful women in black. As she talks, she becomes less mysterious, more human and friendly. A reassuring peek behind the elitism of the evening. The ‘Haves’ here seem haughty and cold. Perhaps I prefer the ‘Have Nots’.