Once in awhile we are fortunate enough to stumble upon a bit of magic. Tuesday night was one of those times.

Bob and I were in San Antonio for the Sustainable Biodiesel Summit on Saturday and the National Biodiesel Conference Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and decided to take a break and have dinner with Charlie and his wife, Jane. We chose the Blue Star Brewery because it was within walking distance and they had a nice stout on the nitro tap.

We knew about the stout because Jane and I had stopped in earlier that day. We had walked up a thirst while our husbands were working the conference. What we didn’t know was that Tuesday night is ‘Big Band’ Jazz Night.

So there we were, Bob, Jane and I, drinking stout, knoshing on appetizers, waiting for Charlie to join us. Bob went up to ask the guys behind the bar a few questions about their brewing operation. He’s been thinking for some time now that running a brewery might be a whole lot more fun than running a biodiesel plant and perhaps a bit less risky.

After Bob returned to the table, Joey, an unassuming guy in a navy blue work shirt came over to the table and began talking to Bob about biodiesel. Joey had been to the Summit on Sunday and seen Bob’s presentation on fuel quality.

Joey never came right out and said it, but we finally figured out that he was the owner of the Blue Star Brewing Company, one of the sponsors of this year’s Summit who owned “Joey’s” another San Antonio pub. I couldn’t get over this and have vowed to follow his example by allowing others to find out, all on their own, just how great I am.

About this time, Jane noticed there was something going on in the back room. It looked like a parade of musicians were coming through the back door and setting up to play. Meanwhile, Charlie arrived and began to bring Bob up to speed regarding the past hour or so of conference.

Jane kept rubbernecking towards the back where the musicians had begun to play. Finally, she couldn’t stand it anymore. She picked up her beer and went in to hear them. I followed a few minutes later and couldn’t believe the sound! It was SO big it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I mean, WOW!

There was a sixteen piece orchestra with piano, bass, guitar, drums, four saxophones, four trumpets and four trombones. The acoustics in the room were perfect and the tunes were blowing us away! Yet another cool thing that unassuming guy in the blue work shirt was helping make happen.

After a bit, Bob and Charlie joined us and were instantly caught up in the adrenaline rush. We soon found we were listening to the ‘Crimson Jazz Orchestra’ and that they played on the first Tuesday of every month. In fact, the Blue Star Brewery featured ‘Big Band’ Jazz every Tuesday.


I kept looking over at Bob and his smile was even bigger than mine. Everyone in the room was tapping their feet, yelling after solos and clapping for all we were worth after each fantastic song. You can listen to some of their tunes by going to this page and clicking on the links. Keep in mind that the digital version is a small fraction of the live version.

Bob was especially taken by the contrast between the cohesiveness of the band members while they were playing and the way they drifted off in different directions between songs. It was a great example of how a group of people can create something wonderful as long as they agree to be on the “same page of music.”

Several times between songs, Bob nearly jumped out of his chair, exclaiming, “It’s anarchy – there are at least four different conversations going on! But watch what happens next!” And the transformation was amazing. Band leader and saxophonist George Briscoe would start snapping his fingers and everyone would pick up their instruments and come in on the same note.

Although we had originally no intention of staying out late, we were unable to even consider leaving until The Crimson Jazz Orchestra finished their last, rousing song at about 11:00. Bob made a point of going around to some of the musicians and telling them how great they were and how fortunate we felt at having been there tonight.

About 11 PM, the four of us walked home to the Bed and Breakfast in a state of euphoria. A light fog had come up, bringing out the smell of the green, growing things and a half moon lurked behind the haze. It was a magical way to end a long day and we are still wondering how we came to be so lucky.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.