- Jazz great Jim Cullum
There are a few certainties I can always count on when Monday comes around. I can count on my daily scroll through social media being bombarded with groans and grievances expressing distaste for employers, or disbelief in how brief the weekend seemed to be. I can count on an afternoon call from my mother inquiring about how my work week(end) went and I can count on Tucker's Kozy Korner.
It has been almost two years since I traded in my cubicle for a bar key, and I spend my days prior to Monday shaking and stirring cocktails behind the bar at The Brooklynite. As per tradition, my mates and I don our Sunday best and file in one-by-one to Tucker's to watch a piece of San Antonio history — the incomparable Jim Cullum and his jazz ensemble. Being that we are all bartenders, Monday is our first chance to breathe and decompress, and what better way to unwind than to a soothing jazz melody while wearing a three-piece suit? Pocket square optional.
I typically file in first at around 8, and on this particular evening I am unaccompanied. I am warmly greeted by Lindsay, the bar manager, and almost as quickly as our hands disconnect from embrace she is turning to the bottle of Bulleit rye that she knows I hold so dear to my heart. My sight moves above the bar to a few photos and fliers of a much younger Jim Cullum blowing into his cornet (advertising his weekly appearance at the bar) and a few of his storied accolades, such as performing at Carnegie Hall.
At the far end of the bar top stands Cullum, (father to Tucker's proprietor Chris Cullum) grandfatherly in appearance, wearing a blazer and signature bow tie, patiently tapping along as he gives his pianist a solo and waits to re-enter the top of the number with his cornet in hand. We make eye contact, and I am given a friendly wave and a head nod. My eyesight moves to the corner of the room which we typically occupy — a nice dimly lit corner table directly beside the drummer. I like to envision that the table will always be readily available, and for the most part it is.
I compare the table always being available to a story I remember about Sinatra. I can't recall what New York City bar or restaurant in which it took place, but legend has it that a table in said establishment was to always remain empty in the event of Old Blue Eyes coming in. I know this isn't the case for me at Tucker's, but a man can dream.
I take my seat as my cohorts begin to trickle in – a familiar cast to those who have ever spent a night out over cocktails in San Antonio. To my left, Joseph Hernandez of The Last Word fame, Justin Cruz of Stay Golden Social House, Javi Guiterrez of The Brooklynite and JP De Loera, brand ambassador of Milagro Tequila. The band takes on a swinging number led by Cullum's cornet emitting such glorious melodies. They inspire an indescribable, incomparable freeing feeling in my soul.
I periodically sip my rye, and look over to my mates and raise my glass. We cheer to a great performance and our weekend, but do not clink glassware, for none of us wishes to disturb such harmonious beauty. I close my eyes briefly and listen to the walking bass line and the periodic splash of the cymbals.
The number comes to an end abruptly, and the fortunate few who encompass the small room applaud loudly. Cullum does a signature bit — thanking the audience in a heavy Russian accent — he uses weekly to explain to the smiling crowd an elaborate plan to raise funds through band tips.
The band takes a break, and I'm left with that unshakeable smile on my face. Perhaps it's the fact that I'm basking in the moment of having a few libations with my friends that fuels my momentary bliss, but I feel that there is plenty to smile about on this evening. My associates and I continue to unwind, warily avoiding a point of excess out of respect for a San Antonio icon. We have the opportunity to witness history before our eyes every Monday, and witness a man who has spent his life's work providing happiness in the form of musical notes right before us in the most intimate of settings. Want to see it for yourself? History is yours to enjoy Mondays from 7-10 p.m. at Tucker's Kozy Korner (1338 E. Houston St., 320-2192).