Ambrose was awesome. The show was on my radar for a while, but the decision to go was pretty spontaneous. I told my wife I was tempted by the show, and she said go.
It was fun driving like a Chicagoan through the streets of San Francisco. Surprisingly easy street parking right next to Grace Cathedral on California and Jones.
What a massive structure! The line snaked around the staircase and landing and moved inside quicklyer than I expected. I sat in a folding chair fairly near the front of the general admission section.
Ambrose started at 7:35 after a brief introduction. He started slowly as though testing acoustics. Somewhere I read of a seven-second echo, so he would have to play much differently than in a studio or even most normal live club gigs.
The notes were not halting but haunting, faintly filling the cavernous space. Green, red, blue, purplish light backlit him and threw huge shadows of Ambrose on the nave walls halfway between him and me. Like a giant Ambrose ducking, twisting and writhing in time with the tiny Ambrose up on stage.
He stretched notes like taffy. He tried his wide range, not just from high to low but to all sides including inside, as you could hear his breath, plus big elephant blasts and quiet cat meows. The third number, he hit his stride. Now he played the shorter notes tumbling after each other like creek rapids.
He grew comfortable with how his virtuosity could sound in the strange venue. The crowd stayed quiet and respectful until he lowered the trumpet from his lips and the applause rose.
I kept my eyes closed almost the whole time. He was too far away for me to discern his facial expression or breath or fingering technique anyway but eyes closed mostly to heighten the meditative effect of solo trumpet in such a space, the freedom for the mind to wander while nothing in particular commanded its attention other than the realization that the mind was free to wander.
I stretched and rolled my neck. Mind, body and soul so open I heard for the next eighty minutes every busker on every street under the L tracks, every crying baby, a safari, pleas. At the end of the last number before the encore I heard myself gasp.