As per custom, my culinary labors are accompanied by the iPod merrily shuffling its way through a jazz playlist -- softly, so as not to waken BG. And just as I'm giving the finished muffins "the toothpick test" (they passed with flying colors), what should come up in the shuffle but Bunny Berigan's Chicken and Waffles, a 1935 side with Bunny in dazzling mid-season form on trumpet; Eddie Miller, tenor sax; Edgar Sampson, clarinet; Cliff Jackson, piano; Grachan Moncur, bass; Ray Bauduc, drums.
Needless to say, the sight of my eighteen perfectly puffed-up muffins, combined with the record's evocative title, got the gastric juices flowing at a rapid rate, requiring a supreme effort to quell. (It's considered extremely bad form for the chef to gobble up half the meal before the guests have arrived.) Meanwhile the nostalgia was also flowing thick and fast. Sixty years ago, a Bunny Berigan memorial album on Decca -- including Chicken and Waffles, Blues, You Took Advantage of Me, I'm Coming Virginia, The Buzzard, and Tillie's Downtown Now -- was one of the cornerstones of my tiny collection of jazz 78s. It was the early 1950s and I was a high school freshman. Inspired by Bunny and Pops, I was taking trumpet lessons while holding the second chair in the trumpet section of the Fort Hamilton High School orchestra under the baton of the kindly Mr. Chelimsky. Actually I did more than hold the chair; I played some, too.