Swingin' Saturday: The Swing of Things, Chapter 4

After a quick stop at home, Kaidan grabbed a cab for the open park in which Dr. Chakwas's birthday party was being held. He stepped out, trumpet case in one hand and tux draped over the opposite shoulder, eying the stage visible in the distance with Joker's keyboard standing on one side. Deep blue curtains had been set up to create a small backstage area.

As he walked over he eyed the crowd, drinks and hors d'oeuvres in hand or talon, groups mixing and reforming as everyone greeted or introduced each other. It seemed the good doctor had friends of many races. A few dozen colorfully-dressed Asari chatted with white-clad Salarians and face-painted Turians in muted tunics. He saw a few enviro-suited Volus and even a Quarian standing with a trio of enormous Elcor. Humans circulated as well, most in Alliance navy but a few in civilian clothes. He hadn't expected such a crowd. The butterflies of excitement grew a little more frantic. Kaidan increased his pace and ducked behind the stage with relief.

He found Anderson already there and half-changed. “Quite a gathering out there,” he observed. Anderson grunted in agreement. It seemed Kaidan wasn't the only one intimidated by the size of their audience. As he pulled off his shirt Pressly stepped through the hanging cloth with a whistle.

“Damn, Dr. Chakwas has a lot of friends. I hope I don't throw up in my trombone.” The three men grinned hesitantly at each other. Kaidan thought they'd be fine, if no one else talked about vomiting. He'd begun to feel a little queasy himself.

As though on cue, Jenkins appeared. He looked a bit green and unsteady on his feet. “Did you see all of those people?” He put his saxophone case gently on the ground and clutched his stomach, moaning. Kaidan finished buttoning his shirt and walked over to put at hand on the younger man's shoulder.

“You won't have to see them any more,” he said. “From here on out it'll just be the five of us and the doc.” If Joker ever shows up, he amended in his head.

No sooner did he finish the though than a tinkling sound wafted through the material behind the stage. Kaidan recognized the strains of How Deep Is the Ocean. He peeped at the stage and saw Joker, in full evening clothes, gently moving his hands over the keys. He must have arrived without any fanfare because heads in the crowd were just beginning to turn as the lovely sound drew more and more attention.

“It looks like someone started without us,” Kaidan said to the others. “At least we don't have to wait for him.” Anderson was ready so he helped Jenkins as Pressly and Kaidan stripped down and dressed up as quickly as they could. By the time Joker finished the song the other four men were ready. They prepared their instruments and tuned as quietly as they could while he launched into a light version of Do Nothing 'Til You Hear from Me.

As he finished the second song the others lined up at the stairs with Kaidan in the lead. He handed the blindfold to Pressly who stepped behind Jenkins and tied it around his eyes. Anderson stood at the rear with his bass. As the last note died away Kaidan put his coattails in Jenkins's hands and started onto the stage. Pressly directed Jenkins in an undertone, barely moving his lips. True to their military training, the four marched in step across the stage before stopping smartly and turning to face the gathering crowd.

Joker sat at the keyboard, tails hanging over the back of a bench, and stretched his entwined fingers dramatically. He placed his hand on the keys. The group stood silently for a moment, shirts gleaming against the black of their tailcoats, bow ties stark. Jenkins’s blindfold gleamed and the way he had held Kaidan’s tails had gotten a good laugh. The audience buzzed, wondering what would come next but Anderson was in no hurry to start as the combo settled themselves in place. Jenkins swallowed audibly.

Once arranged they flung themselves into a 30-second Gene Krupa intro, the blast of Starburst the genius had used to open shows a couple of centuries earlier. The whole park had grown silent after they’d started playing but when Dr. Chakwas emerged and stepped onto the stage her guests erupted into applause. She wore a body-skimming, sleeveless number that shimmered with silver thread, black beading around the neckline and down the long slit on the right side. At seeing Jenkins blindfolded the doctor laughed and gave them a little ovation of her own before turning her attention off-stage. She coyly tipped her hips, showing a stretch of leg, and received appreciative wolf whistles and cheers. It looked like she was having the time of her life.

When things had quieted down the band blared into Tea for Two, Pressly and Kaidan leading the charge until they gave over to Chakwas and Jenkins for the melody. The young man threw himself into the song, the doctor’s hands on his shoulders as she hammed it up with him. Everyone in sight was swaying in time as they blazed through the short song and straight into Take the “A” Train. That was tougher with only one sax but Pressly made up a lot of tenor territory and Joker milked the synth settings on his board for all they were worth to get good percussion going.

Chakwas took a scat trip around the district on that train and then rested a bit while the boys tootled through Cherokee, tapping her toes and waving at people throughout the crowd. Then they swung into Sweet Georgia Brown and suddenly there was dancing. While none of the guests knew the appropriate moves from two hundred years earlier many were willing to make up their own.

Kaidan blew his horn, crisp notes floating across a space that now seemed enchanted by their music. He lost himself in the performance, the hundreds of people before the stage seeming like a dream as he wove the melody with the others, sometimes dropping back to provide support and then stepping up to claim it for his own. They reached the end and the five had melded into a whole, even Jenkins moving easily in time to the beat that Anderson laid down so steadily. The moved into Mack the Knife and Chakwas once again took the lead, snapping her fingers in time and swinging her hips. The party goers drank and danced, a sea of smiles before the stage. Even a few Turians had relaxed their normally aggressive stances and joined the general fun.

Far to the left Kaidan spotted one glaring exception. A man stood just off the public walkway in diplomatic dress, watching the assorted crowd with a look of angry triumph. Whoever he was, he seemed to take satisfaction in watching the aliens so clearly enjoying this oldest of human pastimes. What an ass, Kaidan thought to himself before dismissing the man from his mind. This isn't some sort of contest of cultures. It's a party. He turned his attention back to the song and the combo moved through the rest of the set with gusto.

When they'd finally finished, the audience cheered, clapping wildly and shouting for more. Chakwas has planned an encore, of course, with as much foresight as she'd shown in arranging the rest of the performance. The men bowed as she held up her hands for quiet. She addressed the guests briefly, thanking them for coming and expressing her joy at seeing them enjoy something she so dearly loved. Then Anderson counted them into the song that would seal their reputation: an arrangement of Billy Stewart's trilled-out version of Summertime, an up-tempo take with wild vocals that challenged even Chakwas's inventiveness.

There may not have been seasons on the Citadel but the mood of the song and the point of the lyrics translated clearly enough to the various species listening. They swayed, seeming mesmerized by the driving horns and Chakwas's verbal gymnastics. When the music stopped Kaidan saw several people shake their heads as if waking from a trance. He could sympathize: that was how he often felt after a long practice session.

As the people before the stage began clapping he reached over and untied Jenkins's blindfold. It fell away and cheers sounded from across the park. The kid blinked in the sudden brightness and a grin split his face. Kaidan stepped over to the keyboard and the crew joined hands around their instruments. They bowed deeply then trooped off of the stage, all except Joker. He tinkled his way into the ultimate elevator music, The Girl from Ipanema. The rest of the men began to circulate as Chakwas was surrounded by well-wishers.

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