CARAVAN OF DREAMS
Caravan of Dreams closed September 29, 2001
As you relax and listen to Craig Chaquico repeat a familiar story when introducing one of his songs, can you visualize a gathering of the tribes around their campfires? As his fingers dance upon the frets of an acoustic guitar, can you imagine eagles dancing on the fingertips of the flames as they soar higher into the sky, where the spirits roam?
Imagine an evening with that very special companion at your side, as you are wrapped in a soul embrace created by the sax magic of Richard Elliot. Together you are immersed into a myriad of sounds that sweep you into the deep blue as you hear dolphins alone at sea. The evening progresses into the soulful midnight passion of what it feels like when a man loves a woman...going weak at the knees with his very last trembling breath barely escaping his tenor sax and hugging the floor, as well as his audience.
Those were the days. THAT was Caravan of Dreams. Yes, that was where I was at...there is no other place in Fort Worth that would begin to compare to the jewel that began the rebirth and revitalization of the area that is now Sundance Square.
Some time ago, I was having a very enjoyable dinner. A delicious appetizer of bacon-wrapped shrimp was followed by a flavorful filet that was cooked perfectly to my tastes. THAT was Reata. Or, was it Angeluna, or Del Frisco's? Well, had it not been for the view, it could've been any of many excellent restaurants in the Fort Worth area. It was Reata.
With no disrespect toward the owner and staff of what is unquestionably a fine restaurant, the Reata is nonetheless nothing unique in the same sense as is true of Caravan of Dreams. When the tornado blew out the flaming grills of Reata, who would have guessed that it would ultimately suck the life out of Caravan of Dreams as well? Initially unscathed, the demise of a great music venue with the reputation of being one of this country's top jazz showplaces is now upon us.
Although Brave Combo was truly the last band to perform a concert of demise at Caravan of Dreams, it was Richard Elliot's performance that I considered the grand finale for a club whose roots are in the jazz and blues genre. Some of my favorite performances were those of the "Guitars, Saxes, and More" series that made the rounds through Fort Worth and introduced me to the likes of Richard Elliot, Craig Chaquico, Peter White (who has a tribute album called "Caravan of Dreams"), Rick Braun, Marc Antoine, the late Grover Washington Jr., and so many other excellent musicians.
Now there is no place in Fort Worth where the same intimate relationship between the audience and the artist can be established. Some say that the Bass Hall will still provide an outlet for such musicians. I say, that's a load of nonsense from someone who doesn't fully appreciate the music or the musicians. In a performance at the Bass Hall, Kirk Whalum performed a solo acoustic song on his saxophone that brilliantly showed off the hall's excellent acoustics. Returning to his band with electronic amplifiers, guitars, and such, the remainder of the performance was enjoyable but totally lacking in the ambiance and style that would be afforded the same performance at Caravan of Dreams. The Bass Hall is wonderful for ballet, opera, symphonies, musicals, and other arts events that cater best to large audiences and which have greater staging demands. As made evident by Kirk Whalum's acoustic solo, I'd also really enjoy seeing purely acoustic (non-electronic) performances showcased at the Bass Hall. But, let's not sacrifice cozy, intimate performances just for the sake of higher-dollar productions and paying for a new building, please?
In early August 2001, Jerry Thompson, Caravan of Dreams president, expressed a comment to despise as he said "This place holds a lot of passion for a lot of people, but we're not bringing someone in that the community is not equally passionate about. People are as passionate about Reata as they are about Caravan of Dreams". That Mr. Thompson can compare another good restaurant to a unique music venue with such an attitude as seems to be implied here, it is no wonder that the city will suffer seeing the closure of Caravan of Dreams. I wrote Mr. Thompson last year when I first heard rumors of the closing of Caravan of Dreams. He impressed me with how quickly he replied and with words that seemed to echo his own recognition of what a great asset Caravan of Dreams is to Fort Worth. My only conclusion from more recent comments I've read is that everything boils down to one issue...the bottom dollar. I also wonder if the construction of the Bass Hall isn't a large factor here...the investors and supporters want to steer events into the Bass Hall, even when another venue is much more appropriate.
Good restaurants, even great ones, are easily found throughout the metroplex. While the numbers are fewer in Fort Worth than in Dallas, we still have far more good restaurants than we do good nightclubs. Among restaurants in Fort Worth, the cuisine is quite varied. Among nightclubs? What is variety? Let's all put on our cowboy boots and hats and forget that there is something other than country & western music to enjoy. I'm not saying C&W is a bad thing at all, and I enjoy it on occasion, but what about variety?
Whether the number of letters about Caravan of Dreams closing number one or one thousand, I wonder if any of them would be enough to convince the powers that be to preserve one of the city's treasures? Most likely not. It's a shame when the bottom dollar takes such a priority as to result in the loss of a venue with the established national reputation of Caravan of Dreams.
I read a letter to the editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram where someone offered the idea of moving the Caravan of Dreams over to the Lancaster Street area, in the vicinity of the new train station. Initially, I thought that sounded like a reasonably good idea. But, can I offer a better one? Leave Caravan of Dreams where it is and move Reata out to the train station. Maybe good restaurants are needed in that area.
Meanwhile, all I can say is hello Terilli's, hello Sambuca, hello Broadway Jazz Cafe, etc. That is, hello Dallas, would you like some of my money? See ya' later Fort Worth.
AMBRESS, Sept. 28, 2001