There was so much to say about the joyous celebration of the Tralf this evening and so many people to say it that a couple of things had to be dropped to the cutting room floor. This seemed like a pretty good place to put them back--important extras, as it were, for the DVD of the story.
The straw that broke the camel's back with Ed Lawson's relationship to the new prorprietors of the downtown Tralf in the '80's was the moment they canceled his booking of Gato Barbieri--who had, by then, become commonly known as the composer of the music for "Last Tango in Paris" --in favor of a gig by wonderful comedian Pete Barbutti. Barbutti's gig was financially unscuccessful, according to Lawson, and Barbarieri, later, did indeed play the club and was, in fact, a financial success. At that point, though, Lawson admitted in a News story at the time that he didn't feel connected to what the downtown club had become. So he and its then management parted ways. That's the reason his presence at this evening's celebration is such a remarkable--and in its way-- heartening thing.
Representive of the antipathy held over the years by members of the original Tralf family is this, from an e-mail to me, by John Penney who is now a longtime producer and on-air personality in Detroit. Penney is well-remembered for his hugely popular '70's jazz show on WBFO-FM in Buffalo and his omnipresence at the original Tralf. Wrote Penney, with characteristic frankness and affection for Ed Lawson: "The Lawson Brothers never embraced the idea of running a business hard on the ground. Musicians came because they knew they would be treated well and appreciated and paid regardless of whether the club lost money.....
"The horror story began the moment Ed told me that he had sold out for a new location downtown without securing--ANY--rights. To the name, to management....the same naivete that made the original Tralf successful allowed him to get totally fleeced, and over the ensuing 30 years more sheep have been shorn."
For all that harshness in Penney's view, then and now, it is a tribute to exactly how glorious an idea the original Tralf was--and remains--that Penney too will be among those who are scheduled to be at the club this evening, celebrating the club that completely transformed, for the better, everything that we know about nightlife in Buffalo.
What will happen this evening, then, is a homecoming like very few others.