Walking down Mount Pleasant Street several weeks later, Lambert, who knew James and had heard about the piano, glimpsed it through the restaurant’s basement window. He dropped a note at James’s house, several blocks away.
“Call me,” it read. “I have an idea for the piano.”
Within a day, the men made their pitch to Purple Patch’s owner, Patrice Cleary: An open-piano session from 7 to 10 p.m. every Wednesday. Pianists would play what they wanted, and — this was extremely important — there would be no amplifiers, no electric instruments, and no recorded music.