Their music was ready to spill out. All they needed was a piano.

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.

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