Diners near the bandstand could hear the squeal of the buzz mute being fitted into the bell of the horn. The pudgy little man with the wispy mustache lifted the tarnished trumpet, looked right to the piano player, back to the drummer. Then Trumpeter Jonah Jones patted out two measures with a soft left foot and took the first three pickup notes of I Could Have Danced All Night.

The scene last week was The Embers in Manhattan, but it could have been anywhere along the big-time jazz belt that stretches from New York to Chicago's London House to The...

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