Somewhere There's Music : LUSENET : Daily Tales : One Thread

Somewhere there's music,
It's where you are,
Somewhere there's heaven,
How near, how far?

It's a rainy afternoon. The sweetgum trees in my front yard are just beginning to turn red. It's poured all day, and the sky's been pretty grey, and there's wine, and there's music, and I'm just pulling hot bread out, and I'm in absolute heaven. Let me tell you about it...

I've just started rehearsing with a woman that I've been dying to play with for a couple of years. We've done a few things together - Ray's booth at the Country Faire last summer, and a couple of sit-ins at her regular Jo Fed's gig - but nothing to write home about.

She's a wonderful pianist. I don't know if you're into jazz at all, but she's really got that "something" that clicks, beyond technique, beyond repertoire, beyond chops. She's got ears, and she listens for the spaces, and the really subtle modulations that make the difference between a tune that is familiar, and a tune that is hauntingly pictorial of a landscape you carry within you.

I've incessantly asked her to play with me over the last 2 years, but she very graciously declines, only giving in on the Country Faire gig because it meant we got to run around stoned and happy with colored lights late at night after all the paid-up people went home.

Others around town told me that she just didn't like working with vocalists, and that everyone in town wanted her to play with them. I wasn't alone in my adulation.

Once, mom was talking to me on the phone and I had Barbara's CD playing in the background. Mom - who knows jazz *very* well - was certain it was a Bill Evans CD I had on, but she hadn't heard it before. She was very surprised to learn it was Barbara, and reinforced my suspicion that we'd make a great team. I did, after all, learn my music at my mother's knee, and whatever I do is shaped largely by what she did - so if she spots a sound that I should go for, I pay attention to her advice.

Anyhow, things have slowed down a bit in musicianland for folks around here, and Barbara started losing gigs. I know, because in the interim we've become girlfriends - we'd agreed that just because she didn't want to gig with me didn't preclude our developing a friendship.

At about the same time as she's losing gigs, I'm starting to get a few because it's getting into my season (I don't play summers around here because I sing for the night time, and the darker sombre mood that fall and winter bring - partly to resonate with it, and then to pick people up and bring them out of it by the end of the evening>)

Well, I start callling around to book for November, and I use the musicians I've played with in the past. My favorite drummer just moved, and I'm not really crazy about my most rehearsed piano player because I knew from the first that he was a musician who was out "playing the field", so to speak. He's good, but fairly new to performing, and what he wants is really much more in line with a Coltrane/Monk avant-garde experience, and doing standards "hems him in."

He's a very capable pianist on many levels, but he didn't have that love for the genre and feel that I have so strongly, and if you don't have that, then you can't penetrate the structure and tradition of the standards, and make them new. I think because he lacks that love, he can't get to a place in the music that keeps taking him higher, nor inspires him to learn things he didn't already know. And if you don't know the tunes, you have to learn them.

Although I'm a johnnette-come-lately to the music scene, one thing that I *do* have, again because I grew up in this music, is a deep familiarity with a couple hundred "standards". The era is 50-80 (!) years ago, so the term "standards" is a misnomer. In fact, I feel more and more like some kind of nostalgia queen who takes people back in time to a place that was different than it is today. It's not so easy to find players who really know this genre, and feel it in their bones - I was naive about that bit, and have since learned to cherish the folk who do know how to get there.

Two weeks ago my piano player cancels out on me - actually, he forgets he's booked the gigs with me and schedules others. Not only does he do that, but he takes my bass player with him. Well, harrumph! I'm sure you know some of the ins and outs of these little capers.

Anyhow, it was truly delicious in its cosmically orchestrated "perfection" because I called Barbara and learned that she was ready to consider other opportunities, since she was losing so many instrumental gigs to other groups.

I'd maintained for a long time that she actually "needed "a vocalist, because the audiences for instrumental-only piano jazz, while devoted, are small. Vocalists, on the other hand, tend to appeal to a larger number of people - people who come out for dinner, and then have a few drinks, and rekindle love and then go home and finish what I've started (as I like to remind them) - and I also thought it would be a way for her to expand her audience and stay somewhat fresh.

She agreed to play, and "try it out". When my bass player, Hamilton, learned that Barbara was going to do the gigs, he told me "I'm there." It is very cool, because I really like this guy, too. He had a similar childhood exposure to the same music I did - his father was very into jazz and played the music all through his boyhood.

So, we had our first rehearsal today, in my living room, and it was so smooth we could have gone on stage just like we were and no one would have known we'd never played as a set before.

I am so happy! It turns out that our pace and phrasing are very complementary. She says she can feel where I'm going. That means so much to me! We love the same songs, and we both have the same favorites that "nobody does anymore." She said that she was excited, and could see the value of collaborating with a vocalist, in order to broaden her own horizons.

This is going to be good for both of us. I'm a lot more goal-oriented than she is right now. I pick these bright little stars in the sky to shoot for, fix my sextant, and then move the freightliner as deftly as I can (I can't wait for a smaller boat to turn!) She says she'll benefit by thinking more along those lines, and I agree. She is very talented, and she needs to get enough exposure so that she can at least be "seen". She never plays out of Eugene, but she's very well known here, so I think she could go somewhere good if she could just get over the horizon of this tiny-tot town.

I told her about my "busking to gondoliers" plan in 2003 - and I said "look, I might be singing by myself on some bridge in Venice, but how long do you think it's going to take for one of those gondoliers to get the word to the jazz cats in Saint Marks Square that an American woman in a black dress is singing jazz on the bridge, and would love to meet a saxophone?" (this is one of my favorite little's so do-able, with just me, and a mic, and a little amp, and a battery, and a dress, and a moon, and a bridge...of course, I could use someone to sing to...)

She's got a 13-year old son, and she's just finishing a very similar relationship to mine; 3 years of waiting for the fellow to figure out that more than once a week, Without Complaining, was pretty much a necessary next step. What is it with your sex? Is this really a guy-thing, as Douglas maintains? Or is it just that we've been through a bad batch?

Hamilton is in heaven, too. Barbara is of the caliber that will bring out the best in him. I think I'm really going to like our sound. I've been adding songs in French and Portuguese, and these lyrics take musicians who know how to get out of the way of the words, so that the audience can feel the nuance of another language outlining the tune. Barbara's amazing in her capacity to do this.

And my god, the woman is an absolute beauty. She's blonde, with strong Scandinavian features, and a lithe, gorgeous body - the epitome of class in any setting. Hamilton is a strikingly handsome, tall, thin, Japanese-American man with a shaved head, and he looks magnificent with a stand-up bass. I'm probably the ugly duckling of the bunch, but I just doff my wine glass and call out "more!"

Anyhow, I just wanted to pop off this little bit and describe our first rehearsal. I hope it's one of many. I hope we make it to a studio someday and lay down some music. *That* will tickle my mother so pink she'll get a ticket!

Now let's see - should I do the bookkeeping or go Zydeco dancing? hmmmm. hard choice...

I send strong love and fond thoughts your way.

I don't know if you're reading any of these, but they sure are fun to write.

-- Anonymous, October 10, 2001

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