Friday, January 16, 2015

Bad Nights

Old vaudville joke:

Q: Why are you hitting yourself in the head with a hammer??
A: Because it feels so good when I stop!

I'm playing at Manhattan's famed Village Vanguard with the Illinois Jacquet band, circa 1990, and am having the mother of all bad nights. My tone is thin, my tuning is horrendous (I've been adjusting all night, but it never locks in), and nothing will project. Worst of all, several audience members, including students of mine, have come specifically to hear me play. I am unnerved. Having played into what felt like a headwind all night, I'm covered with sweat.

Finally, we're playing the closing song, Jacquet's theme "Flying Home", which features a particularly vehement lick from the trombone section. I muster all my wind and let it rip....and my plastic contact lens case shoots out of the bell, gliding like an air hockey puck across the floor of the nightclub, spinning wildly, and finally coming to rest near the back wall.

The remarkable thing is how fantastic I felt for the gig's remaining 90 or so seconds. I was trombone Superman. My sound was obscenely lush and round, my tuning was impeccable, and everything felt just so incredibly easy. No other experience in my life has come close to matching the joy of those 90 seconds.

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