Wednesday, March 26, 2014


A few days ago I wrote about a recording session I'd been hired for, to be held in what was once my junior high school, along with my junior high school band conductor, Ed Balsamo, on drums...all via sheer coincidence.

My old teacher is in great shape. He looks exactly the same (in spite of some health problems), and plays better than ever. As I said, he was - and remains - one of the best technicians I've ever heard, but he's also pulled off a miracle. "Swing" is one of those things you either have or you don't. And while he was never the least bit stiff, he wasn't necessarily the swinging-est of drummers. But, via some miracle, now he is. That's not supposed to happen. Ever.

I just sent him this email:
It was fantastic to see (and, particularly, hear) you again!

When you were playing, I looked over at you and saw a familiar KILLER determination in your eye. It was familiar for two reasons. First, because I always watched you carefully while you played, and I remember this very clearly about you. And, second, it's the exact same look I get in my eye when I play. You can burn the room down....or cut my foot off....but I will still be putting everything I've got into every single note like my life depended on it.

That sense of total commitment was my secret weapon during my musician years. It was the thing I had that nobody else had, and I made a living off it for twenty years. And I realized Monday night that it came entirely from you. Your drum student who I met that night had that same commitment. It's an incredible gift to be able to transmit this to people. It's the quality most lacking in the world, and the very hardest thing to teach.

I've also applied this to my writing. And to my web site. It's been the most important thing in my life. It's been the fuel for everything I've done. I really owe you absolutely everything.

Your fan,


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