Sunday, May 24, 2020

Box Break for Music Career Note-in-a-Bottle

I've previously described how ridiculously promiscuous my music career was (setting the stage for my similar food writing career):
"At a certain point in my musical career, after a weekend spent running between a salsa gig in the South Bronx, a brass quintet gig in Midtown, and rehearsals for some weirdo avante-garde puppet thing Downtown, I was feeling satisfied at how differently I'd played in all these places (as I did in the dozens of wildly diverse scenes of which I was a recognized part). I acted differently, too. And talked differently. A typical freelance New York City musician, I was the ultimate chameleon (but I didn't think about this very often; I was too busy doing it).

"When my weekend was over, I hightailed it over to the Skylark Lounge out by JFK airport, a black bar where men wore hats with feathers, to sit in, just for kicks, with one of my all-time favorite jazz drummers (and friends) Walter "Baby Sweets" Perkins, who performed there with his trio. Around 2 a.m., while we took a break (and he practiced paradiddles on his practice pad in the back room), Walter asked me what I'd been up to. I recounted my weekend wryly, ala Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Walter listened, then looked up slyly. He asked me if this was just another stop on my ride. My eyes widened and I gasped in horror. "Walter, this is home!" I exclaimed.

And I meant it. However, I had to privately acknowledge that the South Bronx salsa gig was also home. As was the chamber music gig, and the avante garde thingamajib. There were many stops on my ride, none of them not "home". "I'm like a whore," I remember thinking to myself more than once in dark moods, "who really believes it."
I just found a note in one of my boxes, a message-in-a-bottle sent to my future self so he'd remember how kooky it was. In one month, I played with:
  • A flamenco/carnatic/jazz trio in Madrid with Indian tabla drums and Spanish acoustic guitar. Here's a brief sample:

  • (if that doesn't work, click here)
  • An (otherwise) all-woman samba band
  • An Irish experimental folk-rock duo with a singer/songwriter
  • A swing band led by a midget pianist (literally) old enough to have once rented a room from Scott Joplin's widow (Shorty Jackson; I'm just out of camera range in this shot)
  • A latin pop gig led by a Brazilian midget heartthrob (Nelson Ned, a helluva nice guy).
  • A rock band - also featuring a harp and cello - created by a Columbia PhD composer
  • A gypsy wake
  • A psychedelic New Orleans brass band (I think that was the week Bob Dorough travelled in from Delaware Water Gap just to sing "Conjunction Junction" with us).
  • A stream-of-consciousness avant-garde duo (with acoustic bass) that deliberately annoyed patrons of an East Village cafe run by a misanthrope (we called the group "Rainbow Love")
  • A group led by an internationally famous painter (Larry Rivers) who owned a saxophone

For a sense of my range (which enabled the promiscuousness), compare the sound sample above with this performance in the early 90s, around the same time as this kooky month.

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