We began in the usual way: one man short. Ryan is always late because he always has a gig beforehand, so your humble narrator must discharge the guitar duties alone. This means you better call tunes I know and that's a mighty short list.
This is the roll of the dice, kids, and the potentially embarrassing element for me. Although this is a laid back gig at a small restaurant-club, you never know who's going to show up and listen or when you will be placed squarely on the hot seat. Both happened.
Indeed, sure as rain, one of the local jazz players and friends show up and take the table right in front of us. Although we have been in bands together and are old friends, still he is truly a jazz musician and a great one. I still feel like an interloper- a guy who once played classical only, but drifted into jazz by circumstance. I am adrift musically-neither this nor that. This may be an unfair assessment, but still this is how I view myself.
Do I feel pressure to be something I somehow cannot live up to? Nah. It's not like I'm on stage at the Clay Center about to play a show unprepared. This is jazz baby. Besides, I have a fake book if things get hairy.
Ryan shows up and finally I can relax. He is an amazing player and I have a lot of balls to sit next to him. It shows either blind arrogance on my part, stupidity or as I would like to think, a chance to learn. Some of his solos were simply astonishing last night. At once, I am lost in supportive admiration and at the same time I am jealous of how easy it appears for him. He glides along the frets laying down some serious jazzopothy. Still, this old man doesn't have thirty six years under his belt for nothin'. I wasn't firing as well as I could, but a few times I laid it out. If all else fails, lay down a tight rhythm.
When the two of us play, it soon becomes guitar madness. There is a symbiosis between us that reflects our mutual love of classical, jazz, the avant garde and a dash of King Crimson. In fact, it dawned on me that if I couldn't bring the fast lines to Ryan, he would bring the Fripp interlocking guitar lines to me. We took off into this improvised section that was amazing.
Afterwards, Lisa said, "Do you guys need a cigarette?"
I thought the band sounded pretty good and thought the night was over when someone wanted to hear Autumn Leaves. Without warning, Brian announces, "We're gonna let this be an acoustic guitar number." Wha? Thanks for the spotlight. This is the hot seat I was referring to earlier. Does anyone care that I am seated next to a Berkley graduate and quite possibly is the best jazz guitarist in town? Time to fly or fry, baby.
I did my best with some hazy changes on the end of the B section. Ryan had
"no complaints." Small mercies-thanks.
Soon I was with my friends and delightful pale ale. All other beer tastes like sh*t to me without a lot of hops typical to this style of brew. Gots to have my hops.
My friend Kai and I go back quite a ways. Kai is a monster player and teacher. His style of teaching is a bit like a samurai sword master-swift and to the point. He said, "You got the radio thing going great, but you really need to play, man."Something tells me he is right. Goddam right.