Friday, September 28, 2007

st james infirmary. (actually st james social club in swansea's uplands district - but lets stay in the groove)

last tuesday was sitters in night yet again. and this time i didn't screw up. well not massively as i have in the past. this time i had a plan.

firstly: try to play within my capability. basics i know. how often do i need to learn this one? well this time i stuck to it. chose satin doll and ladybird. which are as tricky or otherwise as you want to make them. i kept them basic. good.

secondly: get there early and try out the sound on the pa before anyone else turns up. did this too. as it happens charlie hewitt* was already working out on a stand up bass. i waited till he'd got himself comfortable before asking whether i could blow a few notes myself. when i did charlie, along with alan vaughan on drums and dave cottle on keyboard piled in. the numbers worked. relief.

of course you're never as alone as you think you are. lawrence and walter, a pair of seasoned jazz scene heavyweights overheard my efforts. and were very encouraging. which gave me that warm soft glow .... which is not to be mistaken for incontinence for the simple reason that its neither wet nor smelly.

the night progressed. various players got up for their slots. most were pretty good. then i got the call again.

i'd done it once so it shouldn't have been a problem. BUT .... had i shot my bolt and lost the adrenalin with the first performance? was i tired of waiting and anxious to get my mits on someone fragrant in the tuesday night salsa session downtown** in the monkey cafe?

i think what happened was that i allowed myself to rush. i got the mike-stand to the right height but instead of placing the chart on a music stand so i could read it i left it on a chair and had to crane my neck to see it. this wasn't comfortable and distracted me from what i was actually playing. so second time through wasn't so good and i lost the impro on at least one occasion. maybe because i hadn't psyched myself up and didn't retain my poise? maybe i was so keen to get my stuff across that i stopped thinking?

BUT ... it was a lot better than it has been. i got the impro back and earned a very gratifying round of clapping. when i got a final chorus i blew some more and that went better. i didn't collapse like i have done previously.

so relief was the order of the day. i had played the head reasonably well and recovered from a nasty bit of floundering. we earned what felt substantially more than polite applause at the end of the number. which arrogantly i took personally, forgetting that this one of charlie's early outings too. he had delivered a bass solo and, notwithstanding that, there were two other guys in the combo as well. we wouldn't get up without ego would we? it just needs to be managed is all.

there is just so much internal discipline with this stuff. playing an instrument and performing a piece of music are not the same thing. you may be able to play fine in front of the mirror or web cam but delivering in a live situation is a very different skill.

rehearse as you might there is absolutely no substitute for getting out there and delivering to an audience. you've just got to sit back and play, suffer the anguish of the cock-ups, recover and play again. that's all there is to it. knowing this is basic easy stuff. it only gets difficult when you do it. but you gotta do it. and do it again. and do it again till you get it right.

peace and love, brothers and sisters, peace and love.

* charlie is a guy i bump into occasionally. weirdly enough i first met him when he was getting to grips with bass in a session about forty years ago. i think i was trying to play guitar. the weird bit is that now my musical life seems to have come full circle and i'm back to the beginning who should i end up playing with but one of the first bass players i ever knew?

** located as it is towards the western periphery of what used to be industrial south wales swansea doesn't technically have a 'downtown'. i simply use the term to indicate that the salsa club is in a different district in the city***.

*** swansea IS a city actually. it says so. somewhere.

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