This is kind of rambling – but that’s the way my brain operates on a day like today. I’m on a quick little trip to NYC that is all about me for a change so I don’t have much to distract me from my thoughts.
I’m taking my bass up to my favorite luthier for a little touchup work, then I’ll go hear some music, pick up my bass tomorrow, and head home. It’s been a long time since I’ve done a trip to New York that didn’t have some other people or agenda attached to it and although it is always fun to go to NYC for any reason, I especially like going there by myself.
I haven't completely isolated myself – I’ve checked in with Doug a couple of times. The first time was after I passed the Moravia Road exit on 95. I always think “there’s Bob Fields' exit” whenever I drive past it and it's been a while since the last time I was up that way. Bob had a rehearsal band that met in his basement nearly every Tuesday morning for more than 30 years. He wrote a whole slew of 7 piece arrangements that were really fun to play. I was his regular bass player for five years until about 2003, when I began to be out of town more than I was home. I loved playing with him and was really sad when he called me to sub a couple of months ago and I couldn’t do it. I wish I had just cancelled whatever it was that I had because that would have been my last chance to play with him. He passed away almost a month ago. In his usual understated way, he kept quiet about how sick he actually was. I wish I’d known. I miss him. So I called Doug and we talked for a while.
Not more than an hour went by before someone called me with some sad news about my friend John Greeley, who is also one of my very favorite drummers. We used to have a steady gig together but our paths stopped crossing as much after I went on the road and it’s been nearly a year since we last played together. I always had in mind that he would be over at my house all the time for jam sessions after we moved back in. But he passed away last night so that’s not ever going to happen. John was a super nice guy and a fantastic drummer. He was always up for a jam session if he didn’t have a gig. His lung cancer was pretty far along when it was first diagnosed about six months ago.
I was really glad to be alone for the drive up so that I could think about all of the wonderful ways that these two people had enhanced my life, as a musician and also on a personal level. I feel very lucky to have known both of them, but I sure wish they were still around.
The one bright note for the drive up was that it took only 3 hours and 20 minutes to drive from the outskirts of Silver Spring to Lower Manhattan. I don’t even think I was driving that fast – I just drove straight there and didn’t make any stops. So at least the super gloomy trip was unusually short.
When I got to David Gage’s shop, he and everyone else there was in a very celebratory mood about Obama’s victory. It hadn’t been on my mind at all today so far. It was nice to see them all so happy. Later I got lucky and found street parking a block and a half from my hotel and I don’t have to move my car until 11:00 tomorrow morning. As I was walking to my hotel I heard conversation after conversation about Obama. It seems that all of New York is happy today.
Tonight I went to the Blue Note and heard Charlie Haden’s Music Liberation Orchestra with arrangements by Carla Bley. It was a musical celebration of our country – every arrangement was based on specifically American songs. The orchestrations were quite interesting. All of the players were outstanding. The group consisted of three saxes, two trumpets, french horn, trombone, and sousaphone with piano, guitar, bass, and drums. I was amused to observe that Vincent Chancey, the french horn player and Curtis Fowlkes, the trombonist, standing next to each other kind of reminded me of John Clayton and Ron Carter. The players were all outstanding. They had exceptional control of their quiet range so it was a very pleasant overall volume level for such a large group. Charlie Hayden has some issues with tintinitus and can’t tolerate loud volumes anymore. It must be pretty awful to have a problem like that, especially when it affects what kinds of groups you can play with. But in this case I would say the group benefited from having to play softer – and the audience benefited as well.
While they were playing Amazing Grace and the theme from the New World Symphony, my mind started wandering again, back to John, and Bob, and then also to Larry Eanet and Keter Betts, and finally to Frankie Condon and Bill Potts. I hope I see them all again one day.
What a thoughtful trip and thoughtful post.
Maybe I don't want to play with you after all! Seriously, I'm sure you are going to miss these people with whom your shared good musical experiences.
Deborah and Bill use a luthier a little closer to home -- somewhere in Pennsylvania. But hey, if it gives you a reason to drive to NYC, I say go for it.
Thanks you guys. It was good to get away but kind of difficult to be back. Death is a fact of life I guess.
I went to John's memorial service yesterday. It was a beautiful and moving tribute to John's life and by the end of it I had moved from being upset, sad, and depressed to feeling kind of calm and peaceful and once again happy and grateful to have known him and played with him so many times over the years. It was wonderful to see how so many other musicians also loved and appreciated him as a musician and also as a person.
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