Thoughts on a new book…need your input…
For the past 2+ years I’ve had this idea of putting together a book that’s essentially a compilation of interviews that focus on one subject. Patterned after Art Taylor’s Notes and Tones, my book would ask this one question:
Could you describe the most awkward gig or playing situation that you’ve ever found yourself in?
I feel that as an aspiring professional musician, many of us find ourselves in playing situations that we could never have imagined. Most of us have stories to tell and I would like to tell your story.
As for me and my most awkward moment…well I could say that I have two that stick out in my memory. The first one must have been about six or seven years ago. I got a call to play a duo gig with a saxophone player (who shall remain nameless) at a liquor store. Now let me tell you, this store wasn’t one of those nice Martignelli stores that you find here in New England, this place was one of those decrepid, store-front joints in the middle of Mattapan, Mass. The gig happened to be a promotional gig for a major beer company. I’m sure we were hired as a tax-write off. This place was soooo small the sax player and I had to play in separate isles. Mind you this place only had two isles to begin with. So with would play a melody together, I would walk a bassline on my trumpet and the saxophone player would solo and vice-versa. As we were playing, tipsy vagrants started to come in and mock us as we were playing. If that gig wasn’t paying what it was, I would have walked out, but it ended up being okay.
The second gig happened this past summer in July. I week before I got married I got a call from Curtis Lundy, the great bassist that played with Betty Carter, to do a tour in the former Soviet Union. I was so excited to play with him and his band in a place that was all together new to me. So we fly from NY to Moscow. When we arrived at the airport in Moscow I realized that we have a 8 hour layover there before we go to Krygystan. If you aren’t familiar with the airport in Moscow, let me tell you, it isn’t a place that I look forward to visiting again. For instance, here in the states and every other airport that I’ve been to always has an ample number of chairs to sit in at the gate of you departing flight. Not in Moscow. If you want to sit down, you have 3 options: 1. Go to the “VIP” lounge, where you pay $40 for 2 hours to sit in ac and have access to internet. 2. Go to a restaurant, and in our case, run up a bill over a 7-hour period for six people. In the end the waitress tried to cheat us out of about 300 dollars. When we disputed the bill, they had nothing to say. Just goes to show that if you are willing to pay what they charge you, then that’s on you, your loss. 3. Go and grab some newspaper, spread it out on the floor, and lay there. Everyone was using newspaper because the bathrooms were extremely dirty, so everyone trails out whatever’s on the floor in there.
So we arrive in Bishkek, Kryrgystan and the only planes that I see on the tarmac are these HUGE U.S. airforce jumbo jets that dwarfed the 747 that we flew in. I was later told that the U.S. uses that airport to re-up to perform operations in Afghanistan. We were detained for about half an hour to go through the visa process (they were nice).
Now for the playing part. I wasn’t quite aware of the performance situation before we left Ny. I don’t think anyone knew actually. I was told to bring a tux, so I assumed that it was going to be a nice gig, maybe a festival or a concert in a hall. So I finally find out that were playing 2 hotel gigs for a banking conference!!! The first gig was scheduled for 7:00-12 midnight outside! Fortunately it rained so we didn’t start until 8:30. There was a nice stage set up for us and the sound guys were great. Eleven o’clock rolls around and the hotel manager comes out and tells us that we have to stop playing because of the quiet policy. I met a few bankers there who were really nice. I actually met two bankers who were in Boston for a period and they knew me from Wally’s!!
So after the first gig, we go back to the hotel to get rest for a early departure for the next gig, which is 5 hours away in car. So we get to the next gig and I look around and I see the same bankers that I saw the night before! So I wonder to myself, did these people endure the same van ride that I had to? So I ask around, and come to find out most of these people flew from Bishkek.
The second gig was supposed to be a band showcase. There were 3 other bands there and we were to perform last and then follow our performance with a jam session. Well as you could have guessed every band before us went over their time so we didn’t start on time. So we get on and end up playing 3 songs that last a total of about 20 minutes. As for the jam session, that ended as soon as it started.
What’s so awkward about that experience is the fact that I went literally halfway around the world, got paid a buttload of money to play these two gigs, which were essentially background music gigs, with a bass player who in my humble opinion, is a living legend. It just goes to show how much money is in this world.
If you have any stories, I would love to hear them. I hope to compile enough material to publish a book in the near future. If you would like to share your experience please email your stories to me at firstname.lastname@example.org