You know in life some things happen to us and we have no other choice but to ask ourselves, “Why me?” Some of these happenings may be good, some not so good, that’s just how life goes. Well one of those things happened to me on June 28th 2009 in Saratoga Springs, NY.
During my performance with the Grace Kelly Quintet in the Gazebo at the Freihofer Jazz Festival I was sitting on at a bench preparing to play on the next tune. At the side of the stage there was a very enthusiastic lady dancing and having a ball during the show. Grace took notice of her and acknowledged her in between tunes. Grace asked her name and she replied, “Wanda”. Wanda then exclaims that she has a book of autographs that date back to the 70’s filled with many icons of the music.
Wanda the crossed the security rope and came to the bench that I was sitting at. She introduced herself and takes out the book. She asks me to sign her book and I’m pretty flattered when these things happen but I was delighted to sign the book. But when she opens the book and shows me the autographs that are in there, I FREAKED OUT!!! Off the top of my head I remember seeing the John Hancocks of Charlie Mingus, Dannie Richmond, Tony Redus, Ronnie Mathews, Freddie Hubbard, Hilton Ruiz, Clark Terry, Barry Harris, Tommy Flannagan, Billy Higgins, Louis Hayes, Wayne Dockery, Milt Jackson, Leo Parker, Jon Faddis, Billy Harper, Virgil Jones, Wallace Roney, Roy Haynes, Lonnie Smith, Ravi Coltrane, Orrin Evans, and the signature that I was most impressed with was tenor saxophonist Roland Alexander. I only have one LP of Roland that features Kenny Dorham on a few tracks. I have been looking for information about him for years so to see something from his hand really touched me. Wanda told me that she remembered meeting Roland and never forgot how nice he was to her when she asked for his signature. I was so surprised to see it that I felt compelled to take a picture of the signature with my camera phone. The signature is dated July 11th, 1979, which dates me to about 5 months of age!!
Wanda told me that life circumstances (raising children, etc) had kept her from collecting autographs since 2003 and that I(and Grace) were the first musicians that she’s asked since then. I don’t know what drove Wanda to present the book yesterday (it’s a pretty big 2-day festival so maybe she chose to take advantage of the number of great musicians that were slated to perform, George Benson, Jimmy Cobb, Gino Sitson, etc.). That was a really HUMBLING moment for me. When I saw all of those names, knowing that THEY touched that book and pressed down pen to paper in order to connect to this devoted fan of the music, it inspired me to make a deeper connection with their contributions to this music.
Now’s the Time- Charlie Parker,