Joined a New Band!

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The Covid thing was dying down somewhat here in North Georgia when Sheila & I got a call from our friend, Bob, who is/was the drummer in my Unit 5 band. Unit 5 kind of fell apart with the ‘Rona restrictions, but Bob and his wife Kimberly remained good, social friends of ours. The call from Bob was an invitation to dinner, and would I mind sitting down and playing some jazz with a guitar player friend of his?

Not wanting to appear desperate, I waited maybe 8 seconds before saying “yes!” … after all, Kim is a very good cook, she and Sheila get along extremely well, and adding the chance to play a little jazz made that decision a no-brainer.

Bob & Kimberly

Bob & Kim were, as usual, excellent hosts, the meal was wonderful and companionship was terrific. Well worth the visit right there, but the music!!!

Bob’s guitar playing friend is an acquaintance from one of his previous musical ventures. Pete (the guitar guy), it turns out, is a well educated and experienced musician. He has a Ph.D in music as it happens, was a professor at both Northeastern U & Alabama U until he retired. He was also a steady working musician until Covid squashed everything.

Pete

Those who read/follow this blog know I’m an experienced musician, as well, and while I’ve made probably 1000 mistakes over the years and just as many poor decisions, I know enough to realize when a guy can play! And this new guy, Pete, he could really play! So much so that after we ran through 4 or 5 tunes he looked at me and said, “So, when do we start booking gigs?”

We were able to quickly put together 4 sets of tunes as a start, and thanks to Bob’s leadership and social skills, we almost immediately picked up a steady 2x per month gig at an Italian restaurant, Marie’s Italian Deli & Bakery in Cumming GA. And it was the good kind of gig, too, one that had a respectable pay rate, a dedicated (but small) band stage, an in-house PA system, NOT a jam band setting (we’re all soooo tired of these “jams” that have very Tom, Dick & Harry sitting in and sounding raucous), and the owners really appreciate good music and good musicians.

What a pleasure to play with accomplished musicians again! I had been trying to find a good playing situation since I got here in Georgia but it wasn’t very easy. First of all, I knew no one, and when you don’t have contacts you need to go to the dreaded aforementioned “jams”, which I just can’t stand. And, you have to go to night clubs, late at night (most start playing around 9:30-10:00 pm) (eek!!!) to meet players and hope they’ll invite you, a complete stranger, to sit in with their band. Or, in some cases even worse than the “jams”, you get stuck in an endless cycle of rehearsals with it never going anywhere other than someone’s basement or garage! I was already stuck in my own basement, I didn’t need to go to somewhere else to sit in a basement.

My basement

I had started the Unit 5 band, and that was making some minor headway but then the pandemic hit and killed off all of the momentum. We were all a bit older and all had some sort of medical issues which dictated caution, so there was no interaction for nearly 1.5 years. We could never get it back up and started again ….

During the Covid thing, I did try something different after a time. I was contacted to audition for a country-themed band, definitely not my style but they sounded, looked and acted like professionals. After the first song, the drummer looked at me and said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Try to not play so many notes” … Wow, 2 minutes into the first song and it’s clear I’m entirely too jazz-y for this country band! And I was being good, too, playing conservatively, but obviously that wasn’t working out.

They were very nice people, and good musicians, but just a completely different genre than me. We parted on good terms, but with the unspoken sentiment of “Hit The Road Jack”, the Ray Charles classic, playing in my head.

It was the first time in probably 40+ years that I didn’t pass the audition.

Back to the new band …

Now that we had some tunes in the rotation, and nearly a years worth of steady gigs to start us off, we had to come up with a name. Without a doubt, naming a band is one of the most ridiculous things musicians do. Either the names sound trite, or immature, or just plain stupid, or the bands try to use a combination of names/initials, which rarely works out. Of course, you can just use some nonsensical name, but we were shooting for a bit more sophistication with this band.

When I lived up north in my previous life PS (that’s pre-Sheila), I played with two very excellent musicians in a jazz trio. The guitar player, Joe Lisa, was a long time friend and fellow band mate in a few different ventures, and the drummer, Bill Bang (yes, that is his actual name and not a coy play on his chosen instrument) and I struggled for a name and came up with nothing. What were we going to do, use our last names so the band was named Lisa Bang Goode or maybe Goode Bang Lisa? Just not a workable solution, so we just used a generic “trio” to describe the band, which eventually became The Trio.

Now down here in Georgia we had the same issue, although not the “Lisa-Goode-Bang”problem, more one of no name worth the while cropping up. Naturally, being very lazy by nature I suggested “The Trio” (hey, it worked once before, didn’t it?) and the name stuck. We defined it a bit more and called it The Trio Jazz Band, and it seemed that everyone was happy!

Just to be sure you’re up to speed so far, we: a) got through Covid, sort of; b) had a great dinner with Bob & Kim; c) found out Pete is a really good jazz guitarist; d) put together 4 sets of material in a matter of a few hours; e) booked a steady gig for decent coin twice a month for a full year, and; f) even came up with a band name! Now, that’s making progress!

4 months into this new venture and things are going along very well! The band has an excellent chemistry, the patrons seemingly love us, every gig sees the band getting tighter and tighter, and I’m enjoying playing in live venues again for the first time since I moved down to be with Sheila.

“How High The Moon”

For her part, Sheila is getting to be the “groupie” of sorts, coming to a reasonable amount of the public gigs. It’s great to be able to see her in the audience, listening and enjoying the music. And she provides some seriously valuable feedback on song selection and performance, always helpful for any musician to have someone that they trust making sure things go well.

At the age of 70, it’s interesting to become part of a new and exciting musical situation. It seemed for so many years while up in the NY/NJ music scene it had become more about making dollars and less about having fun doing something you love. Now, the best of both worlds; making some post-retirement money and having a blast playing with good musicians!

Huge thanks to Bob for putting this trio together, and to Pete for agreeing to be a part of it all!

1 comments on “Joined a New Band!”

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