Last night I played a gig with the sultry seductress named Sexy Sadie. It was her 85th birthday, and all of her friends came out to hear her sing with the big band I was in. I have no idea where the hell she got all her energy from (or her stage name). She put me to shame as I sipped coffee during the entire 3 1/2 hours of the gig after an entire day of classes. Despite the six decade age difference between us, it was surprisingly refreshing to see someone so undoubtedly in love with music…
After several weeks of voting for the Jazz Star Competition I made it to the top five and the finale. I had to choose two pieces to represent my music. I decided that I should play Blue Skies first, because I wanted to play one standard since it was called a “Jazz” contest and second, because it is one of my Grandparent’s favorite songs. Whenever music came up in conversation, or when I had my sax out, they would ask me to play Satin Doll or Blue Skies. I would never want to play them because I didn’t know the melody and I was too embarrassed (and because I was a little punk who thought he was too cool for some stupid swing tune by a dead guy I’d never heard of- what kind of name is Irving anyway?) I chose this song for my grandparents on the White side. The unaccompanied intro is to make up for whenever I wouldn’t play song requests.
Chief Waneta I wrote for the Fagan side of my family. It was a gorgeous afternoon in May. I had just finished running and was stretching in the oval at Ohio State. I knew that I had to write a tune soon for this competition, so I had been searching for inspiration. I began to think about the cottages that my two uncles own adjacent to each other on Lake Waneta. Immediately as this image presented itself: I started hearing the first part of the melody and my mind snapped into composition mode. I ran back to my dorm (residence hall, what have you…) and recorded myself singing the melody on my phone (many, many times have I found myself hearing an interesting idea without anything but my cell phone to record it with. Thus my phone is filled with my ridiculous falsetto singing.) The tune embodies memories of swimming, ‘bombfires’ (as a misinformed 10yo version of myself would say), hikes, weddings, ice-skating, sledding, water skiing, fireworks, Christmases, Thanksgivings, and all of my family.
I have to hand it to Angelo, Danny and John for bringing the tune together: when I brought the lead sheet into rehearsal, I only had a limited idea of how the overall piece would sound. Once they got a hold of it, they each made it their own and made the tune groove and work. Each performance of this tune with these guys is different. I love that! They always keep me on my toes and listening. Being able to perform with them at this finale and at the Jazz festival in front of both sides of my family was a very unique and special experience.
Recent Movies/Recordings I Recommend:Play it Again, Sam-Herbert Ross/ Woody Allen, Live at the Beehive– Clifford Brown, The Trio (live July 28 & 29, 1961)– Oscar Peterson, Flirting With Twilight-Kurt Elling, For Emma, Forever Ago– Bon Iver.