Saturday, February 28, 2009

Love the Thing You Do

I talked to my friend Matt Farmer last night as he was driving to his two-guitar-man gig last night. Matt has taken to playing about once a month with Chicago guitar ace Brian Willkie at whatever bar will let them in, I think. (Actually, usually Finley Dunne's in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago.) Brian is one hell of a guitar player, a master of all styles, including the rockabilly influenced style that is in Matt's sweet spot. Matt sings and plays guitar, too. He has studied under the careful tutelage of Jamey Aebersold, I believe.

In any event, that has become something of a monthly thing for Matt. I've been playing with Matt (through and with my sax-a-ma-phone pal Neal Connors) for 10 years plus now. Matt has been working the six-piece full-on horn section bar band for all that time. He loves it, but it is a ton of work for him, corralling all us crazy players. It allows him to do a bunch of material he truly loves to do in a way that is very satisfying. Who wouldn't want to do Sweet Caroline with a horn section and all the trimmings? (OK, some of the trimmings.) But make no mistake, it's a slog, and it happens once every two months at best, and at times Matt decides to (or has to) take a break for half a year or better. All of that is frustrating for him, I can imagine.

But I think Matt started doing these two-man things to scratch his performing itch--fun for him, way easy for him compared to a six-person group, way less pressure to bring out a crowd, way less pressure to get good comp for the band members (Matt never takes any pay himself), likes to hang and play with Willkie (or their mutual buddy, Stevie Doyle). And I think he loves it.

Just the way I love doing my Sunday blues band. Easy, no-brainer in terms of scheduling, set-up and the rest. I love playing Wayne Shorter tunes with a full-on Miles Davis style jazz quintet, but the blues band thing is so cool and easy, I just embraced it, the way it sounds like Matt is embracing his two-man thing.

And things have a way of morphing anyway--the blues band has become a little hang for the jazz musicians in town. Last weekend, we played So What with the base band, as well as a blistering Red Clay with our good friend David Certain kicking our butts on bass. And absolutely smoking versions of The Jody Grind and Blue Bossa with John Farrar and Darryl Mixon sitting in--both the best versions of those tunes I think I've been a part of in my life, anywhere, anytime. And Matt similarly I think has quite a crowd of friends, sit-ins coming by his two-man thing. Both things are a "scene"--hence, the title of the blog: like Ray Sasaki's exhortation years ago--when you've got a chance to create a scene, do it.

My point is, it seems you can spend years picking at something or other, trying to make it work, which is a good, worthwhile and necessary thing. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, but related to that effort, there's another little thing that comes up, that you may ignore for a while, but it keeps presenting itself, insisting on itself, "Try ME!!" And you do, and that little thing turns out to be just the thing.

And you love it.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I've not blogged in a long time. It's like anything (most notably exercise and diet in my view)--once you get in or out of any habits, it's harder to break them. I got out of the habit and it just didn't feel easy to get going again. So I'm doing a shorter post now with the hope that I can get back on the bandwagon again. More later (hopefully!).