Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blind leading the blind.

Here's one that happened last night as I was sitting in at a local pub involving a trumpet, piano, bass and drums. Here is the way we were situated onstage. If you were in the house looking at the stage, from left to right, 1 trumpet, 2 piano/director, 3 me on electric bass, and 4 the drummer. This was the first time I was playing with them and I met them just as we were about to perform. The leader passed out a few fake books, so I was confident that this was going to be a good night. It didn't last long...

Early on, during the standard, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", I noticed that the band was playing the usual meter of 12/8, while the drummer was punching out a straight four beat pattern. It didn't take long for the tempo to wander to the point where it was all a jumbled mess.

I stopped playing, hoping that the drummer and piano/director could salvage the song to the point where I would jump back in a the head (top).

This is when I noticed that the drummer had his music stand facing away from the band! I tried to get his attention, but he wasn't listening either. He was in his own little world, unaware that he wasn't playing the same "feel" as the rest of us.

OK, so now I turn to the piano/director only to find that he has his head buried in the book so deep he doesn't see me either. Remember that I am standing next to him.

I tried to get his attention only to find that he wasn't listening either.

So now I glance at the trumpeter. He is a great musician and was very aware of the disaster happening, so he stopped playing as well. All he could do was shrug his shoulders as if to say, "Whatcha gonna Do?" The piano and drums didn't even notice when half the band dropped out!

Enough is enough, so I start yelling at everyone to stop playing. They do, and the audience is relieved. I tell them that we would now play one we actually know. They chuckle because there is no fooling them, and my comment showed a human side. Humor is great for relieving tension.

I invite the drummer to pass me his music stand, so that I could place it in line with the director so he wouldn't have to turn his head anymore to watch for cues. It would have worked to, if the piano/director was giving cues. He wasn't. I ended up watching the pianist hands to see when he was slowing down or adding a tag at the songs end. Then I would tell the drummer.

Moral? A good band consists of everyone watching and listening to each other, making sure that their part is blending with everyone else. If you can't hear every other instrument onstage, someone isn't playing properly.

Worst case scenario?

You have the bling leading the blind.

Yours Musically,

Larry Marra

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