In this moment in my musical life things are good and I take absolutely none of it for granted.
The fact that I’ve had the chance to play organ–trio jazz with the Bobby Broom Organi-Sation for thousands of people per night, opening for Steely Dan in arenas, amphitheaters and concert halls all over North America, all summer long, is still somewhat surreal to me when I think about it.
But the fact of the matter is that, after doing it now for two summers, it is very real. Real in the sense that I have to get up in about six hours to drive for four to the next city for the concert tomorrow night. The show tonight was really good and so now I find myself having to wind down for the several hours that it takes… We’re into week eight of this eleven week tour. Yeah, sometimes I get lonely, cranky, tired… but in some strange, crazy way, I kinda don’t look forward to this ending.
I was built for this life. It started in my 20s when I began traveling—first with Hugh Masakela, then Dave Grusin and finally Sonny Rollins—back when there were astronomical international phone bills and no Skype, cell phones, internet or cable TV. Damn. A person actually had to rough it with a book, a beer, social interaction, or solitude. Imagine that? Anyway, it’s so much easier now, but still not the life for many.
When the music is right, I feel at my best out here. When the music is not right, I can feel as lost as I do sometimes when I’m at home and I have no idea how the next opportunity will arise. This is why it’s hard for me to express the gratitude that I feel right now.
The music is flowing such that, even if I don’t play my best, the band as a whole sounds and feels good. As the opening act on a major tour, the group is being adopted with applause and cheers from huge audiences that, by the end of our set, seem genuinely happy and enthused that we were there. All of this, I realize as an absolute blessing.
Oh yeah, I’ve worked my ass off for nearly fifteen years to be here right now—conceiving of my groups, musical directions, recordings… financing them myself, being my own agent, manager and office assistant, all while teaching at colleges, coaching high school music students, gigging and trying to just be a musician who practices (toward the high standards in jazz established before me) and composes, so as not to be some jive, musical hustler. In other words, doing everything that this independent musician needs to do to survive.
I’m really not complaining mind you. I had it all too good in the beginning—playing with Jazz masters while still in my teens, landing a record deal with major label distribution (I’m sure a lot of you don’t even know what that is) at age 20 and going on to play, record and tour the world with legends.
But none of that, or this, is anything I ever felt or feel entitled to. It’s all a magically pleasant surprise and a gift, albeit one that I dream up in evanescently vague detail and try my best to work toward and prepare for as best I can, by putting one foot in front of the other, trying my best to stay faithful, showing up and being thankful.
To any and all of you who have helped or believed in me in any way, thank you.