My friend Jim Fiorentino asked me to donate a set for our House Rep Susan Wild’s campaign, which I was more that glad to do. Susan’s the real deal, a progressive Democrat – we are lucky to have her in the House.
Jim sponsors a bi-weekly jam session in his backyard in a fairly high end community in North Bethlehem. The sessions are quite successful, run by another friend Bill Medei, who sets up a sound system and channels quite a few regular players to these jams. Somehow, I figured this would be a little different with a slightly different audience, so I was looking forward to playing for these folks. I hoped to do some tunes with Dana Gaynor, a friend featured on this jam.
As it turned out, the usual group of players showed up (a good thing) and as I pulled up around 5 pm, I was greeted by Bill and Dana Gaynor. Bill said that he would put me on shortly, so I grabbed my folding chair and my gig bag, and headed for the back yard. There was nice audience of leftists, musicians and fine young Black kid, Kelal Shuford, playing piano. A very nice scene to walk into.
I had enough time to settle in, survey the situation, find my friend/bassist Steve Foreman and then it was time to take the stage. I set up my chair, plugged in, said a few words to Dana and Steve, encouraging them to let me set up the tune, shooed away a couple of drummers and started out with We Are Welcomed. Remarkably I hit it strong but found myself slightly out 0f breath with having just arrived and then on stage so quickly. Luckily we settled in, toyed with the song with Dana and Steve doing solos. Good, solid ending and we had arrived. We made a good impression. Phew.
I was still settling in and decided to keep it simple for all of us, but still rock out a little. We followed with Pay Bo Diddley, perhaps too simple for Dana’s considerable chops, but a good jam tune anyway. Steve and Dana are pros and I was confident we could build on this tune. It worked well.
I then pulled out Mama Wants to Barrelhouse from my Cockburn kit and sprung this fairly sophisticated blues on Dana and Steve. Steve, by now, was kneeling down to my right, trying to catch the chord changes, so I adjusted a bit so I could telegraph the changes. Still, it was a leap for both players and I was shaking off some finger rust myself. We acquitted ourselves nicely. Another phew….
Bill motioned that I should do one more, so I pulled out Lessons From Pete. I tacked on drummer Bret Talbert, whom I had never played with before, thinking that he’d be fine on this one. Turned out to be true. The band picked up on the progression quickly, Dana played a nice initial lead and I delivered the lyrics well. The second lead gets creative with a low-volume bass lead by Steve, a louder, driving electric lead by Dana, and solid last verse to bring us in. It was good. I was soaked with sweat and somewhat beat from the set.
I packed up and moved off stage as Dana, Bill and a few others did a nice jam tune. I noticed Kelal off by the pool area, walked over, set up my chair and thanked him for his set. We started up a great conversation and I found out quickly that he works with children. Bam! Teaching Artist!
As it turns out, I knew Kelal from his days with the Charter Arts School, his several visits to Godfrey’s for some of their events. This kid is the real deal, and now he’s out in the real world. I laid a lot about what I do with kids, the joy of working with other TA’s, the challenges and rewards of playing with kids, and more. He made my day.
These social jams have some stress for me. On one hand, I feel a little uncomfortable commanding stage time from the crowd of players that are here to play. I cruise in and get a set at my convenience. I hope that they accept my position and don’t harbor some ill will. Another strange situation is the presence of the former husband of my former wife, someone who has put me through the emotional wringer over the past 20 years. I really don’t like him/her, in spite of being former good friends over the past 45 years, and I am very uncomfortable around him/her. I should be over this, but I’m not. Pisses me off.
Susan Wild came up and did a nice campaign chat, giving us all forewarnings about what this election means to our society. Sheesh. That’s why I tried to add my talents to the cause today.
The jam started up again, and, unfortunately, some of the same old hackneyed regulars came up and rehashed so of the same old pop covers that has made me somewhat reluctant to become a regular myself. As Popeye says, “I can’t takes no more!” and I packed up my guitar and chair and headed for my car.
I was glad to add some quality music to this crowd, for this candidate in these tough times. I was especially glad to connect with a young and talented Black Teaching Artist. A good way to spend a Labor Day Sunday afternoon.