I know this greeting is a bit late but…Happy New Year ! Hope your 2012 got off to a great start!
My 2012 is shaping up to be a really good one. I’m looking forward to finally starting Music school (yes, Daddy is going back to school, ha!) and of course making more Music with my group, 1Eighty.
There’s one other thing I’m looking forward to doing: Making mistakes. Yes, mistakes.
Lots of them!
I learned a long time ago that trying something new and screwing up is a good thing. Yes, you may feel fear, embarrassment or even break into a sweat, but in most cases you’ll have fun and learn something in the process. I experienced all of these things at yesterday’s Jazz Jam Session. Yeah, your boy even sweat a bit.
Playing live with my 1Eighty family is a lot of fun and I always look forward to it, but I’ve been a bit intimidated to play in the jam sessions at the local bars and clubs here in Tokyo…especially the Jazz sessions. These cats that play at the Jazz sessions are good…no..Incredible! Some are pro (or semi-pro) and most of the other players have been playing 20+ years. Although, I’ve only been playing seriously for the past 2 1/2 years, I decided to pack up “Beauty Jackson” (my 5-string Bass) and hit the Monday afternoon session.
The jam sessions at Dolce Vita usually start off with the house band playing a song then the session leader will call people to the stage who signed up to play. You never know who you’re going to be playing with and what playing level they’re at. I was a bit surprised when my name was called after the house band’s opening song. The first thing that came out my mouth was, “Uh, I need a bit more time…” I hadn’t finished my coffee and I wanted to look through my major, dominant and minor chord cheat sheets (not that it was going to help any). A few seconds later, the saxophonist said she wanted to play “Autumn Leaves” which is a song I know and love. (There are many versions of this song but I really like the version by legendary Detroit Bassist, Ron Cater.) I then said, “OK. I’ll play.” I wasn’t mentally ready and my fingers were still cold but there was no turning back. I tuned up Beauty, got my Music sheet ready and waited for Someya-san’s intro (he’s 1Eighty’s piano man).
I thought I would at least be ok through the first 8 to 12 bars but things got a bit rough just after third bar. The drummer was precise (if not perfect) but I was having trouble keeping time. Perhaps I was trying to do too much and maybe should have stuck with a safe I-V playing style instead of trying I-III-V-VII or any other tricky combination (for you non-Musicians –> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_progression)…or better yet just played root notes throughout. After getting lost a couple of times (thanks for getting me back on track Someya-san!) and crash landing, I took a seat at my table, wiped my sweat and sipped some coffee. Yes, it was rough but I was determined to redeem myself later.
After watching some great Musicians play for a while, it was my turn again. Instead of trying Autumn Leaves again (which I did play later) I decided to try a song called “Beautiful Love” which is another great Jazz standard…and also a song I had never played. Once again, there was no turning back. Yes, there were more mistakes (plenty of them) but I could feel my confidence growing.
More great sets then it was my turn again. A great thing about the sessions at Dolce Vita is all of the players (even the pro Musicians) are super cool and don’t mind if you play the same song that someone else played or that you played earlier. Yes, it’s a jam session but it’s also practice. I decided to give Autumn Leaves another shot. Although, I wasn’t perfect, I played a bit better. Confidence still on the rise. My last song of the day was another I had never played titled, “Days of Wine and Roses.” Another rough set but I made it through it.
After my last set I grabbed a beer. (I swear, beer never tasted so good!) The other players finished up the session with an Blues jam where everyone got a chance to solo. As I watched all these great Musicians, I thought to myself, “Yes, that is where I’m headed.”
I absolutely love Jazz (it’s probably the Music I love the most) and will someday form my own trio (or quartet). In the meantime, I’m going to keep jamming, practicing and of course, making mistakes.
Reggie “RJ Bass” Austin