Why I Love Live Music
(MUSIC IS FAMILY)
My grandmother was a professional piano player. She was a music teacher and also performed professionally for the majority of her life. My father got into Berklee, but grandma told him to study something else if he wanted to be able to support a family. He's a musician on the side, with a huge reservoir of untapped ability that he is only now beginning to explore as he enters into the retirement phase of his life.
From a very early age, I remember music in my house. My grandmother would visit and spend what seemed like her entire stay seated at the piano, leading an unending singalong. I'll never forget being totally amazed at how her fingers moved so effortlessly across the keys, often bouncing up above eye level for dramatic effect.
As I got older, my musical tastes evolved from pop, to rap, to hip hop, to classic rock. My dad was from New York and always talked about the New York City jazz clubs when I was a kid. During my first year of high school, I had begun to expand my musical tastes even further, to include more instrumental rock, jam bands, and blues. My dad saw this as a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. By planning a boys trip to NYC, he'd get to spend some quality father/son time with his teenager, while also exposing me to what would become a whole new chapter in my musical life.
At the time, I was a vegetarian. My dad was not. So naturally, he planned a dinner at Smith and Wolensky's steak house! If you're wondering, they have some amazing side dishes there! After dinner, we wandered down to Greenwich Village looking for a place to catch some live music. We stumbled upon a little club with a red awning and a neon sign called The Village Vanguard. I was a kid, I had no idea where I was. There was a fairly large line of people waiting to get in. We checked the sign out front to see who was playing that night. It was some sax player named Joshua Redman. We talked to the guy at the door and got our names on the list after paying our entry fee and proceeded to get in line behind the others. When they opened the door, we wandered downstairs into a dimly lit room that was filled with small round tables and not a spare inch of breathing room. We were brought to our table, stage left, about 3 tables back. We were very close to the drum set, which was great because I had just started playing the drums about a year earlier.
What followed that night was perhaps the most pivotal moment in my life as a music fan. We witnessed shear and utter genius on that stage. Effortless musical conversation between Joshua, Peter Martin, Brian Blade and Chris Thomas filled the evening. Watching Brian play, I realized just how musical drums can be. I saw up close and personal that drumming wasn't just about keeping the snare going on 2 and 4. It was about keeping the musical conversation moving and speaking up once in a while to make your voice heard as a drummer. It was about the delicate balance of creating a steady canvas upon which the rest of the artists can paint their masterpiece, while keeping a brush in hand at the ready to add color and dimension to their efforts.
And so, it was this night that not only opened my eyes to the wonder of live jazz, but to the possibilities of what a drummer can do. It was that night that I have looked back on numerous times whenever I need to tap into the feeling of what it means to perform, or even enjoy, live music. Perhaps it was no coincidence that that night was the night Joshua was recording his "Spirit of the Moment" album. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have a permanent archive of such a special night to look back on whenever I need to get back to that place.
Since that weekend, I've since been back to NYC on numerous occasions and have been to many of the legendary jazz clubs that city has to offer. I look forward to the day I can bring my own kids there to reproduce that weekend as closely as possible. I eat meat now, so I think this time I'll get a steak!