Feast and famine (music)

I’m not sure what sort of metaphysical dynamics are involved, but I’ve gone from almost no music involvement to a temporarily crushing workload. Pretty amazing. I’m not sure why music, of all things, tends to be like that for me – it’s like an on or off switch and very few shades of gray in between.

It’s been OK to not be busy; conceptually I hate the idea of not playing more, but realistically, I have a pretty full plate with my business and my family so it’s usually OK. Like I didn’t have any gigs or rehearsals last weekend, so I built gates. Wooden ones. And I barbecued. And the weekend was too short. Add to that a couple of 150 mile drives and several hours of practicing or playing, and they get even shorter.

My already-busy schedule leads me to dread a lot of stuff that I shouldn’t dread, and this week’s music is a little like that. I’ve met some great people and I’m looking forward to 6 gigs over the next 2 weekends. But taking time off from work 3 out of 5 days this week puts some unwelcome extra pressure on me. I think I’ve built up enough good karma with everyone for it to not be a big deal, but it’s my living so I worry. I’d hate to turn down gigs, though, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. (And that’s what I did last year, turned everything down. It helped, in the sense that work was crazy and the extra headspace and time was welcome, but not so much that I’m repeating it this year.)

I’m cautiously optimistic; in one sense, it could be a busy month or two, or it could be that I’ve reached some sort of critical mass in my local scene – before, I was not busy, maybe now I am. Or maybe it’s a fluke. We’ll see, I’m pretty OK with it either way.

I’m very geeked to be playing some jazz stuff with my man Howard Cloud and my new friend Chris Cushman, we were in the same room together for the first time today and I felt like we had really good chemistry. It’d be a little sad if the state fair gigs are the only time we meet, this could be the foundation of a great group.

I have another gig with my friend Joy Harjo. I love playing with her; her group is great and populated with really super people, and Joy herself is an inspiration. She has an amazing energy, very quiet but immensely powerful. It’s always a treat to get together with her, and we’ve had at least a gig a month over the summer.

My friend Carmela Rapazzo has started writing some new stuff and we get together periodically to rehearse it. I’m going to probably do an Obama benefit with her at the end of September, but I’m also a part of her gearing up for a new album she’d like to do. She’s an enjoyable singer (which is a weird thing for me, as anyone who knows me will tell you), and also has an amazing, positive energy about her. A dynamo, one of those people who you, when you meet them, you always feel better afterward than you did before, even if you felt great to begin with.

I met this guy RaShaan Houston as a jazz singer, and our first rehearsal was really nice. Snappy. Instant good chemistry; again, good people and good music. I haven’t done many “real” jazz gigs for maybe 13 or 14 years with a couple rare exceptions, so it was nice. Then he felt me out for maybe playing at the State Fair with his pop project, he calls it Phocus, and I checked the music out and went for it. The band, again, is populated with nice people, there’s a really nice energy. The music itself is fun; pretty positive, and a lot of jazzy chordal stuff kind of like the stuff I liked from Incognito in the 90s. More of a disco or house approach than acid jazz, but it’s great. RaShaan is talented and fun, the drummer’s great, it’s just good. Don’t know how often Phocus plays out, but RaShaan’s interested in booking more for the jazz quartet – not a lot of male jazz singers in this town. (Or that town, as the case may be; it’s another Albuquerque project, so there are lots of 150-mile round trip drives involved.)

My complaint-mantra in the last dark period of day gig stuff has been something like “I’d love to make some changes to who I spend some of my professional time around.” Everyone knows someone who won’t leave a terrible job because of the great people they work with or something like that. I’ve been there, I’ve done it, and I actually like everyone that I work with pretty darned well. But I still get a charge out of learning some tricky music or locking up with a drummer or getting to solo with a great band or working to make a soloist sound good, and as much of a drag as music gigs can be – long commutes, dreary rehearsals, hostile venues, occasionally questionable pay rates, etc – when I work with good people, it’s usually worth the price. Even after all these years and all my frustrating experiences (and great experiences), I find that music feels like it has some meaning when it’s with good people, and it’s that meaning thing that I’ve been missing.

So I don’t know if I “manifested” some business, or it’s a fluke, or it’s part of a pattern of ebb and flow that I don’t recognize, but it’s nice to feel busy with music in almost all good ways, and it’s nice to feel in demand. My ego needs it at least occasionally. Part of me is just enjoying it, and part of me is engaged in some very non-zen clinging – I’ll be glad to have some time to breathe in 2 weeks, but I don’t really want the period to totally stop, I’d love to keep some music going. I’m still totally passive about it – if the phone rings, I gig, if it doesn’t, I find something else to do, so if I was serious, I’d make a more formal outreach; do the demos and press kits and phone calls, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m almost afraid to want to remain busy since I don’t do anything to control it, but mostly I’m just having a blast and getting to know some good people. It’s a good period; not an easy period, but a good one.

I still can’t help but wonder why it has to be so all-or-nothing though; if the all periods were even more all, I’d be forced (or be able) to quit some of my work, and if the nothing periods were even more nothing-y, maybe I’d have to quit. (Probably not, actually.) I guess my day gig makes it all feel extra hectic, and deep down, I crave the day where I can make music and/or some other stuff a bigger part of my time and life and my day gig a smaller tax on my time and life. For now, it’s a reminder how very, very tricky it is to live in any sort of balance. I hope I can figure it out at some point. But maybe it’s not something that gets figured out – maybe the all-on and all-off ARE the balance. I’ll think about it. (Of course…)