?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry


The late Jack Bruce, the first bassist whose playing knocked me out.

I used to take a one-credit course called "Rock and Blues Ensemble" at the university where I teach. The guy who gives me bass lessons (he's named Terry) teaches it. A few years ago, Terry told me at a lesson that the class needed a bassist, so I began sitting in. I wasn't much of a player, but there was only one other bassist, and he wasn't a whole lot better than I was. Our "final exam" involved everyone playing a 10-song gig at a local bar, with different people singing and playing in different songs so that everyone got the same amount of performance time.

Over the four semesters I was in the course, I got to play bass on some of my favorite songs—Cream's version of "Born Under a Bad Sign," for instance. In later semesters I would play bass and, during one other song in the set, sing and play harmonica instead. Terry has repeatedly told me I "killed it" (that's a compliment) during our fall 2014 performance of the Allman Brothers' version of "I Must Have Done Somebody Wrong."

As I said, though, I used to play in the ensemble. Things changed last semester.
Musician friends of Terry started showing up. I live in a small town, so I knew most of them pretty well. They're good people. But they earn money from playing music, and they play in bars two or three nights a week. They most definitely aren't beginners. When they talked about keys, notes, chords, changes, etc., in the songs we were playing, they may as well have been talking Arabic. I figured what the hell: It's Terry's course. He can do whatever he wants.

I didn't know one of the newcomers very well, though. (Let's call him Pete.) Immediately, it was apparent he was the best player in the class—except for Terry, who would not be out of place onstage with anyone except the gods of blues. A mutual friend had once invited me to have breakfast with him and Pete. It was all cordial enough, but I didn't connect with Pete. Later, I learned that he was (and is) the best friend of our mutual friend, so I decided he must be a very good, and very smart, person.

At the blues class, though, this guy's presence intimidated me. It was nothing he said or didn't say, nothing he did or didn't do—it was more matter of his being a terrific player who had a lot of smart things to say about the music and the artists whom Terry talked about in class. In previous semesters, I added comments and wisecracks to the discussion because I know a lot about rock and the blues. With so many other new people in the room who knew their stuff, I didn't say a thing because I felt out of place, as if I were swimming in a riptide, being pulled far from the musical shore. It felt like the class had turned into a Musicians' Guild meeting. I had no logical reasons for discomfort, but that didn't make it any less real.

I always sat in the back of the class because bassists hold up the bottom and, working with the drummer, keep the beat. Nobody goes to shows to see the bassists. We stand off to the side and, if we're playing properly, no one notices us. One night in class, though, was telling. Without realizing, I had pushed my chair into a back corner of the room, as far back as I could get. A week or so later, I stopped going to class. Not long after that, I put my bass down and haven't played it since.

The new semester starts at the end of this month. Terry has called twice to encourage me to re-start my lessons and join the class again. One of the other players—also a bassist, and a good one—does the same when I run into her around town.

Much as I try to work up the old enthusiasm, though, I don't have the heart for it. Some people are oil, and some are water. There is nothing wrong with either of them. They just don't mix. The new musicians are water, and I am oil, and when you pour us into the same room, we don't combine. And when a band's pieces don't fit together, the music suffers.

None of this may make sense outside the confines of my brain. But that doesn't make it any less real.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Aug. 15th, 2015 02:09 am (UTC)
It makes me sad that you're not playing anymore. I never thought the professional players belonged in that class, but as you said, it's Terry's class.
T.
patrick_vecchio
Aug. 15th, 2015 02:35 pm (UTC)
Maybe after I retire.
penshark
Aug. 16th, 2015 02:33 pm (UTC)
I agree with Anonymous. I missed you at the spring end-of-semester gig.
patrick_vecchio
Aug. 16th, 2015 04:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Carole. "Creative differences," as they say in the biz.
nodressrehersal
Aug. 20th, 2015 01:43 am (UTC)
Do you still enjoy playing those gorgeous basses of yours in the comfort and privacy of your own home?
patrick_vecchio
Aug. 20th, 2015 04:20 pm (UTC)
Nope. It got really discouraging. Just when I felt I was starting to be a competent player, I starting hearing serious fret buzz because I wasn't picking the notes cleanly. I'll probably start taking lessons again next month, though.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

March 2017
S M T W T F S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 

Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow