Taking the Abyss on the Road

Ok, no, I am not on tour, but I did play out tonight.  To be specific, I drove down the road a little bit to Heidi’s Jazz Club for their Sunday jam night.  This was my first time there in well over 10 years, so it was like a new thing.

The piano player was the guy who ran the jam, so he is the one I talked to about doing a bit of wholly-improvised music.  He just stared for a moment and said, “You don’t know any songs?”  I explained that isn’t really what I do.  He was clearly not happy.  The bass player was keen on trying a bit free improvisation, but piano player wasn’t having it.  He said, “You can play a solo.”

When he called me up he said, “This guy’s going to do a solo piano piece.”

I went up and  briefly explained what it is I do.  I spoke a bit about people who have done Free Jazz in the past like Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett.  When I thought they were ready, I took a deep breath and dove in.

The reason I was there tonight was to see if I could do what I’ve been doing in the studio in a live setting.  Sure, I’ve been playing for my friends and family and in music stores.  I was trying to see if I could improvise in front of an “audience.”

I should mention that I don’t normally suffer from stage fright.  I have been in bands for years.  I made speeches, presentations and training sessions when I was working.  I have been in a couple of community theater productions.  Actually, I love being on stage.  This time though, I was going live with only my skill at improvisation and absolutely nothing prepared.

How did I do?  I did exactly what I wanted to do.  Once I started, I hit a groove immediately.  The piano was great.  I had a nice touch, nice sound.  The piece I played rolled off my fingers just like other pieces have in the studio.  I was completely focused on what I was doing to the extent that I don’t even remember how the audience reacted.

Usually in jam sessions each person gets two songs.  Sometimes more.  Mr Piano Player did not look happy.  He said, “That’s it.  We have a lot of people waiting.”  There weren’t a lot of people waiting.  So I walked back to the bar and ordered a beer.  The bartender said, “When you mentioned Ornette Coleman, you had me scared.  But you played very well.  I enjoyed it.”  Several members of the audience also complemented me.

Jazz in my little beach town is relatively popular, and it is very traditional.  I made a little ripple tonight.  If I keep going to jam nights, I might make a bigger ripple.  In a small town, you don’t need a very big ripple to get noticed.  Maybe if I can get some of my friends to join me, I will have a better chance.

If you aren’t into the technical part of this project, I will say goodnight now.  The rest is about hardware.

If you look back at my posts, you will see a brief discussion about the hardware and software I am using on this project.  It is a very short list for the reason that the fewer things to go wrong, the more likely I am to succeed.

That was brought home to me last night when I went down to practice.  I normally practice on hardware so I don’t have to hook up my computer.  Last night when I turned on my Kurzweil Micro Piano, it was dead.  No heartbeat. No display.  No sound.  Nothing.

In my mind, I went through all the things that could be wrong.  Since the thing is screwed tightly into my studio system, the only possibility I could think of was that the power supply was dead.  While I was out today, I picked up a new power supply.

When I got home from Heidi’s tonight, I set it up and plugged it in.  I turned it on and the thing booted up just like magic.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I started playing and …nothing.  No sound.  The little light that flashes when it receives a MIDI signal from the keyboard was happily flashing away.  Just no sound.  I eliminated the possibility that some other part was at fault, but no.  This means I need to pull my Micro Piano out of its comfortable cubby, and take it apart.  There are a very few things I can do from the inside, but I have to try before I take it somewhere and see if I can get fixed.

To be fair, this little box has been playing faithfully for over 20 years now.  I am not dissatisfied with its performance, I just need it back and working.  Hopefully it is something simple that I can fix.

Now I see it is after 5 am and I need to get some sleep before I grill meat to honor the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom.  I know it is a strange custom, but who am I to argue.

Play on.


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