Ghosts of Christmas Past.
Posted by keithosaunders on December 16, 2009
|Ghosts of Christmas Past
If you are a musician, the chances are that you have a dozen or so tunes in your repertoire that you only play for three weeks out of the year in December. Sometime around the 1st you’ll be scraping the rust off of “Winter Wonderland” and “Let It Snow” By the 24th you’ll be ready to kill the next person who asks for “Chestnuts.” What can you say? Christmas songs are a necessary evil in the wacky economy of music. They’re not so bad, really. A little “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” never hurt anyone, and even Bird and Diz played “White Christmas.”
We all have our regular Christmas gigs — the party at the Johnson’s in Huntington or the corporate fete at the Rainbow Room. Whatever. The past nine Decembers have found me playing in a jazz quartet in the Jet Blue terminal at JFK. It began in 2001. People were still nervous about flying so soon after September 11th and Jet Blue had the idea to put jazz in the terminal so as to put their customers at ease. After all, what spells relaxation like be-bop? Piped in Perry Como? I think not.
The first few years that we played, a Jet Blue agent would take us through a side door that skirted the edge of the tarmac so that we could avoid going through security. Those were the halcyon days. After the TSA became more firmly entrenched, they insisted that we go through security along with the other passengers. They never really knew what to make of the bass and the keyboard barely fit on the belt. To top it off the regular passengers who were rushing to make their flights were usuallly upset with us for slowing down the line.
I always wondered if anyone missed their flight due to our drowning out the P.A. announcements. For the most part, however, people seemed to enjoy the music and they were especially thankful to have us during the long delays.
One year the TSA was extra paranoid so they assigned a guard to us, as if we were a security threat to the airport, That year we could not go anywhere in the terminal unescorted by our guard. In fact, if one of us had to go to the bathroom we all had to go together. It was like a goddamn chain gang. Remember the Woody Allen movie when the chain gang escaped from prison? That was us. Fortunately the standards have been relaxed in the past two or three years and we are no longer on the jazz chain gang, although we still have a guard assigned to us. He sits by the bandstand reading a newspaper. I believe that if anyone really wanted to steal a saxophone or a cymbal it would be a fairly simple matter. The guard is there to watch us, not our instruments.
The first year we did four gigs. We were such a success that they increased our work load to six the next year. The best was the year we did 13 gigs! That was a nice chunk of change. This year is a recession special: Two gigs. We’ll be there on the 20th and 24th; spreading joy and mayhem throughout the terminal. If you happen to be taking a flight out of Jet Blue and you spot four knuckleheads shuffling off to the bathroom…it’s us.