The World According to Keitho

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The first gig

Posted by keithosaunders on May 16, 2010

Lately, because of  my impending move, I have been thinking a lot about ‘lasts’ —  my last Spring, my last days of teaching, even my last trip to Roosevelt Island where my kids have been a part of a theatre group for the past several years.  This led me to think about some firsts.  With this in mind I’m going to write a few words about my first gig in New York City.

I moved to New York in April of 1984 but it wasn’t until that summer that I got called for my first gig.  A singer named Judy Niemack called me to play with her as part of her trio at a bar in Brooklyn.  She was extremely talented and easy to work with.  The bass player was Joel Forbes, a great player, and the drummer, Taro Okamoto, would become a good friend and band-mate several years later in the Richie Vitale Quintet, as well as the drummer in my current trio. 

We played at a joint in Brooklyn called Cousins.  Thankfully it no longer exists, but it managed to stay open long enough for me to grow to hate it.  And believe me, it didn’t take too many gigs for this to occur.  Cousins was a crowded neighborhood bar in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn that  had jazz five or six nights a week.  Nobody there really cared for the music which made you wonder why they went to the trouble to have it.  The patrons loudly conversed over the music and the surely employees and managers barely tolerated the musicians.  It was all we could do to get the bartender’s attention to order a coke.  In those days I didn’t drink that much on gigs so I can’t remember what their drink policy was.  They probably charged us double.   I do recall playing there once when there was a prize-fight on TV.  The large screen was positioned directly in front of the bandstand.  We kept on playing and they kept on not listening.

I can’t recall that much of the actually gig except for the fact that I felt uncomfortable not knowing anybody.  I didn’t play that well, but I wasn’t terrible either.  After the gig I got a ride back into Manhattan and we all stopped in at an Upper East Side club called Gregory’s where Judy’s boyfriend, a pianist named Tardo Hammer was playing a duo gig.  Tardo is also someone I would know throughout my entire time in New York and he is one of the best pianists in the city. 

I have a gig with my trio in midtown coming up at the end of July.  I don’t expect to leave town until the second week of August, but wouldn’t it be something if my first and last gig had the same drummer?

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