The World According to Keitho

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The loneliest gig

Posted by keithosaunders on August 7, 2015

keitho noir

Solo piano is a lonely man’s gig.  It requires three times the effort of playing with a group since you have to not only play the tune, but act as your own rhythm section. Throw in the fact that you are essentially background music and nobody is listening to you and you’ve got a potentially gruelling evening.

I’ve been thinking about solo piano lately since I began doing a Wednesday and Sunday night gig at a restaurant/lounge in San Francisco.  It’s the first time in quite a while that I’ve had a solo gig, and I have to say, despite what was written in the previous paragraph, or maybe even because of it, I’m enjoying the experience.  I mean you can look at it from another angle.  It’s a chance to work on repertoire, chops, and concentration.  Plus you’re your own boss, calling the musical shots from start to finish.

Way back when I still lived in Los Angeles (some 35 years ago) I had a solo gig at a trendy restaurant in Pacific Palisades called Les Anges.  This was a marathon five hour gig which paid a whopping $60.00, although it was 1982 bucks so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.  Still…five hours!

As I said, this was a trendy restaurant and being as it was in Los Angeles I got a chance to see a lot of famous people come through.  I saw Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroft, Gene Wilder, and Gilda Radner all come in together.  Steve Martin came through one night and was admiring the art on the walls when the owner approached him. “I Loved ‘Two Brains’!” Martin turned to him and said, “Thanks but the movie I have out now is called “The Normal Guy.”  [awkward silence ensued]

Bea Arthur came in one night and got loaded.  On the way out she tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Play Lady is a Tramp!”  I did as I was told and she proceeded to belt it out Broadway style.  Her husband, embarrassed that she was making a scene in this staid French restaurant tried to get her to leave and she yelled at him, “SHUT UP HONEY, I’LL FUCK YA LATER!”  And then there’s Maude…

One night Miles Davis and Cicely Tyson came to Les Anges. That was a thrill for me.  I played a lot of Miles songs and on the way out, from across the room, he gave me a subtle nod of assent.  At least that’s the way I chose to interpret it.  Who knows, maybe he was responding to Cicely asking him if he agreed that the Three Stooges were funnier than Laurel & Hardy. The answer died with Miles.

Last night there was a table of noisy techie broncos sitting next to the piano.  One guy in particular must never have perfected the art of the inside voice and needless to say he was grating on my nerves.  I said to myself,’screw this, I’m just going to play soft and take it easy.’  Well wouldn’t you know it, the broncos actually calmed down and spoke softer.  They were only incrementally softer, but it was an improvement over their previous din.  It took me 35 years to realize that the softer I play the softer they talk.  I didn’t know whether to be happy or embarrassed.

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3 Responses to “The loneliest gig”

  1. verdun2 said

    Isn’t there a Biblical comment about a soft answer turning away wrath? Seems it works with piano too. Interesting story.
    v

  2. Your story reminds me that, as a teacher, it took me a while to figure out that the louder I speak, the louder the kids get. When I began speaking softer, they really did (usually) become quieter themselves. Funny how that works.
    Nice post, Bill

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