The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘jazz gig’

We get requests

Posted by keithosaunders on October 17, 2017

Part of the craft being a solo pianist at a restaurant is taking and fielding requests.  I take a certain amount of pride in knowing a lot of tunes – hundreds, if not over a thousand – and as long as I know the song reasonably well I will play it, regardless of how corny it is or how much I don’t like it.  I’m grateful for requests; one of the hardest parts of doing a three hour solo gig is thinking of songs to play.  When I don’t know a song I’m always a little embarrassed, even though I realize that it’s impossible to know every song ever written.

A few weeks ago, however, I received a request that was as original as it was inane.  Someone asked me to play video game music.  I must have looked puzzled because the person quickly added, “You know, like Super Mario Brothers.”

This time, instead of stammering out an apology, I decided to try a new approach. I reached into my backpack, pulled out my new Smith & Wesson M & P9 Shield, fired a few rounds into the kitchen (taking care to avoid hitting the chef) and calmly set the gun down on the piano.

“Now,” I replied, “what was it you wanted to hear, some Bud Powell?  That’s what I thought you said.”

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Table-stand night

Posted by keithosaunders on February 19, 2016

table standBack when lived in New York my buddy, Taro Okamoto (a drummer) and I used to often ride together to gigs. Once while we were loading up the car after the gig he asked me, “What’s your number?” He meant how many pieces of equipment do I have to load. He had 6 pieces of gear to remember, I had/have 4.

I always load in the same order: keyboard, amp, cart, & stand – from heaviest to lightest. Yesterday, for some reason, I decided to load the stand first, but instead of putting it directly into the car I laid it against the passenger side and went back to my apartment to get the rest of my equipment. (you see where this is going)

When I arrived at the 7 Mile House Sports Bar & Grill for my gig with Peppe Merolla I opened my hatch and I found that the stand was not there. In a moment I realized where it was — lying on the sidewalk on Buchanan st in Albany. I sprang into action calling the other band members asking if they had a stand and could they bring it. Ollie Dudek brought one but it was a little rickety and wasn’t going to support that much weight.

So it was table-stand night for me. It was embarrassing but funny thing, it was the best damn sound I ever had. I’m wondering where I can buy a restaurant-grade table.

I left the gig with a good feeling until I realized…I had forgotten my jacket. D’oh! And so it begins…old age.

 

(All’s well that ends well!)
street stand

 

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The jazz militia

Posted by keithosaunders on January 4, 2016

SPIn Oregon a group a militia has exercised their 2nd amendment rights by taking over a federal building in support of a man who protested a $1.50 cattle tax by committing arson.  Strangely enough the U.S. government does not consider this terrorism and thus a standoff has ensued.

Why can’t us jazz musicians have militias? Imagine going into a gig with a black valore open-carry holster and a nice jacket. (because it is a gig, after all) Then on the break, when the waiter snidely tells you to order from the band menu, you look at him with your Clint Eastwood slits for eyes and calmly inform him, “We’re taking over this restaurant. Give me a steak unless you’d like to experience the ass end of the 2nd amendment.”

 

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New Years memories

Posted by keithosaunders on December 29, 2015

And now it’s time for:  Keitho’s New Years gig memories!

Some of my fans have been after me to hate post about New Years Eve but I can’t. You hate it, I hate it, everybody hates it. In other words, it’s low hanging fruit. Instead I offer some personal memories of a lifetime of December 31st spent as a capitalist pig.

My first New Years gig would have been 1978. I was still in high school but somehow got called to do a casual in downtown LA. I had just gotten my drivers license 3 or 4 months earlier and my Dad was worried about me driving home amidst all the drunk drivers so he drove me to the gig, hung out somewhere downtown for 5 hours (we lived 15 miles away) and picked me up when it was over. Needless to say this was embarrassing for me at the time but looking back on it…what a Dad!

My first New Years gig in NYC would have been 1985. I remember Jerry Sokolov and John Ray were on it. We were somewhere in the Village and Soupy Sales did a set in the middle of it.

The next year I did a trio gig in Islip, Long Island at this redneck bar with Lee Hudson & Fred Lite . Islip is way out in Suffolk county – exit 60-something, which was about 60 miles from where I lived at the time on the Upper West Side. I remember that it was a freezing cold night with temps in the 20s and at some point the owner, to save money, turned the heat off! There were only 5-7 people in the place the entire night so needless to say getting paid was an adventure. I think we made $100.00. I was in a good mood, however, because I had gotten the waitress’s phone number, but by the time I had a chance to get back to Islip to see her she had become a lesbian.

New Years Eve 1994 saw me working at a country club in Stamford, Connecticut with my good friend and incredible singer, Richard Lanham. My firstborn son, Jake, was just 6 months old and since Richard hadn’t seen him I said to him Seinfeld style, “You have to come up and see the baby!”

So he came upstairs and of course Jake was really cute and we were mesmerized by this adorable baby. Soon it was time to go. We were a mile or so before the Whitestone bridge when I realized that I had forgotten my keyboard. D’oh! Needless to say we were late and to this day I am persona non grata at the Stamford Arms CC.

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Perspective

Posted by keithosaunders on August 17, 2015

Saturday was a hellacious day for me but ultimately a good one.  I taught three lessons and played three gigs.  I was moving from 10AM until I finally got home from my last gig shortly after 2:00 AM.

The final gig was at a Haight bar called Club Deluxe.  I was playing with a great band consisting of Patrick Wolfe and Mike Olmos on tenor sax & trumpet, Eric Markowitz on bass, and Hamir Atwal on the drums. This meant we were hitting hard.  Even though my body was tired from working/teaching all day there was no letting up.  You have to have respect for the music and when you’re working with great musicians your pride won’t allow you to be buried. In short, there’s no phoning it in in jazz!  (no crying either)

During the last final set, Jeff Burr, who is a great guitar player, sat in.  During the trumpet solo I decided to lay out and just listen for a few choruses. Burr was there so there was still a chordal instrument while I wasn’t playing.  I sat there and allowed this torrent of sound to wash over me.  I wanted to experience the music from a different perspective. The bass player was to my immediate left, the trumpet right in front of me and the guitar player to my right.  It was like being in a musical washing machine.  I guess that’s why gentlemen prefer washing machines!

This is a perspective that the audience doesn’t get to experience — being right in the center of the music.  Sure in a club the band is directly in front or to the side of the audience, but it isn’t all around them.

That was my Saturday night.

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It’s gigging season

Posted by keithosaunders on June 14, 2010

This is the storm before the calm — my final busy period in New York before the approaching gig-drought in my new home, San Francisco.  I am so busy now that I even have doubles on Monday and Tuesday.  My only day off this week is Wednesday and this is the way I like it.  I would gladly work a 50 hour week if those 50 hours were gigs. 

This is the busiest it’s been in quite a while.  Last year the economy was in the tank so nobody was that busy.  I’m getting the feeling that things are beginning to loosen up and there are more gigs happening.  At any rate it feels great to be this busy and I can’t help wondering if I’ll ever be this busy again.

I played a couple of parties this weekend and ended up eating as if I was going to the electric chair.  At Saturday’s gig, a 50th birthday party, we were invited to partake of the crab meat and jumbo shrimp before the music even started.  Let me give some advice to prospective party hosts:  Don’t invite musicians to eat shrimp and crab meat unless you have an enormous supply. 

As it turned out this host had an enormous supply.  We could have spent the entire evening by the crab bowl if it weren’t for the appearance of…roasted pig!!  Believe me when I tell you that you have yet to taste a more tender, succulent entre.  It was a real party enhancer, if I do say so myself.

With all of this it’s hard to imagine that we actually managed to get in four sets of music.  By the end of the night we were happily exhausted.  Then came the moment of indecision inherent in  such gigs:  Overtime?   

The bass player and I had each had a previous gig so we were not in the mood to stay any longer.  But you never say no to overtime since you can always use the extra cash.   We were beginning to pack up when along came our host who proceeded to bellow “YOU CAN’T LEAVE!  STAY!  HAVE A DRINK!  CMON, WE’RE HAVING FUN!” 

I thought about staying, but I had a 30 mile drive home and I knew that if I stayed I was going to drink, and I didn’t want to risk being pulled over.  At some point the host and his friend said they would make it “worth our while.”  This is great on its face, but it really means nothing to us.  Someone, either the host, or the leader of the band, had to say “We’ll play for another hour for X amount of dollars.”  Otherwise we can find ourselves in a situation in which a four-hour gig turns into a 6-hour gig for not that much more money.

I know what you’re thinking:  These guys ate and drank like kings — how can they be so ungrateful?!  That’s fair if, in fact, we were personal friends of the host.  The truth is that we are going to play the gig whether we eat or not.  It is wonderful when the host is generous, such as the other night, but that still can’t detract from our professionalism, and the bottom line is that we must be fairly compensated for our service.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a grey area.  We are constantly balancing our business sense with our desire to ‘do the right thing.’  In the end we could have stayed, but we didn’t.  Our host had received more than a fair price and we played for an ample amount of time.

And everything turned out alright.  There was a guest who was a rock/folk guitarist who ended up entertaining the remaining folks, and I’m sure it was a nice contrast to the jazz standards that we had played. 

Our leader was in a tough position because he was a personal friend of the host.  I can understand why he wouldn’t want to ask for more money, while at the same time respecting our need to get home.  It all worked out well, however, and it was a good night. 

Since these gigs are among my last in New York I have a feeling that they will tend to be a little more resonant to me.a t least for the time being.  I”m going to try to keep documenting them and to let you know what the experience is like.  The chances of me leaving another city in which I have resided for 26 years is extremely remote.  This is a huge time for me.

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