The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘singer’

The art of the humblebrag

Posted by keithosaunders on February 28, 2017

Last night’s jam session was packed with people.  The establishment was going out of business and somehow this attracted jazz ghouls, suddenly smitten with nostalgia for a place that they were loathe attend during its run.  As a result the session went an hour overtime so that every last singer, sax player, and whistler could be accommodated.

When we finally finished the last “act,” a Danish accordion player who played Baby Elephant Walk in 5/4, I breathed a sigh of relief, and stood up from the piano when all of a sudden an audience member starting yelling, “LET’S HEAR ONE MORE FROM THE BAND!”  Of course the crowd cheered and hooted and the marathon night dragged on for another 15 minutes.

Now I love music as much as the next guy (probably more, since I actually play it for a living) but after having played for two hours straight I was ready for some Netflix.  Enough is enough, people.  If you really liked this club you would have patronized it during its heyday.

But let me tell you something, when a guy screams at the band to play one more song, it’s not about his love of music or his appreciation of the band.  It’s about injecting himself into the conversation.  It’s all about ego.  Look at me – I love these guys, I love music so much, I’m so hip.

The art of the humblebrag.


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Jam sessions: Not for the faint of heart. (or the humorless)

Posted by keithosaunders on November 10, 2015

For the past four years I’ve played in a house rhythm section at a jam session in Oakland. The gig follows a common jam session template: The house band plays a set which is followed by a break after which the jam session starts.  Anybody can sit in.


The singers are the worst.  At least with the horn players you can assume that they have spent time actually studying how music works.  For instance, it is useful to understand that songs are divided into equal units we call measures and that these measures contain smaller, equidistant units known as BEATS.  The singers don’t understand this.  If they’re lucky they will intuitively feel the beat and are able to maintain their place in the song.  But often they can’t feel the beat leaving them with two options.

a) They can listen to the band and try to hear where the downbeat is. Often the pianist (that’s me) will feed them the melody as a cue.

Needless to say option a is rarely utilized.

b) They can guess.

Option b is a very popular option.

So what happens when you have the singer and the band in different parts of the song?  It works out just fine if you’re performing a Yoko Ono song, but not so well for Gershwin or Cole Porter.  What ensues is a kind of musical free for all. The pianist may follow the singer while the bassist may stay put hoping the singer gets back on track.  Now you have people in three different spots of the song while the drummer silently congratulates himself for choosing an instrument that doesn’t require the playing of notes.

If you are ever in the audience when this happens check out the expressions on the musician’s faces.  The pianist, with lips pursed and glowering eyebrows will be doing the slow burn, resembling a constipated ombudsman. The bass player will probably be stifling a laugh, while the drummer, having given up on the tune entirely, will be at the bar flirting with an out of work tarot card reader with breasts the size of basketballs.

To sum up, you have to have a sense of humor to play at a jam session.  Especially after receiving your paycheck.

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Nothing beats a good sausage before a gig

Posted by keithosaunders on February 12, 2010

For the past 20 years I have been gigging with a great singer, who is also a close friend —  Richard Lanham.  He is one of the better singers I have had the pleasure to know, and a great guy to boot.  Most people think he sounds like Nat King Cole, which he does, but there are also strong influences of Joe Williams and Dinah Washington. 

For years now Richard and I have worked gigs at nursing homes and/or libraries during the afternoons.  As musicians we need these kind of gigs to fill up the schedule.  They are only an hour-long — no muss, no fuss — and we go all over the city. In the old days we used to have triples — two in Brooklyn, and one in the Bronx etc.   We have driven all over —  from the bottom of Staten Island, to Far Rockaway in Queens, (birthplace of Woody Allen)  to the top of the Bronx. 

Today’s gig was in the East New York section of Brooklyn.  We’ve been there many times and it’s actually not all that hard for me to get to from my place in Queens.  I happen to know that on Linden Blvd, a short 2.5 blocks from the gig, there is a truck that sells the best sausages in New York.  Even though I had already eaten lunch  (an unfortunate seafood salad from the local market) it didn’t take much to convince me to split a sausage.  They are as good as ever!

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