Over the last several years, I've lost my way as far as being a musician goes. Actually, that's not quite true. I'm not lost, I know where I am....in a comfortable, cradling valley between peaks that stretch away from me, in the distance.
Let me explain.
For most of the last 12 years, I have worked as a musician part-time for a lovely church that I belong to, and it gives me an opportunity to use my gifts in various ways, and for the most part the congregation is very supportive of me crafting my own music. Over the years I've written a sort of mass for the dedication of a new Rodgers organ, a re-casting of some choral music by Gounod with organ and harp accompaniment, a sort of electronic tape piece with narration for Pentecost, a 5/4 rock version of 'Lyrica Davidica' for Easter, and (the last two years) a sort of "It's A Small World" set of overlapping electronic tapes for various tableaux in a live Nativity which has become a new tradition at the church. And, of course, occasional solos of my own stuff, or reworkings of existing hymns.
So, there's that.
However, I sense that unless I find some new avenues to explore, I'm going to go stale. The number of moves that, for better or worse, my wife and I partnered in have left increasingly little time and suitable space for either new recording or composing. The current house, which we leased with an option, has a wonderful location and some charm. But it's old, needs some work, and the kind of nifty 'hidden' room behind the den that I am using as a studio turned sour in May. In fact, the whole house got warm and has never really cooled down. The studio, with all the electronics, is by turns uncomfortable and really uncomfortable. So, we're moving again, into a new property just approved, and we feel very lucky to do it. It's a 'short sale', notoriously difficult to finalize in any sort of timely manner. I will be converting part of the garage from scratch and spending some real money for once on an isolated, largely sound-proofed, air-conditioned space. More on that later.
In the meantime, as part of my realization that I needed to branch out, my long-attenuated CD project "Ballistics and Fingerprints" has profited from my decision to involve more local musician talent. Since I've been away from the live performing scene in Fresno County for most of the last 20 years, I realized I would need to start broadening my social horizons and make connections with artists and musicians of real worth.
That has led me down some wonderful avenues of late:
- a South African-born ukelele player named Pieter Mordyk
- the blues harp of John Clifton (Mo Fo Party Band)
- the talents of Poplord founders Stan Schaffer and Tom Magill
....and, especially, the sympathetic ear and occasional advice of Blake Jones, who has recently also given me some opportunities to play out with his group, the wonderfully original Trike Shop. Should I recite "carpe diem" or say "thanks, but no thanks?"
Well....(pretending like this is even a difficult decision).....
My rule of thumb these days is I have little interest in playing covers, even though my last band (an oldies act led by the over-the-top-entertaining William Morris) had a very high-profile gig (opening the millenium for the new Fresno Convention Center). And, while I would like to only play originals, the reality is that I've played a lot in the past and have committed significant money and time into fmy own recording projects, the current one of which is entering (gulp) an eighth year as far as some of the original files go.
Bottom line: I have no interest in working with anyone who doesn't have a similar commitment, and who isn't a musician of similar or greater ability. No interest, none, because (as the good book says) I have no desire to be 'unequally yoked.' I know that sounds snotty, but there it is. I've got nearly four decades of musical experience as a vocalist, keyboard player, composer and choral director. I just can't be bothered with newbies, wannabes, posers or weekend rock stars. What I want is to play with, and get respect from, creative musical peers.
....so I said...."YES" in a frickin' New York minute to Blake Jones! He's generous with his time and is genuinely beloved by so many in the Fresno music scene. But, in addition to being a nice fellow, he's also just a one-of-a-kind creative force in the local community, able to bring together many different sorts of performers. He has a truly ecumenical spirit in his dealings with others, and musical tastes which are at once both eclectic and experimental. How could I possibly say 'no' to this guy, given the opportunity?
After all, the moment I first caught his act four years ago at a concert to celebrate CSUF campus radio station KFSR, I had to know more about this guy and his music. In 2009, I think I realized that his theremin would be a perfect addition to some tunes on my CD project, and documented his contributions. And, over the years, I've caught him at several shows both with his band The Trike Shop, and as part of the 'Beetles' cover band with Tom and Stan of Poplord. And the more I knew, the more I knew I would want to have a chance to work with him in some fashion.
And so, what do you know, the other day he calls me on the phone and makes this pitch. It takes him about a minute to do that, it takes me about ten seconds to say 'sign me up.' This is really the kind of gig I was looking for, that I thought I was too old, and too out of touch with the music scene, to hope for. So, in 2012 I hope to wander out of my valley of complacency and familiarity, and push myself to play out live, and to be great, and use that as a springboard to finishing my CD and moving on with my the musical part of my life.
BAM ! ! ! ! ! ! !