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Gig Journal - June 1, 2002

Cocktail Hour

I ended my sound check just as the first few early guests started arriving. The gig was a luncheon, 11:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M. At 11:30 I started my first set.
The first hour was cocktails. The bar was near the middle of the room, then there was an open area, and at the far end of the room was a long table with the items for the silent auction (including a copy of my solo CD). So the guests gathered at the end of the room away from me. The setup was good, allowing me plenty of space.

I make it a habit to start with Here's That Rainy Day. It was one of Stan Getz's favorite tunes, and it serves to reminds me to play tunefully -- Getz was a wonderfully melodic player. I knew that I wouldn't be playing for the full three hours, because there would be speeches. Even so, it was going to be a long gig. When you play solo, you can't lay out and let the keyboard player carry it. So I had to be careful to pace myself. But I also knew that I had plenty of time to stretch out on tunes. I usually do head, solo, head on most tunes. The solo section is a mixture of chords and single lines, while the head sections are my worked-out arrangements, with chords, melody, and bass line. On a long gig, I stretch out more, and take a few choruses, maybe one with just 3-note chords, one all single lines. On Softly as a Morning Sunrise, and Satin Doll, I took a chorus of "bass solo", limiting myself to the bottom 3 strings. This worked well.

As more people arrived, I pushed up the volume just a bit, but apparently not enough. Mal came over and said that in some parts of the room the music was too soft. Bodies have a weird way of soaking up sound. So I turned up a bit more. Mal walked around during my next tune, and gave me the high sign that the volume was OK.

I played a long first set, nearly an hour. It's good to play lots of bossas in that first set. I've been adding more bossas to my repertoire lately. People often comment that they enjoy them. I always start Girl From Ipanema with that Fmaj7 Gb9 vamp, alternating root and fifth in the bass. This sets the tune up well.


After that first long set, I played shorter sets, stopping when the speeches were about to start. I started one set with God Bless the Child, and took a very bluesy solo on the bridge. I liked it so much, I took another chorus and played all single lines, bluesy, from the bridge through the last A section. Need to do more of that; it sounded great, and I could see a few people really dug it.

One of my friends, who is a great musician, was very ill that weekend, and I was worried about him. I try to clear my mind when I play, but that was on my mind. That guy is a big fan of Keith Jarrett, so when I played Jarrett's Days and Nights Waiting, in my mind I dedicated to my friend. I don't think I've ever played it better. I usually keep chords going through most of the choruses, but I did a lot more single-line work this time, and it sounded fine. Sometimes the single-line stuff sounds thin to me, but sometimes it just works. It's a matter of how I get into it and how I get out of it, thinning out the texture gradually, or using percussive chords.

It was clear that several people were listening closely to my music, and everyone was enjoying it. A few people commented, both between sets and at the end of the gig, that they really enjoyed the music. That's always nice to hear.
Diane had arranged for Mal and I to have a meal, so on one break we sat with some of the guests and had a meal. Interesting people at the table. A woman from South Carolina who did stone sculpture. She had developed arthritis and was unable to sculpt for a long time, but the antibiotic treatment had cured her to the point that she was back to sculpting. At the end of the gig, she came up to me and said she had bought my CD at the silent auction, and asked me to sign it. Can't beat that!


Post Script June 6: Mal ran into Diane at dance class. Diane said everyone loved the music and told Mal to thank me again. She said that a few days later she and her husband had gone to another event and the music was so loud they couldn't even talk. She said it was great that my music never got too loud. Mal said, "Oh, Steve never plays too loud. That's not what he's about."
Email Steve Carter

About the Author
Steve has been performing throughout New England for more than thirty years. He has worked as a sideman with artists ranging from Chicago blues singer Little Walter to song stylists Al Martino and Anna-Maria Alberghetti. During his twenty-five years of teaching guitar at Berklee College of Music, Steve developed his pick-and-finger style playing, borrowing from both jazz and classical music. Visit Steve's website at www.frogstoryrecords.com

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