Making Music, Dinner Parties, and Ginger Baker
I recently watched a great movie called "Beware of Mr Baker." It's a documentary about Ginger Baker. An incredible jazz and rock drummer most known for his work in the 60's and 70's. He was the drummer for Cream and later Blind Faith. He is an incredible drummer with natural time and a natural "swing' in everything he plays. That is partially what gave Cream that undeniable sound and infectious and original grooves. In the documentary he is asked "So do you just love playing the drums?" and he snapped back quite aggressively in his sharp British accent, "Well, it depends on who you're playing with!!" I had never heard anyone just say it as blatantly as that, but it's the way I've often felt as a singer. Singing is really challenging and not every moment is just joyous bliss. It can depend on how my voice is feeling that day as well as who I'm playing with. And it can be especially challenging if an ensemble is struggling to lock in together. I rarely have my best performances in those situations. And I can walk away feeling deflated and frustrated.
Because I make a living as a singer, I sing all kinds of material from jazz to pop to rock. I sing in many different environments with many different people. Not like on my album where I wrote the songs, I handpicked the band, and created the vibe with them from the ground up. That is a wonderful place to be. It feeds my soul and brings my singing to new inspired places. Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY grateful for all of my singing jobs. And I have had and continue to have the opportunity to play with incredible musicians who always help me grow. I feel quite lucky and am so grateful for the work and the journey I've been on. I am constantly working on my craft, and I always learn something in every environment. But sometimes certain shows or gigs won't feel as satisfying or feel like a bit of a struggle.
It occurred to me that some gigs are kind of like going to dinner parties. You can have great food, a beautiful house, great wine, a beautifully set table, but all of it can be a bit spoiled if you don't feel well or are having difficulty relating to other guests. But you're there, eating dinner and drinking the wine for the duration of the evening and you just have to be patient and find the best out of the situation. Being in this confined situation together for an evening is kind of like being on stage with an ensemble. You can't just walk off stage if things aren't to your specific liking. Or you're not feeling it, or maybe you prefer a song at a different tempo. In those situations, I look for common ground amongst us and lean on the areas that make us all shine. Like finding common ground topics at a dinner party to keep the evening light and pleasant.
All of these thoughts lead me back to marveling at what an organic and mysterious process making music is. It's human. It breathes. It hiccups. It's sensitive. It listens. It transforms in process and then transforms us who are playing and those who are listening. I love making music. And I love the complexities of it. It makes it all the more special when everything aligns and we are elevated, transfixed and lifted in it's presence.