I will apologize up front – this is a very short chapter. I’ve looked at expanding it, just not sure what to do where. I know it’s not enough, just have no idea how to fix it.
so, for what it’s worth:
11 ~ Making Ready ~
I walked around the studio slowly, half in shock from all the technology. Soundproofing was expected, but the acoustics of the room, the baffling on the walls, was fascinating. Jared stood in the center of the room and snapped his fingers, then slowly wandered around, repeating his finger snap with a look of awe on his face. He finally turned to Mike.
“Dare I ask what it costs to rent this place?”
“Don’t,” Mike replied. “I don’t like thinking about it. But trust me, it’s worth every penny.”
I sat at the grand piano and opened the lid over the keys. I played lightly at first, just moving around the keyboard, midrange, low-end, high-notes – the tune was flawless. It responded well, almost felt like the instrument and I were in communion with each other. I shot Mike a look of complete appreciation.
“This baby is incredible.”
“Thanks, that was the main reason this room was decided on; Mac fell in love.”
“I can see why.”
Jared walked over to Mike. “Show me the sound room. Paul, stay here and play some. I want to check out the boards.”
I nodded and moved into something classical. Lots of movement with expression and tempo changes; some crisp and some with lots of sustain. I closed my eyes and listened to the instrument. The sound in the room was slightly dead; I could see already that although rehearsal ‘live’ would be fine, any recording would be done with headphones in order to clearly hear what was going on – you can’t always trust what your ears hear natively when rooms are engineered for recording rather than performing.
It was close to ten minutes before I noticed the other two members wandering in. I stopped playing and stood to speak with them; Perry on drums and Calvin, or ‘Cal’ on bass. Mike and Jared came in from the sound booth and introduced him to Perry and Cal. Afterwards Mike gave us ten minutes for individual warmup before we turned our attention to rehearsing.
Our first piece was free-form, just playing in e-minor. I cringed several times; fingers that just didn’t quite get to the keys I expected them to; all-in-all more work than I had anticipated. But still fun. Mike was pleased, and Perry only gave me a rim-shot once. The joy in playing was as intense as it always had been; the memories that surfaced were all pleasant ones. Next we moved to charts. I hadn’t read off of a chart in years; I was pleased how much it was like the proverbial “riding a bike”. After a couple of hours Mike called a break to talk sound with Jared which gave the rest of us time to relax. By that time I more than needed it; my shoulders felt as if they were set in concrete. I rolled my shoulders and actually groaned aloud. Cal looked over with a grin.
“Playing jazz is supposed to be relaxing.”
I laughed. “So I understand. Hopefully it’s just the circumstances of my being called in as I was.”
“Yeah. Losing Mac like we did is rough. Not that you’re not good, you are.”
“But I’m not Mac.”
Perry chimed in. “Nobody is Mac but Mac. But you’re an artist too, Paul. It’s good.”
“Besides,” Cal added, “you don’t have Mac’s … um … quirks.”
I had to laugh again. “You haven’t seen my quirks yet.”
Mike and Jared walked in from the sound booth. Evidently Jared heard my last comment and, true to form, had to comment.
“And there are plenty to see.”
I started to tell Jared to ‘shut up’, but Mike spoke first.
“Quirks are what make a good musician a jazz musician. Let’s get some lunch.”
– – – – –
Lunch was a ‘grab and gulp’ – I won’t say ‘fast food’ because it was a sit-down type restaurant, but we still ate quickly, spoke little, and rushed through to get back to the studio. We started the afternoon with listening to the recording Jared had done of the morning run. Mike was full of praise for everyone and each had comments on their own playing, as well as advise and compliments to each other. By the time we got back to actually rehearsal I was feeling much better about my own performance and fitting into the mix.
The remainder of the afternoon we spent on working various tunes, adding solo spots, other than Mike’s, of course, and polishing. Before I was half-aware of the time, Mike was calling for dinner. One glance at my watch and I realized it would be another quick meal, as we only had just shy of three hours before down-beat. As Mike and Cal were packing up (nice thing about using studio drums and piano – no packing), conversation turned to attire for the night.
Mike looked at Jared and then me. “Jared, you should be fine with pretty much whatever, nobody pays that close attention to the sound tech. Just make it clean and fresh. Paul,” he paused. “Paul, you need a make-over. You look like a rummage sale gone wrong.”
I looked down at myself. “I grant you I’m a little casual, but this was only practice.”
“Casual is fine,” he replied. “But ‘professional dress-down’ is not exactly stage set.”
“What would you recommend then, director, sir?”
He shot me a dirty look. “You’ve seen us perform. Do you have anything that isn’t so … ‘off-duty policeman’?”
“Damn, man.” Cal offered. “Cut him some slack. He didn’t look bad when he sat in with us that night.”
“Thanks, Cal,” I said.
“No, I guess he didn’t. Paul, do you have clothes like what you wore when you and Jared came to see us perform?”
“With me? Yeah. I think I have some stuff that will work.”
“If not, you and I are going shopping in the morning.”
“Ouch.” Perry looked between us. “I hope you dudes ain’t angry. I didn’t bring bandages.”
I glanced at Mike, then turned to the drummer. “Nah, we’re cool.”
Mike nodded. “Yeah. I’m just jumpy, I guess.”
Jared stepped between Mike and I and put an arm around each of our shoulders. “We’ll be fine.”
I remained silent. Inside my brain, a small tea kettle was starting to whistle and I didn’t want to foul the air so soon before a performance. But my mind was racing. Do I have anything with me that will do? Why didn’t I think about performance threads when I was packing so ‘efficiently’?
Mike headed for the double doors out of the hall. “No time to sweat it now. Let it go and chill, we have a show in a couple of hours and the last thing I need is an uptight pianist.”
“I’m not uptight.”
Mike paused, then smiled. “No, I suppose you’re not. I’m the one that needs to chill. Put it down to hunger. Anyone for Italian? I could really dive into a platter of spaghetti and meatballs.”
Cal grinned wide. “And breadsticks. Like at ‘Mama Cassie’s’.”
“Sounds heavy.” I said, trying not to sound too surly.
Jared coughed. “I was hoping for Chinese.”
Perry jumped in. “Ok, so how ‘bout we all go eat at whichever. You want us at ‘Spradler’s’ the usual half-hour before down-beat?”
Mike shook his head. “Jared and Paul don’t know the city, and they rode with me.”
“So drop us at our hotel.” Jer suggested. “We have GPS, and we’ll be there a good thirty before show time.”
“Sorta out-of-the-way.” Mike complained.
I sighed. “You have to take us there anyway so we can change before we hit the place. There’s almost two hours now before you want us there.”
Mike thought for while then conceded. “Alright. Everyone’s on their own for dinner. I’ll drop our out-of-towners at their hotel then grab a bite at home so I can shower and change.” He looked at the remaining two band members. “I’ll see you at Spradler’s then. Take some time to relax and unwind. It’s been a long day and I want everyone fresh for tonight.”
“Sure thing, Mike,” they each replied. We said our good-byes then Jared and I went with Mike to his Mercedes. I sat quietly in the back as Mike and Jared chatted aimlessly about the sound mix before their conversation turned to the city. My mood was still dark so I offered mostly grunts and ‘hmms’. When we pulled in front of the hotel, Mike put the car in park and turned around to face me.
“I’m sorry if I came down on you, Paul. I guess I’m still worked up over Mac’s health. He has always seemed to fit – always watching what he eats, getting plenty of exercise. It’s made me realize how tentative everything is. Can’t count on much of anything.”
“You can count on me, Mike.” I replied. “Jared too. We’re not going to let you down. Three caballeros, remember?”
Mike smiled. “Three caballeros. See you guys soon.”
With that, Jared and I climbed out and Mike sped off. Jared put a hand on my shoulder and turned me to look in my eyes.
“Sure hope you have something to wear,” he said solemnly.
“Me too, Jer. Me too.”