WHOAH! Some months the universe just vibrates around you and throws you some intense lessons.
Let me start with a happy lesson, or rather one that I learned from a happy event.
My childhood friend and baddass drummer Lenny Herman, texted me, letting me know that Brian Blade (drummer extraordinaire) was playing with his Fellowship band at the Blue Whale – a really bad-ass club in downtown LA; somewhere you can actually observe and learn from the artists…) The last time I went out of town to watch a great drummer was Peter Erskine playing with a trio. It unquestionably pushed me in a few new directions, Peter is brilliant and thoughtful.
Arriving, I saw that it was booked, 2 long lines. Fortunately Lenny was in the front of the presale line and I walked right in with him, leaving my buddy Mark Portmann to try to get a ticket (should have bought him one ahead!) I got the best seat in the house to observe.
Cutting to the chase – Brian looked just as I remembered him, just a normal cat. But the second he began to play – it was like the portal of ultimate happiness had opened up in his third eye- hahaha. In other words, he looked like a 6-year old that was just given a bucket of GI-Joes; Utterly blissful and appreciative. I watched carefully, finding myself yelling out at moments where the suspense of his drumming captivated me. And I was able to understand the ideas as I watched with both appreciation and maximum absorption.
The next morning, I was having breakfast with Mark, (another musical guru who lives downtown and let me crash on his couch), and as I described what I saw to him he said:
“You have to approach every gig like it’s the first time you have ever heard music – your instrument, anyone’s.”
He was so spot on. That’s what Brian was doing.
As I practiced later that week, I observed my body reacting to my expressions – if I acted unbelievably happy, my body relaxed and became more nimble. If I acted angry, my body played aggressive and with more impact. And, at my weekly jazz gig with George Mamalakis , as I listened to the piano player as though I had never heard piano, I could not help but smile and play blissfully, listening carefully with appreciation. Wow, mind blown, it felt like my playing was blown wide open and set free.
Now lets get on to the sad news. My friend from college Zain Musa had died suddenly – seemingly far before his time.
Zane was the most extraordinary sax player I could image anyone being. When he was 18 I would watch him go into a trance as he played, rocking back and forward as he channeled musical passion and grace. After a solo, he would wipe off his face and peer into the room as if for the first time. But his playing never left the room, it was spot on and thoughtful. I’m so grateful to have learned from him.
The thing about this, the lesson I learned in his passing was about how to show appreciation for the person that is gone. A common feeling people have is that they must feel or solve the pain the person went through in passing in order to be sympathetic. But I was filled with sadness that I could not express myself with him anymore. At first that made me feel guilty, but I realized that its actually the main reason to mourn – that you cant go have fun with them anymore. And let me take this one step further. I believe there is no better way to show someone that you love the lessons they taught then to apply them to your art right now. So when I feel sad that I can’t play and have fun with Zane, Ill go play or practice and use what I learned from him.
My album is out! More on that later…