Don

Just got some sad news.

Don Barney passed away last night.  Don was a fine piano player that I worked with during the 90’s.  He’s also the character in one of my favorite stories that I’m re-posting here:

We were playing a gig at the Elk’s Club in Watertown, NY with Andy Mider a few years back, and Andy called a medley of Nat King Cole tunes that we always did. Near the end of “Unforgettable”, when it came time to segue to “When I Fall In Love”, Don looked over at me as if to ask “What key?”, like he often did. (even though Andy would spend 5-minutes running down each tune and key before every medley!) I mouthed “B-flat”, and off we went.

About halfway through the chorus it seemed to me that something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was strange; Don was struggling with the changes and my hands didn’t seem to be in the right place on the neck of my bass. Suddenly, it occurred to me what had happened. While I had said “B-flat”, Don thought that I said “E-flat” and was clearly not comfortable with the key. What made it worse, was that it was a piano feature with him playing the melody!

Later during a break, Don said, “Hey, what happened on that tune?” I explained that he had misinterpreted my “B-flat” as “E-flat”. Still not totally grasping the explanation, Don says deadpan, “I can’t play it in E-flat.”

My reply was equally deadpan: “No kidding.*”  (And I cleaned THAT up.)

Don turned 90 this year.  Quite a guy.

Andy Mider and I just spent some time on the phone talking about Don and the fun we had playing together in Andy’s Quartet.  It dawned on me that after all the travels, bad weather, long sets, and silly gigs, we never had a cross word between us.  Quite different from the organization I just left.

That story I’m still writing……

Freddie

In 1992, I did a VERY brief stint as a 2nd monitor tech for National Audio, during Syracuse JazzFest.

Nearly 100% of the local acts were overly specific about what they wanted to hear in the wedges.

Before the Saturday night hit, I asked Freddie Hubbard what he’s like to hear.  His reply, with a smile, was, “Surprise me.”

Another terrible loss for Jazz.  Truely, one of the finest.

May 6, 2007 LAX to ORD to SYR

Leave the room at 5:45 with Ted. Meet Saundra in the lobby to wait for the shuttle. It’s late.

Victor has done a clinic in nearly every city on the tour. He has signed autographs for hours…. played an incredible show every night… went to bed around 3 every morning… and does it again the next day. Tonight he napped for a few minutes…. and is now in the lobby to see us off. Quite a guy.

Shuttle arrives for the very short ride to the airport. Drop Ted and Saundra and ride alone to Terminal 7. Check in behind a young kid who, apparently, has never used a kiosk before. He moves aside for me before his bag tag prints. The agent takes his bag tag and puts it on my large bag…. which is now headed to Eugene. And I mean NOW. Instead of chasing my bag…the agent argues that I TOLD him I was going to Eugene. Why would I do that when my ticket says I’m going to Syracuse? More arguing. Why would I send one bag to Eugene and the other to Syracuse? Explain that I’m the the side of the counter that pays his salary and he he should be getting my bag. Junior, skateboard in hand, remains clueless. I wait for Super Agent to return. He does…saying he couldn’t get my bag. Tell him that’s unacceptable and send him off again. Complain to his supervisor. Sk8trBoy misses flight. Our man of the minute returns with my bag. Complains that he had to crawl around in the belly of a 737 to get it. Suggest that, perhaps, he shouldn’t have sent it there in the first place. Wish him luck in his new career.

7:00AM….Head to Security. Laptop…vest…shoes…shoulderbag….phone…change…. What a joke. Hand Boarding Pass to TSA guy. TSA guy yells at me to get back behind the line on the floor. As soon as I do…he (loudly) tells me to walk through the metal detector. Avoid cavity search. (I had planned to ask  for a female-assist.) Retrieve Laptop…vest…shoes…shoulderbag….phone…change… Smile at TSA guy and wonder where his armband is.

Walk (miles) to the gate….Starbucks… call home…. wait… find a plug to charge laptop…. wait…. board plane….fall asleep before leaving the gate….

Wake as we take off…. nice view of LA from out in the Pacific. Turn on GPS in the seat-back and watch us head East…toward Chicago. Movie starts….I fall back to sleep.

O’Hare is…. O’Hare. Enough time to walk a mile to another terminal and grab lunch. On the plane and off to Syracuse.

Two smiling faces meet me at Baggage Claim…. another meets me outside.

Nice to be home…….

May 5, 2007 Los Angeles, CA

El Rey Theater….

Wake as we’re pulling into LA… about 9:00AM.  Call the promoter and leave voice mail saying we’re in town.  Call the hotel and am told that it’s only 2 blocks from the venue.  Anthony, Tone’ and I set off walking…. and finally give up somewhere in the second mile.  Of course, as I’m the Tour Manager, it’s my fault that the person at the desk gave me bad information.  {sigh}

Later discover that the hotel is actually closer to 4 miles away… out by the Hollywood Bowl.  Ask why I was told that it was only 2 blocks and am met with, “Oh, I don’t know where the El Rey Theater is.”  Because of the extremely high prices here, we only have 2 rooms: one for Paul and one for the band.  As they were provided by the venue, I, the one paying the bills, don’t complain.  Nearly everyone else in the band … and not in the band….does.  I have booked 5 rooms near the airport for after the show tonight.  Minimal redemption.  {sigh}

Meanwhile, back at the farm…. the promoter has arrived.  Young kid…nice.  Good thing.  This has started off as a bad day. Vic’s ride to the clinic is nearly an hour late….stuck in traffic…on a Saturday.  Finally arrives and heads off with my meal-ticket. Load-in goes smoothly…a long push down the sidewalk…. but Jack and Ted have done it before.  No surprises.

Walk a few blocks (really) to the La Brea Tar Pit with Jack.  For some reason, I always thought it was out in the middle of nowhere. Probably because I saw it in an old Black & White movie.  It’s actually in the middle of Wilshire Blvd and is basically a pond with methane bubbling up once in a while and an oil slick here and there. Take a picture of a tar blotch on the sidewalk with the park sign in the background.  Department of Public Works run amuck.  A man plays banjo (pretty well) in the park.  Give him a dollar.

A zillion Bass Vault member are here for Soundcheck.  Another zillion are on our guest list tonight.  This is the last show of the tour. This is LA.

Spend the afternoon locked in a dressing room doing payroll…. all in cash.  Vic calls to say he won’t make it back for soundcheck. I tell the band…. or at least everyone that’s on stage at the beginning of soundcheck. Soundcheck starts.  Joseph calls Vic to ask if he’s coming back.  Vic calls to ask me if I told the band.  {sigh}

More calls…. more texts…more guests…more satin passes. Dinner down the street with some Bass Camp friends….  back to the venue.  Show hits on time…. Vic tells me he wasn’t ready when I called the hit. {sigh}

Vic’s book has been picked-up by Penguin Publishing……head of promotion and new friend Howard Wall is here with another of his daughters.  We met two other daughters in Boulder.  People from Vanguard records are here.  Our Manager, Danette, has flown in from NYC.  The house is packed.

Surprise the promoter when I discover and tell him that he’s paying me too much.  This is California… state taxes come off the settlement.  Our online sales are deposited directly.  Both figure must be subtracted from the collect.  He thanks me by foregoing  the merch percentage.

Show ends… zillions in the dressing room.  Load-out.  Back to the bus for the short ride to the airport hotel. Hassles checking in.  Curse LA.

Bid farewell to Paul, who is starting the deadhead back to Nashville.  I’ll miss him.  We’ve had a great run together…. great conversations….lots of laughs.  He tells me that I did a great job.  Him, I believe.

Hang for a bit with Ant and Tone’.  Watch ‘The Sopranos’ for the first and probably last time. {yawn}  Back to the room…. Jack and Ted packing.  I packed two days ago and take a quick shower before a little nap.  It’s 4 AM… leaving for LAX at 6…….

May 4, 2007 San Francisco, CA

The Fillmore…

“Welcome to The Fillmore”…from the back gate guard….and again from the first loader to arrive. (Early).  Both are roughly the size of Cleveland and exhibit an equally sized amount of pride in the venue and it’s place in music history.  This is undeniably one of the most famous stages in the world.  It also has one of the worst load-ins…. an outdoor scissor-lift to the third floor.  Fortunately it’s a sunny day and not too cold by SF standards….mid-50’s with the ever-present breeze.

Everything is top-notch and professional.  Tony B has been here since ’91 and has seen it all.  Tawney, Miss Fillmore, is the sweetest hospitality person on the whole run.  Jim, the promoter, is a true gentleman.  This is a GREAT place.

The entire day runs by the book…. no surprises.  The band has been here before…. Jack knows the room…. Ted is up in a booth… Ant and I find a corner tavern for our pre-soundcheck communion…… the catered dinner is amazing (amidst 1000’s of concert posters from shows gone by)…. our friend Ariane video tapes from the rafters….the is crowd large, as is the guest list.  I’m thrilled to have Joe Simiele as my guest tonight.  His Dad is one of my dearest friends and it’s great to see him.

The green room/box above stage-right is packed with friends…. Anthony’s wife, Tone’, has joined us for these last two days.  We set-up Vic’s webcam so his wife can see the show.  I call my wife and offer the same…but it’ll be 12:30AM on the east coast when the show starts, so she’ll pass.

Bid farewell to a great night and head off for a quick stop at the hotel before the run down to LA…. and the final show of the tour.

May 3, 2007 Chico, CA

Bell Memorial Auditorium, CSU@Chico

Ah… the halls of higher education.  To be inside the bubble again…..

The day starts like so many others, with Paul’s feat of amazing bus/trailer skill.  Today it’s backing into a construction area next to the “loading dock”.  After unloading and watching the hands push everything up a steep ramp and then LIFT everything onto the dock (who designs college buildings?), the bus moves to the other side of the building where it will live for the day.

The room is a very large, empty, square space with a vinyl sheet on the floor.  I trip on it 16 times during the day.  The sound system is terribly inadequate, but all we have.  Jack grumbles and chuckles all day.. but it still sounds damn good by show-time. 

Derico & Joseph

The dressing room is comfortable, well stocked, and comes with its own piano.  Joseph latches on to it for most of the afternoon.

Victor does a master class in the the Music building next door.  Earlier a student stops him on the street to tell him that he’s the best bass player at CSU and will be coming to the class.  He does.  He’s not.

Walk into town with Jack for dinner.  Good BarB-Q.

Ted is unable to run the hazer due to smoke alarms, so the show doesn’t have the normal look, but I video tape the entire show anyway.   At one point I notice that my merch girl seems to have dozed off.  Finals are coming up.

After the show, Joe launches into “Unforgettable” on the dressing room spinet.  Our student/local contact, seems to have rehearsed it for a Broadway show…. a la Ethel.  Deeming lyrics unimportant and interchangable, she covers all twelve keys in the first verse…sometimes even in the same line, all at full stage performance volume.  Joseph and I parody a favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon…(”la..la…yearn…la…”) and Derico retreats to the bus to listen to Shoobie Taylor. She’s hoping for a theater career in NYC after graduation this month.

Paul has moved the bus back into position by himself and we’re smoke in the rain by midnight.  Our last overnight in a hotel before the final 2 shows.  On to SF and LA…..

May 2, 2007 Eugene, OR

McDonald Theater…

I’m really enjoying Oregon.  Lots of pretty scenery…. and nice people.  There seems to be a certain consciousness up here. 

The load-in is next to the municipal bus company terminal and Paul has to thread our bus thru a narrow driveway behind the theater. The promoter is nearly speechless after the move.  He later tells me that he’s never had a driver do it so quickly and so well.

Guido Batista is the promoter in question.  Gumbah.  Great guy.  You can usually tell what kind of day it’s going to be within he first few minutes of arriving.  When the venue staff and the loaders ( ! ) are smiling and welcoming…things are good.

Send Victor off to his clinic and move my office into a nice little cubby beneath the stage.  Find all the arrival catering in place….and correct ( ! )… and start into the routine.  Discover that there is a pack of Bubblicious laid out for JD Blair…who unfortunately is no longer with the band.  I’ll mail it to him.  Very thoughtful of them, as it isn’t on the current rider.  They remembered!

Spend some time shopping in an import store next to the theater.  Pick up a couple of gifts for my daughters.  This is the 12th show and Soundcheck is getting shorter and shorter.  Less than an hour today and we’re off in search of an Apple store and Thai food.

Another great show…. easy settlement…. good merch night…..and we’re loaded and off for a quick stop at the hotel.  Stop in the business center to fax Sound Scans to record companies….grab a shower… and jump back on the bus.  Next stop…Chico, CA.