Day 9 – Darwin to Nashville

Sunday 30th. June 2013

This could possibly be the peak day in the arc of gigs and drinking on this trip.

Brunch at Buffa’s.
Brandon (my host) plays upright in Some Like It Hot.
Great trad with a Bloody Mary and a standard B&E.
The Bloody Mary has the usual plus olives, beans, pickled ochra and a variety of other unrecognisable elements; possibly organic Xmas decorations or an iguana elbow. I’m not sure.

The banjo player Ron has a lovely Nashville made axe that he plays in standard guitar tuning.
Kate the trumpet player does cool solos and keeps the vibe happening introducing band members, calling solos and passing ’round the tip jar. Drummer reminds me of Suzy from the Rails in Darwin and is a joy to watch with her cute kit. The clarinet player is snappy, melodically astute and apparently a lawyer. What is it with Jazz musicians being lawyers and doctors? Must be the mathematical mind with a heaped spoonful of artistry. You may ask, “how is a lawyer an artist?”. All I can say is that they are a particular type of artist.

Megan tells me about Brandon’s chart book of French style standards that is apparently hard to come by. I get to gawk at it a few days later and it’s a really easy to read and sensible system – not unlike my own hand charts, but way smarter. There are references to the notable recordings various artists have made of each tune.

Back at the gig Brandon does some great solos which are rhythmically strong and have a sprightly fun element – just how I like it. He refuses to smile when I take pics. He’s got a great smile, but doesn’t throw them away. Megan leads the clapping which seems to be the custom at the start of most songs and basically when anybody feels like it.

Megan tells me that Western swing came from the big German influence in Texas. It swings but it’s got a bit of the old oompah oompah military vibe in there. The penny drops and it’s probably old news for all you jazz buffs out there, but there’s always a first time for everyone to get info so don’t be too hard on me. Kinda wishing I could sit in but it’s been donkey’s years since I played standards being a stubborn songwriter and all. Seems like every time I sit down to learn a cover I end up goofing with the chords and knocking out a tune of my own. Maybe on the next visit.

After a catnap I awake and realise I have an appointment with reality. I reach over and lift my new guitar out of it’s case and start to sing and play. My hands feel strong, voice sounds natural. It’s like I never stopped. We’re not talkin’ Pavarotti or Chet Atkins here, but to me – it feels totally normal. Frankly when you think about the train wreck at the guitar shop the day before, it’ a minor miracle! I run through a whole bunch of tunes just to make sure it’s not some kinda weird fluke, but it’s like I’m back on the horse.

I feel like I should thank someone, but everybody is asleep and god almighty don’t come down this street. I better go and thank New Orleans for booting me up the butt, so I walk through Washington Square and encounter a traditional funeral with brass band marching along the side. The music only lasts 30 seconds and I realise I’ve bumped into a movie shoot. I don’t mind. I’m so high the whole of life is starting to look like a movie. I reckon I could just start writing my own script instead of reading somebody else’s lines.

I hook up with Mikey and Gretta in Bourbon street which is basically a waste of time. Bourbon Street I mean. I check out the recommended gig at Irvin Mayfields Jazz Playhouse before we meet up and it sounds and looks like really sophisticated smooth jazz in a suave environment which none of us are in the mood for. I pay $7 for a hot dog and on that corner we hear loud versions of Clint Black, Dire Straits and Bon Jovi leaping out of competing venues. I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

We head back to Frenchmen in search of the “real” New Orleans. It’s Vaso again for 21st. Century Brass (third time) and later a hot modern Jazz quartet with a variety of players sitting in (including Mikey).

We spend hours and hours here, consuming Bloody Mary with unparalleled verve and are almost the last to get thrown out. Mikey has a fancy pants triangle percussion device and jams from the dance floor. We all take turns at hollering’, dancin’, sangin’ and sometimes together. We endear ourselves to the locals. Mikey takes heaps of pix of the gig with a few selfies thrown in. I think I’ve seen enough images of collectively inebriated enthusiasts going “yay” at the camera to last a lifetime. Maybe I’m a stick in the mud, or maybe I just get so involved with actually being there I don’t want to break the rhythm. Besides, I’d rather spend my spare time fondly admiring the design, architecture and appealing features embedded in local members of the contradictory gender.

So there’s little evidence of carousing with the clientele, but believe me we were all there in body and soul. You just couldn’t keep from jumpin’ up and down with pure unadulterated joy. These guys put out so much energy on stage I’d have to say it’s the best gig I’ve ever seen. There’s constant movement on stage; all of them swapping positions, grabbing the microphone, smiling and laughing at and with each other. It’s a communion of musical spirits you rarely have the privilege to watch and hear. I doubt that it would translate to a CD or video. You just had to be there.

Legless, we cabbed it.