But professional musicians can be mercenaries, and at a certain point, you just accept gigs because your calendar is blank, rather than whether the singer or whoever gives you any musical thrill. Well, I took a gig with a singer who will remain nameless, mostly because I cannot remember her name. (Whew! Off the hook on that!) Now this vocalist, or voice owner, as they say, was a very quiet gal in her speaking voice and her singing voice. Even the microphone did not help. She was, in the Seinfeldian lingo, a "low talker". And I would say "low singer" but that would imply that she was a female Baritone, which is not true. (She was not, as far I could tell, a member of the East German Olympic Team.) Actually, I don't remember her vocal range, because I could never really hear her.
This vocalist, let's call her Mrs. Fourth, was also in the habit of singing every tune a fourth away from the key. I don't mean that she sang a fourth away from the original key( female keys are typically a fourth away from the male key). I mean she sang a fourth away from the key that we were supposed to be playing in! And what made it hard to try to follow her was that she had arrangements from her teacher that were heavily re-harmonized and arranged. So I felt it was safer to just play the arrangement and hope she would figure it out eventually. Which she rarely did.
So needless to say, it was quite difficult to figure out what to do because this whispering voice in a strange key was going against a whole bunch of chord changes that almost obscured the tune beyond recognition. And so it came time to bring this "unique" act to the stage, meaning a gig at a local sports bar. Let's get this clear: Sports Bars and Jazz Music is like Sports Bars and anything else not Sports Related. So we were already set up to fail in so many ways.
And then it really took a turn, well, maybe not a turn, for the worse, if you read the following and see what I mean; the bassist who had been hired was an older gentleman who apparently had toured with some famous big bands. In the 30's. And that's the last time his upright bass had been played, because when he went to tune up his bass, he could not turn the tuning pegs. They were almost rusted shut!(Maybe the bassist had arthritis, also. If so, well, I'm sorry then.) He literally could not tune his bass to the keyboard. And to top it off, he wouldn't read the charts; he would play the changes he knew from the 30's.
So imagine in your mind this Charles Ivesish scenario of Mrs. Fourth whispering in C, while I played in G a cornucopia of random harmonies, whilst the bassist played in F# or G# some other song from days of yore. This might be performance art to some. Did I mention that we were in a Sports Bar?
I also forgot to mention that there was a drummer on board our rapidly sinking musical ship. He is a good friend of mine, and will also remain nameless. My friend the drummer , who is a very good musician, was also in mercenary mode. And he could hear what was going on as well as I could. This was too much for his sensitive drummer's heart, so he went to the bar, looked at the drink menu, and said, "OK." Meaning he was not half in the bag, he was all the way in the bag. I think he drank the bag....
The icing on the cake was that one of my dear teachers, who knew me as a trumpeter and had never heard me play jazz piano before, showed up to the gig because he lived nearby. Talk about embarrassment! I just had to play it cool, and my teacher was very gracious. And I will end on a positive note and say that I did get paid for the gig. Just like a mercenary should.
And Mrs. Fourth, if you should ever read this and recognize yourself, I am sorry, I mean no disrespect.
And I will tell you that I recently tried to sing on a gig and I sounded like Alvin and The Chipmunks on crack! Singing is really not as easy as it seems.
Finally, I will leave you with a short anecdote about my friend the drummer. We actually had the following conversation while driving to a gig one time:
Me: So, how have you been? What have you been up to?
my friend the drummer: I've been reading the Bible alot.
Drumfriend: I'm a born-again Christian now.
Me: OK. Cool.
Drumfriend: Also, I'm not doing NEARLY as much coke as I used to.