Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Really Crappy Story

When you are out on the road, your internal clock can get pretty screwed up; between the jet lag, lack of sleep, strange food, and constant traveling, you might find yourself in some very uncomfortable situations. The more I travel, the more I try to anticipate these kinds of problems before they happen. But you never know: sometimes there are events which you can't foresee. When they occur, you might be forced to improvise. And by improvise, I don't mean bebop licks.

I was on a 10 day tour of Italy with the great bassist Buster Williams. The quartet included Stefon Harris on vibes and E.J. Strickland on drums. We were doing the typical one nighters, with a fair amount of driving and flying. One day in the middle of the tour, we had a very early lobby call, and basically spent all day in the airport trying to get to Milan. Once we arrived in Milan, there was a drive to the hotel, drive to soundcheck, and then drive to the restaurant. Having barely eaten all day, we were pleased to arrive at an unlimited pasta and seafood buffet restaurant. If you've ever been to Italy, it's pretty hard not to overeat. I was a little concerned about overdoing it on the shellfish, but I was starving, so I didn't think about it too much. Add wine and coffee and dessert, of course. 

The next thing I knew, we were back in the car, and then back in the dressing room, which was right next to the stage. And then, since we were running late, and the auditorium was packed, the promoter said, "OK, time to start!" So now, without any time to think, we were on stage, playing the first tune of our 90 minute set.

Maybe three or four minutes into the song, I began to notice that certain feeling that one might have after eating a huge meal after not eating all day. I was feeling the urgent need to use the facilities. Let's put it this way: although the tune we were playing, "Song For Sensei", is in 6/4, my internal song was in a "2" feel. As in Number 2. Do I have to spell it out for you?

Around minute 5, regardless of the discomfort which had now started to distract me from Stefon Harris' vibraphone wizardry, I had convinced myself that I could muscle out another 85 minutes on the stage. Around minute 7, now into my solo, I noticed that I was starting to sweat profusely. It was not a particularly warm room. It was the realization that  I needed to run, not walk, to a bathroom. The problem was, there was no bathroom near the stage or the dressing room; I would have to somehow leave the stage, go through the dressing room, go all the way outside the venue, out into the front, use the bathroom,and then go all the way back. The logistics of that, plus trying to concentrate on the music, kept me in limbo for the reminder of my solo. (The other issue was that we had just begin the concert; leaving the stage at this point in the program didn't seem to make any musical sense. I was racking my brain trying to think of something.)

At the 9 minute mark, I made an executive decision: either leave the stage and take care of the business at hand or have an even MORE embarrassing situation on my hands. And my trousers. 

I endured maybe a few more minutes. The tune ended. I lept from the piano. I whispered to Mr. Williams: "Play "Concierto De Arunjuez."(Buster would always do a solo version of this piece on our concerts. Usually, this would occur closer to the end of the show, but I had decided to change the program…) Williams nodded, and to my surprise, launched into his solo feature without any concern.

I mad a mad dash off the stage, out through the dressing room, around the venue, into the front, into the restroom. As I sat on the porcelain throne, I realized that I never could have made it through that concert. I wondered if I had actually gotten some kind of food poisoning. I don't know, shellfish at a buffet? It's possible. 

Even though I was still feeling some intestinal discomfort, I reached a point where I figured I could make my way back to the stage. I made it just as Williams was finishing his solo interlude. The rest of the concert went as scheduled, and we took our bows and made our way back into the dressing room.

I slowly confessed. "Buster, sorry to do that, but thanks for covering for me with "Concierto De Arunjuez."

Williams was surprised. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I asked you to play solo bass….. because I had to run to the bathroom!"

The great Buster Williams
Williams barely batted an eye. "Really? I just thought that you were in the mood to hear me play some solo bass!"

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