|Couldn't find any photos of Richard, but this is his family business||where we worked for years|
Recently I came across a blog post about George Colligan's first gig. I was amused and entertained by his well-written recollection. What a surprise to find out the first time he and I played together was his first job as a pianist. As I read about it didn't take long to start wondering if I had tapes of any of those nights. I knew I recorded at least the first night at J-K's Pub in Columbia, Md., a place I characterized as a "fern bar", regardless of whether it had ferns or not. That term was still in use in 1988, referring to attractive places just like J-K's Pub. Clean walls. Neon lights. Up-scale pick-up bars in upscale areas, with background music like Christopher Cross and Journey. I have not much against all that....not entirely, anyway. But it seemed an unlikely place to have a welcome mat out for the brew of music I was carrying in the front door.
I recall those gigs at J-K's Pub pretty clearly. It was the first time meeting George and bassist David Ephross. I had met drummer Chris Perry socially, and always liked him, but had never played with him.
I'm pretty sure David secured that playing job, then got my number from someone in town and called me. When David phoned he said he couldn't decide which of two pianists to get. He said one guy was a pianist. I thought to myself, "That's good, isn't a pianist what we need?". David made even less sense when he stated the second option, saying that the other choice was a trumpet major at Peabody Conservatory who was learning piano. OH MY GOD! I had visions of a serious crash and burn gig. Not only did it sound like there was this trumpeter, someone who might not actually play piano, but also that the bassist, the leader David, might not know the difference whether this trumpeter could play piano. The scene was highly suspect at that moment.
At that point on the phone I said to Dave, kind of firmly, "NOOOOOOOOO! Get the first pianist, not someone just starting !" or something like that, something driven by deep fear from the way I heard David present the options. It seemed apparent to me that David was going through a thought process involving me looking toward getting the answer he wanted. It was evident that Dave had made the decision for George to command the piano chair. As my phone call with David was coming to a close he held his ground for George as the pianist, sticking with it so firmly that he convinced me of the choice.
Arriving at the gig I saw drummer Chris Perry. I decided no matter what happened we would lock in and keep it together. George and Dave seemed friendly and confident. We started with Coltrane's "Moment's Notice". I thought in case there might not be much piano solo time taken I would stretch out from the start and assure a reasonable song length. Perhaps I did play 25 choruses. Then everything rolled along smoothly. George played without incident, the way it always was thereafter. It sure seemed like he'd done this all before. I wasn't wiser, just somewhat older. I quickly realized not only his skill, but David's bass playing acumen as well. We played that same gig, well, perhaps three, four times. That was at least more than I thought we were going to. Termination came not as much of a surprise as being there at all. After all, though, we jazz musicians play wherever we get the chance.
Starting shortly after this, I was happy and fortunate to play with George over the next four-five years with a group that included Alex Norris called the Peabody Underground. On and off. The usual opportunities. We had a year-long weekly (mostly) gig at Chambers in Baltimore that people seemed to like and talked about. Of course, not like they talk about George nowadays. And along the way I learned another thing: George could also play the trumpet pretty darn well.
December 11th, 2014