On the theme of resurrecting old notebooks, I recently found piles of music I had either written or transcribed in the early ’90s. There’s so much about this music that brings back good memories. The era of hand-written charts. The time in my life when I used to regularly write and transcribe music. But more than that, each chart reminds me of the musicians for whom they were intended. One such musician is my friend Steve, drummer extraordinaire. He’s had a difficult year. For no apparent reason, he suffered a heart attack last year at age 52 requiring an insane number of live-saving stents. He then spent most of the next six months recovering. Just last month, he had another six stents added.
Steve and I use to be musical soul mates of sorts. We were often sidemen on the same gigs and over the course of many years developed a musical rapport that is still evident (to me at least) on the rare occasions when we play together.
One of our chief goals back then was to play the coolest, most challenging music we could find (age 23, say no more). Finding it was easy. Learning it not so much, but in the end we managed to pull it off. We would sometimes rehearse until 3am in his backyard studio. Oh, to be young.
Last weekend, Steve and I had the opportunity to play together for a gala downtown. Since he’s still recovering from his last surgery, the whole band stepped up to help him get loaded in–these downtown skyscrapers have the most treacherous load-ins! That’s what this community does for one another though. Thirty-plus years among these people and no matter what else, when someone needs help, the community rallies…
In between songs, I started quoting a few of the tunes from my notebooks. Immediate recognition: “We need to play that again!,” he said. That idea is now percolating around both of our heads. I need to organize something to facilitate this.
The tune I’m most eager to revisit is “Seven Stars” by the Yellowjackets. The atmosphere and melody are beautiful but it’s also through-composed (no repeats) and cycles through a myriad of key centers. Compositionally, it’s genius. But then Ferrante’s piano solo in the middle raises it to a whole new level as does the sax solo the follows. Driving the thing is Will Kennedy’s drumming. The way he plays with 6/8… Anyway, I want to transcribe ever note played on this song. It’s been on loop today.