I’ve mis-titled the page a bit, these shows were at CMAC at Lake Canandaigua, which is near Rochester, and at the ArtPark Amphitheater, Lewiston NY, outside Buffalo near Niagra Falls.
Journal entry, Aug 25:
A day off in Rochester before our show in nearby Canandaigua. I’m doing ‘hall duty’, just sitting in the main hall of the Eastman School of Music, where back in the 60’s I spent a lot of my time here doing the exact same thing. Sometimes, to put a better face on it, we’d call it, ’waiting for a practice room to open up’. My time was spent either here, or next door at a coffee shop, named, ’The Coffee Break’, a homely place run by a couple named Fred and Helen. If you happened to stand in the back, close to the pass through to the kitchen, Fred, locked back there in the steamy room making burgers, might reach out and jab you hard with the stub of his missing index finger. In a friendly way. It was that kind of joint.
It’s still in the same location, right next to the school, now called “Java’s”, twice the size, with mochachinos and scones going for multiples of the price of Helen’s coffee.
Here in the large marble floored main hall, benches have replaced the giant wooden chairs that I used to frequent, but I’m seated in just the same spot. Students scurry by, wheeling basses, carrying violins, trumpets, and worried looks, headed to lessons, to meet colleagues, hunting empty practice rooms. Their echoing footsteps and subdued conversations have a familiar sound. Things seem not to have changed at all, except that today there was some security at the door when I came in. I only filled in name, date and ‘Hall Duty’ and they let me in. I wander over to the wall of cubby holes for mail, remembering I must have got about three letters in all my years here - likely about tuition due. They’re glassed in now, with locks, like a post office. Makes sense.
Back in my seat, slouched back, head against the old marble wall that has photos of Eastman noteables stretching back to the 1940’s, I’m enjoying this, relaxed, killing time as I did some… 53 years ago. Hall duty.
Outside there’s a quintet of students playing jazz in a small park across the street - basically busking, maybe picking up a few bucks from their music. Good idea. And they sound great. Way better than our jazz was back in the day. Well, better than mine was.
Time to head over to Java’s. Inside, there’s a brightly painted shark suspended from the ceiling, and big striking paintings cover the walls, which are themselves ochre, umber and muted blue. The slim young woman barrista is heavily tattooed, black masked, and wearing elf ears. She looks like she could be filming a movie, and if the great hallway next door was a movie scene from the 1940s, the one at Java’s is from 2021 - the place is humming with customers, students and teachers, mostly in a hurry. There’s music playing, trance, I think, is the genre, it’s at just the right level, easy to hear but not intrusive. They had no music back then, just Helen shouting the orders to Fred back in the kitchen.
I take a seat in the back and calculate the location of Fred’s erstwhile pass-through window. I nurse my espresso and consider that because of my memories, in a sense his arm is still darting out now, taking people out of their comfort zone, making us forget the pressure of lessons, practicing, and auditions to get one of the rare symphony jobs. I think he’d be happy to know that.
Back out in the street, it’s mid 90’s, high humidity - typical Rochester summer, then and now. And I’ll bet the winters still have that biting wind off the lake, and you duck into Nick Tahoes, not to have a chili dog but just to escape the cold. Things change, things remain the same. Like me. I’ve changed in lots of ways, some I don’t want to think about. But not the basics - I’m still here in town to play my bass, still doing hall duty, killing time, waiting til the show starts.
Let me share a moment from tonight’s show. It was close to 90 degrees and humid when we went onstage. That makes the instruments a bit sticky, and dehydration an issue too. The first pieces went well, then came Construkction of Light, the piece that presents the biggest challenges for me, with Trey Gunn’s extraordinary Stick part, solid 8th notes through most of the piece, and the band hanging on the bass part. With the piece approaching I eyed my water bottle thinking a sip of water would be wise before tackling the piece. Also saw my handkerchief lying on the keyboard - my nose a bit runny, that’d be useful too. But then I realized my in-ears were coming loose and I’d better tighten the clasp that keeps them from falling out. So, while hitting pedals and reaching for the Stick, I fumbled for the clasp near my throat, but couldn’t find it - had to give up on that and begin the piece, starting the tricky 8th notes that would keep my hands busy for the next 5 minutes, ignoring the thirst, the runny nose and the in-ear monitors half fallen out.
That’s when the bugs appeared!
A short hop on the bus to Buffalo, and then north to just about Niagra Falls.
This venue is right on the Niagra River, though it’s behind stage through some woods, so we won’t be seeing it while we play.
More soon as we head overnight to Detroit.