A little over a week ago I was playing a bar gig with a local jazz quartet in my town of State College. The band was led by pianist Arthur Goldstein, my friend and a mainstay of the local art music scene. I was subbing in for Arthur's usual sax player, Steve Bowman (another mainstay), who was attending the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra concert that night at Penn State.
We were playing at Zola New World Bistro, which is downtown State College's main "urban hip"-ish place that caters to grown ups—not baseball-hat-wearing college kids seeking drink specials (and other fringe benefits). As such, Zola has hosted live jazz every Friday for years. It's the main steady jazz venue in town.
Whenever a Zola gig coincides with the performance of a touring jazz group, there's that small hope/fear that some of the touring musicians might show up after work, so to speak. Several years ago, for instance, James Genus and a couple other sidemen from the Chris Botti band stopped in on my quartet. (Yikes!)
Back to the recent gig
Anyhow, halfway through the gig two Fridays ago, a well-dressed guy walked into Zola. And, as far as I could tell, sure looked a lot like the saxophonist Ted Nash. I might not have noticed him, except for the fact that I knew LCJO was in town, and I had half an eye for any musician-types who might stop in.
I kept my eye on this guy, trying to determine whether or not he was indeed Nash — or any other LCJO musician. It was hard to tell - he played it cool, took his time at the bar, and was not overtly checking out the band in the corner. I asked my bandmates if they guy could be Ted Nash, but they didn't know. (What would they know from sax players?).
Long story short -- it was Ted. He caught me as I walked by him on my break. He had a couple of compliments for me and the band, I questioned his identity, and we ended up chatting for the duration of the break, and then again after the gig.
Here's why this matters to me
I'm a small-town jazz-guy. I'm content playing with the handful of really good musicians in my neck of the woods—many of whom are my friends and neighbors. Most of my performances are for 'locals' like me, folks in my community whom I get to know through my position as a musician—and theirs as people who like to hear good, live music.
It's great to be received warmly by our local audiences—and by the other local musicians. But, it's also nice to have some external validation from time to time.
Ted Nash and Dan Nimmer (the LCJO's pianist who was with Ted that night) were kind, approachable, and complimentary. And they sincerely appreciated the fact that they stopped in a random bar in a college town a bit off the grid, and there was a veteran quartet there playing jazz at a respectable and appreciable level of skill and artistry.
And letting us know how they felt about that made my night, and the rest of my weekend, for that matter.
Nothing, other than to keep on keepin' on, as it has been said. I have no desire to move to NYC (or other similar urban area with far more like-minded musicians). My wife and kids and I have a really nice family life in a lovely town in a beautiful part of the country. And, though it's not always easy, I'm able to support them as a non-touring jazz musician, flying completely under the radar of the jazz scene consciousness.
Which is all good with me. But, it sure is nice to get a well-qualified attaboy from time to time from guys like Ted Nash.