Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Day-Part Two

3:45 P.M.
As I race through the lobby to the elevators,I'm accosted by not one,but two,"grippers" (an English musician's term for the kind of person that latches on for dear life and won't let go),a gentleman in his 90s who used to run a jazz party,and an elderly lady who is the bane of musicians and promoters alike. (She was once kicked out of a hotel for tripping a man with her crutches after he asked her not to block the aisle,and for breaking the lock open on the kitchen door at midnight-"well,I was hungry,and they didn't have room service" was her defense!).These two charmers actually talk simultaneously and over each other in their eagerness to engage me,so it comes out like this---
Popeye:"You've gotten-"
Broomhilda:"What's wrong with your hair?"
Me-"Excuse me?"
P:"-fat.I said you're really-"
B:"I mean,it looks like you're losing hair. Are you going-"
P:"-fat!"
B:"-bald?"
Mercifully,the elevator doors open-I dive in and stab frantically at the 'close' button.I'm free-except for a couple standing in the elevator,who seem kindly enough,but have a habit of always bringing up my LAST marriage.Now,I've been with Kim for five years,but to many fans,you're frozen in their memories to some past time of their choosing-in this case,I'm still married to my Swedish ex-wife,and only have one son with her,an infant (who will miraculously be shaving soon!).
"How's that little boy?" Now,should I say that I'm re-married,have four kids in total,my ex is living in Sweden with my two sons,etc.-No,that won't work,because then the elevator will turn into a scene from The Sorrow And The Pity,and I'll have to recount the whole divorce,the fact that my children are so far away,etc.,while keeping a sorrowful expression on my face throughout their solicitations of sympathy,and trying to reassure them that "No,actually,everything's allright now"....
Instead,I say,"Fine-thanks!"Oops-this backfires big-time,because their follow-up is:
"Your wife's English is amazing!"
Now,I want to reply that,although Kim grew up in Kansas City, and so her knowledge of evolution could justifiably be questioned (actually,she's quite familiar with the descent of man-she's seen Dick Cheney on CNN),her English is exemplary....
Instead,I say,"Thanks!"The doors open to my floor-I break into a run for my room-as I nervously insert the key and the door clicks open,I hear one more,"Hey,Polack-are you going for some kielbasa and sauerkraut? We still haven't heard a polka yet!"(see last entry) SLAM!!!!Safe...
P.S. Just as an aside,if you think events from my life are frozen in time with certain fans,consider the plight of a fellow saxophonist (he shall remain nameless),whose father passed away almost three years ago.He runs into one elderly gentleman about once a month,who has a habit of approaching my friend at the most inappropriate times,shaking his hand,and offering a "I sure do miss your daddy!!!"This means that my friend has to drop whatever he's doing (in one case, a hot date!),and start 'grieving' again,no matter what his actual mood is....But,once again,I digress...

7:00 P.M.
I'm doing the opening set at the Newport Jazz Party-this is always a good one,because not only do I get to play with some of the West Coast's finest musicians,but Joe Rothman,the organizer,and I have a long-standing tradition of insulting each other mercilessly over the microphone throughout the weekend,and I get the opening salvo....
Now,Joe Rothman is a bachelor for life-he's never been married,never will,so,naturally,my jokes lean in that direction-for example,two years before,I'd lowered the bar significantly with this joke:"You know,if you laid all the girls in California end-to-end...then you'd be Joe Rothman!" This,incidentally,was funny to everyone but his first-time date that night-who knew?????So this year I softened things up a bit-here's my comments:
"It's great to be back here in Newport Beach,and I'm glad to see Joe Rothman healthy again (some murmurs,some titters in the audience).No,you know he's had some health problems-I don't think he'd mind me telling you-for the last year,every time he had sex,his upper body burned like crazy-but a team of doctors finally figured out the cause-pepper spray!!!!"This was followed by,"No,I shouldn't kid Joe-at his age,he has more testosterone than Rosie O'Donnell in a women's prison!"These jokes,again,got a huge laugh from everyone but,alas,Joe's date,who subsequently referred to me as an "asshole" and a "jerk"-again,I didn't know she was in the audience,and I really didn't think that she'd be offended,considering that (a) Joe "gives" to me as good as he "gets",(b)we're close friends,which is clear to everyone,(c)these jokes were pretty mild on the offend-o-meter,and(d)our banter is just an act.(I tried this reasoning on Joe's date-she informed me that "I'm not an act!!!").OK,to anyone not in our inner circle (all 2,000 of us)-I'M JUST JOKING!!Joe's a great guy,he really is a perfect gentleman and a good,loyal,friend,and I love him-if you don't believe me,I have an elf in Irvine who can testify on my behalf!!!!(again,see last entry)
Bye for now-Ken
P.S. You should sign up for Joe and John's West Coast Jazz Party in Irvine on Labor Day weekend for more great music and hi-jinks!!!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

My Day (Some events juxtaposed slightly,but 99% true!)

Thursday,February 15th,9:00 A.M.,Newport Beach,California
I had agreed to do an interview with the BBC for a three-part radio special on Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw,and had to do a link-up somewhere in my travels.This was the best date for all of us,so the BBC tried to secure a studio nearby...My "engineer" picked me up at my hotel,and took me to a local college radio station.I knew this one would be different when I stepped into the 'studio' ,which looked more like a quonset hut with cables dropped randomly about. I was greeted by a David Crosby lookalike (complete with walrus mustache!),who was hunched over a computer;without looking up,he flashed me the "peace" sign and drawled out a "What's happenin',dude?", a phrase I hadn't heard since I tossed out my old Cheech & Chong records....
Over the radio-station monitor came the voice of a lady who was doing a weekly radio show called "What Would Arwen Do?-An Elvish Perspective On Life".She was later introduced to me (with no trace of irony,I must add) as "our resident elf."As I shook her hand and listened to her blessing me for my spiritual gifts to the world,I gazed earnestly into her eyes and thanked her also,for the good work that all the elves do, while praying silently that she wouldn't hunt me down later and kill me.....I then moved into the cubicle where I would spend the next hour reading the newspaper,while my "engineer" tried to figure out how to do a trans-Atlantic link-up.We finally got things rolling.Then,after answering long and detailed questions about Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw for the better part of 90 minutes,including playing and discussing examples of their characteristic phrases,musical differences,personalities,etc., with Sparky sitting a foot away from me and staring at me intently,he actually turned to me when it was over and said,"So,was this mostly a show about Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman?"Remembering that I was in Southern California,I looked at him and said,"Why,yes,it was...."
11:45 A.M.
I'm back at the hotel for the Newport Beach Jazz Party,an event put on by Joe Rothman and John McClure,two friends who have made a big success of this annual festival,and another one Labor Day weekend-if you haven't been to these,look them up-they're great,fun,well-run weekends of jazz! But I digress....
I'm met in the lobby by a decidedly unusual greeting:"Hey,fellow Polack!Are you gonna play us a polka?"I look over-it's one of the 'regulars',dressed like he went shopping at Emmett Kelly's garage sale.This jazz diplomat will continue to try and ingratiate himself with me throughout the weekend by uttering more and more of these remarks, such as -"Hey,Polski!""There's my Polack!""How come I didn't hear any polkas last night!",etc. I begin to wonder if this might be a new form of address in Southern California,where people just yell out ethnic slurs to each other...I later tried this out on my waiter in the restaurant,with a friendly cry of "Hey,wetback-could you bring me some more coffee?"The waiter,God bless him, was so taken by my greeting that he accidentally spat into the middle of my Clams Casino,threw the dish down onto the table,and quickly hurried off,shaking his head in obvious merriment....
2:00 P.M.
I have a poolside set to play with two great trumpet players,Terell Stafford and Gilbert Castellanos,and Scott Whitfield,a real trombone virtuoso-lots of fun,and great to hear Terell and Gilbert play off one another-very inspiring! I later have another set by the pool as a guest with a pianist whose unorthodox technique is somewhat off-set by his monumental ego...I know,because I've been down this road before,that either he doesn't know my name,and will introduce me like this-"Let's hear it for Mr. Saxman!"or "Now we'd like to bring on my main man!";or,even better,he will kind of remember what my name sort of sounds like,and will bring me on with a "Now,we'd like to bring up Mr. Ben Peroski to the stage",or any of thousands of variations therein.A lot's riding on his introduction,as I have a bet with two guys in the band about this....soon, it's time-he looks around,catches my eye,gazes up in a heavenly direction for a clue,any clue,looks out over the audience,and says,"Now,I'd like to ask our bassman to introduce our special guest",and hands the microphone over to him-Brilliant! To be continued in my next installment.......See you then-Ken