November 3, 2002

Solo gig. Black Lab Festival. Medford City Hall.

This is the second year I've played at this festival. It's an arts and crafts show, organized by Becky Sharpe. ( Becky took the photos that I'm using for PR now, including the one on my home page, and she has included one of her photos of my on her Black Lab page.
The gig was in the main hall, the Howard Alden Chambers (a chamber music gig?). When we got there, the artisans were setting up and so there was plenty of talk, which gave me a sense of the room's sound. High, vaulted ceiling, lots of wood and scrollwork, so plenty of places for the high frequencies to bounce around.A balanced room, with surprisingly little echo. The front door to City Hall had been left open and the entire place was pretty cold. It never did really warm up. I was to set up behind a wooden railing, in a sort of hexagonal corral, open in front, formed by the tables where, it would appear, the magistrates perform some mysterious political rites.

Mal [my wife -- and manager] set up the PR materials in front of the railing. She made a nice display with the CDs, some of the new business cards, the free bookmarks I'd made up for the SoftPro gig, the mailing list, and, of course, the ever-present stuffed frogs. Unfortunately, the location of the table was not ideal. Not only did we not sell any CDs, but no one even took a free bookmark. I was booked to play from 1:30 to 3:30. A little after one, I grabbed my guitar and found an empty coat-room where I could tune up and warm up. While I was doing that, a white-haired gentleman in a black topcoat sauntered in and said, "No audience?" That was the mayor.

Just before 1:30 I plugged in and got ready to play. I had been asked to bring a mic, and, as it turned out, the mayor entered my little corral, and my mic was pressed into service as he made a short speech. Then he introduced me. First time I've ever been introduced by a mayor!

I began, as always, with "Here's That Rainy Day". Since the room was so cold, and I'd had little time to run through warm-up exercises, I began buy running scales, arpeggios, melodic fragments over the first four chords: Gmaj7 Bbmaj7 Ebmaj7 Abmaj7. That was one of the first "turn-arounds" I learned, and I've never tired of it. Then into the tune. Short solo, not too many single lines, because of cold hands, one chorus of 3-note chords, then the head. Room sounded great. I got a smattering of applause.

Next, "Gentle Rain." I deliberately took it slower than usual, but also played more choruses of solo than usual, and when I got back to the head, realized I'd speeded up to my usual tempo. No harm done, but I do need to work on holding tempos steady. I have no problem when I take one of my accustomed tempos, but when I start faster or slower I tend to gravitate back to the accustomed tempo.
Next, the old chestnut, "Girl From Ipanema." Got to give people stuff they recognize. Not a jazz audience. Also, "Satin Doll."
Then "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise". Improvised a lot on that, and it went well. Got some applause. Noticed that there were a couple of women who were listening and applauding. A gig like this is meant to be just "background music", so it's nice to be reminded that some people are enjoying the background. Later, on a break, one of those women talked to me about a possible holiday gig. Yes. That's how it's supposed to work: one gig leads to another. Doesn't always. Did most of my strongest tunes in the first set, since it was cold and I had not played a lot recently. "God Bless the Child," ... don't remember what else.
Short break.
Second set my hands got pretty tired. After about 25 minutes I decided to take another break, but I had felt that the set had not gone that well and wanted to end with something that felt good, so I did my medley of "Polkadots and Moonbeams/Georgia." Felt good.

On a break, I met Ken Willinger. We had "met" on the online newsgroup,, and exchanged email, but had never met in person. That was a pleasant surprise. Always nice to have a guitarist in the audience, but always adds to the self-consciousness, too. Ken agreed that the acoustics were good in the room. It was actually a very large hall, with three sets of doors that opened out into the rotunda, and the sound carried, at least a little, out there. Love the sound of wood.

I tried a couple of segues on this gig that were adventursome; not sure if I liked how they went. Did "Black Orpheus" in Aminor, modulated to "Days and Nights Waiting", which is sort of in D but starts on Cmin7. That one was a little contrived. Then did my as-yet-unnamed Cminor blues and jumped right into the opening of "Don't Get Around Much Any More" in C. That E-natural staring note may have been a bit too stark. Also, between the cold room and my tired left hand, the solo on that was full of fluffed notes. Even so, I thing the spirit of the tune was good. As usual, I ended with "Baba Ghanosh." I could see from the smile on Ken's face that he enjoyed that one. I did too.

Good gig. I'll do it again next year. Maybe the economy will be better then, and I'll sell some CDs. Or maybe at least unload some of those bookmarks.