Monday, May 26, 2008

I Felt Alive...

I finally went through with jamming with Jazz Volunteers last night. And I must say it was a very humbling experience.

When I first got there lugging my two congas and some percs toys in a backpack, I went over to the band's table to greet the band. Mar looked at me blankly not knowing who I was. So I suppose he forgot who I am for the nth time. Wowee, on the other hand, remembered me and asked me if it was okay if I jam with them during their 2nd set. Of course, I was okay with that. It was a pleasure to even get invited to jam with them. Wowee lifted his hand pointing to the stage, and encouraged me to set up my gear already even though they haven't played their 1st set yet.

So I walked over to the stage and set-up rather quickly. Set-up time for me was shorter than usual because I didn't bring my whole rig that has chimes, cowbells, jam blocks, on it; just a pair of congas and some toys. I told the sound techs to set up the mic for my congas after the 1st set instead. So as to not bother the band so much until I came up to jam.

the 1st set of Jazz Volunteers was awesome as always. I noticed that Mar was exceptionally on his game that night compared to last week, which just further heightened my nervousness. There were also more people piling in the venue compared to last week. So the set-up and surroundings so far was a little more nerve-racking than I originally thought it would be.

A good friend of mine from Flipnation, Mina, was nice enough to meet up at 19East and act as moral support. Mina's friend Jess was there also. So if everything did go wrong when I jam with the band, at least I know that 2 people in the crowd won't be throwing rotten tomatoes at me. The pictures in this post were taken by Mina.

Time seems to slow to a crawl when you're nervously waiting, because the 1st set and the break in between the 1st and 2nd set seemed like an eternity. I was drinking beer at a pace faster than usual. The sound techs began to set-up the mic of my congas. I was surprised that they placed a mic for each one of my conga drums. Given how nice all the gear is and the fact the the sound techs really knew what they were doing, I was already sure that every nuance and mistake I make on stage will be heard by everyone.

When the band finally started their 2nd set, my heart was already racing. After playing a few of their originals, Wowee called up all the guest jammers to the stage.

To my surprise, one of the people called on stage aside from me was Pido. Although I don't particularly like the acoustic pop route he has taken, he certainly is a good musician. Surprisingly, his skill really shown through when I noticed that he was soloing in a jazz scale. I was rather impressed actually. It just goes to show that most pop musicians do have skill, it just isn't so evident in the music they play at times.

I jammed a total of 3 songs with the band. The 1st song we played was a nightmare. I really felt the delta between my own skill and their skill, as I lost time often during my solo. I could feel the drummer adjusting to me as I was getting off time, which was thoroughly embarrasing.

The 2nd song was the only song I actually was familiar with; Eric Clapton's "Change the World". I was more comfortable with this song. But they played a jazzed out version of it which threw me off a little.

When the 3rd song came around, it was a fast samba beat song. I was a little relieved because the speed of the song was more of my comfort zone than the previous two songs. The tumbao rhythm I learnt last year definitely came in handy with this song. I was obviously unfamiliar with the song because there was a part where the drummer and I have to exchange solo licks back and forth. And the rest of the band came in at the same time between solos between myself and the drummer. The saxophonist, Mike Guevarra, kept nodding at me whenever it was my turn to do a lick. So I almost always came in a little late with my lick. But at least, I think I did fairly well with that song.

My iPod was actually recording the audio the entire time. And as I reviewed how my playing went this morning, I felt that overall I did fine but didn't do great. I can really tell how dependent I was with my band's drummer, Balot, to give me queues to key parts of songs. With jazz music, the drummer doesn't keep time at all. The entire band really just has to know the timing on their own.

Wowee and Rommel (the bassist), thanked me for jamming, and told me I was more than welcome to come back again to jam with them. I probably won't be back to jam with them anytime soon. I'll go practice, take lessons, and try to get a whole lot better first before I try jamming with them again.

Although, last night was a definitely an experience to remember. It also humbled me, and made me appreciate what I have in SunDownMuse a whole lot more. I'm comfortable with SunDownMuse music, and when I solo on those songs, I know I'm in the zone. So now I get what Briggs was trying to tell me before. That as you play with other people, you end up going back to SunDownMuse and appreciate the music and its members even more. She's definitely right.

Well, at the very least, I can decisively say that I've jammed with some of the best jazz musicians in the country. Albeit, jammed at a subpar level. Nevertheless, I had a good time. All the nervousness prior to jamming, and the post-jamming insecurity are really signs that I am human. And that I am capable of emotions of excitement sprinkled with needless paranoia of precariousness. I felt alive.


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