I had the opportunity, for the third year in a row, to play a New Year's Eve party at the St. John's Restaurant. http://stjohnsrestaurant.com/. This gourmet address is owned and operated by Daniel Lindley and Josh Carter, two high school classmates of my daughter.
They love jazz in their restaurant, and each New Year's Eve they have Jim Crumble and myself bring a 4-piece group in to create an atmosphere.
This time, Dexter Bell played bass, and we called Alan Wyatt of Lee University in Cleveland to play tenor saxophone.
Suffice it to say that playing live jazz is an avocation of mine, since completing a master's in jazz at the university of Tennessee in 1996. I say avocation because it continues to be an active interest but I am unable to practice and focus on jazz improvisation to the extent that a real jazz performer should.
This time, though, Alan made the evening different. He is probably this area's finest reed player, and is also a former classmate at UT. Twice during the evening he said, "this is a fun gig," and at the end he shook my hand and said, "we'll do this again."
I came home with the unusual sense of both accomplishment and of growth. Most of my musical performance experiences now are those of being a band leader or mentor. In this case Alan clearly had the strongest chops and yet he still enjoyed himself, if we are to believe him. The sense of accomplishment was that I am able to cut this gig and come home not feeling like I have embarrassed myself.
Getting my jazz degree was one of the smart decisions of my whole life. It unified our family around something cool, just when our children were teenagers. It answered some abiding questions about musical structures that I had had for years. And it gave me a new hobby for the rest of my life; Marian McPartland is 90 years old this year. That's she above.