Belated clarification

A year or so before Covid hit, a dear friend/colleague attended a gig featuring another dear friend/colleague at a jazz-centric venue. There was a brief exchange with an older gentleman minding the door in part concerning free jazz. He said that “my” opening set at the Gary Burton Children’s Theater concert back in the early 80s or so totally put him off the genre.

This is not the first time that that someone was under the misconception that this ensemble was facilitated by me. And because the previous post concerning Steve Gnitka’s death has worn out its welcome (as eventually did Steve with me on a personal level, but that’s another story), for the much belated record, the group’s leader for that gig was saxophonist/composer Joe Smith. (Worth noting — as if any of this or anything else for that matter is worth noting — Joe and I had a contentious relationship dating back to the early 70s. But at this point we were obviously on good terms.) I was brought in at the 11th hour as a replacement for Steve Kimmel, who, according to Joe opted out because he was chary about playing vibes on the same bill as Burton. I took part in one or two rehearsals in order to familiarize myself with Joe’s composition which was primarily a “flow chart”. (The lyrics, sung by Kay Nygaard, were political in nature; having to do with the ongoing repression of the Palestinians). The rehearsals went well. However, at the gig, both guitarist Rick Barbeau and pianist Carei Thomas (like Joe, ex-colleagues from the early years of Blue Freedom’s New Art Transformation, forerunner to The Milo Fine Free Jazz Ensemble) totally lost focus, missing cues in the chart. This discursiveness was seemingly the tipping point for a packed house there to hear Burton’s accessible jazz stylings, resulting in a hearty round of booing; a rare occurrence in “Minnesota-nice” land, where, for instance, nothing more than an out-of-towner showing up generally results in a standing ovation. The situation was then further exacerbated by Thomas’ temerity in lecturing the audience about “how hard we’d worked to put the piece together, etc.” as the rest of us (with Rick still lost) soldiered on. To be honest, in the midst of this embarrasing idiocy, I almost walked off the stage. I only stayed because, one, I felt I should have Joe’s back, and two, as my father’s son (he being a consummate professional musician), I felt it was my duty to carry on and make the best of the situation. Thankfully, Rick and Carei then found their footing. Ironically/surprisingly, as part of the chart, my subsequent percussion (m-drums) solo (accompanied in part by my muttering the title of the Bush Tetra’s “Too Many Creeps” which I had been listening to in my car on the way over), actually got a round of applause. Backstage after the set, I called out Carei for his behavior in chastising the audience (to say nothing of his fucking up the chart). (That was my last gig with Carei and Rick.)  Subsequently, I called Steve from the theater to regale him with the story, and, as I had no interest in hearing Burton, headed home.

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