Upson Downs

I am frequently reminded that I need to resist getting either too low or too high, based on the situation at hand. This was an extreme example from several years back:

I had the great privilege of playing in an orchestra that backed up Joni Mitchell when she toured to promote her recording of classic torch songs and orchestral versions of some of her own tunes. I was to cover an extremely modified version of the role that Herbie Hancock had played on the recording. The arrangements were gorgeous, the orchestra (with six french horns!) sounded wonderful, and there were several Jazz Big Shots that were part of the band as well. I sat front and center at the Concert Grand Piano, with Joni standing about three feet in front of me, where I was honored to breathe her second-hand cigarette smoke that wafted during the entire concert. Needless to say, it was a tremendous thrill, and remains one of my favorite gigs ever.

The VERY NEXT NIGHT found me in the basement of a dreary Italian restaurant, playing solo background music on a POS piano. I was trying not to look miserable as I was ignored by every human being in the room, when I suddenly noticed a woman looking at me. She was smiling. The inner tingle that comes with the feeling that I had brought musical satisfaction to a fellow citizen began to course through my veins. Looking up a few minutes later (after having stared at my fingers in order to coax ever more Deep (but Ambient) Musical Concepts from my soul, I saw that she was still smiling at me. I had clearly touched her to the core, because now she was nodding and wiggling her fingers in preparation to tell me how beautiful my music was, or to compliment my devilish good looks, or both. “Excuse me”, she purred, “Can I get my check?”

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