Sometimes you can see it coming. Sometimes you can just tell which way things will go. Sometimes if you are lucky, and you play your cards right; you get to help steer the boat.
One of these days I am going to write a book and call it “Leadership Jazz.” Until then I am going to keep blogging about my adventures in my weekend ensemble. I have been playing the drums as of late in an inspirational outfit. But this weekend, I got to switch to my main instrument, the Bass Guitar. Now I am not going to spend a lot of time name dropping top flight Bass Players, this is not what this blog post is about. It is more about the fact that I was playing the drums because the drums was needed most, and how we evolved as a group to the point where I was able to switch back to the Bass.
Ok, our group started with a Singer / Keyboard Player, who added a Guitar Player. I was asked to play the Drums and we also added a Second Guitar Player. To fill out the sound the Second Guitar Player would switch between Bass or Drums if I was out-of-town and could not play.
As the group grew in size, I would help out where ever I saw need. I always tried to have extra cables and connectors and help trying to figure out how to plug everything into the main sound system. Being a Leader is about looking a little ways down the road and making sure you are prepared for the next obstacle. I was not worried about the spotlight, but making sure everything we played sounded right.
We always kept things loose, practicing on Saturdays and performing on Sundays. Things would sometimes sound a little rough around the edges on Saturday, but something magical seemed to come over us on Sundays. I guess you just need faith. After practice I would grab the Bass and play for a few minutes jamming with whom ever hung around, or just running through some warm-up scales before we shut everything down.
This weekend, the Keyboard Player lined up a Drummer and freed me up to play the Bass. Now the first thing that went through my head was how to make sure the lineup would work with the main sound system. So I put together a little travel bag of extras. I had an extra pair of drum sticks. I also had two extra guitar cables, and two extra microphone cables, a couple of converter boxes and two extra nine volt batteries. You know I really did not notice I had everything in pairs until I typed this out.
So I was very excited to be back on the Bass Guitar. People had been telling me they liked the way I play the drums. I just try to keep is basic and let it flow when I am on the Drums. Most of all, I just try to have fun and let the spirit take me. But I have something to prove on Bass. So as much as I want to do things for the good of the group; I have to admit, I was looking forward to being a little selfish.
When we got everything ready; and checked all the cables and instrument levels, everything sounded full and rich. I was pretty jazzed, I had to keep stopping myself and make sure I was on track with everyone else the first time we ran through the songs. I had to stop myself and reminded myself; don’t go over board, keep it simple. I have to admit, I got lost a few times.
We ran through the songs again, adding more singers to the mix. Everyone seemed to enjoy the second time through, mistakes and all. I was having fun, but I had to keep reminding myself to remember the basics, keep it simple. I was having fun and it seemed like it was rubbing off on everyone else. The singer / keyboard player was the first to notice the two guitar players and I were locked in to the rhythm of the drums and bouncing along.
I began to notice how the first guitar player was the most locked in to the keyboard player and was singing along. He was carrying the rest of us through the changes. I also noticed the Second Guitar Player, who had been playing Bass was more confident on Guitar when we had more people in place. I also noticed the subtle difference it makes to have someone who plays drums full-time instead of part-time. I also noticed that I had to keep myself in the moment, play through any mistakes I was making and just get back to the basics. Keep it simple, not flashy.
When we were done, people seemed very happy about the sound. Everyone, the singers, the keyboard player, the guitar players, the drummer and I were all pretty about how we sounded. I did not get as many compliments about how I played the Bass versus the Drums. It seemed like I was making more impact when I played the drums. Maybe this is a lesson in humility. I know I am a better Bass Player than Drummer, but no one really noticed. It is a lesson I will gladly accept to keep learning and moving forward. This was a bigger mix of music and I was happy to be on that Bass Guitar for a weekend.
One day, I want to perform more with my wife, and have a studio and make our own music and lead our own group. This is just another step in my evolution as a musician. To be flexible and do what is needed to keep things moving forward. I want to learn to be a leader regardless of who is in the spotlight.
The lesson I learned by switching back to the Bass is to stick to the basics. Keep things simple.