Well, it’s official. This weekend I turned 28 plus 20 minus 10 years old. And what a weekend it turned out to be – full of good music, good booze, and good friends. The only thing missing was that no one invented a cake made out of bourbon for me. Get on that for next year, people, okay?
Part of what made the weekend so great was that my dad’s long time guitar player for his jazz band (the Red Hot Smoothies) asked me to sing for a concert he was giving as part of a program called Nursing Homes Swing. It’s a really great program that brings local jazz musicians into nursing homes to perform for the residents, and my dad’s facility takes part. My mom usually brings him up to the room where they perform so he can enjoy watching and listening to his old buddies play. On Friday, the guitar player, Tom Harbeck, along with Bob Bowen on bass (who also used to perform regularly with my dad’s band) and Keith Hoodock on sax and clarinet, was scheduled to play at my dad’s place, and the organizer asked if he could include a vocalist. So Tom reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in coming up for the gig.
Now, I’ve only performed jazz a handful of times – actually, less than a handful. The first time, I was 16 and sang two songs with Hod O’Brien accompanying me, and traded fours with Stephanie Nakasian (both were friends of my dad, and Stephanie actually gave me vocal lessons for a year in high school). The second and third times were after college when I sang for the first dances of friends (with my dad’s band). The fourth time was about 6 years ago when friends Sandy Davis Camp and Larry Camp invited me to sing a song during one of their concerts. So all told, I’ve performed 5 jazz tunes over the course of about 22 years with some truly phenomenal artists who took good care of me. Gulp.
When Tom first contacted me, I immediately said yes. Then I went home and had a panic attack. In part, it was just fear because I do it so rarely, but mostly it was the thought of looking into the audience and seeing my dad zoning out and not having any idea it was me. The thought of not getting that proud papa look killed me. But I knew that Tom, who is a highly underrated (or at least not as well known as he should be given his skill level), and Bob, who is also not nearly well enough known, would take good care of me. And after talking it over with my mom and with S, I decided I would rather regret doing something than not doing it, and my dad probably won’t be around that much longer, so this opportunity is unlikely to present itself again. So I proceeded to relearn the words to a few songs and practice with the irealPro app that Tom introduced me to and determined that I would just not look at my dad during any of the tunes I was performing so that I wouldn’t start crying in front of everyone.
Overall, it went well with the exception of two things: First, when it came time for me to come back in on the bridge of Girl from Ipanema, I’m pretty sure I ended up singing either in the key of K or the key of 13. And then I felt my heart stop. Thank god Tom and Bob are so talented that they were able to save me and cover what had to be a very painful thing to listen to. For your own protection so your ears don’t start bleeding, and for my own vanity, I have deleted video footage of that song. Also, the endings were a little rough since we hadn’t rehearsed at all in advance, but again, the guys are so good they compensated easily. Here’s how it went for the first couple tunes (minus the one I botched so badly):
The second thing that was a little rough was that another singer, Blee Moffett, who’s a friend, came to listen, and we asked him to come up and sing a tune himself. He politely declined and we politely badgered him until he agreed. He headed up and started singing What a Wonderful World. Great tune, no problem, right? Yes…if that hadn’t been the tune that he had sung for the father daughter dance at my wedding (which Tom and Bob had both played for, too). And yes…if that hadn’t been the only song during the whole concert that my dad started singing along to. Remember how I was trying not to cry? Let the water works begin. Luckily, I had time during the next tune to get myself together before singing again, though I had to ignore my dad, who was staring at me during the entirety of that next tune. I’m hoping that means he understood the connection to the song on some level, and maybe even his connection to me, too. Here’s the end of Blee’s tune (my husband was filming and didn’t catch the first part) where you can kind of see Dad singing along:
After I got myself back together, I did three more tunes and managed not to totally butcher them:
All in all, totally terrifying and totally fun, and I’m so grateful that Tom was generous enough to include me. As I told him, it was not just a gig, but a gift.