The View from the Sacbut Section

Musings of C. Clark Gayton, Jr.

Archive for the ‘gigs’ Category

April seems so long ago … RNZ Interview

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on July 21, 2020

Enjoyed this interview on RNZ this past Spring.

 

 

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March 2020

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on July 13, 2020

Benefit for Aaron Johnston – right before the world changed.

Aaron Johnston Kidney Transplant Benefit Show to Feature Joe Russo, Clark Gayton, Mauro Refosco and More

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And another thing … did I already talk about appreciation?

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on August 25, 2011

It’s important to thank the people who have helped you, or given you good advice over the years. Most of the older musicians in this business have earned the knowledge that they have, it wasn’t given to them. In other words, what took them 20 hard years to learn, they GAVE to you in one or two sentences.

The other day, a trombone player that I turned on to a few gigs years back, talked to me like I was a rookie, I guess because he is doing very well now. He went on and on about how well he was doing, his new house, and how he just can’t take any more work… well… what do you say to that? He never called me for any of the jobs he couldn’t make! It was fine, because at the moment, I’m doing O.K., and I’m able to do what needs to be done. The problem here is, this screws up the musical eco system. You have to turn on the guys that helped you with work in order to keep the balance of music and employment in check. At present, the eco system is broken. There are not enough paying gigs in New York to sustain a living as a musician.

Where ever you make money is where you put it back. Invest in the community and people that put you on the map. The same goes for a band or club. If a certain band or musician gave an establishment credibility, that establishment should return the favor, and re-invest in those musicians, because they may be struggling now. Help THEM out!

The current wages New York clubs pay are the same wages they paid in the late ’60s and early ‘70s. Because of this, most “jazz’ musicians teach at clinics and universities. This is fine, but what’s happening now is that there’s nowhere to go after you graduate from these schools except back to school. Is this irony, or just sad?

Anyway, I’m ranting.

For the sake of the music, next time you see a musician that has helped you in any way, whether that musician called you to sub for them, gave a gig at the circus, or you just heard them play, thank them. Repay them if you can for their dedication to playing live music. Give them a call when they’re sick or having trouble. Believe it or not, this will help us all in the end.

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The Vagrant Dude

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on February 16, 2011

I would practice almost every day on the “A” train. Second car from the end, right side of the train, I would find a seat that felt “right”. The ride from Washington Heights to mid-town is about a half hour of practice time. To Brooklyn, I figure I could blow about an hour. This method seemed to work out really well, and I would continue this ritual for years.

“Stardust” almost always was my opening warm-up selection. I noticed that in most situations, this particular song would win the approval of the other passengers in the car, and transform me from “the annoying subway musician bum”, to “the guy over there with the funny horn who ain’t really hurtin’ nobody.” I could then go to my scales and exercises in the comfort of my newly acquired invisibility.

Eyes closed.

The only time that I would open my eyes was when I had to reach for 6th position. I didn’t want hit anyone with my slide. In that instant, I would notice people that I had seen before, and People I hadn’t It was distracting a bit, but the rehearsal went on.

The only Person that would grab my attention was this one vagrant black man. He wasn’t unusually noticeable in appearance or odor, but he always seemed to get my attention. When he entered the car at the front, his left hand extended, he asked everyone for a donation without uttering a word. Then exited the car at the back. His level of disconnection always blew me away. “How can anyone become that far removed?” I thought to myself. Like I mentioned before, this routine went on for years.

At times, my thoughts would drift.

Money problems, the gig tonight, the lack of a gig tonight, my family and friends, being alone, why I torture myself with this music thing.

“Do you like J.J. Johnson?” a voice said one day. I looked up, and it was this vagrant dude! I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been seeing this guy for years, and I had never heard him say a word. I don’t know why I assumed he couldn’t speak, but I certainly wasn’t expecting him to mention one of my favorite players.

“JJ’s my main man!” I told him.

“I can tell you like Curtis Fuller too,” the guy said.

“Thank you, that’s very nice of you to say.”

I dropped some change in his hand and we talked a bit about music.

“Alright, it was nice speaking to you. I’ll see you soon.”

”Yeah, I’ll see you around,” I said.

The next time I saw him, I said hello.

There was not a glimmer of recognition in his eyes. He looked through me and kept on walking. I had to laugh to myself.

I tried to acknowledge him again on other occasions, but I always got the same reaction.
Months passed. Maybe a year.

On the train, my thoughts would drift. Money problems, the gig tonight, the lack of a gig tonight, my family and friends, being alone, why I torture myself with this music thing.

“Hey.”

I looked up. It was the vagrant dude.

“You know, you should always play music because it makes people happy,” he said. He gave me a half smile, the train stopped at 59th street, and he scurried off the car.

I never saw him again.

© 1997 Ritual Ltd.

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Clark Gayton with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on December 17, 2010

http://www.vevo.com/watch/bruce-springsteen-the-e-street-band/songs-from-the-promise-live/USSM21002203

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The Art of Sitting In

Posted by C. Clark Gayton, Jr. on June 30, 2009

The Art of Sitting In

 

“Sitting in” sounds, to the uninitiated, like a relaxing time on the front porch swapping tall tales and drinking lemonade with no thought about the concerns of the day, much less, earning a living. That impression couldn’t be further from reality.

 

Using the casual implications of the phrase to corner folks into getting you work is not only rude, but unmusical-like. Announcing to an acquaintance, or even a good friend, that you’re going to come down and sit in on that person’s gig is inappropriate and manipulative. To disregard the rehearsals and thought out music set is off-putting and unlikely to get you a job. If you inject yourself into a performance and insist on doing a solo, consider that your solo is displacing someone else’s (the hired musician’s) chance to play who was probably looking forward all week to just relaxing and playing in a controlled environment.

 

“Sitting in” is a very important part of a young musician’s career and is instrumental to being heard but not at the expense of the musicians who were hired. That being said, there is a time and place for it. If not properly handled, all you’ll ever do is sit in. I’ll be even more direct:  you won’t be considered for a paying job if you always play for free, step up to the bandstand without being invited, and only sit in.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to dismiss the importance of this art, but from my perspective, there are only 4 things that can be accomplished when sitting in with a band (not all of them good and not all of them intentional):

 

  1. You’ll get a gig with the band, or someone in the audience will get you a job (yeah!);
  2. Nothing will happen, because you didn’t make an impact on the music (uh, oh);
  3. You lost countless jobs because you pissed off everyone in the band, and, as a result, the audience considered your work subpar and unprofessional (umm, but I was just asserting myself…);
  4. In an effort to really impress, you stay on the bandstand too long and wait until the gig ends to find out what the band thinks of you.  This gives the other musicians the impression that you are desperate, even if you sound great!  This is a mistake I see over and over – an uninvited musician sits in and waits until after the gig to introduce him or herself to the rest of the band hoping for work. This smacks of desperation, so much so that no one wants the squatter’s number.  They’re thinking, “Why is he so desperate? He sounds good … there must be something wrong with him…”  There’s nothing wrong with introducing yourself to the guys, but creeping everyone out by following the band around after the performance is not the deal. 

 

What is the deal is to get them interested in you! Not the opposite. 

 

In the end, it’s always about the music, so here are some tips to the Art of Sitting In:

 

  1. Listen to the band before you get behind the microphone. If you can’t add to the music, lay out.
  2. Wait until you are asked to play. And if you do play, only play ONE song, maybe two if asked. That way they see you as a conscientious musician. 
  3. If you really feel the need to play, ALWAYS ask the band leader if you can play a number with the band. NEVER just pull your axe out and start wailing. This happens all the time on the scene, and you never really hear from these guys again, I’m sorry to say (but not too sorry!).
  4. If you don’t know the music, don’t wait until the song is over before you decide to learn the changes. 
  5. For jam sessions, the idea is to throw yourself in the fire. A professional gig is not the situation to mine it out.

 

As your experience widens, dealing with unfamiliar tunes gets easier, to the point where no one will be the wiser if you didn’t know the song.

 

A Word about Getting Paid versus Sitting In

 

If your goal is to be a professional musician, you have to hone your sitting in skills and limit them to unique situations. You don’t get paid for sitting in, nor should you expect to be. 

 

If you are one of those guys who always sits in for free, how can you be taken seriously when you’re looking to get paid? You always play for free! You can successfully and freely play your way out of ever getting paid, outside of spare change when you are finally asked. Why would anyone ever pay you $500 for a job if you played down the street all night for nothing?

 

In sum, pick your situations, and always put the sound of the music first. You will be noticed for this.

 

Trust me.

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