The next day was a day off. We had a six-hour drive to Albuquerque and we did it in the middle of the day. So there was no show, but there was a lot of time in the bus. Perfect time to work on Fran’s song, which you may remember we were going to do in LA. We commandeered the back lounge—her, me, and Clarice.
The thing about the song “Wishing Well” is that what most people remember is the funky pop synth riff. So when Fran and I worked on it the first thing I did was change that into a guitar riff that sounded nothing like the original. I didn’t even try to use the same notes. I’ll confess it took me a little longer than usual to figure out the chord progression, and in the end we changed that too, to something that was more like progressive jazz than R&B. I sat crosslegged in one corner with the Ovation and Fran paced in a slow circle while she sang bits of it and worked out some vocal flourishes she wanted to do. She’d try something on for size and then look at me for an opinion.
“This is all about you,” I told her. “You’re the picture. I’m just the frame.”
“Pretty big frame,” Clarice side-commented from where she was sitting opposite me.
“Pooh on you, chicken-sticks!” Fran said.
“That was not a comment on your weight, Frannie,” Clarice said, clucking her tongue. “Trying to pump up our boy’s ego.”
“My ego is doing just fine,” I said. “Seriously, I think this might be the best way to do it. Just me and maybe add in Martin on some hand percussion, and you just do your thing. You can really do some awesome things with the dynamic range.”
“Big show like this, ain’t no one going to hear it if I go too soft, though,” she said.
“The ones who are into it, though, they’ll get even MORE into it when you pull back. I used to do these shows with a singer, guitar, and percussion and when we would ease up it was like the audience would lean in, like they got sucked in.”
“When was that?” Fran asked.
“I lived in Spain for a while, and I played all kinds of shows, busking on the street, house concerts, stage shows…”
“That is some spicy hot shit,” Clarice said, and she meant it as a compliment. She and Fran had a unique way of talking–I can’t even really do it justice.
“It’s awesome. You can improvise back and forth between the guitarist and the singer, and even the dancer. It’s a lot like jazz, but you know, not jazz.”
“Speaking of which, what do you think about putting a scat section in the middle of this?”
“Oh I would love that.” I played a couple of jazzy riffs. “Totally.”
So we played around with that for a while, and then somehow we got talking about flamenco again. I was telling them about how the singer would improvise words as well as the melody, and in particular I was telling them about Gloria. “My Spanish was still pretty weak but I could tell she would be singing about the dancer, say, and describing how beautiful she was, how pure her heart, how strong she was, that kind of thing.”
“You gotta teach me some of that,” Fran said.
“Teach you?” I immediately began trying to think of how to start teaching someone to sing flamenco style and failed to come up with where to even begin. “Um, let’s see. Well, I worked for a while at a flamenco school, actually, and we had classes on guitar, palmas–that’s clapping, percussion, dancing…I never took voice, though. And would you have to do it in Spanish? This is going to take some thought.”
“Maybe we should teach him gospel,” Clarice said.
“Oooh there’s an idea.” Fran took a seat and put her feet up on the banquette.
“How do you teach somebody gospel?” I asked.
“We just work our way through the standards until you get the hang of it,” she said with a shrug.
“Whatever you want to do,” I said. I realized trying to teach someone flamenco just wasn’t as simple as teaching them a song if you didn’t already know the idiom. Later, in the bus, when my brain didn’t have something else to think about, I tried to remember how I learned it. Learning flamenco had been like learning another language. Considering that Orlando and I barely had any language in common when we started, it was kind of miraculous. Then again, we’d both just been to Guitar Craft school when we met. That put us on the same wavelength, I guess.
I was sitting there, staring out the bus window, and thinking about Orlando made my entire body flash hot and cold with sudden longing. I really hadn’t thought about him or missed him since I’d been back, but right then it was like a ghost from the past breezed right through me. I hadn’t heard from Ziggy yet, but I found myself hoping it would work out so I could see Ziggy.
“See” Ziggy. Hear, smell, touch, taste. Another wave of longing washed through me, much more intense than the one I’d just felt. It was like homesickness but with an extra jolt of lust to go with it.
It made me intensely uncomfortable. I got out a guitar and sat on the bench against the back of the bus and worked on a song. No words, just music. Sometimes six strings give you exactly the right balance between melancholy and passion. Or maybe it’s just me.