(Thanks to donations, here’s the third Saturday post in a row! See below for some other fun news! -ctan)
Marvelle had a pretty decent resume for a working musician. He’d just come off a gig in the touring company of a Broadway musical (Phantom of the Opera), had played jazz, rock, and R&B, did session work, dropped Jordan’s name, and said he’d got interested in working with us because he’d been at The Cat Club that night when Ziggy and Sarah’d had their sing-off. He was in his mid-thirties and didn’t seem nervous. All of that should have been in his favor.
But he rubbed me the wrong way when he got behind the kit, played a fill, and said, “Okay, amateur hour is over.” It wasn’t the bravado that bothered me–remember what I said about it being a performance by your avatar of confidence?–but the assumption that I was supposed to agree with him. I also didn’t appreciate it since Bradley was still there and might have overheard the comment. You can be pretty sure if someone is a dick I’m not going to want to sign them up to live in my back pocket, you know? But maybe he was more nervous than he let on, and let’s face it, we all say some pretty stupid things when we’re nervous. Or at least I do.
The song he’d prepped to solo was something rock, and he put his Walkman-style headphones on and played along to it. Afterward he told us it was Motley Crue, with a kind of “gotcha” look in his eye that made me think he’d chosen something we wouldn’t expect from him. (True.)
The M3 song he’d picked was “Wonderland.” I had to confer with Bart for a second before we could start. “I’ve forgotten what key it’s in.”
“You’re kidding.” Bart was trying not to laugh at me.
“I’m not. It’s a blank. I thought it was the person auditioning who was supposed to go blank.” I was trying not to laugh at myself. “I can’t remember how it starts.”
“Like this.” Bart played his part and that brought it back to me and my fingers took over.
“Jeez, man,” Marvelle busted my chops a little. “You want me to slow it down a little?”
“No, no, I got it now. It’s been a couple of years.” I’d figured on the three of us being able to remember the songs. Maybe I had figured wrong though, in which case it would make it an interesting gauge of any drummer’s ability to hold us together.
We did the song three times, once that was really a refresher for me and Bart, then a run that was decent, and one time where I tried to see if Marvelle would let me push the tempo after the key change. Nope. He and Bart worked well together and they wouldn’t let me run away with it.
He was a pro. We taught him the ballad “After the Storm,” which I wanted to make into a full-on power ballad, and it came together pretty quickly.
I still hadn’t heard anything that made an actual impression on me, though. Maybe I didn’t have to, though?
Bart and Chris could see the wheels turning in my head, I think. I just didn’t look finished with this guy.
“Let’s do a round of 12-bar blues?” Bart suggested.
“In seven,” I said suddenly. By which I meant 7/4 time but they all knew that.
“Oh man, it is on,” Marvelle said, half-standing up off his stool and hitting a fill to punctuate his sentence. “You want a beat first?”
For those who aren’t musicians, and without getting into what the second number in 4/4 or 7/4 means, I’ll explain: Typical rock music is in four. Think about how a march goes–one two three four–left right, left right. It’s very even, right? Whereas a waltz is in three because instead of marching around you’ve got a swing of three beats. I don’t waltz but I think of it like a pendulum, one-two-three, one-two-three is left-middle-right, right-middle-left.
Seven, though: do the math. Seven is one bar of four plus one bar of three, one bar of four plus one bar of three. So march four steps and then waltz. Left-right, left-right, left-middle-right. It’s very far from typical in pop music, in fact the only song I can think of in seven is “Mother” by The Police, the one Andy Summers written track on Synchronicity. Oh wait, and Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
So it was a kind of music nerd test to ask this guy to play in seven. And not only that but to do it as an improvisation. I cooked up a riff on top of the beat he laid down. We did like you do in blues, and passed the solo around. Chris even got in on it on the keyboard with one hand and a shakey egg in the other for some of the time.
And then it was Marvelle’s turn and he cooked up a nicely crookedly unexpected solo that played with the seven a little, swung it, pushed it and pulled it like taffy, never breaking it but making it sweeter all the time. To top it all off, as he came to the climax of his solo he bounced a stick intentionally (I think) so it flew straight up in the air, spinning like a baton, and then he caught it and brought it down right on the beat to finish, which made Chris laugh and shout, “Show off!”
Okay. Now I’d heard enough.
“Yeah,” I said, slipping the strap over my head. “We should get on to the next candidate but yeah.”
Meanwhile, two more drummers had arrived.
(In a recent comment it was suggested we have a post with everyone’s images of who they picture for our main characters. Love the idea! How about send me your photos or links to them by April 7–the post before my birthday–and include which character you are thinking of and if you have a favorite line or passage. Email to daron.moondog @ gmail.com and I’ll post them later in the month? -ctan)