Sweet and Smooth Music

APRIL 22, 2008 by Jesse Selengut

Banjo Jim’s – 4/21/08 – Gordon Webster, piano – Cassidy Holden, bass – Marko Gazic, guitar – Nick Russo, banjo/guitar – Dennis Lichtman, clarinet – Jesse Selengut, trumpet/vocals

So happy to be rested. Oh my god. I had two days to just hole up and chill out. Laying bed watching Battlestar Gallactica and playing frisbee with my man Struve. I got to Banjo Jim’s well rested in mind and body.

Gordon at the helm declared that we adapt a Count Basie vibe for our first tune, “Sweet Sue” Sparse, spacious, calm, collected, burning intensity but with an aloofness and apparent casualness. It was kind of great. Most of the playing I have been doing recently has been so bombastic and heart-on-the-sleeve passionate. It was a welcome change of pace to allow the calmness to let even very simple ideas unfold at their own pace without worrying about holding the crowd. Banjo Jim’s was packed and we had their attention from the first downbeat.

Playing with that kind of poise is a challenge because each wrong note sounds so out of place. It is a lot harder to cover up any lapse in connection. The whole vibe was pristine, attractive, refined and engaging.

A few highlights that I remember: On the last chorus of one of my solo’s I ended with a descending line. Somehow, Gordon and I played the exact same line note for note at exactly the same time to lead into the bass solo. On Tishimingo Blues, we played it so slow. I didn’t play over the break in the last chorus and the result was 6 really long, slow beats of absolute silence that was spellbinding. When the lyrics came in it was so energized by all the space around it. Music is the funnest game.

Alice in Wonderland – 4/22/08 – Cassidy Holden, bass – Stefan Zeniuk, reeds – Clifton Hyde, resonators – Jesse Selengut – trumpet/vocals

That same delicate spirit somehow made it into today at Alice. Clifton showed up with his big metal tri-cone all tuned to open F tuning! What a huge sound. We did a tune as a duo while Stef was showing up and it was fun just to play simple stuff in tune. We would up playing a blues that had completely telegraphic phrase lengths. We moved together to the chord changes time after time after time! I can’t explain how awesome that kind of connection is. It’s like being wrapped up in some larger musical mind that is playing the both of us. It is also very affirming knowing that when you have a feeling or need to make a decision your partner is right there with you thinking exactly the same thing in the same moment.

Today was the best I’ve ever played with Clifton. His style is so changeable and spontaneous it often confuses and startles me. Today, however, and more and more so each day, it made complete sense as if we were both arriving at the same conclusions.

For example, today we played into the last chorus of “Ritz” at a moderately slow pulse. As we got towards the bridge the tempo edged up and up. The last few bars of the bridge were actually quite fast but then, as was obvious to me at the time, the last A was back at the original slow tempo. I think when spectators see us doing simple yet intricate moves like that together it is a moving experience. I feel special when I see a flock of birds swirling in the sky in unique version of unison, their decisions communicated by signals so subtle and in such a language that we cannot understand. When our music is truly happening I feel that I am participating in similar movements.