Tuesday, February 15 9pm-1am
Blue Whale, Los Angeles CA
Original Music Night
First part of the session will feature tunes by anyone who brings charts
Half a decade ago on a Tuesday morning I received a call seemingly out of the blue from a Mr. Matsumoto, an elderly man who ran a humble little club in Little Tokyo called 2nd Street Jazz. His house band had unexpectedly quit and he needed me to come down to the club to play for the Tuesday night jam session. Having recently graduated from CalArts and without much work, I agreed to do so and showed up that evening. The first person I met there was a drummer named Miles Senzaki, who had gotten the same call from Mr. Matsumoto that I did. The place was dark, rather dirty and in disrepair, and the piano was horribly out of tune with a number of broken strings. There was a woman named Yasuko tending bar who at one time had been married to the owner. At one point she got out from behind the bar to sing and play a tune on the piano, expertly attacking the piano with her small hands and feet with an enthusiasm bordering on violence, and I began to see how the piano had arrived at its present condition. Mr. Matsumoto was there and he thanked me and Miles profusely for showing up on short notice to help him out. He was old and very frail, but he had a keen ear and real love for jazz. Later I found out he had been a jazz trumpet player back in Japan, and that Yasuko’s father was the leader of big band in Tokyo. I also found out that Matsumoto-san had severe and terminal cancer, and that he had opened his club after learning about his condition, to live out the remaining years of his life living and breathing jazz every night.
What he hadn’t counted on, however, was his body’s ability to cheat death and continue to live. Matsumoto-san was given six months to live; 5 years later he was still going strong, relatively. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said about the club. Running a jazz club has to be one of the most difficult business ventures anyone could embark on, and eventually 2nd Street Jazz became a place for DJ’s and rock bands, with the Tuesday jazz jam session being the only night where Matsumoto could listen to the music he loved.
Miles and I and bassist J.P. Maramba (who joined us after about a year) dutifully played the session every Tuesday for years. Mr. Matsumoto eventually succumbed to his cancer, and the Tuesday session is an ever more distant memory for us. But the three of us have continued to play and grow together as musicians, developing an original repertoire and having the opportunity to play in all sorts of interesting settings. We’ve become close friends and I am excited about the music we have yet to write and perform and record together. We had a lot of good times at our weekly Tuesday ritual, and many people have asked me if we would ever start another session. I told them we were open to it, but not to hold their breath, because I didn’t have any forseeable opportunites.
That is, until now.
Joon Lee at the Blue Whale has decided to let different groups rotate in hosting his jam session, which has moved from Mondays to Tuesdays, which seems only fitting. This Tuesday Miles, J.P. and myself will resume a role that established our existence as a trio, and for my part I can’t wait. Of course standards will be the usual fare, but we’re adding a twist to the evening in that we are encouraging musicians to bring in charts of their own tunes, in essence making the first part of the session an “Original Music Night”, a chance to share our own music with each other.
If I could see Matsumoto-san again I would thank him over and over again for that phone call, as it has been responsible for much of my musical career for the past half-decade. Who knows, maybe he will be there, in spirit. I would hope so.