I don't play out as much as I'd like, but here's an example of a recent gig with my drummerless band Swing n' Striings at the John Brown House in Providence in the summer of 2010. The photos are by friend and superb musicians-in-flight photographer Ken Franckling. It was this concert which inspired me to write the poem which follows, and I include a set list. Sorry, no recording was made!

That's John DeBossu on bass, ab on cornet, Bob Zuck on guitar, Fred Bates on guitar (seated), and Rich Lataille on alto

Bob and Fred. Gotta listen to play.

I like what I hear

I love this picture. I went home after the concert and wrote this poem:

What I Was Thinking Onstage
at the Concert

Dark coming in, but still suffused in light
under a burst of elms, we’re in mid-set -
a summer concert series on the lawn
in front of the John Brown House. People ease
in folding chairs or picnic on the grass.
Good listeners, they know the protocol:
applaud our solos, if we’ve pushed ourselves.
Kids under twelve have come in free. A group
of little ones, who may not know of “jazz”
or what to call the thing they’re moving to,
twirl in the open space before the stage.
Like whitecaps they allow the wave of sound
to bear them up, so we can see precisely
what we’re doing to their souls. No one
knows how to say what jazz is well enough.
To me it’s just a way of meeting life
with life, exulting in a purer echo.
A man approaches from the right, behind
a camera, casually dressed (but it is warm,
and he could easily be an amateur),
moves closer to the corner of the stage.
I see him framing, and I frame his shot:
the alto player in mid-solo, low
sunlight reflecting off his horn, presents
a classic pattern in three-quarter profile.
And at that angle, I am just beyond
the fingers flashing on the pads, the pressed
eyelids that show the player deep inside
his mood, but hide his thinking all the same.
I know my look as well - I’m beaming from
the spell of his invention, bouncing with
the beat that carries us ahead, alive
with momentary grace and joy, and since
I solo next, I’m listening and looking
at every chorus end for signs that he
is winding up. I see that in the shot
I am too close behind and to the right -
whether it’s meant to be of him, or me,
or both of us together, I’m a clot
that spoils the composition. In a move
which to the several hundred others watching
will likely go unnoticed, I slip left
eight inches, curl my shoulder, go on beaming.
The man behind the camera clicks, and smiles.

And finally, the set list, with keys and initials for the soloists:

Zee F                                          bill doggett All

Nice n' Easy C                              marilyn, alan bergman F, R

Gee Baby F                                  don redman, andy razaf A,B,R

Teardrops From My Eyes  G            rudy toombs B, R

                                                  louis jordan

Lullaby of the Leaves G-                bernice petkere, joe young R, B, A

Oh Look at Me Now Eb                  joe bushkin A, F

Dollar to a Dime F                         ab,  A, B, R (A, R vamp)

Heat Wave                                   irving berlin F


Lover Come Back F                        romberg, hammerstein A, B (2a's)

                                                   1928 New Moon

(I Was a Little Too Lonely) C           livingston, evans - nat cole  F

In a Sentimental Mood                   duke e. J

All the Things You Are Ab               kern, hammerstein R

Summer Wind Eb                          johnny mercer A, F, R

Love is Just a Gamble G                 t-bone B, F

Comes Love G-                             lew brown, charles tobias A, F, R

This Nearly Was Mine Eb               rodgers, hammerstein F, A, R

Early in the Morning G                   louis jordan R, A, F

100 Years From Today Eb              victor young, ned washington A, F, R

                                                  maxine sullivan

(Things We Said Today) A-            mccartney F, R

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