Because my dad has been a touring musician since before I was born, I have had a unique opportunity to experience live music from backstage for my whole entire life. Waiting in the wings is awesome. Sneaking a peek out the curtain and seeing the packed house of people cheering and chanting for encores has become part of the fabric of my life, and has shaped my understanding of who my father is.
In many of my early memories of dad are his two friends and fellow world-renowned musicians, Charnett Moffett on bass and Kenwood Dennard on drums. These three on a stage together are eclectic and energetic and unstoppable, and they always seem to be perfectly in tune with each other’s energies. You can see a video of them from 1991 at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Fest here. To me, these guys are not just dad’s bandmates, they are my uncles. They have watched me grow up, and we have shared many meals and laughs and tears over the years.
Truthfully, I always wanted to be ON the stage, not backstage. When I was about Sekani’s age (4 or 5) I once ran out in front of 25,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl and hid behind an amplifier. I don’t remember this… and I think I got in trouble for it… but obviously the pull to be on stage has always been with me. Secretly, I really wanted to believe that I was a good enough musician to keep up with the likes of these three unstoppable, talented guys.
Everything changed last weekend when I was the guest vocalist with the Stanley Jordan trio. For the first time I felt like an equal, not the kid backstage waiting in the wings for the show to be over. Not the cheerleader in the audience during soundcheck or the guitar tech brought along to help change strings and provide moral support. I was in the band. And to be honest… we KILLED it!
As I stood there onstage with my dad and my uncles and my favorite Taylor guitar, I could feel that same internal energy that they always bring to their shows. It was buzzing in my veins, electric. I knew how to slip right in and BE the music with them. I knew how to anticipate the changes in dynamics and tempo and key. I knew how to trust them when it was my turn to follow, and I knew they trusted me when it was my turn to lead. I realize now that during all those years of waiting in the wings I was learning how to LISTEN and FEEL the music innately. And now it’s time for me to MAKE the music.
When I looked around the stage during our bow, there was a mutual sense of awe and respect that we all felt for each other as fellow musicians. And after the gig as we hung out, chatting about politics and eating whatever was left on the bar menu in the hotel lobby at 1am, we felt the mutual love of family.
I can feel myself entering into the family business. I wasn’t ever required to, but it’s happening all the same. And it just feels… right.
Thanks to South Florida Jazz for promoting a great event, and thanks to Howie Grapek for these GREAT photos.