On one of my first ever jazz trio gigs, one of Ireland’s top saxophonists joined us for a tune or two. In a situation like that, the guest usually calls the tune, asks the band if they know it, and if so, off you go.
This man asked us did we know All The Things You Are (not a simple standard, but often one of the first that a jazz student will learn). It was a while since I had played it, but I hoped I would still remember the chords. Also, I didn’t want to look like an amateur in front of this amazing musician, and so I said ‘yes – I know that one’.
Thanks to our bassist and drummer (who actually did know it), we avoided a train-wreck of a performance, but the chords just wouldn’t come to me and so the little bit I managed to play on the tune sounded pretty poor. The crowd mightn’t have noticed, but I did, and of course the saxophonist did too.
He told me afterwards that it’s OK not to know something. The reason for him getting up with us was for us all to play together and enjoy it, and as he pointed out – I didn’t even get to do that on this tune. I learned that day that it’s better to be honest and enjoy playing a tune you know than to be hopeful and not play at all.
It’s linked to Tuesday’s blog about not making a promise that you can’t keep.
If you’re going to say that you know a tune, it’s really better if you do know it. You’re more likely to enjoy playing it, and it’s good to build a reputation as a woman/man of your word. If you don’t know it, just say so, and go home that night and learn it.