My First Jazz Gig

by Jason on August 10, 2010 · 1 comment

in Gigs, Thoughts

This post is inspired by a post from pianist George Colligan about his first gig as a jazz piano player. George is a phenomenal pianist who has recently jumped into the blogging fray. You should definitely check out his new blog, Jazztruth.

I mention the following tune in this post so I thought I’d put it here at the top. Click the play button to listen as you read:

<a href="">Summertime/Footprints by Jason Parker Quartet</a>

Our pay for the night - our first demo CD!

My first paid jazz gig as a leader was on June 17, 1999. This was by no means my first gig ever, as I had been playing trumpet and piano since the 2nd grade in the mid-70’s (I joke that I was a professional musician at age 8 because my mom used to pay me to practice the piano! I got 25 cents for every 15 minutes I practiced). I had played piano recitals, high school big band concerts, brass quintet shows and rock gigs up until the time I was 22, when I put down my trumpet and didn’t come back to it until 9 years later.

What brought me back to playing was an early mid-life crisis and the opportunity to attend the Ev Stern Jazz Workshop. Ev is a bassist here in Seattle and he’s been leading the workshop for 16 years. It’s an opportunity for players of all ages and abilities to come together to play jazz and be coached along by Ev and some other pros in town. I have to say that if it wasn’t for Ev and the welcoming, supportive nature of the workshop I might not be the working musician that I am today (10 years later I hired Ev to play at my wedding!). I joined the workshop in 1998 and started the process of building up my chops after the long layoff. I met some cats that summer who went on to become the first incarnation of the Jason Parker Quintet, some of whom are still my best friends and musical allies today!

A year later, in the summer of 1999, we were offered the chance to record a demo for free at Jungle studios. One night while rehearsing for the session in the living room of a house I had recently moved into, my neighbor came and knocked on the door. She informed me that she worked for Discmakers and that they were looking for bands to play at a party they were hosting at the Sit-n-Spin, a now-defunct laundromat/restaurant/concert venue in downtown Seattle. She said she liked what she heard (I can’t imagine it was any good, but there’s no accounting for taste!) and offered us $150 plus 100 free duplicated CD’s if we’d play one set at their party! We were so thrilled that all of a sudden we went from a thrown-together band in a workshop to a band with a free recording session and 100 free demo CD’s! We were also excited that on the bill with us that night were Gerald Collier and Carrie Akre (who I would later go on to play with).

The night of the big gig came along and we had rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed! The lineup of the band was me on trumpet with John Berg on piano, Derek Brown on bass, Bruce Kurjiaka on drums and Matt Hagele on vocals. We had six songs we could play: Alone Together, Caravan, Solar, I Thought About You, I Should Care, and a cool mash-up Summertime and Footprints (which we still play to this day!). I don’t remember too much about the gig itself except that we were all super nervous, Matt came perilously close to passing out right before we went on stage, and our mentor Ev was sitting right in the front row! Even though I’m sure we sounded like a high school band, Ev was very complimentary after the gig, which we were all very grateful for.

Like George mentioned in his post, we also taped our gig. Unlike George, our cassette still exists somewhere in my house. I haven’t seen it for years and haven’t listened to it since shortly after the gig, which I’m sure is a good thing!

That night truly set the stage for everything that came after it. I remember how thrilled I was that I got to play jazz with some of my favorite people in the world and got paid for it. I still have that feeling every time I take the stage with the JPQ!

Do you remember your first gig? Feel free to leave your story in the comments below, or write your own blog post and leave a link!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

wayne August 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm

as I said on Twitter, a great read. thanks for sharing this story.

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