It’s been about two weeks now since I last played a show with my band. Since I chose to live in the woods and not in NYC, the expected locale of just about every jazz musician serious about their art (something with which I strongly disagree, and will write about in the future), it’s inevitable that I see the band less often than many musicians see their peers, and thus I often feel like an outsider in my own career.
For many of the people I perform with, life as a sideperson is just part of a regular workday where set breaks in a show mean snack time and free time in the tour schedule allows for napping. Alas, as a bandleader who doesn’t really work unless I do my own booking, publicity, management and production, I’m a bit more involved in the logistics than I would like. Instead of thinking naps and food at set breaks, I’m wondering where the players disappeared to so quickly and if they’ll make it back in time for the next set, or how to negotiate (and by that, I mean not lose my temper) with the club owner who has just told me that for some strange reason, they can’t pay me tonight, can I wait a few days?
In short, when the band leaves, I can feel quite alone, aware that I’m solely responsible for making sure I can perform again soon. Does a saxophonist and composer living in the woods without a band to bring her music to life exist? Are my inquiries through cyberspace planning future performances or grant applications sent furtively in the dead of night from the automated postage machine at the P.O. going to a person who will read them, or simply evaporating? I am absolutely certain my neighbors can hear me practicing, so I guess that’s something! But many a day the phone may not ring and my email inbox may not make its happy whoosh noise announcing new mail (instead, making that, cold, tinny, bumping noise, like someone beating their head against the wall). Who am I then?
This is why a telephone booth is so important. Like Superman, artists need a proverbial place to transform from struggling everyday souls into creative beings who, if not saving the world exactly, can bring beauty to the world, or challenge people to do something about the world’s ugliness. I’m not sayin’ I’m seeking a blue spangled silly suit in my future or anything, but the booth, itself, I could live with. That way each day when I wake in between shows, Sarah the questionably productive citizen (in a strictly capitalistic sense) could be transformed into Sarah the Saxophonist, fighting adversity with an ear-opening hodge-podge of shockingly dissonant chords and mildly pleasing melodies.
Do you have a telephone booth? Please feel free to share yours in comments. I’m still looking for mine…