Sadly, Tim Reppert lost his father Nelson in September, after a period of declining health. Nelson was an amazing man who led a very full life of service and fun in his many roles — as a pastor, as a musician, as a husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He reminded quite a lot of my own father, who died in 1988 in his open-mindedness and curiosity, in the twinkle in his eye, in the firm place music, laughter, and silly fun had in his life.
So I was very consoled by being able to write him a Name Music piece — I recorded both parts (overdubbing myself!) and sent it to Tim. And then I also offered to contribute my violin-playing to the memorial event at Stewart Park in October. Tim put together a jazz band with trombone (Nelson’s instrument), Nate Richardson on guitar, Doug Robinson on upright bass, John White on electric piano, and me. Nelson loved jazz apparently. However, MY jazz chops are SO rusty! I was in the vocal jazz program at City College back in the early 1980s, and played violin and sang in several bands after that in the Oneonta NY area (and I did a gig or two in Ithaca!), but it has been YEARS since I engaged with any of that repertoire! So I practiced like a maniac, especially on the couple of pieces I was assigned to “lead”, one of which I had never even heard before.
But this is the second decade of the 21st century, and guess what? Now everything is online! I was able to practice against music minus one tracks, hear the original recordings of the pieces, listen to several different versions, and really go deep so much more easily than was possible in the 80s. I listened and played so much I had these pieces running in my mind 24x7, which was a mostly pleasurable experience.
Well it was such a treat to play out in public, for such a lovely event, with such talented musicians! I was definitely the weakest link, but I tried to do my best not to let the side down. I stood right next to Doug, so at least I could really hear the bass, so I would stay grounded in the chord changes. Plus I did have a familiarity with many of the tunes on the set list. The acoustics are very strange in that space, as John White reminded us — subtlety was not going to be possible. And it was very very hot as well, oddly for the middle of October in was up in the high 90s, with high humidity. We had a large fan blowing on us constantly — a saving grace but also a noise contributor!
Despite all the challenges there were lots of magical moments in the music-making, times of ESP among us, leading Doug at one point to be amazed that Nate and I could play a melody line in unison and I could match his phrasing just about perfectly. He asked if we had played together before, which made me laugh. I thought he was joking, but he was serious. I told him about Water Bear. I imagine he is so busy as a professional musician that he doesn’t have the band-width required to know anything about a little-known group from so long ago.
And Doug sang What a Wonderful World beautifully twice, the second time a request towards the end of the event. So lovely! And what a fitting tribute to Nelson. A fine man. A big loss.