Etta James

True Love

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Where do songs come from? I like to find them on walks. I really like to walk and sing and feel a grove as I walk. I get very lucky on walks sometimes.

Last April, I was walking home from the coin lavenderia. The air was cool and as I tarried in my usual fashion, I followed my ears into a second story hipster bar:


    I walk up the stairs and check out the scene. I enter a big fancy room with a triangular well in the center. There’s a jazz quartet taking a break, and I, being the the ever-new-in-town ramblin’ pianoman that I am, commence the networking.

    There, laying down his instrument, is the luck: the bassist. He’s an older cat in a loose mis-matched suit and bow tie. He looks right at me and sizes me up in about five seconds. 

    “You’re a player” he says and introduces himself as David. “I could see it.” I suppose I’ve learned to smile like a pro. 

    The jazz gig goes as jazz gigs go, and little later I have a mic in my hand calling “The Way You Look Tonight in E flat with the first A rubato”. It’s smooth sailing. The three blonds in the booth look happy.

    Later, David invites me to his main gig in Downtown, where he regularly backs up a local legend: a singer named Barbara Morison. “You should come and maybe play” he says.

    I am genuinely elated. 


I have a reverence for music. Despite having traveled the world and playing hundreds of shows, albeit mostly to drunk cruise ship guests, I still get a thrill at the thought of walking into a room full of people whom I’ve never met and making music for them live. That night, I lay awake in bed wondering what would happen when I went to David’s gig: I closed my eyes and tried to imagine it. I tried to imagine what the music would sound like. How would the LA jazz be different from what I’d heard before on my Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald records, from the The Bad Plus at the Vanguard and all the music I’d absorbed on ships and in Seattle and Pittsburgh and New York, from Kurt Elling  and Jamie Cullum. I wondered. I tried to imagine what I would play if I got the chance, and as I drifted off into my dream, I began to hear this tune…