Recently I attended a wonderful ambient jazz concert in Palo Alto. I was there because I know the saxophone player, Premik Russell Tubbs. He also plays flute, wind synthesizer and steel guitar. Amongst his moments of glory are the memorable saxophone solo on Whitney Houston’s mega-hit, “How Will I Know?” A few years ago, he was kind enough to spend an afternoon rehearsing with me and we performed a concert for all of 30 people at a yoga studio in New York. A serious yogi and meditator, he is a long time disciple of Sri Chinmoy, Premik was the one who first called me ‘Dude Monk’ – which lead to my brand, The Monk Dude.
There were six more guys like him up on stage. (yes all guys I’m afraid – female jazz musicians are rare, unless they are singers, and this band had no vocalist) A drummer, a percussionist, a guitarist, a trumpet/flugel horn player, keyboard player and bassist. All maestros in their own right – this was a kind of impromptu jazz supergroup.
They’d all played on a recent album that Shambhu co-produced with the legendary William Akkerman, founder of Wyndham Hill records. But that was mostly recorded using overdubs – a form of studio magic that does not require the musicians to even meet one another. So this actual line-up of musicians had never played together before, and I knew they’d barely rehearsed, so I was watching to see how it all meshed.
When they started I was a little concerned. Technically it was all perfect. Perhaps a little too perfect. As though they were they were all being too careful. It was enjoyable, but I sensed that they were paying too much attention to what they were supposed to do next, rather than to what they were actually doing.
But after four songs they played a special piece, Rendevous, from their new album, Dreaming of Now, and something shifted. Finally they were playing instead of working and as their mood shifted and they experienced the euphoria inherent in the music, my heart soared. They’d relaxed and stopped thinking and it was amazing the difference it made. The sheer joy they clearly felt in playing together infected all of us and it was magical. They played a long set, but it was not enough for me. I wanted at least another hour.
I spoke with Premik afterwards and he confirmed that the shift I observed when the played that fifth song, and the cause of it, was indeed exactly what had happened for all of them.
Afterwards I felt that I was floating. When I spoke with the flugel horn player afterwards I could tell that he was still feeling the afterglow.
Knowing that music can feel like that, for both performers and listeners, is what inspires a group of super talented guys like this go to all of this trouble to perform together. Half of them flew over from New York. They only played one concert. No-one made any money. They did it for nothing but the joy of sharing in the magical flow that can come when you are playing with like-minded, fabulous musicians sharing a beautiful, spiritual experience with everyone present.
That’s why they call it playing.
A wonderful friend bought me a copy of Dreaming of Now album, featuring that song, Rendevous. I listen to it often, and it never fails to thrill.