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Leaving a big band. For the right reasons?

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by jgsbass, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    I've been playing with a large horn band for the last 2 years more or less. When I first joined, the leader was only doing his original material. Still very big band centered: think 1930's and 1940's pop music. Never was in love with the rhythm section but the charts were good and there is something special about being in a room where you have 12 horns screaming. Did a local cable TV show (a funny story that I told in another thread, think trombone) and had a steady Sunday night for a while in a jazz club in the Theater district of NYC. Obviously to take on the club gig, they busted out some stock arrangements and mixed in some originals.
    Here's the first issue. I took on the responsibility of this gig because it was original music. I have enough gigs that pay, this certainly wasn't paying my mortgage or paying my sons college.The focus seemed to change from the originals to getting enough material to get gigs. These can't make a lot of dough because the door divided by 16 is usually gas money, not much more. Now if it were a labor of love, the bucks wouldn't matter. The leader paid for rehearsals ( gas money again) to keep the band together and to keep learning material. He has a few self made CDs that actually get some airplay on NPR and the like, so he is aware that any real recognition and bread are down that pipeline. Playing out is necessary to him in order to keep his name out there: it is his band.
    But for about a year he mentioned that we would be recording some new tracks ( we rehearse in a loft with a full recording studio where I'm sure some of his CDs were recorded. This summer past, he said that we would be recording. Then nothing for a few weeks but who cares, its summer. Then August, we rehearse for 2 times, then nothing until this Monday when I got the usual "rehearsal Wednesday, see you there" call.
    I dont know why but I got the feeling that he recorded, and if he did, I was going to be pissed as he said "of course you'll get paid for it". I would also be pissed because I love recording and would feel a whole lot more connected to the band as a band if we tracked together. Then its a band, screw the money, lets do this cuz we like it.
    At rehearsal, he takes out some stock arrangements and tells us "we need to learn these for an upcoming gig ( Dec 7-a 62nd anniversary for a DJ who plays the bandleaders music) and proceeded to play through some bad charts. Not bad but certainly not original music and certainly nothing I would pop into a CD player to listen to at my leisure. At the break he mentions to the band that Bruce ( the engineer/ owner of the space) would be coming in and maybe he could put up some of the raw tracks for us to listen to. In my mind at that point, I quit. Have someone else rehearse with the band, call me as a sub and if its financially right, I'm there. Part of this is I'm disappointed he didn't use me as the main reason I got on board was to do something original and different. Part of me says you're too old to be jerked around like this and be committed to working gigs for the door to keep the band out there. Part of me says I should be happy as I could tolerate the drummer and sometimes even like what he does ( I'm spoiled, I do clubdates with some heavy, heavy players with some impressive credentials, if Maynard Ferguson, TOP and Celia Cruz count). Can't tolerate the guitarist and really have issues ( which I never express in public) with the pianists approach and technique. And he just quit without telling the leader, I should be happy.
    So when he calls Monday for rehearsal, I'm going to tell him "No can do".
    Now am I wrong for feeling so screwed?

    Just asking and venting. Thanx for listening
  2. Flatty Banks

    Flatty Banks

    Oct 26, 2008
    I'll take your spot! I've always wanted to be in a Big Band for some reason. Frankie & Dean Martin stuff, right?
  3. sounds great. doesn't seem like you need the band, they should adjust to your needs if they really need you, like Armbruster showed us in Exhibit A, there are many who would love your spot, so they don't need you.

    it sounds like you want some control yourself, maybe you should start up a group, I'm sure you could find some musicians who would love to play originals and jam around.
  4. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    so you're not getting to create or record, not having a blast playing it live, and not getting paid.

    was there a question?
  5. ^ Yup, that's what I was wondering.
  6. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    Needed to vent. Its always nice to have support.
    Its a NYC band: I will send any of you TB'ers in if you would like
    I have plenty on my musical plate, and I'm sure it will be replaced as well as a studio in my bassment so creating original stuff is/has always been happening
  7. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    You have very valid reasons for wanting to quit, but this is not the right way to go about doing it. If you know now that you are going to quit, call him now and let him know so that he has time to find a replacement.
  8. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    He can find replacement for the Wednesday rehearsal in 2 days: how about the guy who did the tracks? He'll be there cause its his space. No need to be too concerned: the only gig on the books is in December and everything is charted.
  9. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    Just for the record, I just spoke with the leader about my feelings. He says thet they only have "scratch rhythm sections" on the tracks. Its still (b)ass backwards as far as I'm concerned. Not sure whether its smoke being blown or a really misguided approach to recording. Even if I do the tracks, I'm still out of there. There is no reason why the tracks should be built that way as the rhythm section was available all summer long. It may not totally stink yet, but it is fishy.
  10. VroomVroom

    VroomVroom Supporting Member

    Jan 2, 2007
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Have you heard the two-out-of-three theory in baseball? Cliff Notes:


    You've got to have two of 'em to win. All three and you're in the World Series.

    That's my approach to any playing situation (ordinarily I'd use the word, "gig," but it applies to band situations as well). The three:

    Fun. (Good music with good players, level playing field, honesty, communication, good times, no politics or games.)
    Enrichment. (Good cause, chance to play with a "name", a big favor, etc.)

    At this point in my life I need two out of three. Otherwise I don't feel comfortable saying, "yes." And if I do sign-on, only to learn that I was misled, I don't hesitate to talk, coming to terms with the real skinny and modifying my commitment accordingly. Life is just too short not to fully enjoy the pursuit of good music.

    As always, just my take. I wish you the best...
  11. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
  12. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY
    Definitely a good checklist.

    Fun: sometimes, certainly after we were playing out for a few weeks and the band got tighter. Not fun since we lost that gig and thats about 6 months now

    Money: Anything divided by 16 ain't much. I knew this going in, it wasn't a motivating factor for joining the band. I'm afraid that we'll be doing clubdates for 1/4 the price I normally get and then you have to accept it because its "for the band".The only upcoming gig comes to mind. Its being held as an open to the public $49.95 free buffet, cash bar celebration. I'm sure the house is getting their price, the band leader is beholden to the honoree as the honoree plays his songs on the radio so I'm sure its a discount. He pried this job away from someone else. I'm sure it wasn't by charging more.

    Enrichment: its just not the greatest musicians I've ever played with, but I've endured much worse. No youngsters so no way to get younger gigs that would cast my old a$$ in front of a new audience with potential to enhance my position. Not the most sensitive rhythm section ever. I have some fun with the drummer but honestly I'm way better than the guitarist ( I should be) and I'm way more musical than the pianist ( a real bother) and I think I comp better than him.
    We've played in front of two "famous people", both media celebreties, one of which holds the record for the longest running TV show ( Joe Franklin, he's been on TV in one form or another for 40+ years) but their audience if not dead yet, is certainly not a top demographic. We did have an 80 year old drummer sub the gig once. That was inspiring to me as there's hope that all my skills won't fade away. For his age, he kicked butt, but, Buddy Rich was a youngster to him so his influences are a little more primal.

    So tallying it up, I'm in the Cleveland Indians of big bands. Able to win but nothing like it used to be, barely out of last place. My wife thinks I should move on, I had fun because I viewed it as a reading challenge and a test of my abilities to play this gig like Lawrence Welk was running it. But rightly so, if the fun stops and the money stops, theres really not much left.
    Soooo, notice given.

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