Monday, February 10, 2014

Hope for Old Dogs

I was back with kids today and that was home base. Fast friends in two minutes, even when I had to be a bit stern about too much giggling. And one fabulous kindergarten girl who made me laugh with delight with her motions, so much that I had to stop singing the song and go shake her hand.

After a full day of teaching (this at the Taipei American School), my good friend and host Stephen treated me to a foot massage. It began with a back rub that hit the limit of my pain-o-meter, but figured that those were knotted toxins needing to be released. Either that or willfully-inflicted new neck problems! I’ll find out tomorrow morning. Then a lovely dinner with Stephen’s family and delightful young daughters that got me wondering how to make a Playdough pretzel.

But the highlight of a lovely day was to go by cab and Metro with Martin, another TAS music teacher and jazz drummer. Here was a Taipei I hadn’t seen, past the enticing Lantern Festival decorations and Chang Kai-Shek Memorial, both worthy of another night’s plans. But tonight we were headed to a big band rehearsal led by a remarkable man named Gene Aiken. We walked down some stairs (reminiscent of going to the Village Vanguard) and entered the room filled with the sounds of swingin’ horns working on Body and Soul. The full band was there minus two players— the drummer and pianist! How serendipitous was that!?

So with my new-found confidence, I sat down at the piano with pages of charts and played with a jazz big band—for the first time in my life! Timid at first, I started to get the hang of it and felt carried along by the hiply arranged riffs and syncopated color parts. One of the tunes was a modern re-arrangement of the old ragtime tune “Bill Bailey,” one I had played some forty-two years ago with my ragtag Jug Band of Middle School kids when I was just exploring jazz piano. Here I was again, playing a much hipper version with Taiwanese horn players in a Taipei basement. And the chart called for a long piano solo! I dove in and though no one leapt to their feet in applause at the end, I felt like I held my own. And how great was that to have these horns filling in my spaces!?

The punch line?

You can teach an old Doug new tricks.

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