I don’t fish. But as the title suggests, I have a fishing story. Don’t we all? Those moments when you feel the big tug on the line, the one you’ve been waiting for, the one to tell the grandchildren until they get old enough to roll their eyes. And then the line breaks. Or the pole flies out of your hand. Or you watch broken-hearted as the big fish unhooks itself and splashes away from you.
Mine took place at the SF Jazz Center. Seat 161 on the third floor balcony. The cheapest price—$50— but for my pocket, still more than I usually spend. But worth it to see legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea. And a pretty good view from above of his hands. So I settled in happily and listened to him bring Gershwin and Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell and even Chopin alive through his own way of hearing the notes between their notes.
Chick had a lovely rapport with the audience, relaxed, warm, fun, comfortable in his own skin and making us feel at home. And then came the tug on the line: “The problem with giving a solo concert is it gets kind of lonely up here. Anyone want to come up and play a duet?”
My body shot out of my seat before my mind had a moment to think. But I was on the third floor and it was a long way down. A woman much closer down below was already up and moving and there was no way I could beat her to the bench. She sat down and I don’t mind admitting, did a great job. Clearly practiced piano chops and a good ear and an ability to respond to Chick’s freely improvised ideas with some of her own. But still–it wasn’t me!
At the end, he looked like he was going to ask for another volunteer and I was fully prepared to yell down, “Wait for me!” But instead he invited up another jazz pianist in the audience, Aaron Goldberg. And so I watched forlornly as my big fish splashed happily away out of reach. Unless I start stalking Chick at all future solo piano concerts and buy front row seats, I’d say that’s it. A once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Why did I care so much? Of course, to boast and brag and enjoy the admiring “oohs” and “aaahs” when I casually drop into a conversation, “I played a piano duet with Chick Corea at SF Jazz.” But mostly because I think I would have really enjoyed it. To have sat next to a master and felt his musical energy transferred, if ever so briefly, to my own.
As it turns out, it kind of did. The next day, I sat down to the piano in my living room and played better than I have for a long time. But still, I'll always feel a mild regret for “the one that got away.”