It’s my birthday today. I wasn’t feeling particularly celebratory: I’m going to NZ in a couple of weeks to visit my parents and try to arrange a rest home for Dad, so I’m wading through pamphlets, websites and forms; Mum said he’s practically catatonic most of the time, and he’s become totally paranoid; I’ve got to put the gutters back up before the rains become constant; people are waiting on me for things at work; and this morning Shelley found out that her Mum has gone into hospice and stopped eating. She’s been worrying all day and making plans to go to MT.
But we had tickets to see a musician tonight at DjangoFest, Eric Vanderbilt-Mathews, a guy that I’ve known since he was in middle school, one of the best musicians I know, so we roused ourselves and went out. In the reception area, I kept running into people wishing me a happy birthday, people I wouldn’t have expected to know I had a birthday. We took our seats, and in a few minutes one of the staff came around with an envelope to “Robert Marsanyi in seat C5”. I opened it, and it was a birthday card with every scrap of space signed by people in the audience: friends, people I knew, people I didn’t know, masses of people. I brightened up, and settled in to listen to a truly beautiful set.
Eric put together an unusual quartet: acoustic guitar, piano, bass, winds. In a lot of situations, the piano and guitar would be fighting, but as the set unfolded it made sense. The tunes were selected from Django, bop, originals. The pianist, a monster player with a light touch, played a traditional bop role, interjecting with complex harmonies with the occasional stride, and he also doubled as a secondary melody instrument in the role of a trumpet or second saxophone. The guitarist played traditional Django-style rhythm and soloed in the same style. Monk with a rhythm guitar carrying the beat. Django with bop rhythmic interjections. A Dolphy tune over the Django guitar, with piano and saxophone both starting their soli from the same phrase. The bass player held it all together, and Eric floated over the top.
So, in a good mood at the end of the set. At which point, I hear Eric’s Dad call out over the audience applause “Happy Birthday, Robert!”