New Tricks Means to Me

Mike Lee

Mike Lee

Ok, before I dispense a whole bunch of sentimental platitudes, let me state that I am naturally uncomfortable with sentimental platitudes. I’m much more comfortable with self-deprecating or playfully derisive discourse. That being said, my recent experiences with New Tricks almost require me to tread into this somewhat awkward realm of kind praise and thankfulness.

At the end of our five day tour this summer we were all exhausted and happy and very pleased with a tremendous week. I was really humbled by Shawn and Kellen’s expressions of delight about the music we played. So we were finally getting into our cars at 2:00 am in Cecil’s parking lot – and all these wonderful things had been said to each other and about the music and the ease of working together and many laughs and there was nothing left to say. I backed up my car out of it’s space, turned the wheel and started forward to leave the lot and found myself right next to Ted, in his car, also getting ready to leave. The windows were down and from nowhere I blurted “Ted, you saved my life” – he said something like “no-you saved my life” but I was a little confused by my own words – what the hell did that mean? – and yet he seemed to know what I meant (or he was humoring the “Old Dog”, but if so he wasn’t letting on).

I drove home wondering where that came from. Ted’s been on the road doing a show for over a couple of years now and New Tricks has been his singular jazz pursuit and he has gently nudged me into keeping this project going. I’ve been occupied doing all sorts of other things – some grand and some mundane – but would not have gotten this group and CD off the ground with out Ted’s prompting and willingness to share the burden. But the thing is: he led me back to my own optimism. This is what it’s all about. Four cats with a singular commitment playing music that allows a maximum of self expression. He saved my musical life – well all three of them did. This was more than just playing a few gigs, it was family, it was brotherhood.

I have never played a gig where I had so little interest in my own performance. That sounds weird, I guess. But like many, or most musicians I suspect, I spend a fair amount of energy worrying about how I sound, whether my solo sounded good, etc. But this was different. I believed in the tunes we were playing, I trusted the cats I was playing with and that was all I needed to know. I figured that I play saxophone well enough to take care of these tunes and to allow the others to shine. I just wasn’t concerned about the small stuff. This is what we do – dig it or don’t. It was an incredibly liberating attitude.

So here it is – New Tricks! We got a bunch of live reviews and a beautiful preview piece by Zan Stewart. I saw a bunch of old friends that I have seen for years including one friend who I hadn’t seen since I was about 9 years old! We’ve started booking dates for 2010 and we’re off and running. I have a great feeling about this band and think that it’s going to work quite a bit. I’m motivated to get this band out on the road and working.

So thanks to the cats: Ted, Shawn and Kellen – for their earnestness and optimism. Thanks to those of you that came out to hear us or bought the CD. And thanks to anyone kind enough to log on here a read a little about us. I’m truly thankful that this band and the opportunity to perform this music has found it’s way into my life.

2 comments to New Tricks Means to Me

  • Tom Chubb

    Nice to read the heartfelt inside feelings of the player. Something the listener doesn’t often get a chance at sharing.
    Musicly the player shares his thoughts and ideas with the listener but the interpretation is left up to the listener. It’s nice to know what is inside the player via his own discription.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Bubbala…….this is beautiful……from a friend, fellow musician, and an old Jew :-)

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