Jazz and the New Year

I have now been living in Chiang Mai for a full year. Almost everything is good, but I’ve been missing people to play jazz with. Most of the “jazz musicians” here, except for a handful of college faculty, are minimally-trained amateurs who can scrape out a living by playing gigs at cafes, relying on a few well-worn tunes. Most of their gig tunes, in America, we would call pop or soft rock. (Not disrespecting Burt Bacharach and Stevie Wonder, but it’s just not my passion). Then they come to the one real jazz club, North Gate Jazz Co-op, and blow their brains out on three-chord jam tunes. Sigh.

So I dreamed, as I do, of importing a great bass player from Bangkok, where I know there is a good jazz school. I could house them in a spare room here, and do house concerts. But it seemed to outré to seriously consider this; it would be like hiring a gigolo.

Then, as She will do sometimes, Dame Fortune smiles. A fine jazz bassist, trained in Bangkok, decides to move back home to Chiang Mai, and open a club. As soon as I heard about this, I went to visit. They got an upright piano–not too badly used, although the hammers are worn down to nubs. I sat in for a few songs, got friendly with Tao–and he is indeed a very friendly guy, especially for a club owner! He asked me if I could gig there. Oh, yes (although don’t call it a gig, I’m retired, and my visa does not allow me to work. Just say you allow me to entertain myself). It turns out we have great rapport with musical styles. His favorite song is the same as mine, Dolphin Dance (which you can hear us play together in the video at the bottom of the post).

They are closed on Mondays, but it’s New Year’s Eve. Tao asks me, want to come play? Maybe we’ll open. Just duets.

Sure! And we have a blast together.

So now at least once a week I can look forward to a wonderful session of playing our favorite tunes as a duet–a format that truly values artistry over mere entertainment.

Now it seems I have everything I want in Chiang Mai… except maybe some new hammers on that piano? (Yes I know it’s out of tune, too, but that will be easily fixed).

Update: Here we are again, playing the following Saturday:

POSTSCRIPT: Dame Fortune is fickle. What I imagined would be an ongoing scene turned out to be a two-week experiment. Occupational hazard.

One thought on “Jazz and the New Year

  1. That’s great to hear, Bear. I suspect, by now, the word may be getting around that there’s an interesting jazz scene developing there. You may turn out to be the nucleus of the kind of thing you’ve been trying to make happen, for years. Now, all you have to do is discover a good drummer, to make a trio, and then a couple of horn players will drift into town, asking where the action is….


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