I played a concert for Natalie Portman
My friend Emil did a better job of telling this story than I did, so I'm going to paste what he wrote about the concert last night: :
I have to write a paper for History of Jazz.
Well not really a paper, more of a review for, of course, a jazz show/concert in some form. Though to ensure the class all has shows to attend my teacher has decided to push the project to the last week of school when Jazz Week Boston (a series of shows all over Boston that he helps to organize) is going on.
I, being the diligent on top of it student (<--this is mostly bull shit... mostly) who REALLY wants to get all class work out of the way so I can make sure various organizations are set and other work is done before school ends... and so I can spend time having fun... have decided to try and do this now. This weekend if possible.
I wrote an e-mail to Rob Balchunas. Good kid. Part of my admittedly tiny, but fun, juggling and circus skills club here at Emerson. Also a Jazz trumpet player.
Something along the lines of "do you know of any jazz concerts going on this weekend so I can write this review?"
This afternoon (approximately 3pm):
Rob calls me... "Hey, what are you doing this evening."
"Nothing in particular, why what's up?"
"Well I'm actually playing this evening if you're interested in coming to that. I have a free ticket for you if you are..."
"Yeah man, that would be great to see you play, especially for free if you don't mind my using the ticket..."
And so my mission is set. 8pm, somewhere around Harvard, perfect.
Rob calls me moments before I step onto the T to head out that way. Tells me his father will be waiting in the lobby for me with my ticket and I should just call him when I get close.
Awesome, and off I go to Harvard Square.
I walk out onto Mass Ave from the Harvard T stop and give Mr. Balchunas a call. Unfortunately, he has no idea where the theater is located in relation to where I am, unfortunate news, but I tell him not to worry about it, I will ask around and find my way somehow.
After a series of incorrect directions, walking up and down several blocks of Mass Ave three times, and managing to find every Boston resident who doesn't know the area in any shape or form (despite living down the street apparently) I walk into Sanders Memorial Hall and Theater.
This building is built like a cathedral. Incredibly impressive and absolutely impossible to place an age on. The brick looks new, the wood is old but still beautifully polished, the architecture is almost impossible in some respects, I imagine wood is covering iron; but in appearance the building would fit comfortable into the world 300 years ago....
I make contact with Mr. Balchunas, we have a brief hello, I apologize for being late (I feel slightly sub-par for my appearance is shabby and the crowd around me is nicely dressed). We walk up and sit in the balcony of this impressive structure, overlooking a wooden stage set up for an orchestra.
My imagination when Rob invited me:
A restaurant or pub. Maybe a small theater. An amateur quintet still working their way to finding that heart throbbing groove, but fun and exciting none-the-less.
The situation was at this point almost beyond comprehension; I had no idea what was going on.
The Show Begins:
The Harvard Alumni Band. “Ah!” I am starting to understand. This is all Harvard based stuff. That explains the posh building, the dressed people, the formal appearance of the players.
They play poorly. Even the soloists are bland and uninteresting with no manipulation of rhythm. I start to see that perhaps this evening will be amateur despite the setting. Alumni’s finish their piece, and the student “Sunday Jazz Band” comes on. This, like the alumni band is a 16 piece orchestra with a line of trumpets, a line of trombones, and a line of Saxophones, supported by a three piece rhythm section; piano, bass and drums.
Rob is in the Sunday Band with the trumpets, I am excited to see him play.
They play. I must say I am impressed. They certainly are better than the alumni band, and though their soloists are still struggling to find their way they play well and end strong.
They invite someone to play with them, an older looking bald fellow with a very shiny trumpet. I don’t quiet make the connection with the name until I look at the program.
The bald man playing a 5 minute solo is suddenly Brian Lynch, and I realize I’m looking at a person who has literally played with the best, and won the Grammy’s to prove it…
I’m slightly in shock, but it wears away quickly as he walks off stage after the single number.
A Sextet of students takes his place playing a seemingly remixed version of Green Chimneys, which is absolutely impressive. I see incredible potential in the young men playing on stage. The trumpet player especially almost rivals Lynch’s solo of the previous piece.
They finish. The full “Monday Jazz Band” comes onto stage, another 16 piece orchestra, and play the second Charles Mingus piece of the evening, with a variety of solos the best of which was a collective improvisation between piano and drums.
I turn to the next page in the program.
I suddenly realize what this evening is all about. The place, the people, the dress, and the potential price of the ticket which was given to me for free.
Eddie Palmieri accompanied by Brian Lynch and the Monday band will honor us by playing 6 pieces.
My jaw must have bounced off the floor, I almost did not believe it. One of the most incredible arrangers from both the jazz and Latin worlds is going to be playing on stage in front of me.
The remaining hour of the show is a blur. There are no words for the quality of playing and rhythm that I witnessed live this evening. Lynch lived up to a long reputation, launching himself into solos with vigor, accompanied by the vibrant piano of Mr. Palmieri himself.
And the students that played with them, truly amazing. If there is a moment in which to play your best, on stage with two incredible, world renowned, Grammy winning musicians is most definitely it. They took the challenge head on,
The concert itself was awe inspiring, truly the most exciting musical performance I’ve ever witnessed.
As we were walking out of the theater, Mr. Balchunas gestures over his shoulder…
Five feet from us is standing Miss Natalie Portman…
We are both confused but somewhat overcome with the awe that accompanies seeing a celebrity, talented or not.
We walk down the stairs with her and meet Rob in the Lobby.
We yell at Rob about a)how amazing that all was, b)the fact he didn’t tell us what we were going to see, and c)that if he looked over my right shoulder he might find something interesting.
Rob is mentally freaking out, but keeps an incredible cool façade about the celebrity he is realizing just watched him play.
Natalie Portman crossed the room and due to the flow of traffic bumps directly into Rob. Life is good for Rob.
I proceed to call any jazz lovers in my life and brag like crazy, come home, sit down, maintain an intense excitement over what I just witnessed (the music, not Ms. Portman, a crush for whom wore off at age 13, though it was a nice cap to the experience) and right this note.
The best Saturday evening I’ve had in a long while? Perhaps.