Ground Zero Revelation


In January of 2004, I went to New York to do a gig with a group I play with called the Chassidic Jazz Project. It was actually the first time I've ever done a gig in the "jazz mecca," and I was worried I'd get really nervous and play like crap. To further the "pressure," several friends and acquaintances of mine would be coming to see me, all of whom are exerienced jazz musicians, some of them pretty heavy ones. Also, the bass player on the gig was Ed Schuller! I've been lucky enough in the past few years to play here and there with some other "heavy hitters" so it wasn't an entirely scary mysterious thing, but still, I felt a good bit of pressure to have my act together around Ed, who is a world reknowned (and world class) bassist. As I've already said, I have been having fewer problems with the stage fright thing, but since this gig was sort of a milestone I was worried that when the moment happened, I'd feel that same sick, sinking feeling I used to know so well as my body would flood with adrenalin and I would start to shake so badly I would barely be able to hold a guitar, let alone play one. That feeling used to often hit me like a truck running over me, sometimes from out of nowhere, just when I thought I was going to stay relaxed and have a good time.

The long and short of it is that not only did everything turn out okay, everything turned out quite well. I don't know whether it was that I am truly growing as a person and am finally able to leave those self obsessed thoughts in the dust, or whether it was pure dumb luck, but several things did happen that I think contributed to things turning out okay. The first thing was that Ed Schuller turned out to be an easy going, relaxed guy who made everyone around him feel at ease (and actually, most of the great musicians I've met have had that same quality). I also feel like his energy and the benefit of all his past experience was infectious, and that in certain ways I was actually able to play better than I really can, if that makes any sense, to sort of transcend my own limitations by surrendering to the greater group will of the music. Also, my friends who showed up to the gig were all extremely nice and supportive; I didn't feel at all like anyone was judging me or waiting to see if I'd screw up. But probably the thing that affected me the most was that on the way to the gig, the bandleader and I, by coincidence, drove by "ground zero." It was the first time I'd ever been there (well, since 9/11), and it had a really profound effect on me, especially since I wasn't expecting to see it.

The events of 9/11 had a big impact on me, like they did for most people in the US and even the world. I remember at the time having almost sort of a vision of all those people leaving the earth at the same time, all their spirits or souls or whatever flying heavenward at the same time, together, and I felt a profound, overwhelming sadness like I'd never experienced at the loss, and yet, at the same time an inexplicable joy tied to the realization that all of them, and all of the rest of us left on this planet are all one and the same. I don't necessarily mean this in a religious sense; "one and the same" can mean different manifestations of the "one" or "God" or it can mean part of the greater whole of humanity, or anything in between. The important thing is, I guess I felt like the things that seperate one of us from the other are merely temporary, even illusory things, and so terribly trivial and unimportant in the greater scheme of things. In a weird sense, I also felt like that idea or "vision" seemed like a preview of my own death, and I had the feeling like "this isn't so bad after all, because I'm not alone; we're all in this together."

I think that something like stage fright, as well as a lot of other forms of fear, are based on a feeling of seperation from others, a feeling of being alienated and shut out rather than accepted and embraced. Looking at things from this perspective, it's much easier for me to play music with the attitude of giving and sharing something freely, rather than feeling pressure that I'd better measure up in the eyes of those other "seperate" beings.

That night at the gig I felt a connection with the audience; again, like a free sharing of all of our common humanity rather than the feeling like I was a trained monkey who'd better not do anything to displease the crowd. I also, at least in my own mind, felt the presence of those who had lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks.

Sound / Dealing with Getting Nervous / Introduction
Technique / Meditation / Ground Zero Revelation