Monday, December 21, 2009

delanceyplace.com 12/21/09 - take your time, son, take your time

In today's excerpt - for those who are
already expert at their craft, there are
perils to rushing or overrehearsing. Here
Paul Shaffer frantically tries to reach Sammy
Davis, Jr., to select a song and schedule
rehearsal before his appearance on the David
Letterman show:

"Every time I called [Sammy Davis, Jr., to
try and select a song or discuss rehearsal],
he was either
working or sleeping. He never did return my
calls.

The morning of the show I was feeling some
panic. Sammy
was flying in, and we still didn't know what
he wanted to sing.
At 10 a.m., the floor manager said I had a
backstage call. It was
Sammy calling from the plane.

' 'Once in My Life' will be fine, Paul,' he
said. 'Key of E
going into F.'

'Great!' I was relieved.

I was also eager to work out an arrangement.
We whipped
up a chart, nursed it, rehearsed it, and put
it on tape. That way
when Sammy arrived, he could hear it.


Then another backstage call. Sammy's plane
had landed
early, and he was on his way over. When I
greeted him at the
backstage door with a big 'We're thrilled you're
here,' I was a little taken aback. He looked
extremely tired and
frail. He walked with a cane.

'We have an arrangement, Sam. You can
rehearse it with the band.'

'No need, baby. Gotta conserve my energy. I'm
just gonna go
to my room and shower.'

'I wanna make it easy for you. So I'll just
play you
a tape of the arrangement on the boom box.
That way you'll
hear what we've done and tell me if it's
okay.'

'Man, I know the song.'

'I know, Sam,' I said, 'but what if you don't
like the chart?'

'I'll like it, I'll like it.'

'But what if the key's not right?'

'Okay, if you insist.'


I slipped the cassette in the boom box and
hit 'play.' To my
ears, the chart sounded great. Sammy closed
his eyes and, in
Sammy style, nodded his head up and down to
the groove. He
smiled.


'It's swinging, man,' he said, 'but think of
how much more
fun we could have had if I hadn't heard this
tape.'


His words still resonate in my ears; the
notion still haunts
me. Sammy swung that night, but as he was
performing, I
couldn't help thinking that his carefree
feeling about time - as
opposed to my lifelong notion of the pressure
of the
time - was
coming from a higher spiritual plane. As a
musician, I've always
thought I rushed. I still think I rush. The
great players never
rush.


It reminds me of that moment when I watched
Ray Charles
turn to his guitarist, just as the young guy
was about to solo, and
say, 'Take your time, son. Take your time.'
"


Paul Shaffer, We'll Be Here for the Rest
of Our Lives, Flying Dolphin Press,
Copyright 2009 by Paul Shaffer Enterprises,
Inc., pp. 234-235.


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