Sunday, October 21, 2012

Never a bad time for Tyner

I commented about a year ago after Mrs. S and I saw Sonny Rollins that I felt attending concerts of these aging musicians was important because they provide links to some of the great jazz stars of the past. You go and see Sonny Rollins, a sort of protégé of Miles Davis, and suddenly, you are connected (in a manner of speaking) to Miles himself. If you see Herbie Hancock (review here), Sonny Rollins (review with Herbie Hancock photos here), and Ron Carter (who I haven’t seen yet), you have a three way connection. What’s more, these connections are through old people (obviously) who not only aren’t going to be around forever, they might not be around much longer. So naturally, when we found out McCoy Tyner was subbing for Charlie Haden in a concert in Nashville, we immediately jumped for tickets.

And last week, we saw Mr. Tyner at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and the connection to John Coltrane (pretty much my first, I think) was established. McCoy’s not nearly as in good shape as some of his counterparts, but he looked good. He moved slow getting to the piano, but he moved his hands fast once he was there. His accompanying band was good. Very competent, but nothing too outstanding. I sort of got the feeling they were laying back so McCoy could shine through. Because McCoy Tyner was a semi-last-minute replacement for Haden, they went with a much more typical-of-jazz approach in that they sort of called out tunes as they went along and they actually had to look around and coordinate their solos on the fly. It was, more or less, a jam session.

I felt that McCoy’s playing was a little loose at times, and I honestly couldn’t tell if he was hitting all the right notes or not.  One thing’s for sure: the Steinway piano he was playing sounded very sharp and clear, with huge solid bass notes that pushed the highs up, and a clear, bright upper register that positively floated above those long, fat bass notes. And of course, McCoy loves those thick, two-handed block chords, so even if his fingers strayed a little here and there, you were still getting these full, resonant, compelling tonalities that had a tendency to sweep and swell in unexpected places. The highlight for me was the first song after intermission, Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit. (If I could find the lead sheet for it, I’d play it myself.) It’s so typically Tyner, and it was really the only song the band sounded all together on.

I didn’t feel Coltrane at the concert, but I think he was there. Somewhere.

I hate to drive two hours and not be “wowed”, but I hate even more to skip it and miss my chance at a connection to one of the vital scions of jazz. That is to say, I’d do it again, and I no doubt will, someday. Wouldn’t you?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Bar is Open

Pretty much all the time, too.

Open day...
Having a bar made out of a 130-year old square grand piano is a great thing. It’s a conversation piece:

Guest: What’s the ginormous piece of furniture?
Me: Open it and see.
G: Oh wow! A piano!
M: Not quite, fold the top up.
G: Oh wow! A piano full of alcohol! Can I have some?
M: Capitalist idea comrade!

It gives you someplace to put your liquor.

It looks good lit up in a dark room.

...and night!
Did I mention it’s full of liquor?

There's still room for more...
Yes, I spent way too much money on it. (Don’t even ask.) Yes, I spent way too much time on it. (Two and a half years.) It’s way too big. (6’ x 3’ x 3’.) It’s heavy as all hell. (About 215 pounds, down from about 560.)

And it’s something that, once its novelty and usefulness has gone, I will part with it either by giving it away or throwing it out. (After all, who’s going to want it, much less part with money to get it?)

I see Kahlua, and absinthe (two kinds), and XO brandy, that SINGLE BARREL JACK DANIELS?!?! (Yes, it is.)
Still, it’s mine. And you can’t have it. But if you’re nice and you ask politely, you can probably have a little bit of what’s inside.

Now, to make some cocktails for me and Mrs S. If anybody needs me, I’ll be over by the piano.

The Completion

You know, truth be told, this piano fought for its life to the very end. It just didn't want to go back to being a playable piano, but after that, it wanted even less to be a bar. I was not satisfied with an unplayable piano taking up the kind of space that this one does. It’s just ridiculous. So I made up my mind to make it into something mildly pretty and completely useful. Since I’m a bit of a boozaholic, a bar seemed a good fit.

But truly, the piano fought me to the end.

Once I cleaned up the finish and vacuumed the felt, I moved the beast over to the stairs. Mrs. S helped again with moving the support boxes to change the height to go up the stairs, and then sliding the bar across the floor on an extra carpet we keep for playing poker in the garage. Now that it is about 350 pounds lighter than when I started, this process was not nearly as bad as it sounds. Once I had it on sawhorses in the dining room, the real fight began. 

Right away, the first leg (right rear) wouldn't go on because the felt was in the way. Since the felt on the back will not be seen by anybody, I was okay with just removing it. I had to smack the leg to get it in place, but that worked. Right front leg was mounted without any problem. Left back leg was a different story. Not only was the felt in the way, so was the sound board at the bottom of the bottle well.

Son of a -!

There were different sorts of approaches I could take, but I wanted to minimize the amount of work I had to do. I unscrewed just enough screws to lower the sound board to let the edges of the leg slip between the bar and leg. That was relatively painless and I quickly screwed the bottle well board back in place without checking clearance on the front left leg.

You’re probably expecting another “Son of a -!” here, but actually, the leg just grazed the sound board and I was able to get it on. About then Mrs. S wandered in and liked the look of the thing but suggested I reattach the pedal lyre. Even though I knew I removed the dowels that held it, I (for some screwball reason) thought, sure, why not? I crawled under the bar and remembered why not.

Legs on, sitting pretty on the floor. 
The bottle well is where the pedals used to go.

We went with just leaving the pedals positioned on the floor, more or less in place where they go. Good enough.

The keyboard, because it was originally designed to be pushed in and taken out went right back in, no problem. Hardly worth mentioning, but there you go.

Lights off, lid on. (This picture is not sequential with the others.)
Now for the lighting. Bad planning here again. I drilled holes for the light cords in the back of the piano toward the edges. Turns out that’s where the legs ended up. Had I not had some foresight (as I will relate in a moment), I would have had to drill the holes through the legs. That might not have been bad, however, the LED panels I bought actually came with a switch. Obviously, the switch needed to be at the front, where it could be reached, so the holes in the back wouldn't have been of much use anyway. Back when I was drilling holes for electrical cords, however, I didn't actually own the lights at the time, so I didn’t know what the cord configuration was going to be. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I drilled two more cord holes in the front of the bar.

Lighting installed. Notice the glare on the right where the piece of the piano is missing.

Good thinking, Eric.
I installed the switch, ran the cords, attached the lights and lit everything up. Worked like a charm except the cord length dictated one of the lights end up where a big chunk of the back of the piano had gone missing during the pin block removal process. I covered that up with the support rod from the pedal lyre (which doesn't have anywhere to attach to any more anyway).

Rod installed and glare gone. Looking good!
 I plopped the lid and support arms back in, and the bar, after only two and a half years, was complete!

The bar is closed, for now...
Time for a drink (next entry)!