I played a wedding last night with Ruby Harris. I always enjoy playing with Ruby. Not only is he a phenomenal fiddle player, but he takes charge at a gig and runs in wild and often unexpected directions. He'll go from Klezmer to Rock to Disco to Zydeco to Dixieland all in one set. If you can keep up, it turns into quite a work-out. He also tends to bring along top-notch sidemen, which lets me play with a caliber of player I don't usually get to work with. The main reason I put him on a job is that it frees me up from worrying about leading, calling songs, and baby-sitting the band. I can sit back, sub-lead, and just get into my bass playing. Which was, BTW, awesome last night. That new bass is just HOT. I didn't even have to touch the EQ knobs on my amp. It just spit out a lean, mean sound. To all you musicians out there, I highly recommend getting at least ONE quality instrument. That it took me 25 years to figure this out is just sad.
Anyway, I'd have to say the highlight of the night was an improvised and wild version of Bei Mir Bist du Schoen. About halfway through the song, Ruby called over to the horn players "NEW ORLEANS JAZZZZZZZ!!!!" and they let it loose in what turned out to be our little tribute to that devastated city. I can't remember having such a moving time on stage. The horn players were really great. They worked well together, doing a lot of Motown-style horn parts and generally being very impressive. I locked in well with the drummer. The other highlight was a funky rendition of Santana's Europa, where everyone got a solo.
Generally speaking, I don't eat the food at these weddings unless I know for sure that it's actually Kosher. Some of you may think, "why would there be non-Kosher food at a Jewish wedding?" But you'd be surprised. This wedding was at a Conservative synagogue, which, while it does have a kitchen and an on-staff Mashgiach to supervise the cooking, is not known to keep Kashruth at Orthodox standards. Those of you who know me know that when in doubt, I don't eat. That holds true in town, on the road (I'm the guy who ate M&Ms for 3 days in Los Angeles because I didn't know where the kosher restaurants were), or at a gig. That's just me.
However, last night things looked different. For one, when I got there, there was a large mechitza (divider) set up in the middle of the room for separate dancing. Hey, I didn't even have a mechitza at my wedding. Then, as we played, I noticed a sprinkling of Orthodox rabbis at the various tables, and yes, they were eating. So I got pretty excited, and during the break, I had the kitchen staff bring a round of food to the band.
I recall remarking about how good the food was. "I really hope this is kosher," I joked, as I downed some salmon wrapped in a filo-dough shell. A little while later I ran into one of the rabbis, who asked if I wanted anything to eat. "No thanks," I said. "I got food for the band."
"Oh, good," he said. "Because we got extra meals brought in at our table, but I'm glad you had them get some for you from the Kosher caterer." Gulp.
I hastily walked away. I wasn't sure what I should be doing next. In all the years since I started keeping Kosher, I don't think I've ever mistakenly eaten something traife. I might add in at this point that this is a very good case for the concept of maaris ayin, which is where it's better not to do something that looks wrong even if it's actually OK. Like ordering in a Kosher meal at a patently non-Kosher restaurant. People will think you are either eating traife or that the restaurant is Kosher. Zing. I got that one last night. Obviously my own fault for not looking more closely at what the rabbis were eating or asking someone. Lesson learned.
Anyway, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. It was a Jewish synagogue, and while not up to my standards of Kashruth, it's unlikely that anything really non-Kosher was introduced into the food, like shrimp or pork. And it was all fish and dairy anyway. But in a way I feel a little unclean this morning.
And my back aches. People see the band on-stage rocking out and having a good time, and they don't realize how much shlepping and work goes into it. I've often joked that I don't get paid to play, I get paid to shlep. The playing I do for free. So after everyone was gone, I broke down the PA and the amps and mics and cables and stands and packed them into the PT mobile and drove home. Then unpacked everything into my house while battling the moths that were flying around by the porch light. Now I'm procrastinating shlepping the whole lot downstairs as I type this instead.
Which reminds me. Back to work...