A Chat With Brian Charette

I went to see – well, to check out – a jam session in Studio City tonight. It was at one of the oldest clubs, and the oldest jazz club, in LA: The Baked Potato (I got the ham, corn and pineapple potato).

I went ahead and signed my name on the sign-up sheet. I was the first name on the list. I went outside and introduced myself to the keyboard player. His name was Brian. He lives in New York. He was very kind and approachable.

Brian turned out to be one of Keyboard Magazine’s top four… well, keyboardists. You can read an article he just wrote  (that I literally just found) here. He was one of these laid-back geniuses who seem totally avuncular – until they melt your face off.

As I was picking up my face from off the bar counter, I asked him some questions about practicing, about getting better.

“Well, what do you want to work on?” he asked me.

“Consistency,” I said.

“Ah, that’s big. It’s all in your body, and how you carry your body.

“Read the Tao De Ching,” he told me. “It’s all in there. That’s the Way. It teaches how you have to do all of these things with passion, but to forget about what you’ll get from them. That’s the thing – letting go of attachment.”

Yeah, letting go of attachment. Of course. How many times had I heard that one before?

“Getting better,” he concluded, “is not an adding-to. It’s a stripping away.”


Now there’s something to ponder.

It makes sense. There’s a True Musician inside, a True Person even. And we all just want to get to it. So that’s what we’re learning. How to get to what’s already there.

“Just relax, man,” he said. “You’ll be fine. I can tell you, you’ll be fine.”

Well, Brian, OK. If you say so! Now, off to find a copy of the Tao.

And figure out this body thing.


Heart + Sleeve = Soul

After being “schooled” by Johnny Neal, former Allman Brothers keyboardist, and Adam Wakefield, himself a great keys player and vocalist, had an enlightening conversation last night at Neighbors with harmonica-ist, Gregory Hommert. We talked, in the space of about seven minutes, about finding one’s voice, relating to the public, surviving in Nashville, and setting your own artistic criteria. Generally,

I play well, I have all the notes, all the heady stuff, but I’m missing the stuff here (I point to my heart) and, well, here (I point to my stomach and, finally, my groin area). I mean, it’s all down there, you know, the lower energy. It’s sexual energy, is what it is. It’s the stuff they don’t teach in school, because they can’t, and they knock it because they can’t do it. And all this time I’ve been learning how to play tunes, and scales and modes, and transcribing solos, which is great, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been missing this vital element. And I know they’re right when they tell me something’s missing, because I’ve been experiencing this in other areas of my life, this lack of Lower Energy, and it’s not just in music, but it’s in all areas of life. And although I don’t necessarily need to take their word as canon, I’m still mature enough to see that it can help me. Yes, I know their type of music doesn’t necessarily fall into my territory, but I know where they’re coming from and want to incorporate that into my music. The squeeze, the whiskey, what Billy Joel calls the “leslie cabinet in the back of the throat,” that’s hard to do. It’s the hardest, because you’re taking this (Adam pointed to my heart) and wearing it on this (here he pointed to my wrist). You’re wearing your heart on your sleeve, and that’s the hardest thing to do. And I see the value in that, I really do, and I want to learn how to do that, because it’s part of this whole Lower Energy thing, this thing I’ve been missing, well, most of my life, and I know it’s not everything I want to do, but it sure is a big part of it!

Funny… I had to come down here to start to learn this shit.


Image Source: http://www.samday.com/images/02sleeve.jpg