Tuesday, July 22, 2003
A musician's long goodbye
To my many friends in show biz:
I thought briefly about sending a private note to each of you but decided that it would be more appropriate to write an open letter to everyone. It has become too common for each of us to gripe publicly and convey thank-you's and apologies privately. Hopefully this letter will be a small gesture against that trend.
Looking back at almost seventeen years in the Club Date business (most of them with Neshoma), I am humbled at having had the opportunity to work and play with so many wonderful people and great musicians. Being a die-hard Red Sox fan, it pains me to conjure the memory of a moment in Yankee history...but as I look back at all the gigs I've been privileged to play (in my trombonist's 'Career-at-a-Glance' book) I am reminded of the famous lines from Lou Gehrig's farewell speech where he said, "...today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you...Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn't consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?". Well, I have been in hotel ballrooms and catering halls all over the tri-state area, and around the U.S. and Canada, and it brings tears of pride to my eyes thinking that I was allowed to sit on the same bandstand with you, and only now - when it is all over - can I appreciate the gift for what it was.
To continue in a baseball vein...when I was yonger, I used to fantasize about getting the opportunity to play a game with the 'Sox at Fenway Park. In my daydreams, I was welcomed onto that sunny field by those gifted athletes, and somehow - through their encouragement and confidence in me - I was able to play at a level far beyond my wildest dreams. That this level didn't approach Major league standards didn't seem to matter. The other players were always there to help me make the play and keep me from stumbling. I realize now that the years playing with each of you have been the fulfillment of that childhood fantasy.
I wish I could take back all the times I sat around and bitched about how tough it was playing at places like the Beis Ruchel, The New Hall, or any of the Halls 'under the tracks' (The Royale, The Armond Terrace, The Cordon Bleu, etc.). In years to come, I will look back at those affairs and know two things: 1) I helped make someone's wedding day more joyous; and, 2) there is very little I wouldn't give to go back in time - for just one day - and experience one of those affairs as it was then. I took those experiences for granted, just as I took for granted that I would always be young, single and unencumbered enough to eat shwarma at Steakiad Dezengoff after a gig at the Aperion. Don't get me wrong...I love where I am and am happy with the direction my life is going...but I am guilty of not looking around and appreciating the great stuff that happened along the way.
Every gig I played at the Waldorf or the Pierre was just another gig, until I suddenly realized - too late - that I would never play there again. How many musicians - great guys and wonderful players who showed me the ropes - are no longer playing, or worse, no longer alive? Why didn't I tell them what they meant to me when I had the chance? Why didn't I realize I had played my last gig with them until it was too late? In many cases they themselves didn't know that it was the last time - that a stroke, a heart-attack, or a silent phone would take them away from me as surely as a boxcar is left at a siding. I hope that each of you understands how much you have meant to me and how much I will miss the pleasure of your guidance, musicianship, and friendship.
While I am studiously avoiding naming names, I would be remiss not to thank Mike Sojcher and Elly Zomick for all they have done – not just for me, but also for the business. In creating an enterprise for yourselves, you have created a refuge where good musicians, who are also good people, can get together, make music, and forget about all of the bullshit that infects the rest of the club date industry. In 15 years Neshoma made two mistakes on my checks - both in my favor. I never missed a cash payment or a tip, and I always knew that when I went to work I would be among friends. More than that a person has no right to ask!
I also want to thank Gary Wallin, Aaron Goldring, Avremi Gerari, and Greg Wall, as bandleaders, for giving me the opportunity to experience a refreshing musical change from time to time. Musician's are not known for monogamy, and even the love affair I've enjoyed with Neshoma has benefited from the occasional fling. Thanks for the 'booty call'. You are all class acts.
Hopefully I will see some of you when I come back to the states to visit my family. But, you should also know that our new place in Efrat has plenty of room for house guests, so if you plan a trip to my part of the world, please consider this your engraved invitation.
Thanks for the memories.