The circle of the Chicken
I moved to New Orleans from Seattle in April of 2009 to see if I could change a few things in my life, and possibly kick my music career into higher gear.
I only knew one person in town when I got here (and not very well...) and I spent my first night wandering the French Quarter, searching for some good Blues. There was no Blues on Bourbon street, at least not the kind I was looking for.
I ran into a couple of cops standing by a barricade on Bourbon (The street was closed because it was French Quarter Festival) and asked them where I could find some good music that was more to my taste, and they directed me to Frenchmen Street.
As soon as I found the street, I knew I would be spending a lot of time there. I had never been there before, but it already felt like home. The first bar I went into was the Apple Barrel, a tiny, hole in the wall kinda place, but I will never forget what I saw there.
There was this guy sitting on a stool, playing acoustic guitar, but I clearly heard a bass player, and there was no one else onstage. I looked at the floor in front of the guitarist, and there was a Fender Jazz bass laying prone, and this guy was playing his own bassline, with his BARE FEET!
The crowd seemed as if they'd seen this a hundred times before (they had) so I did my best not to show what I was feeling... But I knew I had come to the right city.
I went across the street to Cafe Negrille, and I heard a really good Blues band. Well, I THOUGHT they were a Blues band, but the next song they did was some old Johnny Cash. Then some Grateful Dead.
I started talikng to the guitar player on their break, and he invited me to sit in on the next set. We've since become good friends.
We played, among other things, the Chicken- a great jazz-funk tune that was made famous by Jaco Pastorius. I can't remember who wrote it, but it wasn't Jaco.
I had been playing this song for years, and people always seemed to enjoy my take on it, as there are generally no guitars on the song.
The more time I spent playing and working in New Orleans, the more musicians I got to know. I have since met several great musicians that I now play with on a regular basis, and we almost always throw down some odd version of the Chicken at some point during the night.
It's one of those songs that musicians can take and really make their mark on, if they have the intuition and creativity to do so, and I always listen for unknown musicians playing this tune, as it is a good indicator of their drive.
Yesterday, three fourths of my band were on a local radio station, promoting a gig we have this Friday in the French Market. We were asked to bring our instruments and play on the air, and it was a lot of fun, plus it will help us get some people to the gig.
We chatted and played for a little bit, and then it was time to go.
As I walked back to the parking lot, counting my blessings and grateful that I have the good fortune to have met all the great players that I have, I heard the familiar, muti-scalar lick of the Chicken, coming from a small outdoor stage at a small cafe on N. Peters. The crowd was really enjoying it, as they usually do, and the band was smokin' it.
And I thought to myself, "Good luck, guys".