Peace In art

I am likely the least artistic person I know.

I immerse myself in business and adventure and I occasionally come to rest at home and stare blankly at my beautiful, semi-acoustic jazz guitar gathering dust in the corner of the room.

The virtual vaults of my mind store all kinds of rusty chord sequences and phrases. 

Very infrequently, I will even pick up the guitar. 

I run my fingers along the fret board and feel the fading address of a sequence of notes that belonged to a tune that slowly decays in my memory. I give in to the pull and finally plug the guitar in to my amp.

The soft velvet tones that fill the room take me to a different place. Sure, my playing is by all standards pretty poor, but fortunately I purchased a guitar that has a beautiful mellow tone that makes even a badly played tune settle gently on my ear drums.

Nowadays, tinnitus lends a not so subtle chorus to whatever it is my crusty brain can pull out from my memory banks.

In a frenetic business world full of travel, risk and unpredictability, the guitar is often my happy place. So, why don’t I play it more often?

Like most endeavours in life, fear is our arch enemy unless we invite it in. 

I did let fear in just that a few weeks ago.

My good friend who owns the pizza restaurant in Kaslo went to McGill and studied jazz. I thought he played the saxophone, but I have subsequently found out he plays just about anything that is playable.

He is very talented so fear always strikes me when he asks if I would like to head over and play.

This time, I could not resist. I had lived a punishing schedule of travel in January and decided I needed a release once I arrived home from the previous trip.

My wife and I were in his restaurant on a Tuesday evening and I was invited to come and play on Friday evening. I leapt at the chance — let’s do it.

I loved playing with Arron. He was totally uninhibited in his style. A true jazz player but willing to push the boundaries. I was not there yet. I had to be structured, yet in my own way, extremely unstructured. Practice makes perfect and the one thing I never have time for is practice. 

As Friday morning arrived, I found myself thinking about the gig (or jam session as I thought it was going to be). I looked at my guitar and wondered why I had not played it to prepare. Too late now. What came out would come out.

I would have to live with my musical statements. My musical grammar has never been perfect and spelling was for intellectuals. I would wing it,  like the best players in jazz. I would improvise. 

Then, I suddenly realized that Arron perhaps meant I would be the entertainment that night. The blood drained from my face, cold beads of sweat appeared on my forehead and I immediately recognized a feeling of fear.

Two things I never ever wanted to do — be the headline and play jazz guitar solo. I might have just committed to both on the same evening. 

I could develop a nasty cough and explain I was stricken with a travel bug. My mind was playing games, Aaron was probably like usual going to run from behind the bar with his saxophone and lead a couple of tunes. We were just going to have some fun!.

I decided though it would be smart to download a couple of somewhat familiar tunes in the form of backing tracks and I could at least play over to fill in the time.

I spent about $100 on apps and backing tracks and settled on about eight that I could remember, but four of which I had never played before and the other four, well, I played them at my 25th wedding anniversary, eight years ago. 

I showed up at Buddy’s Pizza and laid out my gear. Did a sound check and then the realization dawned on me — I was solo.

I remember a famous jazz guitar soloist, Joe Pass, in an interview saying that he dreaded looking at his watch and realizing that he was only five minutes in to a 90 minute concert and he had already played three tunes.

I had eight!

I explained to the folks in the restaurant that I had no excuses and that what may sound like a bad note to them was in fact, technically, a “passing note” in jazz designed in the players head to add colour or tone to a phrase.

At least, I got a chuckle. That was probably where my $10 tip came from at the end of the night. 

I sucked it up, played for about 90 minutes. The crowd seemed to enjoy what I played. Phew! I had survived. Then, Aaron brought out his guitar and we played together. 

The jam at the end, I loved, the solo stuff, hmm, need more practice. In my concerned focus walking in, I even missed the poster on the front door announcing that I was the evening’s entertainment.

I had a lot of fun. My playing was pretty mediocre, but in a curious way, I relaxed, I achieved my release; my mind was not on travel and business for at least a few hours.

I managed a first-time experience and found that in attempting to relax I had just leapt off one of the diving boards again. Will it ever end?


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More It's All About . . . articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for over forty years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business. He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the UK in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories