Thursday, January 01, 2009

Music as Mayhem: New Year's Eve with Zing Zany

Music is the garden, where we should be able to wander and thrill to the sounds, the sights, the inner excitement, serenity, beauty, sense of spiritual uplift, joy.

Then there's the labyrinth: Zing Zany and His Musical Mobsters of Mayhem

Mayhem gig, where there's no intonation, where the trumpet plays way too loud--all the time--or tries to squeal every hit instead of just hitting the note clean--sounds like mice in heat; and the drummer crashes away, unaware that he's driving the band off the cliff, and the leader tells Wanda Warbly, an invited guest singer--old but not wise beyond her years--he's got a chart of a tune she knows, and she should sing it, and Wanda says she doesn't know the chart or the key, and he says, you know the tune, don't you, you can do it, wait 8 bars and come in, so she stands there not sure how to count 8 bars, or what her first note should be, and the band slams mercilessly ahead in its fanatical devotion to music while she stands there waiting for something that might be a cue, but the chart is over, and she maybe tried half a verse somewhere in the middle. And she bitches at the musicians, but it's not their fault--it's the leader's and hers, because she didn't bring any charts for herself. Who said a chick can just stand up and sing--hey, that's for the movies, not pretenders to stardom. This is the real world--the world of Zing Zany.

So Wanda says, I'll do "My Foolish Heart" in F, okay? And she looks at the vibes player, who has the Real Book but the tune is in Bflat, but he figures he can sound it out--after all, how many notes are there in the dumb tune anyway--and he does, more or less, but the bass player doesn't know the tune in that key, and the rest of the band is at sea without life jackets, the fog has settled in and the radio's broke, and the drummer, chewing on strands of his beard, brushes blithely along blinking into the disco ball, and the trombone player tries a few notes in various keys to see if anything works, and nothing does so she ducks aft, and the singer is humiliated and leaves early because the one song she called disintegrated under her and she sank in it like quicksand, or she ran aground in the fog, and the band cut itself loose from its moorings and drifted into a perfect storm, and that's the leader's fault too--when he told the vibes player the singer would sing a few tunes, the vibes player warned him that if she didn't have the music in her key, it was going to be a problem, but the leader ignored that, and when the singer told the leader the first tune, with the band, sounded awful, the leader said, "Well, I liked it." It should have been a warning sign that the leader had a shirt with flames on it because the gig went up in smoke--where's there's fire, smoke ensues, and the Latin tunes got kicked off at "Cherokee" tempos--they were in the key of frantic frenzy, eyeballs blazing like stunned bunnies in the cartoons. The whole gig was a musician's nightmare. But this is the kind of thing Zing Zany loves. It's such a release from life in the Zing Zany motor home.

And then it was six minutes to midnight, and the band riffed through a countdown by the DJ, until 1 minute to 12, when the Zing Zany suddenly screamed, "Auld Lang Syne in F!!!!!" and started playing the tune too soon, and the male singer said, no, no, wait until midnight, and the Zing, who was playing so loud he couldn't hear, blasted ahead anyway, and the rest of the band started at midnight on the dot, and the band was in two places simultaneously, as though Charles Ives had written "Auld Lang Syne," and the party horns tooted, and the DJ put on Frank Sinatra's "Come Fly with Me," craftily mixing it with a rap song with f words, and some disco, which was all drums and thunder, and the band wondered whether they should take a break or pack up, and Zing said, "We're going to play a couple more," but the band, assessing the determination of the DJ and the flagellations of the dancers, said no, they were packing up, and Zing saw his musicians drifting away, putting their instruments in cases. And the leader, who owns a piece of Chinese junk in the shape of a motorcycle, is looking for the straitjacket he wears off the stand and wondering when the attendants will arrive, but the gig is the asylum, except for the guests, who by now are dancing to a DJ whose equipment would beat a DC-7 at arm-wrestling. And everyone at the party is happy! The bari player, after 11 drinks, says he's fine to drive--he only lives 5 minutes away; and the tenor player is glad her husband is on the gig, because she needs someone to drive her home, and he's so focused on the way that the van never strays one inch from its center positioning in the lane no matter what. And a musician friend who came as an onlooker and opined that the band might be a little loud, the leader told him to "Shut up."

And so here we are at home, drinking to forget, or wondering about smoking, except that it hurts one's throat, you know, so beer calories--at least you can work them off. Hopefully, however, not by playing another insane gig with Zing Zany and his Musical Mobsters of Mayhem.


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