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My Saxophone Pilgrimage – Part Deux

Posted by cann0nba11 on August 27, 2008

It’s 11:30 PM and I’m sitting at a very cozy bar at the main intersection in Dinant, Belgium listening to a piano/guitar duo playing a variety of jazz standards and some cover tunes. The guitar player caught my ear during dinner so I decided to stick around and listen. What the heck, I’ve only got eight or nine hours to kill until the day begins, right? (if you don’t get that part, you haven’t read Part I yet. Please do.)

Rene the keyboardist was comping and singing along to her Casio keyboard rhythm tracks while Richard played nice guitar solos behind her. As I sat there at the corner of this really small bar, I had my gig bag standing on end by my feet where I could hold it easily. A table of four people was directly in front of me, then the small stage. One of the happy Belgians looked at me and smiled and noticed my sax-shaped case. He pointed and said something in French, probably “oh ho ho, a saxophonist! Will you be playing with the band tonight?” I smiled back and shrugged my shoulders. After a few minutes the other man at the table noticed my case and asked in English if I was going to play tonight. This man’s name is Ewan, and he helped make my night.

Ewan works for Belgacom as a network engineer and speaks English fairly well. We talked for a few minutes and before you know it he was asking the duo if I could sit in for a tune. During the exchange i heard the words “saxophonist professional” and “Texas,” so I think he was telling them my story. They gladly welcomed me up and I played a tune with them. The small crowd loved it, as did the duo, and for the rest of the night I sat on stage with my new friends playing all sorts of music and drinking the constant flow of free beer from the owner of the club and his Jordyn Sparks lookalike bartender. It turns out that the owner is a big jazz fan. I think he)was also a fan of the fact that before I started playing there were six customers in the place, while after a couple of tunes there were about twenty inside (as many as it could hold) and every table outside was occupied. In fact, he liked it so much that he asked me to come back the next day and play a gig on my own and he would actually pay me. Pretty cool.

We played until about 2 AM. At this point the duo was tuckered out and needed to get home. I was asked where I was staying and I told Ewan the story about the hotel. The next thing you know the owner is calling up friends looking for a place for me to stay. He also asked me if I would play at his bar the next day for money. I picked up a gig! Pretty cool… đŸ˜‰ Then, a cab driver took me a few miles away to see if another hotel was open. He took me back to the club and someone offered their place to me for the evening. Her name is Viola, she is a very sweet yet eclectic older woman that speaks broken English. Earlier in the evening she had attended a concert that featured several angry German rock bands, and she was still dressed the part. A million bracelets on one arm, colors in her hair, a razor blade necklace, etc. Think chain smoking flower child and you get the picture. She was happy to be back in Dinant listening to jazz, and she offered me a place to get some sleep.

David, a bass player friend of hers showed up earlier while I was playing and the three of us drove to her apartment not far away from the club. We went inside and I felt like I was stepping into a time machine. The walls of this one-room flat were covered with posters of Jim Morrison, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and the like. She had beads hanging from the ceiling and also owned a very friendly black cat named Jim Morrison. We sat down on the various pieces of furniture in the room and both Viola and David wanted to talk music shop. I was cool with that, but I was also friggin’ exhausted. But, I humored them with stories and answered their questions about America, politics and music. When Viola found out that I was a computer geek she asked if I could help fix her laptop. It was almost inoperable due to the boatload of spyware and trojan horses she had. I was able to install AVG and SpyBot and after several scans and reboots was able to clean up her machine for her. By 6:00 AM we finally zonked out, Viola let me have her bed while she kept the couch. Sadly, given the heat wave and lack of air conditioning (they don’t really need it in Dinant) I was uncomfortable for the four hours that I actually laid there. I got a little sleep, but not much.

I was going to leave on my own and walk back to town to start my tourist jaunt, but Viola heard me getting ready to leave and wanted to show me the way to the statues herself. (While we walked together along the river back to town and I learned that several years ago she was in a horrible car accident that left her in a coma for a month. She had to re-learn how to use her arms and legs, You would never know it by looking at her.) We reached the first statue, a giant saxophone standing alone in a fountain at the end of Rue Adolphe Sax. I took out my horn, set up my video camera, stepped up to the statue and started playing. Some people started gathering and taking pictures, meanwhile Viola was snapping away with my camera to capture the event. We then made the short walk down Rue Sax to the statue of Adolphe sitting on a bench in front of the house where he was born. There is a very modest display of his work in an empty storefront, I was surprised to see something so basic in honor of the coolest instrument known to man. I played another time here on the bench next to Adolph and completed my saxophone mission. A few more pictures and I was done. I performed where it all began. Check that off my life to-do list.

With only a couple of hours left before I had to catch the train back to Brussells I decided to do some more sightseeing. I bought some Dinant souvenirs and took the cable car up to the Citadel to enjoy the amazing view. It was gorgeous, the weather, while unseasonably warn, offered me the chance to take lots of amazing post card perfect pictures. I descended via cable car and walked back to the bar and played a short gig with David, a very fine bass player in the Jaco Pastorius idiom.

Sadly, I had to leave just as “Saxophone Sunday” was beginning. Every Sunday in July and August the city sponsors varied music groups to perform in the streets. As I walked across the bridge back to the train station I could hear a strolling dixieland band playing close to the post office. But, I had to make this train or else I would miss the last train from Brussells to London. Fortunately my return trip was perfect, just like my weekend turned out to be. If I hadn’t missed my train on Saturday I would have had a hotel room and slept through sitting in with the duo, meeting Ewan, David and Viola, and getting the chance to play my own gig in the birthplace of the saxophone.

(if you want to see more pictures, visit my Dinant album at Photobucket.com)

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3 Responses to “My Saxophone Pilgrimage – Part Deux”

  1. […] Posted by cann0nba11 on August 8, 2008 It’s 11:30 PM and I’m sitting at a very cozy bar at the main intersection in Dinant, Belgium listening to a piano/guitar duo playing a variety of jazz standards and some cover tunes. The guitar player caught my ear during dinner so I decided to stick around and listen. What the heck, I’ve only got eight or nine hours to kill until the day begins, right? (more…) […]

  2. Kathleen said

    My sisters and I were in Dinant 20 years ago. Like you we arrived without reservations and finally found a room at a very old hotel across from the church…. it doesnt appear the hotel is there anymore. Stopping in Dinant was like discovering a little jewel… an unexpected delight.

  3. Pat Hannon said

    What a fantastic adventure. I am planning to go there in November, but don’t want to drag my sax along. Is there a way to rent one in Dinant? It would mean a lot to me to play there.

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