1982 was my first year as a bandleader
1982 was my first year as a bandleader. Thanks to Michael and Randy Brecker, our quintet had a regular gig at their Manhattan club, Seventh Avenue South. It was ironic because only five or six years earlier my brother Branford and I had been at home in New Orleans learning their horn parts on Parliament Records and playing Brecker Brothers songs like “Some Skunk Funk” in our high school jazz ensemble. They took a risk on us and I’m forever grateful. What they provided for us was what every developing band needs: a reliable home base to work out technical aspects of music under the pressure of an audience, and a welcoming place to learn how to move a room of people with diverse and specific emotion.
In 1983 we were booked to play New Year’s. It was a special holiday cover and we ended up playing for ONE couple the entire night. It was both the most embarrassing and liberating thing that had ever happened to me as a performer. We played as hard for them as we would for a room full of people and they were as nice and cool as could be. I never saw them again and don’t even remember their names, but I think of them whenever New Year’s Eve rolls around. Something the lady said to me all those years ago has always stuck with me. Seeing that we were disappointed and somewhat dejected she said “Don’t be sad. You have given us a great story.
When y’all become famous, we will tell everyone about how in a city of millions of people we were the only ones smart enough to come out and hear you play.” We all laughed. As long as they stayed—-we played.