Rick Metz! Bluuuuuues Jan21

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Rick Metz! Bluuuuuues

So after a great day of skiing at Squaw, I called Anton (my Russian guitarist compadre) and we decided to head to Carson. Rick Metz, the fabulous saxophone player and host of jazz jams in Reno and Carson, has decided to start a blues jam at the High Sierra Brewery. We showed up around 10:30 – just before their final set break (the jam is from 8-midnight). Rick seemed genuinely happy to see me and immediately wanted to know what we planned to play.

At that point I realized that Rick expected me to sing something and that I, in my last minute decision making, thought I’d just get up there and strum along to some 1-4-5 chord changes. I said, “I don’t have to sing.” He just laughed – he wouldn’t have it. So they finished their set break while Anton and I crazily searched my iPhone for blues songs I knew.

Another realization – I don’t know many blues songs. This was a fabulous realization at a BLUES jam…

Rick came back to our table and said, “So – what are we playing?” He saw the hesitation and said, “Ok, what if we just play some straight blues and you just sing whatever comes to mind?”

Thankfully I didn’t have to do exactly that, because I have a few originals that are blues-based. Feel Like Dancing, when simplified, is just a blues song. Then there was some straight blues called “Merry Go Round” that I wrote back when I was playing with Matt Brunoehler at the Academy. But to tell the truth, I don’t think I’d played or sang it in over five years.

So I got up there and led the band through Feel Like Dancing. It’s funky and a little different than most blues songs, but the band got through it and the horns sounded great over it.

For the next number, I recalled just enough of the verses of Merry Go Round to fill the voids between the rest of the band playing awesome blues and Anton ripping it up on the guitar.

Then we sat down and let the core band finish the set, and the evening. Success!

While I had a great time, I think I learned something really important in the way that Rick interacted with me and the other musicians. He has to be one of the most musically spirited people I know (and that’s in only two interactions with him). He’s also incredible supportive. This is important because of the role that he plays in hosting jams. He has to get musicians up there consistently, because we likely make up a large part of the audience at the jams and if we come and pack the house with us and our guests, the venue is happy.

Rick understands this and so he crafts what has to be one of the most fun and supportive environments around for musicians to play and learn. And it’s in no way superficial – he’s the perfect guy for the job because he believes in you and seems truly happy to have each of his guests onstage.

Plus, he keeps a core of incredible musicians around so that even if you are the weakest link (which I have been now on a few occasions), the song still comes off sounding pretty damn good. And it’s amazing how inspiring it is to get up there and be backed by a bunch of professionals – it could make a guy like me want to do this for a living.

Keep it up, Rick. I’ll be seeing you again.

I’m Chuck McCumber. I live and work in Reno, NV, where I’m finishing my MBA at UNR and where I play at open mics (and an occasional paid ::gasp:: gig) around town. Cecil’s Refrain is my long time music project and this site is a place where I talk about my experiences playing and the fellow musicians, artists, and fans that I meet along the way. I’d love your feedback. And if you’re ever looking to jam, hit me up.