Rodney Jones is a jazz guitarist who has played with some of the greats, including James Brown and Dizzy Gillespie. This may seem largely irrelevant but it’ll make sense later.
I rarely play the guitar around those outside my immediate family. I’ve been playing for over 20 years but I have no sense if I’m any good, or just another schmuck with a guitar. Every now and then I get the urge to record something, and that urge has been getting stronger ever since the geekling appeared. It’s almost as if I have a greater need to leave a legacy, and I’d like her to be able to hear me playing before I get too old to pull off the more complex stuff. That urge never really amounts to anything, though I did recently get a step closer by buying a cable. Maybe eventually I’ll get a mic, sit down and put something down. But even if I did, I doubt that I’d do anything with it other than squirrel it away on a drive somewhere to be discovered in a few years.
Through some unlikely course of events, I won a one-on-one lesson with a Juilliard guitar teacher. I didn’t expect much from it, maybe a prescription of scales from some completely unimpressed classical guitarist, sneering at my weak attempts to channel Nick Drake and Robert Johnson. Instead, at today’s lesson, I met my teacher: Rodney Jones (see, I told you it would be relevant).
Rodney asked me to play for him, my fingers froze, my pores opened and sweat soaked my neck. I couldn’t remember anything and my fingers wouldn’t do what I wanted. I took a breath and played some Simon and Garfunkel; something I’ve been playing for so long that muscle and mind memory carried me through. Once I’d loosened up I ran through some Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton, and finished up with a bit of Nick Drake. He asked me to play something with a pick (something he’s known for) and I couldn’t resist banging out some Extreme1.
He asked if I wanted the good news or the bad news. I laughed and asked for both, in any order. His response: “The good news is, there’s no bad news”.
He then went on to tell me that I have a natural touch with the guitar, that I have plenty of talent, and he was pleasantly surprised. And yes, I’m bragging a little, but this is my blog and if I can’t do that here, where else can I do it? So we talked a bunch more, he played for me for a few minutes to show his picking technique2, and then he prescribed me scales after all.
But I played for a stranger, a stranger who is a legendary guitarist, and he didn’t laugh me out of the room. Maybe I should get that mic after all.
And practice my scales.