I’ll never forget the crisp fall day back in ’12 when Henley asked me to join one of his bands. There we sat in my basement listening to music like so many times before.Sometimes we would talk about approach notes. Sometimes we would reminisce about how in the past we drove the identicle make, model and color of the Honda Civic Si (super car) and sometimes we would just laugh a lot. On this day however, Henley was telling me about an idea of a funk band revolving around both an electric and an upright bass. I was like…wow man, that sound will be pretty cool! He went on to tell me that he already had both bassists: David Walker, long time bassist to Henley’s many bands on electric bass. And Jabari Reynolds, Henley’s 19 year old nephew from Detriot, here attending Berklee. John Iltis, the other half of Henleys rhythm section on drum kit and percussionist Matt Pert. I excitedly said,” I would like to see this band!!” Henley replied,”Dude, I want you to be IN this band! plus our first gig is already booked for November.” I would have been a fool to say no to Henley so I excitedly said “YES!!”. A few hours later after I realized what a great opportunity this was going to be I wrote Henley a text message: Gr8 Hang 2day. I AM DEF IN! i can comp n i can burn!! As I pressed send, I knew damn well that the last two statements weren’t exactly true.
11.16.2012 In a Pigs Eye, Salem Ma. Two Bass Hit’s first gig. Besides a short meeting with Henley and David to run down a few tunes, the six of us hadn’t actually played together before. That isn’t uncommon in the world of local gigging but can still be unnerving. And I shouldn’t have been surprised at the dozens of people interested in seeing Henley’s new band…or “contraption” as he would often refer to it. One stark difference between what I was used to and this genre is that the improvised rock solo is generally 12 to 16 measures but for the 2BH guitarrist, the improvised solo is at a minimum 64 measures. I think I was aware of this fact and thought I could easily stretch out a tasteful solo, but when the first solo section from the first song came around to me, all tact flew out the swinging door of the Pigs Eye. I played just about every lick I ever knew over the first 8 measures and tried to then slickly pass the solo to David. “Keep goin’”, Henley yelled over to me. So I muffled through another 8 or so measures before then trying to again pass it off to David. “KEEP GOIN!’” Henley again yelled. I fumbled through another 8 measures before finally getting let off the hook. I could actually FEEL the other 5 guys thinking: Where did Henley find this guy? For the rest of the night, I both figuratively and literally “kept my head down.” I went home relived to have gotten through the gig and yet humiliated at how unprepared I was for it.
The next gig wasnt until after New Years . I was getting to know Jabari a little better driving him to and from practice a few times. Besides both of us having family we missed back in Detroit, we both have a particular rambling ‘n stambling speech pattern that in some way made it very easy for us to understand and communicate with each other. I would imagine a fly trapped in the car must have been like “What the F#$k lanuguage are these guys speaking?” In many ways he is the most articulate man I have ever met.1.16.2013. In A Pigs Eye, Salem Ma. Besides learning some of the nuances of this genre and making damn sure my solos were the appropriate length, I was starting to pick up some jargon that I found useful to know in this setting. When Henley says “Lay Out!”, that means that all intruments should stop playing and groove to the drummers as they break down the beat. But if Henley shouts “Hang me (or another band member) out” all players are to stop and let the soloist play freely and indefinately. I also learned that what a rock musician might call a “Buddy Holly beat” or what a blues musician might call a “Bo Didley Beat”was refered to as a “Second Line groove” when you’re running with Henley. One more thing to factor in when in Henley’s house: Plan on really good surprise guests to seemingly appear out of nowhere to join together with the band. Sometimes I’d look out in the audience and wonder if the lady with the goiter is gonna sit in and wail on a marimba at some point tonight?
2.2.1213 Vic’s Boathouse, Salem Ma. This one fell right in our lap. The bar manager contacted me a week before asking me if I knew a funky band that coud make a bunch of people dance? Do I ever! By this time the band was still in its infant stage. David and I had begun to develope a section where I would start the solo and run with it, then we’d cut heads before he’d take us out of the solo. Jabri and John were also now more accustomed to each other. Matt was playing a conga like Tito Puentes’ and Sheila E’s love child. All this while being led by the guy playing the alto sax. The contraption that Henley had referenced at the first two gigs was now in motion.
2.15.2013 In a Pigs Eye, Salem Ma. I usually feel most at home in a trio but must admit I enjoyed the comraderie of a sextet. I walked around the Pig that night like I was part of a gang. Especially on stage. That being the case, I probably looked like the guy about to get whacked for ratting when Henley called out “On the Strip”, a song i’d never heard before. I quickly asked David, “What Key is this?” He answered, “G minor, Latin feel” just as John counted off the song. In some ways it was exhilerating to be in the thick of it using just my ears, and lucky for me, soloing over a minor vamp is in my wheel house. So besides keeping a heads up for the occasional surprise guest, I will expect the occasional surprise mystery song choice as well. Do you think we played “On the Strip” at our next gig? You bet your balls we did. Do you think I was ready for it this time? You bet your balls I sorta was.3.8.2013 In a Pigs Eye, Salem Ma. On the way I picked up Jabari. He played me a hilarious saved voice mail of a half prank, half drunk dialed call from Matt doing all sorts of voices and impressions. Then Jabari himself launched into a dead on impression of Barack Obama giving an address about the pot holes on Derby Street and how more work needs to be done. Jabari’s impression of the Commander in Chief would make its way into future 2BH sets. By now the band was just hitting its stride. John Iltis was now known in the band as “Ill John” laying down such tasteful grooves with ”Delicious Dave Walker” and Jabari “Dr Detroit”( i just made that up now) playing off of each others bass lines. For the first time I wasn’t completely terrified to play in this band. This show featured a guy named Brian Coger on Trumpet. During the band intro, Henley told the audience a quick story about how two young, beautiful women approached Brian once after a recent show and propositioned him with ”breakfast.” To which the young Trumpeteer replied, “actually, only one of them was beautiful.”
3.15.2013 Chianti, Beverly Ma. I had never played in an actual Jazz club before. This was a “get” for this band. There are a hundred players who would give up masteaurbating to play on that stage. Unlike other gigs where the room might start out empty then fill in as the night goes on, this room was filled an hour before we started and just kept getting bigger. And unlike other gigs where the band isn’t always the focal point, it seems as though at this place the band was the only thing anyone focused on. I had to loosen my clip on tie. To add to the pressure, My Wife, Lady Spike was in attendance and I really wanted to impress her. During the first song I was taking advantage of a chair that was at the edge of the stage where I was set up. I figured that’s sort of a jazz guitar players move to be sitting. Just as I was starting feel as though I was pulling off being cool. Henley looks over to me and yells “Spike, UP!!!” I thought he wanted me to stand up, so I shot up to my feet as quick as I could. Henley then yells “NO! TURN UP!! so I turned the volume up, closed my eyes and did my best to blend in on a stage reserved for a different caliber of guitarist. Maybe that was the trick because for the first time in my life my guitar playing wasn’t about me, it was about the group. I looked out into the audience and saw that Lady Spike was pleased. The band had hit a new apex and to top it off the club booked us for the next 3 months. Henley’s contraption was oiled and contraptioning. Yes, contraptioning is a word!
4.18.2013 Chianti, Beverly Ma. Up to this point, Two Bass Hit had only gained momentum. I think we all were just expecting a similer experiance as our gig here last month.But considering the Boston Marathon bombings happened just days prior and the chaos that ensued over that week I shouldnt have been too surprised to look out to see an audience of 8 somber people. Just as we were heading to the stage I caught a glimpse of breaking news…MIT officer shot by terrorists. My stomach sunk. We went on to play two sets that no matter how hard we tried just wouldn’t click. We ended the second set and did not return to play an encore as we has done every time before. It appeared that the contraption was now stalled.
4.19.2013 In Pigs Eye, Salem Ma. The next night the area rejoiced in the capture of the remaining terrorist. The people at In a Pigs Eye seemed especially excited and the band seemed to have shaken off the figurative funk from the night before. Henley’s alto sax was being repaired so he brought his barritone sax instead. The “Barry” sax covers a lower range of musical notes. While most guitarrists would relish having the entire upper register of notes to themselves, I, on the other hand learned just how well I didn’t know the upper chord voicings on my fret board.5.9.2013 Chiante Beverly Ma. This was a subdude evening. The band having not played together in almost a month took a more relaxed approach to each composition. Henley would use the term “cool school” when it came to the musical approach as well as the volume. I would often laugh thinking about the funk band jargon and how it might relate to other real life situations. Like what if when one was standing before a stern Judge for yet another speeding ticket and just as Old Judge Penis Face is about to launch into some tirade about doing 65 in a School Zone being unsafe…You could simply yell,”Lay out!, Lay Out” and he’d promptly shut his stupid Judge face while you wail on a solo. 5.31.2013 In A Pig’s Eye, Salem Ma. By now, a gig here was “old hat.” We had weeded through many songs to find two sets of what I thought was interesting instrumental music peppered with a Matt Pert signature vocal song here and there.I felt a subtle change in my guitar playing too. It was still really sloppy and undisciplined but it didnt seem to bother me as much as it did before. But just when it looked like the “contraption” was running properly again, Henley alerted the audience at the end of the first set that this is Jabari’s last night here and he’d be heading back to Detroit in the morning. The crowd let out a collective “awwww!” I realized that Two Bass Hit is going to be on indefinate hiatus after our next show.
6.7.2013 Chianti, Beverly Ma. This was the last booked show of 2BH and I couldn’t think of a better place to close this chapter then at the wonderful Chianti. I loved so many things about the place. They really value musicians in a way that i’m not accustomed to in the world of local Rock. While many venues view a bands worth on how many friends they can persude to buy that establishments alcohol at an extremly high mark up, Chianti seems to actually value it’s musicians. Knowing this would be the last time I’d be playing the cool jazz club for a while, I ate my comped Pumpkin Ravioli extra slow and ordered three pints. For this night, Rather than finding another stand up bass player, Henley opted for loading the night with heavy guest stars. At one point a guy named Mike Tucker and another fella named John Aruda joined the band on saxophones and even Brian Cogger came to “show up” Henley one final time before heading to Denver. On the way home I thought about the numbers. 11 Gigs over the span of 8 months. 6 musicians all working towards getting Henley’s contraption to run so effeciently that it lifts right off the ground.
A few days later Henley sent me a text: We’re gonna let 2BH chill for a while. Have a great summer.
I sent him a return text: No Doubt. 2BH reunion 2014!