The studio guitarist’s guide to happiness and personal fulfilment. U is for Unexpected.
We all need a vacation sometimes, a break from the rigours of freelance frenzy or forlorn phone staring. No matter that the perception in the minds of the average Brexiteer still remains that a musician’s life comprises of a melodic mélange of noon narcosis, Twitbook maintenance and nightly bar billiards.
The fact that I write this at 7am over a black coffee in an overpriced Islington branded outlet while awaiting the start of a commercial at 8.30am at Angel Studios is clearly an aberration. As are the TV sessions that follow it at 10am. Incidentally, this is my real job, in response to those altruistic individuals who appear regularly at the end of gigs with my welfare clearly their primary concern. And thus it was earlier this month that I’d had my fill of fretwork and with metaphorical bucket and spade securely fastened, boarded the ferry at Fishguard en route to Rosslare.
The plan embraced a leisurely week of touring, sampling some of The Republic’s boutique hotels and fine dining establishments. I was not about to be disappointed. Having pottered through County Wexford (Dunbrody House Hotel), up through Kilkenny to Adare (Dunraven Arms Hotel) and on to the delightful Ballinalacken Castle Hotel near Doolin, I took the stunning route along the West Coast. I arrived at County Galway and the Connemara Coast Hotel near Galway City. At which point, you may be relieved to hear, my story starts.
An excursion to Galway proper seemed mandatory, and in short order I found myself in this vibrant, cosmopolitan city; a friendly mix of students, tourists and locals all mingling with good humour and gaiety on the streets. What happened next is neither explicable by way of rational thought nor the result of an hallucinatory experience. Whatever the explanation, within 20 minutes I’m at a party in a picturesque restaurant and club on the bank of the river Corrib in the town centre. I know no one but no one seems to mind. In fact, I seem to have been invited along in a typical act of Irish hospitality for no apparent reason.
There are canapés, there is tapas, there are beverages and, as I descend the winding staircase, there is... a jazz guitar trio and they’re playing Out Of Nowhere.
Did I mention that the leader of the combo looks about 20 years old, is playing a battered Antoria guitar and is absolutely brilliant? Fluid lines cascade effortlessly from the lad in a seemingly endless sequence, combined with a warm tone and prodigious technique. It’s almost as if Pat Martino and Chet Baker have somehow fused into a single human entity. I boldly go and introduce myself and tell them that they’re sensational. Whereupon a guitar is duly thrust into my hand and I am instructed to join them. ‘No’ appears not to be an option and the evening passes in suitably surreal fashion. Turns out that Connor is a trumpet player who has been forced to abandon his studies due to dystonia affecting his lips. So he has switched instruments and learned to play this way. In two and a half years. He then asks me for lessons when he next visits London. The image of Einstein asking his dog for assistance with the theory of relativity forms in my head but I concur for the sake of etiquette. Later, I emerge into the balmy night air, questioning my already tenuous grip on reality.
But it has happened. I know this because Paul (double bass player and vocalist) later sends me a Facebook friend request. And that, members of the jury, is conclusive if unexpected proof. Well, isn’t it?