This weekend, my friends and I drove to Southern California to attend the NAMM show (one of the largest music products trade shows in the world, held every January in Anaheim, CA). We were all excited and had planned to leave on Thursday at 7pm, just after my last piano student (gotta make that money!), but at 11am I got a phone call from my sister informing me that my precious niece, Naomi, who is being treated for leukemia, had an irregular spinal tap result, and would be needing another to confirm that the leukemia cells have not returned, thus rendering the past 20 months of chemotherapy moot. Then, at 5pm, I got a phone informing me that my beloved aunt Loraine had just passed away. Loraine had been very ill, suffering from a horrid degenerative nervous system disorder with no known cause and no known cure that left her essentially in a vegetative state. Despite knowing her days were coming to an end, her passing left me rather devastated. I started to wonder whether or not I should go out of town given the circumstances. My family encouraged me to travel to NAMM anyway, and I'm glad they did. The comaraderie I shared with my friends, and the new friends that I made were a welcome distraction from the shock of the loss of my aunt and the fear that my niece may have to start her treatment protocol all over, and allowed me to focus my positive energy on aiding my family through our grief and supporting my niece in her healing.
So, just before 9pm, my beautiful, brilliant, talented, inspiring friends (Janice, Sundra and Maya) picked me up, expressed their condolences and we hit the road. There were 4 of us piano playing ladies in an SUV, cruising down Interstate 5, taking turns playing our iPods and singing along with our favorite tunes. We listened to everything from EWF and Minnie Riperton to Imogen Heap and Chrisette Michele to Take 6 and Kim Burrell. That's how you stay awake for a long drive!
We arrived in Anaheim at 4am and slept until noon. We arrived at the Anaheim Convention Center around 2pm, and almost immediately were introduced to George Benson, thanks to Showboat Shavers! Showboat then took us around and introduced us to several vendors before we took off on our own, exploring the sights of the show.
We heard about a Marcus Miller demo at the Fender booth, but even showing up 30 minutes early wasn't enough. We couldn't get in. We could hear Marcus on the bass, couldn't hear Bobby Sparks on keys at all. Oh well.
Before we knew it, it was 6pm, and we had to find something to do. We went to dinner with Showboat and the kind people at SE Electronics. We filled up on yummy Italian food, family style, at a local restaurant. Then we were off to find some music to listen to. We went to a jam session hosted by the amazing Byron Miller, and sat at a table with the amazing Nate Watts, Morris O'Connor and Herman Jackson! Herman has played keys with Stevie Wonder for years and is a literal repository of information about playing Stevie tunes. And he's a great guy. Byron invited the guys up to the stage to play a couple of Stevie tunes and Herman invited me to join them, since there were 2 keyboards onstage. The amazing (I never tire of labeling the musicians I encountered as "amazing". They were all superlative! But to avoid redundancy, I'll stop using the term; just assume everyone I mention is AMAZING!) Kenneth Crouch allowed me to use his keyboard on stage right. We played "I Wish" and "Part-time Lovers". Everyone took a solo in "I Wish", even me! I had so much fun!
After the jam session, and a brief walk around to hear other music, we retired to our hotel and went to sleep...for 10 hours! We got to the venue around 1pm..late again! Argh... At one booth, we came across drummer David "Fingers" Haynes. David was performing with my friends Victor Little, Randy Emata and Tony Lindsay. I'd seen David's videos on YouTube but to watch him play on his drum machine in person was astounding. Of course the other folks in the band sounded great too (I don't think it's possible for Tony to ever hit a bad note!). Inspired, Sundra, Maya and I walked over to the Nord booth, and sat down at their keyboard setup, which was conveniently set up so that all three of us could play together. Within 60 seconds, a crowd had gathered around us and we were having a blast! But, alas, it's a trade show, and another booth was trying to do a demo, and asked us to stop so that we wouldn't be such a distraction. Boo hoo...at least we tried to get a piano jam going!
Next on our Saturday agenda was to attend a private showing of Logic's Main Stage application by none other than piano deity Herbie Hancock. Many thanks to Dot for inviting us! We walked in and sat with my friend Grandmixer DXT and my new friends Myron McKinley and Kenneth Crouch. Herbie was performing with Lionel Loueke, a guitarist and singer from Benin. After Apple Product Manager, Bob Hunt, introduced the software, Herbie started playing one of his classic tunes in a simple and straight forward manner. Then all of a sudden, amidst all of the simplicity, Herbie played a single melodic line that sounded as if it were eminating directly from the voice of God. And we were all filled with the spirit! Hallelujah! Herbie and Lionel went forth (as much as possible between interruptions for product promotion) and blessed us with their music. Ah, music euphoria...
At this point, we were walking on air, but were also starving. For some reason, trade shows always make me forget about food, until the end of the day when my grouchy hunger monster takes me over! As we patiently waited for our friends to finish their conversations in the hallway after NAMM ended, supressing the hunger in our bellies, my boss, Stevie Wonder, walked by. Of course, I had to stop and say hello since I hadn't seen him in a month. As he gave me an affectionate hug, people snapped photos like Paparazzi! It was good to see the boss again. Right after he left, I met Sheila E. I've known her brothers Juan and Peter Michael for years, but this was my first time meeting her.
After dinner, our dining companions were tired and decided to head to their hotel. Maya and I still had energy, so we wandered around trying to find something to do. We happened upon our new friend David Haynes and spent the next few hours talking about music and learning his drum technique. David assigned us a fun rhythm exercise: tap 4 in one hand, but only on beats 2 and 4, and tap 5 in the other, but only on beats 1 and 3. That was cool, and made me want to take drum lessons! I've always wanted to play drums and violin. One day...
Sunday. We have every intention of getting up early, arriving at the venue when it opens at 10am, going straight to the piano room and having a SERIOUS piano jam....well, we got up at 11:30am, got dressed and got to the venue at 1pm. Oh well. At the venue, we tried to visit the remaining keyboard booths to meet with manufacturers about their products. I had a custom in-ear monitor fitting, ran into my beautiful friends Kimberly and LaTanya (from the Stevie Wonder Tours) and caught up with Showboat. I was determined to find time to get to the piano room, but then found out Stevie was at the show again. I wanted Maya to meet him, so we ran over and chased him down. Once he realized who I was, Stevie invited me and Maya to check out some music gear with him. It was great! Maya got to meet him and we both got to watch him be creative with new gear! By this time, the show was over. We closed out the show hanging out with Stevie and entourage. What a fantastic weekend!
Greetings and blessings to all of my friends (old and new) that made the weekend such a wonderful experience:
Kevin "Big Daddy Funk" Jefferson
Lil' John Roberts
Lynn of Heaven Productions Music