Yesterday I wrote on the necessity of learning how to read music. I mentioned that even though I don’t know how to read music, my perfect pitch has gotten me to where I am today. Well, I received a message asking me to expound on how “perfect pitch” has worked for me, and what it has helped me to accomplish. Well, to start, if I don’t have a tuner for my guitar, then it won’t matter, because I can actually tune it using my own “natural ear.” I still like to use a tuner whenever possible because it is more precise, so I won’t have to concentrate so hard on tuning the note “precisely.” Do you remember those older “touch tone” phones? The ones where if you pushed a button there would be a “corresponding note” to each individual one? Well, if I heard anyone press the password on their phone, I could figure out the code based on the note associated with it. I helped one lady at my job break the code of her boyfriend’s phone by using my perfect pitch and she managed to hear all of his personal messages to other women. Also, if someone is waiting outside in his or her car and blows the horn, I can tell from the note associated with the horn just who it is. Even though most horns are usually somewhere around the note “f sharp,” there are still differences in the tone quality and a slight difference in pitch in some cars. My own car’s horn is actually in b flat, so I can always tell if it is my car alarm that is going off and not the alarm of someone else. Also, perfect pitch has benefited me in other ways. Unless the song itself is “extremely intricate” I can usually pick it up from just listening to it without picking up my instrument. I remember a studio session I had with Kenny Gamble (The great music producer for Philly International Records along with Leon Huff). I was brought into the studio to play a bass line for this symphonic piece that was actually recorded “live.” When the song was recorded, the orchestra leader did a “silent count” so I had to figure out on my own when to actually start playing. I heard the song play “once.” The engineer asked me if I needed him to play it a “couple of times” so that I could figure it out. I told him, “No, and you can start recording me now.” He looked at Kenny who in turn looked back at him, because they had not seen me practice “one” note to this song. I was plugged into the console, and he rolled tape. I caught the beginning on the “very first time” and played the song “all the way through”…. on the very “first” take. Kenny said that in all his years of recording he had never seen anything like that before. He gave me my check for $300 and I left (I had not been there any longer that 20 minutes). There is also my story with the legendary jazz vocalist Angela Bofill. On a Sunday morning I had gotten in from playing a gig in Rehoboth Beach. I made it home and to bed by 4:00 am and got a call at 6:30 am from one of Angela’s people saying that she needed me to play an afternoon gig in Atlantic City. I was too sleepy to even ask for the particulars, but needless to say when I made it to AC there was “no time” to do a rehearsal, but she had a recorded tape of her show which I checked out in her hotel room. With my perfect pitch, I just listened to it, and when the time came I went out and “played the show.” There have also been times when I would learn an act’s show “on the plane ride” to the gig, which is what I had to do for the Chiffons and Gary US Bonds for a gig in Florida. By the time the plane touched down, I was ready. Finally, my last story is one in which I got the gig for my “favorite artist to play for,” and that was none other than the legendary Teddy Pendergrass. Teddy had already had a bass player, but he canceled out on Teddy with 2 days to go before a major music fest in Mobile, Alabama. They called me in for an “emergency” rehearsal of his tunes. Most of his stuff I had heard on the radio, but had not necessarily played. I “eased” through the rehearsal with no problems whatsoever. After it was over, Teddy said, “You came in here with no advance preparation and actually played my show better than my bass player. Would you like to have this job?” I just looked back at him and said, “For you, man? No problem. Let’s hit it.” Well, there are obviously more stories, but I will leave it alone for here. I thank you for checking out my Daily Thought for today and wish you the very “best” that life has to offer. Have a great one.
Kenny Gamble (receiving award) and Brett Jolly