Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Will you come back tomorrow?" I said sure.

This quote is from Clinton Heylin's Can You Feel the Silence? It's a particularly crucial moment from Astral Weeks' lengthy gestation. Upright bassist Tom Kielbania, who had recently started pairing up with Van Morrison for live shows, heard flautist/saxophonist John Payne during a Boston-area jazz session. Kielbania then invited Payne to play with him and Morrison down at the Catacombs. Said Payne:
Tom [Kielbania] came out [and said to Van], "Oh, this is the flute player I talked to you about." ... He looked up ... and seemed not irritated, not negative, but just ... not there—not warm at all ... So I didn't feel that good. He didn’t say, "Oh, how are you doing?" or anything ... So I heard the first set, and I didn't like it ... I thought of leaving but ... just kind of hung around ... And then Van came out just before they went on [for the next set], and said, "Do you want to sit in?" And I went, "Oh, sure." So I went up there and he started singing the first number, and I listened for a while and then came in. Even before I came in, I could tell this was a singer of a caliber I had never played with before. But I couldn't feel this from the audience ... because this wasn't my thing ... But once I was up there I could really feel [that] this was ... just coming from a much deeper place ... I started playing with him and I noticed he would react to what I did. I mean if I played something, he was listening to it. I'd never played with a singer who was paying attention to what I did, [such] that I could notice ... So at the end of the first number I was like, "Wow, that was great." And the second number he does is "Brown-Eyed Girl." And he starts singing it, and I knew that song. I didn't know whose it was, but I'd heard it around, you know ... And I suddenly [realized] he isn't covering somebody's song. This is his song ... That night he offered to pay me—and they were making almost nothing. The crowd was thirty people, maybe ... [but] he offered to pay me a few bucks out of the take, and I said, "No, no, I just sat in." [Then] he said, "Will you come back tomorrow?" I said sure.

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