Six years ago, The Godmother of Rock had an idea: we’ll form a band. Not just any band. A band comprised of employees from our company, which, at that time, numbered something like 60,000 people, all around the world. This would be a worldwide band, a Global Jam!
As 2011 draws to a close and I look back over things done and left undone, I’ve just discovered that I’ve been too busy with other matters to close the loop on an open story line: the 2011 performance by the company’s Global Jam.
If you’re new to the blog, let me explain that the Global Jam is composed of musicians who are also colleagues of mine at The Big Firm (which now has about 94,000 employees). From a company this big, we draw a big ensemble: drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, plus a horn section and some outstanding voices. There are about 25 of us, and, because the company operates around the world, we hail from a dozen different countries. We perform once a year at a big corporate conference in June. It’s a genuine band, not a rag-tag assembly of so-so musicians. These cats can PLAY, and they work year-round to be ready to go onstage for the big show. I’ve described the inner workings of how you put a band together across 6 continents in previous posts. From the previous blogs about the band, go over to the right-hand navigation under “Categories” and click on “Global Jam” to read up.
We arrived in Orlando on June 3rd, ready for rehearsal to start the following morning. We had four days to work together in person to turn the individual parts we’d been practicing on our own into a polished set of numbers. It was a happy reunion. Many of us have been together for the six-year history of the band, and we’ve become good friends who look forward to this single week in the year when we become real people, instead of just voices on the conference calls.
We’d had some setbacks en route to this year’s performance. A couple of members simply couldn’t manage the entire week away from late-developing personal commitments, and a couple more got demanding new work assignments that required their presence at home. Very late in the game, we had to reassign parts, and various members picked up additional numbers to learn with very little time to do so.
It was already a demanding set list: 33 numbers, 3 hours of music, which we’d play through nonstop. The stakes were high since we’d have an audience of more than a thousand people. We had weighted the set list heavily in favor of numbers that featured our horn section, and those cats were hard-pressed to master a lot of tough material. One of the changes was that our rock-solid drummer who’d been with us since the inception of the band was one of those who had to drop out, and we had a new drummer, added just a couple of months before the gig.
We also had gained a new singer from Brazil, and both these newcomers were talented and welcome new additions.
Because I had the full-time job producing the conference, I didn’t get to spend as much time rehearsing live with the group as others do, even though I could use the practice. The others worked through Saturday and Sunday, and as many hours on Monday as they could while the conference got under way around them. Then, Tuesday, and it was time for the full run-through before that night’s performance.
The band made their way into the ballroom, and, man, were there some surprises waiting for them. (click on the photo to enlarge)
The projection screen filled the room. 105 feet across and 22 feet high. And a single, seamless video image filled it: a mammoth “Global Jam” logo. Not only that, our staging wizards had, uh, thrown an extra truss and a few special lighting instruments onto one of the 7 semis that hauled the gear into the place, and laid on a little effects smoke. Normally, they take this gear when they do the shows for Bon Jovi or Green Day, but they gave us the big-time treatment! Then, a four hour rehearsal right through the set. Not everything was perfect, but it was clear that the months of work were going to pay off. Add to that the fact that the dude handling the house audio mix — “Daddy” — just happens to have worked with some bands you might have heard of … one named Nirvana and — well, it was time.
8 p.m. Showtime!
I regret that I cannot post recordings of the show. Because we were performing cover songs, posting recordings of copyrighted material brings down the wrath of a variety of industry watchdogs. Pictures will have to do.
The band is a dance band playing for an audience who are attending a conference. These are not couples out on a date, or even looking for dates, so, although we do some slower, schmalzy numbers, the primary goal is to get the people rocking onto the dance floor. Three hours flew by. After every number, the onstage combination of players shifted, with everyone changing places quickly to bring on the next singer, the next backup ensemble, guitar players changing places. A heady experience, as I’ve explained before, to stand on stage and play with such an exceptional group of players.
The evening wore on. Hour one. Hour two. And as 11 o’clock approached, the crowd was jumping. We played an encore, and they called for more, so we gave them one more. This was where my friends and colleagues in the band did me a special favor. This was, as it happened, my final stint with the Global Jam, after six years of marvelous music-making. My job was ending, and, since I would leave the company, I must quit the band. And so, for our final number — my FINAL number, we gave ‘em “Johnny B. Goode.” I sang a couple of verses, backed by the entire group, and we turned the guitar players loose on solos. I sang another verse, and I took a couple of turns through a harmonica solo and then passed it to my Harp Brother, Niels, who wailed out his own solo.
We had solos from the horns and from the piano. We sang through the verse again, and we had a DRUM SOLO! And then, having exhausted every possible way we could think of framing the song we finished. It was done. The crowd cried out for more. They begged for more. I believe someone even mentioned a matter of money.
Leave ‘em asking for more, I believe the man once said. So we were done.
Very few amateurs ever have the chance I’ve had for six years, to stand on the stage and perform while a mighty drummer and the bassman drove the rhythm and guitars wailed and shining horns filled the air with joy, while on either side of me, the singers harmonized around me. It’s good, and it reminds me to advise you that if you have a chance some time to encourage a kid to pick up an instrument or to make some joyful sound, give them the gift that we all can share. It’s a gift that grows with the giving. Give them music.
Let me close by thanking my friends in the Global Jam for sharing the gift with me. They are already well into the planning and practicing for 2012. Rock on, brothers and sisters.
© 2012 Brad Nixon