Many years ago, I learned an amazing lesson about playing the night Carol King sat in with the R & B band I as doing a lounge gig with in Austin. Carol was there with her band recording an album during the day, and some of the guys were playing at night with a local singer named Natalie Zoe. I was young and unseasoned when it came to R & B, but the jazz background was helping me at least tread water okay.

We’d played two nights so far, and I was mediocre at best. It bugged me that I couldn’t nail this stuff, but the truth was, I was over-thinking everything. I should have just played…

Okay, so it’s night number three, and around 10:00 p.m., in walks Carol King. She sits down at the piano, and I could hardly take my eyes of her. I’d listened to her music in my teens, and now, I was two arm lengths away from her on the same stage.

I listened like I’d NEVER listened before. Everything I played I did with purpose, with deliberate intent. I placed those cymbal notes EXACTLY on the cymbal. I laid the snare drum his down DEAD CENTER, I mean, I wanted this to be as perfect as possible.

My playing sounded better, much better than before, but after the gig, the guys were talking about how it needed to be more relaxed! Man, I couldn’t win for losing… but I later understood much better what the music needed. It just needed me to play more and think less.

The joy on Carol King’s face just playing simple R & B standards in an Austin Texas hotel lounge backed that idea up. She just PLAYED.

I recall that evening every once in a while, remembering to give to the music, give to the audience, and give to the players. It’s the giving that frees up the excess thinking, and that’s when the music takes on its own voice and its own collective life.

At least that what I think