Playing For Chris Tucker…
The music player below has an audio version for everyone who is like me and hates to sit there reading, just hit play after it loads 😉
Most of planet Earth knows Chris Tucker as ‘Smokey’ from the cult movie ‘Friday.’ Or a cop with Jackie Chan in the blockbuster smash’Rush Hour,’ or even Beaumont in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown.’ But after this crazy experience I had w/him, I know him as a great stand-up comedian, a genuinely nice guy, plus one hell of a music lover.
A close friend got me a ticket to see him play in Oakland… Not only was he the funniest stand-up I’d seen, but my friend got me backstage! Turns out Mr. Tucker was a mutual friend and she talked up my bass playing and singing to him. He said he was having a private party, and wanted me to play at it! “Come ready to PLAY!”, Chris Tucker said to ME ??
I took it serious as a heart attack, showed up early to set up the P.A. and got comfortable before he and his guests arrived. I drank water (wanted to be sharp for my performance) and then went off to the corner to think before I hit the stage.
I was nervous. But Right then I was 16 again, and I heard my awesome bass teacher’s words, “Now go kick ‘dey Ass!!” I studied bass with Mike, a blonde mullet wearing, NASCAR loving, Black music loving blind man, for 4 years. On our last lesson he just bought me coffee. We chatted, and at the end of our talk he sent me off and yelled “Now go Kick ‘dey Ass!” And now, standing in the backyard of a world-wide comedian, MTV award winning superstar about to play for him and his guests, I remembered Mike telling at me to kick ass and now I was about to. A smile came over my face 🙂
NOW I was feelin’ it. Yeah, there’s that fire… So I opened up the show with a dominant tapping bassline that lead into a funky reggaeish tune I wrote, blended that into Bob Marley’s ‘Get Up Stand Up’, dropped some eccentric bass rock originals and closed with Billie Jean… the whole time live-looping the the bass lines, pops and hits, and creating all grooves from the ground up.
Chris loves Michael Jackson’s music (who was a close friend of his). And Michael Jackson was the 1st entertainer I ever followed, so it was an honor to close the show for Mr. Tucker with my version of M.J.’s biggest hit.
After I was done, I had a moment alone to reflect on how surreal the whole last 48 hrs had been ~ How did I get here, from being a hometown boy born and raised in Sacramento? I was also noticing how patient Mr. Tucker was being with all of his guests, He was a great listener.
To veer off subject, I think bass players are all great listeners, versed in the skills of compassion and empathy — The two qualities the wold needs MOST, arguably. But when the band needs it, bass players can kick ‘dey ass.
Mr. Tucker easily made his way over to me and I blushed (hard for a black man to do). I then spoke out of turn and blurted out, “Great show last night, man! Funniest I’ve ever seen. It must take balls to be up there alone without an instrument! BTW does a comedian write a setlist?”
I spoke out of turn, like an amateur, when all I had to say was: “Hi Mr. Tucker, it’s great to meet you.” But he graciously responded, “Thanks so much man. You know I been doing stand-up since I was a teenager so I don’t write a set, I just take cues from memory.” I was blown away.
He then said, “You’re so creative! I was looking at your feet trying to figure out that pedal…” “Oh my loop pedal?” I said. He replied “Yeah! That’s what it is! You’re so good man! I’m gonna have to call you up for some stuff.”
I was speechless, but I think I managed to say that I got a looper b/c it’s much cheaper than a band, and Chris actually laughed. So I capitalized and said, “Easier to get along with, too.” He threw his head back and laughed, and in that moment I could have died — I’m an avid comedy fan, so to make Chris Tucker lol??
That moment was magical, the whole day was great and after I packed up the P.A. at Mr. Tucker’s party, I let my engine pur for a few minutes. Less than 2 yrs. after I started out as a solo artist, I’d developed a loyal following… I’d played the Cal Expo MainStage, which is the largest outdoor stage in my city other than the arena, played at Chris Tucker’s private party and I finished my album– An album that made it into the hands Larry Graham of Sly and The Family Stone (those hands invented slap bass, literally). He listened to it from from to back, and simply said, “Great bass playing and lyrics in particular.” Praise from a true O.G. master of the funk.
But perhaps even more importantly than all of that, it’s YOU, the listener, that makes all of it matter.
I look forward to sharing many more moments with you of triumph, challenges and just music that I’ve written about other moments that have touched me. And that exchange is really the whole purpose to my musical journey, because there is nothing better than knowing that something original you wrote is being heard, whether by a celebrity, a fellow bass player, or a music fan who just wants that feeling- just as long as it’s felt, by someone else.
So here’s hoping that you are part of that journey. If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey, click hear to listen to my most recent album, ‘Run Fast and Swerve’.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all matter.
Here’s a reward for making to the bottom of the blog: it’s a taste of my arrangement of Billie Jean that I played for Mr. Tucker. At around 11 seconds my looper malfunctions so I say “screw it” and just start SLAPPIN. Check it out on the small player below lol
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