Last night I returned to my steady Thursday night gig at Novita in Metuchen NJ. I have been gone for a month, and it was so nice to see everyone again. Novita is an interesting place to play because even though it’s in New Jersey, it’s close enough to Manhattan that you never know who is going to show up in the audience, or on the bandstand! Technically it’s a duo gig, which I play with Stephen, but often a bassist or even a drummer will join us. I have been playing there in this regular capacity for almost two years but I’ve actually been playing there since 2006 when I graduated from college. My favorite thing about playing at Novita is the relaxed atmosphere that lets me work on new music, new ideas, and hang out with friends and fans that come to see me.
A gentleman came by last night that has been coming to see my shows since 2003 when I was working at my first regular gig: Makers Cigar Lounge in Oklahoma City. He even owns my “first CD” titled “Crazy”; and I say “first CD” with quotation marks because we produced it ourselves and used to make the covers and artwork at Kinko’s! It was so great to be reminded of those days at Makers; that was the first time in my career that I had a steady gig and a steady band to work with 3 nights a week!
Makers could be a very raucous room, but people loved the music and they were there to party AND listen. We would get lots of requests for good tunes, and even though the space near the bandstand was VERY small, we often had lots of dancers. It was a small and intimate room (maybe seated less than 75 people?) with the bandstand on a raised platform that also included space for 3 or 4 tables. Nearly every weekend it was standing room only. Back then you could still smoke in all the restaurants and bars in Oklahoma, but since Makers was a Cigar Lounge the smoke was TWICE as heavy and thick. We had ventilators by the bandstand to keep it clear, but to be honest, I still have belongings that smell of that cigar smoke! And you have to think, I was in high school at the time – Working at Makers till 1 or 2 in the morning on Thursday nights and then going to school the next day with all my belongings smelling like a cigar! And during football season we had marching band practice at 7 AM on Fridays! They were certainly lively times.
One of the most exciting things about playing there and developing my music was the fact that we were only blocks away from the neighborhood (Deep Deuce) were Jimmy Rushing, Charlie Christian, and Ralph Ellison grew up. In fact, in 2003 before I left OK for New York, I played a Christmas Party in the house that belonged to the Rushing family. There even used to be a Jazz festival in the neighborhood; I saw John Hicks there with Richard Davis one year, and Kenny Barron also.
Unfortunately Makers closed down a few years ago, but I still get emails from people who saw us there, and every now and then we even play the weddings of couples who met during one of my gigs! I miss Makers and that Oklahoma Jazz Scene quite a bit, but I’m glad I made so many good friends and memories that I will keep forever.
Come see me every Thursday at Novita, 6 – 10 PM. 25 New Street, Metuchen, NJ 08840 Telephone: 732 549 5306 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org