Do you know the difference between a bass player and a harmonica player? The bass player can smile, while he’s playing. Such was the difference at a private in-home concert on Sunday afternoon.
Peg and I received an email invitation for the concert without knowing who the entertainment was going to be. We sent in our RSVP because there would be limited seating. The invitation came from our friend and ex-politico Denny Flannigan. He’s probably not that “ex.” We had attended a couple of Denny’s events before when he had autoharpist Bryan Bowers performing, so we thought we would probably be pleasantly surprised with whomever the entertainment was.
Two days before the event we received details via email. It turned out the event was being held only two blocks away from our home. The players were Jay Mabin on harmonica, and Emmanuel del Casal on bass. Jay’s name was well known to us, and I think Peg had videotaped him some years before, but we had never really seen him perform. The bass player we knew nothing about.
It was a beautiful afternoon. The living room was set up with about thirty chairs and two pianos. There were no programs and I couldn’t hear the blues piano player being introduced. She left before the break, so we didn’t have a chance to speak with her. She opened with St. Louis Blues by W.C. Handy. After playing a very nice rendition she explained a little bit about Handy and then played two more songs on the baby grand. She finished up by playing rock tune on the square grand.
Square grands are beautiful, but also big and boxy, hard to tune, and only have two strings per key as opposed to three on a normal piano. We used to have a Chickering square grand that was built in 1861. We eventually sold it and bought a baby grand.
Next Jay Mabin was introduced and he introduced E-man. Emmanuel had asked Jay to join him on a gig, and they’ve been playing as a duo ever since.
Jay plays a number of harmonicas in each set. We heard everything from Chick Corea tunes to Disney’s Some Day My Prince Will Come. The finale was Autumn Leaves, which was a great seasonal choice. Of course there was a standing ovation.
My favorite song I think was What a Wonderful World. Jay played it so sweetly. I think the encore was a blues tune, and it was wonderful. Everyone appreciated the music and the performers.
Emmanuel del Casal was the bass player. Although he usually played with his eyes closed with a serious look on his face, at the end of a solo he would smile. As I watched him play I thought about my friend Art Mineo who died almost two years ago. He lived only three blocks from the home of the concert.
Artie had been an arranger and a bass player. During World War II, he had been been asked to join the army band. They wanted his arrangements; however, to join the band you have to play an instrument you can march with. I tried to envision E-Man marching with his bass. Artie couldn't march with a bass, either. The big brass handed him a trombone and told him to go in a practice room and learn a scale. He joined the band.
I think E-Man could join any band. He looked like he was always having fun. He beat out the time and the melody as needed. His pleasure was infectious. He felt the music and so did we.
E-Man did more than just pluck the strings. Occasionally, he would pull his bow out of his bass quiver and finish off a song a slow sure stroke. At other times, however he would thump his bass like a bongo or conga drum. He would use his finger tips to tap out a rhythm and sometime he would even thump the face of the base with his fist. Jay commented, "He's also a drummer." I've never seen him play the drums, but I bet he does a good job of it. He could certainly play the bass . . . and smile.
Jay and E-Man regularly play at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle (just south of the 5th Avenue Theatre). Join them in the Georgian Room on Friday and Saturday evenings 6:00 to 10pm. Call 206-621-7889 for reservations.
The next time we stay the weekend in Seattle, Peg and I will be tapping our toes at the Fairmont.
Both Jay and Emmanuel were a joy to listen to and to talk with. Both are friendly . . . and smile a lot. We like that.
The in-home concert was wonderful. In the audience were an ex-mayor of Tacoma, the ex-county executive, a number of friends, AND someone I had not seen since high school. We met in the fifth grade; he grew up in the same neighborhood as the hostess Karen. She had been one year behind us. Small world.
After the concert everyone one thanked Karen for opening her lovely home. We didn't know her before the concert, but we will invite her to the next entertaining event we have at our place. We love music, art, and all kinds of friendly people. We like smiles.