When Smoke(y Eyes) Gets In Your Eyes


As I regaled the tales of the K Fed concert to Mark at Rue B last night (he, listening with a half deaf ear, as if my own debasement in going to see Kevin Federline would somehow transfer directly onto him just by listening to the mere words), my awareness stayed half-fixed on the piano music coming from behind us, or shall I say the creator of that gorgeous jazz….Harry (as in, the piano player I saw after my bday party recently and who I briefly dated long ago) was ticklin’ those ivories like I’ve never seen or heard the likes of before.

Now, I wasn’t here to stalk---I do admit that I was hoping he’d call after we fortuitously ran into each other that night and was disappointed when he didn’t---and I also admit that I was NOT into another girl (young, cute, doe-eyed, brunette) clapping and calling his name a little *too* loud and gushing a little *too* much to him at his piano when she finally left---but, all that girlish crush talk aside, I was there for a reason that originates further north of the beltline.

I was there, I kept reminding myself, to see him on business.

As he finished the first song I was there to hear, he turned around to see who comprised his applauding audience and his smoky eyes met mine. I tipped my head to him and slightly closed my eyes in acknowledgement and he smiled and returned the gesture. Each time I see him he looks better and better. Perhaps the hour is simply later and later but I don’t think so. After a few songs, a group of us retired to the outside private patio. Harry and his sax player friend smoked filterless Chesterfields as Mark and I exchanged senseless, house-martini-soaked banter and pulled the musicians into the conversation.

I learned that Harry had just gotten out of a 2 year relationship and the ex had just moved back to Japan, that he was definitely not looking for anything serious right now, and that the night I had seen him last was the night they had broken up.

Soon, Harry and I were alone.

“So,” Harry started, as we settled more comfortably into the wooden benches, “you told me last time I saw you that you were making a demo.”

“Ye-es,” I said liltingly, knowingly. “You’re right; I am. And I’m looking for musicians.”

Harry glanced at me, looked downward, and addressed his lap. “I don’t suppose you’re looking for a piano player, are you?” He paused and then looked back up at me, straight in the eye.

I smiled and felt a little wave of nervousness rise up in me. This was the moment I came for this evening. “Actually, I came here tonight because I was hoping we could talk about that.”

We both straightened up in our chairs a little bit. And we talked. We talked about the demo and the songs and all that kind of thing, but we talked about the big picture, as Harry had seen more of it than I have. He gave me advice on what kind of gigs to take and which ones to pass up (which includes any pro bono work *unless*---and that’s a big unless---there’s a collaboration with someone you’d be a complete numbnuts to say no to), what his career plans were, how he normally works with singers, etc…when the talk had nowhere to go but to the big elephant in the room---money---I coquettishly asked him if I’d have to pay him and as soon as the words came out of my mouth I wished I could grab them from the air and gobble them back up. His response was indignant yet good-natured, and we finally agreed on a “friend rate”---which he was too coy to name in the moment---and then he said,

“Well, do you have charts of the music you’re going to sing?”

“The sheet music? Uh, yeah, I do….” I felt green and a little dumb but not out of my league. “You know how to transcribe?”

“You mean transpose?”

“Uh, oh, yeah, transpose. Sorry.” I was starting to feel out of my league.

“And you’ve got a mic you can bring?”

“I’m supposed to have my own mic?”

“Yeah, most singers I work with tend to bring their own.”

I was totally, unquestionably, out of my league. But undeterred nonetheless.

“Ok, no problem, I can get one.”

“Great. Why don’t you bring your stuff next week and we’ll do a few songs? What kind of songs do you want to do?”

“‘Stormy Weather’ is always a good one.”

“Great. That’s a great one. You know your key?”

“It strangely always tends to be an A flat, no matter what.” Whew. At least I was able to volley that one back.

He nodded appreciatively. “A flat, huh? OK, cool.”

And that was that. He and his friend bade me farewell to go get some rare steaks at the all-night French diner Florent in the Meatpacking District and I ended up staying a bit longer and eventually going bar hopping with one of the bar regulars I’m friendly with. I woke up the next morning---this morning---my mouth tasting of stale booze and gritty determination.

So, next Sunday night I am faced with the prospect of not only singing solo at Rue B (which is both a dream and a nightmare---I have residual shame from a Rue B audition six months ago that ended with them saying “Don’t call us we’ll call you”) but singing alongside someone who I not only have great professional respect for but someone who I also want to get alone in a recording studio and unbutton his starched Arrow collared shirt with my teeth. Aie aie aie. What have I gotten myself into?

The question is---can I pull this off? And should I even start to walk down this potentially thorny road? Or is this when my inner groupie finally grabs the mic herself and earns some groupies of her own?