Massages and all that Jazz

Sun 16th Jan – Massage, Sheraton, Jazz Club
Aside:how your mind justifies things is quite funny sometimes. Because wages and excise on things like alcohol and cigarettes are typically quite low, things are very cheap, and you find yourself objecting to prices because you think someone might be taking more profit than they should. This is despite the fact that it’s still less than half price what you’d pay in Australia. Taxi’s are a case in point; we went for a 20 minute taxi ride and it cost about $US5. We took another taxi ride later, outside of the city, and because it is done on mileage rather than time, a 40 minute taxi ride cost $20. It’s worse when it’s in Vietnamese Dong – that’s 400,000 Dong! I felt ripped off! How could it be so expensive? Never mind that the same trip in Adelaide would have cost at least $60.

The tour was officially over. Today was the first day of a different sort of holiday. Something I’d promised myself to do this year was to get a massage in one of these shopfront places. I’m not a huge massage-goer, unlike other members of the band, but felt I missed out last year as Walter, Patrick and others took full advantage of the cheap labour rates over here. I booked in for a 1 hour session for 90,000 Dong (about $6.00). As a massage-newbie, I didn’t ask for anything special like deep tissue or hot rocks or anything like that, and enjoyed it immensely. I was a little nervous about physical reactions to having a young, lithe Asian female using different parts of her body to rub me up and down with warm oil, but after a couple of minutes I relaxed right into it. It was fantastic. It was not intrusive at all and the much feared question, “Happy Ending, Sir?” was never asked. I left the rooms feeling like this…Oh Yeah

Following the massage, the Monten’s caught a taxi to the Sheraton to see the view of the city from the top floor bar, where we soon found a seat and sat down. I had developed a cough (from constantly being in either air-conditioning or pollution) and thought the best medicine would be a nice bourbon. About the time the second glass of medicine arrived, the effects of the massage kicked in – I could barely keep my eyes open despite constant prodding and harassing from Karen and Kayla. I suspect they both enjoyed it a little too much. So after deciding that sitting still was not a good option, we walked around the corner to the Pacharan Bar, where we had played a few days earlier.
It’s a funny thing with these two tours, I’ve discovered that I really dislike Vietnamese food, but I’ve also had some of the best ‘other’ cuisines while here. Italian, Indian, Thai, French; it’s all here. Saigon is a fantastic city for a foodie! Especially considering the typically lower prices.
Pacharan is a Tapas restaurant, so we indulged in several plates of various Spanish delights. Following tea we headed over to the Jazz Club, run by Tran Manh Tuan; the guy who also owns the studio where we had spent a bit of time over the last couple of weeks, recording tracks for a new EP and album. Dave and Rob arrived shortly afterwards and so we sat together watching the house band and a couple of visiting vocalists do their stuff. After coming here the previous week I had promised myself that I would see if I could get up on stage for a couple of numbers. It was time to get Harley David (my Swing-singing alter-ego) some international exposure! I spotted Tuan at the bar and moseyed over for a chat.
“You wanna sing?” he asks.
“Sure,” I answer, ever so casual-like. Cos that’s the way Harley rolls.
“What do you want to do?”
At this point I recant my top three. Songs that I’ve been singing to myself for the past two days in preparation for this moment.
“All of me, One for my baby, and Moondance”, I say, cool as a swingin’ cucumber.
“er… nope, the boys won’t know them. Do you have some out of the ‘Real Book’?”

The “Real Book” is a collection of standards that every Jazz student endeavours to learn by heart. I had thought that if Buble did a song, they must be classics, and so must be in the book.  Zero for three so far.

“They’re not in there?”, the slightly tepid cucumber asks

The cucumber starts to wilt. Panic sets in.
But wait… I had another up my sleeve – preparation is the key, folks!
“OK, what about ‘Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps’?”. I had been going over this one in my head the last couple of days, too.
“Well, I know it, but the boys won’t”


“No problem”, says the now steaming cucumber-like Mr Not-Quite-So-Suave. Mind racing, I delve deep into the massage, bourbon and tapas numbed recesses for other songs I worked on with Catherine that might be in the Real Book. “What about ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘Summertime’?”

The stove is turned off and the now slightly wrinkled cucumber quickly returns to room temperature.

“Summertime” (from Porgy and Bess) was one I did with Catherine (Lambert) before the tour at a fundraiser, and subsequently at a sit-in with a band when we first arrived in Saigon. I was reasonably confident with it, but had wanted to try something different. Never mind, at least the band knew it. And “Fly Me to The Moon”, of course, was a Frankie favourite.

So I rejoined the group and after a short while, Tuan took the stage and played a couple of blistering sax numbers. He then Introduces me as “A great friend all the way from Australia” and I climb up on stage (there were no stairs at my end – the stage was about knee high) and take the mike. From the picture you can see it’s one of those old-style shapes, perfect for some great “Swing” photos.
This is way out of comfort zone for me – instead of being out front of a band where we’d rehearsed a few times, and so everybody knows who’s coming in where and what they’re doing, this time I’m in front of a band I‘ve never played with before who are working off charts and are waiting for direction. We launch into an up-beat “Summertime” and it goes really well for the first verse, then Tuan takes a solo. Being a Jazz Guy, there’s no pre-assumption that he’ll go for 16 bars, so I’m listening to what he’s playing to try and find an end point. I may have lost count during the solo, but to me it sounds like he went for 17. The 4/4 guy in me packages things into fours, and so I let the band noodle for a bar, intending to wait until the end of 20. Tuan thinks that I’ve forgotten the words and so prompts me with “one of these mo-ornings”. I smile knowingly. He interprets this as if I didn’t hear him, so he does it again. “Yeh, I got it”, I say, while the band plays on. He’s looking worriedly over at me, so I figure I’d better start. So, about bar 18¾ I launch back in to the second verse.
Performing with Tuan at the Sax 'n Art club in SaiGon

I think I’ve cracked this Jazz caper. It’s all about bluff and taking it where you want to go. Harley’s a  Jazz professional band-boys, keep up if you can!

We get a good round of applause when the song finishes (there may have been some crowd stacking, I suppose) and so we start “Fly me to the moon”. I start singing over the top of the microphone rather than straight into it and Tuan hisses “hold it closer!!”. Apart from that, the song is pretty seamless. It finishes, to another round of applause and Tuan thanks me and makes way for me to exit, stage right. Harley David has made his international debut! And we have pictures! Harley trips on the mike cord on the way off stage and nearly breaks his neck in front of adoring fans! Harley is also a clumsy idiot, no pictures please!

Have you ever done something like this, something where you had just finishing impressing people and were feeling quite proud of yourself, and then (literally or figuratively) fell on your arse? Did you get away with it? Leave a comment!

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