I’ve been waiting to take this photo of Tom for about five months….
It was around five months ago that I answered an ad on a community website from Tom looking for someone to “jam” with. Not knowing many players in the area myself, I thought it was a great opportunity to get out and do something different for a change. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who answered the ad. Another gentleman by the name of Ken was also interested and joined up with us at Tom’s house for our first few sessions.
From the moment I walked into his office where we played, I knew I wanted to photograph Tom. Just look on the walls- knives, daggers, a dulcimer, guns, and guitars. That’s pretty classic stuff. You might notice the fireman’s helmet as well. Tom was a New York City fire fighter for 22 years before becoming a nurse until he retired a few years ago. Pretty interesting dude, and that’s saying nothing about his guitar skills.
Tom loves to play jazz. And he loves music theory, too. When he got to talking about why you can resolve an F sharp diminished 7th chord with a D flat minor chord while playing in the key of G major, it made my head hurt. I learned to play by ear, and once someone starts talking theory, I get lost pretty quickly. To me, I ask myself, “Does it sound good?” And that’s enough. But he literally thinks about this stuff all the time, even when he’s not playing. Interestingly, and I find this is the case with many classically trained musicians, they’re often envious of the ability to play by ear. And I’m always baffled by their inability to do so given the background in theory.
With three of us playing guitar, it was challenging finding songs. We started out playing some old 60’s and 70’s classics like ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Down by the River’, but we got bored pretty quickly. Ken eventually bailed out on us for “personal” reasons, but I thought it was more due to him preferring to play more country-style. It ended up being better for Tom and I, though, because it’s pretty easy to find songs with just a rhythm and lead.
After a few sessions of Tom teaching me some jazz, we mixed it up a little and ventured into classical territory. We had both played it at some point and thought it would be a challenge to work on a duet, because classical duets are always pretty intricate and sound great when played right. I hadn’t read music in years so it took me a little more time to get through the tune (Espanoletas by Gasper Sanz) but we eventually got it.
Anyway, I hope I still have as much passion for music as Tom does when I’m in my mid-70s. It was really great getting together once a week to “jam” some classical with him. And the portrait at the top of this post is one of my new favorites.