Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Night Nick Took It "Out"

It's not what you think...

Back in my 20s I was single and flush with cash. I would go out for dinner every night at small restaurant in Piermount, New York, called The Turning Point. If you saw the Woody Allen film The Purple Rose of Cairo, it was featured as a Salvation Army shelter that had a sign on the porch that said, “And He Shall Be Your Turning Point.”

The Turning Point had live Classical music at dinner time, and then live Jazz until the wee hours. Sometimes folks like David Bromberg and Christine Lavin would play there on weekends.

At that time I was going to college with a guy named Nick who had a solo act. He would play some week nights when business was a little slower. Nick looked very much like Walter Becker from Steely Dan looked at the time with long straight hair and round glasses. Nick played a lot of Steely Dan and other types of soft Jazz on his Gibson ES-335 guitar.

One Wednesday evening he was playing his usual stuff, and I don’t know if people were just used to him or not paying attention, but he wasn’t getting a lot of applause even though his music was technically clean and very well presented. I could see frustration growing on his face.

After one song that got no response, he looked around the room then unplugged his guitar for a moment and re-plugged it into a box with switches and placed it on the floor. Nick then started a very mellow version of Jumping Jack Flash, but somewhere in the middle of the song where he would normally throw in some well placed Jazz licks he started stepping on the switches at his feet. Suddenly sounds were coming out of his amplifier that I had never heard before. They were good and wonderful sounds.

In Jazz terms, Nick took it “Out.” Nick abandoned all sounds that were reasonable at that time for casual listening. He wasn’t doing Hendrix-ish feedback, but rather echo-ish repeating loops that were highly phased and synthesized in a somewhat minimalist fashion.

This odd session went on for close to 45 minutes. When he was finished the room of about fifteen of us exploded with applause and standing ovations. It was the most incredible thing any of us had ever heard. Many who were there were also musicians and they were as stunned as the rest of us.

That performance earned Nick well over $200 in his tip jar that night. Even though I’ve gained an additional 30 years of music listening since then, I have yet to consider any live performance quite as magical as the night Nick took it “Out.”


Blogger Beth said...

Relieved to read on and discover that it definitely wasn't what I thought.
I always enjoy these stories from your past - they often hit on moments or bring back memories of my own.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

Nick who? I wonder what he's up to now. Sounds excellent.

4:38 PM  
Blogger RobbKidd said...

The Turning Point is still there and rocking. Before I escaped to VT, I too would venture there. For my era the place was a bluesy/folk joint. I think those walls hold a lot of musical magic.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Mike S said...

Is he still playing?

11:29 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

His last name was something like "Brezensky" I don't know what ever happened to him. That was back in the late 70s. He is probably in his mid 50s now.

Yes Robb, I used one of their website photos for the story. I was surprised to see the list of people and photos of performers there since I left. BTW the night Nick played, it was in the old Turning Point which was in another building down the street. That room only had maybe ten small tables. Dang, I should go back there some day.

5:31 AM  

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