The Kid On The Boat
I am not an accomplished pianist, but I do know how to play the instrument well enough to fool people who do not. For two semesters while I was in school at Arkansas Tech, I played piano in the jazz band. I had a blast, and I have been a fan of certain kinds of jazz ever since.
One of the types of jazz I particularly enjoy is piano jazz, or what might sometimes be called cocktail music. You know, the guy who sits over in the corner of the restaurant that no one pays any attention to while he improvises his way through the old standards.
For a little over a year back in the 1980s, I worked for a furniture factory in Greenwood as the Customer Service Manager. One of the big office furniture events each year is held in Chicago, and the company sent me to attend it since I was essentially a rookie in the business.
One of the largest furniture makers entertained their guests by parking a yacht on the edge of Lake Michigan and inviting all their customers for a lavish bash. Our area manager got one of his customers to sneak us onto the boat surreptitiously.
Our salesman was busy visiting with the customer, so I cut loose and began to wander around the boat. Seemingly every room on the yacht had its own buffet and its own entertainment with food and music to suit every taste. All you had to do was look far enough.
In one out-of-the-way corner of this massive vessel, I found a small buffet. I forget the food that was offered, but the music was provided by a young man playing an electric piano. I don’t know how old he was, but he did not appear to be as old as I was, and I was still in my thirties. He actually looked like he might have been a teenager, but I suppose he was older than that. I was the only other person in the room, and he basically had been entertaining himself by improvising on his instrument.
I asked him if he took requests, and he said that he did. So, I chose some old standard; it may have been Deep Purple if I remember correctly. Then he asked me what key I wanted him to play it in, so I chose one and he took off. I stood there for a good while, just listening to this very talented young man. I can tell you that I was more than a little impressed with him. He went through several tunes while I was listening, and never missed a chord that I could hear, no matter what key I chose.
That was over thirty years ago, and I still remember how much I enjoyed listening to that kid. He and the fellow who did card tricks were the only two things I remember about the trip.