I had already spent the afternoon in Brooklyn at an event called LeSalon an interactive performance sharing experience in Williamsburg. I had been traveling since 3:45AM and after a super long, NYC-Let’s get it done, kinda day I was disconnecting from social media and nursing a Thai iced tea by myself by the Bedford Train Station in Brooklyn deciding if I wanted to head back into the city or stick around in Brooklyn to meet up with my friend Casey. I was ambivalent. Tired. Exhausted. Dan Pincus, texted me, “Where are you?”. A simple, question that is almost always followed by an invitation to a totally random, exciting, experience. His friends band, Sammy Miller and the Congregation, were playing at a bar in Williamsburg 15 minutes walk from where I was nursing my thai iced tea. I had two hours to kill before seeing Casey so leaned into the adventure and said Yes. I asked a typical question, “Is there a cover charge?” Looking for little excuses to say no to the mini adventure. It was also one of the coldest nights in new york city and as I walked west on 4th Street towards the river I was having second thoughts. More like third and fourth thoughts.
I walked into the very empty bar, The Woods, at 7pm, and Sammy Miller and The Congregation took me to church. This six piece band, drums, piano, trumpet, sax, trombone, andsousaphone player were playing a cross section of jazz standards, the classic american songbook, spirituals, and funk. Virtuosic, generous, celebratory, playful . . . CHURCH.
Dan introduced me to Sammy and mentioned that I was a singer/actor and Sammy invited me to join them for a number. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO . . . said the voice deep in my mind. They’re so good. They’re so talented. You don’t sing jazz. You’re not good enough. They’re all at the top of their field. They all went to Julliard. The excuse machine reared its ugly head. So ever aware of this voice, I said of course . . . let’s do On the Street Where You Live in C. Sammy had another idea . . . we’re going to perform “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and during a break with their hoofer tap dancer they wanted me to speak Shakespeare. Even more random. Something Shakespearean. Heroic. Memorized. “Henry V Opening Chorus.”
So there we were. Called on stage. Michael the super fierce hoofer was tapping up a storm with this awe inspiring jazz band and I was running onstage to join them and speak Shakespeare. I remembered the teenager from the high school at Lincoln High School . . . .you do you booboo. And we did it. Jazz, Tap Dancing, and Shakespeare. And of course at the end opted for a high note, just because it was calling for a showcase button.
It was not perfect. I skipped half the speech because I lost my place. It had never been rehearsed. It was completely in the moment. It was messy. But I was proud. It was unexpected. It was in its own way virtuosic. It was a NYC moment that I will always treasure . . . and Dan Pincus recorded it.