In the dark ages before the Internet, I could occasionally catch the tail end of a long-gone practice: Accompanying musicians on the road as part of the hired rhythm section. This gave me the opportunity to play with the likes of Mal Waldron, Benny Bailey, Mark Murphy, Spike Robinson, Lenny Spivak and a few others I may not remember now. 

I consider this a big part of my “jazz education” as I never went to any school to “study” jazz. 

However, this was before it was part of a musician’s duties to present themselves on social media, and I never took any photos (I was probably too busy playing). 

Fortunately, though, I recently got some photos of the 1996 Great Guitars concert with Tal Farlow (filling in for the ailing Herb Ellis), Charlie Byrd, and Mundell Lowe. 

On double bass was Olaf Casimir, whose birthday happens to be today. 

A couple of moments of this particularly stuck in my mind: Charlie Byrd telling me backstage that he has terminal cancer and singing “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone” as his feature afterwards. 

During the brief rehearsal, as I was anticipating the shout chorus of Airmail Special (The Great Guitars always played some Charlie Christian tunes and I knew them all since I was fourteen), Mundell Lowe told Tal Farlow, pointing at me, “He knows!” 

And the highlight was a double-time version of Angel Eyes as Tal Farlow’s feature, trading fours and twos with him. And all of this with Günter Christmann sitting in the audience (I used to have long arguments with him about me playing „traditional“ jazz) and approving it afterwards.

Mundell Lowe called me the following year to play with them again on their next tour and so I could finally play with Herb Ellis as well. But that’s for another story (and no photos, unfortunately).

Great Guitars 1996 (Tal Farlow, Michael Griener, Mundell Lowe, Olaf Casimir, Charlie Byrd)
(Michael Griener, Olaf Casimir, Mundell Lowe)