By Deems Tsutakawa
For The North American Post
In order to survive in the music business, one must be versatile, to say the least. Besides being a booking agent, marketing director, promotional coordinator and record company owner, I have had the honor and pleasure of playing Blues, Soul music, straight ahead jazz, top forty dance tunes, backing various singers, playing in shopping malls and doing lounge piano engagements spanning several decades now.
As a pianist, there is actually a fair amount of work doiBesides being a booking agent, marketing director, promotional coordinator and record company owner, I have had the honor and pleasure of playing Blues, Soul music, straight ahead jazz, top forty dance tunes, backing various singers, playing in shopping malls and doing lounge piano engagements spanning several decades now.ng background music. Although sometimes unflattering, doing the background piano music for restaurants, malls, conventions and private parties can translate to steady work. Oftentimes, the pianist is required to wear a suit and tie, but more often than not, there will be a decent grand piano on-site. It is very convenient to have an instrument waiting for you rather than having to bring an 88 key digital piano and sound system to various functions.
Over the years, I have heard some odd comments tossed my way. One time, an event planner asked my band to turn the volume down but to please do it in a way so that the luncheon audience would not notice. If they don’t notice then why should we turn down?
Last year, I played a fundraiser downtown and hired sax man Steve Yamasaki to play background jazz with me during the silent auction. We have done this so many times and it’s always easy and fun.
The event was in a huge banquet room with seating for well over six hundred people. As the attendees were drinking, mulling over the auction items, talking and bidding, Steve and I went ahead and played a variety of cool and funky jazz selections.
As we never rehearse for these types of gigs, I usually call out a tune and the key signature immediately before we start a song. In the middle of the set there was a small miscommunication and we ended up playing in different keys. This went on for several minutes, and the result was a very dissonant sounding song.
Later on Steve said apologetically that he thought it sounded out of tune, to which I replied that the audience never really noticed and I loved the ambient effect, as it was quite avant-garde.
Deems Tsutakawa is a local Sansei musician. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.