Yesterday was the second annual memorial to Jesse Lipe, who passed away way, way too young. It was a musical celebrations of his life, with Rooster's crammed with musicians, with bands, makeshift groups and jam sessions all going on for five hours. It was a celebration of Jesse, of music and of unity. There was some blistering hot funk jazz, some completely bad ass rock and roll, ending with a stage full of people playing Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here fading into Comfortably Numb. It turned into a sort of wild, pagan prayer, with the whole place near the stage, yelling out the lyrics in harmony. The spirit was definitely up in that place. Some great players, who I've heard rip out some amazing riffs in the past, played astonishing, almost transcendental solos, pulling tears and crazy laughter out of people at the same time. It was that way all night. I went home exhausted and full of electricity. Even though it ended at 9:00 PM, I couldn't get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.
I didn't really know Jesse, although I'd had the honor of sharing a stage a few times with his mom and dad, Amy and Casey (both unbelievably talented musicians in their own right). I'd seen Jesse play a couple of times but had never met him. When I was making my record, I cut a few tracks at Tweed Studios with Andrew Ratcliff. I wanted to put together a great pickup band, get us all in a room without rehearsal and record it live. I got Zechariah Tillotson, one of my favorite drummers, and asked him who he'd like to play bass, (Thanks for that tip, Bud Bays!) and without hesitation he named Jesse. We got together at the studio on a Saturday. Zak was on drums in a booth where he could see us, and the rest of us literally stood around in a circle and recorded three tracks live, mostly acoustic. Some amazing things happened in that room. There were some great performances, but they were all sort of what I imagined in my head going in, if only a lot better. Except for Jesse. He did unexpected things. The song that made it on this album, My Blue Eyes, is a simple two-step with an obvious thumping country bass line. Instead, Jesse played a lot of long notes that faded into quiet, and used some warbley walks that I'd never heard before. It changed the feel of the song. Not in an obvious, noticeable way, but one that pulls you into a flow with the music. It opened up the song in a way I hadn't thought of, and made it more musical. From what I understand. That wasn't unusual for him. He held down the bottom and hit the one, but in unexpected, musical ways. He truly listened and didn't add anything that didn't honor the song. That's not that common a skill.
Sunday was a great night, honoring a kind and gentle man, who also happened to be a kickass bass player.