Last Monday at Experimental Sound Studio, pianist Dave Bryant played a set and gave a talk about harmolodics (what Ornette Coleman called his way of composing). Dave played for a time in Coleman’s band and studied with him before that. But my connection to Dave isn’t musical. About 30 years ago, when I was still in high school, he was my manager at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.

At the movie theater, Dave was low-key almost to the point of sleepy. I didn’t know much about him until going to a gig of his at some little club in Somerville. Up on stage, leading his trio, Shock Exchange, the mellow, floppy haired guy I knew was transformed into a wild man. He beat the hell out of those keys. It was one of the first times I realized there could be a difference between how you act on a job and how you act when you do what you love. It was kind of like that thing Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” 

I haven’t seen Dave since Coolidge days so when I saw his Chicago gig listed I made sure to be there. I even tracked down his website and wrote him an email, but I never heard back. There’s a good chance he had no memory of me. Lots of high school kids worked at the theater and his time there was obviously just a means to an end.

The music he played Monday wasn’t as raucous as the stuff I remembered but it had an intelligence and grace which only comes from doing something a very long time. The bassist and drummer who backed him were much younger but you could tell they had to work to keep up with him at times. After a short break he came back out and gave an hour-long talk about the music philosophy Coleman had taught him. A lot of the technical stuff went way over my head, but the stuff about wrestling with tradition and keeping engaged creatively in every waking moment definitely hit the mark.

Afterwards I thought about coming up and introducing myself but thought better of it. Even if he remembered me after a little prodding, what would be the point? To remind him of a time he had a shit day-job with a bunch of high schoolers? I was just happy to see he was still doing his thing all these years later.

Also: I sat through the horrendous new Bourne movie so you don’t have to.