Gather ’round, kids, and listen to Old Man Whitty spin a tale of a certain musician who didn’t like to pay his bills, and how Rick Stellar*, Gary Tones*, and Old Man Whitty** eventually got paid. In about 1987, Rick, Gary and I all travelled to Chicago to do a couple gigs with “Miroslav Dabrowski”*** at a “Kielbasa Festival” there. Skilled negotiators, the three of us, we arranged an exhorbitant compensation package of $200 each for 2 rehearsals and the gigs. We went out there and played well, and after the gig, wouldn’t you know, that darned promoter gave Miroslav a CHECK! Who’d’a thunk THAT might happen! But darned if he couldn’t pay us because of that dadburned CHECK! He would send the money first thing when he got back, we could rest assured! Bearing in mind that at this time I was living on those cellophane tubes you can get at Pathmark that have a section with lentils in it, a section with beans in it, and a section that I believe contained almost entirely MSG in it, the idea being that you could make a pot of very salty stew with it. And $200 was enough to buy 100 of those and several cases of Meister Brau, enough to sustain me for 3 months, or until I became famous, whichever came first. Anyway, the days ticked by, and then the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into a month. “Miroslav” wouldn’t answer his phone, of course. And it became evident that he was living up to his reputation as a deadbeat. But I was running out of cellophane tubes and, more importantly, Meister Brau, and listening to Rick and Gary, they were as well. So we made an agreement that, whenever any of us was near Central Park South, where Miroslav had a plenty-nice 2-bedroom apartment in a high-rise on the corner of Central Park, we would go see if we could encounter him in person and extract at least some of our dough. Another month went by with each of us stalking Miroslav in turn, and then one Sunday morning I got a call from Gary: Miroslav was in his apartment; he could be heard talking to someone in there. Rick and I jumped on the subway and headed in. And sure enough, we could hear Miroslav’s distinctive voice on the other side of the door. We knocked and, if memory serves, he asked who it was and we said it was us. And then, silence from in there. So we knocked again. And eventually knocked again, and soon we were all hammering on the door, yelling “DABROWSKI! WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!”. It eventually became evident that we were not going to go away. Finally the door opened and there was Miroslav, begging us sotto voce not to screw up some negotiation he was trying to pull off. Unfortunately, we were having none of it and pushed through his apartment, telling him if he had anything to say, he’d better come into the room he was using as a very well-appointed personal studio to talk. And of course he promised to put a check in the mail on Monday: I will gladly pay Tuesday for some fusion two months ago. And we told him that that wasn’t going to happen, and what was going to happen was that each of us was going to walk out of there with about $250 worth of his studio equipment, and we were going to hold it for two weeks. If he paid us, he could have it back. If he didn’t, we would head on down to 30th street and sell it. I still remember him fretting around as we unplugged his gear: “Do you hef to hev zat one?” But we were undeterred, besotted as we were with the visions of the Land of Milk and Cellophane Tubes Of Legumes dancing in our heads. I grabbed a Yamaha RX5 drum machine and a reverb unit, Rick got, I think, a Yamaha Wind Controller, and I forget what Gary got. We never got paid, we sold the shit, and that’s how kharma came back into balance.
Oddly, Miroslav called me to do gigs after that. And even more oddly, I said “yes, as long as you pay me, in cash, in advance”.
One can’t afford to be too implacable in the Jazz Fusion Industry.
*Not his real name
**His real name
***This is NOT Miroslav Vitous, whom I’ve always loved but never met.