There’s a story I tell to a lot of people when introducing this friend of mine.
Chester Green plays the electric bass guitar and I’ve known him since I was sixteen years old. A session musician and producer in LA in the 80’s, he moved to North San Diego County in the early ’90’s and got a job playing bass with a traveling country western band. He fit into the local music scene, playing with some musicians in Escondido. When I happened to meet one of these musicians, I asked him if he’d ever met Chester. He smiled, threw his head back and said, “Oh, man. Chester Green is the baddest, funkiest bass player we have ever heard.”
A few years passed and we lost touch. After not having seen my old friend for over a decade, we caught up with each other almost 4 years ago. He had been, let’s say, “detained” for a while, and when I saw him again, he told me hadn’t had his hands on his instrument for almost two years. Things had gotten hard, and Chester had to hock his bass in a pawn shop.
When he returned to claim his bass after eighteen months, the pawn shop had sold it. Undeterred, Chester asked that we go to a local guitar store so he could see what guitars were available, and how much they cost. But more than that, Chester just wanted to get his hands on an instrument and play it for a while. It had been a long time.
My wife, Lisa Coast, had accompanied us on the trip. When we walked in, Chester went right to this particular bass guitar that had, as he said, “good wood.” The tone resonated in a way that he preferred. He said it needed work, but it was a really good instrument.
He played the guitar for about twenty minutes, got ready to leave, and effusively thanked Lisa for the trip and the time. As he walked toward the door, Lisa, who had never met Chester before this day, motioned to me and whispered, “I’m going to get Chester that bass.” Chester was floored…and so was I.
Fast forward to Friday August 19th, 2016. In his first public performance in many years, Chester Green played in at the Escondido Center for the Arts Open Mike Jazz night. He was the first performer after the break. As he stepped onto the stage, he approached the microphone and thanked Lisa for her generosity and faith in him over the last four years. He then motioned to the band, a quartet that smiled and shifted their feet. You could tell, after slightly fingering their instruments, that they didn’t know exactly what to expect.
Chester played the first six notes of Herbie Hancock’s song, “Chameleon.” The band grabbed their instruments, started to move, set the melody forth with a steady and jamming rhythm. The crowd, knowing something special was about to take place, leaned in toward the stage with collective anticipation. They yelled encouragement, they moved their shoulders, they clapped with the downbeat pulse of that bass with the “good wood.”
They witnessed a master of his craft play his instrument with skill and passion, encouraged by the band to send his music into the air, the sound resting tightly within the spirits of the crowd.
When he played his last note, the audience stood. Sweat ran down Chester’s forehead. A smile arced like the tail of a comment across his face. He held extended his bass toward the audience, and the roar from the crowd confirmed their approval.
I sat witness to a reclamation, appreciated by the throng at the concert that night. I saw the music pull my friend to the mountain top, a place reserved for those who have struggled to climb over the challenges and claim their place at the elevated peace of success.
I stood cheering. I could feel the emotions rise as I saw all the love and appreciation from those at the Center. I knew what miracle I witnessed, and came away from this night with the most lasting point of the evening, and it was this:
Chester Green, the “baddest, funkiest bass player” you will ever hear, is back.
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