As long as he was downtown, Keith decided to swing by Sheridan Square. If, for nothing else, to see what group of rabble rousers was protesting which social or political or corporate evil. Not that he gave a damn about injustice. If anything, the music industry, that insidious corporate evil, kept him quite gainfully employed, thank you.
He got maybe five steps down 14th St. and heard a volcanic laugh. “Lord, who kicked over a rock and turned you loose, Keith Jackson?”
It was Bennie “Big-Time” Williams, big-boned, barrel-chested, black as the ace of spades, the spitting image of Yaphett Kotto. They hadn’t seen each other in ages. He’d heard Bennie had got hitched and moved to one of those islands in the Caribbean.
They clasped hands. “Man,” Keith said, “somebody said you got married.”
Bennie chuckled. “Yeah, probably my wife. She’s always spreading rumors like that. What you up to?”
“Oh, trying to get my woman back. Thought I’d go find a session somewhere to take my mind off her. Was gonna go over to—”
Bennie cut him off: “Man, come with me. These guys’ll let you and me both sit in.”
“Cool beans.” Far back as they went, Keith’d only done one recording session with the guy, about the baddest player known to creation. It was for some kind of soap commercial.
This was no soap commercial. They hopped in a cab and went to a spot in Harlem, right on 125th St., on a second floor where you could look out a big picture window in the lobby and see the Apollo Theater. Happened that Joe Morton, Ann Marie Johnson and Frankie Faison were starring in a revival of Charles Gordone’s No Place to Be Somebody. He’d been meaning to get tickets. And Lesli’d probably want to go.
While he’d been staring out the window, Bennie was having a hard time getting through to the receptionist. “Sir,” she said, “You will have to leave if you aren’t booked for a studio. And all the studios, sir, are booked.”
She wasn’t being nasty, just firm. Trying, actually, to be pleasant. Which is hard to do when somebody big as Bennie is bearing down on you, getting impatient with your not knowing that all you have to do is go down the hall to Studio A and tell the producer Bennie Big-Time and Keith Jackson had blown in through the door for the pure hell of it. “And no, I’m sorry, but, for the third time, sir, I will not buzz on the intercom to interrupt the session.”
Keith gave the receptionist a second look and did a double-take. “Kisa?”
She saw Keith and relief flooded over her. “I’m sorry, Keith. I didn’t recognize you. Not from behind.” She gave Bennie a sheepish smile, apologized, and tapped a button by her phone. An impatient voice picked up on the intercom: “What?”
“Keith’s out here.”
“No, Brian. Keith Jackson. Plus one.”
“You’re kidding. Send him in.”
Bennie was not the least bit pleased, muttering, “Plus one my ass.” How dare she not know who he was? Keith considered telling the guy that if he worked in town more than once every leap year, more people might recognize you.
Brian Cummings, producing tracks with a young up-and-comer who just might turn out to be the next Anita Baker, was happy as hell to have Keith and Big-Time sit in. Turned out they knew half the guys who were there. Jeff Christensen loaned Keith a guitar, and the two of them had a ball taking off on a Santana-sounding song that called for taking off on.
The rising star, looking remarkably like Chaka Khan with a sour attitude to match, wasn’t real keen on the change of plans. Brian told her in plain terms that the best thing she could do right then for her career was to go find a corner, sit down, shut up and try to learn something.
Shades of Samantha Smith. Few things are more amazing than young talent. Few things also are a bigger pain in the ass.
By the time they were done, Keith felt just fine. Went for a drink down the block with Jeff, Big-Time and Brian. They sat, drank and bullshitted until damned near closing time. Keith kept wondering off and on why Kisa hadn’t come along. Or at least dropped in before they left.
“Yo, guys,” he said at length. “Gotta go home and water the plants.”
Big-Time joked, “Guy leads an exciting life.”
On his way out the door, he called back, “Brian, tell Kisa it’s nice to see her again.” And left, hailing down a cab, deciding to call Lesli first thing in the morning.
Next week: Where’d this Kisa come from?
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