Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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From Tony’s Aussie Bar in Seoul, to the Interesting Flight to Paris, to the Highlander – Catch-Up Time

October 20, 2011

Here goes: Sometimes life runs away with us and we cannot seem to catch up. That is how it has been for me since Monday. So this will be a catch-up post, or rather a “ketchup post” for its fast-food writing style. It starts at Tony’s Aussie bar in the Itaewon neighborhood in Seoul, and finishes at the Highlander in Paris. But one of the most interesting parts was one of the flights – or, rather, the guy sitting next to me.

So anyway… I went to Tony’s Aussie bar last year while at the Korean Grand Prix, and so I returned this year to find the same place, but better. Tony’s is a cool expat bar/restaurant, run by cool Tony, who is a drummer and entertainment tycoon in the making. The bar was an afterthought, something that grew out of him sitting in this place and practicing his drums and finding people dropping by and wanting to jam, and drink and eat and, hey, presto, there it was and is: One of the greatest places for jamming in Seoul. He also has a standup comedy night and another kind of open mic night on Sundays.

What made it better even than last year was that there were more people present, more Koreans, and other nationalities – British, Australian, American, Canadian – and some absolutely wonderful musicians and singers. During my three-song set – Mad World, I Won’t Back Down, and Borderline – I was joined on the first two by Vadim Scott, a Ukraine/Canadian who lives in Seoul and works as a musician and actor. He just climbed up behind the mic and joined in with me. That’s the spirit of Tony’s, and I loved it. Especially playing with Tony on the drums, with the bass player and violinist. Check out the Hendrix bit and the guitar solo bit too. Great stuff.

I left Tony’s at 1 AM, went to bed at 1:30 AM and then got up at 4:30 AM to go to the airport, catch a flight to Tokyo and from there a flight to Paris.

The second I sat down in the Air France A380, the guy sitting next to me said, “You are a guitarist?” He had seen me put my guitar in the overhead compartment, and he was smarter than most of the Japanese customs people who thought it was a set of golf clubs. In fact, he was much smarter, and when we were not both trying to catch up on sleep during the 12-hour flight, we were talking music. Because it turned out that this was Paolo Alderighi, one of Italy’s most promising and finest jazz piano players on the international scene. He plays a wicked stride piano, mostly American jazz from the ’30s and ’40s, but he is classically trained, and mixes the traditional jazz with a classic feel too, and his own feel from growing up with a dad who loved and played jazz music around the house.

But part of our conversation also centered around how to mix and live a life using different talents, multiple approaches and points of view and careers. Paolo, for instance, is a pianist, but he also took a degree in management and economics, and he is now teaching a course in musical culture at a university in Italy. I spoke, of course, about how I write as a journalist about Formula One racing, I do other more literary writing pursuits, the music, the open mic adventure, the film. We listened to each other’s music on our iPhones, and I was humbled by the quality of his, which I will put below from YouTube.

What really fascinated me too discussing his life and career, was how it came about in an interesting step-by-step manner with one thing leading to another without a master plan. He did a gig here and a gig there since he was 16 or so and the pieces all began falling together, the connections were made, other musicians met, and now he travels the world and plays his piano from Japan to the United States, Australia and almost everywhere in between.

So I returned to Paris late Tuesday, missed open mics and crashed out in bed for the night. Woke up, tried getting things done, was swamped, but then did that ridiculous small space-holder post here before doing the Highlander open mic, where it was life as usual, lots of fun, some good musicians, some less so. And I enjoyed trying to get the audience to sing along with “What’s Up!” which they did. But I was thinking I have to find something new since I’m doing the same songs week after week now at the Highlander….

It is still taking so long to upload all the videos over this period of time that I will just now put up a few, and add more later….

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