Meet Comfy Baby
Because all jazz bassists need a memorable nickname
With just a few years until my 15-year-old is away at college and starting her own life as a young adult, I feel a pressing need to arm her with as much important knowledge as possible.
So it is with a sense of time slipping away I recently offered this bit of wisdom: To my child, the bass player who works extremely hard at her instrument — practice and dedication will only get you so far in the music world. You need to have an awesome jazz nickname.
There isn't anyone who has ascended to the dizzying heights of the incredibly lucrative world of jazz bass playing (or sat-in at an acoustic open mic night for free chicken wings — same thing) without one.
We were listening to the radio on the way to a rehearsal, appropriately, when a song by Cannonball Adderly came on, and inspiration struck.
“You need an awesome jazz nickname,” I declared to the young musician in the seat next to me.
She looked at me with absolutely no change in expression or indication I had addressed her, because she is a teenager, and this is what teenagers must do, so I continued.
I pointed out the colorfully-tagged legends that had walked down this dusty path: Howlin' Wolf, Charlie “Bird” Parker and Jelly Roll Morton, among them. She didn't really think she needed a nickname, but I felt strongly about the issue. I thought I'd lead the way by coming up with my own.
“It's easy,” I told her. “I'll use my initials and my position in the family – B.B. King.”
She pointed out that it was already taken. This was going to be more challenging than I originally thought.
We came up with possible jazz nicknames for family members. For her mother, we decided on Amy “Responsible One” Burke. It fit her role in the family, and it was more affectionate than Graymy Amy. (A side note: if someone can make sure she doesn't read this that would probably be for the best.)
We tossed a few options back and forth, all of which she rejected, until we hit upon a winner. She had inadvertently come up with it a year earlier, and when I pointed it out, she acknowledged that it fit.
The name was born while we were on vacation. I turned on the light early one morning and barked at her that it was time to get up and get going.
She countered, sleepily: “No. I'm a comfy baby.”
It bought her a few extra winks, and it began what would become an ongoing reply when I gave her a task. Take the dog out, put the dishes away, bring the laundry up — all met with, “I don't want to, I'm a comfy baby.”
So when you hear that slippery bass line that's driving the latest global hit, you'll know that it's Comfy Baby Burke slapping that doghouse.
Bill “Shockingly Charismatic and Remarkably Talented” Burke is a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and daughter. He is also the managing editor of custom publications for McLean Communications.