Joshua Paxton

This was inspired by a specific time I heard Bruce play this tune quite a few years back. It was an outdoor show that wasn’t going especially well; there were bouts of rain, technical problems, a fill-in band member who didn’t know all the songs, etc. After a show-stopping squeal of feedback from the sound system, Bruce cut off the band and launched into a pretty dark-sounding solo piano improv. In fact, “pretty dark” is an understatement; this was a guy who was clearly not happy, and was working it out through his playing. This eventually morphed into a version of “The Way It Is” that was unlike any I’d heard before — in 3/4 time, with the melody intact but pitted against stark, minor-key harmonies. It was haunting enough that it silenced the whole crowd. Then at the end he brought it back to the original chords and cued the band to come in with him for the last chorus… and it was like the sun coming out from behind a dark cloud. Afterward the band all had a look of happy surprise on their faces, and Bruce said, “Well THAT’S never happened before!”

This arrangement comes from my memory of how Bruce played it that night. I’m sure it’s not the same, but of course that’s not the point.

PS — I recorded the show, but lost the recording in that bit of unpleasant weather we had here in New Orleans a few yeas ago. But I know I copied it for at least one person at some point, so it may be “out there” somewhere. If anyone has a copy of the show (07-01-1993, Jazzoo Pavilion, Cincinnati), I’d love to hear it again after all these years.

Joshua Paxton is a New Orleans pianist specializing in the kind of funky, rootsy, jazz-inflected piano music the Crescent City is known for. He originally met Bruce by being such a piano geek that he transcribed some of Bruce’s unpublished solos, and sent him the sheet music. He later played organ on Bruce’s recording of “Backhand.” His latest solo piano album, Alone At Last, is available on iTunes.