NORFOLK — Scott Simpson, a new arrival to Virginia Beach, recently settled his family into Regent Village before he begins his doctoral studies in church history at the university that gave its name to the neighborhood.
And Simpson, a skilled guitarist, then went looking for fellow jazz players.
The search led him from music store to music store until he arrived at Russell’s Music World in Norfolk on a Friday this past month.
There, he unpacked his gear and guitar while he waited for a musical audience with Russell himself — local drummer and bandleader Russell Scarborough.
“Are there plugs over here?” Simpson, 52, asked.
“Yeah,” said Eric Harned, 45, a salesperson. He pointed out the outlets. “And there’s a power strip over there.”
Dave Hufstedler arrived soon after. Hufstedler, a 62-year-old Norfolk man, has been playing with Scarborough since 1974. He carried his six-string bass guitar into the store.
“You have a gig bag,” Simpson said.
They introduced themselves, and Simpson said how he found them.
“The guy at Moe’s Music – ” Simpson said.
“Chuck,” Hufstedler interjected.
“He said you have to meet – ”
“Russell,” Hufstedler said. “Which branch are you in?”
“What do you mean?” asked Simpson, whose head was shaved.
“Are you in the military?”
“No,” Simpson said. “I’m a preacher.”
Simpson grew up in Los Angeles, and he moved to Birmingham, Ala., when he was 22. He’s been an electrical engineer, a Mercedes Benz mechanic, and a professional jazz musician over the years.
“The Holy Spirit finally got a hold of me … and basically said, ‘You’re working for me.’”
He’s been preaching six years, including a few in Kentucky, where there were few opportunities to play. And he’s gone back to school, studying ministry and biblical theology. Now, at Regent, he’s after his doctorate.
In Hampton Roads he hopes to complete his studies, find a place to preach and, in slang for playing jazz, “to blow.”
“Russell’s on his way,” Harned said.
A minimalist drum set near the guitarists awaited Scarborough. It was flanked by cymbals with price tags affixed at their bells.
“I hope he’s got a kick pedal,” Harned said. “I just sold that one.”
Scarborough arrived a few minutes later. He said hello to Simpson, and promptly handed him a binder full of song charts.
“I sold the kick pedal,” Harned told him.
“The one I was about to use?”
Of course, Scarborough owns a music shop. He removed another pedal from its box and assembled it.
“What do you want to play?” he asked when he was seated on his throne behind the drums.
The first chart in the binder was “Alice in Wonderland,” a Sammy Fain composition that may be best known in the hands of Bill Evans.
Anyway, that was the pick.
“Okay,” Simpson said.
They ran through it, following the chart and, of course, listening to each other.
“He likes the other stuff, too,” Hufstedler said.
“Let’s play it straight first,” Russell said.
It was clear within a few tunes that this was happening. It sounded as though they had played together before. A few musicians came in while the men played. They stopped to appreciate it.
All Simpson got was a few songs because it was all Scarborough needed to hear.
But Simpson wanted another tune.
“No,” Scarborough said, smiling. “I’m going to book gigs, and you’ll get paid.”
“Can we play one ballad?” Simpson asked.
“Okay,” Scarborough said. “One ballad.”
“I haven’t gotten to blow for five years,” he said, by way of explanation.
Simpson smiled, holding his guitar.
And they played another tune.
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