Dec 29, 2016, 14:13

There is a phenomenon among live musicians that is unmistakable when it happens, but hard to label. So I’m creating a label for it….”road tight”.

“Road tight” is the telepathy that occurs between musicians who have been on the road together for many weeks and have learned each other’s idiosyncrasies (both personal and musical). They’ve mastered the show to the point where it’s generally a boring experience unless they escalate it…perhaps by listening more intently to one another, tuning in more to the audience, or spontaneously re-writing the material.

My apple-to-apples comparison of “road tight” occurred when I was asked to play keyboards and sing lead with Corey Smith’s band for one gig. Corey and his band travel constantly throughout the Southeast, but for some reason Corey couldn’t attend this particular event…a local fundraiser. So his guitarist said, “We’ll make up a new band name, brainstorm a set list and just go for it. Just come out and have fun with us.”

It was totally fun. The crowd loved the songs. We sounded fine. But much like going to bed with someone for the first time…there were unfamiliar parts; along with some general anxiety.

And then Corey unexpectedly showed up. People started pulling out their camera phones. His guitarist said, “Just go back to your keyboard and try to hang on. We’ll take it from here.”

To use transportation metaphors, playing the first set without “road tightness” was like riding an ATV…fun, but all over the place; not much control. The second set with Corey was like riding in the backseat of a Maserati with a professional driver. Those dudes were reading each other’s minds. There wasn’t a shred of doubt about what was coming next. There were musical inside jokes. I felt like that feeble nuclear scientist on a Navy Seal mission the trained killers have to tolerate. It was exhilarating. It was “road tight”.

So imagine what “road tight” must been like during the Prohibition Era, before recorded music, when – on any given night in New York City – a hundred live bands were finishing a five-night run at Club Wherever. Imagine wandering into a speakeasy where a twenty-piece jazz ensemble possessed that same level of road-tightness Corey and his band had….then thirty more clubs like it in the same 10-mile radius.

I think 1930 was arguably when jazz – a purely American art form – prospered most as a living organisim.

So, dear reader, please enjoy this lovingly assembled collection of Jazz tracks – dedicated to my friends in the Corey Smith Band – and the “road tightness” of yesteryear which they commemorate:

And please enjoy these excellent tracks by Corey Smith’s guitarist – Mike Hines:


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of, a production music marketplace with over 48,000 tracks online where media producers, video producers, filmmakers, game developers, businesses  and other music buyers can license high-quality, affordable royalty-free music from an online community of musicians.

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