|Isn't flying fun?|
I've had many conversations with older jazz musicians over the years, and inevitably, the topic of conversation turns to the old days and how many gigs there used to be(compared to now). Billy Hart told me that he wouldn't tour for weeks, he would tour for MONTHS. They would go to the West Coast for six months. A club gig would be many weeks in a row. Musicians stayed on the road for as much time as they could stand. Vincent Herring told me that even in the 80's, you could move to New York, decide who you wanted to work with, and stay on the road, OR, you could make a living IN TOWN if you chose that way. Sadly, those days are over, unless you are with a pop or rock group. Now, the days of the one-off are here. A one-off essentially means one gig, although it implies that you had to travel, and maybe quite a long way, just for one hit. I've been doing one-offs in New York and North America since the 90's. And occasionally, there might be a one-off in Europe.(UGH!)
I suppose you could relate the one-off to a one night stand. The freedom of not being "tied down" to one band has a certain thrill. I've certainly benefited from playing with many different bands, as opposed to just a few. In 2001, I counted that I had played the original music of about 30 different bands, just within that year. And most of the bands had only one gig, or maybe a handful at best! Eventually, however, just as in personal relationships, you might want to develop something more than just the one-off. That takes possibly more than the jazz scene can offer these days. Without more than one gig, how can the musicians really develop the music and be a "band"? Still, we musicians persevere, and try the make the most out of the one gig every once in a while.
I wanted to give a round-up of some of the fun one-offs I did in the last few months. One was with drummer Donald Edwards. A promoter in Italy asked Edwards to put together a band for a jazz festival which featured drummers in San Remo, Italy. Edwards called Boris Kozlov on bass and Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone. The four of us have worked together as sidemen with the Mingus Band. However, it was a pleasure to play Edwards' music instead, which was quite challenging. Also, Edwards' treated the gig as somewhat of a collective, so we could also bring in some charts to play. The performance was musically satisfying enough to warrant the almost 5 days of travel(including layovers and extra days in San Remo). This is what makes the one-off so frustrating;a lot of hours in transit for a small, intense amount of music. It's times like this that I wonder when they are going to invent teleportation!
The next week, I got the chance to play with my good friend and guitarist Tom Guarna. Guarna has been plugging away in New York as a sideman and bandleader, and he's working on some music for a potential recording(which will hopefully take place this winter). Guarna is a very well rounded