Friday, April 27, 2012

Tour Diary: Jazz Standard NYC-Success!

The Jazz Standard, which was not empty this past Tuesday!
Lonnie Plaxico
On April 24th, I brought a really nice band into the Jazz Standard. This was to be my third time performing as a bandleader at the standard over a nine year period(the last time was 2006). It's always been one of my favorite clubs in New York, but it is very competitive to get a booking. I was really happy to finally get a date. I took a risk, and booked a somewhat unique band and concept. The personnel was Clarence Penn on drums, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, Jaleel Shaw on alto and soprano saxophone, and Debbie Deane on vocals. I've really been dying to perform my music with lyrics, which Deane and I had performed in Japan and at a few gigs recently; however, I wondered whether such a departure from the expectation of purely instrumental jazz would attract or deter an audience. The Jazz Standard is not a huge club, but it's a decent size, and like any venue, the powers-that-be want to see people in the seats. I've seen it packed, and I've seen it almost empty. Empty sucks. I was afraid of empty. I paid for a radio spot on WBGO and a Facebook ad to help with promotion. And then I crossed my fingers.

Clarence Penn
Musically, I was thrilled. Lonnie Plaxico is probably the funkiest upright bass player in jazz; he started in Chicago playing with Motown bands, playing by ear(he said he didn't even know the letter names of the notes!). So he fit right in with the vibe of my tunes. Clarence Penn is also an amazing interpreter of "crossover" music, especially with a vocalist. Debbie Deane had performed the music a few times now, although mostly in our duo setting; she agreed that it's much more exciting with a band. Jaleel Shaw fit in perfectly, in my view; while some of these tunes could be considered more "pop" or "R&B", I want soloists to stick to their own language, and "play what they play". That's exactly what Jaleel did, and it was awesome. It makes the music go other places.

Jaleel Shaw
Both sets were crowded; even one of the managers said it was "really good for a Tuesday night." I was extremely relieved. It also made it more fun to play. I try not  to let things like that bother me, but sometimes it's a little depressing playing for an empty house. Admittedly, the whole publicity and "get folks to come out and hear you" and "develop a following" thing has been a weakness of mine, mostly because I would rather practice or write music, or even blog, than put in the work that that sort of thing involves. But I'm extremely encouraged by the success of this night at the Jazz Standard.

Debbie Deane; she is singing on a CD in progress....
I also got a lot of great feedback on the music. Again, it's a very different endeavor, to present an entire evening of original lyrics, as opposed to some modal improvisations. Deane and I are working on a recording, which I hope to finish soon. Hopefully a finished product will help with some more bookings. I still want to do instrumental stuff, but I think having lyrics could potentially appeal to a wider audience. Let's see what happens. On to Baltimore!

1 comment:

  1. It was so great to be at this gig and hear your wonderful music at such a "delicious" club. It's definitely something worth recording and getting out to a larger audience.


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