Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Brief East Coast Jaunt , etc....

New York: probably what it looked like last night....
I'm in New York once again. I'm feeling more and more like a tourist every time I come. It's obviously much more intense than Portland, Oregon, where I've been residing for almost a year. I know my way around, so in some ways, it's still got that feeling of homecoming. However, I'm finding that there are some things I don't miss. Portland is so easy to get around; anytime you need to get somewhere within the five boroughs, you need to set aside a good  5 hour chunk of time for traffic, subways breaking down, streets being blocked off, etc...Also, the humidity in New York will drown you to death  as you walk down the street! Portland summers are a dream compared to the stifling heat of the east coast. Still, New York still has it's charms. The energy is infectious. Everybody knows where they are going and what they are trying to do. Even if they aren't doing it well, they still have a momentum you don't see anywhere else. I hope I never lose all of my East Coast Energy by living out West. Maybe some of it is gone already.......

Eric Wheeler
Tonight I will be experiencing another homecoming of sorts; I'm playing at the Bohemian Caverns(2001 11th Street Northwest  Washington, DC,(202) 299-0800 Tickets $15 in advance, 20 at the door.). I lived in D.C. for a few years in the early 90's; I learned how to play jazz by working as many gigs as I could between D.C. and Baltimore. (At least back in that time, there were so many great players from different generations to play with, and it really pushed me in way that I believe jazz education doesn't push kids who are trying to learn today.) However, that was a long time ago, and I hope that there are at least a few folks in D.C. who remember me and will come out tonight to see if I've improved at all! Joining me will be a bassist named Eric Wheeler; I met Wheeler on a recording with clarinetist Todd Marcus last summer. I was really impressed with his playing and luckily, he was available for this gig. I've never played with drummer Kush Abeday, but I used to play quite a bit with his father Nasar Abeday when I lived in D.C. I was fortunate to hear Kush Abeday about six years ago at Peabody Conservatory when his band opened for Gary Thomas' quartet, a group in which I was playing Hammond B-3 organ. I was really impressed with Abeday;he was only 14 years old at the time. He's come a long way since then! He's been touring with people like trumpeter Wallace Roney.  I'm very excited about playing with these fine young musicians tonight. I am bringing some brand new original music as well. Won't you join us?

Kush Abeday
My East Coast Tour is rounded out by a two night engagement at Small's(183 West 10th Street  New York, NY(212) 252-5091 Starts at 10 pm and goes til 12:45 am). Small's is one of my favorite places to play because the people that run it really care about the music. Spike Wilner, a great pianist in his own right, is doing a great job in bringing this venue into the 21st century. He's bringing in a variety of jazz, and really does his best to support young and up and coming players, as well as feature more established veterans. My band this weekend will consist of Tom Guarna on guitar, Jaleel Shaw on alto sax, Boris Kozlov on bass, and E.J. Strickland on drums. To me, this is a serious all star group and should prove to be an exciting weekend.

Ronan Guilfoyle
Those of you who either know me personally or read my blog or my Facebook posts know that I occasionally like to wax philosophical about the state of jazz. I've thought for years that the jazz scene in New York, while still packed with the most number of great musicians per square inch than anywhere in the world, seemed like a continually losing proposition (especially if you don't want to live like a college student when you are in your 40's and 50's) in terms of personal economics. I lived in New York for almost 15 years, and I saw a steady decline in opportunities as the years went by. We all know that the music industry has indeed gone through so many changes, even within the last 5 years, and unless you've been living in a cave, you may have heard that the overall state of world finance is pretty messed up as well. I was browsing the internet and I happened on another blog called Mostly Music (, written by  Irish bassist Ronan Guilfoyle. He seems to have come up with a much better articulation of what I've been driving at:

On the minus side it has to be said there are just far too many musicians in New York for it to make any sense on an economic level. The money paid for playing clubs in NY is laughable – there is no way you could make a living by solely performing creative music in New York. The abundance and availability of musicians and the lack of places to play drives the price musicians can charge for NY gigs down to below subsistence levels. It’s a buyers market for the clubs and the musicians suffer. For all the advantages of being cheek by jowl with so many great musicians, there is the reality of the economics of it. A lot of the New York musicians I know work in (often menial) day jobs that have nothing to do with music, and the reality for them is that they’re not going to get out of that situation anytime soon. As they get older and take on responsibilities the typical situation of doing two rehearsals of original music for a gig that pays $30 is revealed for the economic luxury that it is. All that work, all that practice, all that study, all of that creative energy, and in the end you get less than if you’d done a four-hour shift at Dunkin’ Donuts......... The New York jazz scene depends on the willingness of a large percentage of its musicians to put musical value before economic reality. But with performance opportunities shrinking even further, and ever more musicians arriving in New York like gunslingers riding into town to prove themselves, can this model survive?

Check out the entire post here under New York-Beauty and The Beast. It's very insightful writing, and trust me, it's not all doom and gloom. I think it's all about how we choose to see reality. Look, nobody ever said that the Jazz Life was going to be easy! We all have to figure out what is really most important to us. When I was 25, I could live in a tiny closet space, sleep on a futon, and go out and hang and play sessions and practice 5 hours a day, and never know when my next gig or tour was coming in. At 42, with a family to support, things have changed.

Still, for the time being, any change to come back east and play with burning players is a great opportunity. If you live in D.C or Baltimore, I hope you'll come down and try to catch some of the music this weekend!


  1. everything you do is just so mystical and beautiful. loved this.

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