Friday, October 5, 2012

Tour Diary: Jack DeJohnette Group European Tour Fall 2012 Part II Electric Boogaloo

The band.....
So far, so good: our tour is shaping up well. The music has been outstanding, and when I'm on the bandstand with Jack DeJohnette, Rudresh Mahanthappa, David Fiuczynski, and Jerome Harris, the re-inspiration occurs by the minute. And the minutes go so quickly. Time flies when you are having fun, especially when you are playing fun music. It seems like five tunes equals ninety minutes with this band; yet it never seems like any time is passing. When everyone is in tune with each other, it's effortless. It also seems like the audiences are in tune with us; there's a lot of enthusiasm, and we always do an encore.

Lund, Sweden
As my thick passport will prove, I've been to a lot of different countries. But this trip actually has taken me to some new places. Lund, Sweden, was a new place, but as usually, there was no time to look around. This is all one night gigs, but when we can, we try to go out and look around. However, sometimes it's impossible; one or two flights, a car ride, check in, soundcheck, gig, back to hotel, and get up and do it all over again is the glamorous life of the touring musician. I'm actually amazed as how smoothly it can function. Our booking agent, Saudades Tourneen, has been booking bands in Europe for decades, and they know how to get a band around the continent. Hopefully I'm not jinxing anything by writing this; we all know that anything and everything CAN go wrong on a tour-from lost bags to missed connections to bad weather to transit strikes to sudden illness to acts of God and God knows what else. But like I said, so far so good.

Bucharest, Romania
This is one of the largest buildings in the world
From Lund, we flew to Bucharest in Romania. Eastern Europe always has a touch of the exotic, and there is always something to learn. Not many people realize that Romanian is a romance language; it's probably the closest living relative to Latin. Many assume that because they are near Bulgaria and Hungary that they speak a Slavic language. We had a bit of time to look around Bucharest; our guide Sabina was nice to take us around the city. She kept saying how everyone thinks it's so ugly. Indeed, the combination of different styles of architectures piled on top of each other can be striking. I actually found it charming. Bucharest is home to two million people, and it really bustles. Romania was one of the more oppressive societies while the Iron Curtain remained in place. Now, it is much more westernized; in fact, the wifi in the hotel was faster than anywhere we've been on the entire tour!

Heidelberg Castle
After our short but sweet time in Bucharest, back to Germany; we flew to Frankfurt and drove to Heidelberg  which I didn't know is apparently a huge tourist destination. We performed in an really magnificent restored castle in the old part of the city. The Heidelberg festival is part of a long three city music festival; we were the inaugural performance for the season. We usually play ninety minutes straight through; however, this performance was two sets. The audience was very attentive; Germany has a long history of supporting jazz. It seemed like they were hanging on every note at times. Our alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa was particularly fired up; one his big saxophone inspirations is tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, who is also one of my big inspirations. I'm always glad to hear this kind of angular vocabulary being played, and Mahanthappa was definitely in this zone. DeJohnette took some nice unaccompanied drum solos; a few times, he seemed to be extraordinarily intrigued by the way the hi-hat sounded when it rang on it's own. DeJohnette is one of the most creative musicians alive; I think it's because he's an incredible listener, and he draws on everything that he hears.

Terceira Island in the Azores
As I write this, I'm in the Azores, which are islands far off the coast of Portugal(kind of right in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean). I'm on the island of Terceira, in a town called Angra Do Heroismo. We're actually in another time zone; only 4 hours ahead of New York(as opposed to 5 in Portugal). It was a long day of traveling from Frankfurt to Lisbon to here; luckily, we missed flying in a big storm, which was bashing the coast this morning right outside my window. I was annoyed by the fact that there was no internet at all until around lunchtime. (I was forced to watch TV; most of it was Portugese, which I had no interest in. And the American shows they get are the worst. I watched CNN a bit. I was pretty depressed to hear that everyone thinks that Mitt Romney won the first debate. I don't see how you can win a debate if you are lying the whole time. I think they should take off points for that.) This morning, I went down to their well equipped gym. I ran on the treadmill for two hours. I can run longer, but even the more disciplined of us still get incredibly bored on a treadmill. I've been really lucky to have a gym in every hotel on this tour; I haven't yet missed a day of exercise. Usually, it's quite hard to keep that up, especially on a one-nighter kind of trip.

We have a day off today; I'm planning on Skyping with my family, and practicing and taking care of odds and ends. I'm also looking forward to seeing Thomas Stanko perform later this evening. We met Stanko and his daughter in the airport in Frankfurt and they are really nice people. Stanko is playing with some really top notch Danish musicians tonight. it should be a great show; Stanko is 70 years old and in great shape. He shows no sign of slowing down. I hope I can still walk when I'm 70!


Tomasz Stanko
Since internet has been spotty here, I wasn't able to post this in a timely fashion. It's the next day-last night I actually went to the Tomasz Stanko performance. Stanko played some really beautiful mellow phrases. His writing is sometimes spare, but there were gentle melodies and expansive harmonies. Stanko is Polish, but his band was made up of top musicians from Denmark: Jakob Bro on guitar, Soren Kjeargaard on piano, Anders Christensen on bass, and Jakob Hoyer on drums. Hoyer was very tasty, but did have a moment to solo over a vamp; during that solo, he channeled drummer Brian Blade a little bit.

I also picked up a bunch of Clean Feed recordings in the lobby of the concert hall; I got CDs by Chris Lightcap and also Ran Blake. I'll have to put them on the review list......

I saw Stanko and crew at breakfast. Stanko was kind enough to lend me some valve oil for my trumpet. What a mensch!

It was a pretty quiet day; I did some more treadmill running, and then we went into town for a fabulous lunch. The seafood here is pretty unbelievable. We had our sound check earlier and tonight-very late-is our gig(11:30 PM!) Stay tuned for more tour updates....

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