I'm sitting in a chair in a departure lounge in the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands. Why? I'm asking myself the same question. I just got off a nine and a half hour flight from Portland, Oregon. I'm waiting for my connecting flight to Oslo, Norway. This is the beginning of the 2013 Jack DeJohnette Quartet Featuring Don Byron Tour of Europe. I'm excited about the tour and the prospect of musical conversations with DeJohnette, Byron, and bassist Jerome Harris. However, there is a 9 hour time difference between Portland and Amsterdam. Which means that, although the morning sun is shining through the huge glass windows of Schiphol, all I want to do is sleep. So why did I just have 3 cups of coffee? I can hang on until I get to Oslo, then it's night night for GC. If my room isn't ready, I'll have to bribe someone. Or just get on my knees and beg for any room that's available. I'll take even a broom closet….. a smoking broom closet with no view. Maybe I'll just fake an illness. Or just remind the people at the front desk that I'm an American and we are known internationally for our whining abilities.( If WHINING was an Olympic sport, USA would take Gold, Silver, and Bronze every four years.)
I almost never sleep on flights. The only way I'll sleep on a flight is if I haven't slept for three days straight. Otherwise, I just can't do it. I don't know why sleeping sitting up in a tiny uncomfortable seat surrounded by strangers and food carts while turbulently tossing in the upper levels of the atmosphere is so difficult. I guess I'm just finicky.Or maybe it's because there are SO many great movies to watch on the plane. And when I say great, I mean crappy. Did you know that they made at least 4 of those "Beethoven" movies? Not Beethoven the composer; Beethoven the DOG. They made at least 4 that I know of, they all suck, and they might be coming to an airline near you. The joke is that the titles of the movie are "Beethoven's Second" and so on, just like the Beethoven Symphonies, except nobody
So I didn't sleep this time, and right now it's just an exercise in sleep deprivation. Well, I guess it's only 1AM in Portland, so it's just as if I stayed up late reading or emailing. (I would have said it's like a late gig, but Portland doesn't have too many of those. I wonder if anyplace has those really late night gigs like in the old days, like Bradley's. I guess Small's in New York goes til the wee hours. But a 1AM hang in Portland is only a thing of legend.) Still, regardless of the jet lag math, I don't feel that great. Although, I will admit that since I changed my diet and have been exercising, I feel better than in years past. Plus, you can just stay awake using mental willpower. (Oftentimes, people will say "Get on the schedule of your destination city the first day; get out in the sunlight as much as possible…..go for a run…." I used to try but lately, since I haven't been traveling as much, my willpower is so weak that I don't even try. It's a 5 hour afternoon nap followed by a groggy dinner followed by going back to bed followed by waking up too early and saying, " I shouldn't have slept so much when I first arrived!")
I used to think that touring was always an exercise in sleep deprivation. But when my son was born, my wife and I didn't sleep for a solid year. Even now, my son will get up in the middle of the night. He'll come into our bed, and then kick us all night long. (Oftentimes, I end up going in his room to sleep the rest of the night.) So sleep isn't a given at home. I used to be skeptical when other musicians would say " I get more sleep on the road than at home!" Now I totally get it.
This tour is a little over 3 weeks, and it takes us to many cities around Europe. Many of these cities I have been in before: Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Essen. We're also going some places I haven't been: Oslo, Gotenberg, Sarajevo. It took me about a week to pack. I don't want to get charged for overweight baggage, but I also don't want to wear dirty clothes for 5 days straight. I also don't want to be cold. I have some wash and wear items that will work if I can't get to a laundry. I may get a few things cleaned in a hotel, but that can get expensive.( I love how in these hotels they have a printed list of how much they charge to clean each different clothing item. Who comes up with these prices? " Socks: $7.50…….Men's Trousers: $12.59………….Women's Handkerchief: $6:45." Talk about rip-off city. I guess it's nice that they tell you how much they are going to stick you for. I remember before cell phones and laptops if you tried to call from the hotel, there would always be somebody who had a 300 dollar phone bill. I asked one time how much it would cost per minute and the lady at the desk said, "I don't have access to that information!" Can you imagine going to a restaurant where they refused to tell you the prices?)
I won't lie; I have mixed feelings about going on the road right now. I love to play and certainly this is a high level musical organization. However, my son Liam is in a real Daddy phase right now, and he's very sad that I'm not going to be around for a few weeks. I miss him already; we've been having a lot of fun lately doing Dinosaur races around the house. On my way out the door, he told me that he wanted me to bring him a "mad Alosaurus." He's also really in a heavy Dinosaur phase at the moment. He equates "carnivorous" with "mad" for some reason. I'm also missing my teaching. All of my classes and ensembles at Portland State University are covered, however, I'm really enjoying this first term and I feel as though we have more potential than ever this year. So I don't want to miss too much time with the students.
As I sit here in the airport, missing my home and my family, I can't help but think that if jazz was more popular in the U.S., then we wouldn't have to fly to Europe to work. We could work in our home country, maybe even our home states or cities. I have mentioned many times that the real jazz tours for me have always been in Europe, ever since I started touring in 1993. It's weird that America's music is more popular everywhere else but in America. I'm about ready to reverse my criticism of the notion that Europe can claim some stake in the ownership of jazz. That's right, I might owe Stuart Nicholson, the author of "Is Jazz Dead? Or Has It Moved To A New Address?" an apology. Well, let's not get carried away. That might just be crazy jet-lag talk.