Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Week in Los Angeles: Catalina's and NAMM

Lenny White
I've never had any inkling to move to Los Angeles. Although there is a music scene, and quite a few great jazz musicians living there, I always felt like New York City was the Mecca. I'm not sure if that's still true, but I did enjoy this past week in LA. I was performing with drumming legend Lenny White; we've played together with Buster Williams for over a decade, but I had only worked with White's own ensemble for a brief period in 2008. ( We did a recording called "Anomaly" which actually features some of my compositions, as well as White's.) I was really glad to get the call and do some playing. I'm blessed that I have gotten to play with two of the living legends of jazz drumming; White and Jack DeJohnette. Both of these men worked with Miles Davis (and Jackie McLean, now that I think of it), but they both have their own approaches to being bandleaders. DeJohnette lets things be a bit more free form, while White is very conscious of orchestration, form, and presentation, almost like an orchestral conductor. I also think that they both choose their sidemen with extreme care; our week in LA would include not only electric bass giant Victor Bailey but also Foley on lead bass(known for his years with Miles Davis and Prince.) The three nights at Catalina's also welcomed the addition of Bennie Maupin on tenor sax, soprano sax, and bass clarinet, which was a real treat, especially when we played Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly"; Maupin played on the original recording.

The gigs at Catalina's went well. We stayed near the club, which is in Hollywood. I've never found
Hollywood, especially Hollywood Boulevard, to be a great neighborhood; however, I was able to get in many runs at Runyon Canyon Park, where if you make it to the top of the hill, you can see a great aerial view of the city. I also made it over to the Hollywood Gym on La Brea, which was very low key. There's something about nice weather which makes you want to go out and exercise!

After three good nights of playing, we headed over to Anaheim for the NAMM show; we were scheduled to play a short set for the drum company Tama's 40th anniversary. Replacing saxophonist Maupin would be guitarist Nick Moroch(who played on White's classic fusion album "Streamline"). If you aren't familiar with NAMM, it's the National Association of Music Merchants and it's like being in a gigantic Sam Ash music store; every company in the world that makes musical instruments shows their wares at this massive event. After our brief sound check, I got my badge and headed over to the convention center. It was extremely overwhelming, to say the least. I tried to look at some keyboards and drums; I played the new Tiger Plastic Trumpet from Warburton, which really was amazing! Although it was somewhat overkill, I wouldn't rule out going next year.

We played after a great set by Billy Cobham's band. After a very exciting set with White and crew, I felt lucky to get to play with some of the heaviest musicians on the planet. Now it's time to head back to Portland for teaching and cold rainy weather.

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