Wow, the summer is flying by! I've tried to squeeze activities that are more "summer vacation"-like around my musical activities. I will say that after four semesters of full time teaching, it's great to be back in New York and playing with a variety of heavy cats. I think I'm a bit rusty, but it's slowly coming back, just in time to start full time teaching in the fall! Oh well......
I've had a few nice one-offs in the month of June. First, I flew to Rochester, in upstate New York, to play the famous Rochester Jazz Festival. I was accompanying a wonderful vocalist from Denmark named Sinne Eeg. We met at an educational camp in Denmark in January of 2009, and she called me for a duo tour later that year. This time we had Josh Ginsburg on bass and the talented Jochen Ruckert on drums. A quick rehearsal, and then two sold out shows at a huge church near downtown. I regretted as usual that it was only one gig, since we gelled so nicely.
Next, I took the train down to Baltimore to play with a young clarinetist and bass clarinetist named Todd Marcus. We played in an interesting venue called Caton Castle. I had been hearing about it for years, but I never played there. It's a great place to play, and the atmosphere is that of a classic jazz bar and soul food restaurant. The only problem is that it's in a very rough section of West Baltimore.( For those of you who watch "The Wire", which I just got into recently, it's basically in that neighborhood.)Still, the crowd was a real listening crowd, and they were very enthusiastic. The rhythm section was the great Baltimore based Warren Wolf on drums (you might know him as a vibes player) and Eric Wheeler, a young virtuoso bassist from Washington D.C.
We played mostly Marcus' original music and arrangements. In fact, the gig was really preparation for a recording, scheduled for a few days later in New Jersey. We recorded at Skyline Studio, one of my favorite places to record. Paul Wickliff is on of the best engineers in the biz, and he keeps the Steinway piano in great condition. The fact that we had played through all of the music on a gig made the studio time very smooth, and I'm anxious to hear the project once it's mixed and mastered.
A few days later, I went into the studio again with the aforementioned Josh Ginsburg. This wonderful bassist and composer , another Baltimore native, asked me to be a part of his debut CD. Josh and I have worked a lot together, with my trio and in other projects. I was surprised at the depth of his composing: he really found some unique textures and melodic ideas. Accompanying us was the fabulous Rudy Royston on drums and Eli Degibri on tenor saxophone and soprano saxophone. The date was another one day-er in the studio. It's always a challenge to cram everything into a day, but such is the nature of jazz recording budgets. Again, I look forward to hearing it when it's ready for consumption.
That weekend, I packed my wife and son in a car and we drove from Manhattan to Saratoga Springs, a three hour and change trip. I was to play one set with Jack DeJohnette at the Saratoga Jazz Festival. I've played at this festival a handful of times over the years, and I love it because I get to hear a lot of groups for free. This time was no exception: I got to hear guitarist Lionel Loueke's trio, bassist Ben Allison's band, Eliane Elias' Band, and Marcus Strickland(surprisingly playing alto saxophone instead of his usual tenor), all for free! The set with Jack went well, as predicted. After our European tour, it was nice to play for an American audience. This is one of those festivals where people can actually camp out near the stage for a few days and see all the acts for one price. Not a bad way to spend the weekend. It was cool also because my 18 month old son got to see his first jazz festival!
Finally, I had another one-off in San Remo, Italy with the Donald Edwards Quartet. Donald Edwards, originally from Baton Rouge, is another musician that I've been associated with for many years in various configurations. This band featured the great Moscovite Boris Kozlov on acoustic and electric bass and Philly's own Jaleel Shaw on alto saxophone. We played as one of three groups; each group featured a drummer's band. (The other bands were led by Eric Harland and Jamire Williams.)This outing was more of a collective; each player contributed original tunes. Edwards is a skilled composer, and his music was very challenging. It was nice to be in sunny San Remo for a short time. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with this gig was my and Shaw's travel routing; it took almost 5 days to enable us to do one 90 minute concert! We had very lengthy layovers in London. Sometimes for me, these kind of trips make the concert seem like an afterthought, because most of the time is spent in transit. Well, such is the life of a touring musician. I might gripe about it now, but I'll miss it when I'm knee-deep in teaching next semester........
|Jochen Ruckert snacking before soundcheck|
|Josh Ginsburg and bass du jour|
|beautiful church that we played in with Sinne Eeg|
|Jochen and drum kit|
|Todd Marcus explaining music to bassist Eric Wheeler|
|Caton Castle 1|
|Caton Castle 2|
|Todd and I stopped at Wendy's on the way back to New York. Ugh.....|
|My room in San Remo|
|Room in San Remo 2|
|San Remo 1|
|San Remo 2|
|San Remo 3|
|San Remo 4|
|San Remo 5|
|San Remo 6|