Saturday, September 13, 2014

European Vacation

Reykjavik, Iceland
I've been traveling to the continent of Europe to perform jazz since 1993. Back then, the excitement of new countries and new experiences vastly outweighed the discomfort of air travel and the harsh realities of jet lag. Over twenty years later, the thrill of sitting in a tiny seat for hours and having very irregular sleep patterns has obviously diminished. Still, it's great to be able to travel to places where jazz is really appreciated and to see old and new friends. As much as I enjoy teaching and having a steady job, I am determined to keep a foothold in Europe or wherever else I can perform my music on a semi-regular basis.

I just returned from the first European tour that I totally set up by myself. I've toured Europe countless times as a sideman, and I've done a few tours as a leader with the help of promoters. However, it's very difficult to book your own tour; there are so many logistics, and even on a very short tour like this one, I found it challenging to keep track of everything. Although I wished more gigs had come through, more gigs can also mean more opportunities for something to go wrong! Be that as it may, it was a little over a week long and I would view it as a success, and hopefully the start of some momentum to help to do more next time.

My tour went to four countries. My first stop was in Iceland. This was the only place on the tour
Harpa in Reykjavik
where I had never been before. Reykjavik is a beautiful, serene city; the weather was a bit rainy and gray, but I was able to do some running along the coast and through the town. I did a workshop in FÍH (Tónlistarskóli Félag Íslenskra hljómlistarmanna/Music School of the Federation of Icelandic Musicians) which was well attended; I got to play with some young students and it was a very positive experience. I also gave a trio concert at Harpa, a gorgeous arts center in downtown Reykjavik. The event was sponsored by Múlinn Jazzklúbbur (Mulinn Jazz Society). Scott Mclemore, a great drummer and friend from the Brooklyn days, has been living in Iceland with his wife Sunna Gunnlaugs( Sunna is a great pianist) for almost 10 years. I'm thankful that he hooked up the clinic and the concert. We had a great trio vibe, rounded out by Toggi Jónsson, a wonderful bassist from Reykjavik, which made for a great concert. I wish I could say that I got a chance to sample some typical Icelandic food; actually, we ended up eating the amazing cooking of Sunna Gunnlaugs almost the entire time I was there. Gunnlaugs is a great cook; she is really focused on healthy meals.

Malmo, Sweden
Next, I flew to Copenhagen, then took a  30 minute train ride to Malmo, Sweden for a clinic at the Malmo Academy of Music. This was my third visit to the Academy, and it's a great atmosphere; the students are curious and have a positive attitude. This event was coordinated by Hakan Rydin, who is the jazz piano professor at the Academy. It's great to work with students who are serious about the music. I played a few of my originals in trio with the students, then we worked with a vocalist for a while. I was amazed at how 4 hours just seemed to fly by!

The next day I headed back to Copenhagen for a gig at the Jazzhus Montmartre. This is the famous Montmartre where expats like Dexter Gordon performed often. My trio was two of the top Danish jazz musicians; Morten Ramsbol on bass and Morten Lund on drums. After a quick soundcheck/rehearsal, we did two magical sets of  original music and
Jazzhus Montmartre
standards for a decent and appreciative crowd. ( It's worth noting that for both the Copenhagen gig and the Vienna gig that I had at least one person waiting for an autograph. I tell my students that I'm famous but they don't believe me!) The night was marked by two more things; one, the piano at the Montmartre was an incredible Steinway-perfectly in tune and action like "butter." Two, the great pianist Eric Reed, who was in Copenhagen working with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, came by to hear the music. It's always nice to have some of the "cats" in the audience.

Porgy and Bess, Vienna
My final stop was in Vienna; I feel lucky that I had a chance to play at Porgy and Bess, which is one of the best jazz clubs in Europe. We had a great crowd, and the energy of the trio with Ramsbol and Lund was even more intense than in Copenhagen. It was surprising that the sympatico was so good considering we had never really played trio before ( although we worked as a trio accompanying vocalist Sinne Eeg a few years back). I'm hoping to do some more with this trio next year. Now, back to Portland and my work at Portland State University. Since I'm teaching more now, touring Europe feels different than it did back when I was touring 6 months out of the year; it feels almost like a "jazz vacation." Hopefully next time it will be a little longer.......

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.