A couple days ago I was in Vancouver, a beautiful city. Had a great concert (with the JLCO), and a very nice hang at the jam session, where I met some interesting people, and reconnected with an ex-student of mine, Mike Allen. He sounds great as usual.
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The last time we played here was two years ago. I remember having a day off and renting a bike. I drove the loop which circumnavigates Stanley Park - breathtaking views of mountains, ocean and skyline at the same time. I was looking forward to experiencing this again, but it rained. So I stayed in my room. I remembered something I wrote just after this bike ride and dug it up on my computer. I changed a few words, but this is essentially what I wrote that day:


The loss of innocence happens over time. It is not the result of a single act - the first time one discovers his body, or the loss of virginity. It is not the first lie told, or the the first time death is experienced, either up close, or on television. 

The loss of innocence happens over time. It happens when we limit ourselves, limit what we think we can do, limit who we think we are. Give up on things. I feel the loss of innocence when I look at the world we are in. Yes, I see the obvious ways, like the focus on sex in our movies and magazine ads, the priority in acquiring money and material things. But it’s also how people stop asking questions, wondering; how people accept something far less than what they want, who they are. This is true loss.

I feel sad at what I see at times, not so much at the individual acts that people equate with this loss, but in the collective sense, the growing feeling that I would like to go back to something that I was, or never was. Like I skipped over a time that was part of who I am, but never truly experienced.

When I rode my bike yesterday, I saw nature - mountains, water, birds.  They have seen much, but seem untouched by the loss. Even the people walking their dogs, laughing, taking each other’s pictures, seem at times unaware of the loss. Or perhaps they are ignoring it. But at some point they must feel it. The mountains showed me something: that despite what you see around you, you must remain yourself; not ungrowing or unchanging (as you must to survive, to adapt) but standing firm in the face of the changes going on around you, and become a stronger version of yourself.

I see my daughters come of age in this world, and see their own loss of innocence. Again, not in individual acts, but in their understanding a sense of what is going on out there, what they see around them. I suddenly feel sad that I have not lived with them these past 12 years.  Like I missed something.

With love I see an opportunity to come back to something. Through love we can find a deeper sense of ourselves. Sometimes I want to run away from everything but this love. I want to move into it, like a new home, and decorate it with joy and pain and growth and yearnings. Architectural Digest would do a spread and people would see the most beautiful palace. They would also want to forget everything and move into their own new homes, and decorate it with the feelings they have forgotten about, passions they were afraid to embrace. Then the gardens would be tended with this same fervor, and neighbors would see colorful flower beds, and fruit trees. 
 
 
The connections continue, old and new, during this second week on the road. In San Francisco I got to see my daughter Emily, a student at San Francisco Sate. Last time I saw here was in February when we played at Disney Hall. (Here’s a shot of Emily hanging backstage with Lawrence Fishburn, just before we ran over to the Grammy Awards.) Emily took time out from  studying
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for her finals to come to our concert at Davies Hall presented by SF Jazz, and said she really loved it, which means much more to me than a good review in the Times. (Speaking of reviews, If you want a good laugh, check out this review/blog in the SF Weekly). In the greenroom hang after the concert a very distinguished man, clean in his gray suit and sunglasses, told me he loved the concert and that he plays the sax, too. Oh, cool, what’s your name. John Handy...

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The next day the band did a run out to Santa Cruz, playing a concert produced by our friend Tim Jackson, who is always doing great things. I had a missed opportunity to reunite with my friend Daniel Robin, who not only played baritone in my high school jazz band, but lent me his horn for my appearance in The Exorcist II: The Heretic. I used it in a scene with Linda Blair (I’m not making this up). Daniel had his own gig that night (speaking not playing) and arrived at our concert just in time to see the bus pull away. I guess that connection will have to wait until next time.

Los Angeles. What can I say - my hometown. My Father (trombonist Dick Nash) picked me up at the airport. Always great to have family waiting for you when you get off a plane. After catching up with him for a bit at the house (where I grew up)  I had dinner with Scott Jacobson, whom I hadn’t seen

since I was 19. He was a great clarinetist, and we used to perform in all-city bands together, and play lots of duets. Lots of ‘em. He stopped playing at some point, and become an entrepreneur, starting a VERY lucrative business with his brother, of a nature that I will refrain from describing here (oh, no...totally legal). Later, when I checked into Roosevelt Hotel, I saw a man walk into the lobby that looked like he OWNED the place, with his pale blue sport jacket, hat and sunglasses, and his confident stride.  As he got a little closer I saw that it was none other than saxophonist Joe Lovano who was to be our guest at the Hollywood Bowl, playing tribute to the great James Moody.

The next day we played the Bowl. In attendance were not only my Father and our family friend Shelley Balloon (who I’ve known for almost 40 years), but gourmet spice man Mark Sleeper, who is a producer on a film called Luke Jacobs, P.I. (based on the novels by Ken Mask) for which I am writing a score; choreographer Sheron Wray (check out her Tedx program; Petra and her friend Philip, who I met with Ivette on a cruise three years ago; ten high school friends I haven’t seen in years, who came as a big group, and practically malled me after, in a nice way (local boy does good); and actor James Spader, who was very enthusiastic about the concert, and about saying hello, despite the fact that I called him David...

Later that night some of the aforementioned, and a few guys from the band, attended Winnie and Arthur’s soiree at Cafe WAS, where their teenage son Harry was tearing it up on trumpet with his cronies at the organized jam session. A few hors d’oeuvres, a little red wine. Nice. When we got back to the hotel, Susan John, director of touring for JALC, talked me into sneaking into the club in the hotel, Beach’s Madhouse, where some very decadent, fellini-esque partying was going down, replete with a transvestite Dwarf, someone dressed as a penis, and the queen of socialites (I won’t say who it was but her first name is a city in France, and he last name is a hotel. No it’s not Marseilles Marriott). Check out some of the video we grabbed surreptitiously.
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The next day was free, and I drove down to Costa Mesa to spend time with my daughter Lisa who is finishing up studies at The Academy of TV and Radio Broadcasting. She a had a little time off between her gig at TK Burger and her evening class. By the way, she is a great singer - check out this recording she made on her laptop.

Visits to the West Coast can be exhausting. I am sitting on a plane now, heading to small town in Washington State, and I am looking forward to not knowing anybody...

 
 
Being on the road often provides a chance to reconnect with old friends, family, musicians we haven’t seen in a while. It's a little over a week into this six week tour, and already I have reunited with several people I haven’t seen since I was a teenager. That’s a long time ago...

First stop was Greensboro, NC, and Branford Marsalis was in the audience. He lives and teachers near there, and brought some of his students to come check out the band. It’s always inspiring to know that someone who understands this music at a deep level is really checking you out.  Branford is very down to earth and straight up, and it is always great to see him. This was a nice first concert - tight and swinging - setting the tone for the next weeks, which will take us all over the States, Canada, and Europe.

Next up was Ravinia, outside of Chicago, where we can always count on a visit by Wynton’s friend, TP, and his sons Anthony and Branford, both musicians. Besides being very cool, TP has the biggest hands
I have ever seen.

Third stop was Winnipeg, the home of our bassist friend Steve Kirby, who runs the jazz department at the University of Manitoba. The night we arrived we had off, and Steve hosted a big reception/jam session, which featured Jimmy Greene and Derrick Gardner as well as some younger musicians playing at a very high level. I ran into the classical pianist Judy Kehler Siebert, who hooked up a bassoon lesson for me with the teacher at the University, Allen Harrington (yes - don’t tell anybody, but I am teaching myself how to play the bassoon. No idea why...).

The next day was Carlos Henriquez’s birthday, and needless to say we had a great hang in the hotel bar after the concert.

Swinging back into the States we hit the West Coast. Portland was the first stop on this leg of the tour, and the first night was off, so I headed to Jimmy Mak’s, the most prominent jazz club there, and ran into our trombonist Vincent Gardner, sitting alone at a table, his trombone at his side. Drummer/band leader Mel Brown introduced the band as they were about to take a break, and I heard a name I hadn’t heard in years, Ed Bennett. Could it be, is it possible this was the guy I jammed with in L.A. when I was 16? Sure enough it was he, and we spent the break catching up. During the next set, Vince sit in and tore it up.

The next night, before the concert, I had dinner with my childhood friend Steven Drew who I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. He and his wife Kathleen drove down from Seattle to see the concert. Lots of catching up there. One memory we recalled was the pyromaniac stage we went through when we were something like 11, making smoke bombs, and setting fire to what ever we could get our hands on, my dad chasing us around the backyard, yelling at us while stomping out our efforts.

In the Portland audience was the great bassist and arranger Chuck Isreals, with whom I played when I first moved to New York. I joined his National Jazz Ensemble (really a precursor to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) when I was 19 and got to play with Tom Harrell, Jimmy Knepper, John Scofield, Sal Nestico, Bob Mintzer, Junior Cook and Bill Hardman. In fact, this is where I first met Joe Temperly. Knowing Chuck and his wife Margot were in the audience (and because we love playing it) we performed Chuck’s imaginative arrangement of Monk’s Four in One.

Next stop - Grass Valley. This is where my daughters Emily and Lisa grew up. I traveled to this old mining town, the center of the gold rush of the late 1840s, several times a year to spend time with them, and fell in love with this place. Set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, Grass Valley (and it’s sister town Nevada City) is rather an enigma. Located half way between Sacramento and Reno, this community is a mix of Silicon Valley retirees, hippies out on the “Ridge” still living the 60s, families, red necks, artists and business owners. Although largely conservative politically (it also has the distinction of being the whitest county per capita in California), it has a strong artistic element. It’s just a little too far off the beaten path to get a lot of traveling groups like ours, and you can certainly tell by the enthusiasm of the audience that they are a bit starved. Without questions this has been one of the most appreciative audiences I have every played for. The last time Wynton and I played here was ten years ago, when I was artistic director of the first (and last) Nevada County Jazz festival. The reason it didn’t continue wasn’t because of lack of interest (we sold out both nights), but because of some political/power struggles between the arts council groups. Julie Baker, who used to own an art gallery in Grass Valley, became director of the Center of the Arts in Grass Valley two years ago and has been trying ever since to get us there. The stars finally aligned, and we had a great concert, and wonderful reunion with many friends.

Last night we played in Sacramento. Cynthia Poindexter, who I haven’t seen since I was 17 or 18, drove 100 miles from Lake Tahoe to see the concert, and reconnect with me. I used to play with her late husband, Rick Poindexter, in Los Angeles when I was a teenager, and Cynthia worked in the coffee shop, Ryan’s, where my friends and I would meet up at midnight after whatever we were doing. My song “Always Open,” on my first record Conception was written for this diner.

I think I’ve written enough. To be continued...
 
 
I received a beautiful note (through my contact at Rico Reeds, Kristen McKeon) from Benny Golson when he learned of my uncle’s passing. His sentiment touched me deeply.

First, let me give you a little background: I had the good fortune of meeting Benny Golson when I was 17. He was a guest soloist with the Monterey All-State High School Band. I was playing lead alto. Great band, and one of my most important formative experiences.  Some of the other students who were in the band during the three years I was involved were Eric Marienthal, Dan Wilensly, Steve Bernstein, Joe Alessi, Randy Kerber, Larry Lunetta, Larry Koonse, and Chad Wackerman. We performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival and had guests that, in addition to Mr. Golson, included Clark Terry, Chuck Mangione, Pat Williams, and George Duke.

When we finished the concert, on a hot Sunday afternoon in late September, Benny ran into my father back stage, trombonist Dick Nash (they had worked together in the studios in LA). Benny expressed an interest in producing me. This story probably deserves a longer telling, but for now, to keep it short...a few weeks later, sitting at a large conference table in his studio at A & M, he and his business partner (suit and cigar) offered me a five-record deal. I think I was overwhelmed (and perhaps not ready) and after a few days thinking it over, chose not to accept the offer.

Anyway, in recent years I have worked with Benny a couple times - with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and when I was directing the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra - and he always impressed me with his beautiful playing and writing, and his great attitude and youthful energy.

When he learned of my Uncle Ted’s passing he wrote a beautiful e-mail that brought warmth to my soul and tears to my eyes. A short correspondence followed, and I asked Benny permission to reproduce it here, on my blog.
Here it is:

Kristen,

I would appreciate it so much if you could somehow get my message which follows to Ted Nash who is being advertised as using RICO reed.

I chose Ted many years ago as the winner in his teenage category and he went on to never disappoint me in his ability to move ahead undauntedly armed with his tremendous talent which has now come into full bloom in a wonderful array of myriad expressive ways.  

I would greatly appreciate your doing this for me as I don't know how.

Thank you so much, as you yourself continue to move ahead remaining in tandem with immutable time.

Benny Golson


Ted,

I was totally devastated to learn of your uncle Ted's passing. Somehow we mortals intuitively see forever in those we care about. Your words and memories of him touch the deep grotto of love and appreciation that reaches across the irresistible expanse of corrosive time and its effect on humankind.   

John (Coltrane) and I started out together in Philadelphia as mere amateurs as we were mesmerized by your uncle's beautiful sound and superiority of the altisimo range of his saxophone.  For years he was a goal so many of us sought. He was completely unique in his talent in that the things not only left the bowels of his saxophone striking the medium of the air and ears, but hearts as well, not always a common practice everyone is capable of.

My heart hangs quite low because of the passing of this iconic musician, who must have likewise been a similar person. Be assured, he has now, and long since, taken up residence in our memories vividly recalling to mind a wonderful and enlightening time in his and our lives when he made our hearts 'sing' along with his.

Bless him and bless you as you continue your own 'journey' on the same path we find his footprints we follow ... if we can.

Unremittingly continue giving the future with its indistinguishable face, a face of your own creative making. Your uncle and your father have done this. So, Noblesse Oblige ... and onward and upward!

Benny Golson


Hi Benny,
Wow, what a beautiful e-mail. So great to be let into your thoughts and feelings about my Uncle. Thank you for that.

The day before Ted passed I was at rehearsal with Wynton and the big band, and I know Uncle Ted's time was VERY limited, having talked with him the day before. I had the music librarian pull out Leap Frog, and we got Ted on the phone and played this piece that he recorded with Les Brown for him live. He wasn't able to talk but his caretaker said he was nodding his head and indicating with his eyes that it sounded good. He passed the next day.

He was a big influence on me, not when I was younger - when I was checking out the heavyweights, like Bird, Sonny, Benny Golson - but later when I was in my late 20s. That is kind of when I really "discovered" his playing.  On my last CD - the Mancini Project - I pay tribute not only to Hank, but to my Uncle and Father. On Dreamsville I played the bridge as close to the way my Uncle played it on the original recording.

I really appreciate the belief you had in me when I was a teenager, when you brought me in to your office and offered to produce me. Not sure what happened exactly, whey we didn't end up working together, but I am sure it had something to do with my being young and foolish... :-).

Thank you again, Benny, for your thoughtful words. Would you mind if I used some or all of it in my blog?

Hope to see you soon!
Best, Ted

Ted,

You've come a million creative miles since your teenage years. I heard great potential even in those young years. After meeting you, I used your father a lot, especially at Paramount. He's a real pro whom I depended on a great deal even if he wasn't aware of it. Your uncle was great, but, then, so was and is your dad. I know he remembers those days of 'grinding it out.'

Feel free to use all or any part of my rhetoric because it's all true ... absolutely TRUE.

I must tell you, Ted, I'm so proud of you. A few months ago when I introduced Johnny Mandel at Lincoln Center, I heard your big band writing for the band and the originality of your capacious mind and was knocked out! You've not only never let me down, but layed a few surprises on me.

You've made time your confederate and are in tandem with it, defying its dark side with the bright light of your talent.

Do continue to move ahead with great thrust as in the case of a bullet when it leaves the muzzle. I will expect nothing less; you've parlayed your potential (that which existed in possibility) into extant reality as the past overtook the present and assumed the role of the future. You're dead on it, Ted.

Do let me hear from you. We just arrived at our place here in Germany and will be here until late November when we play Bangkok then head back to 'The City.'

Onward and upward,

Benny
 
 
I brought my quintet to Puerto Rico on Friday to play the Heineken Jazz Festival. The musicians - Marcus Printup (tpt), Dan Nimmer (pno), Carlos Henriquez (bass), and Ali Jackson (drms) - really put their hearts and souls into the music. We opened for Ramsey Lewis and Stanley Clarke’s bands, performing the quintet version of my long-from composition Portrait in Seven Shades (originally written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra). I like this smaller version just as much as the big band arrangement. I kept most of the textures and colors of the original, but rearranged it for this instrumentation, which was a challenge, and particularly tricky on Picasso. The cats rose to the occasionally by nailing some very technically challenging passages.

It was pouring rain, but that didn’t stop some very dedicated jazz fans from sitting in the drenched seats in this completely outdoor venue. The view from the stage was a sea of different colored umbrellas, which would shake like laughing marionettes when people applauded, one of their two clapping hands simultaneously engaged in gripping the umbrella’s base.

I did something on this concert I have never done before: sing in public (except perhaps for Happy Birthday, and some Christmas carols). The lyrics I wrote for Van Gogh (beautifully sung by Vincent Gardner on the recording by the JLCO) could not be ignored, run from, stashed away in some filing cabinet. Telling Van Gogh’s story with words was the whole point of that movement. Anyway, no one threw any mangos, cañas (sugar cane) or guavas at me, so I guess it was okay.

I was feeling a little disappointed that the weather was less than ideal, but we were lucky we got to play at all - the following day, the third night of the festival, the performance was canceled due to flooding.

My manager, Ileana Palmieri, who spent much of her childhood in Puerto Rico, new the exact spot to take us for lunch: a rather nondescript hole-in-the-wall, famous for their authentic, down-home dishes. I had mofongo, and of course rice and beans.

Our flight back was quite eventful: an hour into our flight an infant became ill and we had to return to San Juan. After refueling we were back in the air, but about three hours behind schedule. A couple hours later, an hour outside of JFK, a passenger in my row had an epileptic seizure. One of those days...

Here are a couple articles - one a preview piece (in Spanish), and the other a review (English) of the concert. Check ‘em out!
http://www.elnuevodia.com/lavidaenclavedejazz-980369.html
http://guitarinternational.com/2011/06/04/puerto-rico-heineken-jazzfest-2011-day-2/
 
 
We finished filming this segment of Douglas Chang’s inventive film, Chaography, a couple days ago, and I feel like I am STILL trying to catch up on sleep, recharge the batteries. Taking a 6:45 AM flight to Puerto Rico yesterday didn’t help (more about this later).

The last day of shooting took place at the Zinc Bar, and dealt with what the film is really all about - jazz. Marcus Printup, Paul Sikivie and Ulysses Owns joined me to create a piano-less quartet that was free and swinging, just as I had hoped and expected. The music, which I composed to suggest Ornette Coleman of the early 60s, was recorded as we filmed (the director of photography assured me this term was still acceptable, despite being shot in HD video). The music will also serve as the soundtrack, and later be released on CD. It was great having an audience, even if they were all “extras.”

I really enjoyed playing with this quartet. We hadn’t played together before, and although it was put together for the film, I think it has real potential as a performing band. In fact, I am working on a couple bookings...

Though we rushed to get all the performance shots down on tape (visually and aurally), we still ran out of time, and at 5:00 we were kicked out of the club without completely finishing the shoot. Many of the actors who were hired to be in specific shots, had waited in vane, (although they did get a free concert - even if they did have to hear us play one song about 13 times...).

Taking advantage of still having daylight outside, and in need of a few street scenes, I quickly changed clothes and headed around the corner with a skeletal crew to grab a couple shots we were supposed to get on a previous day. One involved my absentmindedly walking into a crosswalk, almost getting hit by a car. You think we had a hired a professional car and driver? A stunt double? Think again. With all the variables - traffic lights changing, cars at different speeds, pedestrians getting in the way, way did it about 30 times before getting one that worked.

And with that final shot in the can, we were done. Before the director could finish the phrase “It’s a wrap,” I was sitting in the closest bar having an IPA.

I really believe in this project. Douglas Chang has a vision, and has a great crew, and wonderful actors. One of the standouts in the cast was Melvin Van Peebles, playing a hobo. Ivette Dumeng, who not only played my wife in the film, was also amazing helping in the production, anticipating Mr. Chang’s needs before he did. She was invaluable. Doug’s shooting team - Tina (camera), Jane (sound) and Tom (everything else) - was fantastic.

For more information about Chaography, please visit:
http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=35606
http://www.passionplayprojections.com/chaography.html