A couple years ago a restaurant called Saggio opened in my neighborhood. It has become a favorite local place for many, a place "where everyone knows your name." Well, that isn't totally true, and this truth turned into an interesting situation.
When I walked into Saggio two nights ago to catch the end of happy hour (they have the greatest two-dollar crostini) I was greeted by the sounds of Bird playing over their Pandora station. Christiana, a bartender with warm eyes and long straight hair, came to take my drink order. "It's great to walk in and hear Charlie Parker," I told her, not sure she even knew who that was. "Oh, I love this station. I love jazz, and when things get a little busy in here it is the perfect balance with the intensity of people's voices."
My friend Ivette, also a fan of Saggio, joined me for a drink and some appetizers. Not long after she sat down she said “Listen to who’s playing.” I recognized the saxophonist playing the Mancini song Lujon. It wasn't hard to identify him - it was me! When Christina returned to bring our wine, I pointed this out to her.
"Hey, that's me!"
“What? Wait, what do you mean ‘that's you’?"
"That's me playing. The sax. It's my recording."
"Wait, what's your name?"
"YOU'RE Ted Nash?" She looked like she had seen an apparition.
"Oh, my God, this is my favorite station, the Ted Nash station. I play it all the time."
Then she had the owner come over. "This is Ted Nash."
“What? You're Ted Nash?"
“We play this station all the time. I can’t believe this - I've seen you in here a lot, but never realized YOU were Ted Nash."
To be honest with myself, I knew that they had never heard of me outside this Pandora station channel. I had become over the months this mystical figure. They had no idea who this Ted Nash was, where he played, in what country he lived. They didn’t realize I was coming into their place about once a a week for the past two years.
If you don't know how Pandora works, it is an app for free "radio" that you can personalize. Type in any artist's name and it will create a channel that plays that artist's music plus music that falls into a similar category.
Now, the reason Saggio has a Ted Nash channel can be explained: Not long after the restaurant opened I was talking Lindsey, a cute, gregarious bartender. I noticed they were playing jazz and I asked where they were getting the music.
"Pandora," she replied.
"Oh, type in this name." I gave her mine. She did, and immediately a track from one of my CDs started playing. "That's me," I said with, perhaps, a slightly manufactured sense of ingenuousness.
“What do you mean? Playing?"
"Very cool. I love jazz. I am a singer, in fact. I'm always trying to get my boyfriend to go out and hear jazz with me." (She got that fact into the conversation quick enough.)
While I dined she kept the channel on (which covered a lot of ground in "my category," by the way). When I left, I mentioned an upcoming concert I was doing with the JALC, a program of all Duke. "I LOVE Duke Ellington." Turns out she dragged her boyfriend to the concert at Rose Hall. Next time I saw her at Saggio she very enthusiastically described the concert, what a great time she had. Even her boyfriend liked it.
So, it turns out she left the station on and it had become part of Saggio's regular music programming. And I become a famous, mystical figure.
We are just crossing over into the third week of a Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra tour. In many ways this is very much like any other tour. We performed at UNC Chapel Hill and the Kennedy Center for something like the 8th time in as many years. Boss Murphy delivers our daily itineraries, we go from city to city, bringing music to the people. Cats are working on the bus on various projects, including a couple of us who are under the wire to get arrangements finished for our Sondheim concert series next month.
The difference with this tour is that we are traveling and performing with a 70-piece choir. This is the greatest departure from anything we have done, and certainly a logistical nightmare, with four buses and an equipment truck. Including staff we are over 90 individuals to get from hotel to sound check, back to hotel, back to gig. I gotta give it the staff for dealing with this so well.
When we showed up for our rehearsal, it hit me for the first time what was really happening. I saw on our schedule “Abyssinian Mass Tour” but didn’t comprehend just what an undertaking this was to put together. Damien Sneed, our stylish and exuberant choral director, has been rehearsing the choir for several months, getting them in shape for this very involved piece of music by Wynton. The Rose Hall rehearsal studio was packed with beautiful people of all shapes, ages and shades ready to give their soul to something. Something I am sure they didn’t quite know what it was going to be. I don’t think they anticipated fully the experience of playing with fifteen jazz musicians so committed to spirituality in our own way. I know I wasn’t ready for the intensity, both spiritually and aurally, from this large group.
There was a moment during a recent concert when Patrice, one of our soprano soloists, sang a short phrase with such clarity, control and expression that my eyes turned to water. I looked over at Walter, and his eyes were similarly wet. I couldn’t look at him any more. I focussed on the music in front of me, a quick choice to internalizing the experience - a safety measure, really. But as the music intensified, so did my willingness to be part of it; to experience it at the deeper level it was meant to be.
The venue was the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston. I guess you could call it a mega-church. Nicole, one of our alto soloists who clearly has roots in the church, went off script at the end of her solo, and for the first time we were really in a place of worship. People were cosigning, jumping to their feet. Nicole, feeling the energy, raised her pitch. I thought for a moment she had become possessed. It felt like the roof was going to come off. I was expecting a miracle to happen right in front of us. Well, in a way every opportunity to play beautiful music is a tiny miracle, and I am blessed to be able to do this night after night.
For the first couple concerts on this tour the Jazz Orchestra and the choir were in separate hotels, which didn’t allow us to socialize much. Besides light chatter back stage before going on, we hadn’t had a chance to really get to know the 70 men and woman with whom we were sharing this experience.
The first hotel we co-habited was in Norfolk, VA. After the concert, close to half of the band and choir ended up in the lobby bar, having a drink and hanging out. It was the first time people really let their hair down. As the tour has progressed I have developed a few great friendships, connections I hope to continue past this tour.
One high point so far was being in New Orleans. Of course, some of the band members grew up here and have deep connection to the Crescent City. Wes Anderson, who used to play lead alto with the band for many years, lives in nearby Baton Rouge. As it happened he had a gig at the French Quarter haunt, Snug Harbor. We had a concert at the beautifully renovated (post Katrina damage) Saenger Hall, which reminded me in some ways of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Word of Wes’s gig had spread like a brush fire through the ranks of the choir and as soon as our last note finished resonating through the hall about twenty-five of us (a mix of jazz band, choir and staff) jumped in taxis and headed over to hear “Warm Daddy” swing.
It had been quite a while since I heard Wes play. He recently had a massive stroke (his second) and I had heard talk that his motor skills had been severely compromised. Well, I have to say that despite not having one-hundred percent of the fluent technique that he had, he absolutely did not lose an ounce of his soul, swing, clarity of ideas, and just plain Wes. It was amazing to look around the club and see several of the choral singers, many of whom are trained in opera, and very little involvement with jazz, to be in there swinging with Wes and the rest of us. It was an wonderful bonding experience.
We just got off an 11-hour drive from Dallas to St. Louis. Fortunately we have the night off - an opportunity to recharge our batteries.
Tomorrow morning I am going to a grade-school to talk about music and jazz to 160 kids. And I am looking forward to it!
I have just returned to New York from a great week in Brazil. It’s “winter” down there, which means mid-70s. Rough. People were even wearing long-sleeved shirts. When I stepped off the plane a couple days ago at JFK it was actually cooler here (in the height of summer).
It was such a privilege to return to being a guest soloist and composer with the Jazz Sinfonica in Sao Paulo, an orchestra committed solely to playing jazz music. They have managed to keep this orchestra alive for many years with the help of government funding and the dedication of it’s Maestro, Joao Mauricio Galindo.
For these concerts I collaborated with Ben Allison (bass) and Steve Cardenas (guitar), a trio I have been working with lately playing the music of Jim Hall. The program included four movements from “Portrait in Seven Shades,” originally written for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and three pieces by Ben Allison. The orchestrations were tackled by a team of talented in-house orchestrators we have worked with in the past: Rodrigo Morte, Tiago Costa and Douglas Fonseca.
Big projects like this tend to start off a little shaky and this event was no exception. While the orchestra sounded wonderful, there was a lot of music to learn in a short amount of time (three rehearsals). We had a couple odd time signatures to deal with (13/8 in the case of my “Dali” and 5/4 with Ben’s Dr. Zaius) and this took some time feel natural.
The first concert Friday night had a few interesting moments but for the most part came together well and was nice to finally perform the music was had been working hard to pull together. Saturday’s concert was fantastic - almost sold out auditorium, great energy and a very connected musical experience.
There is a discussion in the works about returning to play the entire seven-movement suite, complete with projected images of the represented artists - Monet, Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall and Pollock.
Sunday was spent relaxing at the home of our friend, saxophonist Denis Lee and his family. They prepared a great lunch for us, and Denis and I along with his friend Ricardo, got to jam for a few minutes, which we, unfortunately, had to cut it short to get to the airport for our overnight flight back to NY.
I want to thank Maris Pupo for arranging the week; Maestro Galindo for being so cool and flexible, and really learning our music; the wonderful orchestra for embracing this tough music with passion and great spirit; and Ben and Steve for offering their complex musical understanding at all times (and for the great hang).
Here is a link to a short clip taken by someone in the audience (with a lack of formatting experience...) - the last few seconds of “Chagall.” I am hoping to receive some good quality video at some point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEjuQvRqgJM
Thanks for reading!
Just wanted to give you an update on the Hippie-Mobile. The other day I parked the 1971 VW Camper on the street near my apartment in Washington Heights (or Hudson Heights, as optimistic real estate salespeople like to refer to this specific area). When I came out on a Tuesday morning to move the car for the street cleaners, the van was nowhere to be seen. Gone! I stood there like an idiot trying to think if I was totally mistaken. No, that’s exactly where I parked it. No question. Stolen? Towed? I called the DOT and they had no record of towing it. I went back and looked around like as if I just somehow had missed it, or it had been returned. Wrong.
I called the police and told them where I had been parked, and they said “Oh, we had to move it because of some last minute construction.” Nice. “Your vehicle is now at 4425 Broadway.” “Where the hell is that?” I snapped. “I dunno, around 190th street, I think in front of the funeral home.” An omen?
So I walked ten or so blocks from my apartment and found the Hippie-Mobile sitting innocently in front of the funeral home, looking terribly out of place. I inspected the van for damage, and other than a ding in the back bumper (from where they probably attached the hitch) it was fine. I jumped in and it started right up.
The traffic on Broadway was jammed, so I made a right onto 187th street. I got about a block down and there was an SUV trying to pass coming from the other direction, but the street was a bit narrow and he had stopped. I pulled over to the right giving him plenty of space to get by. He didn’t move, just stood there. I rolled down my window and gave him a nod like “you got it.” He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders, like “what?” I then said out loud “I’m giving you room to get by.” He then yelled “F%^& YOU YOU STUPID MOTHER-F^&*%$#.” I just shook my head and laughed, squeezing by. He was still yelling, his voice trailing off as I moved down Bennett Ave. You gotta love New Yorkers!
My mechanic, Michael Shiffer at EuroMeccanica in Mt. Vernon, happens to be an expert on hippie-mobiles, as he has one of his very own. He built me a new engine from scratch after I blew out the last one out during an attempt to drive my daughter Lisa cross-country (see blog
). Mr. Shiffer warned as I picked up the van “Don’t drive it over 60 mph. It wasn't designed to go fast.” An understatement. But I have to say the new engine purrs. I happily drive it at 60 mph, letting the impatient whiz by. The looks I get from passing drivers alternate between “Dig your car, man” and “Why you diving so slow?” But there’s something about taking it easy, not rushing. The fact is I eventually get there, and there’s no risk of getting a speeding ticket.
Leonard Gagliardi passed away in May. Who was Leonard Gagliardi? He was a passionate, soulful, humorous, serious, hard-working, underpaid, demanding, romantic, loyal, competitive, old-fashioned, modern, dogmatic, maddening, dedicated band director. He was my band director. You could almost call him a band dictator. If anyone could get dozens of lazy teenagers to win first place at half-time competitions and jazz band festivals he was the one.
Mr. G recruited me from Taft High, an upper middle-class school known for its football team, not for its music. He heard me playing quite sadly in my junior high school band, but I suppose could see my potential as less-than-sad. Maybe it’s because I was one of the very few who were actually trying to improvise.
The first thing Mr. G did was to get me to study with Charlie Shoemake, a vibraphonist who played for a few years with George Shearing. He set up this intense system teaching jazz, focussing on learning the masters’ solos. Over the three years I came to my Saturday afternoon lessons, I lmemorized over 100 solos by Bird, Sonny, etc.
Besides being extremely passionate about music and his bands, he loved his wife dearly. Every time he talked about her his eyes lit up and he smiled. He also lit up when he talked about his Peugeot, but not as much.
A couple weeks ago, in the sleepy coastal of Port Hueneme north of Los Angeles where had lived for so long, and had commuted 40 minutes each way to Reseda High School, close to a hundred people gathered to celebrate his life. Joe Gray, an alto saxophonist (class of ’74) put together a big band of alumni spanning close to 30 G-years. The band, a mix of mostly men (one woman) whose skills ranged from just hanging in there, to active professionals, swung on at least a dozen arrangements provided by Mr. Gray. Although we weren’t ready for prime time, the feeling was there, and I am sure Mr. Gagliardi would have smiled that big smile of his (and had a few notes).
I had the opportunity to visit Mr. G about eight years ago. He had lost his wife, traded in his Peugeot, and still lived in the same house he had been for decades. When I sat down with him in his very modest living room, he pulled out his scrap books. He loved remembering the different bands, and what festivals they played, and what awards they got, and who went on to become professionals.
One scrap book, the one whose pages he lingered on the most and turned the most delicately, was the one about his wife. She was an actress from Belgium, quite the looker in her day, and had been attached to one of the movie studios back in the 50s and 60s, and had played bit parts in several movies, and did some theater. Oh, he loved Mrs.G.
At the end of the memorial two weeks ago, after the speeches, and the last chart was butchered, I mean played, Mr. G’s very close friend Alisa, a woman who was in the drill team in the late 50s, pulled me aside. “Mr, G was so proud of you. I want you to take his saxophone. He would want you to have it.” I couldn’t believe it. I was so honored. This was the old Martin tenor he played in the army band in the early 40s. Mr. G always talked about the old days, playing with the bands, but never pulled the horn out. Never gave us a little taste of his past.
When I met the next day with Alisa and opened the slightly dusty case, flipping the sticky latches, the horn almost glowed. Even after all these years you could tell he took care of it. He must have pulled it out every once in a while and cleaned it, oiled its keys, held it in his hands and reminisced about the swing era. I wonder if he had regrets. When I think about all the love and joy he gave to teaching I am sure he didn’t.
We will all miss Mr. G, and remember him with love and fondness.
I think the greatest cheese I have ever eaten comes from Wisconsin. It is a Sartori SarVecchio Parmesan, and enjoying that one night with a glass of zinfandel wine was one of the most sensual experiences I have ever had with my clothes on.
I just returned from Wisconsin yesterday, where I had very little time for culinary experiences. Instead I was doing a teaching residency at Stevens Point University, which culminated in a concert by their jazz band, under the direction of Mathew Buchman, of my suite Portrait in Seven Shades. When I heard they were going to attempt this difficult piece, which was composed for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, I had my doubts.
Arriving in Stevens Point on the evening before my residency was officially to start I was greeted at the airport by one of the sax students, Katie, who in the course of a 25 mile drive to the hotel managed to get in about a dozen questions relating to arranging, improvising and practicing. I guess my residency had already begun.
A lot was packed into those three days - classes, rehearsals, private lessons, lectures. I got to know many of these students, and I really appreciated how inquisitive and passionate many of them were about playing and learning. I also enjoyed hanging and getting to know the instructors, in particular Mr. Buchman, who over lunch each day, had several questions of his own. It’s always a great privilege to come into a scene you know nothing about and see the great work that so many people are doing.
An hour and a half before the band was to attempt to tackle my suite, I did a lecture in a small auditorium, complete with projected images of the great artists whose iconic paintings were the inspiration for each of the seven movements. It was a tame affair with thirty or forty attendees. The forty-five minutes of non-stop talking, added to three days of non-stop question answering, left my voice sounding like a cress between Tom Waits and Kathleen Turner.
The big moment arrived, and the students, all alike in their matching black attire, mounted the stage and took their places. It felt like my kids up there. And with a father-like pride I have to announce that they not only got through the suite, but played it with a lot of enthusiasm and musicality. They dealt with the odd-time signature of Dali, the technical challenge of Picasso, and the avant-guard direction of Pollock quite expertly.
This residency came on the heels of a recent visit, also to Wisconsin, where Vincent Gardner and I did workshops at six schools in three days. Three of these bands are finalists at the Essentially Ellington festival coming up next week. I don’t know what these kids are eating to sound so good. I guess it’s the cheese...
I’m back in New York after three weeks on the road with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. One thing I have been thinking about is a facet of touring that usually gets very little attention, reflection, or even respect - drivers. On the course of a three-week trip, between the busses that take us from one city to the next, to the vans that shuttle us back and forth between hotel and venue, we may encounter as many as fifty or sixty drivers. Fifty or sixty human beings we don’t know anything about, and usually completely forget about after we leave whatever town we’re in.
During this trip I spent a little more effort to get to know some our drivers, and I’m glad I did. Now, most of the van drivers (usually three of them in every city - it’s in our rider to have three vans) are usually senior citizens volunteering. This is especially true if we are playing for an arts organization. They love to chat. They ask all the questions we get tired of hearing. But on this trip I found that if you can get past that initial small talk, there is potential for some interesting conversation. One man loved telling jokes. I told some back. He loved them, laughed heartily - “That’s a good one. Yeah, that’s a good one,” and I know he has probably already told his new jokes to at least a dozen people. Sometimes, and usually when it is a university, the drivers are students. And when it is a particularly cute coed, suddenly a few guys in the band become interested in small talk.
One day, in Tucson, Arizona, the van driver was a woman probably in her late 60s named Sally, and being in my new frame of mind I, we got to talking and I discovered that her daughter manages the office of the one of the biggest movie producers in the world. I just happen to be writing a screenplay...
Now, bus drivers - that’s different story. I’m talking about the big Greyhound-style coaches. Try talking to them and you might get “stay behind the white line.” It’s not that they’re not interesting people - they often are - but this is what they do for a living, and they tend to be a little more apathetic, if not jaded. However, the bus driver we had in Atlanta who got us to the airport went out of his way to secure and safely store my iPhone that I left on my seat in a groggy, early-morning trance.
We had one very stressful ride from Sonoma to Stockton on a two-lane highway, where the driver kept trying to pass a tractor-trailer. About once a minute he would pull into the oncoming traffic, seeing what his chances were to get around this oversized slug in front of us. And every time there would be a car heading right for us. This had even our own ex-military tour manager Boss Murphy yelling “no,” getting the driver to pull back in the right lane. Sugar Rob, our sound man, actually moved to the back of the bus, a place I have never seen him sit before. On top of all this, the emergency exit in the ceiling kept popping open - “Fwap!” - air loudly rushing into the bus for a few seconds before it would close again, leaving us with ear-popping silence. It was like a big mouth opening and yelling in reaction to the driver’s irresponsible choices.
I mentioned this experience later that day to the our van driver and he asked if we had come route 12, and I said yeah, and he said “oh, blood alley. There are more head-on collisions on the road then you can imagine.” Nice.
The other drivers are the ones that we see every day, year after year. They’re more like family. I’m talking about our very own Charles, Bragg, EG, and Frank. Now Frank is none-other than Frank Stewart the world-class photographer, and BBQ man of the highest order. He has been touring with Wynton for longer than I have been in the band. He is to Wynton what Harry Carney was to Duke. The man Wynton knows better than anyone. He could write a book - well, he has, several about photography - but I mean a different kind of book.
These guys are all great - always possessing a positive attitude, even when they are getting ready to hit the road in San Francisco with New York being the next stop. The only complaint I have with any of them is that during a day off, playing softball, Bragg refused to set his beer down and as a result let a line-drive whiz by him in center field.
Our last day on tour, the van driver listed in the book to take a few of us to the airport was named Funny Singh. I’m not making this up. As we waited for him to arrive we kept making jokes like “a Funny Singh happened on the way to the airport.” (While not particularly brilliant humor, I’m sure the joke-telling van driver would have loved it). But mainly we were just killing time, as he was a little late. When he did arrive, I asked him if he was Funny. He said “No, I’m not. I’m Sunny.” Apparently his name was wrong on the daily. Sunny is almost Funny, but not quite.
Back to NY for a little hiatus during the JLCO winter tour. With the emphasis on winter. First stop was Burlington, Vermont, where it was minus 11 degrees. It didn’t get much better during our next three stops (New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut) and I don’t think I left the hotel except to hop in and out of the mini-vans that shuttled us back and forth to the gigs. Hotel room coffee sucks, by the way...
My soul was warmed, however, by the very intimate gathering at actress Glenn Close’s amazing house outside of Portland, Maine. She and her Husband David threw a party for the band after our concert, and most the JLCO came, still in their Brooks Brothers suits, happy to eat the incredible soul food that seemed to be prepared for just the band and maybe about four other of Glenn and David’s close (no pun intended) friends.
That night it also happened to be my Dad’s birthday, and while we were partying on the East Coast, he was celebrating 3,000 away in Los Angeles at a surprise bash given by his partner Shelly. I brought my laptop and got on Skype and we played and sang happy birthday to him. Glenn Close even got on the screen and offered her good wishes. (big thanks to vocalist Cat Conner for setting up the Skype call!) A little later, Wynton, Ali Jackson, Glenn and I jammed on New Orleans tune that I didn’t know and was messing up, but it was fun. Here’s a short clip:
A couple days later we played the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and suddenly I found myself walking in the streets for miles with no jacket, enjoying the 55 degree weather. It felt physically and emotionally like spring had arrived.
Our repertoire out here has been as diverse as the weather, playing music spanning about 80 years, including early Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman, John Lewis, and recently commissioned pieces by band members Sherman Irby and Chris Crenshaw. It doesn’t seem to matter what music we play, or when it was written - the band always brings a modern energy to the performance.
By the time we had arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, winter was back, making up for lost time. Our flight from Toronto in a small prop jet somehow made it through the blizzard that appeared right around take-off time. That night we played one of our favorite halls, the Hill Auditorium, which seats about 4,000 people. The band was really playing. I left the concert that night thinking I am so lucky to among such great musicians and people. Each playing experience is completely unique. I wouldn’t trade the job of being a musician for any other.
Well, after three days in a row of early hotel departures (5:00, 5:15 and 3:45) I am back in NYC recharging my batteries. We’re back out on Tuesday for another week, taking us through the South (thank God!).
I had a photo shoot the other day for Jazz at Lincoln Center. Because the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is sponsored by Brooks Brothers, that is what we are going to wear. Period. Which is fine, because although the clothes are generally pretty conservative, they still look and feel damn good.
The purpose of this photo shoot was different from the past ones, which usually involved somewhat formal poses of the entire band, and maybe a few quick ones using various combinations of cats, and maybe a few rushed individual shots.
This shoot focussed on a few individuals who would be featured throughout the coming JLCO season, and I suppose because I have been commissioned to write a long-form piece that will be premiered next January (working title - “The Presidential Suite”) they will need some photos for their press releases, etc.
I do have to admit that all the attention is nice - you got two people dressing you, someone doing your makeup, people constantly looking at you and giving you the thumbs up, two photographers smiling and telling you you look great (whether you do or not). And you buy all of this for a moment, and it feels like you are a pop star. And then it comes, that moment that puts it all in perspective, makes the whole fantasy come crashing down: they ask you to wear a hat.
Now, I don’t think I have every worn a hat in my entire life. I tried to explain this, that if I took a picture with a hat on it might look slick, but it wouldn’t be me. “Yeah, you sure? How about this one.” It was one of those sort of tweedy British newsboy caps. Look in mirror. Actually, not bad. Maybe I should have been wearing hats all these years. Now that I think about it, the cover of my first record on Concord Jazz (I was 19) had me in a hat. I left that one on the subway in 1980. End of hat career.
A few weeks ago Frank Kimbrough and I were sitting at the bar at the Jazz Standard, listening to a band of young musicians. They sounded great, but looked a little self-conscious: three of them had hats on. I don’t know. It just felt wrong. I was thinking about some established players like Joe Lovano and Kenny Garrett who can pull it off. I turned to Frank, and said “what’s up with the hats?” Frank replied "You have to earn the hat.”
I just spent a couple of great days playing the music of drummer Tim Horner. Tim and I have been playing together since the late 80s - he was regular member of my quartet for a long time, and recorded with me on “Rhyme and Reason.” His last record, “The Places We Feel Free,” is great, and if you haven’t checked it out, I suggest you do. Playing with Tim is always comfortable and familiar. But there is an extra edge now, and I think it has to do with the great writing he is doing - the direction his music has taken.
Sunday night’s concert was for a packed house at the Puffin Center out in Teaneck, and the band was an extremely musical collection of cats including Joe Locke, Jim Ridl, Steve Allee, and Dean Johnson. We played through some very challenging music, all Tim Horner compositions, save for a Denny Zeitlin piece called Quit Now, which opened the concert following a moment of silence, as a dedication to the lost lives in Newtown, CT two days before.
The first thing about this experience that was challenging for me was that a few of Tim’s pieces required some serious bass clarinet playing. I’m not a serious bass clarinet player. Well, I could be I suppose if practiced the damn thing. The last gig I did was a year and a half ago (see my blog "Sold!"
). The great flautist Mindy Kaufman once told me she’s always two weeks away from her best. Well, that may have been true for me as well, but I had two days in which do two weeks worth of practicing. And believe me, after the rehearsal which exposed the truth, I did my best to find those two weeks.
One thing about the bass clarinet, if you don’t play it often, is that going to it from the regular clarinet is like breaking up with your 5’6’ girlfriend and starting to date a girl who is 6’5” tall - you just aren’t quite sure how to handle all of her. Well, I managed to get through the concert, although I felt like I was on a tight rope with no balance pole.
The next day I hopped into the Hippie-Mobile (AKA the Hipster) and drove way the hell out somewhere in New Jersey to a recording studio to record Tim’s record. I have to say having the concert the night before was a very important rehearsal. Tim said the studio was about an hour’s drive from the Bridge, but that is about and hour and twenty minutes in the Hipster, and I was five minutes late to the session. Everyone was in position, getting sounds, and I still had four horns to set up, reeds to wet, and a new girlfriend to wrestle with.
The session went great. The music is groovy, swinging, and quirky at times. Everyone played their butts off. I am totally psyched to hear this recording when it comes out. I’ll let you know ;).
By the way, the Hippie-Mobile’s windshield wipers decide to stop working, and I drove home in a light rain going about 40 MPH. Took two hours to get home...