Thursday, December 27, 2001

Friends and Family

Hi there folks .....

It's the holiday season for sure. I played the part of the Virgin Mary in 'Bending Toward the Light - A Jazz Nativity' (Type-casting? :) Got to hear and meet some new folks - NY Voices, Jackie and Roy, Slide Hampton, among others. Also Jon Hendricks, whom I've met (and actually sung with before, Cloudburst!) played one of the kings. I'm of course a big fan of his. I do many of his tunes. Bob Kindered, Ingrid Jensen, Virginia Mayhew sounded great too. I sat on a rock for much of the time in this performance as the Virgin Mary, sang a lovely tune written by Anne Phillips, then came down from my rock and sang a couple scat choruses on Deck the Halls. Interesting!

Since then I've been performing and seeing friends and family. (These things seems to go hand in hand for me more often than not!) Started out in KC with two performances at the Blue Room. Rod Fleeman joined Paul, Bob, Todd and I on the first night. Then Danny Embrey joined us the second. All of them sounded as great as ever. I think Bob Bowman has said that it's always like 'leaning back in a large comfortable chair' (playing together) which I agree with! Nothing like it - they swing like CRAZY.

The second night at the Blue Room was partly a celebration of the LP version of 'BALLADS' - pretty exciting. I used to dream of making an 'album' - like my favorite artists used to, but of course by the time I 'got around to it' -CD's were the thing. So it's interesting to see BALLADS in this form. It looks really beautiful and impressive 'cause it's so big! (I haven't had the opportunity to hear it yet) So if this is interesting to you, check it out - it's worth it (numbered limited edition too).

Saw lots of familiar faces that weekend (KC audiences swing hard too! :) along with the Liberty gig - with special guest Bill McGlaughlin conducting string quartet arrangements he's written for me/us. It's been fun (and educational!) 'honing' those - though I wouldn't say it's a COMPLETELY different animal, it is different for us. Very enjoyable. Bill's done a lovely job in making it loose enough for us jazzers, while making the classical aspect really soar too.

Then there was a private party in KC for some very nice folks - very appreciative and warm. And it was onto Omaha and Mpls for more family/holiday re-uniting.

We've also been planning the next project- due to record in Feb with a great band. I'd love to tell you more about this but want the whole creation to unfold for me a little better first. I am excited about it though! One never knows (at least I don't) HOW it will all gel - one can only hope and work at it - then let it go... and work at it some more.

On to IAJE in a couple weeks to do a clinic with Danny Embrey called “Singers are Musicians too”(!) Also while there, playing the very fun club Steamers in Fullerton (LA) that weekend. Then onto Hawaii at the Honolulu Academy of the Arts and more family too. :) So... for now - back to New York and I'm looking forward to that as I continue to really love this city which I now call home. All the best to you all - thank you for listening!

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Quite The Two Weeks!

Hi folks -

We've had quite the two weeks! Started out in St Paul, MN with O'Shaughnessy's Theater 'Women of Substance' Series (beautiful auditorium). Always good to be in the Twin Cities as I get to see my mom and sister. Ingrid Jensen on trumpet sounded wonderful. I loved her playing - very soulful & 'modern.' Hope to work with her again. Pianist Laura Caviani made some cool arrangements for us and she - as always sounded great. Had some 'men of substance' too :) - Danny, Bob and Todd - who then went to Paris with me the next day. And many thanks to radio station KBEM-FM in Minneapolis!

Great to be in Paris again but too short! Played in a beautiful little theatre outside Paris in Corbeil to a great and enthusiastic crowd. Then back to the states the very next day to Lincoln, NE (via Chicago and Minneapolis) to play the Lied Center. 'Jazz with Strings Attached' with conductor Bill McGlaughlin' leading his arrangements of such tunes as What's New, Parisian Thouroughfare, Cinema Paradiso, among others. The 10-piece string 'sinfonia' was comprised of the best Lincoln and Omaha players. They sounded lovely. So did Rod Fleeman, Bob, Paul and Todd. Another very enthusiastic crowd of over 1000. What a thrill that is for me to play with strings. Bill's arrangements are very special - they leave room for us 'jazzers' to stretch out, while having interesting stuff for the string players to play. Many thanks to Lincoln's public radio station, Charles Bethea and the Berman Foundation for all of their support.

Next day onto Cedar Rapids IA to play with the Kirkwood College Big Band (with Laura Caviani). Great crowd and thanks very much to KCCK - a 24 hour (!) JAZZ station! Great station!! Then...onto Omaha, NE for a 'Habitat for Humanity' fundraiser. This was a very special evening. Over 1200 people showed up and we had to turn many away. We raised $13,000 that night for 'Habitat' - an ELECTRIC night! Rod, Paul, Gerald Spaits & Todd were wonderful. This was a Christmas present for my father, AND my Dear Grandmother came (she's 94!)

I hope you are all safe and happy. So heartbreaking to hear about yet another plane tragedy in NYC. My thoughts are with those folks involved!

With Love & Peace,

Monday, October 15, 2001

Be Safe and Happy

Hi all -

The last time I wrote was in early September. A lot has transpired since then. Let's hope Peace will soon be with us all.

We recently played another lovely place & festival - Sedona, AZ’s Jazz on the Rocks. What a very special place! We played 'the brunch' to a very enthusiastic sold-out crowd. Also got to take a few hikes in that beautiful area. I recommend that as well!

Edmunton was lovely. The “Yardbird Suite” is a club soley owned and run (very well) by the Edmunton Jazz Society - ALL VOLUNTEERS! And it WORKS - first I've ever seen that. We played in honor of Coltrane's 75th birthday to wonderful crowds there and we look forward to going back.

Just got done with a very fun time in DC. Blues Alley is a wonderful, intimate, funky club (the way a jazz club should be!) Then on to Philadelphia's Zanzibar Blue - a beautiful supper club. A pleasure and honor to be both places and look forward to going back. Great crowds - thankyou for coming (if you did) and if you didn't - WHERE WERE YOU... :)

Be safe and happy - until next time......

Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Christmas Tunes in Summer

Hi there ...

Things are settling down a little now. It's been a busy summer. We had a great gig @ Birdland in NY. Great crowds both nights. Several musicians came by (like Annie Ross & Mark Murphy). I've always been big fans of theirs so that was a thrill for me.

The band sounded wonderful - tenor saxophonist Bob Berg wowed everyone with his deep sound. Lewis Nash grooved away and bassist Mark Helias sounded great. Danny came from KC - got to have my guitarist there! And James Williams was spirited as ever. Steve Wilson sat in and played pretty too. I dig playing @ Birdland - very nice vibe there - a real jazz club.

I recorded a few Christmas tunes for NPR Piano Christmas program which will be hosted by Nancy Wilson (when? -Christmas!) Pianist John Hicks played a tune with me and I accompanied myself on another. I was given the Downbeat Blindfold test last week too - that was quite fun and challenging. That will be out 'sometime next year'.

I was a special guest with James Williams @ the Blue Note (NY) - my first time playing there which was fun - along with John Patatucci, Jeff Tain Watts, Steve Wilson, vocalists Venessa Rubin and Roger - who's a member of James' 'ICU' band. Enjoyed them all. Great crowds - James was the consumate musical host.

Met up with my KC buddies (Danny, Todd, Bob & Paul) in Grand Forks, North Dakota for the Sun Dog Jazz Festival. What a nice festival! Very nice people and well-run, good music and a fun after-party in their pretty museum. Really hope they can continue that fest. Hung out a little with 'the Hornheads' - a very cool horn band from the Twin Cities. Got to hear the Yellow Jackets for the first time.

On the way home now on a VERY delayed flight back (agh!) That's a drag and all too common - but c'est la vie. Going to rejuvenate a little now - prepare for the next wave. We don't always know when THAT will be but you KNOW it's coming! I had some good times with my family too this summer and always value that tremendously.

Once again, thanks for checking in and for your continued interest & support.

Until next time...

Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Happy Birthday from Chic Corea!


Just been to Seattle's Jazz Alley with a great band. James Williams, Steve Wilson and Danny Embrey came along. They sounded great. Bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop joined us. Great turn out there - sold out shows and Jazz Alley is great place to play. A BIG thank you goes out to KPLU-FM for their continued support. I always enjoy the city too - a beautiful place. I also got to stop into Tula's in Seattle - another great little jazz club.

Now heading back to NYC, then to Worcester MA. There I'll play with Paul Bollenback, Marshall Wood, and Jim Gwin. WICN Radio has brought me in several times - good people!

The Kansas City Jazz Festival was good and HOT (about 110 degrees!). Thanks to those of you who braved the elements - good to see my friends. Got to play with some of my favorite guys: Paul Smith (who just put out his own CD), Todd Strait, Danny Embrey, Gerald Spaits, Steve Wilson and guest Bobby Watson! Too much fun! The Concord Festival was good - got to play with Mulgrew Miller for the first time - a treat! (Did I mention that Chic Corea played Happy Birthday for me INSIDE the (hotel lobby) piano? That was an honor. :)

Got to meet the well-known producer of MANY hits- Phil Ramone. Also spent a few days in San Luis Obispo, Ca. What a pretty place - took a great hike near there (watched out for mountain lions!) Also got to see/hear a live taping of Bill's (McGlaughlin) St Paul Sunday (Mozart Festival there) progam (MPR) and was asked to sit in with the french horn player and his band- Richard (Rick) Todd on their 'From Brahm's to BeBop' Concert-very cool (He's "the one" hitting all those beautiful high notes on Shirley Horn's Here's to Life...)

Looking forward to NYC's Birdland gig with Danny, Bob Berg, Lewis Nash, James Williams (and maybe another special guest or two). Should be a great two nights of music.

Going to be interviewed for Downbeat's Blindfold Test later in the month - have always thought that would be an interesting thing. Also taping a couple Christmas tunes (already!) for NPR - more on that later. One more NY date to mention coming up. James Williams invited me on one of his Blue Note nights - September 2nd. Lots of 'luminaries' will be out (and IN the band)!

And summer's almost over - can't believe it. Hope everyone is digging theirs - and taking time to do things you love. Life continues to be an (excellent) adventure.

With Love,

Monday, July 16, 2001

Some of My Favorite Places

Hello, thanks for checking in.

I'm now in the middle of a long month of travel in some of my favorite places; almost all "home" to me (Twin Cities' Dakota Bar & Grill, Chicago's Green Mill, KC's Blues & Jazz Festival, and the Concord Jazz Festival - with a few stops in Omaha too). The Dakota was great - wonderful crowd (as usual) and Lowell Pickett has done an amazing job running this great club. Played with Rod Fleeman, Laura Caviani, Bob Bowman and local drummer Phil Hey. Phil and I used to play together when I lived there - wonderful drummer.

Then everyone except Phil went north to The Green Mill - probably my 8th time there. Another great club owner (usually an oxy-moron! :) ) Dave Jemilo. Very spirited room with lots of young 'folks' too which is good to see. Added local drummer Bob Rummage to the band. My sister and I hung out in Chi Town for a few days after which was nice. Now a little more family in Minneapolis (my Mom).

Then, onto KC where we'll add two fine horn players to members of my favorite KC rhythm section (Danny Embrey, Paul Smith, Gerald Spaits, Todd Strait): Steve Wilson and the now (again) local Bobby Watson. Should be great. I have always wanted to play with Bobby and I love Steve's playing. Then after we do our thing, we'll get to listen to Arturo Sandoval. No lack of energy in either of these shows!

On to Concord after that where we add Mulgrew Miller to our band. Can't wait for that - been a fan of his for a long time. Then we'll listen to the Poncho Sanchez Band (after us). Love those guys. Then to the Chic Corea Trio, love them too. So... the summer moves on and before we know it, it will have passed. I'm enjoying it while it's here. Ballads continues to do well - I'm digging the music very much, my players and playing for YOU."

With Love,

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Touring Ballads - Remembering John Coltrane

Hello and thanks for checking in.

We're touring now for our latest CD:

Ballads – Remembering John Coltrane.

A first for me was a Jazz Cruise on the QE2's Floating Jazz Festival. Amazing to go from about West 42nd Street all the way to South Hampton (England)! We (Danny Embrey, Danny Embrey and Todd Strait) were honored to be in such musical company as: Etta Jones and Houston Person (so swingin'), Tommy Flanagan (who sat in with us - what a thrill), Annie Ross (a delight), Cleo Laine and John Dankworth (she sang Peel Me a Grape like no other), Gary Burton (who brought the young INCREDIBLE Berkley All-Stars), Ted Rosenthal, Gene Burtoncini and Adam ...? who serenaded everyone til the wee hours. Singing with Gene & Ted was great. Jay Leonhart, Monty Alexander, Bud Shank, Joe LaBarbera ... great fun.

Then onto the Topeka Kansas Jazz Festival (from England to the stage in just over 24 hours - we do get around) Lots of great folks there too. Had a great gig in 'my hometown' - Kansas City - at the Blue Room @ 18th and Vine - - a magical night with Laura Caviani, Bob, Todd & Rod Fleeman - Danny too. Packed house and so much fun to be back there for a minute. Thank you to any and all who came that night.

Now onto LA @ Catalina's for a week with Danny, Tom Warrington and Joe LaBarbera - and special guest this weekend, Bob Sheppard. It'll be a challenge to keep up but I'll do my best. :) That's what it's all about anyway. I love to work with all these different players - it brings different things out in my music and helps me grow. I believe that Jazz attracts a very high quality of people, both the players and the folks who listen.

Til next time ...