Thursday, February 1, 2007

Gigs Across America


Last time I wrote it was late October 2006. A very belated Happy New Year to you.

In November we played Washington D.C.'s historic club, Blues Alley. It's got that old true jazz club feel and was great fun with Rod, Todd and bassist Ed Howard who is from DC. He was Shirley Horn's last bassist and is a beautiful player. The Sharon Lyn Center for the Arts in Brookfield, Wisconsin (suburb of Milwaukee) was sold out and a beautiful theater. Bruce, Bob, Todd and Rod played beautiful as ever too.

Salt Lake City, Utah we had another sold out concert. This WONDERFUL series is headed by Gordon Hanks who really knows how to run it and how to treat musicians (and the audience). We had one more 2006 concert (in warmer climes!) in amazing Palm Springs. CA at the Annenburg Theater. It’s a lovely place to be, especially for a few days.

Just before Christmas we suffered a real blow when our drummer, Todd Strait broke his collar bone. It has been a real challenge for him and us. He is a trooper and still dealing with it not being totally healed. How did he do it? I'll let you ask him but it was very scary bad luck and we're lucky and glad he's alive.

So, needless to say Todd needed to take some time off. We were very lucky to get the wonderful KC based drummer, Tommy Ruskin, on very short notice for our New Year’s Eve performance at the KC Repertory Theatre (and the National Public Radio live broadcast for “Toast of the Nation”). He also played with us at our Inaugural Performance for Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. Danny Embrey and Paul Smith joined us for the the New Year’s Eve gig. It was great to play with both of them again. It was an honor to be part of both of these gigs!

While in KC a dear friend and I visited a beautiful bird refuge called Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Many eagles hang out there because there are a lot of geese around. It’s beautiful to watch the formations and hear that incredible racket they make as a group - pretty intense!

Between each of the KC area gigs, we rushed in the new year with a lovely time in Sanibel, Florida. We were lucky in finding the great drummer for this concert. Marty Morrell is based near there. (Remember Marty from the Bill Evans Trio days.) It is a real pleasure to work with him as well as Rod, Bruce and Bob. While there I visited another refuge (the "Ding Darling") by myself. I came across a very large crocodile, fortunately with some warning by other tourists. We found out later that ‘she’ is a regular there. We steered clear and were pretty astounded. What a lovely place! I'm always on the look out for these natural places, especially if I have time while on the road (and when I can make time). It's very important to me to GET OUTSIDE!

Back in New York Bill and I attended some fun holiday gatherings for some favorite musicians and other folks in the biz ... the annual Nola Recording Studio party (with host Jim Czak) in the Steinway building. Saw tons of musicians there including Blossom Dearie, George Shearing, Grady Tate, Jackie Williams, guitarists Howard Alden and Joe Giglio, pianists Mike Renzi, Larry Ham and Lawrence Hobgood. We heard several very cool duo and trio piano tunes (lots of pianos in there of course). What a treat!

Also attended the 10-year celebration for the independent label “ArtistLed” of David Finckel and Wu Hann (talented cellist and pianist dynamic duo). No small feat and they were forerunners of the idea of artists running and owning their records/label. They have been very successful.

During IAJE in NYC we went to hear Nancy King at The Jazz Standard, also Terrell Stafford. We got to hear Jon Hendricks and his group at Birdland and I sat in with them (a very quick 'Cloudburst' - Lord help me!). They all sounded great. Very sadly, it was also announced during this time that we lost Alice Coltrane and Michael Brecker. Big losses for us all.

Our next gig was in the LA area (Fullerton) at Steamers with Nancy King and her wonderful pianist Steve Christofferson, Todd (his first gig back and sounded amazing) and our dear friend and great bassist, Tom Warrington. Many of my family members were there (Mom, two sisters and Bill).

Then, we all attended the Grammy's. I had been asked to be a presenter during the pre-telecast portion (this is from about 1:30 until 4:30 when the telecast part starts). I presented 15 Grammy’s in all. Among them some amazing artists like, Ruby Dee (for Best Spoken Word), Chic Corea, Tony Bennett, several to Michael Brecker presented posthumously, Dave Douglas, and Peter Frampton (!). Among my fellow presenters were Lynn Redgrave and Charlie Pride.

I was truly happy for Nancy Wilson who also won this year. For me to be nominated in the same category is a great honor, especially with two of my inspirations: Nancy King and Nancy Wilson. The after party was great fun. We found the room with "Kool and the Gang" playing their hearts out and danced ours out. Love that band!

Back to reality: the weather and trying to fly in it. Trying to make it to Omaha to do our POPS concerts with the Omaha Symphony was a challenge. It took 36 hours to make it from NYC to Omaha. So, we missed our first rehearsal completely (stuck in Detroit) and Rod, coming in from Europe, missed both rehearsals and of course, lost his luggage. The show must go on and everyone rose to the occasion. It was a real thrill for me to sing and play with my band (in this case, Rod, Paul, Bob and Todd) and a symphony orchestral with Bill (McGlaughlin) conducting. I hope to record that way some day. Bill's arrangements fit our approach very well as he had heard our band countless times.

I saw so many old friends, even my first grade teacher! It was wonderful to be a part of all that and also to see my Dad and Ardi in the audience.

After Sunday's performance we went to hear Luigi and his band at Mr. Toad's in the Old Market - my old stomping grounds. It was great to hear them and we loved it.

Looks like it's onto Europe in about three weeks and we are looking forward to it.

Peace and Love to all and thank you for listening ...

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