Fara in Sabina


Martin Gjakonovski, Lenny White, Mark Sherman, Bob Franceschini

Last night we played our second concert of the tour at “Pizza Express” in London’s Soho section. The music is growing as we dig in more and more. We did have an unfortunate problem at the airport in Cologne as we checked in for our flight. Martin Gjakonovski has been living in Germany for 20 years, but he has a Croatian passport as that is his birthplace. Well because Croatia is not part of the European Commission it is a real problem for him to enter London wither a special visa. My manger, and tour manager for this tour got the work permits for us all, but Martin’s visa had to be treated very carefully because of this problem. Well we got to the check in counter, and they would not give Martin his boarding pass, as something slipped by in the processing, or the airline did not know what they were doing regarding this matter. They said because his visa, and work permit were not stapled to his passport, he would not be permitted to board the plane in Cologne, as they would just send him back to Germany when he arrived in London. As I said in my last blog about the Germany gig, the stress level can really rise when situations like this occur, and it sure did. We were freaking out, and the airline is not in the business of making it easy for the passengers. We were flying on Easy Jet airlines, which really ought to be titled “Difficult Jet”. Of course if that was the name, nobody would buy tickets, so they lie and call it Easy Jet. Subsequently Martin was unable to come to London and make this concert. We arrived at the hotel in London 3 hours before the sound check after a very stressful check in, and I had to sort out a bass player for the gig. It was real drag as Martin has had the music for months and after the first gig he was deep in the music and the band was bonding. Anyway we got bass player named Arnie Somogyi. He did a great job and we made it through the concert ok. Actually it was really burning on the second set. It got to that comfortable place that we need it to be. The club is great, they treated us very well, especially as they understood what we had just gone through. These types of problems can happen, and I have learned over the years on the road that you must remain calm, and not allow it to raise your stress level too much, but it is very tough to control sometimes. I was quite aggravated with this problem, and of course Martin I am sure was devastated that he could not make the second concert. Anyway we made it through alright, but I must add that since the world trade center was bombed the world has really changed for the worse. Traveling is just become so stressful. When they search me sometimes I get the feeling that they are going to stick their hands down my pants. It is really annoying, and an invasion of privacy. The world has really changed!!

Beautiful Italia

Featuring Lenny White, Bob Franceschini, and Martin Gjakonovski

We arrives safely in Cologne Germany on April 11th for our first concert at Altes Pfandhaus, which is the premier jazz room in Cologne Germany. Maybe the only jazz club there. Anyway it is a very cool venue with a circular stage with seating all around the band. While speaking to the audience I tried to sort of turn in circles to reach everyone, but after a while I just gave up that concept, and just looked one way. Anyway it was our first gig and the music began to take shape nicely. Our sets consisted of original compositions by Bob, Lenny, and myself. In addition we played a few standards. Hot House by Tadd Dameron, and Celia by Bud Powell. Really at this point in my career I feel this tremendous need to pay tribute to the jazz masters who have created the bebop foundation for the music we play. Although I have over one hundred original compositions I always play at least one or two tunes by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, or John Coltrane. For me it is correct to present the music in this fashion. Without these guys there would not be the music we live to play. They really innovated, and changed the way we all interpret the harmony. Bob Franceschini and I grew up together. I have known Bob for over 40 years as we attended Music and Art high School together in New York City, so it is such a treat for me to join with Bob on this tour. We have not played together in a while so it has just been amazing to reunite for this music. Bob is one of the fines saxophonists in the world. For me he is ranked in the top ten along with Mike Brecker, Joe Lovano, and Jerry Bergonzi. He is truly in that class. I remember when Bob and I were in high school how we were both Bird, and Coltrane freaks listening constantly to all of the records at high volume. We used to play the records without volume on 10. If there were an 11 on the volume control we would have used it. The short story is Bob flat out is a master of the art of improvisation. He has all the elements you need to play music. Great technique, a warm gigantic sound, and tons of bebop and post bop language to draw from. Just incredible! About a year ago the record producer David Chesky put a CD together for Lenny, Jamey Hadad, and myself to do which entailed creating music with a drums and percussion trio. Lenny and I had a ball together on this recording and spoke of doing some other stuff together, so I finally got the opportunity to put this tour together. Sharing the bandstand with Lenny White has been just a true honor and privilege for me. I was watching Lenny play with Chic Corea, and Return To Forever when I was 14 years old. Totally admiring that band, and Lenny is just an incredible natural musician. He plays the music with a vengeance, and a big smile. Incredible chops, and musicality. In addition he has brought some great tunes to the table for this band. One called “L’s Bop” (Lenny’s Bop) which is a true bebop line on the A section, and a bridge which opens up into some just lush, beautiful chords that are spelled with the harmony of jazz standards. It is very fast, and difficult to execute, but when we get it right it is just a burner. The other tune Lenny has contributed is a tune titled “Wolfbane” which has a middle eastern flavor to it mixed with a strong post bop set up. Kind of like a snake charmers dance with a jazz flavor. It also has some really cool rhythmic hits, which create a great rhythmic structure for the musician to work the language on. Lenny has an amazing ear. He uses no music for all the originals, and just learns everything by ear so fast. I have never seen any drummer learn music this way so quickly, and efficiently. It is really old school in a way, but he makes it work in today’s music perfectly. I am so used to handing the drummer a lead sheet to use. Especially on the first reading, but Lenny uses no music, and gets it right very quickly. He has just amazing ears, and experience in the music having played with the who’s who in jazz for many years. In addition he is a 4-time Grammy winner. A true legend in the music! Adam Nussbaum, and Daryl Hall recommended Martin Gjakonovski to me for this tour. Martin with great musical precision, and he has clearly done his homework. His intonation is first rate, and he has a great feel, and has integrated beautifully into this 4tet. It is a pleasure to have him on the bandstand, and on the road. Really when putting a tour together like this you have to always of course consider the abilities of the musicians, but in addition to the music you really need to consider the personalities of the players. You will travel and spend a lot of time together in some really stressful situations. Traveling these days has become so difficult with security searches, and delays, and all sorts of problems that can occur. So it is vital to select a group of musicians that not only play the music to the highest level, but can also enjoy being together. Otherwise you have some real problematic situations, which just can turn the entire tour into a drag. This time I really selected a great group of musicians who get along on and off the bandstand. Off to London for the next concert.

On plane Germany-London

 

Great concert in Fara In Sabina just 40 km north of Roma. Wow way up high in the mountain above Roma with the most amazing view. I was a guest artist with the Antonio Ciacca trio. We played Antonio’s well calculated re-harmonizations of standards and a few normal standards like “Bolivia” by Cedar Walton. Antonio opened up trio with his bass player and drummer from Italy of many years, Nicola Muresu from Sardinia, and the drummer Nicola Angelucci. They were really relaxed, swinging players. It all swung real hard from the opening standard “You’re My Everything” until the final Antonio Ciacca composition Lago’s Blues, a straight eighth tune that any great player could dig into. I had visions of what my colleague and friend the late Michael Brecker might have done to this tune. He would have torn it up, as it combines and F vamp, and F blues. I had a blast playing it. The great a show with Antonio Ciacca is it is packed with music that is deeply rooted in the jazz tradition, filled with standards, blues, and rhythm changes, as well as Antonio speaks before the tunes about the history of the music. He is so knowledgable about jazz. There is a lot info music history information behind each description of the tunes. I can see why Jazz At Lincoln Center, and Wynton Marsalis chose Antonio as the director of programming. A position Antonio held for the last 5 years. So each show is filled with the great performances, and the music history. Something I myself could incorporate more of in my own shows as a leader.

After the concert we slept in a Monestery that looked to be thousands of years old. Just a spooky, maze of rooms that I guess the nuns, and priests from the church stayed in. Really an amazing looking place. All in all a great night.

Antonio Ciacca Quartet