Foshan China


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

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With Herbie Hancock

With Herbie Hancock

With Benny Golson

With Benny Golson

With Carl Allen

With Carl Allen

With Lenny White

With Lenny White

I am so proud to be a graduate, and on the faculty of The Juilliard School. Last night at school there was an incredible evening of celebration for Ron Carter as he has turned 75 years old, and a new Juilliard scholarship was launched in his honor. Fifty thousand dollars awarded yearly to a deserving student in the program. With Danny Glover as the MC for the evening, the program  packed Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Just a great presentation of  many of Ron’s tunes arranged by the students, and performed with the guest jazz masters. There were also performances by the Ron Carter nonet, and the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra performing selections from Ron’s big band recording. A who’s who of jazz history was there to support this event. It was a ball to hang with many of my colleagues from the faculty, as well as the legendary guests that performed with the students on the concert. What a great opportunity for the Juilliard jazz students to play with, Hubert Laws, Benny Golson, Herbie Hancock, Buster Williams, Russell Malone, Ron Carter, Carl Allen, and Lewis Nash.

When I was at Juilliard I was playing in the orchestra with the likes of Sexton Ehrling, James Conlon, Zubin Mehta, George Solti, Leonard Bernstein and others. They had no jazz program at Juilliard when I attended. Wynton Marsalis and I used to just jammed in the hallways to find somewhere to play. What a program. What a night. Just amazing!

The Quartet

The Quartet

It’s been two weeks since my return to the US from the month long Rhythm Road/US State Department tour of Russia, and Asia. It has been quite an emotional adjustment since on the  tour we were treated as if we were diplomats from the United States. Driving in embassy limos. Being wined and dined constantly, and of course the 50-100 people who mobbed us after concerts and master classes to get a picture or an autograph, or to just talk about music. Most importantly I miss the day to day music. We played over 30 events, Everyday was another bit of magic from the music. We drove the music to higher levels. That is what happens when you do many consecutive events. My dream since I was 13 years old has been to do just that. Back in New York it has been a small adjustment from playing concerts, and master classes daily, to more occasional opportunities to do this. I miss the daily hang with the band as well. We all bonded like family. I am looking forward to Europe upcoming in the fall, Australia in the spring, and back to teaching in the university, and conservatory I work in. Hats off to the band of Tim Horner, Jim Ridl, and Tom Dicarlo for the completion of that month in Asia. We all worked our butts off, but the music made it all worth while.

Our trip following the Shenyang leg of our tour involved and uneventful flight to Guangzxou China, where we were taken to our hotel for a day of rest, and I did a radio interview for the Foshan event the next day. That following day we drove to Foshan where we arrived at the Zumiao Museum for sightseeing, and were greeted by an absolutely brilliant, and organized man named Peter Han. I had spoken many times to Peter on Skype prior to the tour to iron out all the questions regarding our presentation, venue questions, scheduling etc. Finally I met Peter face to face as he greeted us at the museum. This museum was over 400 years old, and had pictures of all the famous martial arts students, and masters. There was a building dedicated only to the martial arts, complete with pictures of all the masters. Of course one of the most well known masters was Bruce lee, and there statues of him everywhere. The pictures in the post give you a great idea of what it was like. It had a Chinese opera house, and many areas where people pray, chant, and do Tai Chi publicly. It is a very holy place with many temples, and amazing history behind it. For the second half of the sightseeing we went to the oldest kiln in the world where incredible pottery has been fired for over 500 years. The kiln was built in 1506, and is still operational. Check the pictures, as it was totally amazing. We bought lots of gifts in the gift shop for our loved ones back home. Everything is dirt-cheap here. So Peter Han is very meticulous man who is a PHD, lived in the US for 15 years, and simply new every detail of our manifest. We created this manifest maybe six months ago, and he was the only one so far who really memorized it. Every detail was followed perfectly. Anyway we had a nice lunch, and were then escorted to the performance venue where we did a great concert at the Creative Park in Foshan. Then a nice dinner, and a set up, and master class at a local jazz club where we played, and went through some educational stuff, and answered some good questions. Afterwards enthusiastic students who attended again mobbed us, and we gave autographs, and took photos. All in all a great day as Peter Han really took care of business.

Museum Entrance

Museum Entrance

Host Peter Han

Host Peter Han

Young Bruce Lee

Young Bruce Lee

Dan Halcott, and Peter Han

Dan Halcott, and Peter Han

Museum Show

Museum Show

Evening Master Class

Evening Master Class

Active Kiln built in 1506

Active Kiln built in 1506

Women Praying

Women Praying