Harry Thomas


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.

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Bow at end

Bow at end

Smile Drum Solo

Smile Drum Solo

After a really great Master Class at the Ayala Museum in Manila we walked over to the Green Belt Park venue, where we were to have our final concert of the tour. At the ambassador’s residence, and at this stage was a great drum set provided by a local drummer named Andy. They were old Gretsch Drums with a small 18″marching and style bass drum. It was really an interesting sounding set. Tim Horner plays the hell out of anything, but I know Tim was happy to see this drum kit for the last few days of the tour. Anyway we set up, and played a beautiful concert in the park for maybe 2-300 people.

Each night we played, the music got more and more locked into enlightenment stage. Where everything is so comfortable. The solos had just gotten so amazing throughout. Jim Ridl is a monster improviser. He has many styles under his belt, and twentieth century classical to mix into it. He has clearly done some score reading. Then of course add the emotional build up of arriving at the last concert of say 30 events. It was an intense evening of music. We all four just flat out gave everything to the music we could. Tim Horner played one of the best constructed solos I have ever witnessed on the intro to Jim Ridl’s “Smile Said The Drum” dedicated to Elvin Jones and his intense smile. The solo was a really true tribute to Elvin. Tim implied it all in his purposeful way of negotiating life, and the music itself. What an intense  night for us all as we laid it all out that night. Last concert of the tour.

It was sweltering hot outside that night. And it was humid. Not like China, but the lights onstage made it really hot. I lost a lot of water. On this tour we have all lost a lot of water. We sweated like mad on most gigs. I thought I would have lost weight, but they just kept feeding us, and feeding us. Sometimes 4 hours between meals we would have to go to a host dinner. Breakfast was free all the way through as we had some really amazingly luxurious breakfast buffets in the top shelf hotels we were put in. The Asian cuisine is very thorough. When they put out a buffet, it is intense. Anyway there was no losing weight. You are on the road, and somehow you get this feeling you need to “Eat For Your Life”! It does get tough out on the road sometimes.

Concert done. Lots of thanks, photos, and interviews afterwards. Another exciting day finished. A lot of work done. A lot of music put out there!

Greenbelt Park Manila

Greenbelt Park Manila

Pictures at the end

Pictures at the end

Leaving Guilin

Leaving Guilin

Tim fights the humidity

Tim fights the humidity

Our hosts in Guangzhou, and Guilin were incredible. It was kind of sad to leave Dan Walcott, Raymond, and Linfei as we departed China. We had a special time with them, as that tour of the river was just thrilling. They were so helpful, and accommodating through our stay in southern China. What I liked about Dan Walcott was he was fun, and engaging, but very business like as well. He took care of business.  As we waited at the check in counter as someone was in front of us with 25 passports in his hand trying to check in a group without them waiting in the line. It became obvious that it would be impossible for the check in counter to do that, as there was a huge line behind us. So I set a pick in front of the counter as Raymond negotiated us through getting rid of this group and sending them to there own counter for check in. Anyway Raymond was talking to the check in person, and I was setting a pick so nobody else would slap any luggage down on the belt. We checked in and all was fine. I won’t miss the humidity in China. I felt as if we were soaked the entire 10 days in China. Above the picture of Tim Horner fighting the humidity says it all.

We arrived in Manila and were greeted by the team from the Embassy. In the van riding to the hotel I mentioned to Jomar Ascano that there was someone on you tube who had posted multiple videos of a song I wrote called “Changes In My Life”, and it had gotten 750,000 hits. Jomar said, how does that song go again? Can you sing it? I began to sing one line, and Jomar knew the remaining lyrics of the song. I could not believe he knew them. Well the group told me that “Changes In My Life” had been sort of a hit in Manila, and all the Philippines. It was on my 1986 CBS release featuring the late Johnny Kemp singing it. Apparently there was a singer named Jed Madela who had covered it. Anyway it turned out that Jed Madela, and management and the record company were all invited to the evening show, which was to be at the ambassador’s residence.

So the day started and we had a master class at the Santo Tomas Conservatory that was really nice. There were music teachers, and students attending. Everything was great. We had wonderful audience participation, as they were truly moved by our performance of 4 tunes. We started out every master class with some great performances of the various originals that we have. Anyway great, intelligent questions were asked, and answered, and afterwards we greeted everyone, and had a host lunch. There was a guy named Butch who is on the faculty of the music department at the school. This guy was so moved by the entire event, that he was crying. He had big large tears in his eyes when he told me how great it was to have this level of music at their school. He was so passionate about music, that I was moved by his being moved.  “Hi to Butch from Mark” if you see this.

A good start for the Philippines. We then continued on to a radio interview at Crossroads, which is the top music station in Manila. Again when I arrived I was presented with the question, “Didn’t you write “Changes In My Life” ? I said yes, and they continued to tell me what a hit it was in the Philippines, and it was covered by not only Jed Madela, but also by another female artist which I have not found yet. Slowly I got the picture, and began to realize that I was owed some money, as I had not seen any mechanical royalties for this “hit” they were telling me about. Also I had not received that I knew of anything from radio play. The interview went fine. We spoke about music, and all pertinent things regarding the band, and we got out of there. It was hot. Back to hotel for a little 2 hour rest.

Later that night we went to the Ambassador’s residence. Wow what a nice place to live Ambassador Harry Thomas has. We were introduced, and we played 3 or 4 tunes, and then opened it up for a jam session, and some of Manila’s finest singers, and instrumentalist came up to sit in with us. We had some great food, and drink, and met many people from the embassy, press agents, and other invited guests. I also met the people from Jed Madella’s management, as well as his record company and we exchanged cards. I again was told how successful Jed’s recording was, and that it sold around 50,000 units. Eventually after our return from Bacolod on Monday night, I had a very successful meeting with the president of Universal records, as well as Jed and his agents, along with several officials from the State department and the Optical Media Board. We ironed out all the publishing issues regarding my hit tune “Changes In My Life”. It seems they had not obtained a license from the correct place. I informed them where to get the license, and everything is being straightened out. Everything turned out fine. I am still in shock over the fact that my tune was so popular in The Philippines. An interesting turn of events upon our arrival in Manila.

Quartet with Ambassador Harry Thomas

Quartet with Ambassador Harry Thomas

Sandra sitting in with the band

Sandra sitting in with the band

Soaked on the first tune

Soaked on the first tune

Jim speaks about music at Master class

Jim speaks about music at Master classusic

Mark talking about grips

Mark talking about grips

Tim joking at The Ayala Museum Masterclass

Tim joking at The Ayala Museum Masterclass

Embassy briefing upon arrival

Embassy briefing upon arrival