Jazz in China


MONDAY MAY 7  THE NEW YORK JAZZ WORKSHOP BEBOP/POST BOP COMBO BLOG MARK SHERMAN

I was the drummer for combo yesterday, but of course it does not hold the combo back as I love to play, and can control any situation from that vantage point. Having grown up studying with Elvin and playing a lot I can really give the combo the feel it needs, and spread the depth of the rhythmic structure of the music itself. Much of my concept on piano and vibes has arrived as a result of my rhythmic concept, which I got, from playing the drums.

We had Vinnie on bass, a newcomer who played very well, and our other normal diligent players. Dave, Rob, and Matt. We ran through Birdlike (Freddie Hubbard), Black Nile (Wayne Shorter), Beatrice (Sam Rivers), After You’ve Gone, and we attempted to play T Monk’s Pannonica. A difficult set of changes to master. After we played Black Nile the second tune we played, I stopped the band and began to talk about anticipation, and the technique of thinking ahead of the changes, and actually playing ahead in order to command the direction of the line. I demonstrated how being ahead of the changes is always best, and that falling behind is a terrible place to be. Trying to catch the train as it sails by. I demonstrated this a bit at the piano, and then instructed each player to take more choruses of soloing on Black Nile, but this time to play 1-2 quarter notes ahead of the changes. Well I never heard Matt Mayer sound so good. He was jumping ahead and resolving in a way that he never did before. This technique is a vital part of improvisation. Especially when dealing with lots of changes at fast tempos. Playing ahead of where the music actually is in real time is a very effective, and sensible way to be in control of the music and not to get caught by the changes. It has always worked for me, and it was a thrill to hear it change Matt and the others approach on negotiating the changes on the tunes. That anticipation drill helps you lead the direction of the music. After all the music will not stop, so it is easier to be ahead of the game, and use silence or resolution to allow the music to catch you, than for you to be behind the changes, trying to run after the music while negotiating the harmony. Sort of like being ahead of the ball game in the ninth inning, rather than playing catch up ball!!!

Deep stuff really if jazz improvisation is your life as it is mine!!!


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

file://localhost/Users/marksherman/Desktop/Cadence_Sherman.pdf
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.

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

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The Audience

In Guilin we had an exciting concert at the music school at the above listed University. It was more like a rock concert reception, as the students were out of control excited to have us American musicians performing for them. Musically everything has been incredible. On every event the band has just risen to the occasion, and done what we do best, which is to deliver highly spiritually motivated performances. The fact that we have been playing all original music has also made the entire trip a tour de force for us all. There is nothing like reaching down deep into your own creations, and watching them grow over 30 concerts. I personally feel as if my playing has really gotten better throughout this trip. There is nothing like playing for live audiences, and these live audiences have been large, gracious, and appreciative of our presence. Anyway the kids went nuts for just about everything we did, from the moment we hit the stage until the standing ovation at the end. At the end about eight gorgeous Chinese students came out dressed in these beautiful traditional Chinese dresses, and presented each one of us with another huge bouquet of roses, which of course we ended up giving back to them later, and to our wonderful host, and translator Yi Linfei. Another triumph for the band musically, and socially. Pretty exciting stuff all the way through!

Tim Horner in the groove as usual

Tim Horner in the groove as usual

I'm happy

I'm happy

Yi Linfei translating

Yi Linfei translating

The girls who presented our gifts

The girls who presented our gifts

Afterwards with the trumpet player who sat in with us

Afterwards with the trumpet player who sat in with us

Mountains for 50 Klm

Mountains for 50 Klm

We had a wonderful day off yesterday with a 4 hour boat tour of the Lijiang River and a shopping spree in the town 50 kilometers up the river called Yangshou. We were all exhausted the night before, but we had been talking about doing this boat ride for 6 months now, as it is one of the most celestial, and heavenly places on earth. The pictures on this post speak for themselves, but basically the entire ride is lined with these amazing small mountains, and limestone rock formations. It is really beautiful, and relief from the intense humidity we have endured in China finally came on this boat trip. A nice breeze in our faces, with quite fresh air. Basically you are traveling through a rain forest for 4 hours on the river. It was really incredible. Our hosts in Guilin from the school paid for our trip, which was quite generous of them, as we were all prepared to pay for this ourselves. The generosity has been really amazing throughout this entire tour. As I have said repeatedly on my previous posts, we have really been treated like royalty over here straight through from Russia, Korea, and China. The people have been really appreciative, and gracious, and clearly value our presence. The music performances have really been special for them. Dan Walcott from the embassy in Guangzhou, his assistant Raymond, and our host in Guilin Yi Linfei have become our friends forever. They treated us so great. Yi Linfei is just a beautiful wonderful person, beautifully dressed, and just full of love, and radiated such a positive feeling throughout our stay in Guilin. We were all very sorry to have had to leave her this morning. It was kind of a sad moment to have to part ways. For me that is the really amazing thing about this whole 4-week tour. We have met so many wonderful people, and of course we will remain in contact with them on Facebook, or email, but leaving them after spending maybe 3-5 days has been difficult emotionally sometimes on both sides. I learned a lot in China about the culture, and history of the people, and the traditional cuisine, and customs. What I have always said to my students is, “you have to get out in the world, and bring your music to the world, as the world cannot always come to you to hear what you have to offer. You really do learn an awful lot out here. The world is the biggest and best classroom of all”.

Our hosts Dan Walcott, Raymond, and Yi Linfei

Our hosts Dan Walcott, Raymond, and Yi Linfei

Quartet Chilling on the Boat

Quartet Chilling on the Boat

50 Kilometers of this

50 Kilometers of this

Low fog

Low fog

Someone lives here

Someone lives here

Surreal

Surreal

Hitches boat up to sell me a Buddha

Hitches boat up to sell me a Buddha

Buddha I bought

Buddha I bought

Everyone wanted pictures with us

Everyone wanted pictures with us

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Tea Shop

Tea Shop

For all of us in these band being deeply spatially involved in what we do, and believe in, you can just imagine how we felt riding down this river with the deeply spiritual setting it brings. Upon arrival in Yangzhou we had an hour or so to do some shopping for the family back home. I bought my daughter, and wife some beautiful traditional silk Chinese outfits, and some green Asmentous tea to bring home along with some other souvenirs. The van was waiting when we finished to drive us back to the hotel 1.5 hours drive back. It was a great day off!

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