Seoul Jazz Society


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

 

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I was recently appointed to the Juilliard Jazz Faculty under the direction the wonderful drummer and educator Carl Allen.It is my biggest educational appointment ever, and as an alumni I am excited, and thrilled!

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.

Floating Stage

Floating Stage

Side view at dusk

Side view at dusk

WIth Korean Saxophonist

With Korean Saxophonist Im Dohl Kwun joining us

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Everyone involved after the show

WOW! We finished in a big way in Seoul tonight. We performed on the Yoido Hangang Floating Stage. As you can see the stage is spectacular as it sits on the river overlooking Seoul. The stage had incredible sound, and simply felt amazing. More importantly there were 2000 people there watching us at this free outdoor concert. As it was our last appearance in Seoul we played with intense spirit as always, but because of the huge attendance, setting, and great sound, we really had a spiritually uplifting performance. All the interns from the State Department were just incredible, and there was a jazz society that helped us with every move. Every time I dropped a stick or tried to move something in place, someone was there to pick it up. The crowd was very appreciative, and I saw god tonight while playing. I felt my late mother, and inspiration looking down on me. It was so beautiful out there. This is what we live for. To play our music to huge appreciative crowds. Basically the entire week has been a huge cultural experience, a great success, and we were able to help bridge the gap between organizations like The Seoul Jazz Society, and the US State Department. This program is all about that. Bridging those gaps. Afterwards there were many pictures taken with us as tomorrow morning we leave at 9 am for Shenyang China for the next leg of the tour.There were lots of hugs for us with many people who simply said to us ” I love you”. Please come back to Seoul. We need you here. Your music has touched us all”. What an amazing week!!!