US State Department


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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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!

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

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Xu Cunyu, and Lu TIng Ting

Our final day in Shenyang China was spent at the Shenyang Conservatory. This is music like I have never seen before. There are 13,000 students studying at this school. I guess it is in line with the fact that there are 6-7 million people living in the center of Shenyang, and 23-25 million living in all of Shenyang including the suburbs. So with that huge population I suppose 13,000 students is not that much. It services students from elementary school all the way through college with music studies as well as academic studies, but I think mostly music. The campus is huge. We arrived and were escorted to a really beautiful concert hall lined with flowers, and the beautiful Chinese style of decoration throughout the hall. After the set up and sound check. We were escorted to another beautiful lunch at yet another traditional Chinese round table with tons of food and drink. Our concert was successful as normal, and then we were treated to performances by some of the conservatories finer traditional Chinese musicians. This was truly enlightening, and educational for all of us American musicians. First a very serious looking young man named Xu came out in traditional silk Chinese attire, and played with amazing command, and personality a guitar like instrument called a Pipa. I think John McGlaughlin, or Paco Deluca would have gone crazy hearing this kid play. He had fantastic command, and stage presence. He bowed to the instrument, and to the audience with deep respect. He played his ass off, and Tim, Jim, Tom, and myself were truly mesmerized. The a beautiful young female student named Xu Cunyu came out and sat behind a Zither, known in Chinese as a Yanghi. It is on a beautiful wooden stand and struck with thin wooden sticks with a little paddle on the end of the sticks. It is tuned for the constant use of the pentatonic scale, and she played a really beautiful composition. Then a absolutely knock you dead gorgeous girl named Lu Ting Ting came out in a really long blue full length dress and played the Erhu. This instrument is a 2 stringed violin type instrument that is bowed, but the bow is permanently fastened between the two strings. It uses mainly the Asian pentatonic scale as it is tuned to D and A. It is really a gorgeous sound and the girl who played it was emotional, and flashy. All three of these musicians had great stage presence. We were all really impressed. Afterwards when we were asked to comment, I said I was really enlightened by these sounds, and that as we go all over the world as educators bringing our American jazz music to all the different cultures, I felt as if I had just gotten an education. It was really a fantastic thing watch. There is sure a lot talent out here in the world, and I know Jim Ridl, Tom Dicarlo, and Tim Horner, and myself all fell very grateful to have witnessed this innovative, and traditional Chinese music. We were really moved.

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Quingshan Lu Percussion Professor

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The Zither (The Yangqui)

Conference room with the VP of the University

Conference room with the VP of the University

Every one in conference room

Every one in conference room

Flowers at the end

Flowers at the end

It was a very fascinating day yesterday at our visit, and concert at Liaoning University in Shenyang. The campus is really huge, and spread out with many buildings. We started with a gracious meeting with the vice president of the university Dr. Yong-Xin Guo. He is a very interesting, intelligent man who is a doctorate in Physics. Obviously a really brilliant man. They brought us to a beautiful conference room with gorgeous chairs in a circle. Big chairs. 2 people could fit in each one. Anyway we had a wonderful greeting, and conversation with him and some of his staff. He praised our arrival, said how important our presence was for the university, as we bring cultural exchange, and our music to the university. Our music would certainly be something they have never had before in the university, so he was very enthusiastic, and excited. After speaking for a while he personally presented us each with a gift. A beautiful black and gray box, which opened on a hinge, and contained a beautiful necktie, which was the exact design of the box. Very cool. We each individually accepted our gift with a bow, and a Chi Chi, which means thank you in Chinese. Then we were escorted to the concert hall where we were to do our set up, and sound check. After that we were escorted to a lunch with Dr Guo (the VP), which was so beautifully laid out. The Chinese custom of eating is a very sacred one. Very different from that of the Chinese restraunts we are used to in the US. The food was beautifully prepared. It looked like art as you can see on the pictures below. The napkins were set in a very particular, and specific way at each table setting. It was a real eye opener for all of us Americans. It sent me a deep message of how the Chinese respect their own culture. We ate and drank a lot as the wait staff just kept bring more and more food out which was placed on the round glass pedestal that turns for you to pick food off of each plate. The pictures below show all this. Anyway we drank a lot, and ate a lot just before we had to play. Also during lunch we had some great in depth conversations with Dr Guo about physics, Albert Einstein, and my son Miles who I told him is physics major in college. He was a very educated and fascinating man. I don’t personally know much about physics other than it is one of the more difficult majors to pursue, but I was really into the conversation with him. After that we played a concert for around 200 college students who were not music majors. They were very quiet, and afraid to clap, until after the first tune was finished, I explained to them (with translator of course) that it was alright to clap after each solo, and that we as players actually need them to do that as it motivates us, and makes us feel good. Well after that was said, they went nuts. It was like they wanted to clap, but were not sure it was alright to do so. When the concert was over we had CD’s and Rhythm Road materials, pads, pens, pencils etc to give out. Well they rushed the stage like a stampede to be first in line to get anything they could. The truth of the matter is that in this area of Shenyang, there is no jazz radio station, and they rarely hear this music. Many of them have only heard a little jazz on film on TV, and movie theatres. Many things are still censored here like You Tube, Facebook etc. So their accessibility is limited artistically a bit. This is why our arrival, and performance was so very valuable to them. We were again given a gigantic bouquet of flowers, which I again gave to one of the students. It was a wonderful start to our concert tour of China, as well as a great learning, and cultural experience for us. Check the pics below.

Tim gets gift

Tim gets gift

Jim surrounded

Jim surrounded

Concert audience

Masterclass audience

Lunch table

Lunch table

Scallops with peppers

Scallops with peppers

Goose liver on melon

Goose liver on top of melon and chinese fruit

Accepting my gift

Accepting my gift

Jim gets gift

Jim gets gift

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