Eugene into Chico

Posted on September 20th, 2009 | 0

We open the gig in Eugene playing my arrangement of Wayne Shorter's 'Free for All'. Wayne wrote this for Art Blakey, and I always think of Bu (what we all called Art) and the integrity he always exhibited on the bandstand. So many highlights on the gig – Ali firing on all cylinders; Elliot playing so much trombone with such virtuosity and accuracy, I had to lean forward to see if it was a valve trombone (it wasn't); Vince sounding like a human voice on Horace Silver's 'Peace'; Ted Nash's pristine flute on 'Itsy Bitsy Spider'. I don't know what possessed me to sing Joe Turner's blues, but it didn't stop us from playing Duke's 1947 masterpiece 'The Tattooed Bride', and it didn't keep Vic from crooning that sweet ballad at the end and cresting that last high f concert up over the band for 6 or 7 long measures.

Yeah. We still out here swinging. And so is Duke and the blues and all of them. We bring 'em with us.

Finally, a drive that commences later than 4 in the morning. Hallelujah! 7am. The highway comes out of the mountain, and you are close enough to read the rock lines on both sides. Shimmering brooks run through mountain passes and give way to green vistas as we pass through the Shasta Valley. Back up through mountains cloaked in redwoods, Douglas-firs and other trees whose names I don't know. Rare, bare, stony peaks stand starkly against the sky. Down into the flatlands of northern California, we pass all kinds of farms and personal signs – "Julia's Fruit Stand – home of the Great Pumpkin Festival".

On side the road: people smokin’ ribs, wooden frame houses speak silently and eloquently of the everydayness of living. All this produce for sale in a down-home fashion reminds me of the vegetable man who came through the neighborhoods when I was growing up singing, "I got your peas – snap, sugar and black, your cabbage, your mirlitons just off the vine, and your watermelon ruby-red to the rind.”

The gig in Chico is absolutely swinging with a first set that catches fire. Just a lot of inspired solos and diversity in the rhythm section. Well, you have Sherman playing all kinds of blues, then Chris making it plain with the plunger, and the very next tune Ted playing every inch of the alto on 'Epistrophy', followed by Marcus Printup playing with deep soul andlogic, verbally and rhythmically cosigned by Ali at every fresh twist and turn. Victor and Walter lock horns on a galloping 'Stage West' which concludes with Ali taking over after a brief syncopated and soft 5 chorus discussion with me.

As we walk off for intermission Elliot says, "That was probably the best set of solos we've played since I joined the band," and Ted says, "Chris is so patient and unpredictable when he plays." Sherman observes, "Yep." Walter and Ted follow every minute of every solo. They are very enthusiastic listeners – excellent models for students who come to hear us. We speak to some beautiful young musicians after the gig and then J.Kelly and i meet at the hotel to lay out our battle plan for orchestration.

Tomorrow we play Monterey, but the gig is not until 10 or 11pm. Amen, brothers and sisters.

Wynton