We left Valencia at 7:30am. We are on the road again—- 5 hours from the east cost to the Basque region in the north, to Vitoria. On the way, we stop at a roadside cafe in Teruel. Local families everywhere with kids running all around. Having fun, then too much fun, then crying, then having fun crying. Teruel is on a eastern mesa in the middle of nowhere. To honor its obscure location, Spaniards have a popular saying that the town later adopted as a slogan, "Teruel Exists". In Valencia, the temperature was 22°C. Two hours later in Teruel——11°C.
Now we're talking about huevos fritos, olives, cured ham, blood sausage – Spanish soul food. We ask the proprietor for some Tabasco (Wes Anderson says civilized people bring their Tabasco with them) and he grunts and walks away. Fernando says, "Damn! Man of few words, brother." Three minutes later he comes back and places a bottle of New Iberia, Louisiana Tabasco on the table and walks away. "That man is really talking now," says Fernando. "Loud and clear."
In these posts, I generally touch on highlights of our tour from my perspective. The next three days was what we actually do…..there was not even 30 minutes to post anything.
We get in around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Rehearsal is at 3. Vic, Sherman and I go immediately to Saburdi, a local tapas place a few blocks from the hotel. We assess what has to be accomplished in the next few hours. Movements 6,7,8 – any one of which would easily take up a full rehearsal (3 hours). Then movement 5 which requires only me and the sax section on clarinets….. Later, we will perform all 12 movements and Chano Dominguez's 20 minute suite, "De Cadi a New Orleans."
I apologize. We just laugh and shake our heads.
It's now 6 o'clock and we have gone over 2 1/2 of the four pieces. Everyone is a little testy. Our rehearsals can seem like pandemonium to someone who is used to normal rehearsing. We are getting the music together and different sections work out their parts at the same time. We rehearse quickly knowing that everyone is always figuring their part out. In New York, we also sometimes have kids running all around adding to the stew of seeming confusion. Most of us arrange and know how the orchestrations should work and cats mainly ask me note questions.
"Is this a G or a G#?"
"Man, I don't know, play it? Yeah G."
Ali and I go back and forth about one groove or the other or the tempo or the need for an accent here or there. He got about two hours sleep last night. Many times you get so much energy and exhilaration from a gig you can't sleep. Carlos talks about the need to define the components of one particular groove or another. Ali says what he is doing is right and Dan doesn't say anything. (That's the rhythm section.)
Vic is always checking notes and almost always finds things that need to be changed. Ted is being driven crazy by the intonation. Sherman is
'personalizing' his parts with all types of 'Alabamaisms'. Walter is checking his instrument and Joe is playing hard passages over and over making it impossible to talk about what we are rehearsing. (That's the saxes).
Vince adds his own little scoops and bends to his parts which Chris and Elliot imitate and laugh about when stylishly executed. (That's the trombone section—- all over 6'2 and the most easygoing people in the world.) If I can't figure out a note I wanted, we ask Chris. He can hear "a rat thinkin' about pissin' on cotton".
The trumpets never say much. Ryan, Marcus and I have played together for about 15 years and Sean fits in so easily and plays so well. The 6 years he has played with us has passed very quickly. We are worried about our chops and especially Ryan's (he plays lead). Even though we know he is a freak of nature with all the unusual technical skills he possesses, 4 hours of rehearsing, then a 3 hour gig hitting all kinds of high g's all night and soloing is more than a lot of a lot. We tell him to play things down the octave or lay out but he plays them anyway. Marcus and Sean are good natured and have a lot of pride, weighty tones and a rich sense of the music, and the importance of what we are doing. They will be ready.
Chano and his group Tomasito (dancer), Blas (singer), and El Piraña (cajòn) wait for us to finish. Chano is coming from St. Petersburg, Russia but is very cool about waiting. Playing with them is like being with extended family for real. They are like New Orleans musicians—-soulful and laid back.
We also have our secret weapon – tap dancing genius, Jared Grimes. We don't get around to rehearsing with him, but he is such a natural that his mere presence on the stage will create instant electricity. I had called him late the night before to go over the Bulerias rhythm he would dance in one of the pieces. He will be right.
Finally, we finish. It's after 7 o'clock and the gig is at 10. Barely enough time to eat and shower, iron our clothes and get over to the Mendizzarotza to swing.
We have played here 10 times over the last 21 years. Iñaki Añua is the life of this festival. He is a man of the highest order, of hospitality, of dignity, of integrity, and of achievement. Over these years, we have developed a deep bond and tried many different types of shows. From an infamous 3 hour young people's concert (the translation got us) to a swing dance (who is swing dancing in the Basque country?) to this show tonight. The TV lights are very very hot. Chops are gonna be flying everywhere. Iñaki asked me 11 years ago to write a small blues for the festival. Now the 12 movement piece (that incorporates all kinds of Spanish musical concepts, sweet and sanguine memories of this city, places, basque attitudes and in the words of Chano, "He who forgets the blues is lost") is finished.
The Mendizorrotza is a 4000 seat indoor arena/stadium. It is always hot. Tonight is no exception. It is packed and people are ready to hear what we will play in honor of their city.
We begin the 3 hour concert…