Gigs in Atlanta are always festive. All kinds of family and friends sitting on the right side of the stage. Walter's momma and sister, Chris' wife and daughter, Marcus Printup's mother, so many people. Soulful people, Mrs. Pearl Fountain. Some of Sherman's people. Frank's grandson, the irrepressible William Edward Lee (age 7 with blue jacket and khaki pants) running all around, dancing to the music with controlled abandon.
The last night of a tour is always bittersweet, but this gig was fun. The blues was on the menu and people were hungry. The tour was, as always, revelatory. New and old friends, all kinds of different stuff happening on the bandstand. We mainly played the Vitoria Suite and our arrangements of Chick Corea's music.
Whenever I announce Chick's music, someone yells,"Yeah!" above the general murmur of approval.
I pointed this out to our audience last night and said that I told Chick and that he was happy about that response.
The cats' dedication is evidenced by the attention to detail they give to each song on every concert. On stage, I say we have an embarrassment of riches. And we do. Everywhere I turn, Ted, Vincent, Carlos, Marcus…....Ryan, Vic. Bam! A lot of ability writing, playing and teaching. A lot of soul and love of the music and experience. Ali.
I consistently receive a plethora of wonderful comments about how generous all the guys are when interfacing with students, audience members, and staff. Generally we speak to student groups after soundchecks and sometimes after gigs. I love when guys who are not scheduled to teach come in and share a few anecdotes with the youngsters.
Of course, everyone is bone tired now. We normally have a group toast in the intermission of the last gig of a tour. We missed it last night. The President of Moorehouse College, Dr. Robert Franklin celebrated his birthday at our concert which was presented by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I love him and the orchestra also for doing their best to play my Blues Symphony (which I still need to do LOTS of work on). Normally we get out right after the gig.
Tonight, there are so many great musicians in Atlanta, I go with my boy Milkshake to Danny and Terry Harper's jam session at Churchill Grounds and play till 2 in the morning with a room full of swinging trumpeters including their son Terence. It was a late-night affair with great warmth and the feeling of informal profundity that good jazz brings to a space.
John Robertson came in around 1 and played all kinds of piano. His son James, 12 and of sterling personality, was already there tearing up the place and is someone to watch out for on the alto sax. Now, at 7:30am we are on I-85 staring hard at 16hrs of driving. No soon as we finish lunch, Frank and Boss Bragg strong arm me into going to a rib restaurant. We circle Lexington, North Carolina for 1hr looking for Lexington One Barbecue. Frank and Lolis wrote THE book on BBQ- 'Smokestack Lightning', so you can't tell him anything about it.
They get a couple of chopped shoulder sandwiches and I cajole them into stopping at North Carolina Central so's I can see Branford and his students. Book (branford) gives us the directions and at 4pm we fall into a room full of students and talk about and play jazz music. We conclude by playing some modern counterpoint on Sweet Georgia Brown. It's so much fun playing with him, I want to laugh. I remember how Gerry Mulligan used to smile like a mischievous kid when telling me,"Hey, let's play that counterpoint." Yeah me and Book riffed on it for a while to great mutual enjoyment. Even Frank admitted he liked it. Boss Bragg said the music was cool but he enjoyed the educational questions (about mouthpiece sizes and what not). Now we are back on that same road except it is 6:20pm.
Two hours just evaporated like that. The sky is giving way to headlights, and birds cut stark unpredictable rhythms against the fading horizon. Soon, trees are shadows and there is only asphalt, white lines, green and blue signs, and specks of intermittent yellow. In order to avoid finishing my arrangements for next weeks concerts, I put on a recording of William Warfield singing Aaron Copland's arrangement of the American song, 'The Golden Willow Tree' with Mr. Copland himself conducting.
I knew Mr. Warfield, and I swear I can hear the feeling of how orchestra members who are not playing listen to him on this recording. Copland's arrangement is spare and beautiful and imaginative and bubbling. Mr. Warfield's voice is full of the sweet, anguished fire and intelligent pride I hear in Lester Young. The song is poignant and rich, but I confess I don't quite understand the meaning of it. If anyone does, please let me know.
We're out here. Still in the swing seat.
Early in the 21st.