Wynton’s Blog

Our road crew is ever vigilant. When we are off, many times they are working

Our road crew is ever vigilant. When we are off, many times they are working. Today we will hear from our Assistant Director of Concerts and Touring, Eric Wright. Eric’s family joined us for the performance in Norfolk on the 5th (seems like a year ago) and brought the love and feeling of engagement that family brings when they gather in support. Cats in the band love him. He also has a great game in all sports, baseball, football and basketball. Eric:


I was in Augusta on July 25th to determine what was needed to produce a concert at Good Shepherd Church. JALC colleague, Alex Knowlton, and I connected with church trustee Fitzgerald Ryan and also met Robert “Flash” Gordon who has owned Pyramid Records for over 30 years. Flash is a local icon and still, today, all concert tickets in Augusta are sold via Pyramid Records.

After returning to NYC, our production manager and audio engineer, David Robinson, and I decided to design a stage using as much of the church infrastructure as possible and hire local production for minimal help. Plan A.

After the October 8th performance in Charlotte, it was evident that the staging of a 70 person choir and the JLCO would not work in Good Shepherd as planned.

David and I went to Augusta on our off day to come up with Plan B. There we met with Trey Maxwell of Trace Audio to figure out how to fit 86 people on a 20’ x 40’ stage with an unmovable three foot wall twelve feet from the front of the stage. We decided to use the trapezoid Wenger risers that we luckily brought from our home in New York, Frederick P. Rose Hall, just in case we needed to use them on tour.

On Thursday, October 10, I drove the JLCO equipment truck from Athens to Augusta to supervise the audio load-in, the piano moving and the execution of Plan B.

During the setup it was discovered that Plan B was not going to work. The infrastructure on each side of the stage was not measured correctly so we needed to come up with Plan C. This plan is always, “make something work because we don’t have any time.”

After some discussion, Trey and I decided to custom build a wooden section on each side of the stage for the sopranos and altos of the choir. We finished setting up the church in Augusta around 7pm, and I drove back to Athens for the second half of the JLCO concert.

On Friday, October 11, David and I set off to Augusta from Athens at 7:30am to continue a stage setup that would be satisfactory by 2:30pm for sound check. It was.

On the road, things change all the time. It always seems impossible to resolve these unexpected obstacles, but somehow we improvise and get the job done. So, after a couple of 14 hour days, we are moving on to the next venue and a new set of problems that need to be fixed.

Eric D. Wright


We also sometimes have the honor, on a day off, of performing impromptu master classes at the behest of a loved and respected colleague. In this case, on October 10 in Athens, Ali Jackson was called upon by Tim Adams, percussionist extraordinaire and head of the University of Georgia percussion department. Ali conducted a class for approximately 20 UGA percussionists and music students. Various topics were covered from the function of the drum set in Jazz, to the job requirements of the drum chair in the JLCO, to the challenges of being a touring musician. Sometimes you are called upon to demonstrate things that test the limits of your knowledge and skill by teachers and students alike.

In this instance, Professor Adams read from a sheet of criteria for auditioning symphony percussionists. He requested that Mr. Jackson demonstrate grooves such as Tango, Rumba, Bossa, Cha Cha, Guaguanco and others. Tim told me, “Man, Ali played the hell out of every groove I put before him with an organic understanding AND gave the development of each from its inception to its contemporary application on the modern drum set.”

The workshop continued with examples of how the drum set can be played with a melodic sensibility and with demonstrations of the styles of Max Roach, Art Blakey, Buddy Rich, Baby Dodds and others. These masters were also put into the context of the living Jazz language.

Master classes always leave everyone with a more complete understanding of what it takes to develop and maintain first class artistry. Here are some UGA student comments regarding Ali’s class:

“You really emphasized for me the importance of study and respect for the lineage of one’s musical tradition.” -Emily Backus

“The way you knew everything about what you did showed you have done the research which backs up your playing ability even more. After seeing your knowledge, I am going to strive to be a more studious musician.” -Bonnie Houpt

“I had never been a big fan of jazz, but following your master class and the concert, I came away inspired to learn more about it.” -Bradley Robinson

Building a strong sense of family and community through performance and education is what this Abyssinian tour is all about.


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