Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You must check this out

This story about Wynton Marsalis is one of the more amazing things I've read in a while. But actually pretty well in keeping with what I know of the man.

Two quick stories about Wynton. When Ken Burns did the "Jazz" series he told of his amazing collaboration with Wynton. As Burns tells it, when the Civil War series was airing, Burns got a call from Wynton (or maybe a knock on the door), and Wynton said he needed to do the same thing (do a documentary) with jazz music. Wynton was very passionate, apparently, but Burns said he was already in his next project (Baseball), but he'd think about it. After the Baseball series, did in fact decide to tackle jazz and decided to contact Wynton about it. Burns went to his apartment and was talking to him and Wynton was saying "whatever you want, whatever you want." Burns said he was trying to set up an interview with him ("it won't take too long...") and after a while, Wynton finally said, "you're not listening to me--whatever you want"). (See 19:00 mark here, on Charlie Rose:

The other story is a personal one, when Wynton was in St. Louis at the old Clayton Jazz festival. Afterwards, he was signing autographs, selling CDs, etc., and I decided to get in line (when was I going to get a chance to see Wynton like that?--plus I didn't care too much about the act after Wynton, which was more of a pop act). The line was long, but man, did it move SLOW. I was getting annoyed, couldn't figure it out, etc. Then I got up to a place in the line where I could see Wynton, and I figured out why it was moving so slowly. He was talking to every person. And I don't mean saying a few words ("What's your name" so he could sign the autograph)--but really interacting, listening, talking and spending whatever time people wanted to spend. He didn't rush one person. And everyone "got it" and was so happy to spend time talking to him. I mentioned our Juilliard connection (I was there a few years after him). I fully expected to get that look ("Oh, that's nice" with gritting of teeth ("How long do I have to talk to this guy?")). But no, not at all from Wynton: "When were you there? Who'd you study with? What kind of horn did you play? Are you still playing? Yeah, what kind of stuff? Where? What mouthpiece you using? That's cool." After my full time, a big hug and off to the next person. That showed me something.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's blogging time

To paraphrase Ben Grim, a/k/a, the Thing, from the Fantastic Four. (Which, by the way, is one of the worst comic book movie adaptations going. Trust me, I loved comic books and still love movies, so I should know!)

A busy week of playing last week. Wednesday I was the featured sit-in with the Park Avenue Jazz boys at Hammerstone's (always a treat). They always seem to call at least one tune I don't know that ends up going into my list of new favorites, and this was no exception--Triste by Jobim.

Saturday I was part of the Jazz and Blues Revue at the Old Webster Jazz Festival with Anita Rosamond. Actually, Anita and her manager put the group together, and it was billed as a triple leader feature--Anita, guitarist Rich McDonough, and pianist/singer Jessi Gannon. I was playing alongside Lew ("Blue Lew") Winer III on saxophone. It rained a bit but there was a nice crowd anyway. That gig went better than I dared hope--great band, but folks who had not played together in that configuration before. That is always risky, but we did a lot of pretty familiar material, which helped greatly. The program was put together as a smorgasbord of jazz and blues tunes by people with a connection to St. Louis (included some Chuck Berry, Albert King, Ike and Tina Turner review, and of course, one Miles Dewey Davis).

Sunday I took a break from the usual Voodoo routine and did a fundraiser with John Farrar at the Hidden Lake Winery in Illinois. A nice little trio gig that John has asked me to do about four or five years running now. David Certain rounded out the trio this time; the man can Certain-ly play. We played in a trio using Dave once before (he was worried it wouldn't swing without a drummer, but was pleasantly surprised), and he showed us a new way to do Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise, with frequent modulations, and now that's the way we do it.

And speaking of John Farrar, Nathaniel and I have tickets for Son Volt in early November. We are looking forward to hear John's brother's band at the Pageant!