Just coming off a busy month of tours and gigs, all great, as it turns out.
Early December was the Netherlands tour. I spent in week in the Netherlands as a guest with a couple different bands and schools. Then a 3 day “Portrait” at the great jazz club in Vienna, Porgy & Bess. Three nights, three different bands, three different kinds of music. Whew!! Fun!!
Started in Enchede where I played a concert with the Millennium Jazz Orchestra, a quartet concert with some of the teachers from the conservatory and a concert with some of the students. The concert with the Millennium Jazz Orchestra led my Joan Reinders went very well. Then band played my music great and were enjoyable to work with. Joan conducted (which I often do as well) so all I had to do was show up and play. I did conduct Jari, one of the pieces I didn’t play on.
Unfortunately, it was extremely cold with icy snow on the ground and an icy wind blowing so the size of the audience wasn’t as large as we would like. Those that were there were quite enthusiastic.
The quartet concert with some of the teachers was also great. There are all great players and very sympathetic. With no rehearsal we picked some tunes and played. Felt like we had played together for years (oh, they have…) really fun. The concert with the students went well, more challenging for me, of course. Sometimes I felt as if I was pulling a train. But, it’s important to play together with students so that they can get the experience of playing with experienced players.
Next, off to Utrect to play with the Frits Bayens Big Band. Frits is an old friend and colleague. As a producer for the Metropole Radio Orchestra he commissioned me to write and come as soloist for several projects over the years. He’s also a great arranger himself and we played many of his charts with his band, which has been together for 30 years. This was an interesting gig for me as I was the featured soloist on every piece and the only rehearsal we had was a quick run-through at the sound-check. Fun.
The next morning I was at the conservatory in Rotterdam for some composition lessons, trombone clinics and master-classes. A cool week, especially as it was below freezing and snowing the whole week. Made for some interesting travel days.
The big news, really was the Suite Ellington project and the three day “Portrait” at the great club Porgy & Bess in Vienna.
The Suite Ellington Project: Billy Drewes-Alto Sax & Clarinet, Jim Rotondi-Trumpet & Flugelhorn, Fritz Pauer-piano, Peter Herbert-bass & Jeff Ballard was put together to perform my arrangements of some of the more obscure Ellington and Strayhorn. Mostly from their Extended Suites, such as Black Brown & Beige, Far East Suite, Afro Eurasian Suite and the complete Queens Suite.
We started in Graz where the guys who are not associated with the University, Billy Drewes, Jeff Ballard, Peter Herbert & Fritz Pauer (who made his first return visit since retiring from teaching a few years ago) all gave clinics, workshops and master-classes. We started with an open rehearsal. All the students were invited to attend and the room was full. I think it’s important for the students to see how a high level professional rehearsal is run. We ran through everything, made sure the road maps made sense and played most everything a couple times, so that we could all become accustom to how our part fit into the whole. With three horns, in order to get some variety of colors the lead sometimes moves from player to player. Of course, you need to know where you are in the formation in order to make the proper blend.
The next morning started with workshops on the prospective instruments, Billy with the saxes, Jeff with the drummers etc,.
End the evening we played the concert at the Orpheum in Graz. Great concert! What can I say? The guys played my arrangements, which are sometimes quite twisted and other times more of an orchestrated transcription, with precision and passion. It’s such a great pleasure to hear ones compositions and arrangements played by the highest-level players.
After the Orpheum concert in Graz we then moved to Vienna for the beginning of the three-day Portrait. It was generous of Christoph Huber to offer me this Portrait and let me design the three days any way I wanted.
Consequently, I wanted to do three completely different programs. Suite Ellington focusing on my arrangements, Chamber in the Now focusing on improvisation, or, composing in the moment, and thirdly the music for big band.
It was a great opportunity to present my music, which is admittedly somewhat Schizophrenic, in a concentrated time. The one style, I left out is the one that I am most known for, Modern Mainstream, or, whatever you call it??