Notes From The Road

Wynton Marsalis’ Notes From The Road: March 19-21

We arrived in Santiago de Chile last Thursday and were greeted at the airport by an elegant and beautiful lady named Veronica. She is with the Teatro Municipal de Santiago and before she could even say ‘hello’ she informed me, “Your friend Pepe is waiting for you right outside.” Now, Jose ‘Pepe’ Josiason is 83 years old and a true aficionado of Jazz, and I’m so happy to see him.  After tussling to get the luggage in the car, our driver Manuel began what would be a long, congested journey into the city, and Pepe and I had the chance to catch up on family, music and the state of all things important and trivial. It was great to have the opportunity to talk but whew, that Santiago rush hour traffic!!

[Wynton Marsalis with Jose ‘Pepe’ Josiason] 

Pepe and I will be attending a reception at the U.S. Embassy in roughly one hour. He’s certain that he will be the best-dressed man there, because he can still (comfortably) wear a suit made for him in 1972 by the Modern Jazz Quartet’s (MJQ) London tailor.  He is a connoisseur of art in all forms.  I ask about his library, which he showed to me some 25 years ago saying, “These are all books about our music.” He tells me that “The fifteen-hundred volumes have been donated to the Central Cultural Gabriela Mistral Gam” and asks if he can change into his MJQ vine in my room.

After checking in, we realize this is a going to be a very quick turnaround. Even more tragically, there’s no chance I will have the time to counter his sharp three-piece ensemble. Our hosts, Mike and Margret Hammer are 1960’s babies and we share the commonality and communality of generation and aspiration. As we greet them and walk past a Steinway that was played by Duke Ellington (that’s what Mike said) it becomes obvious that the Embassy staff including Marianne Scott, Mary Sue Fields, Monserat Cadiz and Sandra Perroni have the joint humming. The room is populated by artists and distinguished citizens and enlivened by the whispered and shouted patter and chatter of old and new friends talking of subjects general and personal.

The reception is further inspirited by the Chilean Youth Ambassadors; a group of about 25 poised and engaged teens. They are leaving for America tomorrow and are full of fire and fresh-faced enthusiasm to begin changing the world. There is a bandstand set up in the backyard (always a positive sign) and two groups play, first a student group and then professionals with a great trumpeter named Sebastian Jordan. The group is fiery, well arranged and seasoned.

I meet many people who remember our portion of a 1990 “An Embrace Of Hope” Amnesty International concert to celebrate Chile’s freedom from the Pinochet regime.  The crowd of about 80,000 mainly rock fans had a very unexpected positive response to our music. When we opened with a national song of meaning and significance, ‘Gracias a la Vida’, they were very responsive. But, when Wycliffe Gordon played a phrase reminiscent of a soccer song during his trombone solo, they sang this long chant in the exact right harmonies of the 12 bar blues. It has to be the first and only time in the world that a group that large has superimposed a melody that complex onto a harmonic form accurately and spontaneously.

It remains, for me, the single thing I will never forget in my entire performing career. It speaks to the universality of the blues AS A FORM and the ability of people to hear across cultures. After that, we all swing together for the rest of our hour. Someone actually has pictures from the gig 24 years ago. Whew! Father Time and Mother Nature are of one mind about that.

Mike makes some comments in Spanish and his delivery and demeanor creates a glow of comfort and ease. I follow suit with thanks and general comments, salutations and recognition of hospitality. It has a much deeper meaning when you are away from home and can never be taken for granted.

The next day we have a press conference in the Hall.  I’m joined on the dais by Francisca Cienfuegos, Brand Manager of Brooks Brothers Chile (corporate sponsor for the concert), Teatro Municipal’s Director, Andres Pinto and the Mayor of Santiago, Carolina Toha. Brooks Brothers (also a sponsor of Jazz at Lincoln Center) is one of our longtime partners and we love and respect them deeply. In the early years we used to joke that in the era of musicians playing Jazz well, they also dressed well. As the musicians became sloppier in dress, the music also got worse. We try to do our best to uphold the sartorial tradition. Andres provides some background and context to the concerts and everyone gives general comments on the cultural significance of our visit. I am excited about being back here after such a long time.

There are general questions and then one about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. It implies a deeper inquest into American racism in general. When speaking abroad, I have a policy of not critiquing my country.  I may feel a certain way, but I try to remember the need for diplomacy as an ambassador both for the music and for our country.  So in answering this question, I recognize racism’s connection (not Ferguson specifically but our human legacy of exploitation) to tribalism and further observe that sadly there is something in an aggressive percentage of people that loves to degrade others.  It’s so fundamental and something we all noticed even as children when many of us would watch the ‘cool’ kids pick on the helpless ones. We know it’s ignorant, but for some reason seems to be enjoyable for the particular group doing the bullying, and many of us just watch or participate passively with fake enthusiasm or turn away without doing anything because we don’t want it to be us.

Ironically, on the plane from Lima, Dan Nimmer and I were discussing the everyday slights that take place due to this ‘otherism’. While in the airport he got a firsthand glimpse. It started with a guy asking me with irrational hostility if I was in the line to get on the plane (it was a line that Dan and I were very obviously standing in). I answered ‘yes’. Clearly this reply was insufficient, because he proceeded to loudly clear his throat when we didn’t move forward fast enough (the line was not yet moving). He then prepared to get cussed out (at best).

The lesson in ‘how to aggravate a person’ continued once we were on the plane. Our flight attendant pushed my bag (that was already under the seat) under the seat and under the seat again, until finally she accepted that it was under the seat.  Clearly this didn’t suffice because in retaliation she moved my seat up (when it was already moved up) and moved it up again and finally accepted that it was already moved up.

Observing all of these little gestures of affection, The Nim said,” Damn! Is it like that?” I said, “Nimsky, It can be.” He laughed and said, “They don’t even know. It’s embedded in their system.” But compared to the actual racism we experienced growing up in Louisiana, these are just slights that could be interpreted either way. And either way, they are irritations and not real problems, like an unjust prison sentence or it being acceptable for you to be shot by law enforcement OR YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS OR NEIGHBORS because you look the wrong way and are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Teatro Municipal is a magnificent Italian-style proscenium theatre. The staff members are the very definition of hospitality. It is one of the most well managed halls that we’ve ever played. Everyone here is absolutely professional and exudes community. The audience sits back with the pride of ownership. They inhabit the space with an easy formality, and because there is no air conditioning, we can see people fanning themselves and their children. It’s a beautiful sight that reminds me of church for some reason. Anyway, heat is conducive to swinging and I love to work up a sweat playing. When a hall is too cold, it saps the feeling……to me.

[Teatro Municipal de Santiago]

[Paul Nedzela and Ted Nash backstage at Teatro Municipal de Santiago]

That night, we play a combination of traditional and original pieces.  This is something we like to do when introducing our music and ourselves. The range, sophistication and soul of our music are all that we have, and we were offering it to our audience as honestly as we could. I felt the orchestra was playing with a lot of poise and balance, and I think our earlier experience of playing too loudly in our first concert in Mexico City’s magnificent Pallacio de Bellas Artes informed our thinking. We relaxed and let the music speak for itself. The highlight of this concert was the audience. They were the most enthusiastic we have probably ever encountered. Almost as if a continuation from that Amnesty concert 24 years ago, we were embraced with uncommon attentiveness and fell into a euphoric solidarity. We played four encores and left drenched in sweat, satisfaction and with a panorama of emotions and memories.

[Standing ovation from a fully engaged audience at at Teatro Municipal de Santiago]

Pepe, Ali and I hang out after the gig at the Jazz Corner. Here’s Ali’s impression,

"The Jazz Corner is hip. It’s curated by the humorous and hospitable trompetista Christian Cuturrufo. His partner Alvaro is a big fan of Jazz and vino sabroso de Chile.

As we walked through the door, we were immediately received with jubilation and warmth. Musicians were on the bandstand swinging and before long we joined in that same pursuit. Our playing was uplifted by the people’s belief in that belief, high quality intention was on the menu. It’s always an honor to share the real life bandstand connection with musicians all around the world.”

I met Christian those 24 years ago when we were both kids. In advance of this visit he wrote an extremely complimentary article in the major newspaper about the significance of our trip.  His words helped to add to the anticipation and excitement surrounding our arrival and we are very grateful. Having grown up in clubs they always feel like home. This is the same for Ali. When we hang in clubs we often reflect on our fathers (both musicians) and their internal and external struggles. I tell him the impact he and his teenage friends had on our septet in the early 90’s when we would see them in the audience at gigs in Detroit, all well dressed and eager.

After listening and fellowshipping with the room, we have a jam with 3 trumpets playing from various positions in the room. I am standing so close to the bell of Christian’s flugelhorn I can hear every nuance of his articulation. It’s beautiful and I just watch him intently. We lock eyes following the logic of his solo. It’s as if he is talking directly to me but much deeper and impactful than any words. It’s thoughts, emotions and decisions forced-to-be-actual by the pressure of time. We laugh when he finishes in recognition of all that he has played through the chord changes and in time.

Jazz is a magical language. We all play across the room to and with each other in the type of human public intimacy that is the province only of jazz, co-creation.
The house is festive and responsive to musicians all around them playing and listening together. I looked up and Manuel tells me he was driving Pepe back to the hotel to get his car. I was surprised to see that Pepe had hung to 2am. I was worried about him because he walks so quickly.  I’d say “look out for this or look out for that.” He got tired of hearing that and said, “Look, I’m careful when I’m walking. I’m only not careful when I’m driving.” I have to laugh.  The spirit of people here is just beautiful.  Manuel was supposed to go home after dropping us off at the club yet he came back to pick Ali and me up at 2:30 in the morning. It’s the little things like this that stay in your mind and heart. We left full.

[Graffiti spotted a few blocks away from the barbershop] 

The next day Fernando and I went to get haircuts. As we got deeper into the bohemian neighborhood of the shop, I was struck by the quality of the graffiti I saw on the buildings. After a few more blocks I think this may be the best crafted, most diverse, inventive and voluminous graffiti in the world. In the barbershop, the radio was playing Resphigi’s ‘Pines of Rome’. Every symphonic brass player in the world loves that piece because we get to do our thing lyrically and loudly. Afterwards we try to find a music notation notebook. It’s a trip; Fernando says everyone gives directions by the Andes Mountains.  “Turn toward the mountains, turn away from the mountains etc”.

Today the cats have a lineup of education events. Here’s Marcus’s take:

"Today in Santiago I taught a masterclass to 50 brass players (trumpet, trombone and french horn) and critiqued two big bands. The brass masterclass was for the Pro Jazz Association. Many of the participants were from the classical world. This masterclass was intended to show the parallels between practicing classical and jazz music. I decided to show them my routine for long tones. We discussed how long tones help create a beautiful sound, increase breath capacity, strengthen endurance and build range. We then did my daily long tone routine for the next 20 minutes.

[Marcus Printup leading a workshop]

Next we talked about tonguing.  I taught them an exercise from the Goldman trumpet method book. I showed them how they can expand this exercise by:
A. Playing it in all 12 keys using the cycle of 4ths.
B.  Place the metronome on beats 2 and 4 to incorporate a swing feel.
They especially liked the 2 and 4 swing concept as they are used to playing on beats 1 and 3.

Next we talked about the importance of incorporating blues into our jazz playing. I described the blues as a style and as a form. After establishing the 12 bar form of the blues, I demonstrated how to bend notes to emulate the vocal quality that informs the style of the blues. We did a call and response exercise where I sang/played and they answered.

A student asked how to invent ideas during improvisation. I explained the importance of what I call “innovation by imitation” OR transcribing solos from the masters. I’m presently working on an Art Farmer solo to “Falling in love with love”. I have an app called “The Amazing Slow Downer” on my phone that isolates the recording and repeats sections over and over.
I played along with the recording and explained the importance of mimicking every nuance of Art Farmer’s brilliant solo. This establishes musical vocabulary that, through repetition, will develop interpretation from our own context just as we do when learning the meaning behind words and creating sentences with even more meaning.

I explained how one must go outside of their comfort zone in finding their original sound. Another student said that he was having an issue finding his own voice. I explained that I was raised in the South and came from the rich tradition of gospel and soul music. I demonstrated singing “Amazing Grace” with no feeling, then sang it again with emotion. Whenever I sing or play Amazing Grace, I become emotional. I had to fight back tears during my demonstration. I shared this with my students. I explained where the tears came from. Gospel music grounds me and gives me sense of security and faith. It is the deepest part of me and sparks the most sincere emotions. I remember my mama, daddy and granddaddy singing this since I was little and the melody alone always hits a soft spot. That being said, I asked the same student to play something from his culture that personified a deep part of his soul. He played a traditional Chilean song, Gracias a la Vida.

He played it flat like it was an exercise. I asked him what the song meant. The message of the song is “life is beautiful.”

I then asked him to close his eyes and reflect on the beauty of the words and to sing. He was very shy and refused but somehow we convinced him to sing it.  He was transformed and surprised himself with the emotional depth he discovered. I then asked him to play it with the same emotion and passion as he did when he sang. As he played, EVERYONE in the room started to hum the melody. It was special.

The first Big Band I critiqued was also from Pro Jazz and the other band was a middle school band from the Conchali organization.

The Pro Jazz band played Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and had 3 talented female vocalists singing a vocalese-style melody. I challenged them to sing their harmonized parts a capella and much slower, so they could feel the swinging rhythms without the aid of the rhythm section. They did great! They stayed in tune AND were swinging. Their parts were all written so I wanted to hear them improvise. We traded improvised phrases over the form of the tune. They had never done this before but were not in the least bit shy. We spoke about how vocalists should scat like horn players and horn players should play like vocalists. I told them to listen to Louis Armstrong to learn phrasing.  I asked the lead vocalist who she listened to. She said “Ella, Sarah and Cecile McLorin Salvant !!” I loved them getting Cecile in there.

The middle school band needed a bit more shaping. They played their parts individually, without any connection to each other. This is a common problem in many young bands. I had them slow the tune down AND play softer so they could hear each other. The horns were oblivious to the rhythm section and the rhythm section didn’t play the arrangement with the horns.

Our lead trumpet player, Ryan Kisor, always talks about the importance of listening to the ride cymbal as a reference of time. Our original drummer, Herlin Riley, would request a copy of the lead trumpet part to reference the melody. Our current drummer, Ali Jackson, requests chord changes in his part for harmonic reference. After rehearsing isolated sections repeatedly, they started to get it.  We then talked about how to avoid rushing syncopated rhythms. I taught them to internally feel the rests by singing the written notes and grunting the rests so the phrase is continuous.

The second band was much younger. The average age was 14. These kids were hungry! They played an arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” The young bassist was plugged into the amp. He turned it off and played acoustically for the first time. We discussed how relying on an amp hinders the process of developing a natural bass sound. The rhythm section was positioned far away from each other, so I changed their position so they could see and hear each other. They were swinging.

At this age, students are just learning how to play their instruments so sometimes teaching them about playing with feeling is premature. But that was not the case with these kids. I had them sing their parts. We focused on the nuances our voices make, like crescendos, accents and vibrato. After 5 minutes of this, they began to sound like a different band.

The brass had a few sections with plunger mutes. The late great Clark Terry gave me a lesson in 1989. He cut a hole in my plunger mute so I could establish a wider sound. He then explained the 5 positions of the plunger mute.  Lastly, Clark taught me that the plunger mute is an extension of your voice.  I proudly felt CT’s energy and passion and shared this information with these students. CT LIVES!!

These kids were like sponges! I look forward to hearing them again. There was an audience of over 600 people watching this clinic and they were amazingly quiet and attentive. The Chilean people have been a joy to be around. They truly love our culture of Jazz music. It was a fantastic day.”

And for every event there is a lot of behind the scenes coordinating. We are fortunate to work with dedicated partners and staff. Marianne Scott, Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy did us proud with her extraordinary work. Here’s her take on a significant cross cultural exchange.

"The bus route to Santiago from the city of Chillan is straight north for five hours through valleys of vineyards with the Pacific ocean about 90 miles on your left and the Andes mountains about 90 miles on your right.  On March 21, the first day of autumn, it should be cooling down but on this Saturday it was still mid-summer hot the entire trip.  Public high school students of English and their teachers made the long trek from Chillan and more northern cities of Curicó, and Vina del Mar, to Santiago to participate with students from the Santiago region in the Jazz Conversation in English with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

About 160 English students and teachers filled the stifling, ornate Sala Arrau of the neoclassical Teatro Municipal in Santiago for an afternoon organized by the U.S. Embassy’s Regional English Language Office to give Chilean public school students – almost always from disadvantaged backgrounds – an opportunity to practice their English and learn about jazz from Victor Goines and Greg Gisbert, backed up by Chile’s own big band “Los Big Guns de Santiago” directed by Carl Hammond. English is a mandatory high school subject in this middle-income, flute-shaped country hugging the lower Pacific-side of South America. Nevertheless, English proficiency is very low even though English is a foundation for better educational opportunities and jobs in this country that relies heavily on international trade.  Only about 3% of Chileans are proficient in English.”

The Big Guns started off this ‘Jazz Conversation in English’ with the right note – Launching Pad by Duke Ellington and from there the questions flew.  Where does your inspiration come from? When and where did jazz start?  How long do you practice? Why did you decide to become a musician?  What does jazz say to modern society?

[Victor Goines works with students in Santiago, Chile]

When Victor asked the students how many played an instrument, very few raised their hands.  One said this was the first time he had ever heard jazz live. Victor challenged them all to pick up an instrument and play.  ’Music is also a language and if you learn the language you can be part of the conversation whether that is English or music’ he told them.  Victor added that ‘when we are speaking English we are composing in real time.’ Greg confessed that English was usually his worst subject in school but that he loves teaching and ‘teaching is about learning together.’ He also stressed that ‘Music with purity of intention brings people together.’  Talking about John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and how it inspired him to become a jazz musician, Victor advised the students that no matter what they decide to pursue to always ‘play beyond your comfort zone.’”

From the JALC staff side we are fortunate to have Matt Butterman from our education department out here with us.  He is assisting with making the classes happen. He remembers, “There were several instances upon arriving in Santiago, Chile that someone told me of their personal experience with Wynton when he visited nearly 25 years ago. They show me pictures and recount their stories as if it happened just the day before. ‘Wynton was playing drums, then I played drums, and we traded jamming like this for 5 hours. And then we jammed again for two evenings in a row after that. It was incredible!’ It was amazing to hear how these experiences had a profound impact on their lives and how it ultimately benefited their students in the years since.”

"The range of students we encountered this week was tremendous; middle school jazz musicians, adult musicians, college students, and even non-music students. Every student encountered a different experience and took away something unique. I most dig the lasting impact of these experiences.  Which is also why I love our Youth Programs at JALC."

"I have no idea what these Chilean kids will be doing in 25 years, and how their experiences with us will shape in anyway a part of their lives. But I’d like to think we are helping to put them on a positive path, or at the very least making jazz a lasting part of their lives. I want, and hope, students from our Youth Programs will tell their friends and family with pride they were a member of the Middle School Jazz Academy, or the Youth Orchestra, or the Youth Workshop and the great Kenny Rampton when they were in school. And it was because of this experience…Duke Ellington is…jazz is…Jazz at Lincoln Center is…"

"I do believe that the kids in the Conchali big band will remember their workshop with Marcus Printup for the rest of their lives. The English students in the conversation with Victor and Greg will gain an interest in jazz, and maybe seek to learn more because of that afternoon - they will remember they took a bus for 5 hours to hear Victor Goines and Greg Gisbert play jazz and tell them what jazz is, why they love it, and what it means to them. Learning English will open doors for those students and jazz helped, at least a little, in that process."

"It was wonderful to hear how Wynton’s visit 25 years ago deeply affected the lives of the few musicians I encountered, and I’m more inspired to think of what the 1,251 students we directly engaged with this week will share about their experience with jazz and Jazz at Lincoln Center for the next 25 years."

After all that incredible teaching and learning, I love what the students asked Sherman at the end of his masterclass. It is a question I was asked many times after classes for general students in schools all across America.

"There was a saxophone sectional with about 30 students from different music programs. Although there was a translator, we all decided to talk with our saxophones. I played a low concert Bb, and gestured for them to play theirs. It was evident we needed to spend some time working on how to play the saxophone. They didn’t need help playing fast patterns and exotic scales. They needed to learn how to play the full range of the instrument with a full, personal sound, using dynamics and vibrato; all of the devices a musician needs to play MUSIC."

"After 45 minutes of that, they began to see how much they needed to practice on those basic skills. We spent the remaining time listening to sax sections from two of the schools. We discussed the basic problems every band has; balance, the willingness to follow the lead, and the importance of personalizing everyone’s part. One topic we spent time on is the understanding of the groove of jazz, especially how syncopation fits inside the swing groove. The entire session lasted about 105 minutes, and they left with an understanding of what they need to work on. The most interesting part of the clinic was, of course, at the very end of the session. A few of the students approached me and asked, "Señor, what is your name?"

[Night two at Teatro Minicipal de Santiago]

For our second concert we featured great compositions and arrangements from King Oliver and Jelly Roll to Eddie Durham and Duke Ellington to Gil Evans, Monk and Victor Goines. If we thought the previous night’s audience was something, tonight’s was not to be outdone. They responded with such sensitivity to so many songs, I cannot choose a favorite. When it ended, the audience treated us to 6 encores. This is the most ever in my years of playing in the big band. As the experience years ago in the stadium was indelible, so too the reception for these performances. We will never forget.

[A standing ovation from the audience at Teatro Minicipal de Santiago]

Manuel, Pepe and I set out after the gig for the club Thelonious. As we head out Pepe says he was impressed by the size and enthusiasm of the audience. He recalls a Louis Armstrong concert in the 50’s that he emceed and a Duke concert in the late 60’s. He says he was proud of the audience’s enthusiasm for quality and that he also respected that we played MUSIC and did not go in for antics or flash. This was high praise coming from him.

Thelonious is owned by poet Irwin Diaz. Their menus have the famous Monk Underground album cover on the front. For that alone the club deserves immortality. It is very comfortable with what looks like bleachers in a little alcove to the left of the bandstand. I’ve never seen anything like that. People are in here to listen to the music. Pepe is proud because a drink on the menu is named after him. Double espresso with Baileys I think. He says Melissa Aldana learned to play here (he knows I love her playing). The musicians are in here swinging tonight! My man, Sebastian Jordán is blowing the bell off of the trumpet and everyone is creating the heat and energy that is particular to a swinging club late at night.

On the set breaks Thelonious shows films of the great musicians in history. Wes Montgomery was lighting the screen up which is across from the hundreds of books of poetry that line a back wall. The food, drink and happiness is flowing. Our whole trumpet section comes in and we are digging Sebastian’s playing. Gizzy takes some great chorus’ on I Got Rhythm, Kenny on “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and Marcus on “Footprints”. Ali sits in on “I Mean You” and commandeers a solo in spite of happy horn players. We must always remember to respect the rhythm section.

We swing until late into the night and then out into the street taking photos with various musicians and cats who were looking into the club and just hanging. We reach the hotel at about 3am. I embrace Pepe and we give each other the “this may be the last time look.” He notices it and says, “Maybe I will see you in New York.” But he doesn’t believe it. I said. “I really hope to be back here soon. Y’all took care of us.”

[Wynton says goodbye to Pepe]

At the airport, we get the bags out and Manuel says, “yeah man.” I said, “let’s get this picture.” And we do.’

Oh. I’m gonna have to write the post-ep story where Kanan shows Ahsoka his holocron. You know, the one with Obi-Wan’s last message on it. Which she *may* have seen, but also may not have.

Wynton Marsalis’ Notes From The Road: March 16-18

When we landed in Lima last Monday, the weather was warm and balmy.  Our hosts for the next few days, Lali Madueño Medina and Nata Furgang, greeted us at the airport, displaying a level of professionalism and attention-to-detail that was so on point, we knew we were in expert hands. On our way to the hotel, we noticed that Lima is a very expansive and layered city. There is a motley assortment of apartment buildings in all shapes and colors and in various states of undress. We could see everything from the underlying brick frames of unfinished apartments to the sheen of the ultra modern. And despite the traffic and hustle-bustle of a population of over 10 million people, everyone was going about their daily business with an unusual calm. They exemplify relaxed urgency at its most refined.

While in Lima we are being presented by Alberto Menacho. He is an architect by trade and demeanor, and his mother was a first class concert pianist.  He considers growing up in the arts to be his most treasured gift. After a revolution in 1968 sent his family to England, he returned to Peru in 1994 to practice his trade and discovered a dormant scene for presenting classical virtuosos. His love of country and classical music compelled him to present music of the highest quality in Peru.  Following the overwhelming success of his first few concerts, Alberto founded ‘TQ Producciones’ as a tribute to his mom, Teresa Quesada.

What began as a hobby for national interest has become a fantastic business. I can say without hesitation that TQ Producciones is an absolute pleasure to work with. My guide for our stay, Lali, is very intelligent and deeply engaged with the culture. She is a source of all kinds of information about the history, the music and the contemporary aspirations of the nation. She also produces interactive documentaries for DOCUPERU, a local organization that gives voice to the concerns of ordinary folks. They are dedicated to improving different regions of Peru with educational, intercultural and collective development. To me, that sounds a lot like the mission of New Orleans Jazz in the early years.

The very first night we are treated to an excellent Peruvian meal at La Huaca Pucllana Restaurant curated by our hosts. We ate ceviche, tiradito, anticucho, causa, yuquitas and other dishes that we pronounced poorly, but had absolutely no problems eating.
The restaurant sits next to a Pre-Incan ruin and the view is spectacular, but the food will make you float home.  We thoroughly enjoy the hospitality of our hosts. These types of gatherings between artists and promoters are becoming less and less frequent in our own country. And it is so vital.  Not only does this fellowship build authentic relationships, it gives you the breathing room and time to learn about the culture and one another.  

Alberto tells us about the revolution in Peru. He says that very few families held all of the wealth and that the redistribution of some of it left the country much better. He spoke eloquently about the necessity of economic balance saying, “To choose to share resources is the most relevant way to protect and expand what we all have.” From there we went on to discuss everything from family to politics to college sports.

The next day Ted, Kenny, Paul and Vincent taught classes on improvisation and critiqued a couple of bands. According to Ted,

"I taught two master classes in Lima. At the first one, with Vince, we paired a tenor saxophonist and valve trombonist to improvise with each other on a Bb scale. The tenor player had some experience, but I think the trombonist (a very short armed, young kid) had been handed this instrument for the first time just before the workshop. It was interesting…

One student from the workshops, an alto player, wanted to learn so badly he followed us around, rode the busses with us all day, came with us to the kids concert and asked a million questions while we warmed up. He had a nice sound. I think he will be a good player.

The kids told me they watch every live stream (from Jazz at Lincoln Center). They recalled specific moments from concerts and what instruments we were playing on what tunes.”

We rarely get to connect directly with people who watch our concerts online, especially outside the U.S., so we were impressed by the students knowledge of the orchestra, what we had played and who did what. Paul Nedzela, who is just beginning his journey of teaching master classes told us,

“I haven’t done nearly as much jazz education as the other cats in the band.  So sometimes I can get more nervous about that than about playing.  But it’s always good to do education events with some of the other guys because it’s really interesting to hear different perspectives on the same subjects.

I know that when Ted, Vincent, Kenny, and I heard the first school band play, we all heard a lot of the same things that needed work.  What was really interesting to me was what aspects of the performance certain cats choose to talk about, and how they chose to go about improving the sound of the band with very limited time. And in that way, I sometimes end up learning as much from these education classes as the students.

At one point, I wanted to focus on the rhythm section and try to get the bass and drums to really lock in with the swing.  But that’s not so easy to communicate, especially when jazz is virtually nonexistent in the history of the culture. But Vince got to the universal aspects of the music by talking about how to make to certain notes feel, how to make them moan and ache like when you’re in pain. That was something they understood quickly, even if they couldn’t recreate it right away. I could see that it would happen.”

While in Lima I had the RARE opportunity to sightsee.  This isn’t something I traditionally have time to do – as I’m usually running to and from events, doing interviews, working to get our set list together for the upcoming night’s gig and spending hours in the car driving.  So this was extra special.   The town square and the market place are always interesting places to begin. Lali and I are joined by Jaime, who brings the feeling of the neighborhood and deep soul wherever he goes. Our first stop is the Plaza Mayor, which is the exact location that Pizarro founded Lima. It is also where Peru proclaimed its independence in 1821. The square is lined with the usual official and religious buildings but it also very colorful with lots of bright mustards and yellow and blues.

Next was the Plaza San Martin, which was established in 1921 on the centennial celebration of Peruvian independence. I am told that the monument of Argentinian General José de San Martín is not to be confused with Venezuelan Simón Bolivar.  Although they were both influential figures during the Latin American Wars of Independence, they had different ways of achieving that end.

We see many things of interest from the dying Rimac River, to the 19th century Courret photo studios building, and eventually we end up in Barranco, a district made famous by the many artists, poets, and intellectuals who found inspiration there to create definitive and enduring art. We visit the Puente de los Susperos, the “Bridge of Sighs”, and view the monument to singer, poet, and cultural icon Chabuca Granda. Her music is still very present and relevant. Finally, all that we have seen and done is solidified with a meal at the local family establishment Juanito.  Jaime is in the house calling our waiter/bartender ‘primo’.  “Primo, can we have this.  Primo what about that?” and Primo was just eating it up.  I learned that ‘Primo’ is the equivalent of saying brother.  

The concert that evening was in the new and very elegant Gran Teatro Nacional. The acoustics are clean and clear and the moody lighting of the boxes from the stage leaves an indelible imprint. We acquitted ourselves on a repertoire of originals and classics that give our audience a sense of the breadth and scope of Jazz. The music has so many excellent composers and definitive styles that are fun to hear and play, that I wish we had time to present more.

This is our first time performing in Lima, so everyone is dedicated to representing. There are many highlights and our audience is very receptive. They are generous with applause and very attentive listeners. After the show we meet a number of impressive guests and amongst them is US Ambassador Brian Nichols and his wife Jeri Kam.

Todd Stoll, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Vice President of Education, is also here with us.  He has been coming to Peru for years, and has established a strong relationship with the school that we will perform at the next day. We love playing at a school’s general assembly. They are special and rare occasions; as they allow us to relive our own childhoods and to function in the context of community. Undoubtedly, the students have little exposure to our music (this is also true in the US) but we enjoy playing for them and always try to play as if it is our most important concert, regardless of their attentiveness. Todd Stoll is closer to the ins and outs of this concert than any of us and he says:

“Over the past 15 years, I have travelled to Lima several times and have developed strong relationships with a number of local musicians and great educators. I was introduced to Angel Irujo, Gabriel Alegira  (two great Peruvian trumpet players) and saxophonist Carolina Araoz, at a jazz conference in New York City back in 1997. They were all part of a national jazz organization and now run their own independent jazz schools. Gabriel is a professor at NYU and performs at Dizzy’s later this month with his Afro-Peruvian Jazz Sextet.

The highlight of my trips was always a concert at Colegio Los Próceres, a K-12 public school in a section of the city called Surco.  Due to socio-economic challenges, the students there don’t have many opportunities to hear live music and were always so appreciative.  It shocked us. The feeling of the entire school, from the Director Maria Lourdes Marín, to the ladies working in the kitchen, was always one of overwhelming gratitude and love. When the opportunity arose for the JLCO to present an outreach concert in Lima, this had to be the place!

As you can imagine, at at a public school with few resources and limited funding, the logistics of bringing our orchestra are prohibitive. Fortunately, The US Embassy, and our Ambassador, Brian Nichols, came on board as a sponsor for all costs associated with this performance and their team, lead by Cultural Affairs Attaché Vanessa Wagner, was amazingly efficient, professional, and went beyond what we would call supportive. In addition to risers, sound system, chairs, stands, a huge awning to mitigate the midday sun, and all the technical requirements, they had huge welcome banners made for both inside and outside the school. This inspired a number of the Próceres teachers to make their own welcome banner that was placed inside our dressing room, a converted science classroom, complete with a real skeleton!  It was carefully and colorfully hand painted and included pictures of the JLCO, Wynton and various instruments and of course the school’s badge and US Embassy symbol. The school kitchen staff prepared sandwiches, drinks, fresh fruit and snacks that the band consumed with great appreciation.

Before the JLCO played, my friend and Proceres Band Director, Walter Liza, led the school band in an arrangement of a traditional criollo waltz by Peruvian legend, Chabuca Granda, “La Flor de la Canela” (the cinnamon flower). The band sat in the JLCO set-up and played with the type of nervous energy and soulful feeling we have heard from school bands all over the world; but with an audience of more than a thousand, and the JLCO looking over their shoulders, this was akin to them playing at Rose Hall.  When it came time for the trumpet solo in this piece, the smallest member of the band, 12 year old Antonio Cueto, (with our trumpet section behind him) stood and played a perfect phrase with a bravura that was well beyond his years. It was a perfect moment and the audience responded with a thunderous ovation.

The band played a serious concert and the students loved Chris Crenshaw’s plunger playing on ‘Black and Tan Fantasy’ and Vincent Gardner’s singing on ‘Yes Sir, That’s My Baby’. Students were listening with varying levels of intensity but all enjoyed the presence of these musicians roaring through big band pieces with precision and passion - and in their schoolyard no less.

As the JLCO left the stage, students clamoring for pictures and autographs surrounded them on both sides of the stage. For more than an hour, the band obliged as students, school officials and dignitaries said their goodbyes. Musicians shared sweaty embraces, students smiled for pictures, language barriers were removed by feelings of mutual love and respect, and the enthusiasm shown between our Peruvian friends and members of the JLCO is something we will continue to build on for the future. So much so that three of the Peruvian band directors we engaged with on this trip, have already signed up for our Band Director Academy in NYC this June.”

I stayed and took pictures with all the students and especially my young trumpet section. Next thing I knew, we were in the airport headed to Santiago.
This trip was one for the memory books.  We are going to miss Nata and Lali and Alberto.  They were great hosts. Before leaving the terminal I look back at Jaime, “Primo” I tell him.  We both open our arms, smile, shrug our shoulders and then I’m off.

I know I was just talking about Luke/Sabine but I just had another thought and that thought was Leia/Sabine. PICTURE THE THING. Shipping aside, though, I feel like they’d get along really well.


People like to ask what its like being on the road. The obvious answer (which also happens to be the truth) is that its a hell of a lot of fun (peppered with bouts severe boredom).

I’m twenty five years old and have been doing this since I was sixteen. I don’t think I’d still be here almost a decade later if I did’t love it. Its gotten a little more comfortable since then, and we’re a better band now than we were back then; but at the core touring is the same for the band living out of a van on ramen noodles, and the band who has a fleet of coach buses and a chef that travels with them.

Balance is key.

A balance that can be hard to maintain when you’re galavanting around the world as a travelling circus flying down the lonely gypsy highway.

Imagine you were trying to walk a tight rope 100 ft. up in the air and someone was right in your face yelling at you the whole time trying to throw off your balance. The rope is balance, and the person yelling is temptation. Balance is key if you’re going to do this for any extended period of time.

We had a tour manager years ago who told me the three things you have to fight for when living on the road:

- Quality sleep
- Quality food
- and Exercise.

These things are much easier to maintain at home. With a kitchen, a warm familiar bed, and a schedule that doesn’t involve “going into work” at 1am.

But we try. We shop for groceries, some of us do push ups, and with a bus its actually easy to oversleep if you’re not careful. Its hilarious and entertaining falling asleep in one city, and waking up in another. 

I often find myself checking the GPS on my phone when I wake up to triangulate exactly where we are and wrap my head around how far we’ve travelled overnight. 

Time seems to be measured by cities and less by hours or days. When was the last time I showered? Kamloops I think… 

The lack of responsibility can be intoxicating. The bulk of our responsibilities while were bouncing around this country of ours is to simply put on a good show every night. That’s it. 

That lack of responsibility coupled with temptation is enough to make plenty of people lose themselves. But we don’t, at least not yet. Check in with us when we’ve got that fleet of tour busses and we’re playing the Enormodome. 

It could happen to anyone, but like my drum teacher told me: you have to remember to keep your ego in check and beat it with wisdom from time to time.

My band will have been out for just over a month by the time we’re done on this tour. A short haul for some, a long haul for others. Another link in the chain for now.

Big Band Holidays

Notes From The Road (Reflection) - Wynton Marsalis: 

Tonight, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and guest Cecile McLorin Salvant make their return to Rose Hall after being out on the road for Big Band Holidays - a 10 city run. Wynton spoke with us about the first 5 days of tour and what it’s like to be out on the road. Enjoy!

December 1, 2014 - MONDAY

Our first concert on the Big Band Holiday tour was at the Marcus Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  Milwaukee is Dan Nimmer’s hometown. His parents were in attendance and he showed off for them by tearing through ‘Santa Claus’ with Carlos and Ali. The first gig of a tour is always tricky because we’re trying to work out who is going to solo on what songs, how to order each song so the concert flows smoothly, how to balance talking with playing and generally seeing how the gig plays out.  You don’t know if the show is effective until it is over.   Sometimes gigs earlier in the week consist of one 90-minute set instead of two halves. Tonight was a 90. They are always more difficult to program because you have to conceive of the impact of different tunes across a longer time. Though I was apprehensive, the gig was well received and Cecile was an absolute star. 

After the concert we saw some old friends that love to recount the times we’ve played here. They always have some remembrance that I struggle to recall (sometimes with more success than others). Some of the cats hung with the touring company of The Lion King choreographed by our close friend and genius, Garth Fagan while Dan hung with his parents and others of us attended a reception held by the Black Arts Think Tank of Milwaukee. There isn’t always so much activity after shows early in the week.

The Think Tank services The Ko-Thi Dance Company, African American Children’s Theatre and the Hansberry-Sands Theatre Company with board leadership and administrative support.  They came together to cultivate more community wide support for their dedicated organizations and Afro-American art in general.  During the reception I spoke about the need for a revolution in cultural consciousness in this country. Culture through the Arts is never on the agenda in times of reform.  The change that we are seeking has to, in some way, come out of our own identity. We Americans tend to look at ourselves demographically and don’t even consider the cultural solutions to our polarity. 

December 2, 2014 - TUESDAY

 On the drive to Minneapolis I checked out the violin concertos of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Sibelius, and Benjamin Britten.  I am working on a concerto for Scottish virtuoso Nicola Benedetti and critical listening to concertos is educational and essential for me to form the identity of this work.  It is also just fun. 

 We played in one of my favorite halls, the Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. As we took the stage, I looked up and spotted Manny Laureano in the audience. Manny is principal trumpet with the Minnesota Orchestra and conducts the Minnesota Youth Orchestra.  At 15, I attended the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro North Carolina for summer camp. Counselors and teachers always comparing me to Manny because he was playing classical trumpet and was also a minority (which was extremely rare, I haven’t been back to the camp in years so I don’t know if it still is). He is one of the world’s finest trumpeters and musicians and is an even greater person. I am always uplifted by seeing and speaking with him. We spoke about the ochre steal voice in different Concertos among other things. I left hoping to hear his youth orchestra soon, I know they can play and he is very very proud of them.

 From October 2012 to January 2014 The Minnesota Orchestra was locked out. They are now back to work under new management, doing well and even more committed to their craft. The music world watched these proceedings with great interest. We know that major American cities need Symphonic Orchestras and listening halls. If communities lose the desire and ability to listen together in concentrated silence and experience profound music, throw-away music products which feature extra musical distractions like light shows, pre-recorded tracks and repetitive loops will pretty much be the only alternative.  

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights can be challenging for ticket sales but this Tuesday the audience was robust and attentive.  After the concert I stopped by the atrium of Orchestra Hall in order to hear pianist Jeremy Walker. He is curating a new collaborative jazz series with the Hall. Our own Marcus Printup, Vincent Gardner and Ted Nash joined Jeremy’s trio in a program of his compositions as well as some standards. The room was intimate and full of good feeling.  By the time the hall had cleared out this evening, people had enjoyed a full night of jazz music. 

 Every time we go to the Minneapolis /St. Paul area I always think about the Dakota, a classic jazz club with great food that’s been functioning for many years. Over the years, I’ve seen great musicians there, from Esperanza Spalding to Joe Henderson, but we didn’t get a chance to check it out this time around. Next time.  

December 3, 2014 - WEDNESDAY

Green Bay reminds me of my cousin Charles Harris. When we were growing up everything was always about the Green Bay Packers. Being a Raiders and Saints fan, Green Bay was never on my list of favorite destination.  Green Bay is the Packers.  That’s all to that. Whenever anyone hears the name Green Bay, they think Packers and Vince Lombardi.

We played the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and it was a great opportunity to reach audiences we don’t usually get to see. The audience was small but enthusiastic. Our way of playing is not affected by the size of the audience. The engagement of whoever is there is what motivates us. Jazz needs participants and we love you in all shapes and sizes.

On this tour we have the pleasure of playing with James Chirillo.  He plays great fills, rhythms and solos. He is a complete guitarist and we are happy to have the fourth voice to form the classic rhythm section. Because many of us grew up in jazz households, we know that every opportunity to play this music for people is a sacred opportunity. Every concert is significant, whether it’s the third, the fifth or the twelfth day on tour, it doesn’t matter.

December 4, 2014 - THURSDAY


 A day off in Green Bay and the Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy gave the cats in the band a tour of Lambeau Field. Some of us spend days off relaxing; others work on music and other projects, and still others go out to see things and participate in the life of the community.  In the midst of catching up on the emails and written obligations for Jazz at Lincoln Center and Juilliard I had a moment to reflect on the recent happenings in our country.

Last year around this time we were touring and the government was on strike. That strike was the culminating achievement of intense partisan politics. It should have been a wake up call for us, but it wasn’t. Whenever a group of elected people can’t even agree on how they’re going to misappropriate, mistakenly take and misspend a big pot of your money, you know there’s a profound dysfunction. 

This year the grand jury cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, after a spate of public abuses of power against black folks, have deepened the feeling of separatism through partisan style tribalism in this country… The presence of our orchestra, without saying a word, is clearly an opposition to that feeling. It’s in the music that we play. Jazz is a cultural counter statement to tribalism and provinciality. It was always an agent for integration, not assimilation, but true integration. The music has always been in the forefront of American diversity in a meaningful and real way, not as a media response to demographics or a response to market demand for the illusion of diversity. Whether it is Louis Armstrong’s profound influence on everyone in the 20’s, Benny Goodman’s pioneering efforts in the 1930’s, Dizzy Gillespie and Cu-bop of the 40’s, Dave Brubeck’s band in the 1950’s, or John Coltrane’s bands and world music of the 1960’s, the music has been on the front lines. It goes on and on… Duke Ellington and all that he embraced from Django Reinhardt to Toshiko Akioshi. It’s not integration if there is no recognition and no acceptance of the ‘other’s’ point of view or achievement.  Jazz has always achieved victories without sacrificing quality.

These police cases as well the issues of domestic violence and crimes against women – the revelation that we torture people is added to our knowledge that our financial industries prey on the general public and that our campaign finance model needs to be reformed – are creating a heavy undertone across this country. With the need for sensational news to fill the agenda and wide open social media channels, we are being forced to confront the types of injustice that corrupt our way of life, and we are called to battle with the close mindedness that casts a blind eye on injustice. The obvious traditional and systemic inequality in jobs, education and criminal justice that counter state our national mission has forced us to question who we are and who we want to be. Jazz music itself has a clearly stated take on the American identity, but the nation has yet to become enraged enough with our failure to honestly engage these issues. Truth be told, we are slowly coming to it and will. 

December 5, 2014 - FRIDAY

 We left Green Bay at 7:00 am for Carmel, Indiana.  You have to always take Chicago Rush hour into account.  Although sound check was scheduled to start at 6:00 pm, with 390 miles to drive and at least one stop for food, the day is packed tight.  Whenever we drive by Chicago, Frank Stewart and Andre Bragg always – rain, sleet, snow, hail – stop at Lem’s Bar-B-Q on the South Side for some hot links. This trip is no exception.  We’ve been on 48-hour rides across the country and they’ll go 3 hours out of the way after 30 hours in the seat, just to sniff some ‘stinky links’. 11:30 am… There is no food served until 1. We will go south from Carmel so no Lem’s on this tour. 

 The drive was longer than planned and we were behind. I need at least 2 hours to get together and iron and think about the set before the gig. Thankfully, sound check was scheduled 1 1/2 hours later than normal. This puts great pleasure on our sound Engineer David Robinson. We tease him by calling him the Celebrity Sound Man but he works non-stop. He had to work from the time our buses arrived until the night was over. We are truly lucky to have him. David has a very complicated job and he works it everyday.  He is a stalwart out here.

We played at The Palladium at The Center for the Performing Arts. Michael Feinstein is the Artistic Director of the Center and the hall has all types of interesting memorabilia like the history of the American Popular Songbook  (probably from Michael’s fantastic collection). Michael has more interesting things than anyone and is such a great ambassador for our song tradition. Of the Performance venues we play around the world, The Center has the most hospitable and well-managed backstage crew and production teams. Ellen Kingston, our presenter, deserves a shout out.  

 This audience is always listening and great, and they loved Cecile who was in great form. Carlos played an inventive and virtuosic solo on ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ and the rhythm section demonstrated their range and flexibility on Vincent’s arrangement of ‘What Child is This.’

 After the show we had to make a quick turn around. The buses left for Arkansas at 1am.  Frank, Bragg and I don’t do too much talking in the car.  To add insult to injury, our XM Radio is not working because the car rental service didn’t renew their subscription. Now we can’t argue about the two stories passing for news that are repeated ad nauseum. Well, I can continue with my hobby, tweaking ‘Blues Symphony’ to see if I can figure out how to make it sound like music.


Stayed tuned for more ‘Notes From The Road’ featuring Ali Jackson, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Elliot Mason, Paul Nedzela, Victor Goines, Walter Blanding and more. 

Watch a free live webcast of Big Band Holidays December 18-20, 2014 at 8PM EST. 

I feel like The Bounty Hunter’s Code, which I glanced at in the university bookstore, really missed the opportunity to have thirty bounty hunters squabbling in the margins, instead of just six, one of whom isn’t even a bounty hunter. Though Hondo WOULD just insert himself in there. (But come on , why NOT use Cad Bane and Embo? Instead it’s Boba, Jango, Bossk, Aurra, Dengar, and Hondo. Missed opportunities.)

Notes From The Road

Kalamazoo gives me the warm fuzzies. Indiana, I hardly knew thee. Chicago, you surprised me again.The bus breaking down near Davenport was the turning point, our saving grace. Nebraska is redundant, and long. Drinking fish tank water and eating McDonald’s. Denver still rocks, this time it rocked my socks off. A little prayer in a stand by line and I am feeling blessed. Wyoming, why do people live in you? Cold, breakdown. But we’ll always have the Petro station in Laramie. Bottomless coffee, joints and cloves, private jokes with strangers. Super 8 and then a rescue, 24 hours later. Utah looks exactly as I remember it. Driving up on SLC at night still takes my breath away, Long night. Idaho, Idahood. Bad roads and cows. Cross a bridge and we make it to the final state, mountains and sunshine and a river called Snake. A winding road, interstate 84, leads me on to the promise land. And there it is, the Columbia river, mountains on either side, birds everywhere you turn your eye. The true west. The best. 

Big Band Holidays
Notes From The Road (Reflection) - Walter Blanding:

December 12, 2014 – FRIDAY

When on tour with the Orchestra, we usually travel from city to city to perform almost every day, so when we finally get a day off, it’s important to rest.

After some deliberation, I decided to take the opportunity on this day off to perform with a good friend of mine, Mark Rapp, in Atlanta. That turned out to be a very hectic and busy day, no rest was promised to me as a result.  I didn’t get to sleep until about 2 AM the night before, and woke up at around 5:15 AM for the flight from Texas to Atlanta.

While in Atlanta, I somehow managed to find time to see my mom, as well as sort out a few errands before the end of the workday — AND before sound check for the performance that evening. Man, it’s hard when you are living out of a suitcase – trying to practice, workout, get your mind right for the show, wake up at the crack of dawn – to turn around and also be diligent with keeping things in order at home, which doesn’t stop just because you are not there.

At sound check we ran through about 4 of the tunes for the gig, and the other 4 or 5 compositions, we just played on the spot. This little club we played in had such a good vibe.  It was packed with people who were so warm and appreciative of the music.

One of the greatest differences between performing in a small ensemble vs. performing in a big band is the amount of time each musician is given to play during each song.    In a small group you have more time to stretch out and improvise simply because there are less people on stage, which gives me the opportunity to play more.   In the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra everybody is great, everyone can solo, and I like to listen to the unique ways in which each member of the Orchestra expresses themselves artistically.  But, because there’s so many of us in the Orchestra, you’ve got about half a chorus, or maybe 1 or 2 choruses to solo. That might be your only opportunity to shine for the evening.  You better put up or shut up in that small amount of time, whereas in a small group you might be able to take 5 or 6 choruses on each tune.  It felt really good to stretch out.

As always, it is the magic, power and beauty of music, which washes away all the mundane tasks and obligations of our daily lives.  Although I didn’t get any rest on this day “off”, I did fill my soul and feel much better than I would have had I not played that evening.


The traveler’s modus operandi is best diagnosed as null status citizenship. An invisible alien. I move in a ghostribe. I ascribe self to the shapelessness that drapes the bedouin body of a blind voyage. Gitana-gospel. Countries are geographical cryptographs. Feet are keys. Map is a matrix. We are un-weaving the wool of waking up like tousled, worn out sweaters, warm and heavy in places that can’t be pinpricked on a graph of going going gone. No terra firma to tread on. Moonrust starts to set along the fringes of the sky. Dollops of ocean freezing around turquoised anklets. A shiver-song is whispered right into the nerve endings shooting rockets like strike-happy Israel. A lyrebird lodged in the throat of a sunset, a mermaid drying her coral locks upon mirrored floor of the sea. No static of waves riddled in a catatonic lull, this weather is a hard bargain. Sun is minimal, threadbare as a chamomile bud squashed for ages between the pages of clouds. Cities chime in ghetto-din. Bevelled the mosaic of music erose as a body politic of neurohacks. Soul anomic spectacle. In windows ajar, wind’s timbre reshaped to a falsetto glazing the space between wood and glass. Somehow We are slowly transmuting to a ferocious opera. We people now are a clutch-full of Puccini cast like quasar across the stage of starlight. Evenings here taste like peppermint and kebab smoke. The season inside my heart is rouge-tint like a tumbler of cheap rose sherbet they swirl along the streets of Damascus. I wish I knew You at 16. Awaiting discovery, plentiful peregrine. Memory used to be a Rubik’s Cube before. Now I arrange the fragile memorabilia of scenes and themes past like a T’ang poem. Each arrangement a new History mine. 

Past taught, past taut. An Aztec language has no verbs. No measure for Time. No reference frame for Regrets. No ledger-keeping of Loss. 

I would like to live inside that forgiving Tongue. 

Charles Turner's Notes From The Road

The best memory I have so far in my touring life would still have to be going on my first Tour of France and parts of Germany in 2010. At the time I was just 21 years of age and I received an opportunity to take myself and my band on a tour for 10 days. We performed in different cities and venues each night in Strasbourg, Paris, and Metz just to name a few. The main location and the final three day close of our tour ended in the Nancy, France for the Pulsation Jazz Festival. There were three different performances in Nancy that I will never forget and will always stay with me.

The first day we arrived in Nancy we went to a school for children. As we drove into the lot, all the children were singing with percussion instruments to welcome our arrival. They prepared food and we ate and tried our best to converse with the students( even though we knew very little french). I remember feeling such joy and being extremely humbled at their hospitality and their excitement to hear our music. That show we gave those children was one of the best shows I think I have ever done to date. My musicians and I did everything in our power to make sure this performance was something they would enjoy and remember forever. 

The second outreach part of the tour was to actually go into a prison outside of Nancy and perform for the prisoners. All I could think of was Johnny Cash performing in a 1969 in San Quentin and I thought (although I was a little scared) that it would be a interesting experience. We performed for these men who chained down because of the crimes they committed and although it was hard to perform, it was very emotional for me to see these men smiling and enjoying the music with such appreciation. It was as if we had given them just a moment of “real life” and humanity. And I must say to this day the energy and gratitude received during that performance was incomparable.  

The final leg of the Tour was at the Pulsation Jazz Festival. We performed in the smaller jazz venue during the day and were able to experience all of the head liners in the big tent during the evening. Being a part of the jazz festival, we were allowed backstage where there was food and wine (even a space for free massages) which I thought was pretty cool.  Amongst other artist some of the artist performing on the main stage and hanging in the back were Dave Holland, Chris Potter, Robin Eubanks, and Christian Scott. We all talked and laughed and enjoyed the music. I felt at this moment, this is were I belong. I could see my life in the future. A life in music, sharing with people, enjoying great food and company, giving back to the community, and extending my gift in music to the world to hopefully bring joy, love, and healing! 

by Charles Turner

With Takeshi Ohbayashi, piano; Tamir Shmerling, bass; Lawrence Leathers, drums, Catch Charles Turner at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on Wednesday, September 10. Sets at 7:30 & 9:30PM ET.