We played the first gig of the tour tonight. It went very well considering that we made the record in May, and haven’t played together since. We ran some stuff at sound check, and the great musicians in the band did what great musicians do. Every cat in this band is absolutely world class, and it is a great pleasure an honor to make music with them. I’ll try not to assume that you know who I am talking about. The band is Hamid Drake on drums, Jeff Parker on guitar, Josh Abrams on bass and guimbre, Jeb Bishop and myself on trombones, and Napoleon Maddox on all manner of vocally created musical sounds.
I have always heard about how these European festivals can turn into big musician hangs. Tonight we split a show with Kahil el Zabar’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble with special guest Neneh Cherry. Ernest Dawkins and Corey Wilkes were in Kahil’s band, along with Matthew Kent and Franck Orall. Also hanging out were William Parker, Billy Bang, Nasheet Waits, Flip Barnes, Rob Brown, and Rasul Siddik, plus a bunch of other cats that I didn’t get to meet. We are all staying at the same hotel, and ended up at the bar across the street after the gig. Neneh told me that her father, Don Cherry (the great musician and trumpeter, not the hockey guy), used to play the the Dr. John record with the Meters as the band (“Right Place Wrong Time”) all the time. Pretty cool.
The Hamid Drake and Bindu Tour is underway. The first performance is tonight in Cachan (just outside of Paris). I left the US on Wednesday, and arrived in Paris Thursday morning. I was successful in my effort to not go to sleep until Thursday night, and I feel pretty good today.
Last night we went to a lecture/symposium at University of Paris Diderot. The subject was Don Cherry, the speakers were Hamid Drake and Kahil El Zabar. It was hosted and translated by Alexandre Pierrepont. The was a good bit of insight presented on Cherry’s life and music, and music in general and drumming in particular. I’d like to hear it again, minus the jet lag.
Earlier in the day, Jeb Bishop took me to a la Biche au Bois, which is a great little restaurant that has developed quite a following amongst the Chicago improvisers. The food was great, and I fulfilled my cultural study needs by getting a full on almost two hour long déjuner.
I started with les œufs aux mayonaise.
Next was the coq au vin, which I was told is a must have at this place, and it was fabulous.
Next was le fromage.
…and I couldn’t pass up le creme brulé avec armignac.
Lunch was followed by une promenade sur la Champs-Élysée, and my touristing was complete. I have rehearsal in a few minutes, so hopefully the next installments will be more about music than food.
Have you ever gone into the studio and had someone say, ‘I want you to sound like the guy who did the drums on … ?’
I did a date with Jimmy Bowen, the song was ‘Fever.’ I had never worked with Jim, but I had made the original record of ‘Fever’ with Peggy Lee. It actually said on my part, ‘play like Shelly Manne.’ So I played it just like I played it originally. The producer stormed out of the control room, walked over to me and said ‘Can’t you read English? It says ‘play like Shelly Manne.’
When I told him I was Shelly Manne, he turned around and went back into the booth. I think he’s selling cars now.”
“An interesting feature of the career of any successful modern jazz or creative musician is the huge reliance on the European market for work. I don’t have any numbers to back up this claim but I know through conversations and anecdotal evidence that the ability to play in Europe regularly is an essential part of any musician’s career who attempts to play this music as a full time occupation.
How would our artists be effected if it was no longer practical for promoters in Europe to fly them over for gigs due to rising transportation costs? Or, even if they could continue to do so, if it cut into the artists’ bottom line, essentially coming out of their paycheck?”
I’m all for world travel in the name of music making (I’m heading to Europe in a week and a half myself), but as Dan alludes, it would be great if we could make good livings closer to home.