4 Countries in 30 Days – Beas in the Hive, Apr 20/11

In my HIVE – recapping, April 20, 2011

4 Countries in 30 Days
You know the feeling of crawling into your own bed and resting your head on your pillow and know that you’re home. That’s how I felt after traveling to 4 countries in 30 days. Home for the Spring, but here’s where I was:

Cape May Jazz Festival
I learned that Cape May is the oldest beach resort in the US. Not only is the Victorian architecture well preserved, but so are the two jazz festivals in April and November. I was invited to perform with my band (Jeff “Tain” Watts and Steve Colley) at this year’s 35th festival. I had so much fun especially since every venue was in walking distance so you can do the jazz cocktail crawl. (As you know, this is not the case in Los Angeles.)

On the first night, I went to see George Mesterhazy, former pianist with Shirley Horn, perform solo, then we caught Kevin Eubanks band with Bill Pierce and my friend “Smitty” in a power quartet. After, we went to hear vocalist Gregory Porter (cross btw Johnny Hartman and Donny Hathaway) and a great band of young musicians. Next up was Christian McBride’s vibraphonist, Warren Wolf, who was slamming!! playing bebop lines, ballads, and great grooves on the marimba -hard to do. Here’s to this band from Baltimore!

At my gig, the next night, always damn nice to reunite with “Tain” and it was super to play with Scott Colley. The house was packed with an enthusiastic crowd. We played music from Positootly! and Letter to Herbie. Tain and Scott played the songs in a fresh way, which was so exciting to me. My gigs were the last ones of the festival, so lots of musicians were hanging: Poncho, Gregory Porter, Bill Pierce, Smitty, and before I knew it, the gig was over. It was pleasing to see Joe Donofrio who worked hard to get me this gig and meet his gang: Zippy and Philip in South Jersey.

Numb at 5am, I clocked the 9th airport trip since March 14 to return home for a shower, change clothes and straight into the studio with Vinnie Colauita and Steve Lukithor – another crazy creative session!

From Bali to Bitches Brew
From the sultry tropics to the windy city…rewind 3 wks before Cape May, I went to Singapore to continue the Jai Ho World Tour with A.R. Rahman. It was a great reunion with the Indian and American musicians, dancers and crew; and always a humbling experience working with A.R. The venue at the insane futuristic Marina Bay Sands was much smaller and intimate in comparison to the arenas we were playing. We always get a kick when we see the audience run down to the stage and start dancing in rule-bound Singapore too! A whole lot of fun, except for the $24 drinks at the bar! I tagged on a vacay in Bali so I can go diving. Swam with sea turtles and sting rays, lounged in a sarong for a week and ate fresh, fresh fruit and delicious Indonesian food all with an egg on top!

I had 12 hours after I landed in LA with a tan to re-pack for winter weather in Chicago and Toronto. It was snowing, snowing in both cities. Bitches Brew kept me toasty. It was really nice to reunite with Nicholas Payton, Gary Thomas, Darryl Jones, Blackbyrd McKnight, Badal Roy Munyungo Jackson, Robert Irving III, Mr. Vincent Wilburn Jr., Mino Cinelu play along with DJ Logic to pay respect to Bitches’ 40th anniversary. The mutual respect was oozing and we thank the chief who originally brought us together. Everybody put their agendas aside and played as a team to avoid the cluster fuck that it could have been. Vince did a superb job at leading the band. A lot of energy from the standing-room only, packed house. We played most of the tunes on Bitches Brew and more: Spanish Key, Miles Runs, The Voodoo Down, Sanctuary, Pharaohs Dance and In a Silent Way. It was awesome to hook up with my old touring buddy Gary Thomas from the John Patitucci days. We are all hoping we can go on tour with this brew crew!

Spring in LA
May Day – Billy Higgins Tribute @ Catalina’s
Helping KPFK radio as Music Director put on this tribute to someone who is often forgotten, Mr. Billy Higgins.
SAVE THE DATE – May 01 – GREAT line-up for you:
George Duke, Stanley Clark, Charles Lloyd, Poncho Sanchez, John Densmore, Kamau Da’ood Will Calhoun, Leon Mobley, Dwight Trible, Eric Reed, Ronald Brunner Jr, Marvin Smitty Smith, Clayton Cameron, Trevor Ware, Phil Ranelin, Richard Grant Jr.

Hosted by KPFK’s Mark Maxwell and KJZZ LeRoy Downs
Catalina Bar – VIP reception – 5:30 / Musical Tribute – 7:00 pm

Two Engineer friends Lost to Cancer:
Tal Hertzberg – Mr. Pro Tools by the Pool
I was invited to the Bahamas a few years ago to perform with my band at the July 4th festivities when Justin Siegal’s father was the Ambassador. Tal was in charge of the sound. At the beginning of sound check, I saw Tal on set, then he disappeared, but I could hear his voice giving instructions. Afterwards, we were hanging in the dressing room which was next to the pool. I noticed a lot of cables and big-ass speakers around the pool; and just as we were about to perform, I waved at Tal who was still lounging in the water. I started to wonder how Tal was going to do the sound if we’re there before him. Then, it dawned on me that Tal figured out a way to mix the show from the pool because the board was there – pure genius! There was no one more creative, intuitive, and fast with a Pro Tools rig than Tal. You will remain constant in our lives.

Remembering Roger Nichols, engineer (Steely Dan, John Denver , Frank Sinatra, +++)
I opened the LA Times this morning to read of Roger’s passing. Another master engineer lost to cancer. Roger was the engineer for my 1st + 2nd CDs “Cauldron” + “ A Change of Heart” produced by Walter Becker . In the early 90s, Walter had a production deal with Windham Hill Jazz to produce artists: Ricky Lee Jones, Michael Franks, Bob Sheppard, others and Walter’s solo record “11 Tracks of Whack.” This was before the reunion of Donald and Walter.
During this production era, Walter, Roger and I were in Maui. One time we were waiting for Walter’s new Sony digital 24-track machines. When they arrived, Roger was salivating and tore them out of the crates. He was a true scientist-type. He liked experimenting with new gear. Actually, Walter/Donald/Roger/Craig Freun called themselves ‘gear sluts.’

What did he add to my record, well, Steely Dan’s record producer Gary Katz described Roger’s engineer-as-artist approach best: “Yes, we were demanding, but he was demanding on himself. He wasn’t just there to do tracks and mix records, he was there to improve the audio experience for everybody.”

I always admired how ‘transparent” Roger’s mixes were. What I mean is, when you listen to the records he mixed, you feel like you are in the studio, in person, at the recording. When we were mixing “A Change of Heart” I suggested to him that I wanted the record to sound like Sly Stone’s “Fresh” He knew what I meant and within minutes had a great balance between the kick drum and base.

He was more than just a fellow-artist to me, Roger inspired me to explore life in other ways than music; and got me to start diving. A wonderful mind.


@ Marty's in Chicago 2011
to the hive to make music, beas

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