Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Colorado Chronicles, Part II

SATURDAY: After a decent night of sleep, we strolled down to the lobby of our hotel (in the same lounge where Rufus Reid played last night) to hear Jaztet One perform. The atmosphere was fairly friendly, as the judge was an old schoolmate of Kris's and mine (Kris told him to "ignore the bass player," which was himself). Even though big band made up most of the audience, that was big enough in the small venue. The group did well, with Jazzy G and Shilah the vocalist getting special recognition for their solo work.

From there, we went over to the convention center to hear a few bands before we played our own set. We were especially interested in the band from Miami-Dade Community College, because their director was listed as "Dave Brubeck." We were all thinking, "certainly that can't be the Dave Brubeck," figuring that a man of his age and stature probably didn't need a teaching gig....but hey, you never know. It turns out that we were correct in that assumption; the Brubeck fronting this band was probably young enough to be the famous Dave's grandson. They had a lot of energy, and their program leaned towards the Latin and Tower of Power genres.

Then it was our turn. After a quick warmup and a run-through of certain spots with our hired-gun bassist, we took the stage. The lower level was about 1/3 full, mostly high-school and middle-school band members, plus our combo members who aren't in big band. The microphone placement was weird (off to the left instead of the right), but we dealt with it and started the show.

Basically, our set went pretty well. There were a few things that were off between the bass and drums, which is to be expected when the two have only played together once before. Otherwise, things ran smoothly. I was much happier with my Misty solo than I was when we were in Boulder (I even threw the Four quote in again). The judges were evidently happy too, as I garnered a soloist award (heh, Kris forgot to list that I was faculty, I guess).

After the gig, we went to a favorite haunt that's just a block away from our hotel: The State Armory. It's a historic building built in 1921, a former National Guard training center that's now a funky little bar and grill. The highlight (lowlight?) of past visits is that Kris always goaded everyone into eating the local, umm, delicacy, Rocky Mountain Oysters, although nobody took him up on it this time. Still, they serve some interesting stuff, like bison burgers (which I had this time) and something called a "jiffy burger" with bacon, cheese, and, yes, Jif peanut butter.

The other thing about the Armory (besides the fact that it has an airplane hanging from the ceiling in the very back) is that there's a game room upstairs, and on the past two big band trips there, I absolutely owned the place in air hockey. This streak was very much in doubt this time; I've lamented the apparent loss of my "mad air hockey skillz" in previous Bowl-a-Rama posts. However, there must be something in the water up there, because I managed to beat Ben five games to none and Pat three games to two (winning the rubber game 7-6). The pucks were flying everywhere as usual; Pat even sent one over the railing and down into the bar (thankfully not striking anyone).

I ended up taking a walk to campus that afternoon, as described in a previous post, and then had pizza at this little downtown place called Corleone's. The place looked more like a bar/game room than a restaurant, but there was evidently a kitchen back there somewhere, as the pizza came out eventually and was quite good.

From there it was on to the final evening concert. This night featured an all-star group of the clinicians opening up for the headliner Kenny Wheeler. I had missed him at UNT a year ago, but had heard a lot about his innovative compositions, so I was looking forward to it. After a long "thank you to everyone" speech from the festival coordinator, Wheeler came out to join UNC's Jazz Lab I. At 74 years of age, he sat down when he wasn't playing, but he still had a lot of energy through the horn.

Wheeler's portion of the concert started out with something that was announced as being in "multiple movements," and they weren't kidding. "The Sweet Time Suite" was an amazing work, although it clocked in at around 38 minutes. Joining Wheeler and the big band onstage was a (sadly-uncredited) soprano singer who was matching lead trumpet parts more often than not; she was basically another instrument, singing words only once. The music was not as avant-garde as I was expecting from Wheeler (which was fine with me), and overall the evening was very enjoyable.

From there, I high-tailed it back to the hotel to catch Rufus Reid's second night. I stayed for the whole set this time, sleep not being much of an option with a 6 a.m. departure time. Once again, the musicianship and interplay was amazing. I got to greet Jim White this time and we talked for a bit; I hadn't seen him since we were in school together. I also talked for a while with some people from West Texas A&M, another school who brought its jazz band (though we didn't get to hear them, since they performed right before us). One of the guys I talked to for quite a bit turned out to be a Sinfonia brother, which is always cool.

SUNDAY: After two hours of sleep; we departed at 6 a.m. We were going to take a detour through the Royal Gorge, but the weather was so cruddy in Colorado Springs that we vetoed the idea. It just seemed like a waste to pay fifteen bucks apiece to go into this park and then only be able to stand outside for maybe five minutes because of the cold rain. We did get to see some of the mountains, and we got snowed on twice during the trip...and then it was near 70 when we hit Dallas. No wonder my allergies are going haywire this week.

Other than that...well, it was a typical long bus trip. We did have an unusual experience in Childress for dinner, when we got to eat indoors at a Sonic (I think it used to be a Burger King, though they appended some of the typical drive-thru stations on the side as well). The bus got back to Plano at 12:15 a.m., and I greeted the new teaching day way too tired on Monday.

"We do serve you breakfast on this shuttle."--DFW shuttle driver, who then proceeded to hand me a Life Savers "Cream Saver" and a very small bottle of water.

"Sorry please."--Foreign guy who bumped into me as I was retrieving my stuff at airport security.

"Hey look guys, while we're in New Mexico, we're gonna go through Royce and then Clayton."--Kris, recalling former Rangers shortstop Royce Clayton.
"Oh yeah? Are we gonna make a 'short stop' in either one of those towns?"--My reply.

"I got a meatlong football.....umm, I mean a footlong meatball."--Ben, describing his sandwich at Subway.

"It's about nine levels of dirty in there."--Adam the drummer, on the condition of the Amarillo bus station where we had to stop to change drivers.

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