Monday, February 14, 2005

A Great Hang in the Alamo City (Part 2)

Taking up where we left off yesterday...

Having been burned on parking the day before, we made a concerted effort (pun somewhat intended) to wake up much earlier and snag a place in the Rivercenter garage before the All-State jazz concert at 11:30, and we succeeded in said effort. The jazz ensemble was directed by Steve Wiest, an amazing trombonist and old schoolmate of mine who's probably the only person to go from Maynard Ferguson to the One O'Clock instead of the other way around. He had a unique way of introducing the concert, bringing out the whole band one by one starting with the drums and leading up to the two tenors, who proceeded to battle on the same "Jumpin' at the Woodside" arrangement we play at camp. The twist on all this was that the rest of the horns were in a big line across the front of the stage, playing the chart from memory. They played some enjoyable stuff (including a new Wiest arrangement of "Cheek to Cheek," which he said had never been performed outside of "Wiest-consin") and had a surprise appearance by the noted trombonist and educator Phil Wilson (we had been given the erroneous information that it would be Phil Woods making the guest appearance, but no biggie; we'll see him in two weeks at UNT). A little later in the afternoon, after a few hours in the exhibits, we saw Neil Slater direct an all-state group of community college players; the special guest was Jim Riggs, and it's always a treat to hear him play. What a sound, what a sound...

Following some chill time at the Rivercenter (where we listened to the Andean Fusion band that plays there every year at this time), we braved the hourlong line to listen to the All-State Symphonic Band, which is probably the largest indoor band there is. We felt bad for the few people who had to wear their marching band uniform for this concert instead of the usual black tux or dress; once upon a time, everyone wore uniforms, but now it just really sticks out (though the drum major in the long, flowing cape onstage a few years ago did score some cool points in my book).

We dined on (or at least near) the river one last time at a fun, fifties-themed burger joint called Johnny Rockets. Halfling had been to the one that used to be in the West End in Dallas before closing a few years ago, but it was my first time and I really liked it--good burger, great shake, and the staff danced to the old-school soul tunes blaring from the jukebox, for which the customers are given nickels to make their selections.

But we had unfinished business; we wanted to sit in with someone that night. The duo at the Landing seemed to be pretty self-contained, but we had gotten a flier at the All-State jazz concert about a Latin jazz group (playing at a club located remarkably near our hotel) that was letting people sit in during their second set. Off we went...

It took a little while to find a table, as Luna was full to capacity. The band was led by a percussionist, and they also had sax, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, as well as a female vocalist. We talked to the leader and he agreed to let us sit in like the flyer promised. We did so on "Route 66," and it actually went over pretty well; we got some nice comments and high-fives on the way back to our table. We were hoping for the invite again in the last set, but they were wrapping things up; still, we had a good time and got an open invitation to sit in again the next time we're in town. We also got some ideas for our future jazz club, some of which Halfling actually sketched on a cocktail napkin (you always hear about so many good ideas starting out this way).

Not much to say about the trip home, except that we got to stop and see my sister, brother-in-law and nephews for a while and give Noah his birthday present (a San Antonio t-shirt from the Rivercenter; my sister was happy that it wasn't a present that made noise, as Noah already has a surplus of these). It was cool for my "brother from a different mother" to meet my sister from my actual mother, and it's always great to get some hang time with the young'uns.

All in all, it was a great weekend. I have a pseudo-holiday today with a big gig tonight...updates are sure to follow.

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