(with apologies to the late Brother Mantooth for slightly borrowing the title of one of his tunes)
Another jazz festival has come and gone, and this one ran more smoothly than any in recent memory, despite the fact that we were running three stages for the first time in several years. The bands played well, and it appeared that everyone enjoyed their clinics; the ones in our room certainly responded well to what we had to say. Sure, we were exhausted by the end of last night's concert, but those of us on stage also felt the energy of the capacity crowd...and besides, giving up most of a weekend in the name of jazz education is always a worthy cause.
It was also a great experience to play in two concerts with the amazing Bobby Shew. He's been at this for a long time--he was gigging six nights a week while still in high school--and his playing is a finely-honed mix of dazzling technique and heartfelt expression that's always satisfying to listen to and thrilling to behold from the bandstand.
We were also joined by the fine local drummer Mike Drake for the Friday night concert, and, as he does every summer at camp, he played with taste and monster chops. His two extended solos were highlights of the evening.
One of the coolest things about Friday night was the music that Bobby picked for us to play. As he noted during the concert, a lot of these guest-artist-with-the-faculty gigs often become little more than impromptu jam sessions, with everyone busting out their Real Books and playing whatever standards they know best. Bobby chose some music that was slightly off the beaten path--tunes that don't get as much attention as they deserve and, in some cases, haven't been played much at all for many years. Ever heard of "Ugetsu" by Cedar Walton? How about "Play Song" by Bill Mays or "As the Camel Rides" by George Cables? Those were the opening three tunes for us on Friday night, and it was a lot of fun to play them. (Incidentally, "Ugetsu" has some changes that are very similar in spots to another Walton composition, "Bolivia," that's a staple of my group's book; they were just close enough to each other that the 12-bar phrases of the former threw me for a bit, as I was used to the latter being sixteen bars.)
Sure, there were a few "unscheduled moments" in Friday's show, but that spontaneity is a part of jazz, and getting past little bumps in the road is one of the challenges faced by a group that plays together once a year; we rolled with it and moved on, and everyone enjoyed the show.
While Bobby was here, I managed to pick up a copy of this CD from among the many he'd brought to sell in the lobby (the inner jacket now sports the obligatory autograph, of course). I've been listening to it in the car today, and it's been really enjoyable.
So all in all, it was a great weekend...which only makes sense, seeing as how I was doing two of the things I love the most: playing and teaching jazz. And with the opportunity to share the stage with someone of the caliber of Bobby Shew, the teachers did some learning as well.