The Summer, The Fall, and Herbie Hancock
Posted on 9/26/2003at 1:15 PM
Once the "Vertical Vision" tour started to wind down in May, my attention diverted to practicing for probably THE most important performance I've had in a VERY long time......
Last year, as my residency at the University of Richmond was about to conclude for the season, Kathy Panoff (the executive director) and I got together to brainstorm about what programs we would put on this year. Much to my surprise, she suggested that I play a classical concert with the Shanghai Quartet! Although in the long run, I always planned to play classical music again, I didn't think it would be this soon. So, it was off to the "shed" - as we musicians say - to practice Franz Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. Lydia Artymiw was the pianist. Boy, what a treat it was to play classical music again outside of my music room at home, or at a Juilliard recital. It was also great to play with Lydia and the fantastic musicians from the Shanghai Quartet. Throughout the week, along with the Schubert performance, the CMB played, and one of our favorites, Claudia Acuna joined us for one concert. Richmond was a gas this year. I can't wait to see what next summer brings. It'll be hard to top this summer, but it's always fun trying to think of something!
After Richmond, I flew to Europe to play a few shows with Pat Metheny to warm up for our fall tour. It was a lot of fun. I look forward to touring with Pat again after ten long years. Pat Metheny has done something not a whole lot of people have done in the last 20 years - he's actually created his own style and sound. Absolutely no one else sounds like Pat Metheny. I also look forward to touring with Antonio Sanchez. He's a "mutha". (as James Brown would say)
After a couple of shows with Pat, I flew to Aspen, CO to start my annual residency at Jazz Aspen Snowmass. Every year, we always have a great, great time. This year was no different. This year, our visiting jazz masters were Cyrus Chestnut, James Carter, Terrell Stafford, Steve Davis, Allan Harris, our educational director Loren Schoenberg, and the ubiquitous Mr. Grady Tate! We had a ball. All of the fantastic students who participated this summer got more than they could have ever imagined. Having a REAL living master such as Grady around - someone with so much experience and so many stories - was something every young musician should experience.
After Aspen, I went to Los Angeles to do yet another annual residency at the Henry Mancini Institute. Mancini was also a lot of fun, as usual. This year, Clint Eastwood was the recipient of the "Hank" award - an award started by Ginny Mancini to honor excellence in the arts. At the gala event, there were speeches and performances by James Moody, Quincy Jones, Diana Krall, James Carter, Roger Kellaway, Alex Acuna, Vinne Colaiuta, and many, many others.
After Los Angeles, I embarked on what I think I can truthfully say was the most exhilarating, breathtaking tour I've ever been a part of. I know I have a tendency to make every gig seem great and important - and it is. EVERYDAY is important . But this tour was for me in many ways a dream come true. One of the gigs that any bassist could only dream about would be playing in a trio with Herbie Hancock and Jack DeJohnette. I have NEVER - I mean this - NEVER played with musicians more free within themselves than Herbie and Jack. Every song was a trip to an unknown galaxy, and if we got lost...it was ok! I've never played with musicians who love the excitement of possibly NOT coming out on the "one" every four to eight bars all of the time. Sometimes it's 9 bars. Sometimes it's 6 1/2 bars. It was a very heavy experience. To most jazz musicians in my generation, the excitement only builds up until some drummer hits a loud "and of four". To Herbie and Jack, it doesn't stop there. The tour changed my whole musical outlook. The funny thing is, I played with Herbie and Jack together once before with Joe Henderson on his "Double Rainbow" CD, and it scared the hell out of me then, but because it was a CD, the atmosphere was somewhat controlled. This tour was NOT controlled! I don't want you to get the impression that we would play the head to a song, then go berserk. It was what Herbie called "controlled freedom", which is real freedom anyway when you're dealing with self. I hope you get to hear this trio live real soon. Don't worry, I'm working on Herbie as I write this!!
Now, I'm preparing to hit the road with Pat and Antonio this fall. See you somewhere out there!!