I’m in Pennsylvania at the Farmhouse Retreat run by vocalist and healer Barbara Montgomery – the final stop of our Spring Tour – before heading into Philadelphia for a weekend of Jazz and Poetry. It’s time to take a deep breath after seven days of non-stop driving, concerts, clinics over five States with some of the world’s most amazing jazz musicians and write down the memories while they are still fresh.
The Whole World in Her Hands brings together leading female jazz instrumentalists and composers with their music and virtuosity. Our Spring Tour featured Jamie Baum – flute, Shannon Gunn – trombone, Leni Stern – guitar, Jennifer Vincent – bass, and Rosa Avila – drums and of course myself on piano, leader, and bus driver. It took nearly a year to plan all the details for the tour – on Wednesday, April 19, I packed the 12-passenger van after a full day of teaching and drove the first stretch of 5 hours to Cambridge, OH.
I left at 8am in OH with the goal to pick up our trombone player at the Philadelphia Greyhound Station by 2pm. The New York players drove down to Philly in two cars and we were set to meet up at the Farmhouse Retreat there by 4pm for rehearsal. Of course, Philly traffic caused an hour delay and by the time we got groceries and settled in we were two hours behind. It was a wonderful reunion though and we kept rehearsing until midnight to make sure to get the music tight.
A new club in Akron, OH called Blu was our destination for the day. We packed up the van with drum set, bass, amps, guitar, keyboard, six suitcases, groceries and hit the road – 6 hours to Akron. The club has a classy setting and we had a good first night for an appreciative crowd. The first pink beanie went to our gracious host Henry – very nice!
At 8am the bus was loaded again and a tired crew set out to Bridgeport, WV. The WV Jazz Society hosted a day of clinics with a culminating evening concert with visiting students from Glennville State College, University of WV, and a few High School students from the area. They are doing a wonderful job with frequent large jazz event that bring great musicians and audiences to the area. The students were excited and curious and we talked, performed, and jammed throughout the afternoon. In the evening, the Glennville group opened with a little trip through jazz history and we performed a high-energy set to a cheering audience in the conference center. Thanks to all for their hospitality and support. Here is a link to the live video.
Finally, only one hour in the bus to Elkins, WV where we got to stay at Graceland on the Davies-Elkins College campus – a quite historical mansion. The evening concert was at the Elkins Arts Center, a former church transformed into a concert space. It was great to see jazz historian W. Royal Stokes join us as an audience member. Temperatures took a dip to nearly winter temperatures and wasn’t kind to the instruments and band members – but some hot coffee and music helps –
At 11 we left to Pittsburgh for an evening concert at the Manchester Craftsmen Guild. This organization has a history of hosting world-class concerts and releasing grammy award winning recordings. The walls are lined with signed portraits and the staff is absolutely amazing in terms of helpfulness and expertise. The 350-seat auditorium filled up nicely and we finished the evening to standing ovation – an absolutely beautiful night! Also great to see my old friend David Fabilli, who hosts a radio show in Pittsburgh and was my hangout buddy and many IAJE conferences.
Tuesday was a day of workshops – I presented a lecture at Carnegie Mellon for the Arts Marketing and Communication class, Jamie presented an improvisation workshop for the Arts Entrepreneurship class there, and the rest of us drove up to Slippery Rock University for an early afternoon clinic. I do love teaching just as much as performing – the interaction with young, curious, enthusiastic minds is always inspiring and energizing. Great talents at Slippery Rock under the tutelage of Jason Kush! Right after the workshops we hit the road for a nearly 6-hour drive to Washington. Our trombonist was hoping to make it in time for her regular Tuesday night gig there – she caught the last set.
Shannon was nice enough to host most of us at her house and it was great to have a few hours to catch up on communications and other business. Our evening performance was at Twins Jazz in Washington, a historic jazz club run by twin sisters from Ethiopia since 35 years. We had a nice Wednesday night crowd, great Ethiopian food, and even a late guest who had bought tickets but went by CST instead of EST time and joined us as we were breaking down.
Our grand finale was at “An Die Musik Live” in Baltimore, a concert space run by Henry Wong in Baltimore. It’s a beautiful, european-style space and Henry does a wonderful job presenting a mix of classical and jazz concerts in an intimate setting with great acoustics. As a very special treat, the great drummer Dennis Chambers was in the audience and cheered us on. Rosa sure pulled out all the stops on the drums – super fun!
And the weekend came to a close with the annual Spotlight on Jazz and Poetry Live show in Philadelphia, hosted by Clayton Corley aka Big Trigger who runs a podcast of the same title. Guest artists this year included guitarist Roni Ben Hur, trombonist Reut Regev, vocalist V. Shayne Frederick, and poets Marie Lyriq Grady, Christopher Fields, and Norman Brown. Beautiful show and mix of talents – and now off to driving the 12-passenger van all the way back home to Indiana!