Obviously to any one who has checked in on our site to see the progress of the California tour has seen that we have not been as motivated to update our tour blog. I guess we have been so into experiencing California that we have let it slide. So as I fly back to Jersey here is my attempt at recapping the last several fantastic weeks. Please excuse the quality of some of the pics, most were taken with Shawn’s phone.
I flew into Los Angeles picked up a rental van and drove up to the Bay area where I met Shawn and Mike in Concord at Shawn’s mothers. We spent several hours having dinner with Shawn’s mother Juaneta than headed out for the evening. We went to Berkeley to check out some music at Jupiter. Afterwards we went in to S.F. for a jam session in the mission district at a club called Amnesia.
The session was run by guitarist Mike Abraham, drummer Eric Garland, trumpet player Erik Jacobson, and tenor/bass player Dayna Stephens. I have spent a fair amount of time in the bay area and have developed some great friendships with quite a few local musicians. It was great to see many of the musicians once again and play with them. They are musicians of the highest order and even better people. On coincidence, trumpet player and great friend Mike Olmos came and sat in. In my opinion Erik and Mike are two of the best trpt players in the country. It was a great welcome back to the Bay Area. The following day we had a nice long rehearsal in Shawn’s fathers living room. Not that we needed that much of a tune up but we just wanted the excuse to play.
On Friday the 30th we played an early evening set at the Jazz School. The Jazz School is a place where students of all ages can take lessons, classes, and play in ensembles learning the craft of playing jazz. Our own drummer Shawn Baltazor studied here. With our great drummer having a home coming show, we had quite an audience! Many of Shawn’s friends and family from the area came out to support. We had a great gig to start off the tour. The audience was fantastic, the performance space had a great sound, and the staff at the jazz school took great care of us. This gig was taped for radio. We will let you know when and what station you can tune in to check it out. Afterward we headed back to Jupiter to hang with a bunch of Shawn, Kellen, and Mike’s friends from the area.
Saturday we did a clinic and concert at Novato High School. The band director there is Mark Peabody who was Kellen’s band director at San Raphael High. We were the ones in for the treat at this one. We did clinics with three student run combos who were fantastic. All of the your musicians were some of if not the best high school students I have ever worked with. All of the groups were playing original material or arrangements. All had great sounds and were eager to learn, listen, and develop. After the clinic we were treated to a delicious vegan meal prepared by one of the students parents. After dinner we returned to the school to listen to the combos perform and then we did a 90 min set. We were very inspired by the students and the attentive audience. We knew we really had to come out for this one. After the set we talked with the students and their parents. After which we headed back to Kellen’s parents Lewis and Patti’s house for a drink and some Wei playing. The next day Mike did a master-class back at the Jazz School while the rest of us had the day off.
On Monday we headed down to Santa Cruz to catch a set by the great bassist and Mike’s colluege at Jazz House Kids Christian McBride. Kellen and I drove down route 1 on the coast and enjoyed the beautiful coastline. We met Shawn and Mike at the beach in Santa Cruz. After some relaxing by the water and watching some beach volleyball we headed over to the Kuumbwa Performance Center where Christian was playing. The set was a joy to listen to. The band came out swinging and never stopped. Afterwards we hung with the rest of his band in between sets. It was an honor to get a chance to meet Christian and hang with him and the rest of the band.
After the gig we headed back up to S.F. for the session at the Grant and Green. When I was working in S.F. for 7 months I lived about 4 blocks from this club in North Beach and I would hit this session every Monday night. I became quite good friends with the trumpet player Mike Olmos and drummer Jeff Marrs who run this session. We had a great hang this night. All I can say is if I am ever in S.F. on a Monday night this is where I will be and I suggest you do the same!
On Tuesday May 4th we did a clinic at Cal State Hayward. Mike is an old friend of the director of this program Johannes Wallmann. We did an improv and ensemble playing clinc with one of his combos. After which we did a performance and workshop with his big band. The students here had great questions and enthusiasm for the music.
The next day we had off so we all spent the day separately. I did some practicing then went out and visited some of my favorite bay area places. I took a walk through Muir Woods, and went to Stinson beach. This is some of the most beautiful country in the world and I highly recommend checking it out if you ever find yourself in this corner of the world. As evening hit I headed in to S.F. to my old neighborhood in North Beach where I visited some of my old haunts and spent the rest of the evening with my old roommate Herve Ernest. Herve is one of the cultural movers and shakers in S.F. and also a great human being. We had great conversation over a few drinks. Please check out his festival at www.sfnoir.org.
The next morning we headed down to L.A. to begin the southern California portion of our tour. We spent the evening at Mike’s sister Kate’s house. She has two of the most beautiful brindle Great Dane dogs. We spent some time in Santa Monica at the beach and had dinner over in Venice. It was great to get a chance to get to know one of Mike’s siblings. She is his older sister but still makes him seem like the “Old Dog” that he is.
The next morning we all took advantage of some time to see friends in the area. Afterwards drum day began. We met up with long time friend of the band Daryl Anderson, who is in artist relations and drum prototype making for Yamaha. He showed us his workshop where he develops new drum sets. Daryl is a friend of Kellen and Shawn’s from William Patterson and he worked at the Jazz Connections camp where I first met Mike. After Yamaha we headed to Remo Drum Heads up in Valencia. We dropped Shawn off at their home office and workshop where he received a personal tour. Fortunately the rest of us were able to escape and headed off to catch some In n Out burger. Shawn had a great tour of the plant and even met Remo himself.
Later that evening we traveled up to Bakersfield where we checked into the hotel and I got a chance to do some practicing while I watched Mike and I’s beloved Cleveland Cavs demolish the Celtics in game 3. Afterwards we headed to the venue to check out Mike’s old roommate Dave Douglas’ set. The band sounded fantastic. Dave’s clarity on the harmon mute was particularly impressive. Dave’s band was Marcus Strickland, Gene Lake, Brad Jones, and Adam Benjamin. After their set we hung with Dave and the band in their dressing room. It was a pleasure to get to meet one of the finest trumpet players on the planet and one of my creative heroes. On Friday we also met some of Mikes old friends from Bakersfield, trumpet player Chris Tyner and pianist Dennis Hamm. I have several mutual friends of Chris’ and it was a pleasure finally getting to know him. Next time our paths cross I only hope we have a chance to play together.
The next day we had a 9:30 am sound check. Afterwards we explored Bakersfield a bit a found a great funky little musical instrument shop. After killing some time and resting up we headed to the venue for the gig. Our set was at 5:15 and it proved to be one of our best yet. We had a huge crowd, the sound guys did a great job, and the four of us were at the top of our game. After the set we checked out Charlie Hunters Band, and Christian Scott. We made quick friends with the cats from Charlie’s band. The trumpet player Shane Eandsley, drummer Eric Kalb, and Charlie were all great cats and we hung fairly late into the evening.
The next day after surviving a slight hangover cured with a greasy breakfast at Zingos we headed down to L.A.. We ended our tour with a canceled gig at Alva’s, however the Argentinean BBQ we were treated to by Kellen’s brother in law Rodrigo was fantastic. I can’t think of a better way to end the tour than relaxing in the sunshine eating amazing Argentinean beef and superb wine. We spent the night at Mike’s sisters Kate’s house. The next day we got up at 5:30 am and headed to Lax to start our journey home. What a tour!