The Big Push.

Mike's B-Day at the Flamingo Bowl!

After a great weekend in Kalamazoo at the Union Caberet we got up early on sunday morning for a 7 hour drive to St. Louis.  We played that evening at the “Bistro” with our friends from Webster Grove High School directed by our friend Kevin Cole.  It is amazing to see the amount of kids he can inspire to want to play jazz.  Our set went great and it was a pleasure to play in one our country’s great clubs.  After the gig, we went out to celebrate Mike’s birthday.  After a few libations we headed to the Flamingo Bowl, followed by a sprint through the rain in our suits from the gig.  If Mike is our “Old Dog” he certainly was not that night.  The next afternoon we went to Webster Groves to work with the students and do our “Jazz is a language” workshop.  That evening we enjoyed a well needed night off in St. Louis.

Mike and Gill

The next day we drove 5 hrs up to Chicago to do a clinic and concert with St. Charles East.  Mike is long time friends with Gill Wukitsch and Jim Cull the band directors there.  The kids were very responsive to our help and even joined us for a tune on the concert that evening.  It was also great to have some family and a former student and parent from NJ in attendance.  The next morning we went in and worked with Jim’s jazz class.  The kids had been given such a great start with learning jazz language.  It was really something to behold what can be accomplished when given great information on a consistent basis.  These kids were actually playing bebop language.  Our hats go off to Jim and Gill.

Me and New Trick's biggest fan my cousin Drew.

Shawn's drum student Anna Mariani.

That afternoon we went to Wheaton College.  We did an afternoon performance clinic/question and answer with the jazz band there.  This is a beautiful small quaint school and it was refreshing to be on it’s campus.  The jazz director there is Josh Mosier a friend of Mike’s.  We did a joint concert with the jazz band that evening, and played Mike’s big band arrangement of Old Dog with the students.  Josh has really gotten these students to play and sound right out of the jazz tradition.  They were wonderful kids and it was a pleasure getting to know them and share the stage with them.  The hospitality at Wheaton was second to none.

On thursday morning we got up and went into Chicago to have the photographer Jeff Stella take some new band pics of us.  Jeff is a childhood friend of Mike’s and was extremely fun to work with.  He totally understood where the band was coming from musically and was able to express that through the photos.  Check back soon to see all of the photos!  The great trombonist Tom Garling also stopped by the studio to say hello to Mike.  We then drove through the evening to Columbus and stayed at my sister’s house.

Jeff Stella

Waiting for our photos.

Born for the camera.

The view from the stage at The Blue Wisp.

On Friday Mike, Shawn, and Kellen went down to Cincinati and did a clinic at Mike’s alma mater U.C.  I stayed in Columbus and went to my brother in Law’s wedding.  On Saturday I rejoined the guys in Cinci and we had what may have been our best gig of the tour.  We had a packed house at the Blue Wisp to play to.  We were really ready to play again with having had a day off, and we had a nice mix of family, friends, and UC students in attendance.  This all added up to a killer gig.  Expect some video of this to go up soon.

On Sunday we drove 5 hrs up to Cleveland.  Mike always enjoys returning to his home

Kellen, Kevin Mohammed, Shawn, and Ron Godale

town, and I have a connection there as well, being from North East Ohio.  We played at Night Town that evening, and got to unveil the newly penned tune of Mike’s that gets its name from that club.  Many Cleveland musicians came out to support Mike, and we had some special guests from Ashtabula there as well.  We shared the bill with a superb group from Minneapolis called The Atlantis Quartet.  Great players, great tunes and great people.  We look forwarded to playing with them in the future.  We celebrated our final gig of the tour and drove home the next day.

It was a whirlwind three weeks.  There were so many new people that we got to meet and old friends we visited.  The performances went with out a hitch.  And the traveling was smooth.  It is unbelievable to me that this band can take on this challenge so easily and successfully.  It is a testament to our musicianship, friendship and vision of what this band can be that we can make this happen.  Many thanks to all of the people we encountered on the tour.  And even more thanks to Mike, Shawn, and Kellen for being so excited to be on this journey.

Celebrating after our last gig of the tour!

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