Where to start?

This last season has been intense in every way, and things are moving forward in many new and exciting directions. I’m not one to go into personal things on public forum, but a little context is needed here. In the midst of all the professional complexities of teaching and touring my parents fell ill last fall. Mom moved in with us and Dad moved into the hospital and then rehab for 5 months.

So I had to make some important decisions:

I guess I am the head of the family, more or less now. So do I keep on ‘touring’ or stay home and ‘man the fort’? At least in the short term it made sense to do that. But certain gigs could not be cancelled, so my decision for now was to stick closer to home and perform only those projects and gigs that made sense in terms of travel/logistics and money. Amazing how life works out. More demands to focus on what’s important both in my musical life and outside of it; As trying as all of this has been, my musical life is actually better than ever.

Since I wouldn’t be touring, I left my booking agency and took on a personal manager, Bradley Freedman of Otter Presents. What a great idea! Now we focus on bigger shows and on the projects I really care about.

For instance:

  • -I went on a short tour with my one-time student, good friend and incredible virtuoso guitarist Paul Moeller. We performed live on WFMT Tuesdays at One Series, and performed like 10 concerts in one week. We have an live CD/DVD recorded and will release it shortly.
  • -My trio with Alex Austin and Greg Fundis filmed a great set for Audio Tree live. This is available for purchase but you can watch it on YouTube. Check it out here. Keep an eye out for the follow up release to A Pink Motel by the Seashore by singer/songwriter Lily Rose Violet-I am producing again. We just recorded this one, and it sounds great! These songs are amazing and the band is ‘not tooo shabby” either…
  • I also was special guest with the wonderful Austin-based group ATASH for their CD release concerts.
  • I was special guest wth the Downers Grove North High School Jazz Ensemble. Link.Looks like I’ll be coaching the All-State IMEA jazz combo this year. EEK. Got to work on my professor’s accent. “Ahem, Ahem”. I did just buy a sport coat with patches on the elbows….

So we did go to Java Jazz and played and played and played. Two shows with Tony Monaco Trio featuring Greg Fundis and Tom Braxton, 2 shows with my quartet featuring Willerm Delisfort, Alex Austin and of course Greg Fundis. numerous Clinics and late nights jamming at the session. Tony and Greg and I recorded a great sounding CD that we are in the process of mixing.

I finished and released two CDs – Out of Nowhere featuring Billy Hart and Geoge Mraz and Trance Hypothesis on Delmark records. If you are into it, buy the extended version that has 5 extra tracks featuring standard standards – some blues and ballads… check it out!

The second Flat Earth Ensemble CD Trance Hypothesis on Delmark records is out! link The plan is to perform this summer to promote the CD ONCE ‘those guys’ from ‘over there’ get there VISAS together. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE… (Anyone interested in remixing a track or two??? I have a handful of folks lined up to remix this word music record into electronica-world).

As we began promotions for this I got a call from The City of Chicago. To pay my parking tix?!?!? That’s what I thought too, but no! I’ll be performing at Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion on August 21, as part of the Made in Chicago series.

The concert will feature my trio with Tony and Greg Fundis, my quartet with Willerm Delisfort and Alex Austin and Greg F. as well as a set from the Flat Earth Ensemble and performers from all around the globe. I wanted to play some classical music on this show and this opened up a whole new door. So after a bit of research I’ve uncovered – new to me, but not new at all – A treasure trove of baroque music written by SOUTH American Composers. We will perform the Adagio by Domenico Zilpoli who is a big wig organist and composer in Rome who caught the missionary bug and disappeared into Paraguay and continued to compose beautiful Baroque Music with maracas, harp and other indigenous instruments.

In addition I’ve recently arranged Piazzolla’s 5 Tango Sensations for The Pritzker Pavilion Show. The original is for Bandoneon, and I will perform my version for guitar with the Kaia String Quartet. This is breathtaking music that combines jazz, classical and South American musical sensibilities and abilities. I hope to record this soon, as it is some of the best music I’ve ever played!

For you jam band fans, GARAJ MAHAL lives on! Thru Scott Belck, director of Jazz Studies at the Cincinatti Conservatory of Music, I performed and recorded for an upcoming CD of 10 GM originals including Hindi Gumbo, The Shadow,  and Alvin with The CCM Big Band!! What a cool sound. Please check out the Guitar lessons in Premier Guitar Magazine. AND while we wait for the ‘Ten B-3 Grooves’ course with Tony Monaco, Steve Smith and myself, we have also recently scheduled a new Truefire Course tentatively titled “Ten Ragas to Spice up your Jam” featuring the great sitarist and curry cook extraordinaire Indrajit “ten- digit”, “ Indi-Rock” Banerjee.