Have Guitar Will Travel

Time to blog again! It has been a crazy crazy month. Typically I try to keep April a gentle month so that I can focus on my NIU students, who typically are preparing for recitals, exams, etc. We also have our yearly guitar ensemble concerts, I give a faculty recital and it’s generally a time to wrap up the NIU school year and get ready for summer touring season. Sounds sensible, reasonable and oh so thoughtfully planned out. Ah but real life will mess with you every time. What most folks don’t understand about being a freelance musician is that $$ comes when it comes and you have to take it when it’s there and run with it. Sure I have contracts and gigs and an agent booking shows months from now, some even years from now. But I don’t know… If the gig will cancel, if I’ll get paid, if the expenses will cancel out the income, if the drummer will double book himself and I’ll have to fly someone else out, at twice the cost, or if the balaphone player will lose her bags at the airport, get lost on the way to the gig, and piss off the promoter so much that we get our pay docked in ½. And that’s the PREDICTABLE stuff… So when it rains it pours, and you just gotta get out there in the rain, and get drenched! And try to smile while you’re at it…who knows we might have a drought next month! Back to peaceful April: So there I am at the end of March, playing a week in Sun Valley, Idaho – an odd little gig, at a classy old jazz club ski lodge The Duchin Room; A lounge that had its heyday from back in the 30s. Oak paneling, fine spirits, jazz and pictures of movie stars that graced the lodge back in the day. Go watch the old musical ‘Sun Valley’ with Milton Berle and a cast of hot Ski stars, The Glen Miller Orchestra, you can see the Duchin Room and the Lodge and the old outdoor heated swimming pool still there today as it was back then, but maybe as touch sadder, older and wiser than it was back then. The promoter hired us to do energetic music…PUMP up the JAMS they asked us…we played all our stuff…but it ended up as I had predicted, playing as softly as we could, classical guitar, bass and brushes… why don’t they ever listen??? While I was there it became clear that the music for my April concerts with the Nova singers was not going to be a simple issue. The USPS lost the music, so they had to resend it via email. Ok so far so good. Uh, not so quick! It arrived, finally. And as I opened each file I found a score and not a guitar part – some just 4 voice parts, some with piano… So I asked… which ones do I play on??? The answer was predictably…” ALL OF THEM!!” Okay so I start looking through the Internet to try and find lute parts or guitar parts…as these are songs by the great virtuoso from the 1500s John Dowland, who wrote his own parts for lute…it would not be okay to just to make up my own parts…so I find them. Some in different keys… but I can transpose, some in lute notation, but I can read tablature, some in piano notation, but I can read both bass and treble clef. Okay so far, 6 hours later I’m still hangin’ in there… still each day at 4pm I had to head over to the Duchin room to play jazz too loud and too soft for 4 hrs. Then back to work on this music… no skiing or fun for me… just work work work… well were my trials and tribulations over.. OR WE’RE THEY???? I also noticed that the was a piece by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco listed in the program that had been discussed but not mentioned or confirmed so I just thought I would double check and sure enough YES they did plan on me playing the piece… how many movements of it?!?!? YOU GUESSED IT: all 8 movements. All featuring solo guitar… Okay, and don’t you have a guitar part? Uh no I don’t have the guitar part…why would I? So they send me the score via email, and thank god for snap shot in adobe…I was able to cut and paste and cut and paste and cut and paste and cut and paste 35 pages of guitar parts…and then learn them! Oh yeah let’s not forget about that little detail…. six hours of cutting and pasting and then every day practicing all day to learn all of the music….it went beautifully, and I still had lots to get together, but basically we made it through… Back to after Idaho and the nova singers music and practice while all of that was going on. I was getting ready to head back to Denver, 16-hour drive, directly to rehearsal of my DEJU VU material, for a concert that night. A great show with wonderful keyboardist Patrick Lee hitting with us. Who needs sleep when you have music to feed your soul! The next night, a house concert playing jazz and classical – Barrios with TWO broken nails…but I made it through. Actually no I didn’t make it through. I stunk. But the next Friday I played barrios again, las abejas, la catedral, Val’s nos 3 and 4, maxixe, Danza , una limosna por el amor de dios… better but still too fast. Next day at The Listening room was solid. Finally. After rehearsals and three hour drives to and from Galesburg for confess with the Iva Singers I had two days of clinics and master classes at downers grove north high school. Concerts with the jazz ensembles as well as ten presentations to each class…solo guitar, Indian rhythm singing, and groooooves and oremsolo barrios… What fun! But hard work… thanks Breyer Teague for working me hard and for making it so joyous and happy for all involved. Now it’s off to Summer Camp and our last hit with Greg Fundis for the summer. Greg is just barely unavailable for the work coming in on this new summer tour, new agency, new everything…. so had to find another drummer for our summer work…we will miss Greg, but welcome Griffin from the Macpodz! Either way, I’m writing tons of new music on my iPad. It probably stinks, but right now I am having fun…playing Bach and writing electronica. What’s strange is I’m writing music that is all multiple parts…4,5,6 parts polyphony and fugue are alive in this music…. who knows but I am following…. something…. next week it starts: Rehearsing and playing this new music with musicians….will it work? I don’t know hymn of the ancients…new music, old music, voices rising to God and electronica…can it be? Just wrote the latest one…. turned out to be phrases in groups of 7 bars…a spiritual number for me…and still grooving…so I feel maybe I’m starting to find something Either way, just got tickets for Chile, finishing up record with Tony Monaco and Makaya Mcraven…. just swinging music…. and preparing for a whirlwind summer of touring, writing, jamming, and getting ready for a summer of craziness, and a fall of formal music with the duo featuring tuba and Garaj mahal with a big band… yes you heard right!! In the Garaj with 5 saxes, 5 bones and 5 trumpets… funky! Whoosh!! And I’m off.