I’m so happy to report that the initial Circle in a Square tour is firmly under my belt. I’m grateful for all my road experience, because I needed it to help me successfully navigate the rollercoaster that ensued. It was challenging work traveling in this crazy winter weather, and working with new people at almost every gig, but the performances were their own animal, I loved being in the moment and responding to each ocassion, and I was just so darn happy despite everything!!! This business can make a fool out of you, but not if you see the path and know that doing the good work is the purest motivator.
NY’s Birdland CD release concert on January 7th was certainly a foreshadowing of things to come. The band was stellar and the music came to life after months of mixing the static performances. I was so happy to feel the notes flowing through my veins again and finding fresh footing. Its funny how you become so acquainted with one performance, hearing it over and over again, and then being faced to let it go in an instant once the band laces into the intro. I’m back to feeling the music again with a new desire to go exploring. Working with the core trio from the CD was wonderful and the perfect way to touch off the tour. Andy Ezrin, Ben Wittman, David Finck/Will Lee and Donny McCaslin brought their fierce talent to the night and we beat that drum again together. And the weather beat the crap out of even the most “gung ho” of New Yorkers. It was 10 degrees outside and as bitter a cold as I can remember. But we had a warm house and good time, despite the bone chilling night.
Florida was a little gift and a great way to meet up with my road partner, Martin Bejerano (pianist), and break in the formula for all the upcoming gigs. I hired Martin to MD with me as we embarked on hitting city after city with brand new players to rehearse at each stop (except for the Ohio Experiment Gang, but more on that later) and give the music the ultimate road test. It’s one thing to know the music works on the founding rhythm section, it’s quite another when every day’s a new day and new band. So the thrilling knowledge I walked away with is, the music works. It breathes and adapts, it is in a good structured place while also allowing each band to find it’s own distinct voice. All I had to do was surrender to that notion and flow. It was truly liberating and confidence building.
So back to Florida…I did a Master Class at University of Miami, and I must say, they are under the very able direction of Kate Reid Prather, who took over the program this past year. She’s really got them doing some hearty stuff. Kudos to all!! After that, I rehearsed with my quartet, made up of Martin, Paul Shewchuck, Mike Piolet and Mark Small. They all came prepared and ready to go, so we turned one chart over after the other, finessing fine points and got to know one another and our sound. The concert at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach was wonderful. We had a welcoming crowd, some familiar faces and a birthday girl in the audience. The music was recieved very well and we sold a bunch of product. Delray Beach is a cool little town in case you were wondering, I’ll definitely return.
This is when the weather began to show it’s prickly hide. I was supposed to return to NYC, repack and leave for Ohio the next day, but one of the many snow storms that blew through this winter came in with a fury and I only made it as far as Philly. To make a very long 24 hours short, I never left Philly that day, but instead found a room at a not so nearby hotel, returned the next morning to finally get out, but not claim my suitcase on the other end. So off I went to fill out a claim for my bag, pick up my sweet pianist Shea Martin, and drive us to Bowling Green, Ohio with just the clothes on my back for our rehearsal that afternoon. We had a nice session in one of a few basements on the tour, this time with my dear friends and faculty at Bowling Green State University, Chris Buzzelli (guitar), Jeff Halsey (bass),and Roger Schupp (drums). We plowed through the repertoire and I had to rethink a predominantly horn based book into a guitar book. I did two workshops at BGSU with their two jazz ensembles – they are doing terrfic work – and then a concert that night. The group joined me on “Circle in a Square” and touched off a theme that continuted throughout this tour.
On this Ohio trip, we were fortunate to have three concerts in a row with the same band, so that was a gift. My bag finally arrived sometime in the middle of the first night and then we went on to Kent State University to meet up with my good friend and director of the vocal program, Chris Venesile. I did another Master Class, worked one on one with some wonderful vocalists and then worked with the Vocal Jazz Group. The rest of the trio made it safely to Kent and we set up at a little club in town called the Secret Cellar. I guess it was a Speak Easy back in the day. We had a terrific crowd for this crazy chilly night and their choir sat in on “Circle in a Square.” The next day’s travel to Maumee was harrowing. One minute it was a blizzard then it was blue skies, then back again. But we took it slow and got there in good time.
We played a little club called Dégagé and again had a nice crowd. Lots of good friends, in fact, were in attendance and a few new connections were made. We slept for a couple hours and then had to make the trek back to Cleveland, luckily again, the roads weren’t so trecherous that we couldn’t get there in good shape. But I will say, the debris on the side of the road, be it an all terrain car stuck in the meridian or semis on their sides, it definitely said, go slow and beware at all times.
I’m proud of my musician pals at Bowling Green and pianist, Shea, I worked with from Oberlin College, and thank them all very much for their game attitude during this not so sexy tour schedule.
I had a couple days home to regroup and ready myself for the West coast leg. Martin and I arrived in LA in good speed and went directly to the first taqueria we could find. Sometimes you have to have your priorities straight.
My dear college friend, composer, producer, and rock star from Berklee, Eve Nelson, housed us in her quaint Valley Village home and we spent three nice warm days in the land of LaLa. We rehearsed the band the day of the gig at Vitello’s and they were killer, Edwin Livingston (bass), Jake Reed (drums) and Bob Sheppard (sax). They were so prepared and I just knew we were going to have a fantastic night……and we did. Bob is just an incredible player and really gave us all something to chew one. We got into some good dialogues and just in general delivered a show that felt profoundly formed for a bunch of folks that had just met. That so many dear sweet friends attended on the lone rainy day in LA, and we know how much they need the rain, I was grateful. Many of my fellow women music makers came out in force; Luciana Souza, Tierney Sutton, Denise Donatelli, Michele Weir, Eve Nelson, Michelle Lewis, Christine Guter, Debbie DeForrest and Cheryl Barnes to note. But also in attendance was monster vocal arranger Roger Treese, Chris Horvath and conductor Chris Guardino. Though the house was only half full (I called the tour my Joyful Humble Pie tour), the energy in the room was palpable and the music responded.
I spent a couple hours with the wildly talented crew at Cal State Long Beach the next day. These students continue to blow me away. Again, under the incredible direction of Christine Guter, these students have a command of the genre and eat up the harmony. I’m proud of what she’s got going on there and think the kind of singer/musicians she is unleashing on the world are something to marvel.
Morning always comes too soon, but Martin and I got up and out for our flight to Portland, my hometown!! My brother Dave picked us up and we immediately hit the famous food carts in downtown Portland. If you haven’t done this yet, do. I had a braised pork shoulder sandwich on homemade bread with pickled fennel and tons of garlic. Yah, I was full through dinner, but oh, you naughty sandwich. Martin had some slamming bratwurst on crusty bread and Dave had some rogue sushi with kimchi. Yum. We drove over the pass to the coastline of Cannon Beach, a sleepy little mecca that features a main street, a monolith rock and a community of my favorite people. My sister Christen’s Cannon Beach Yoga Arts is an amazing space which epitomizes the culture of this town with fine art hanging on the walls and weekly programs to sate any full time or casual yoga student’s appetite. And if you want to know
where to mail order your coffee from, consider the hand roasted Sleepy Monk coffee shop’s wide selection of gorgeous, aromatic beans, you won’t be sorry. Or visit my brother’s bar that he manages, The Hardware Store, where you can pick up literally what you need to repair a belfry while grabbing a mean pulled pork sandwich and herbacious micro brew. They don’t play around. I love it there. And I especially enjoy returning to the Coaster Theater Playhouse to perform in front of whatever set they have up for this season’s play. We usually pack the joint, but somehow I didn’t realize that we were competing with the Super Bowl. That didn’t topple our apple cart though, cuz I got to work with some of my favorite musicians: Todd Strait (drums), Dave Captein (bass) and Rob Davis (sax)! Again, they could not have come any more prepared, so we finished the rehearsal with plenty of time to retire to the Hardware Store, have some dinner and watch the game.
My sweet girlfriend from high school, Stephanie, flew in for the concert and brought her daughter Peyton who proceeded to join me on staget that night to sing what my daughter usually does when she’s with me, Here is My Avalon. She was so adorable and definitely I can see she has the bug!! Good Luck Stephanie. I got your back.
So pushing into Portland the next day, we made a pit stop at my first college, Portland State University, to do a Master Class with Jeff Baker’s group. Martin and I did a little singing and talking. Darrell Grant (pianist and on faculty at PSU) joined the session and had great things to say, too. Then I got a chance to hear the ensemble. They are doing beautfiul work, especially since the program is only on it’s second year, and I can see the fire and desire in their eyes.
So why would Portland’s Jimmy Mak’s be any different than the houses in Delray, LA or Kent, I should have thought my family could have their pick of any table and still have room to spare, but apparently, we were sold out. Imagine that? And what a wonderful night it was. So many old high school friends and family pals, my PSU choir director Darcy Schmidt and her whole HS choir came out. And what was also nice to see was plenty of new faces. Hmm, I wonder yet if the window is opening a crack. Don’t know, don’t care. We enjoyed the night, deep music was played and I just fell in love with my band. I can’t wait to return for more.
Leaving the next day wasn’t too bad, only a 4 AM lobby call, but we rolled out and onto Denver. With a pile of fresh snow on the ground, I rented another all terrain vehicle and we drove directly to another basement rehearsal with Paul Romaine (drums), Mark Simon (bass), and Bob Rehbholz (sax). If it weren’t for the fact that we had dinner reservations with friends at a nice restaurant in Denver, Martin and I would have happily retired to our rooms with club sandwiches,
but Rioja was calling our name. Good friend Paul Falk and Aubrie Hamrick made us feel welcome and we at too much. What else is new? I still was in bed by 10:30 though, and the next day was the first day to sleep in for weeks. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.
It should be understood and remarked that Martin Bejerano wins most valuable player and dear road pal during all of this. He was gracious at every turn and played so beautifully throughout. I can’t sing his praises enough.
I have played the Soiled Dove Underground before and it’s a big room with a nice stage and piano. The only problem is it’s a destination club, not in the heart of downtown, and it was so damn cold that even I would not have gone out, if it weren’t for the fact that I was performing. So we had that to deal with. Nonetheless, the band played their butts off and we featured again, another group to sit in and sing the backgrounds on “Circle in a Square,” this time a high school from Rocky Mountain. My good friends from UNC, arrangers Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison brought some peeps and we closed the run with our hearts on the table and a mindfulness that the road traveled is soundly etched with our music and tenascious spirit. But also aware that the trekking needs to continue to get to the next mile marker.
Nothing comes easy, even when the notes seem to be flying free; the business is still the business. That’s why I call it My Joyful Humble Pie tour, because I’ve never been more happy and humble at the same time. Art and music has to resonate beyond your familial network. Circle in a Square is the culmination of what I know and love about music and it is the most fun I have had doing anything. I’ve been developing this sound for a long time and I hope this time there is an answer to the knock and an invitation to come in out of the chill.
So I’m home now, booking the spring tour and working on new things that will make this an exciting adventure to continue to follow. Like my Kickstarter gang that helped me launch this project, I’ll need another kick in the pants to get this project up and over the guard rail and into a new field of exposure.
Things you could do to be a part of this campaign is to buy the CD, tell your friends to buy the CD, request it on radio, share the links, and buy tickets to shows. Its as pure and simple as that.
Stay tuned for upcoming concert announcements.
Thank you to my bands, the club owners for having me, the educators for bringing me in, my family and YOU!
A special thanks to my sister Christen who helped it all hold together. You Rock!!