Sunny with a Chance of Rain

Lauren Kinhan Portrait

Welcome to the summer wrap party newsletter. And what a party it was! It harkened back to the old days of New York Voices being on the road for six weeks, living out of two huge suitcases and traveling with all our outboard gear and upright bass … only nowadays you can only travel with one 50 pound valise, no outboard gear, no upright bass and just one regular musician in your band with the rest great pick up players in the towns you pull in to. Yah, times have changed, but the one sure thing about jazz musicians is we adapt. And in many cases, it enhances the experience, personalizes it and makes a more permanent imprint on my failing memory.

This year I got to pick up my daughter from her last day of school before leaving for the airport. And after all these years of working and juggling family, I put together a summer strategy for us to enjoy together while I worked with the Voices and did my own solo concerts.

I left on June 28, with too many suitcases due to an NYV photo shoot in Cologne, and began the adventure. It all started in a beautiful Italian beach town, Lignano Sabbiadoro,where this first time jazz festival set up their stage right on the sand not far from the surf.We pulled together the beach party set, resurrecting some of NYV’s old pop faves, “Way of the World,” “Traffic Jam” and “Open Invitation” and got the people on their feet. Three quarters of the way through the show, the sky started sprinkling and umbrellas promptly opened. We finished the show with nearly all the audience hanging in there, Lake Lugano, Italysigned a few CDs and then had to run for the tents, because the sky lashed out a thunderous storm that lasted a solid and very wet half hour. Thank goodness there was Prosecco, the Italians think of everything. You’ll see now that this was a harbinger of things to come this summer. Read on.

After Italy we flew to Lugano, Switzerland to join up with our partners in the Vocalese program, The Manhattan Transfer. It’s a beautiful festival set in the town square near Lake Lugano. What a magnificent lake and lovely city. The show was a blast and went off without a hitch (i.e. no rain). We really had too much fun.

The next day we all attended the great Caterina Valente’s 80th Birthday party up in the hills overlooking the lake and dressing up in costumes as requested by our hostess.

Lauren in CostumeI was sorry I couldn’t pack my gorilla costume, alas oversize luggage is a no no, so I made do with what I had. Caterina is one of the greats from a time when live TV and multi talented people had an outlet to showcase their chops. She was a singer, dancer, actor, comedienne, and musician once upon a time. You must Google her, you will be amazed.

Next the Voices traveled on to Cologne, Germany where we finished mixing our live recording with the great WDR Big Band under the direction of Michael Abene (NYV’s producer of their debut CD). It’s a nice retrospective of our years together with some nice new surprises. I’ll let you know when that will be on the market. We then did a photo shoot, running around the city of Cologne with a talented photographer, Peter Blum, followed by an intimate show in the round at a club we enjoy playing when we’re in town.

I shipped one whole suitcase home and leaned down for the second part of my adventure in Russia, Italy and Paris. Ah, Paris. But more on that in a minute. We arrived in Moscow to unscheduled TV cameras and interviews. Then they wined and dined us to our tummy’s content. We performed with the George Garanian Big Band (George is no longer alive, but his wife carries on his legacy) which was really quite good. The Jazz Festival was on the grounds of Catherine the Great’s country house that is now open to the public. Benny Golson and his wifeIt’s really quite spectacular. We managed to do our show with the rain only threatening, then the great Benny Golson took the stage.The rain came during his program, but no one left!Umbrellas popped open,it rained through the sunshine,and then gave up. What a thrill to meet him and his lovely wife.

Back to Paris….and this is where the family gets sprinkled in. We stayed in a lovely flat in Montparnasse and proceeded to walk that city until we had no soles. I hooked up with a local trio, Le Trio Invite, and did a concert at my friend’s showroom, demonstrating the state of the art amplifier he designed.The company is called Devialet and my friend is Mathias Moronvalle. It’s a fantastic sounding devise for your stereo set up,but it worked equally as well routing my voice through during the show. We had a great audience and then after the red wine was opened, there was another impromptu jam. I had a great time getting to know these fine musicians who later became a huge part of our remaining days in Paris, showing me and my family the local haunts and opening their homes to us when our tired feet could travel no further. My daughter’s favorite site was of course,the Eiffel Tower, and mine was the baguette and cheese!

Coliseum in RomeAll good things must come to an end, but not for me. My family flew home, but I had one more European date to rejoin my NYV colleagues in the lovely seaside city of Trieste. I got there a day early and walked this old Roman town, visiting the ruins of it’s Coliseum and then up to the old castle build in the late 1400’s. Pretty amazing. And this was also the site of the jazz festival we were to perform in the following night. I dined in the old square on the water and afterward I had the most delectable chocolate gelato. This gelateria only made versions of chocolate, so you can imagine my dilemma on deciding which kind of chocolate gelato I would take, so I took two.

Gelato!We all enjoyed the city the next day; it was sunny and hot. The promoter pushed the show later, so the audience would be more comfortable, but while we were eating dinner on one of the many lookout points of the castle, those dark clouds started rolling in and fast. We quickly finished dinner and started getting ready, but the audience was told a later time, so we waited. We took the stage as soon as there were enough people, opened with “On a Clear Day” (how ironic), and that cued the first raindrop to fall. We squeezed in two more songs before the rain really started to come and the lightening got too close for comfort. We ran for cover, they dropped the stage cover, wrapped the piano and then cleared the deck for an incredible thunder and lightening storm. This is the first time in our 23 years of touring that we have been actually rained out. For those people lucky enough to have run to the room with us and the ancient cannons, we serenaded them with two more songs.

We all flew home the next day, but for me, I only touched down long enough to pick up my daughter and head for Cannon Beach, Oregon. She hung out with her grandmother,aunt, uncles and cousin, and I did Yoga at my sister’s new studio, Cannon Beach Yoga Arts! Restoration is a must, especially when you have no ankles from all the flying and red wine.

Lauren Live in 2011I also had two gigs booked with a great local band, the Pete Petersen Septet. He arranged and adapted songs from my original songbook to feature four horns and it really came out great! It’s my goal to develop this program to encompass more of my original music and give it a full tour. We featured songs from Avalon that already had horns, “Move Over Sunshine” and “Screaming Savoir Faire” and adapted the string arrangement on “Here After” to this setting. We adapted the horn parts from “Abelene Rose,” from my first CD HardlyBlinking, and that was a big hit. And he wrote fresh arrangements for some of the new music that is in development for my next CD. Getting a chance to draw from the wellspring of talent in Portland is an additional pleasure for me as this is where I grew up and where all my passion for singing took root. We did two shows, one in Cannon Beachat my favorite place to play, the Coaster Theater, and one at Tony’s Starlight in Portland.The shows went very well and I’m sure we will do it again.

After Oregon, I headed to Ohio for the third annual New York Voices Vocal Jazz Camp in collaboration with Bowling Green State University. We had another tremendous turn out of very talented people from allover the world and from all walks of life. I debuted another original arrangement of mine, which is temporarily titled, “Turn the Bass Around, that I taught in my class where the students learn the chart through oral dictation. It went very well and I will be publishing it soon. And this year we all attended and sang the AllCamp piece aptly titled The Long Path, at a wedding ceremony that occurred at the University’s Church for two people that met at last year’s camp. Wow! Music is one of our great connectors.

Phew, I’m tired just recounting this. Finally, I pulled into my sleepy seaside town on August 8th, wiped away the cobwebs in my house and rolled out the welcome mat to friends and family. I went to cooking school, thanks to my husband’s thoughtful birthday present, and happily retired to the kitchen for the remainder of the summer. But not before one more water related event hit our doorstep. Luckily Hurricane Irene only knocked out the power and littered our yard with branches and debris, it could have beenso much worse. The storm surge impacted many of my neighbors (but not too seriously),but thankfully, we are situated high and avoided the flooding. Water, the rain, the river, the sea … wins, it always does.

This should bring us up to date for another quarter of a year. I look forward to reporting back on the fall’s exploits.

Until we read again,