Saturday, October 29, 2005

"In the Mood" Fall Tour, Part 5

Holland Michigan Lighthouse
From October 17 - 29 we played shows in the following cities:
October 17: Holland, MI
October 18th: Interlochen, MI
October 21st: Pawleys Island, SC
October 22nd: Wilkesboro, NC
October 25th: Rutherford, NC
October 27th: Richlands, VA
October 28th: Morganton, NC
October 29th: Clinton, NC

I was helping the crew with the driving for some of the shows and I got to wander around Wilkesboro for a bit while the crew was setting up. Here's what I saw:

The Doc and Merle Watson Theatre

This was our theater in Wilkesboro, NC

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

frankie condon memories

I just learned that Frankie Condon has passed away. Since I’m out on the road for another month I won’t be able to attend his funeral. So I guess I’ll just have to memorialize him here instead.

The first time I became aware of Frankie was when I was away at school, finishing my degree in classical piano. My friends from Montgomery College were all excited about a new jazz club which had opened up down the street in Rockville, of all places. It was called Frankie Condon’s and you could go there to hear live jazz just about any night of the week. It quickly became “the” place to go, and when I finished my degree, I soon became a regular there as well. It was great to be able to go right around the corner and hear the big bands of Frankie Condon, Bill Potts, and Mike Crotty several nights each week, along with the many “name” performers that Frank would book there. At the time, although I was merely a fan of this music, I still realized that it was an amazing thing for Rockville to have an actual jazz scene and Frankie Condon was the man who brought it all about.

A couple of years later I started playing the bass for fun in the Montgomery College Orchestra. Lenny Cuje and Frank attended our concerts fairly regularly because Lenny was dating someone in the orchestra at the time. Frank would come up to me after the concerts and say “When are you going to come sit in with my band?” I was very shy back then and didn’t think I was capable of playing jazz, so although I avoided all opportunities to sit in for about two years, I did begin to realize, because of what he had said to me, that I really did want to give playing jazz on the bass a try. I started practicing with play-along records and took some jazz classes on bass at Montgomery College.

Frank continued to ask me to play with his band, even if it was to just sit in for one tune. Finally I got up enough nerve to say yes. Although I was very concerned about the miserable time everyone else was going to have with me there barely being able to play, it was still an amazing experience to get to play with all of those other seasoned players. I was totally hooked. And even though everyone was warning me how difficult it would be to play Frankie’s bass, with those old gut strings, I really liked it in a way. There was a certain aura, like a real old school vibe or sense of history just oozing out of his bass, and I could feel that as I played it. It was cool. I played on his bass whenever I came to sit in.

When he started asking me to do the whole gig I eventually began bringing my own bass. I played regularly with his band during the late 80’s and early 90’s and occasionally after that. It was an invaluable experience and he was always very encouraging.

I learned many specific things from him about playing bass in a big band, but the most important thing I learned came from observing him playing and leading his band and that was the wonderful feeling of joy and happiness that was always there no matter how he happened to be feeling otherwise. He just loved playing the bass, and he loved playing big band music and he was the one who, more than anyone else, first opened up that whole world of joy and happiness to me. I will always be grateful for that.

Rest In Peace Frankie!

Monday, October 17, 2005

"In the Mood" Fall Tour, Day off in Chicago

We had a day off in Chicago which was one of the many highlights of the fall tour. It was a beautiful day and we had a blast.

The first thing we headed for was the skydeck of the Sears Tower.

That's a pretty nice view from way up there.

We got some Chicago-style deep dish pizza which was excellent, but I think we still like the Armands pizza the best. It's DC based Chicago-style pizza.

Then we were thrilled to discover that there were tickets available for the Chicago Symphony that afternoon. What an incredible orchestra! They played Mahler's Fourth Symphony.

After the concert we headed up to the Navy Pier to meet the bus. We rode the huge ferris wheel and had cotton candy. It was nice to have a day to ourselves for a change. It was completely delightful in every way.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

"In the Mood" Fall Tour, Part 4

After playing in Burlington Iowa, we played shows in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and Crystal Lake, Illinois. Here are some photos of beautiful Sheboygan which is on Lake Michigan:

In addition to beautiful lake views, the town was really cute and had interesting old-fashioned architecture:

There's Doug standing in front of the theater.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

"In the Mood" Fall Tour, Part 3

After our show in Columbus, NE on October 6th, we did performances in Sioux City, IA
Dodge City, KS
and Coffeyville, KS
and then we headed back to Iowa. On our way to Burlington Iowa, we stopped for a long lunch break in downtown Kansas City.

These are the remnants of an amazing antipasta.

Wine, bread, and olive oil. Yum!

Back on the road, heading north.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Shrine to Music Museum in Vermillion, SD

On the way to Columbus, Nebraska we stopped in at the Shrine to Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. They had a pretty amazing assortment of musical instruments of all kinds. The photos below do not even begin to do it justice.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

"In The Mood" Fall Tour, Part Two

The next bunch of shows were in the following cities:
September 28th: Yankton, SD
September 29th: Cedar Rapids, IA
September 30th: Austin, MN
October 1st: Detroit Lakes, MN
October 2nd: Grand Rapids, MN
October 4th: Watertown, SD

I've been to Cedar Rapids a few times before. The downtown area is nice and across the river is Czech Village. It's kind of cool to see an entire section of town maintaining some of their cultural traditions. Cities on the east coast have Chinatown and Little Italy, along with some orthodox Jewish neighborhoods. Most of the rest of the other European countries have all blended together, but in the midwest there are pockets of mostly Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Czech, and many others, I'm sure. It's kind of interesting to see how the different groups have either concentrated themselves or blended into the rest of the population.

It was a moonlit night. Or perhaps I should say the glass door by the telephone pole was adorned by a pair of loins, courtesy of one of our trumpet players.
The bridge over to Czech Village was adorned by a pair of lions.

I like this window display better than the display in the first window.

Drinking coffee and waiting for the bus. Speaking of lions, I mean loins, the proud owner of the pair of lions, I mean loins, is sitting right there enjoying his coffee.