This year has been good to me musically speaking. I’ve had the great fortune to play with some great players as well as travel to some wonderful lands abroad. I’d like to catch you all up on where the music took me this past 2010.
In addition to performing at Wally’s Café regularly this past year with my great 5tet, I got the year started of on an interesting note at the end of January in NYC at the Stone. My dear colleague altoist/composer/bandleader/visionary Matana Roberts included me in her curation to the Stone for the month. For that performance I brought down my 5tet (Me-trumpet, Michael Thomas-alto, Greg Duncan-guitar, Lim Yang-bass, and Lee Fish-drums) to premier my project on the music of Minnie Riperton . That was a quite fun project to arrange, rehearse, and present. For the project I chose tunes by Minnie such as Come Inside my Love, Memory Lane, Lovin You, Take a Little Trip, and I’m a Woman. I hope to record that project independently in the next 5-10 years.
The month of February also brought some great experiences for me as well. I was called to perform for a week with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, performing the music of Count Basie . It was an audition of sorts for an exiting member of the trumpet section. It was my first time playing/subbing in the group. I wasn’t selected for the permanent position because I’m not a lead player by any means and I hadn’t been subbing as long as the player that was chosen, and in this environment where there are so few jobs for trumpeters, Skain said it wouldn’t have been fair to give me the gig. I dug it!!! It was an awesome, unforgettable experience meeting the cats in the band and playing alongside them.
Later in February I also celebrated my 31st birthday by recording my 2nd album as a leader. My album Nothing to Hide is my debut on the Steeplechase label and it’s the first album that I highlight my working Boston-based 5tet on. The album was released in September of this year.
In the month of March, I presented a great series of concerts in London at Pizza Express with a wonderful European 4tet. I presented my compositions with Michael Janisch on bass, Juilan Siegel on tenor, and the great Jeff Ballad on drums. Those four sets of music were simply magical!! Check out the review here. While I was in London, I also taught some private trumpet lessons to the students at the Royal Academy of Music. It was great to share with some strong British talent.
In April I had a ball recording in Baltimore for one of Warren Wolf’s projects. If you don’t know who Warren, check him out at his site. He’s one of the most talented musicians that I’ve ever known. For the session there were many great players/friends including Orrin Evans-piano, Vicente Archer-bass, John Lamkin-drums, Plume-alto, Darent Polk-trombone, Delandria Mills-flute, and Todd Marcus-bass clarinet. I don’t know about a release date on that project.
Then end of April marks Jazz Week in Boston. During that week there are scores of events and performances pertaining to jazz in greater Boston and the surrounding areas in New England. One of these events was the Boston premier of the movie that I starred in entitled Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench..
In the month of May, I made my debut with the wonderful Aardvark Jazz Orchestra at Boston College. The concert featured the music of the great Mary Lou Williams and Geri Allen was the special guest for the night.
June was a warm-up to a hot summer of performances around the world with Grace Kelly and her 5tet. I always have a ball playing in that band. It’s a pleasure to be a part of a great band of inspiring players and to hear Grace’s growth and development first-hand (ear) is indeed a treat. We started the month off with a short trip Stockholm, Sweden for a set at the Jazz Festival. That was a really nice experience and I’ll never forget staying up past midnight with the sun still visible in the sky. The following week, I went to Grand Rapids to serve on the faculty at the Aquinas College Jazz Camp. I think that this may have been my 6th consecutive year at the camp! I missed one day of this week-long camp to go to Rochester NY for performance with Grace Kelly at their International Jazz Festival. We played 2 sets there to a packed venue. It was waaay too small to hold all of the people who wanted to go to the show. The line outside was around the corner and down the street. From what I was told, many people had to be turned away. I hope the festival and many other festivals get it right next time we roll through to play for you.
After the festival performance in Rochester I returned to Grand Rapids to complete the camp. From there I met Grace’s band for a performance in Lansing Mi. From there it was on to Chicago to hold court at the Jazz Showcase for 4 nights. It was my first time performing in or around Chicago since I was a student at Ravinia. It was a nice run at the club and meeting Joe Segal was a gas. He’s an interesting person….
From Chicago we (the GK5) went north to the beautiful country of Canada for a performance at the Trane Studio as a part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. It was nice to be in Toronto again for a minute, but our stay there was short. I believe one of the sets was recorded for live broadcast at a later date. After Toronto we traveled east to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. That was also a cool gig from my recollection. The space was too small for the crowd there too. One of the highlights in Montreal for me was getting to see the We Want Miles exhibit at the museum. What a treat it was to see a dozen or so of Miles’s trumpets, Trane’s tenor, Tony’s drumset, Miles’s clothes, Wayne’s handwritten leadsheets, Gil Evans’s scores, and some never-before-seen footage of Miles at home!! It was sooo awesome. I ended up receiving the coffee-table book of the exhibit from my wife as a gift!!!
The start of July saw our tour continuing across the pond in Estroil, Portugal. We performed at a casino as a part of a double bill with Wallace Roney’s group. After that performance I jumped on an EasyJet to Paris to meet up with my wife Colleen for a couple of days of R &R with a dear friend Julien Augier(insert picture), a great Parisian drummer and his wife. I ended up landing in the afternoon and playing a gig later that night with Julien and a few friends. After Paris, Colleen and I took a train to Regensberg, Germany to meet back up with the GK5. There we had a residency to perform a series of 2 concerts. That city is such a beautiful city, probably my favorite German city to date. It’s one of the few cities in Germany that wasn’t bombed to hell during the war, so a lot of the original architecture is still intact. We traveled from Germany to Denmark following our performance in Regensberg for a performance at the Aarhus Jazz Festival. After the performance there, we went to Copenhagen for a few days of vacation. I took some of that time to complete the mixing of my Steeplechase record that I record back in February. From Copenhagen we completed our tour of Europe at a wonderful festival in Warsaw, Poland.
August began with a strong performance at the Newport Jazz Festival in RI with the GK5 . We opened for the Jamie Cullum band. I got to meet George Wein shortly after the performance. He told me that I have my s@$# together on the horn. He’s a sweet guy and it was nice to perform at the festival once again since playing there with Kendrick Oliver’s New Life Jazz Orchestra several years ago. We completed that month with more domestic performances at local jazz festivals in Cape Cod, Salem, and Newburyport.
September also saw some more exciting performances with the GK5 in Massachusetts (Beantown Jazz Festival), Maryland (Easton), Missouri (Kansas City), and NY (at Birdland). The end of the month brought me a special opportunity to perform in the Berklee Performance Center with Lewis Nash. I hadn’t played with Lewis since I was an undergrad at NEC, so it was really nice to connect with him again on the bandstand. Also on the gig was Billy Pierce on tenor, Allan Chase on alto, Ron Mahdi on bass, and Consuela Candelaria on piano.
October of 2010 saw me again in Europe with the GK5. This time we made stops in Germany, France, and Austria. We were hoping around the place for this trip. It was nice however to have a few days off in Toulousse, France before our performance at their jazz festival. During our evenings off I was able to see Craig Taborn’s trio in action as well as an amazing performance by Wayne Shorter and his quartet featuring Danilo Perez on piano, Brian Blade on drums, and Jahn Pattituci on bass. That performance will forever hold a dear place in my heart because it was the first I’ve experienced an artist perform four encores. After the final song of the planned set, Wayne came out and took a bow with the band in a manner that gave the intention that he was done for the night. But with the crowd’s egging on, he decided to do one more and that one more became four more.
The end of the October I traveled to Philly and Wilmington, Delaware for a special concert in honor of Clifford Brown’s 80th birthday . It was indeed a special occasion for me because I was fortunate enough to perform two selections off of Clifford’s string album with a chamber group. It was my first time performing with a string section in that type of format. I also worked the day before with students at the University of the Arts. That clinic exposed me to some exceptional young musicians.
In November, I had my 3rd annual residency at the JazzUv Festival in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. This festival is a really nice occasion filled with concerts, masterclasses, and exhibitions, showcasing artists such as McCoy Tyner, Jane Bunnett, Ray Drummond, Grace Kelly, Francisco Mela, and the great Jack Dejohnette on drums. I had the honor of playing a concert with Jack and that was one of the highlights of my year (and my career frankly). I also played with him during his masterclass. It was nice to hang with him off the bandstand too. He’s a deep, philosophical cat.
In the first week of December, I brought my quintet down to New York for a special engagement at the Jazz Gallery. Throughout the year I was working on a project spotlighting the music of Janelle Monae. I arranged six songs off of her album entitled Archandroid for my quintet. I presented them throughout my two sets at the Gallery. I think that the tunes came off quite nicely considering the limited amount of rehearsal time I had with the band prior to the gig.
In the middle of the month of December, I had the great fortune of recording my 2nd release for Steeplechase Records. For this record I was lucky enough to roundup Mark Turner on tenor, Nir Felder on guitar, Edward Perez on bass, and Kendrick Scott on drums!! As of now I am still figuring out the name of the record as well as the artwork, etc. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted and involved in the progress so stayed tuned!!
I’m excited about all that’s happened with me musically this year in addition to the exposure that I’ve gotten from my performance in the critically acclaimed Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. I’ve also taken on more of a teaching load this year via my new position as an Assistant Professor in the Ensemble Department at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Some of you may be thinking that with all of this work, I must be making a pretty good living at this. Life is good and I’m VERY thankful for the work, but rest assured that despite my frugality, I am barely making ends meet…
Thanks, more to come!