My European Tour

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Miles Hanson, Aug 7, 2003.

  1. Some of you may remember my post a few months ago about having a summer dilemma over choosing between going to my friend’s wedding or going to play in Europe. Well, for anyone that’s interested, here’s a short version of how my European tour went.

    The first festival we (the USF Jazztet) played in was the Vienne Jazz Festival in Vienne, France. We were delayed in Paris for four hours and were late getting to Vienne, but we still managed to get a quick dinner and catch the tail end of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Dennis Irwin held down the bottom on a blonde bass with gut strings a mile off the fingerboard! Next up, the Dave Holland Big Band! I really couldn’t believe that I was in France, watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen and listening to such great players all in one evening. I’ve barely been on vacations in the US let alone Europe. The next night, after our first performance in Vienne, we listened to the Tord Gustavson Trio, the Esbjorn Svenson Trio and the Brad Mehldau Trio. I liked the Esbjorn Svenson Trio the best that night. Larry Grenadier was playing with Brad Mehldau and he was the only bass player I saw in Europe that didn’t use an amp (maybe that’s why I liked his sound the best?;) ). The next night, we saw the very end of John Zorn and then left after two songs from Bill Laswell.

    Montreaux was disappointing because there really wasn’t that much jazz there. I think I heard someone saying that they were going to rename the festival the Montreaux Music Festival. Everyone that heard us in Europe loved us, despite errors that only we knew about, and many told us that they’ve never heard jazz like that played live. Some of the tunes we played were Lotus Blossom, Nostalgia in Time Square, House of Jade, Cheryl, Isotope, etc.

    The Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy was our final festival and it was definitely the best. Chick Correa’s Electric band was there and they were staying in our hotel! The second night we were there, a few of us kind of snuck in the big evening concert featuring…Sonny Rollins!!! That was definitely the highlight of my trip. There’s so much music inside of him, it’s breathtaking to witness. They played one tune for THIRTY minutes and Sonny had something new to say in each chorus. Bob Cranshaw played a five string electric bass and fit perfectly into the mix. I felt like I was back in the 50’s, in a small NY club, listening to cats play what seemed like all night. It was both inspiring and beautiful. The Keith Jarrett standards trio was at Umbria a few days before us.

    We missed Elvin Jones by a day, but the rest of his band was in our hotel too. I got to meet Elvin’s bass player, Gerald Cannon. He was very warm, easy to talk to and told it like it is. He asked me if I was having trouble with blues lines and he was dead on because that day, I just wasn’t feeling it. The sound on stage was horrible and it was hard for me to hear myself thus making it hard to create music. But then he complimented me on my right hand technique. He asked who I listen to and the first thing that I said was Ray Brown. He told me that he got to take some lessons with him when he was coming up.

    Gerald used to have guts on his bass and have them jacked way up to the sky because he wanted that sound (much like I’ve been contemplating). At his first lesson with Ray, he told Gerald to play a blues and Ray left the room. About forty-five minutes later, Ray walked back into the room and said, “Now play a solo” and Gerald thought he was gonna die. When it was all over, Ray told him that’s why he doesn’t play guts anymore. He said go get some steel strings, a pick up and an amp that you like. Ray said that bass players have been “waiting so long to play on steel strings and you come in here with those gut strings”. Gerald made it sound that Ray was strongly opinionated on this issue, cursing at him for “playing that sh*t”,etc. I’d have to believe Ray Brown knew what he was talking about because even though he stopped using gut strings he still had that fat, warm, open sound. Gerald said steel strings let you play in various musical styles, which gives you more opportunity to play. Then he told me that the baddest cat on guts today, in his opinion, is Dennis Irwin. Then he told me to check out Oscar Pettiford. I told him I have the book of OP’s solos and he said that he’s got all those records and that book is right on. I said something like “I hope to get there some day” and Gerald reassured me and said, “You will, you will”.

    I feel very fortunate to have been asked to go on this trip were I’ve learned so much in ten days about all things musical. If anyone has any specific questions, I’d be happy to share my experiences with my fellow DB TBers!
  2. Miles,

    Congrats on what sounds like a successful tour. Sounds like a great opportunity for a guy your age -- good thing you didn't pass it up.

    Gerald is a hometown hero (Racine WI). He's a few years older than me, and I'd go hear him play at the local joints. He got to know me and would let me sit in.

    Good to hear that he's doing well.