Some of you may remember my post a few months ago about having a summer dilemma over choosing between going to my friends wedding or going to play in Europe. Well, for anyone thats interested, heres 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 couldnt believe that I was in France, watching one of the most beautiful sunsets Ive ever seen and listening to such great players all in one evening. Ive 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 didnt use an amp (maybe thats 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 wasnt 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 theyve 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 Correas 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. Theres so much music inside of him, its 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 50s, 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 Elvins 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 wasnt 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 Ive 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 thats why he doesnt 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. Id 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 OPs solos and he said that hes 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 Ive learned so much in ten days about all things musical. If anyone has any specific questions, Id be happy to share my experiences with my fellow DB TBers!