DC & Q!

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 by

Last week, I flew to Washington, DC, to perform with Stevie Wonder at a private concert event held in honor of the memory Abe Pollin, former owner of the Washington Wizards and the Verizon Center. The concert (held in the Verizon Center) was free to Pollin’s employees as well as public sector workers in the Washington DC area. The arena was packed and the audience happily enthusiastic.

I arrived in DC Tuesday evening, thankfully, with plenty of time to relax and recuperate from the long flight. The next morning, I went for a lovely walk, cut to a shorter time than usual because we had to depart for sound check earlier than usual to accommodate for the terrible DC traffic. At sound check, we did the usual run through of tunes for the engineer’s sake, making sure everyone has proper levels in their ear monitors, but then had an extended wait for concert time. I usually fill this time with – no surprise – practicing! I practice virtually every spare moment when on tour, as I never know where the Maestro will go with the set list. The show on this night was no exception! The set list was all over the place, and required every morsel of my focus – but I love that intensity. It’s so gratifying to be presented with that level of challenge…and to meet the challenge!!
After the concert, a few band members and I joined our friends Frédéric and Carla Yonnet for a late dinner. Fred is an amazing harmonica player (known as the urban jazz harmonicist) who Stevie invites to sit in with the band whenever they’re both in town. Stevie usually starts playing “Boogie On Raggae Woman” as the cue for Fred to join us on stage, which he did again for this show. At the harmonica solo, Fred and Stevie take turns in a harmonica “battle”. They both played with ferocity and tremendous energy! It was amazing! Stevie was having such a great time, he extended the song, and then went into a blues. It was a great moment in the show. Fred and Carla are incredibly gracious, beautiful people and it’s always a pleasure to see them.
After the show, we all returned to the hotel to deposit our belongings and then headed off to the restaurant to meet Fred and Carla. To my surprise, there was another face at the table that I instantly recognized: that of Mr. Quincy Jones. Wow. I was speechless. This man is a musical legend, icon, producer, composer, arranger and mentor to several of the most incredible musicians I’ve ever met. I was thrilled to have the chance to meet him. I was able to converse with him for about 20 minutes about music, language, travel and his new artist, Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodríguez. What an honor!
When I was a college student, DC was my favorite region to visit during Spring Break, for the temperate spring weather, the architecture and of course the endless museums. I was not disappointed on this visit, even though I didn’t have time to explore museums. Meeting yet another musical icon is a fine substitute!

Back home, I experience my own musical intensity. I had happily agreed to substitute for two of my fabulous pianist friends this past Sunday. Both play keys for beautiful churches in the East Bay, performing mostly contemporary gospel music. If you don’t know this style of music, I’ll tell you: it’s not easy!!! Much of this music is similar to jazz fusion in terms of the chord structures and progressions, full of rhythmic variance and key changes. Of the 10 songs that I needed to learn, I had only heard and performed 2 before – but it had been a while, so I needed to review those as well. Essentially, I had only a day to learn all of this music to performance level. Given that I also had students, gigs and went to hear my friends perform late Saturday night (A Band Called Pain – a metal band that ROCKS!), I found myself in the position of staying up all night (literally) to learn the music. Sleep deprivation combined with my east coast induced jet lag, left me exhausted, but I was energized by the content of the lyrics (such beautiful words of praise to the Almighty), the talent of the band and the voices of the singers. Somehow, I made it through! Hallelujah!
Days later, I still find that I’m not 100% rejuvenated. Can anyone say V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N??? Maybe after the tour…but, I’m not complaining!
This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 at 7:11 pm and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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