Music, billionaires and inspiration…

Thursday, May 13th, 2010 by

Whirlwind. That words sums up the past week of my life. I’ll start at the beginning:

A few weeks ago, I was invited to perform as the featured artist for a local music series. I figured I should make this my opportunity to start performing some of my own music? So I spent a few days creating charts of my tunes (including 3 that I performed at Fisk University in April 2010) arranged for a quartet: piano, bass, drums and sax. I didn’t sleep much, but was excited about finally (FINALLY) getting the ball rolling on being an artist in my own right. There were several technical issues with the performance, but I did it, and the audience was enthusiastic and appreciative. Now, I just have to figure out how to do my own show (not just the solo piano at a piano bar thing) more often. Hm…

A few days before my show, my phone rang with the special ring tone indicating that the Mr. Genius was requesting my presence. I was to fly to NYC the night after my show. Ah…who needs sleep? Given that I needed to practice as much as possible for my own gig, and now had to practice for SW’s gig, I cancelled all of my students so that I could focus. Everything went as expected and I was on an airplane (after waiting for 2+ hours beyond the original flight time thanks to delays) heading to New York, at 1:30am.

I landed at JFK just before 10am, headed to the hotel for a short nap, then boarded the limo for the ride to the Jacob K. Javits Center, for sound check. Stevie had been booked as the entertainment after a massive fundraiser by the Robin Hood Foundation, and he (thankfully!) decided to bring along the entire band.

The Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization targeting poverty in New York City, held it’s annual benefit dinner on Monday, May 10, 2010. Hosted by NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, approximately 3,800 people, including Hollywood heavy-hitters (Harvey Weinstein, Uma Thurman, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gwyneth Paltrow), athletes (New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan), musicians (Sting and Stevie Wonder), comedians (Seth Meyers, Tracy Morgan and Jimmy Fallon), and financial superstars (JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Lee Ainslie of Maverick Capital, Eric Schmidt of Google. and most demonstrably, George Soros – through a 1:1 challenge grant) gathered together to raise over $88 million dollars. Yes, in one night, they raised $88 million dollars.

The venue was stunningly beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to mingle with the multi-millionaires and billionaires, but in watching them dance to Stevie’s music, they didn’t look all that different than we Americans without extraordinary financial wealth. It was sobering to be in a space with people who represent such extreme affluence. One the one hand, I was very impressed with the generosity and overall enthusiastic spirit of the crowd. I didn’t perceive any blasé, bored, elitist energy from the crowd of dancers laid out before me. I did get plenty of smiles and waves, and watched the audience watching Stevie with adoration in their eyes. But I couldn’t escape the question in the back of my mind: why is there this kind of disparity in the world? It’s a beautiful thing to watch people give, and give BIG, but it’s painful to think of the vast majority of people in the world who lack for basic shelter, healthy food, clean water, safe health care, etc. I don’t know the answer, but I do use this event as a reminder that although I’m no billionaire (at least not yet!), I can do my part through sharing my art, teaching others about the beauty of life through music, make charitable donations and give my time whenever possible. But most of all, to respect the dignity of all people, and to offer kindness to everyone…because we never know what someone is dealing with…

Images from the event

I attended a concert by The Stanley Clarke Band featuring Hiromi on piano, Ruslan Sirota on keys and, Jr. Ronald Bruner on drums. I’m a super fan of all of these excellent musicians, and they did not leave me disappointed. The entire night (I stayed for both shows), I was dancing to the music, waving my arms in the air, nodding my head, and yelling out with immense musical satisfaction at amazing musical feast laid out by this killer band. They played several of the tunes I’d heard before, including Chick Corea’s “No Mystery”, “Paradigm Shift”, “Black Narcissus”, each taking solos that were hot like fire. Hiromi is consistently one of the most exciting pianists I’ve ever encountered. She plays with passion, musicality of the highest order, and pure fun. Ruslan, also an amazing pianist, is also extraordinarily versatile, bringing not only superlative jazz chops to the music, but also his experience as a gospel and R&B pianist. He plays with TONS of flavor and groove and gives flashes of technical prowess that create jaw-drops across the audience. Ronald is a wonder to watch. His hands are lightning, and his flow across various musical genres (straight ahead to swing to rock to funk, etc.) is seamless. It seemed like he was trying to steal the show…and at times he did! Stanley? What can I say. I merely genuflect. Beauty. Power. Vision. Music. That’s Stanley. Inspiration. Plain and simple…

The Stanley Clarke Band is performing at Yoshi’s SF May 13 and 14, 2010. GO TO THE SHOW!!! Buy your ticket today. Wow…

Speaking of inspiration, today is the 60th birthday of my friend, mentor, musical icon, teacher and band leader: Stevie Wonder!!!! Thank you for sharing your GENIUS with me and the world! I appreciate you and love you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! : >

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010 at 12:32 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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