Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of NYC, Maria Schneider and Don Sebesky

Yesterday I made a crazy trip to New York City. A friend and I hopped on a train at the Amtrack BWI station at 3:50 in the afternoon, travelled to New York, grabbed some food, saw a show at The Jazz Gallery, went to a later show at The Jazz Standard, ate a late night slice and hopped on the train home getting in at 6:24 am. I'm a bit tired but also quite inspired.

At the Jazz Gallery I ended up sitting right in front of someone I knew from my days as part of The BMI Jazz Composers Workshop. I particiapated from Sep 2003 to July 2005. Naturally the Stravisky project made it into the conversation. He instantly replied that that had always been a dream/goal of his to do. He had purchased a score many years ago, looked at it and put it off. And it is still off. He did say, as have others, "I believe Don Sebesky did a version of Rite of Spring." And that is true. However, neither myself nor anyone else that has mentioned it has actually heard it. It is something he did for Hubert Laws on a CTI record from the 70s. I have looked it up to find it is all Sebesky arrangements of classical pieces. The Rite of Spring piece is 9 minutes and 10 seconds long. Quite obviously not the whole work. I've sampled the track on itunes but the free 30 seconds doesn't tell me much. I can't purchase the individual track although the $4.99 for the whole album might be a good deal. Anyway, The Marcus Gillmore Quintet with Mark Turner sounded great at that venue.

At 11:30 I was in my seat waiting to hear a big band play the music of arguably today's greatest jazz composer, and my personal favorite, Maria Schneider. Her band holds forth every year during the Thanksgiving week. What a fantastic show. Two friends from college, Greg Gisbert and Donny McCaslin play in the band. Both played an amazing solo that set. And the music gave me goose bumps and moved me very nearly to tears on several occasions. She opened with Concert in the Garden. Ben Monder played another mind bending solo. She followed that with Gumba Blue. Gisbert, Steve Wilson and Ryan Keberle tore up some minor blues on that piece. The Rich's Piece featuring Rich Perry. She closed with Hang Gliding, an amazing musical excursion. Donny played his tail off as did Ingred Jensen. After the set he was apologizing to Maria for his poor playing. She didn't buy it, telling him that his worst nights would slay most other mortals. Great players never seemed to be satisfied with their playing.

After the set I was able to talk to Maria for a bit. I suppose it would be a stretch to say we are freinds. Perhaps acquaintance is the correct word. But I have had numerous opportunities to interact with her. I even shared a table at dinner one time. And she does give me a hug every time I see her. (I know, you're all jealous.) Anyway, last night I actually gave her an invite to the premier of Rite of Spring for jazz ensemble. (May 12, 2010, Baltimore's Contemporary Museum) One of the first things she mentioned was "Don Sebesky did a version of Rite of Spring." We ended up talking a bit about that. She told me that Bob Brookmeyer was on that date . He has told Maria that the first rehearsal was a disaster. But Don knew what he wanted, communicated it and drove on and got a good recording. Her point was to not be thrown off or discouraged by a poor initial reading. Sometimes that can freak a composer/arranger out and make them worry about what they wrote. Point taken.

Anyway, it was an inspring night in NYC. Some great food, great playing, great compositions, great conversations. This type of music is always a boost to my playing and my writing. It makes me want to keep at it. As a matter of fact, it is making me anxious to finish this project so that I can get to some original material for a change. And I'm not to worried about first readings of the music. (I get six more charts read on Tuesday and I'll probably post about that) I have enough new pieces read to not be bothered by what an intitial reading may sound like. But I may just pee my pants if Maria was to actually show up at the premier performance.

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