Monday, August 28, 2006

Summers end, New Job, Gratitude 3X, Connections Festival and Cafe Felix R.I.P.

Summer has come to an end! Well that is how it feels anyway. Last week I started a new job at Go Like The Wind Montessori School in Ann Arbor. I was hired to develop a new instrumental music program and help out in their newly formed middle school. It means that I will be getting up early every day and going to the same place for 9 months. This is a novelty to someone used to getting on mapquest everytime they go out to work. The school and teachers have been so great. For most of my adult life I have lived with the thought that a 'real job' was one where you come home tired, complaining, and restricted. I guess I got lucky, because this job feels so open, creative, and free. Today I finished developing my first Music Program Handbook, which is the rough outline of how the first year of the instrumental program will go. I think I thought of everything, but truly I know I have not. That is the excitement of it though. I will begin music classes next week, and I can't wait!

So now, on to the gigs I have played. Boy, it sure is tough to write about a months worth of gigs in one blog. I guess I need to stay on top of things more. I could just forget about a few of them, but that is not what I want to do with this. I want to remember everything. I am not sure why, but it seems like the way to do it. I am sorry there has not been more pictures. I really want to get the camera fixed. O.K. enough rambling....let's see....the last time I wrote I think I was getting ready to play with Gratitude at a Batmitzva in Ann Arbor. It was a fun show. It was for one of the members of my World Percussion Ensemble, Julie Norris. Actually it was for her daughter, but Julie was the one that set it all up, (a hip Mom indeed!) We played with big Kelly on bass, Guy Barker on Guitar, and Lamar Woodall on lead pan and saxophone. The crowd was great, and the party kept moving all night. I actually did a lot of singing on this one, which is a new thing for me and Gratitude. I have been singing backup with the family, but never the lead. I was amazed at how many lyrics I remembered just from listening to the songs for years from the kit. I am not sure how it sounded, but it sure was fun. It was also the first time in a long time that I got to play with Guy. He is one of my favorite musicians that I have ever played with. Very few match his energy and excitement while playing. It doesn't matter what the gig is, he is always there 110%. It was a special treat at the end of the night when Julie grabbed a drum and we got to jam together. Lamar took his mic and put it under her drum and her family loved it. She was really jammin!

The next gig was 2 weeks later in Clarkston, I think it was on the 24th. The band was the same, except for the bass was manned by Anthony instead of Big Kelly. Anthony is younger and a true bass man, whereas Kelly is first a drummer, but playes bass rather well. It was a corporate gig, which usually means we get booked and paid by someone other than those who are actually at the show. Corporate gigs have a tendency to be a little sterile, and not so much party based. This particular show was outside in a park in Clarkston, MI. and it was an appreciation event for the owners of Malibu boats. We played our butts off, but the crowd was scattered all over the park, so the response was hard to gage. The D.J. who spun between sets loved us though, which was nice, although I wouldn't be surprised if he got the whole gig next year. That might sound a bit like sour grapes, but the concept 'D.J.'s' has been a touchy subject lately. More on that in a bit.

A couple of days later I had a double booking. The first was at the Connections Festival in Ann Arbor. I played the opening piece for an Indian dance troupe led by Madhavi Mai. It was South Indian dance with North Indian tabla accompaniment, so I had a little trouble figuring out how to fit. But it turned out to be a good experience, although playing just one piece on a nice stage like that is much too short a time to take it all in. To top it off, I had to hurry off stage and make my way up Pontiac Trail to my next gig in South Lyon, MI. with the Gratitude Steel Band. This time it was with the family, and man, were they sounding great! When I began with the band back in 2001, Dayjumbe was 6, Janiela was 13, and Corretta was just 15. I have watched them grow into their instruments and music like watching a vine find its way up a building, or around a tree. So natural and powerful. There is so much to be said for total dedication. The Russel family is the most dedicated group of musicians I have ever played with. Playing music is truly their life. Chances are, they are playing as you read this. It is inspiring. Once again, I am excited to see what the future holds. The gig was a simple house party in the middle of a huge sub. I think it was a benefit for diabities, or lukemia, or something like that. We could have been playing on the big stage for all anyone in the band cared. It was a great gig to play.

So that brings us to the latest gig. This past Friday, I played with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix. It would be the last time we would play there. We got word as soon as we arrived that they were trying something new and couln't fit us into their budget any longer. Can you guess what something new might be?..........yep......DJ!! I must say, I was expecting this. It was great to have a regular gig for the past 3 years, but nothing lasts forever. Ecspecially when you are the only band that playes at a particular venue. They started by changing the layout, then they added a bar, they changed uniforms, menue items, and finally the house band. I was sad to see it go. I wish them luck. It was fun while it lasted. Being a part of the hoppin' Ann Arbor downtown scene can really get the juices flowing. I wonder what the next gig will be......

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