Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Kozora Debut, Back to School, Gratitude at St. Lukes, Live on WCBN, C.D. Debut at Crazy Wisdom, Kirtan

Hello,

It is good to finally be writing again. My blog neglect has gone on for too long and I have a lot to catch up on. I have been planning for the month of September 2007 since February and now that it is here, I have been sort of unplugged from the day to day tasks that I have grown used to. Everything leading up to this month was put into motion by a simple phone call from an old classmate of mine, Sara Cambensy. Sara got a new job as the caretaker/renovator/booking agent for the Kaufman Auditorium in my hometown of Marquette, MI. She heard from a good friend of mine that I had been doing all this interesting music from India, so she logged on to my website, searched around a bit, and then gave me a call. She wanted to submit my portfolio to the Kaufman familly for something called the Lyceum series. This was an series started by Louis Kaufman way back in the 20's. It's purpose is to bring artists to the community and educate the youth. Of coarse I said yes and she submitted the portfolio. A couple of months later I got the news that the proposal was approved! Yay! So then it was my task to curate a show.
Not one week after I got the good news my guruji(teacher) from India, Samar Saha, sent me an e-mail. He was planning a trip to the U.S. and was wondering if it would be possible for me to arrange a concert for him in Michigan. I instantly thought of how perfect it would be to have him come to Marquette and perform with me at Kaufman. The wheels began to turn, and before I knew it, the show was coming together better than I could have planned it. Now, instead of going into the details right now, just read on and you will see how this is all coming together. As I sit here now, the show is set to happen in exactly one week. It has been a magical month and I can not wait to see what happens.

So with that said, let us pick up where I left off in my last entry. I am happy to say that the jazz fusion group KOZORA had it's debut concert at Crazy Wisdom Tearoom on Saturday September 1st. I asked KOZORA to come up to Marquette with me, so this show was set to give us some performance experience and see how this music works in front of an audience before going in front of the big crowd in Marquette. It was a great show with a great reception, a real confidence builder. Doing original music always brings with it a certain sense of vulnerability for the musicians. You have a tendency to question many more details than you would with cover tunes. I am of the mind that no matter what you are playing, you should just have fun, love what you are doing, and everything else takes care of itself. All that said, it does feel good to play music no one has ever heard before and have them enjoy it. KOZORA has been rehearsing almost a year, so it feels good to get out into the real world with this stuff.

The following Tuesday I was back at Go Like The Wind for the first official day of school. I am both excited and relaxed about this upcoming year. Instead of just one big band, we now have 3 groups, the advanced band, a string orchestra, and a beginning band. I had forgotten how insane it is to have the new students all come to class with their instruments for the first time, (I won't forget again!). Now that we have had a few weeks, everyone is getting a good sound and we are starting to have a lot of fun. It is so wonderful to see music flourishing all throughout the school. Students seem to be more into practicing and doing much more than they did last year. I am looking forward to the Christmas concert already!

One of the benefits of being a musician that works at a school is all the community members you are now involved with on a daily basis. One of those contacts paid off in the form of a gig for Gratitude Steel Band that I was able to secure at St. Lukes Church in Ypsilanti. It was on Sunday September 9th. St. Lukes is the same church where Go Like The Wind had the end of the year concert, so I felt right at home. It was an outdoor, end of the summer picnic. We had a great time playing, and everyone was happy. It was a nice way to spend an afternoon outside.

That same night I had another opportunity to play live on U of M's student radio station, WCBN. Rob Crozier is a local bass player who curates the live show once a month. He had myself, a trumpet player, sax player, and a guy on electronics. We did a couple of sets. The first one lasted a little over 45 minutes and the other was about a half hour. I played a little tabla, and then stayed on the drum set. It was fun. WCBN reminds me of my D.J. days at Radio X at NMU in Marquette. My D.J. name was Sprocket and my show was the Geargrinder jam. I did it for a couple of years and had a blast. The station at UofM is very similar and filled me with a lot of great memories.

The following Friday, Meeta Banerjee and I were at Crazy Wisdom tearoom again. I booked this show to get us some performance time in before Marquette, (yea, Meeta is coming too). Well, that was the initial idea. As it turned out, it became the official release of our new C.D. 'Sangeet'. We had been recording over the summer with the hopes of getting the C.D. done for the Marquette show. It just so happened that we got it done early enough to have it for the Crazy Wisdom show. It was a great night. So much excitement is building that there is this electricity at all of these shows that is undeniable. It is such an exciting time to be a musician!

The next night was Kirtan, Aaaahhh. Relax. That is what kirtan has done for me these past few months....given me a musical outlet to just relax and play. This time I tried something a little bit different, I closed my eyes for most of the night and just focused on the sound. It made for a great experience. More than once I opened my eyes and the room seemed much smaller that what I was hearing. The night flew by and my hands felt great when it was over. Not to mention there was a nice plug for the new C.D. and I walked home with a couple of extra bucks in my pocket. All in all a good night.

On Monday Samar Saha showed up in Ann Arbor on the Amtrack. He played a show at U of M on Tuesday with a flute player in residence from Benares, India. It was packed. Lots of music school people there. I hope it will help to get him some exposure to the right people for his next venture over to the states. The following three nights he held workshops at my home studio for most of my tabla students and tomorrow he playes a show up in Fenton, MI. at Meeta's parents lake house. Meeta and I will be opening the show, (which, judging from the buzz, should be packed). Tonight I play again with the Kirtan group at Crazy Wisdom, (my new musical hang-out). I am looking forward to the relaxed atmosphere. I will stop writing now before I get ahead of myself. It is such an exciting time. I hope to write soon!

Thanks for reading,

John

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