Friday, August 10, 2012

You Say Nice and I Say Nice

There is nothing quite like having a little girl run to meet you when she sees you coming off the train. Aimee and her family took me to the quaint villages in Antibes and the hills above, and then back to their beautiful home in Valbonne. To get to the village, you can take a 30-minute walk through the forest. Sound dreamy? Yes, it was.

The first thing Aimee wanted to do was to play a game in their swimming pool with marbles, and see who could find the most. Being the competitive person that I am, I realized that I was losing skin on my knuckles because I’m scraping the bottom of the pool every time I make a grab. So the next time I played, I prissily plucked. (She beat me every time, by the way.)

After a wonderful dinner in the village, and a wonderful night’s sleep, and a wonderful French breakfast on their patio, we drove to Nice to visit a couple of my Monteton friends who teach at a Yamaha studio. Nice has the glorious coast on my right and many, many hotels on my left. It was refreshing (although hot) to walk through the old town, where you hear almost as much Italian as you do French, and see more Italian architecture.

It’s so great to see David and Johan at the studio. Seeing Monteton friends outside of Monteton helps Monteton feel more real, I guess. They were busy painting and prepping for fall, but David took a little time to play some blues with me.

I Didn’t Know It, But He Was a Poet

The great thing about traveling alone is meeting interesting people that you may not have talked to if you were with a companion. My next leg of the journey was to visit my 8-yr-old friend and piano student Aimee, who lives in the charming village of Valbonne, in the hills above Antibes, which is right on the Mediterranean coast.

But first, another 4-hour train ride, and this time, a smiling gentleman named Jean-Luc sat in the seat beside me. I never know exactly how to start the conversation, except to say the unexciting line of “do you speak English?” Which is what I said. It turns out that he was heading home after a poetry conference, where he was one of the presenters. (He told me this in English.) We had a wonderful conversation, talking about music, mainly. He said something about good music and good poetry connecting our hearts with our minds (except he said it even better, because he is a poet.)

If you read French and would like to read his writings:

Moanin' in Montpellier

Good-byes are painful in Monteton. Generally, we just say “see you next year” so that we can get through it. No crying from me. But after the tiredness of a four-hour train ride to the next city, the sound of a jazz guitar duo in the streets of Montpellier got me little teary. I found a sweet little restaurant that gave me the best view of the concert, and took my time eating, listening, and watching the little paper hearts that were scattered over the patio blow in the wind.

The concert took place here

Top photo: Not the concert, but you get the idea

Christian brings (even more) magic to Monteton

Last year, I met Christian, a jazz pianist from London preparing for his final year of college. We only had a couple of hours together, because he had just arrived for week 2, and my week was ending that night. But he seemed fascinated about my compositions, and I love to talk music talk, so we found a practice room where I could play and tell the stories behind the music. He was one of the best audiences I have ever had, listening and responding with great enthusiasm!

This year, he was back, now a graduate, and now, one of the teaching assistants at the school. He said that our conversation last year inspired him so much that he had been writing all year. Several of his innovative tunes were played during the week, too. Oh, and he’s a magician by trade. I’m hoping that he can magically transport me back to Monteton real soon!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

One-O-Four is Smokin' Hot

It is two weeks until Monteton and the temperature in Indy is incredibly high, so I’m forced to stay inside and write. A fast tune with a Latin feel emerges, the melody falling mostly on offbeats. I get to a certain spot, about 8 bars in, and I can’t figure out what to do next. After several experiments that got me nowhere, I tried putting the idea in another key. It was amazing to me what a difference this made. The piece took on a whole new character just by having the 6th note in the tune go down one step lower than the original idea. Suddenly it’s slower, more sultry, with long, long melody notes. So, do I scrap what I first thought of and make this a slow piece, or is there a way to merge the two ideas? I tried, but . . . no. Instead, I made 2 different songs, inspired by the Indiana heat wave:
One-O-Four and Smokin' Hot Ballad.

I passed out music at the rehearsal for One-O-Four, and said I was open to changes or suggestions. But Ian, who is a great sax player and one of the teachers there, kept saying, no, let’s do it the way you wrote it. I had a 6-bar B section with a swing feel, which is a little unusual, so I didn’t know if they were going to like it for improvising on. But Ian said something like, "you made it different, and that’s what made it special." So great to have such encouraging words for my work.

Everyone put their hearts into the performance - they were hot, hot, hot! Afterwards, Irene came up to the stage with tears in her eyes. She had heard the two guitarists, Olivier and David, rehearsing in the afternoon, and said they were amazing. But she didn’t know that they were playing something I had written.

This is my beautiful and talented crew from the world premiere performance of “One-O-Four.” Back Row: Terry Knight/drums, Ian Bumstead/sax, Guy Clapham/percussion, Tanguy Pellen/trumpet, Olivier Coppi/guitar, me/piano, Nic France/bongos, David Besnard/guitar. Front Row: Ferg Ireland/bass

And the smokin’ hot players for the world premiere of “Smokin’ Hot Ballad.”
Dorian Lockett/DJSS director and bass player, me/piano, Ian Bumstead/sax, Quentin Collins/trumpet, Guy Clapham/drums, Jonathan Bratoeff/guitar.

One-O-Four (youtube video coming soon!)
Smokin’ Hot Ballad:

le tour de Jack

This piece has quite a back story [read Egg, Chips (and Beans) from 2010 blog post.] To shorten things a bit . . .I wrote a piece for Jack’s dad, John, a few years ago, and last year, Jack asked me to write one for him. Jack is 20 now, and just finished his first year of college in London, studying jazz (he’s a great drummer.) I’m always motivated to write when I return home, so Jack’s tune was the first project I jumped on. I had asked Jack to sing a beat, a percussive line, into my digital recorder, that I might use for inspiration. I wanted to write something funky, and I wanted to use his rhythmic idea somewhere in the piece.

To then have the opportunity to bring the piece to Monteton almost a year later, and to perform it with Jack himself, well, that was one of my favorite moments of the week. From my journal, “Hard to put words into the pride I feel after the first performance of my work here in Monteton. So many kisses and hugs afterward. People so happy about the music. During the moment, things felt surreal. I loved the lighting on Jack as he played his solo. Watching Ian,Jonathan, Ferg and Jack – it was mesmerizing, hypnotic. Just a great feeling, coming off the stage and being congratulated by my friends.”

I’ve watched the video over and over, and am just amazed at everyone’s performances.

See video (sorry about the blurriness):