Out of the Blue!…Small World Encounters-Part 2

March 19th, 2010

Water Lily at the Botanical Gardens in Kolkata

KOLKATA

January 17-23 (with a trip to Kharagpur in the middle)

We had two major concerts in Kolkata, the first at the Music School organized by Ajoy Ray and the second at the Dalhousie Institute sponsored by the famed “Congo Square” a non-profit society for jazz and blues in India. The people there were serious jazz fans like Ajoy, thay give me hope for the future of jazz (at least in India!)…thank you Kalyan Kamal Roy and Surjay Yoy Choudhury! We look forward to seeing and playing for you again.

At the Dalhousie concert Ajoy introduced me to an American sax player (Steve Gorn) from Brooklyn at the end of a music tour who played the Indian bamboo flute named the Bansuri…what a surprise! I asked him to sit in with us and his sound was so beautiful and so complimentary to our sound and vibe we all knew that this was a special happening! I am sure that will be just the first of more collaborations to come!

The first tune we played was my original, “Beginner’s Mind”-a kind of South American 6/8 in C minor. I would love to post a video from this concert but am waiting for the professionally produced DVD to be sent from India. Please check back periodically and join my mailing list on my website for updates about the blog.

BUT in the meantime Please check out his website: www.stevegorn.com! His biography is amazing with a long and beautiful story of musical inspiration and exploration going back to the 1960’s.

Kolkata style Taxis

Kolkata pedicab

Traffic Jam-Kolkata

Another SMALL WORLD connection is that there is another American sax player who is a virtuoso on the Bansuri! (Carl Clements-www.carlclements.com). And I believe he also knows Steve. I met him just a month before this tour started–he moved to my neighborhood up in Massachusetts from Brooklyn!!! I had him to dinner and found out he would be in India at the same time (to study with his master and play some gigs)–alas, we were crisscrossing and never met there but what are the odds that I would meet two of the greatest bansuri/jazz sax players in the world in just one month who lived by me in the U.S. and went to India at the same time…?!

Each international tour a undertake broadens my world to distant lands

…this one widened my world back at home!

Good Luck Charm

Out of the Blue!…Small World Encounters

March 19th, 2010

We should have known how magical our trip would be from the first days when we met a special friend out of the blue. It started out with some bad news: A major politician in the history of West Bengal had died. Jyoti Basu had been a leader in the Communist Party (popularly elected) for decades and led the State for a record 23 years–leading 5 consecutive Left front governments. His death was a blow that caused grief throughout the State and an official mourning period of two days. As a result our first concert was canceled.

Instead of the concert we went to a party hosted by one of the main jazz fans in Kolkata (or Calcutta as he would say!). Mr. Ajoy Ray, who has seen and met every jazz musician who’s come through town since the 70’s!–The nicest guy with pictures of so many in his house (Kenny Barron, Steve Turre, Ted Curson, etc)… We walk through the door and who’s there? One of the most famous tabla players in the NY scene, Badal Roy…”surprise!” he said.

Badal, Gilad and Me

I should let you know I met Badal in August last year and recorded a CD with him, Lewis Porter (piano) and Karttikeya (percussion) in September. That was an honor for me and it was an honor he came to surprise us while he was visiting his mother in Kolkata. You can catch him performing with some amazing musicians–last month I saw him play with Dave Liebman at Birdland in NYC. He’s played and recorded with John McGlaughlin and Miles Davis (check out “On The Corner!”)…our new CD is called “Darma Jazz” and you can find it on Amazon and CD Baby.

Ajoy (serious Jazz FAN!), Me and Miles!

Here’s a little tease (only 15 seconds-oh well, the camera ran out of batteries!) of us playing “Watermelon Man” with Gilad’s usual living room party-percussion instrument!

It turned out that some of our best friends from back home in Amherst, MA were also visiting their family!

the celebration of  Saraswati Puja, the Goddess of Knowledge and the Arts!

…ah! Maybe this auspicious beginning was the source of our magical tour?

Priest and Saraswati Puja

Saraswati Puja with her Veena

 

Saraswati represents the “free flow of wisdom and consciousness…the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Durga, she plays with two of her four hands the music of love and life on a stringed instrument called the veena.” (Subhamoy Das for About.com)

India!

March 18th, 2010

The massive scope of this wonderful tour has been a constant inspiration to me with this blog BUT has also introduced a bit of intimidation…we’ve been to so many unique, beautiful and exciting places, experienced so much and met so many people–I want to do it justice and give an accurate sense of these five weeks in this blog. But our stay in India alone was overwhelming!

I can say that it was powerful, beautiful, inspiring, moving, challenging and magical as honestly as anyone can use those clichés we take for granted. We met new and old friends and musicians from home unexpectedly, jammed with traditional Indian musicians, worked with school children, performed in wonderful venues and visited the historic Gandhi Ashram and the slum where they do their inspirational work. And besides all the amazing sights, sounds and food we ate as “Jazz Ambassadors” we also had a few times to be tourists and went to the Taj Majal–a day trip that one would need a month to accurately describe!

Saraswati Puja in Kolkata

ABC Samba!

February 19th, 2010

Hello!

UPNG workshop participants, Ambassador Taylor (back/center) and Matt Britton (back/right)

This tags on to the earlier posts about Papua New Guinea. We were lucky to follow our 2009 tour with a trip in Feb. 2010 and got to work with the same beautiful children and the Children’s University of Music and Art in the Kaugere Settlement at 2 Mile in Port Moresby. in June, 2009 we visited their school in the most notorious slums in Port Moresby run by Saints (Peter, Lydia, Pius, Mino and others!) and given to the children for FREE!

After we heard them sing many nursery rhymes we worked with them on the ABC song (also known as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Ba, Ba Black Sheep…ect!) and concentrated on rhythms–the Samba seemed to float to the top and we grooved for a long time listening to the wind, sea and birds (see the videos below).

The first video is from our visit when we met these wonderful kids and the second is from our concert, Feb. 11 for the U.S. Ambassador and an appreciative PNG audience in the Moresby Arts Center (at Waigani Arts). The kids joined me and Gilad and our workshop participants from the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) on guitars and percussion.

We are very thankful to the Embassy for organizing this return trip. It is always meaningful to return and follow-up with the people we meet on our tours. You can really see the how the kids grow and develop. It’s not only the kids that benefit–Gilad and I deeply appreciate the opportunity to have another rare exposure to the unique and wonderful culture and people of PNG! Hope to see you again soon!

Below: Working with the kids at the Children’s University for Music and Arts at the Kaugere Settlement, 2 Mile, Port Moreseby (PNG)…one of the directors reminded me that these kids and the Kaugere Settlement are the “lowest of the low” in PNG…you can see that they are actually the light of the future!

And here is the result in performance for the U.S. Ambassador (Mr. Teddy B. Taylor) and an appreciative PNG audience at the Moresby Arts Center, Feb. 11, 2010…please excuse the audio during the workshop guitarist’s solos–we had some technical challenges!

Thanks to our hosts Ambassador Taylor, Matt Britton and Carolyn Ive!

UFO Sighted!

January 20th, 2010

We were lucky to be in Mandalay during a very special solar eclipse. People were out all day with their cameras and special lenses.

It just so happened that a UFO was sighted later that day while we were playing our concert…

Gilad playing the UFO

The sound is like a soft bell sound or mellow steel drum. The stage began to fill up with people curious about the unfamiliar sound. And after the concert Gilad was surrounded by people wanting a closer look…

Touching the UFO!

Check back in a few days and I’ll have a video and sound clip of this beautiful instrument. The actual name is Pan Tam or Hang. It was created by a Trinidadian who lives in Switzerland within the last ten years.

Our duo is a combination of strings and percussion…I brought three guitars on the tour: a Telecaster, a nylon string acoustic and a 12-string acoustic. Gilad brought a full bag of instruments and the UFO (sometimes also called a WOK!). But we also have our bag of tricks as you’ll see from this next clip.

I wanted to get in on the percussion jam and grabbed some Caxixi. Gilad got the audience involved and surprised me with a solo!…My debut in public!

Myanmar/Burma!

January 20th, 2010

Now if you have already seen my first posts about Papua New Guinea, you may start noticing a theme here!…beautiful children and jazz interaction!

Kids at concert in Mandalay

Or maybe you can tell what’s important and exciting to me?…it is a wonderful thing to play for kids who have no preconceived ideas of jazz music! It brings you back to the purity of the musical experience–the rhythm, the melody, harmony and back to the rhythm!

They were dancing in front of the stage and then ON the stage with us–it was literally rockin’ and the thought did cross my mind that the party might be too much for the temporary stage but all ended well.

The whole audience of 500-700 were grooving–people of all ages and backgrounds. It was a free, public concert. 500 people signed the guest book and there were about 100 people looking over the walls into the green yard where the stage was set up.

Here is a picture of one of the people we connected with…she is a young poet who was inspired to give me a gift of one of her poems!

Mandalay Poet

After hearing my recitation of the poem “Alone” by Maya Angelou over my musical composition of the same name she copied her poem and presented it to me after the concert.

The poem, entitled “Man and his Responsibilities” was written in her first year of school. Here it is:

Take it or leave it, you have a choice.

Sleep it or spend it, your long cold night.

Try it or stop it, your dangerous flight.

Lose it or catch it, as you like.

But the result is responsible to you.

The things will come, you cannot refuse.

Life is a mirror, and it’s plain one, too.

Reflection will come right up to you.

Mandalay, Myanmar, 2010

Nursery Rhymes

January 19th, 2010

After the kids sang their national anthem they sang some nursery rhymes…and very enthusiastically!…Gilad and I then taught them an Israeli lullaby which they sang to us as we drove out of the settlement. Wouldn’t it be fun if they remembered “Ooga, Ooga, Ooga” and it became a popular song in their repertoire!…well, we’ll see when we visit there in a few weeks!

“Open and Shut Them” (June, 2009)

“I Love You” (a humid day in June, 2009…which explains the blurry image!)

“Five Little Monkeys” (June, 2009)

Hello world!

January 18th, 2010

Hello World! I finally made it to my blog page and can keep you all up to date with my travel in amazing places meeting wonderful people!

Right now I am in India touring with Gilad (percussionist extraordinaire!)…we just finished an unforgettable trip to Burma/Myanmar will proceed to Singapore and finish in Papua New Guinea!

The PNG tour is a return trip…here are a couple of pics from our last visit in June, ’09…You’ll see why we are looking forward to returning!

Welcome from 8 Mile Settlement kids

Welcome from Kaugere Settlement kids-Port Moresby

Children's University for Music and Art-8 Mile Settlement

Children's University of Music and Art- Kaugere Settlement

In the coming days I will be downloading videos of these kids singing their national anthem, nursery rhymes and a samba version of the ABC song!!!

Check out this video of the kids singing their national anthem…(June, 2009)

More to come later…

Here is how we were welcomed by the wonderful people at the Children’s University of Music and Art at the Kaugere Settlement at 2 Mile in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (June, 2009)