Wednesday, February 21, 2007

In pursuit of enlightenment

My apologies for the protracted absence here. I've been preparing for these past five days of auditions, lessons, and travel. Between some serious catch-up time at the piano, heavy-duty revision and extension of a piece, and tearing my hair out with travel plans, blogging's been low on the list of priorities.

Saturday I flew out to Boston, for my second-ever visit. The first was with a band called Atomic Brothers a couple of years back, and none of us really knew the city that well, resulting in us getting irreparably lost around the Common trying to remember where we parked. This visit was more streamlined - staying with a friend in Hyde Park as I auditioned for NEC. I must have gone through Trudeau at an off-peak hour, because there were minimal line-ups for customs and security, and everything moved quite efficiently. The customs agent even threw me for a loop - after I told him I played piano, he asked me, "So where's your piano?" I got flustered and after a minute I offered a sheepish "at home," in response.

Thankfully we didn't suffer any delays of JetBlue proportions, but as my seat on the flight was directly behind the cockpit, I got wind of pieces of disconcerting information before announcements were made to the baker's dozen of passengers. First, we were without a captain, then without a flight plan. Once we received the revised flight plan, the ground crew decided to disappear. In all, we spend an hour and a half on the tarmac and twenty-seven minutes in the air. The upshot of it was the booze was made complimentary. Just enough time to have a Sleeman's to take the edge off.

After a welcome Indian dinner at Rangoli in Allston, I got some rest before the big audition day on Sunday. I was taken aback by the lack of anything (aside from Symphony Hall) within short walking distance of NEC's campus. The rest of the surrounding area is swallowed up by Northeastern. I realized later if I had walked further up Mass Ave I would have hit the Berklee area. But from Huntington to Tremont there isn't really all that much in the way of music stores or breakfast joints. I did have some pretty decent Thai food at Pho & I, across the street from NEC.

Jordan Hall, the building, is essentially a big semi-circle. I didn't get lost, exactly, though I think I may have taken the longest route to get to where I wanted to go. Jordan Hall, the hall, is astounding. It's almost like walking into a cathedral, with its high ceiling and ornate woodwork. I was grateful for the thorough tour and the opportunity to talk to some current students before my audition. I don't really know much about the current state of NEC - what I know of it is from alums like Darcy, Pat and Joe Sullivan (a McGill prof) - so it was nice to get some more up-to-date information. The audition went well - the setup in Keller had my back to the judging panel, so it's not like I had to stare down Danilo Perez for twenty minutes.

On Monday, after Pat had tipped me off to the latest Fung Wah accident and a Greyhound deal, I hopped on the Greyhound to NYC. I dozed off for a significant portion of the ride, making it seem shorter than it was, though we spent a healthy chunk of time crossing Connecticut, including some strange little detour in New Haven. I checked into my hostel of choice, where my roommates were a bunch of Swiss graffiti artists. I was impressed at their knowledge and appreciation for the entirety of hip-hop culture and tradition. I then met up with Pat to go to Cleopatra's Needle. Between it being President's Day and school vacations, the turnout was pretty low. There was a 13-year-old drummer from New Jersey, who knows far more about the current state of jazz than I did at his age, and a 6-year-old pianist who could barely reach the pedals but didn't do a bad job on "Now's The Time." I played a healthy amount of tunes because aside from the host, Roger Leit, who's also a trumpet player, there weren't that many other pianists there. Roger hosted the last time I went to Cleo's as well, in December, and he runs a good session. My opinion of Cleo's has changed since my first, flawed visit in October.

The BMI meeting was led by Mike Holober, whose name is probably most familiar to jazz blog readers through his membership in DJA's Secret Society. He's also a fantastic composer in his own right, and brought some acute insight into the charts presented. There were a few instances in my chart where the effect I wanted on paper probably wasn't going to come off in reality, so we discussed different ways to achieve a similar sound. I'm still really impressed by the variety of styles in the group - from more traditional, Thad Jones-inspired writing to stuff that bears the mark of Reich and Adams. There's some rhythmic stuff going on that I haven't even begun to address in my own work.

I ran from BMI to catch the airport shuttle at Grand Central, and just barely made it. My first visit to LaGuardia was fairly smooth, although the delay of flights to Toronto did fill me with dread. Everything went so well until we hit Trudeau, where the ground crew wasn't ready for us and we had to wait a good twenty minutes for our luggage. In a few hours, I'll be auditioning at McGill, which is a strange feeling. I'm used to their audition process, having played on auditions almost every year of my undergrad, but it's been five years since I was the one auditioning.

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