Phil and I took the bus from Montreal to Boston, to our gig at Lily Pad in Cambridge. It seems like every city has a better managed subway system than Montreal. Cambridge Street reminded me a bit of College St. in Toronto - a quaint little section of the city lined with restaurants and clubs. Lily Pad is a listening room, much like The Stone - no bar, no food, plain chairs - but with a much warmer atmosphere. We were playing the final set of the night, after a bunch of Scottish expats attending Berklee and a group featuring club manager Gill on piano and glockenspiel. Leave it to my luck to be playing the same night as the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. Pat kindly showed up even though he had a 7 am class, and it was a good warm up for Phil and I to shake the rust off of playing with Alex.
We drove back to Alex's parents' place on Cape Cod to crash, and then hopped more buses from the Cape to Boston and into NYC. Before leaving in the morning, I saw my BMI colleague Mariel Berger had sent me an e-mail about her show Monday night with the new Anicha Quartet, with vocalist Jean Rohe and Secret Society members Sebastian Noelle (guitar) and Mark Small (bass clarinet). I headed over to VoxPop, which is the Brooklyn equivalent of Montreal's L'Escalier, with delicious vegetarian/vegan food, great beer, and the hub of a certain artistic/political segment of the community. Most of the tunes were by Mariel and Sebastian, full of counterpoint and colour, with Jean's "La Coqueta" flipping between Spanish and English lyrics, and Mark's bluesy tune ("Tumbleweed"?) adding a deeply swinging contrast to the set. I look forward to more from that group - they're all fantastic musicians individually, and the instrumentation is beautiful and novel.
Tuesday was rehearsal day with our NYC string section of Sean-David Cunningham (the only holdover from the album, who happened to grow up in Brooklyn a stone's throw from where everyone else now lives), Zach Brock, Corinna Albright and Jody Redhage. Sean-David assumed a fantastic and necessary leadership role, and Zach, Corinna, and Jody read through the pieces at an incredible level. It was truly an honour to work with them, and I hope to do it again soon.
Wednesday was pretty frantic - with the last-minute benefit for Calvin Weston's son, Dominic, who was killed in a tragic hit-and-run the week before, I was left scrambling trying to figure out whether we should honour our commitment at World Cafe Live or cancel, in order to let everyone attend the show at The Fire. The crew at WCL were highly accommodating, and I hope to reschedule that show, with Philly's Highbrid, at some point soon.
Thursday evening I finally made it out to NuBlu, a club that's been on my radar for years. The home base of Forro in the Dark, Butch Morris' Monday night conductions of the NuBlu orchestra, and Brazilian Girls, it's the nexus of the fusion between electro, Latin and jazz sounds in the East Village. Opening the night was Lotus9, with improvised dubby goodness led by keyboardist Rick Bottari, who reminded me of Mark de Clive-Lowe, seamlessly moving between keyboards. The main event was Forro in the Dark's Davi Vieira and his solo project, Hip Hop Axé. A fusion of the two musics in question, Davi led a multinational band through a whole host of party tunes. An incredibly fun time and a very late night, topped off with samosas at Alex's favourite Indian spot.
Friday was showtime in NYC at Saint Peter's Church. We performed in the series curated by Ike Sturm, in a double bill with Tim Collins' Hell's Gate. Zach and Jody also played with Tim, whose group was rounded out by Ulrike Schmitz on viola, Greg Chudzik on bass and Matt Blostein on alto sax. Tim's tunes are truly gorgeous, and he found a way to get the most common blues ostinato to swing on strings. On the final tune, Greg, Tim, Matt and Zach traded some melodically inventive solos.
As for us, we played everything on our record. Considering we only had rehearsal and the NYC ringers hadn't had the music for long in advance, it went better than I could have hoped. Phil and Alex sounded really good, and Zach took a beautiful solo on "Driscollage."
Off bright and early to Toronto, where we double-billed at Tequila Bookworm with old friends Arkana Music. Ali's tunes are always intriguing, the band is always tight, and the blend between Mark Laver on alto and Tom Richards on trombone worked surprisingly well, especially on the demented klezmer of "Circus Freak." Seb Pellerin joined us again, fresh off playing at the National Jazz Awards gala with Mario Allard, and we blasted through a bunch of the trio-only book. It's a totally different band when we don't play Alex's tunes. I'm still getting used to that. As always, when I play a pass-the-hat gig in Toronto, there's a couple of people that don't want to donate, and there's always one mysterious piece of currency (in this case, a 0.10 Euro) in there.
Roadtrip back to Montreal with Seb and Phil where we passed our iPods around. The playlist included Revolver, Thriller, Songs in the Key of Life, Karkwa, Blonde Redhead, Q-Tip and more.