Thursday, December 28, 2006

End of the Year

Hello again,

Wow, a lot has happened since I last wrote. Let's see, here is the short version first. On the 1st and 2nd of December I played with the Swaggering Rouges, my student recital was a week later, then the following weekend consisted of 3 pretty different shows. Thursday and Friday were the Go Like The Wind Christmas concerts, Saturday was an Indian Classical concert, and Sunday was a Kirtan benifit concert. Let's start with the Rouges....
This is a band from Bay City Michigan that I met through the bassist Jon Carmona. Jon is a musician and teacher that I worked with at RIT Drums and Oz's Music in Ann Arbor. He had played with this band for many years. He is from Bay City and this is his hometown band. (It reminds me of my first band, the Flat Broke Blues Band, who still play together! http://flatbrokebluesband.com/) He makes the trek up north a couple times a month to play shows and visit his family. He asked me to come up and fill in for their regular drummer who was out of town. We played at the 702 bar in Midland, MI. It was a nice little place tucked away all by itself very close to a huge factory. They had started hosting live bands about 4 months back and this was the first time for the Rouges. This band plays all cover tunes by artists like U2, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Blink 182, Led Zepplin and so on. My rehearsal time for the show consisted of me listening to C.D.'s. while in my car.
Midland is about a 2 1/2-3 hour drive from my home in Ann Arbor. I made a stop at a gas station close to Flint and recieved a call on my cell from Jon. He was sitting in a police car on the side of the freeway. On his way up he hit a patch of ice and rolled his truck. His truck was totaled, but he and his son were fine. I was about 45 minutes south of them, which was just enough time for them to get the truck towed, and get to a gas station to wait for me. We went to the yard and got everything out of the truck, dropped his son off in Bay City, and made it to the gig with an hour to set up. Needless to say, Jon was a bit shaken up by the whole thing, but after the first set was over he was relaxed and felt alright again. It was an interesting start to the weekend, which, by compairison, was relatively uneventful. The shows went great, the crowd was appreciative, the guys in the band are terrific, and I had fun playing some good ol' Rock n' Roll in the heartland of Michigan!
One week later I was full steam ahead in preperation for my student recital. I had 18 students performing all different kinds of music. Drum duets, drum solos, percussion ensembles and full bands. It was an exciting night. I love to see my students go through the process of performance. I am also really proud of the level of music they are able to create so early in their drumming lives.
This recital was different from the others in a few ways, but the biggest was that it was in the Go Like the Wind gymnasium instead of the much smaller Oz's Music Environment. This time we had plenty of room for everyone and big stage that was able to fit 2 full drumsets along with a 5 peice band. I give a big thanks to the principal at GLTW Doug Collier for letting us use the space. I also thank my students for staying with me through the move from Oz's to my basement studio. I look forward to a new year of lessons in our new space!
Just four days later, in the same gymnasium, was the world premier concert for the GLTW Orchestra. What an adventure it has been to start a 48 piece orchestra from scratch! Most of the students had never touched an instrument in their lives and now we had 2 big concerts to play. The first concert was on Thursday in the afternoon and the second was on Friday in the evening. I also lead the 1st-3rd graders through 6 christmas songs and the kindergardeners sang a song with the help of their teachers. All these perfrormers translates into a gym absolutely filled to the limit with parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives. The concert went better than I expected and everyone was very pleased with the perfromance. I can't wait to start the new year now that we have settled in to our new program.
Just a day after all the madness of a school concert I was playing Indian classical music at a Bahai temple in Ann Arbor with my good friend Meeta Banerjee. We have not played in awhile and it felt great to sit with her. The night was set up by Sussan Babaie, a professor at the University of Michigan and the mother of my first student in Ann Arbor, Jiyan. Actually, Jiyan, his friend Zac and I were the opening act. We performed the same piece as we did at the student recital and then one more that we composed just the Wednesday before. It went well and will go in my mind as one of the most unique opening acts for an Indian classical music concert. The crowd was delighted to see Jiyan, one of the regular faces at the temple, bring his music to share. It may have been loud, rockin' and a complete contrast to the music that was to follow, but people liked it. When they were done there was time for a break for sweets and then we were up. It was a great setting. As Meeta and I played the crowd was very interested and attentive. After a couple of pieces I opened the show for questions from the audience, and they had plenty. It turned into a very educational as well as musical night. I love to talk about music almost as much as I love to play it. It is always so fascinating to me to hear the things people are wondering when they see us play. I learn from them as much as they may learn from me.
The last time I performed in December was with the Ann Arbor Kirtan group at the Friends Meeting House in Ann Arbor on Sunday the 17th. It was a benefit organized by one of the members Judy Piazza, an accomplished percussionist/performer from Michigan who is about to move to California to be with family. It was a perfect way to end the madness of the previous 2 weeks. If you have never heard of Kirtan, then, well, look it up on the web. For me, it is a way to play tabla for hours at a time and play with deep grooves that aren't found in other types of performance. I may also be getting a little something out of the chants as well....

Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you next year. Have a safe and happy New Year!!

John

Sunday, November 19, 2006

3 Very Different Gigs, Plus a New Contemporary Project is Budding

Hello,

This past couple of weekends has been interesting on the giging front. Last Friday I sat in with poet/songwriter Norm Ballinger. He is from somewhere in the south. I got to play drumset in the Crazy Wisdom Tearoom. It was a lot of fun. Ken Kozora hooked me up with the show. It was Norm on vocal, guitar, and slit drum, Ken on zen drum and percussion, and Richard Smith on bass. I am glad to be able to enjoy shows like this close to home. Since moving to Ann Arbor I have gotten my fair share of 'pick up' gigs and this was one of my favorites. I hope to play with Norm the next time he is in town.
In the meantime, I have been hard at work with Ken Kozora on a free jazz/fusion/free-for-all group that has been putting in long hours every week in my basement studio. Ken plays the bass and trumpet, I have been playing drumset, tabla, and even some clarinet, Scott Brady (from Deep Blue) is on all different kinds of saxophones, and Dave Gilbert is also doing the full Sax lineup with some flute and clarinet in their as well. It is a positive and very interesting group to play with. We have mainly been working on compositions written by Ken over the past 25 years, but we are also experementing with some Indian rhythm ideas and some killer free jams that have turned into some of the most interesting stuff I have played since my time at Cal Arts. I am excited to play out soon, but no word on when that is at this point in time.
So anyway the day after the tearoom I was in Bronson, MI. playing some good ol' classic rock n' roll with Paledave. Dave Buehrer on guitar and vocals, his wife Jen on vocals, Jon Carmona was on the bass and I played the drums. Bronson is Daves hometown. It was great to see where he came from. We played at a bar/bowling alley called the Strike Zone. It reminded me of a place I used to play back in Marquette, (my hometown), called the Eastwood Lounge. Unfortunately it was a slow night for the bar and we ended early, but I had fun and it was good to meet some of Dave's friends.
Last but not least I played tabla a couple of nights ago with the Ann Arbor Kirtan group. The group is now consistantly doing once a month shows and the audience is growing fast, which is essential in Kirtan since it is call and response chanting between the perfromers and audience members. It is actually a lot of work to play tabla in a room filled with that much energy. I slide on my Bya so much that my wrist gets raw and sometimes I get blisters. I suppose that means I have not attained my balance on the drum yet, but I have been practicing! I have kept up so far so good with my Guruji's suggestion that I practice everyday for a year. I have had a couple nights where I have started my practice at 11:30p.m., but mainly I have been excited to go downstairs and put in some time. It is becoming like a meditation/escape in this hectic and busy time.
Looking forward I am excited for the first Go Like The Wind concert in mid December, and my private student recital is coming up fast too. This time it will be at the GLTW gymnasium, so there will be plenty of room and it will be more of a concert atmosphere. The week after next I will be in Midland, MI with the Swaggering Rouges once again. I can' t believe this year is coming to a close already. It has been a great one so far. I feel very blessed and I look forward to the future. Thanks for reading and I will talk to you soon!

John

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Practicing, Rehearsing, ICMD Concert, Gratitude

Hello again,

Today is Halloween. I am at Go Like The Wind School in Ann Arbor. I spend Monday through Thursday here teaching music and helping out with the Middle school classroom. Normaly on Tuesdays I teach general Music to the 1st-3rd graders, however, since it is Halloween, the students are eating candy and going crazy. The middle school students brought a ton of sweets, so I am now sitting here with a belly full of sugar and no music to teach. What a great time for a blog entry!
The time with Pandit Samar Saha was so refreshing and inspiring. I had lessons with him on Tuesday and Thursday and then drove him to a house concert on Friday. It was a great week. He is one of the best musicians I have ever watched perform, and one of my most influential teachers. He is the person responsible for the Tabla Festival I went to in Calcutta last December. It was a concert for his Guru, who passed away 10 years earlier. Now he was on a U.S. tour with a vocalist. The concert on Friday was the first of the last 3 concerts for his tour. In one of the lessons he told me he had a tabla for sale that he did not need any more and did not want to fly back with. I bought before he said another word. It sounds so sweet!
The lessons were great. He said he saw improvement in my hands and then he said I need to practice every day. Although I do practice a lot, I do not spend everyday with the same instrument. I took it as a challenge to practice tabla every day for the next year. A scary proposition indeed, but so far so good! Wish me luck on the next 11 months.
It was great to have lessons all week and then follow it up with a concert on Friday. The only other time I have seen Samar Saha perform is when I was on stage with him at the Macintosh Theater at the U of M music school just over 2 years ago. I had been taking lessons with him the whole week, just like this last time. He was supposed to perform a concert at the end of the week with Sitarist Kushal Das, (whom I saw perform in Calcutta [check out the December 05' blog!]). As it turned out, Kushal Das got really sick in Chicago and could not make it to the AA show. Without hesitation Samar Saha asked Ajit Acharya and myself to accompany him on stage. I was genuinely terrified for the first time in my professional career. I felt like I had no business on stage with such a great performer. From what I remember of the concert it went well and I praise and thank him to this day for asking me on stage. It opened my eyes to a 'big stage' experience and gave me a front row seat to one of the great tabla players alive in the world today as he performed an incredible solo. I have considered him my Guruji ever since.
After the concert on Friday I took him to my house where we slept for a few hours and then left for the airport. I don't know when I will see him again, but I look forward to it. Got to go now....will write again soon......

....Picking up from the same spot in time, but it is now one week after holloween...

The following week I was rehearsing for the upcoming Indian Classical Music and Dance performance at the University of Michigan. The timing of the show could not be better. I performed the concert on Friday. Both my Mom and sister were in town and came out to support me along with my wife Jody. It was great to have them there. Compared to the drumset, I have not perfromed tabla very much and it felt great to have my biggest fans in the audience. I performed one piece with my friend, a flute player named Chetainya, (it took me 4 months to learn how to pronounce his name!). I also perfromed with a vocalist named Meghna. It was a fun show, and good to see some old friends from past ICMD shows.
The next day I was rehearsing with The Gratitude Steel Band in their new rehearsal/office space. We were prepairing for a 20 minute showcase gig at the Grand Traverse Lodge in Traverse City. The showcase was for the Michigan Festivals and Events organization. I am not sure what the actuall name of the organization was, but the convention was filled with musicians, entertainers, party suppliers, and anything that has to do with the big festivals in Michigan. We performed a giant medly that ended up being 19 songs long and included Hawaiian dancers. The show went so smooth. It was a great boost for the band to put on such a powerful show. This band has always been great at listening, changing, and moulding the music being made on stage to fit with the mood of the band and the audience. I see a strong link between the way they make music and the musical philosophies of Indian Classical players. Improvisation within the structure of the music being played sounds like a great idea, but is not easy to pull off. Gratitude does it nicely. I am not sure how much work we will get out of the showcase, but I am sure I will write about it.
That brings me up to date so far. A couple of gigs coming up this weekend. One in Ann Arbor with a poet and one in Bronson, MI. with rock band Paledave. In the meantime I have stopped doing my Monday night workshops at Oz's Music Environment and have moved my private lessons to my home studio. I had a great time teaching at Oz's and look forward to working with Steve in the future. But for now, it feels good to be at home. I have dreamed about having a home studio for the past 5 years and now I have it and it feels great! I have attached my farewell e-mail to all those who are on my e-mail list to avoid repeating myself. Thanks for reading and I will write again soon.

John

From: jcmqt@johnchurchville.com
To: AA Masterdrum
Subject: No More Monday Night Workshop
Date: Sun, 05 Nov 2006 22:26:21 -0500
>Hello Friends,
After 3 and a half years I am sad to say that last
Monday was the last hand drum workshop I will host on a regular
basis. It has been an absolute joy to spend 2 hours every Monday
exploring rhythm and building relationships with some wonderful
people. Through the years I have seen hundreds of people come through
the door from all walks of life. In this workshop I have met and
played music with doctors, lawyers, students, business men and women,
hippies, slackers, hindus, buddists, christians, atheists,
democrats, republicans, liberals, conservatives, grandmas and
grandpas, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers. I have
met people from India, China, Japan, Great Britan, Mexico, Trinidad,
Hawaii, and all over the U.S.A. Some came to learn, some came
just to play, and some came and discovered a love of drumming that
will never leave them. I feel blessed to have been a part of this
experience and I hope that if you are reading this, and you had
planned to come to more workshops, that you do not let this stop you
from playing your drum.
I want to thank everyone and anyone who has
attended a workshop and hopefully we will keep in touch and find ways to
keep drumming. I would also like to thank Steve Osburn and Oz's
Music for his support and encoragement for this kind of community
event. Be sure to keep an eye out for some of the exciting things
happening at Oz's in the near future, including live internet
broadcasts, intimate performances, (and maybe even some
specialty workshops hosted by yours truly). Though this marks the end of
Monday night workshops, it does not mark the end of my desire to
build a community of musicians that can come together, no
matter what walk of life they are on, and learn to play great music.
Thanks again, and keep in touch!

John

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Swaggering Rouges, Brand New Band, Tabla, Tabla, Tabla

Hello again,

The past 3 weeks have been a tidal wave of adventure on the musical front. First off, my new position as music director at Go Like The Wind Montessori School is going great. It actually feels pretty good to have a regular schedule and a place to go to do work apart from my home office. I am also getting along with the students very well, so it is sort of like hanging out with friends. Well, friends that you must constantly remind of and correct their behavior. I don't mind, and I hope they will appreciate it in the future.
About 3 weeks into the school year I got a weekend gig with the Swaggering Rouges, a group from Midland Michigan. Their drummer was out of town, or somthing along those lines, so I filled in. It was a flashback to my first giging group the Flat Broke Blues Band, (who, incidentaly, are still together and performing today). It was a late night gig at a the Midland Street Pub. It was your typical smokey pub. The band was right on the floor in front of the waitress station, right in the middle of the crowd. It made for an intimate evening. Crazy loud rock and roll. The group is a cover band that spans 3 decades of classic rock. They covered Tom Petty, ACDC, Led Zepplin, U2, Blink 182, and many more. It sounded pretty good, and was a ton of fun to play. It was like classic rock Karaoke for drummers.
On the second night, in the second song I did something I have never done in over 20 years of playing the drumset, I put a hole through my bass drum head. I looked down and saw my bass drum beater had dissapeared into my head. The band played an acoustic version of Elton John's Daniel as I switched the broken head with the front bass drum head. The head had a big sound hole cut into it, so the sound for the rest of the night was lacking much needed bottom end, but no one seemed to mind too much. We kept on playing and had a great night. Jon Carmona was the bass player and the one responsible for hooking the gig up. He played with me for the Paledave recording project and a few gigs. He also played with me up in Marquette, MI. with the short-lived rock band Soul Sausage, where I was the lead guitar and vocalist, (imagine that!) Thanks for the gig Jon, I had fun.
A couple of nights later on Tuesday I got to check out one of my good friends Jared Smith playing at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Jared and I both grew up in Marquette and went to CalArts together. I moved back to Michigan and he stayed in L.A. to persue a band that is currently on a 3 month U.S. tour. They are called Hello Stranger, and I think they will be in the mainstream consciousness before you know it. The Blind Pig show went great except for one thing....The drummer, Joachim Cooder broke through his bass drum head on the first song! He couldn't beleive it and neither could I. He said it had never happened to him before. Luckily there was another band playing after them, so they just borrowed their bass drum. It must have been the fall air.....
The next week was a big one at Go Like the Wind. The students had spent the last 3 weeks learning about the different families of instruments and now it was time for them to get their own. We set a night aside called 'Band Night'. It was the night that all the students who did not yet have an instrument would come and rent an instrument to use for the school year. Almost everyone was very excited. A big music store came in with bins full of instruments and rented out to everyone. It took about an hour and a half and suddenly I was looking at a brand new band. When they came to school on Monday the excitement was in the air. When music class started, I was looking at 40 brand new musicians with and instrument in their hands and about 10 questions each. I don't remember much about that day except for feeling like a tidal wave had hit me and the end of the day felt as if I was washed up on shore with no energy left. I can't wait for the rest of the year to unfold. I hope that I am through the hardest times.
So right now I am sitting in my home and I can hear the sweet sounds of the Indian Santoor being played with Tabla accompaniment. It is acctually live muscians practicing for an evening concert tonight at one of my students' house. Dhananjay Daithankar is playing the santoor and Harshad Kanetkar is playing tabla. They got in on Friday and are starting their U.S. tour right here in Ann Arbor. Harhshad has been teaching lessons to some of my tabla students and on Monday they will perform a concert at Go Like The Wind. I am so happy they are here. It is always inspiring to be with active musicians. They will leave tomorrow after the concert and just by chance my guruji from Calcutta, Pdt. Samar Saha will be arriving. He is playing a concert on Friday night at someones house in West Bloomfield. I will be sitting with him all week for lessons and then attending the concert. It is an inspiring time for me right now, and I look forward to seeing one of my favorite teachers.

Thanks for reading and I will write again soon,

John

Monday, August 28, 2006

Summers end, New Job, Gratitude 3X, Connections Festival and Cafe Felix R.I.P.

Summer has come to an end! Well that is how it feels anyway. Last week I started a new job at Go Like The Wind Montessori School in Ann Arbor. I was hired to develop a new instrumental music program and help out in their newly formed middle school. It means that I will be getting up early every day and going to the same place for 9 months. This is a novelty to someone used to getting on mapquest everytime they go out to work. The school and teachers have been so great. For most of my adult life I have lived with the thought that a 'real job' was one where you come home tired, complaining, and restricted. I guess I got lucky, because this job feels so open, creative, and free. Today I finished developing my first Music Program Handbook, which is the rough outline of how the first year of the instrumental program will go. I think I thought of everything, but truly I know I have not. That is the excitement of it though. I will begin music classes next week, and I can't wait!

So now, on to the gigs I have played. Boy, it sure is tough to write about a months worth of gigs in one blog. I guess I need to stay on top of things more. I could just forget about a few of them, but that is not what I want to do with this. I want to remember everything. I am not sure why, but it seems like the way to do it. I am sorry there has not been more pictures. I really want to get the camera fixed. O.K. enough rambling....let's see....the last time I wrote I think I was getting ready to play with Gratitude at a Batmitzva in Ann Arbor. It was a fun show. It was for one of the members of my World Percussion Ensemble, Julie Norris. Actually it was for her daughter, but Julie was the one that set it all up, (a hip Mom indeed!) We played with big Kelly on bass, Guy Barker on Guitar, and Lamar Woodall on lead pan and saxophone. The crowd was great, and the party kept moving all night. I actually did a lot of singing on this one, which is a new thing for me and Gratitude. I have been singing backup with the family, but never the lead. I was amazed at how many lyrics I remembered just from listening to the songs for years from the kit. I am not sure how it sounded, but it sure was fun. It was also the first time in a long time that I got to play with Guy. He is one of my favorite musicians that I have ever played with. Very few match his energy and excitement while playing. It doesn't matter what the gig is, he is always there 110%. It was a special treat at the end of the night when Julie grabbed a drum and we got to jam together. Lamar took his mic and put it under her drum and her family loved it. She was really jammin!

The next gig was 2 weeks later in Clarkston, I think it was on the 24th. The band was the same, except for the bass was manned by Anthony instead of Big Kelly. Anthony is younger and a true bass man, whereas Kelly is first a drummer, but playes bass rather well. It was a corporate gig, which usually means we get booked and paid by someone other than those who are actually at the show. Corporate gigs have a tendency to be a little sterile, and not so much party based. This particular show was outside in a park in Clarkston, MI. and it was an appreciation event for the owners of Malibu boats. We played our butts off, but the crowd was scattered all over the park, so the response was hard to gage. The D.J. who spun between sets loved us though, which was nice, although I wouldn't be surprised if he got the whole gig next year. That might sound a bit like sour grapes, but the concept 'D.J.'s' has been a touchy subject lately. More on that in a bit.

A couple of days later I had a double booking. The first was at the Connections Festival in Ann Arbor. I played the opening piece for an Indian dance troupe led by Madhavi Mai. It was South Indian dance with North Indian tabla accompaniment, so I had a little trouble figuring out how to fit. But it turned out to be a good experience, although playing just one piece on a nice stage like that is much too short a time to take it all in. To top it off, I had to hurry off stage and make my way up Pontiac Trail to my next gig in South Lyon, MI. with the Gratitude Steel Band. This time it was with the family, and man, were they sounding great! When I began with the band back in 2001, Dayjumbe was 6, Janiela was 13, and Corretta was just 15. I have watched them grow into their instruments and music like watching a vine find its way up a building, or around a tree. So natural and powerful. There is so much to be said for total dedication. The Russel family is the most dedicated group of musicians I have ever played with. Playing music is truly their life. Chances are, they are playing as you read this. It is inspiring. Once again, I am excited to see what the future holds. The gig was a simple house party in the middle of a huge sub. I think it was a benefit for diabities, or lukemia, or something like that. We could have been playing on the big stage for all anyone in the band cared. It was a great gig to play.

So that brings us to the latest gig. This past Friday, I played with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix. It would be the last time we would play there. We got word as soon as we arrived that they were trying something new and couln't fit us into their budget any longer. Can you guess what something new might be?..........yep......DJ!! I must say, I was expecting this. It was great to have a regular gig for the past 3 years, but nothing lasts forever. Ecspecially when you are the only band that playes at a particular venue. They started by changing the layout, then they added a bar, they changed uniforms, menue items, and finally the house band. I was sad to see it go. I wish them luck. It was fun while it lasted. Being a part of the hoppin' Ann Arbor downtown scene can really get the juices flowing. I wonder what the next gig will be......

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gratitude all wet, twice, Summer camp, Deep Blue, Gratitude in Style

Hello,

I can't believe I haven't told you about this yet. I had a gig with Gratitude on Gross Ile or in Gross Ile, or whatever, it is an island..I think, just south of Detroit. Anyway, we were playing outside under a beautiful big white tent for their country club's carribean night. Everyone was excited and the atmosphere was fine. We played about 3/4ths of our show and the manager said they were going to stop the show because of the lighning overhead. Within 10 minutes of his announcement the sky got dark and opened up into a torrential downpour. Then the wind picked up and the rain was blowing in from the side so hard it was like being in a carwash with no car. I packed up my drums very fast and tried to help the family keep their instruments somewhat out of the storm until they backed up the trailer that housed all the cases. I always keep my cases close to my set on outdoor gigs. This was not the first time I was stuck in the rain, but it was definitely the worst, and even though I did a record pack up, (about 10 minutes from the last beat to in my truck), I still had to empty everything the next day, dump water out of the cases, and towel off all the hardware. I could only imagine what the steel drums looked like.
Two days later I had a gig in Troy, MI at the Troy historical museum. Another outdoor gig, and another day with clouds on the horizon. This time we were in a gazebo about 10 feet above the crowd and I was in back and couldn't see anyone or anything but the newly formed rust on Dayjumbe's steel pan. The gig was fun and the crowd was into it. I felt like I was in some sort of studio and we were playing on the radio. I couln't see the audience, but I could hear them, it was a little strange feeling. We played a 90 minute to try to get in a full show before the rain came. We did. It was 90 minutes exactly from when we started to when the rain came. So, once again, we were packing up in the rain. It was not nearly as bad as two nights before, but it felt like someone was just 'rubbing it in' a little.
*side note* That night my sister Evelyn came down from Marquette, MI to spend the night and catch a ride to the airport for an early flight on her way back to Namibia, Africa to meet and marry her fiance Adnan, whom she met while doing work for the Peace Corps this past year. GOOD LUCK EVIE!! She arrived safely two days later.

Once I was dry from the wettest week of gigging I can remember I found myself back at Go Like The Wind Montessori school each morning for a week. I had signed up to teach a hand drum workshop. Little did I know it would be for ages 3-9. I was a little worried at first, but once we got the drums, shakers, and gongs going, the week flew by and I had a great time. Thanks to my wife, Jody, who helped out a lot and made my job that much more fufilling.

On that Friday I played with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix in Ann Arbor. There was no manager around to remind us about the new kinds of music he wanted to hear us play, but we have started adjusting our sets to include a bit more smooth and swingin' jazz to please and itch they have been having. It was fun, although I was tired from the full week.

Saturday I got to rest up a little before heading out to a lake in West Bloomfield to play a house party. Well, actually it was a house-boat party. I was playing with Lamar Woodall on lead pan, and Kelly on the bass guitar, a small Gratitude crew. The house was on a lake and we had to set up on a house boat that was tied to about 5 other houseboats. The boats loaded up with party goers and set sail for a nice little cruise around the lake. We docked at another house and had burgers and brats. We stayed on the boat and played while everyone ate. Then it was off to the final stop, the Tikki Bar. By the time we got their it was dark and we headed home. The whole party was being photographed and reported on by Style Magazine. They took a ton of pictures and everyone seemed to be on their best party behavior. I thought it was a bit funny how everyone would dance while they took the pictures and then sit. It was fun though, I have never seen such party focus. No one talked about anything to serious, and everyone smiled all the time. It was addictive. Look for the article in the coming months of Style Magazine.

Thanks for reading, and I will write again soon.

John

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stick Fest, Gratitude, Hiawatha

Hello again,

It has been such a great two weeks since I last wrote in the blog. On Saturday the 19th I played tabla and conga with Steve Osburn on the stick, and Maruga Booker on the drumset at the 1st National Chapman Stick Festival in downtown Ann Arbor, MI. Mickey Richard sat in on a couple of tunes with his electric guitar and Craig Brann helped us out with some guiro. It was an interesting show. I really liked playing with Maruga, although our sound on stage was a little out of adjustment, the feeling was solid and groovy. I have been listening to Steve practice and rehearse his pieces for quite a while now, so I was very familiar with them, which always helps in a performance :) The set was just over a half hour long in the middle of a very hot sunny day. The stick fest lasted all day and had some of the top chapman stick players from around the country, including Emmet Chapman himself. It was interesting to see all the different styles of stick players. Later in the day I got to sit in on a jam with Bob Culbertson, Steve Adelson and Maruga. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, and to top it all off, as I was standing in the street watching, Ken Kozora came up to me and asked if I wanted to play with him and Mickey Richard just down the street at the Crazy Wisdom Tearoom. I grabbed my tabla out of the truck and went down and played till 11:30pm. It was a great day. Check out http://www.stickfest.org for pictures soon.


The next week I played two concerts in two parks with The Gratitude Steel Band. The first one was on Wednesday at Hines Metropark near Farmington, MI. It was a nice little show. We did alot of games with hula hoops, beachballs, and the limbo. Lamar Woodall came out and played some lead pan with us. It was great to play with him again. It has been a while and he is such a good player.
The next night was in the city of Gross Pointe Woods. It was a more intimate setting with a smaller stage and relaxed crowd. We played a lot of the same games for the kids. The music was sounding nice and everyone in the group was relaxed and feeling good. It is great to go to work and have everyone smiling and working together so well!

On Friday Jody and left for the U.P. for the 28th annual Hiawatha Traditional Music Festival (http://hiawathamusic.org/). I was scheduled to play in 2 workshops and host another. It was great to go back to my hometown of Marquette and be involved in a festival that I grew up with. The workshops went great. I played tabla with a West African ensemble made up of a kora player Mady Kouyate, African banjo master Cheick Hamala Diabate, a djembe player who introduced himself at Ishmael and a baliphone player whose name I can't recall at the moment. The sound of the tabla and their instruments was so nice. Cheik Hamala loved it. We talked a lot afterwords about how well the sounds went toghether. Hopefuly it will not be the last time I can play with them, they were the nicest guys, and incredible musicians.
Later in the day I hosted a World Percussion Workshop with Jessica Ross and Nick Joseph helping me out. It was so much fun. We brought a ton of instruments and had everyone playing and clapping. It was only an hour long and felt like it could have been two. The last workshop was a simple jam workshop where a whole bunch of guitar, mandolin, violin, flute, and percussion players sat in a circle and played. It was very mellow.
I had such a great time at the festival. It is a true gem. I hope to come back next year. When the music is over, the festival goers sit around camfires and play music all night. It is like being in a great musical dream.

Now it is time to head back to Ann Arbor and do another hand drum workshop tonight. I feel inspired. Thanks for reading.

John

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lots of Gratitude

Hello again,

The Gratitude Steel Band has been playing more than ever lately, and lucky for me, they have been taking me on a lot of their gigs. Two weeks ago on Saturday we had another double header. The first one was a house party in West Bloomfield. It was hot and 4 hours long. We set up in front of a pool and I watched kids use the pool slide and do cannonballs. The music was sounding good and it was a pretty mellow gig. We were using the playing time to warm up and rehearse tunes for the big show later that day down in Detroit.
It was the Jazz on Jefferson music festival. I invited one of my longtime students, Jeremy Bilyeu, to come along. He was a big help hauling equipment and getting us to the second show on time. When we got to the stage, there was a drumset already set up and ready to go, so my job was easy. Jeremy and I got to check out Thornetta Davis, who was on right before us. The sound was great, the stage was nice, and the crowd was gettin' down. We set up quick and started playing as if not to lose a beat from the previous job, only this time the sound was big and booming and instead of watching kids in a pool, people were watching us.
It is great how a band can really come together when they are on a big stage together. It is like the reality of one sound coming out of huge speakers brings everyone together and lifts the spirit and energy of the performance. I was excited to have the Arkansas Traveler, Mr. Larry McDaniel give our introduction. He is the host of the longest running bluegrass radio show in the country. I have listened to him many times on the way to Gratitude gigs. It is as close as I have gotten to mixing bluegrass music and Caribbean steel drums. As an extra treat, two amazing tap dancers came up on stage and traded solos with each other as we played for them. At one point it was just me and the tap dancers playing. They sounded so good that the crowd lept up on it's feet and cheered wildly. The stage was a little cramped when they were up there and all I could see were the feet of the guy on my right. The stage floor had a rubber coating and his shoes were tearing it up, literaly! By the end of the second song you could see the little circle he was dancing in and the marks of all the crazy maneuvers he was pulling off. It was a little hard to follow that act, but we did a cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Sir Duke' and the crowd was back with us again. It was a great experience and I hope to be on the big stage again soon.

A week later on Friday I played with the Ann Arbor Kirtan group. Kirtan is an Indian practice of call and response chanting between a performer and an audience, (to put it very simply). There has been a craze lately in the west of western performers performing on western and world instruments for mostly western crowds and it is becoming a practice all it's own. I had been rehersing with this group off and on for over a year, so it was great to finally have a performance. It went very well. There were about 30 people and the group sounded great. I think we are going to try to perform about once a month in the Ann Arbor community. Friday's perfromance was at the Friends Meeting house just outside of central campus. It was a nice little hall that fit everyone comfortably and made for a nice evening. Two hours of tabla playing took its toll on my left wrist, which slides back and fourth on the drum. I ended up with a nice little blister. Truly suffering for my art ; )

The next day I was on the road down to Huron River Metro Park for a big corporate summer party with Gratitude. It was a long 6 hour gig, (4 hour gigs wind up being a full 8 hour day of work when you count set up, drive time and tear down). It was fun just to play in a park, but we were set up just downwind of Famous Daves BBQ catering tables and the wind was blowing strong. I felt like I left the gig fully basted with a layer of the Famous smokehouse BBQ sauce from head to toe.

The next show was on the 4th of July. It was with Gratitude on a big tractor trailer for the longest parade in Southeast Michigan. I think the town was Clawson. We had our friend Kelly on the electronic drums too, so the beats were pumping hard. Everyone we passed was dancing and clapping. I had just as much fun watching all the people as they did watching us. When the parade was over and we had to drive back to the staging area to unload, the driver got going a bit fast and we almost lost our instruments off the back of the truck. It made things a little tense once we stopped, but we got over it and had a fun time breaking down. Kelly was blasting some Calypso from his van and we were doing the limbo, laughing and having our own little celebration.

Last night I played with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix again and found out that in keeping with their recent remodeling of the cafe, menue, and uniforms, that they also want to remodel the music that the band playes. The manager gave some examples of diferent kinds of music that he would like to hear and asked if we could do it. I am all for it, but I know it is not easy to please when someone hears something different that what you have been playing. It requires a lot of flexibility and willngness to change, and can sometimes backfire if you are not digging what you are playing. I guess we will see how it goes.

Well, I guess that is it for now. Tonight I will be playing hand drums in Ypsilanti at a coffee shop called Bombadills. It is for an acoustic show with Paledave. I think I may even play the bass on a couple of songs. I will keep you posted. Thanks for reading, and I will write again soon.

John

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Many Musical Faces of the Gratitude Steel Band

Hello,

Last week I played 3 very different shows with the Gratitude Steel Band. On Friday we had a gig in Livonia at the Laual Manor. A hospital was hoding a graduation ceremony in the next room and as a surprise ending to the ceremony, they would open the dividing wall and expose a room filled with tropical decorations, food, drinks, Hawiian Dancers, and us. We did all Hawaiian tunes as the dancers danced, changed costumes, and danced some more. Songs like Blue Hawaii, Rock a Hula, Tiny Bubbles, etc. The two and a half hour show ended with a really nice Tahitian drum breakdown that starts pretty fast and just goes faster and faster. It was a nice way to spend an evening, and the food was great!
The next morning I hopped in my car and headed to downtown Detroit for the first ever Michigan Steel Drum Festival. Gratitude was slated to open the festival at 12pm. It was a really easy gig for me, because they had a drumset there already. The sound crew had a bit of trouble getting their stuff together, so the band skipped the soundcheck and just started jamming. It was so much fun, and all the people that were playing after us were totally into the improvisation. I always love playing in the morning or during the day when everyone is their most alert and attentive. The jam that started with Dayjumbe playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on some break drums turned into a 20 minute collage of musical ideas, swells, and releases. At noon, when we were supposed to go on, the sound wasn't quite ready, so it cut our show time from an hour to just over a half hour. We were featuring all the gospel tunes that the band plays at churches and religious events, so we had a small choir with us made up of members of the Russel's church choir, including Charles' cousin Jaquie Crawly. It was short, but high powered and sweet. 8 other bands performed at the festival, but we did not get to see any of them because we had to high tail it over to Canton, MI for the Liberty fest.
We finished in Detroit at 1pm and had to start in Canton at 3pm. The whole band got to Canton at about ten minutes to three. We were ready to play at about 10 after. Luckily, the performer after us was just one guy and a mic, so we didn't have to worry about stepping on another bands toes. By this time, everyone was very relaxed anyway, and the sound crew was understanding and really good at what they did. The gig was so much fun. We were playing with the family, myself on drumkit and the big bad Kelly from Trinidad on electronic drumset. Some of the beats we played together were so powerful that the whole band couldn't help but jump up and down on stage while we played. I think there was a drum solo in every song. I am not sure how it sounded to the audience, but on the stage everything was fat and juicy and it was so much fun!! I just kept looking at Kelly and smiling. We were in polyrhythmic bliss. The band did alot of reggae and calypso tunes for this show, which are great for dancing, but it was really hot, and there weren't very many people in front of the stage, so we kept the party right on stage with us and had a great time. It was one show that I wish that I had recorded.
This week I am playing another 3 shows with Gratitude. One is a community concert in Gross Ile, MI. another is a house Party in the burbs, and the last is at the Jefferson St. Jazz festival in Detroit. I have been playing with this band for almost 5 years now and I still never know what to expect when I show up for a gig. I am sure this weekend will be the same. Thanks for reading.

John

Monday, June 05, 2006

Summer is Here!

Hello Friends,

Summer is here and things are heating up. As the public schoolyear comes to and end, so do my presentations for the Center for South Asian Studies. I did a presentation for a Asian Civ. class at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago. It was set up by my good friend and freelance reporter Deborah Pohrt. Thanks Deb! Later that day Meeta Banerjee and I played for a world cultural night at Lincoln Elementary School near Ypsilanti MI. It was a bit chaotic. We were sitting in between the China and Japan rooms and people were passing by all night. It was fun though. When the crowd is ever-changing like that, then the music can repeat, which is what we did. We played our favorite pieces over and over. It was a great, rare practice/performance. I brought along Hartley Combs, one of my drumset and tabla students. He got into all the food, and even sat in with Meeta at the end and played a blazingly fast Keherewa folk medly. It was fun. He is going to try to get Meeta and I into his class at Slausson Middle School before the year is out.
In just a few minutes I will be going to teach my last music class for the schoolyear at Go Like The Wind Montessori in Ann Arbor. I will be at the school full time next year, so this feels more like a beggining than an end, but it will be nice to have the summer off. We had our big spring concert on Thursday the 1st of June. It was coupled by the release of the Go Like The Wind C.D., which turned out great! 6 tracks, all original, and all original C.D. cover artwork by the students. It was a fun project. We performed a couple of the tracks at the concert and the audience loved it. Although, it is really not that hard to win over an audience made up of parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters!
The next day I played with Paledave at the Taste of Toledo festival, which was right downtown. It was an easy gig for me, they had a drumset already set up, so all I had to bring was my sticks. It wasn't the prettiest drumset, but it sounded great.



I believe Dave has been working on the recording project some more, and you may be able to check it out soon at paledave.com.


We finished playing, had some good Toledo food and then it was back home to record a demo with Deep Blue before our gig at Cafe Felix. It was great to use my new home studio. Both Paul and Scott were really happy with the new space, and we are planning more recording in the future. Here are some pics from that.




The gig at Felix felt a little long. It was really slow, and I think it was partly due to the Pistons game. They lost the playoff series that night to the Miami Heat. I guess we won't have to worry about that conflict for a while. My condolences to any Pistons fans. It wasn't all bad though, by the last set, we were really feeling the groove and playing some fun stuff.
The next day Scott and Paul came down to record some more. It went well, and afterwords we went with Deb Pohrt to the Firefly to check out the Joe Summers Trio. It is a rare occurance to have a whole band with a Saturday night free to check out another band. We stayed the whole night, had some good food, and the music was great.
The Summer is going to be filled with lots of playing. I just booked about 7 gigs and counting with the Gratitude Steel Band, including a gig next week at the first ever Michigan Steel Drum Festival at Hockeytown in Detroit. I will also start doing some gigs with the Ann Arbor Kirtan group, and I think I will be at a Chapman Stick festival in Ann Arbor playing tabla with Steve Osburn. I am excited to take it easy and just play. Thanks for reading, and come back soon.

John

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tabla, Jazz, Playing w/ Meeta, and Too Much Rain!

Hello,

I keep hearing this rumor that Washtenaw County is going wireless in 07'. The rumor has kept me from persuing an internet provider at my house, so blogging has been a bit out of reach since moving to Ann Arbor. I am now sitting at Oz's Music, which is just 6 blocks from my house, but seems like a long way when it is pouring rain outside for the 5th consecutive day. I have been busy organizing things for the summer, and doing lots of music in the meantime.
Since Harshad left I have played twice for the Center for South Asian Studies at the U of M. One was a 3 hour show at McComb Commmunity College that consisted of myself and Dan Piccolo as a tabla duet. There were supposedly 3 other musicians coming, but plans were not clear, so it ended up as the tabla show. It was fun, and the organizers were happy, but I am not sure what the audience was thinking. It wasn't so bad because we were in a cafeteria, so the audience kept changing. It was good practice for Dan and I. He is now on a U.S. tour as the drummer in the up and coming band NOMO, so keep an eye out.
The second gig was at Tappan Middle School in A2. I got the time wrong and showed up 20 minutes late, but just in time to play and show the tabla to about 20 middle school students. It was short and sweet.
On Friday the 5th I played the regular gig at Cafe Felix with Deep Blue, but this time something was different. They remodeled the area where we set up, so the band was now visible to about 5 more tables...Yeah! We were always tucked in this wierd spot in the Cafe where it was difficult to see and even more difficult to get the sound right. Now it feels much more natural and people will be able to see the band. I look forward to more gigs.
The only other show I've had is with Meeta at the Environmental Protection Agency in Ann Arbor. We played a lunchtime concert and talked about the music with the audience. Meeta knows a lot of the employees there, so it was a fun show to play. I even brought the camera...




Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Week with Harshad Kanetkar

Hello,

For the past week, my house and my life has been filled with the wonderful sounds of Harshad Kanetkar on tabla. I was hosting Harshad for the Ann Arbor leg of his U.S. tour and spent lots of time talking about life as a musician. He arrived on Tuesday in the morning and spent the next 4 days teaching workshops at the Michigan Union on U of M's campus.


I was happy to see some of my tabla students come out and get a taste of a full time tabla maestro from India. Harshad and I shared lots of ideas about teaching, students, music, and our respective cultures. It was a very fufilling visit for both of us. He will be back before too long so keep an eye out.
On Friday Harshad played at the Sun Moon Yoga Studio in Ann Arbor. I organized the event, and it went off wonderfully. The audience was appreciative and excited. I was all smiles all night. My World Percussion Ensemble opened the night with a rendition of Austin Wrinkle's 'Wart Hog', and then Harshad took the stage for an hour long solo that held the audience captive and got a standing ovation at the end. 6 hours later Harshad and I were in a car on the way to the airport. He will be playing all over the U.S. until June. I am not sure when he will be back, but I will keep you in the loop! Here are some pictures of the event on Friday.





Thanks John

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ann Arbor's Newest Resident!!

Hello again,

It has been almost a month since my last entry, and I can't tell you how happy I am to be able to be writing in the good ol' blog again. So many things have happened in the last month that I hardly know where to start. I guess the most prominent thing is that Jody and I have moved to Ann Arbor. We got a nice little house, a little bigger and a little newer than our last house, and 6 blocks from Oz's Music, where I teach my private lessons and hand drum classes. Not commuting has already had a huge impact on my life. I feel like I have more time on my hands, which is alowing me to relax, and be much more calm in the day-to-day. Let's see, why don't I start with a short list of all my musical ventures in the last month:

March 21st: Kirtan chanting gig with a guy named Treavor at Sun Moon Yoga Studio. Awesome place to play, great acoustics, and really nice owners. Only been in business for 6 months, but already voted #1 yoga studio in Ann Arbor by the Current Magazine. I talked with them about hosting a concert and they loved the idea. More on that later...

March 23rd: Played with Paledave at the Blind Pig in A2 (that's the locals shorthand for Ann Arbor : ) I never felt privy to use it till now!) It was great to play a rock show at a storied place like that. In the green room there is a spot on the wall that has 'Nirvana" written in blue tape. Legend has it that Kurt Cobain put it there himself just before before they left the place for the last time. The show went well and prepaired us for the studio time coming up.

March 31st: Presented tabla to a high school in South Redford, MI. It was part of a community outreach program funded by the Center for South Asian Studies at the U of M. I will be doing many more of these, as they have been going very well and getting popular amongst the schools.

April 2nd: Played with Mike Waite, my old friend and lead singer of Whipple from my hometown of Marquette, MI. We played at Old Town Pub in downtown A2. His sister lives down here and set up the gig. It was a fun night. I just played on hand drums and he had an acoustic guitar. I hope he comes down more often. There is nothing like playing with old friends.

April 7th: 12 Hours of Drumming!! This should almost be it's own entry. I started the morning taking my Bassoon lesson at EMU. My teacher is Dr. Pierce. He is one of the coolest teachers I have had in a while. He has the Cal Arts style of teaching, where we just go in and play. Practice is a given, self motivation is a given, and when it is time for the lesson, it is packed with information, 'real feel' playing, and the time just rolls along. I come out totally consumed with thoughts of Basson and a bounce to my step. On this day in particular, I was steppin out extra quick so I could make it to Big Sky Studios in Ann Arbor,(3 blocks from my new home!).
I recorded 6 tunes with Paledave. We were in the studio from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It was such a great experience to record my drums in that place. The engineer Greg really knew his stuff, and the sound was great. All the rehearsals and gigs paid off. We had learned the songs well enough to do lots of takes without taxing our brains too much. Dave has been going in and laying stuff over it for the past couple of weeks. I will let you know when it comes out!
From the studio it was off to Cafe Felix for a night of drumming with Deep Blue. It was a really busy night and the atmosphere was full of energy. Nick Joseph came by and sat in a bit. The sound really came together and we got a great response. We talked about recording in my new studio, which I am right in the middle of building. I will keep you updated on that as well.
When the night was done I had been sitting on my drumset for almost 12 hours. It felt great, but made for a rough Saturday, which was our big moving day. I must thank Nick, Aniket, Malvika, Jessica, Matt, Amy, Jason for helping Jody and I move. We got a big 24' truck and did it all in one big, full load. The piano was by far the heaviest item. It was a bigger job than I had anticipated, but everyone hung in there and we got it done. I have been furiously bulding walls for the studio basement and hope to get it up and running within a week.

Wow, I think I am all caught up. Tomorrow I will be taking my Clarinet written final and my Conducting final at EMU, and then building the rest of the day. No students tomorrow because everyone is on break. This Friday is Deep Blue and coming up is Harshad Kenetker, student recital, and the release of the Go Like the Wind Montessori C.D., which we recorded last Wednesday. I have been putting tracks over it and hope to have it done within a month.

Thanks for reading, and I will be back soon!!

John

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Thoughts on Moving to Ann Arbor, Deep Blue, Paledave

Hello Friends,

Well the giging has been a little slow lately, but the excitement and anticipation of moving to Ann Arbor has been more than making up for it. There is just a little over 2 weeks before we start the move and I am just reeling over the fact that I will be able to ride my bike to Oz's to teach. I have never been big on driving. For most of my college career my bike was a major part of my transportation. Since moving to Michigan in 2001 and starting my professional career, I have averaged around 30,000 miles a year! Most of my days begin and end with an hour in the car, and I can not wait to kiss that lifestyle goodbye.
I am also excited to be a part of the community of Ann Arbor. I feel a deep connection to this place through my students, teachers, and musician friends that I have worked with over the years, and I am proud to become an 'official' Ann Arborite. I look forward to the many unique and incredible opportunities that can only be found in Ann Arbor...the future looks bright ahead.
Friday was St. Patricks day and it was a wild one in Ann Arbor. I was rehearsing, teaching, and recording most of the day, so I did not get to be as festive as most, but I still had a great time driving around and looking at all the green people in the streets. Scott Brady from Deep Blue came into town a bit early and we did some fun recording before playing at Cafe Felix to a steady, jolly, very appreciative crowd. The night went by fast and the town never seemed to slow down. I was tired from classes at EMU in the morning, rehearsal in Belville with Paledave, teaching at Oz's, recording with Scott, and then playing. It wouldn't have been so bad if I didn't have the hour drive home, but that will all end soon enough : )
Paledave (http://www.paledave.com/) is a group that I have been rehearsing quite a bit with lately. Dave Bureher is the leader/songwriter of the group and he asked if I would play drums on his 2nd upcoming album. We will be recording at Big Sky Recording (http://www.bigskyrecording.com/), (which is right down the road from our new house!). We planned to have 3 or so rehearsals, then play a couple live shows, and then go into the studio. We played the first of 2 live shows last night up in Bay City MI. at a pub downtown. We opened for a band called the Swagering Rouges. The bass player for the Rouges is Jon Carmona, and he is also going to play bass on the album. It was cool to see him in his element. He is from Bay City and has been playing the same pub with the same band for over 5 years.
Walking into the place gave me flashbacks of when I played with The Flat Broke Blues Band. It was my first real band. I joined when I was 19 years old. I played full time with them for over 3 years (they are still together and just put out a new album, http://www.flatbrokebluesband.com/). We played in every, pub, bar, club, and juke joint north of the Mackinac Bridge. Eventually the band made it all over Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois, but most of the time we were in a packed little place playing the blues for anyone who would listen. It was a fun time in life, and it all came back to me last night. The smell of stale beer and smoke, the tight quarters to play in, the somewhat apathetic 'early' bar crowd that slowly turnes into a rollicking mob as the night progresses. The band playes loud enough to fill a small stadium, constantly pestering the crowd to dance and enjoy the music as much as they do. It was all so familiar. Paledave opened the night and it went really well. It is never easy to play all original music to a new crowd, but the point of the gig was to hammer out song structures and give the music a live feel once we get into the studio. It was a great first gig, and it makes me look forward to the next one, which is this coming up Thursday at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. It is one of those legendery dives that play host to many national acts that come through town. I am happy to be playing their for the first time, and I think it will give the group the momentum it needs to have a good recording experience.
I will keep you posted as to when the album comes out, so keep coming back! Thanks for reading.

John

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Back on Blogs, Gigs, Changes

Wow, I can't believe it has been almost a month since my last entry. It feels good to be back on the blog. I have been overtaken with the extra tasks of moving, which will be happening in less than a month! My wife Jody and I will be moving to a house in Ann Arbor that is about 5 blocks away from Oz's Music Evironment, which is where I do the bulk of my teaching. Walking to work is a luxury I have never had in life, and I am very excited to end my commuting lifestyle.
Since my last entry, I have played just one gig with Gratitude, two with Deep Blue, and one small one with Meeta Baneerjee. The gig with Gratitude was nice. It was at the West Bloomfield Public library. The band is based in West Bloomfield, so they had a lot of friends and neighbors in the packed crowd. It was a nice easy gig, just about an hour long, and we got to play all of the good steel drum band songs. I don't have anything booked with them in March, but I am sure that will change soon.
The two shows with Deep Blue were both at Cafe Felix, and they could not have been more different from each other. The first one was packed with people. Steve Osburn was playing a show just down the road at the Crazy Wisdom book store, and when it ended, everyone came to Felix. Steve brought drums and shakers, which made the last set a lot of fun. There was a lot of teachers from Oz's there. It felt good to see everyone outside of the store. It made me even more excited to move to Ann Arbor and become more integrated in the A2 music scene. The second Deep Blue gig, which was just this last Friday, was dead. I think there was never more than 3 tables of people. We, did, however, have a great response from the staff at Felix, who are usually too busy to stop and listen. I actually enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere very much.
The only other show was a little Indian Classical music presentation at Go Like the Wind Elementary, which is where I teach music to 4th-7th graders. I was excited to play for the students, and also to play once again with Meeta Banerjee. She is the sitar player that I have played with a lot in the past. She has been going to MSU to persue her doctorate degree, so we have not had time to play together. The show was just 15 minutes long and we had just one microphone between the two of us. It felt a little rushed and a little quiet, but it was fun to play for the students who were sitting right in front of the stage. I look forward to playing with Meeta more, but I am not sure when it will happen. Actually, there is a lot about the immediate future that I am unsure of, but I am extremely excited. I feel like this summer will be one of the best yet. It feels good to be back on the blog tip, and I will be sure to come back more often. Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon.

John

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter, Practice, 2 Gratitude, Deep Blue


Hello,

It has been a couple of cold winter weeks since my last entry, but the music has been heating up. Lots of rehearsals and practice, I guess it's not much worth writing about, but it sure feels good to be working 'behind the scenes' on my music. I have played a couple of gigs with The Gratitude Steel Band and one with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix. Felix was hoppin last Friday thanks to a small bachlorette party that turned the cafe into a mini dance club. It was fun to watch the band react to a slightly tipsy girl asking us to play the 'sexiest song we know'. Things got a bit out of the general comfort zone of the cafe atmosphere, but it was all in good fun. By the way, after a couple of minutes of deliberation, we decided on Blue Monk
The first Gratitude gig was a nice easy one hour gig last Saturday at a library in Mount Clemens, MI. I showed up a half hour before showtime in my rental car, (my van was in the shop from the accident). The car was too small to fit my big drumset so I had my small student set with me. It worked well in the small basement room, and we had a good response from the crowd. The show was supposed to be an all reggae show, so Charles called on Kelly, a very tall guy from the Caribbean. He is always all smiles and is a a great musician to play with. He has a great accent and knows so many cool songs that I have never heard of. It is fun to play new songs, (new to me anyway), with someone who is so enthusiastic.
Wednesday morning we were in Holly, MI for a show at Holly Academy. It was a special gig for me because it is the school where I did my student teaching over a year ago. It was great to see all the students, and one of my old schoolmates, Matt Dufresne, was the new music director. It was fun to catch up and hear about some of the perils of being a first year teacher. The show went well. I play with Gratitude again on Sunday at another library in West Bloomfield. In the meantime I will be practicing and getting ready to move to Ann Arbor, but more on that later....

Thanks for reading,

John

Monday, January 23, 2006

Deep Blue, Gratitude Vs. DJ, Crunch

Hello,

What a week it has been. My schedule has started to settle down, and I am excited for the year to unfold. Thursday evening marked the first World Percussion Ensemble class for the new term and everyone was pumped and ready to go. I am excited to see where that leads. On Friday I played with Deep Blue once again at Cafe Felix in Ann Arbor. I asked Nick Joseph to come and sit in with us on congas. I have been asking him to play a lot of gigs with me. He has been a student of mine for a couple of years and needs lots of playing experience, so I figured coming to my gigs is a perfect way to get it. He did a good job and is really learning the art of simplicity.
I had a last minute gig booked with Gratitude on Saturday night at a five star hotel in Birmingham, MI. It was for a wedding reception. The wedding was in California a few weeks ago, so it wasn't a typical reception. We were packed into the corner of a relatively small ballroom. There was a D.J. that we were supposed to share the night with. We went on at 7p.m. played for an hour, and then took what was supposed to be a 40 minute break. During the break people from the party kept asking when we were going to play again. They really liked the first set. We heard nothing but compliments. After 40 Minutes passed they told us that they want the D.J. for one more hour. So we waited for another hour. We went back at 10 p.m. to start playing. The booking agent said that the bride wanted the D.J. for the rest of the night!! We just shook our heads and packed our stuff. It was a little wierd to pack up when the party was still going on, but we did it rather stealth-like and were out of there within a half hour. It blows my mind that someone would pay so much money to have a live band and then stick with a D.J., but I guess the customer is always right. To top the night off, as I was trying to navigate my way out of Birmingham I found myself heading south when I should have been heading north. I checked my mirrors and tried a U-turn, (which I found out later is illegal within all Michigan city limits. There was someone following so close that I couldn't see them in my mirrors, so when I made the turn, she hit my driver side door. I got a ticket, a smashed door, and a date on the phone with my insurance company. By the time I got home I was pretty grumpy. Oh well, as they say back home...What'cha gunna do?

Thanks for reading, and drive safe.

John

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Off to a Good Start, Deep Blue, Gratitude

Hello,

I can't believe January is already half over. This past week has been very hectic between scheduling students, practicing, and getting ready for a new term. I am taking 3 classes at Eastern Michigan University: Conducting, Bassoon and Clarinet. When I am done with them, and a couple of other requirements, I will (finally) be a fully certified music teacher in the state of Michigan. Not to mention one of the few with a world Music performance degree. I look forward to the possibilities of working in the public and private schools in the near future.

In the meantime I will be busy with shows, workshops, classes, students, and whatever else may happen over the next 4 months. So far this year I have played a couple of times. Last Friday I was with Deep Blue again at Cafe Felix. It was good to be back. It looks like I will be playing that gig with them for a while.

On Thursday last week I played a sweet gig with Gratitude Steel Band at the Canton Village Theater. I asked one of my students, Nick Joseph to come and play congas with us. He also sat in on the drumset for a tune that I play tabla on. He did a great job, and I think he impressed the band enough to get a call back. I also asked one of my younger students, Hartley Combs to come and check out the show. He was a big help in setting up and tearing down, and he even took some pictures. I know I will be seeing him on the stage soon enough.

I will keep you posted on more gigs. The next is this Friday again with Deep Blue at Cafe Felix. Thanks for reading, and I will talk to you soon.

John

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