Thursday, January 25, 2007

Happy New Year; Kirtan, Puja, Gratitude in Oak Park and Holly, Book Release

Hello,

It took a couple of weeks, but the gigs are now in full swing. The time off was just what I needed to get ready for another promising year of musical adventure. I was so happy to see an article in the Ann Arbor News about the music program at Go Like the Wind. Everyone at the school was pumped to be in the paper, and the article actually helped to give me some perspective on my role in the school. I feel so lucky to be in the position I am in at the school. This year should be smooth sailing.

I am looking forward to some fun dates, including a big recording project in Chicago with some old friends, a small recording project in Ann Arbor with the band Paledave, a couple of gigs in Traverse City with the Nick Strange group, a handfull of gigs with Gratitude, the Kirtan group, and a reunion with my pals Deep Blue, (our first gig since Cafe Felix). I love the prospect of so many different shows. I know that there are a lot of musicians out there that strive and thrive on playing one style, one instrument, and stay with one band, but I am not that musician. I love the diversity and the challenge of many different scenereos in my musical experience. Sometimes things can get overwhelming, and I must sacrafice time, quality, or even (gulp) money to be able to do what I love. The adventure, the relationships, and the common musical threads that come with every experience give me energy and just makes sense in my life. I wouldn't trade it for much of anything. I feel very lucky. I also know that I couldn't do this without the love and support of my family, ecspecially my beautiful wife Jody.

So here is what my January looked like on the gigging front. First gig of the year was not until Thursday January 19th. It was a Kirtan chant at the Friends meeting house in Ann Arbor. It was a very nice way to start the year off. The chanting crowd was a bit smaller than it has been. It was the first chant we did without Judy Piazza. She has moved to Ojai California and is now soaking up the sun. Her influence on the group was definitely missed. She will be back in March to sit with us again. I look forward to it.
The next day I performed with Meeta Banerjee in Saline, MI. for a Puja, an Indian religious celebration. We were in an elementary school gymnasium. It was a 20 minute presentation. The nature of Indian classical music is such that you present the rag (melody) slowly and then incorporate the tal (rhythm) and then improvize, getting faster and faster and ending in a flurry. Meeta and I do this whole process in about 45 minutes. Fitting it into 20 minutes definitely rushed things. When it was over I felt like we were just getting going. I am looking forward to more shows with Meeta. We were off for a while as she started her doctoral program at MSU, but now that she has gotten through her first year and has a bit more time to play. I am sure I will be writing about more shows soon.
On Saturday I loaded up the drums and drove to Oak Park, MI for a show with the Gratitude Steel Band. It was the Oak Park Winterfest. It was a nice little community party. We played for a couple of hours as people came and went. It was the first gig with Gratitude in over a month. Guy Barker, the guitar player, was with us on this one. We also had the Pacific Island Dancers with us. They are always a crowd favorite! It felt good to play with the full band. We played a lot of new songs which were all original tunes by the Russell family (a.k.a. Gratitude). I noticed a definite theme happening. There was a watermelon song, bananna song, and pineapple song. It is all part of a new show they are putting together to promote good health in the schools. They are definitely the hardest working family I have ever met.
The following Tuesday I was back in Holly, MI. with Gratitude to play the now annual Holly Academy show. Holly Academy is where I did my student teaching for my music teaching certification. I was blown away at how much the students have grown. We did 2 shows, one for the lower elementary and one for the upper elementary and middle school. The students I taught were now mostly in the upper grades and swear they all looked a foot taller. I suppose this phenomenon will be occuring many more times as my teaching career goes on. Before I know it I will be seeing these kids as adults. Hopefully they will still be playing music!
A week later I was a multi-instrumentalist for Dr. Dennis Chernin at The Crazy Wisdom Tearoom in Ann Arbor. It was Dr. Chernins book release party for his new book "The Complete Homeopathic Resource for Common Illnesses". I was helping with the music for his demonstration on different kinds of meditation. Before the night was through I played the bass, guitar, and tabla. Glenn Burdick was also on guitar and a guy named Atmaram was on the harmonium. Dr. Chernin did the singing. For the final chant we enlisted the help of the Kirtan singers. It was fun to play all the different instruments, but it made for a big load to haul. The following Sunday I took it easy and read my new book. Thanks Dr. C.!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading and I will talk to you soon!

John

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