Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gig Week #1

9:00AM April 11

Directly after my guitar lesson, at 3:30 on Tuesday, I headed down to the train station to meet up with John Bishop (drums, above left) and Dave Mainella (piano, above right) for our gig in Bologna that night. We arrived just after 5:30, finding Antonio waiting for us there at the taxi stand outside the train station. The other jazz ensemble had played in the smaller town of Ferrara the night before, and Antonio went straight to Bologna the next day without stopping back in Florence. The other group felt they didn't play their best, but the crowd just loved them anyway, giving them a standing ovation and prompting an encore.

We were excited for our own big night, but immediately after reaching the club we were thrown off a bit when we discovered the setup. Due to neighbor complaints, we would not be allowed to use a bass amp, the piano could not be amplified, and I would have to play through either the P.A. or the otherwise functionless bass amp, which our bass player, Piero, had brought up from Florence. I chose the bass amp, which was better than the P.A., but still did not have a nice warm quality for guitar.

Also due to the neighbors, the performance would start on the early side, going from 8:00-10:00, and no later. All things considered, the performance went really well. We all had some great solos, and I felt particularly good taking the lead on a ballad of mine in the middle of the set, "Spring Breeze." It was a tough atmosphere though, as the room was very stale, and the bass was rendered inaudible without amplification. I know Piero was having trouble hearing himself standing right next to it as he played, which is never a good sign. Usually I will drop out during a piano solo to give the pianist room to create their own harmonies, but I continued to comp under Dave for most of the night just to give him any semblance of a bass under his sound.

Overall, I came off the bandstand feeling really good about it though. It was an awkward situation, especially for our first performance together, but everything was really solid. I would give us a 7.5/10. Antonio told us later that we played "good, but good is what I expect from you guys. You gave me five percent of what I know you can do. You have to just lay it all out there." We all expect good things next week though, at the cozier club in Ferrara.

The whole night Andy Gravish, our ensemble director, who plays trumpet with us, introduced me by my Italian name, "Adriano Ponti." By the end of the night, that was the only way that Antonio would address me too, introducing me to a few music management people in the audience by that name, to which one responded, "no, it's Bridges."

The last train out of Bologna back to Florence left at 10:08, so Antonio booked us a hotel for the night. We stopped in to drop our things off and then went out with John's Divine Comedy teacher, who commutes from Bologna. First we got some pizza, as the club forgot to bring us the second course we were going to eat before the performance, and we were all quite starving, then we headed off to a blues bar and chatted for a good two hours.

It was probably 2:30 before we got to sleep that night, and then we got up by 7:00 the next morning in order to reach the 8:00 train back to Florence. We are only allowed to miss classes if there is no possible way to get back in time, and John and I still had to be back for 10:30 Italian class, which we did.

Thursday night John Spencer and I headed off to the American consolate in Florence along with Isamu (jazz piano) and Evan to play background music for a congressional delegation in town as they ate. I spent the first half turning pages for John at the piano, who, as always, played fabulously. The second half I played some real standard soft jazz with Isamu and Evan. It all went really well, and one of the congresswomen told me that she just plopped down in front to watch us the whole time. We took the requisite photo with the congressman, and then we all headed off. Surprisingly, it did feel a lot like stopping in America for the few hours we spent at the consolate.

Unfortunately, I hit one wrong button on my small recorder at each of the gigs, so I have no record of either performance. On Monday in Ferrara, the people working the sound board are supposed to record us, as they did for the other ensemble, and the Blue Note in Milan is now talking about testing out their new video system when we come to play at the end of the month, so there should be plenty of good recordings to come. In the meantime, you can check out my Florence group, the Afterthought Trio/Quartet on our site, and you can listen to a new tune of mine called "Tuesday Troubles," which I recorded at our practice last Monday.

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