5:30 AM April 14
I returned to campus on Monday, even though there were no classes—we had our makeup class on the first Friday of school. I needed to make sure I had all of the information on the gig that night, but Antonio, as usual, was a little late in giving this to us. He finally sent us an email with the address of the club and call time for sound check around 12:30. The only local train headed there by that point left at 1:30. Having not given us enough time to make it to that train, we settled for the last remaining seats available on any later train—here, the Monday after Easter is like the Sunday after Thanksgiving—first class on a Swiss train headed to Zurich, which stopped in Bologna, where we could transfer to a Ferrara-bound train. This significantly cut into the money we might have made, but it all worked out, and we were there more than two hours before sound check.
As we had so much time to kill anyways, we decided to walk it a half-hour across to the far side of town where the club was rather than take a taxi on the gorgeous day. In the process we got to see some of the city, which seemed mostly untouched by tourists, and in that sense, purely Italian. At one point we passed through a great park full of locals taking in the beautiful spring weather, playing soccer, and relaxing under the shade of large trees. Everyone there was Italian, but I felt temporarily transported back to America, feeling an urge to join in the fun, playing at the park like I might do with friends or family back home.
Walking across Ferrara
A gorgeous day at the park
The club itself was situated within one of the large round buildings (below, right) used as part of the fortification at the old wall of the city. The performance space was on the second floor, itself complete with a balcony level. It was a fabulous room that sounded great. As Piero would note later on, "this is the first time we can really play together, listen to each other, and interact. Now we can make music."
John, Dave, and I practiced, eventually joined by Piero, for over an hour before Andy arrived for sound check. At that point, we ran through a few more things, but not too much, so as not to burn out on anything before the performance.
This gave us plenty of time to eat, and eat we did, as dinner was also spectacular. It began with a large antipasto dish covered with enough deli meat to make three good sandwiches. The star item though, was the pumpkin tortelini I had, coated in what I could best describe as a bolognese sauce of ground meat and tomato. It was unlike anything I've ever had before. The combination of the pumpkin with the meat was a bit of a perplexing taste at first, but I soon came to view it as a wonderful pairing. They also brought us a large portion of penne in a more traditional bolognese sauce to share. For dessert, we were treated to a great chocolate cake, cut into little pieces like brownies. At the center of the dish was a little bowl with a mascarpone sauce to be spooned over the cake. It was a great combination, especially alongside a good Italian cafe espresso. After such a meal, I felt especially compelled to play well.
Our first set went on a little after 10:30, and immediately we could feel the difference of playing in that space. We had a nice balanced sound. I got to play through a real guitar amp for once—our practice space only has a tiny Fender amp, the kind intended for middle school kids teaching themselves "Smoke On The Water." The bass was present and audible, but not overbearing. The baby-grand was fully open and able to fill the room, and the crowd was into it from the start. We played solid through the whole first set, and I felt particularly good about my feature on "Spring Breeze" again, but it took us a little while to get up to full force in the concert. By the last tune of the first set, "'Smatter," we were really hitting a groove.
We came back for the second set at a higher level, and although we didn't pick up exactly where we'd left off, we again built throughout the set towards the last two tunes. At that point, Andy invited his friend Tom Kirkpatrick, himself a trumpet player, to come join us for the old standard, "When Your Lover Has Gone," and Kenny Dorham's "Lotus Blossom." They both went really well, and I felt better than ever on "When Your Lover Has Gone." I was only a little disappointed because I usually have a pretty good solo on "Lotus Blossom," but I just couldn't feel the ideas come to me as they usually do on that piece. The crowd gave us a nice applause, which began to die out, but then a few people started calling out for a "mis," the Italian version of an encore, so we did a real nice rendition of "Bag's Groove," a slow blues written by vibraphonist Milt "Bags" Jackson. Those last few tunes were particularly great because we had big three-part harmonies going between the two trumpets and guitar sharing the melodies. It was definitely a successful gig. I just wish we could have come back the next night to top it.
By the time we got on the road, it was approaching 2:00AM. We could have stayed in a hotel that night and gone back to Florence at 7:30 or 8:30, but it made more sense to catch a train as soon as possible that night, and catch whatever sleep we could on the train or at home. The best we could do was a 4:20 train, which fortunately went direct to Florence. I did not want to fall asleep in the station or on the train though, as I had my guitar with me, so I spent most of the time working on these last two blog entries.
Back in Florence at 6:30AM, walking by the leather market at San Lorenzo as they prepare for another day of tourists.