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I drove 17 hours to 2009 Savannah Jazz Festival.  When I got to my sister’s house, I told her I needed to be at Blowin’ Smoke.  She said, “Not before you have something to eat”  I argued for a few minutes, but it was a losing battle.  I got my stuff in the house and had a sandwich, then we were off to the venue.

When we arrived, the kickoff  jam session had been going on for over an hour.  I can’t even begin to tell you about the energy under that tent, it was pretty awesome! My sister introduced me to a few people and those people introduced me to other people.  They also pointed out some people.  One of the people that was pointed out was Jody.  I went right up to him and introduced myself to him.  Right away, I could tell he was a class act, not yet knowing who he was.  Afterwards, I went back to the table and enjoyed the show.

A little while later, I took Gilda out of her case and told the man in charge what I wanted to play.  I didn’t know much at all, at that time, I was comfortable with a blues in F.  I ended up on stage with Jody and another man named, Roosevelt. I had know idea what was going on.  ImageThe tune they played was a tune I had never heard of.  I had only been playing for a year at this time.  I was up there doing my best Milli Vanilli impression.  Jody saw I was struggling, and in between breaths, he was telling me what to do.  I couldn’t quite grasp what he was talking about at that moment.  Then the solos started! There was no way in hell I was going first.  Roosevelt had told me how nervous he was.  I was very surprised, because he was awesome!! We were obviously coming from 2 different worlds.  I was next.  All I wanted to do was leave, but Jody told me what to do, as if he knew I wanted to walk away,  right there on the stage.  So, I did, the best that I could. I could not wait to get off that stage!

Later on, I talked with him and he was so encouraging.  He said I should learn “Sonny Moon for Two”.  I learned it that week.  It is a pretty simple melody, solos are open to interpretation. So I learned it.  I went back everyday of the festival to play “Sonny Moon” but could not get up on stage for the rest of the week.

Jody encouraged me to learn a few standards and then, the next year (if I came down) maybe I could get up there and play a tune.  Well, I went home from the Jazz Festival and gave a 30 day notice and moved back to Savannah.  I saw Jody was playing at Blowin’ Smoke on the 2nd Friday after I moved back.  I went there to see his show.  He was amazing!  During his break, he came over to talk to me. I was quite surprised that he remembered me.  He asked if I had my horn and I said “Yes.” He told me to get it and he would get me up there.  Howard Paul, of Benedetto Guitars

http://www.benedettoguitars.com/

was also up there, and he had a show a the Jazz Festival also. Jody asked me what I wanted to play.  I told him, “Sonny Moon for Two”  That is what we played.  I couldn’t believe I was playing with these guys! It was an amazing experience!

Jody came to the Square one day to play with ME! I couldn’t believe it when I saw him hustling across the way.  That also was an amazing experience! We played together for about 40 minutes to an hour. Any words he spoke, came from his heart  and was said with love and respect.Image

Since the 2009 I have not been back on the stage for the jam sessions, but Jody has invited me on HIS stage a few times.  Every time has been a pleasure and an honor.  Like I said, he is a class act.  I have seen him outside of the music realm also, and he always has time to talk. Every word that comes out of his mouth is said with love and sincerity.  I have a huge amount of respect and admiration for him.  He may not know it, but he is kind of a mentor to me.  He gave me a challenge well over a year ago, and I have still not done it.  I am not sure I want to do it.  That is between him and me.

Anyway, the reason I wrote this post is because, in a world with corporate giants and nobody having the time to give someone the time of day, this man does.  He is a family man, a friend, a mentor, a teacher and a world class Jazz musician. I should also mention he owns a mouthpiece factory.  If you play clarinet or saxophone please, do yourself a favor and check mouthpieces at http://www.jodyjazz.com/

I actually bought a Jody Jazz mouthpiece a year and a half before I met him.  I didn’t know that is who he was until later.  Thank you Jody for guidance, patience and support.

 

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During the first 10 days, I didn’t feel very productive.  I had done a lot of research to figure out certain scales and/or chords to get an authentic sound, and in the first 10 days only had 3 progressions written.  Also, I had been sick for several of those days.  I was feeling very discouraged about not getting my Challenge cd finished.

In the last 10 days, I feel I made up for that. I now have 10 Haiku written and 10 progressions down.  I have worked very hard and continued to look up certain scales and chords to match what I am saying in the Haiku.  I have 5 based on literature, it kind of became a theme after my first two.  The other 5 came from various places or thoughts I had.  I would like to share all ten of them–

1,  Myshkin, the Poor Knight/ Heart torn between two women/ Tragically, lost both

2.  24601/ All he did was steal some bread/ He is, Jean Valjean

3. On a Knight’s errant/ To honor the Peerless One/ With his trusted Squire

4. Poems, short stories/ A master of the macabre/ Mysterious death

5. Gollum and Precious/ Together for Centuries/ Consumed by Passion

6. She’s from Canada/ Now living in Australia/ The Orange Blossom

7. Warm soft summer rain/ In the Squares of Savannah/ Gilded by the sun

8. Cafe barista/ A cappuccino in hand/ Frothy heart on top

9. Changes will happen/ Good, bad, or indifferent/ Never lose yourself

10. Glorious sunshine, On a chilly Winter day/ Chase those blues away

Number 10 is a Haiku based on a photo by my friend Diana.  We have done a couple collaborations in the past and I asked her if she would send me a photo and she did. To see more of her work, click on Life Thru Blue Eyes  on the right, in my blogroll.

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Now that I have all of my progressions and Haiku written, all that is left, is to record.  I had to take Gilda to shop (today) because there are all kinds of leaks and she is very difficult to play (A huge thank you to my brother for helping me with that!). Also, I have to do the album cover work and then I can send it off.  In some ways, this time of year is my favorite time of year. This is my 5th RPM Challenge and it sets a fire under me to come up with new ideas.  It is most helpful, especially after the long, cold month of January.  I am looking forward to seeing the end product of this project.  I hope you enjoy it too!

Over this past summer, my friend Wes filmed his senior thesis for SCAD.   As I have mentioned before, I met Wes during my first SCAD film “Sharp”.  He had asked during a project in between if I would like to be in his film.  Without hesitation, I said yes!  He told me it was a film noir-esque with some comedy.  I thought it was a great idea.  I asked him if I would be the private eye and he said no.  He wanted me as one of the thugs working for “the Boss”.  I didn’t really care what he wanted me to do, I was just happy to be a part of his film.

We went over the script and I had brought up a line that I thought fit in with my character and he loved it.  I asked him if we could put it in there and he had to check with the script writer.  He did, and she said it would be fine.  I can’t say the whole line, but I can tell you I mention that “there are two types of people in this world…..” it gets a little profane after that.  Anyway. filming took place over 4 days.

Even though I was not a lead, I was on set for most of the filming, as I love being on the set and watching the behind the scenes.  Wes’ parents catered the set and they did an amazing  job!  For the budget they were on, it was amazing.  At the same time I was an extra on CBGB and I said this then, and I’ll say it now- in direct proportion to the size of the 2 sets, Doug and Marianne did as awesome as major film caterer.  I couldn’t stop going on about how great the food they made was.  It was certainly one of, if not, the best catered sets I have been on yet.

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Most of the filming was done in a warehouse where it was over 100 degrees.  Thankfully, as on any set, there was plenty of water for everyone.  I have to say the crew Wes put together was nothing other than patient and professional.  Wes as a director, was very organized and knew what he wanted. He was very patient in working with the actors, especially in that heat.  It didn’t really bother me, I like the heat.  But then again, I wasn’t in a suit ;)  The chemistry between the actors was also excellent.  I hadn’t met anyone of the actors before this and again, I have maintained a friendship with some of them.

There was a joke one of the guys wanted me to play on the 1st Assistant Director.  We checked with Wes and he said it was cool.  I pretended to flip out and ask why everything was taking so long and could we please just finish up!  I got into it with Wes and then he couldn’t hold back laughing and I laughed and look over at the 1st AD.  He didn’t like it.  He told me sit down and get back to work. I got a little nervous about that and later I went to apologize and he was cool.  He was definitely a great sport about the whole thing.  He never saw it coming and the crew members who didn’t know about it, thought it was real.  The looks on some of their faces were awesome.

“Ace in the Hole”  is about a private detective who is kind of not all there.  He has trouble solving cases and when an old flame hires him to find her cat, he witnesses a crime.  He got on the case instantly and finds their hideout.  In doing so he solves the greatest case of his career.  Their is some humor, their is some drama and there is some fun.  As I mentioned earlier I was not a lead in this film, but I am very involved.  I got to do some voice over work for the trailer which is posted below and you can watch.  I also get to play on the soundtrack which we are recording this week.  I am very proud of this film and proud of my friend for pulling off this great film.  I am also grateful for the opportunity to have such a big part on this film.   If you live in the Savannah area, “Ace in the Hole”  will be premiering at the SCAD showcase on November 15th 2012, at the Trustees Theater on Broughton St.   See you there!

http://vimeo.com/52043103?action=share

I answered a post on facebook to be an extra for a day, it was actually a few hours.  It was a very simple shot where myself and two others were looking at a paper and being shocked at the headlines.  While we were doing it, a man came over to tell us what to do and he had a cigarette in one hand and a lighter in the other.  I asked him if that was for me, since I was just leaning up against the machine on a corner.  He gave it to me and lighted it and we did two takes and that was over.  Not knowing who he was, I went over to thank him for the smoke.  We started talking for a couple of seconds and he told extras casting director to bring me back the next day for a birthday party scene.  We talked for a few minutes and found we had a few things in common and clicked instantly.

Still not knowing who he was when I showed the next day on set, I walked right up to him and started talking to him saying thank you for bringing me back.  We talked for a few minutes, then it was time to get busy.  I found out a little later on, he was Rutiger Von Spies, the Director.  The scene was for an Ambassador’s birthday party so we were all dressed to the nines.  The other extras, who came on for the day were really wonderful people.  When we all showed up at basecamp that morning, we all got to know each other a little bit.  This is one of my favorite parts of doing these.  Whether they be SCAD films or being an extra in a feature film, you always get to meet all kinds of interesting and wonderful people.  With any luck, you also get to maintain friendships with them.  I have been fortunate enough to have been able to do that with several of the people I have met.

We were in the backyard of this beautiful house filming nice party scene and Rusty Joiner was going around greeting everyone. One of the extras, Abbie, and I were “just married” and I was introducing her to Rusty’s character.  Between shots, he was just a cool guy talking with everyone on a one on one basis.  He told me his favorite quote for my next project I am doing- “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”  He didn’t know who said it, but with a little help from Dorothy(another extra) we discovered it was Zig Ziglar.  In fact, I got a lot of quotes from my new  friends,  and I am looking forward to making that next project.  I am grateful for all of the quotes I got that day! But that is another story.  When we moved out to the front porch of the house, Pete Kasper was there as well as Patrick Bauchau and some actors from Savannah who are doing quite well- Jackson Morgan and Anthony Paderewski.  All of them were just super cool!  Pete Kasper’s first words to me were “I love that suit!” Then he introduced himself.  Later on he was telling me and Pepi (another extra) jokes and stories.  He also walked around greeted and talk to everyone else. Patrick Bauchau introduced himself and we talked for a few minutes.  He also commented on my suit and while we were talking he mentioned Sonny Rollins.  I told him how I met Sonny Rollins in that suit.  During the shooting of this front porch scene Rusty is bringing his girlfriend to meet his father, Patrick.  I am talking to (I think, one of his ex-girlfriends) played by Lidia Pearl, and then she goes over to talk to Rusty.  There is a little confrontation between Pete and some other guests and he asked to leave.  I don’t want to give too much away so I will stop there.

During lunch, I was getting coffee at the same time Rutiger was and we went back to his table.  He started talking about the day before to the other two ladies at the table. He is quite an interesting gentleman.  His German accent is very thick, so one really has to pay attention when he is talking.  He, like everyone else in the cast that I met, had no problem taking pictures and just sitting back talking with everyone. He brought up learning Italian, (because of my last name) and later on the set, came over and gave me advice on how to learn it.  It sounds daunting, but I would like to give it a try.

The atmosphere on this entire set was so laid back.  I must say the actors and actresses (at least the one I met) were all very cool and sweet, as were the crew.  It was really cool to see my friend Nikita on the crew.  He was DP on the first SCAD film I did, where I met him.  They weren’t all about them, they wanted to know about you and what you do.  There were a few of them that went to a play Pepi, was talking about.  Pete and Patrick told me they heard me playing in the Square a few nights before.  I saw Pete several days later on the town.  He remembered who I was and after a few minutes of conversation,  said “I don’t have a quote yet, but I will.”  This experience was just awesome all the way around.   I want to say a huge thank you to Rebecca, the extras casting agent, for bringing me in on this project.  I met some awesome people and had a wonderful time!

 

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Saturday is typically the biggest the day of the Jazz Festival, starting at 4:00- the line up,

4PM US Navy Band Southeast Dixieland Band “TGIF”
5:45PM Jazz Hall Of Fame w/Ben Tucker, Teddy Adams, Huxie Scott, and Howard Paul. Guest Artists: Warren Chiasson & Quentin Baxter
7PM Andreas Varady Quartet w/Scott Gidden, Delbert Felix and Pete Miles - Sponsored by Miner Wines & Benedetto Guitars
8:15PM Tony Monaco B3 Trio - Sponsored by Miner Wines & Benedetto Guitars
9:30PM Savannah Jazz Orchestra featuring sax greats Ed Calle & Sam Skelton – Sponsored by Jody Jazz Mouthpieces                                                                              

I spoke a little to soon about the rain.  It started raining last around 7:30ish.  Fortunately, the stage is covered so the equipment doesn’t get wet.  It wasn’t too heavy that it deterred people from staying.  Forsyth Park was packed.

Unfortunately, I missed a good portion of this day.  I was working most of the afternoon and up to 8:00.  I was really looking forward to seeing Andreas Varady.  He is a 15 year old jazz guitar virtuoso.  I had actually met him and his father the day before, in the Square I was working in.  I checked him out on youtube and it made me really sorry I missed him.  Check him out on the Late Late Show from last year http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0iwgDFk62g&feature=related  and see his other videos too!

By the time I got there, Tony Monaco was playing. http://b3monaco.com/ I could hear the unmistakable sound of the Hammond B3 when I pulled up to Forsyth.   It was great walking music, from the entrance of the park all the way up.  On my way to find Alex (she had volunteered to work one of the booths)  I ran into some friends and everyone was having a great time.  It is hard not to when listening to B3 and someone who knows what they doing.  What I didn’t know until I got there, Howard Paul was in his group on the guitar!  That was a most pleasant surprise.  I saw what I think to be the second half of that show and… WOW!    I found the booth Alex was in and sat there and listened for a little while, then I went right up close.  There was some good energy coming of that stage.

The final act was the headliner of the Festival.  The Savannah Jazz Orchestra played a few tunes to get it rolling.  Of course, they were flawless. from what I could hear.  Sam Skelton came on and he did his half of the show.  As I said to my friend Brian, later on at the jam session- “What is up with Sam Skelton?  Is he from another planet?”  I have heard many saxophonists in the past week, and this guy was playing faster than anything I had heard all week.  He was simply amazing and the SJO was amazing too, in keeping up with him.  http://www.kennesaw.edu/music/faculty_bios/s_skelton.shtml

Ed Calle came on after him.  I had seen Ed Calle before when I was here 2009.  He played with the UNF Jazz Ensemble then.  I thought he was great then.  He came out last night and took off like a rocket.  He has a wonderful personality onstage when he comes out and backs that with incredible passion.  Don’t get me wrong, all of the musicians do, but something about  Ed’s energy onstage (to me, anyway) seems a little larger than life.  It was fun to see both them as the band leader while they each played, conducting the SJO, it just made for a show all the way around!  http://www.edcalle.com/

I left before Ed’s performance was over, so I do not know if  Ed and Sam had played together as “dueling saxophones” or not.  I know, what was I thinking leaving before that was over?!  It had been a long day.  Anyway, I don’t think I could describe how awesome it was if it did happen.

I almost didn’t make it to the Jam Session. It was about 11:30 when Alex called me from Blowin’ Smoke and told me to get down there.  I got dressed and went down and was glad she persuaded me to go.  Normally, the musicians that played on stage during the evening, are the ones in the Jam Session.  That wasn’t the case last night.  It didn’t matter, it was a great session.  It was also great talking to the musicians I know, and meeting some new ones and getting re-acquainted  with others.  We had a great night!  As always though, it is a bummer when it ends.

To me, the Jazz Festival is a great time all week to see friends and hang out and make new ones.  I am always a little sad when it ends.

I have to say the folks over at Blowin’ Smoke do a fantastic job.  Brian has the best staff working there and everyone seems to enjoy working there.  Many of them, I met at my first Jazz Festival in 2009 and they are still there!  If you come to Savannah, this is a BBQ joint you definitely have to check out.    http://blowinsmokebbq.com/

Once again, the weather was perfect for a night of Jazz.  Every year it seems to rain at some point during the and create problems later in the evening.  Let’s hope it holds off for two more days. Last night, I got down to the Forsyth around 8:30.  I was working and I missed the first band that came on.  From what I had seen on youtube, it looks like Doc Handy and his congas may have been a great show  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3voi6nmOAY8

When I arrived, the Jay Stewart Band was on the stage. I thought they put on a great show.  I, of course really enjoyed the featured saxophone solos.  They did wonderful covers of Steely Dan’s “Peg” and Hall and Oats “Sarah Smiles”  and their originals were also put together well.  They did a song called “Blowing Smoke” which I found to be a little humorous, because it is Blowin’ Smoke who hosts the Festival every year.  To sample a little bit of what I heard, click here http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jaystewart2

Every year, the University of North Florida Jazz Ensemble #1 takes the stage on Friday and they always play behind biggie in the Jazz world.  Last year was Stan Killian this year, vibraphone legend Warren Chiasson.   First, I want to say about the UNF Jazz Ensemble- they are just amazing.  They are kids from 17 or 18 – 20 or 21, and let me tell you, they are as tight as drum.  Every single year they come and every single year, they never cease to amaze the audience.  The section solos are flawless as the they play in perfect unison.  The featured soloists are just simply amazing.  They have cds available http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/unfjazz  and believe me, what you hear on here, is nothing compared to the live show!  This part of the Jazz Festival has come to be one of my favorite parts of the Festival, the electricity is there and they get people on their feet dancing.  Warren Chiasson is rated one of the top 5 vibraphonists in the world, so we were lucky to have here.  He has played with everybody during his career.  I would like to sit with him and hear some of stories.  Just like all who are masters of what they do, he makes playing the vibraphone look easy.  On Sunday, we saw the preview of what he was going to be like during the Jam Session kick off, and he was great.

Then there was the Jam Session at Blowin’ Smoke after the show, the funnest part of the night.  I went early last night, I met Alex and my friend Wes there and  we stayed till the end.

What I like most about these sessions is, it is just so laid back and it gives you a chance to talk to the musicians you saw play earlier.  Also, you get to see a lot of the local talent Savannah has to offer.  Last night,  as what usually happens on Friday night of the Festival, several members of the UNF Jazz Ensemble went over.  I only knew one of them, Mercedes Beckman, I met her last year.  In the big band she plays baritone saxophone and in the jam session she played alto.  She plays both superbly.  She is in her senior year and will be off to graduate school next year. She may not be around next year, so I am glad I saw her the last two.  The other students, whose names I didn’t get were just as superb.  If these students are the future of Jazz, I would say the future of Jazz looks promising!

It is called Blues on the Green because it is Blues night of the Jazz Festival, and it is the first night of the festival to take place in Forsyth Park.  The weather has been fabulous all week.  It was a perfect evening for an outdoor concert.  It is always a great night of blues.  I missed the first two performances because I was working.  Amburgey & Hanson, which you can sample and/or buy an album here http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/amburgeyhanson After sampling some of it my self, I am sorry I missed them.  The second one was the  SSU Gospel Choir.  I have been to four of these and I have not seen a Gospel performance.  It makes sense that it would be featured on Blues night, since blues sprang from Gospel music.  I missed that one too.

What I did see and hear, were the other two performances. First,  The Eric Culberson Blues Band, a local blues legend in Savannah never disappoints http://www.ericculberson.com/   He plays his guitar so crisp and clean and his voice is a little raspy, almost like Joe Cocker but not quite as raspy.  It is a great contrast.  He is a pleasure to listen to and I wish I could get out to see him a little more often.  Although, Alex and I had the pleasure of seeing him play a show a few weeks ago with two other local legends, as they played cigar box guitars.  It was much more intimate and cordial.  They played “in the round” but sometimes would back each other up.  Anyway, the reason I mention that is because, he ended his show on Thursday with a tune he did at the show I just mentioned.  As much as I enjoyed his show Thursday and the wonderful music he played, my favorite song was “Some Humans ain’t Human”  He also played it on his cigar box guitar. It is a great tune with a great message.  I thought it was his tune, but I later found out, it is John Prine.

The second and last performance of the night was Li’l Ed and the Blues Imperials.  They played some great blues. They were the headliners for the evening. A Chicago blues Band with a great sound.  Some of the slide guitar solos were perhaps, some of the best I have ever heard.  We were in the back of the park, so we didn’t really get to “see” much but we could definitely heard the awesome tunes they were rocking out.  Toward the end of their show, they did a tune called “Life is a Journey”   You can hear it here-  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MfE7FkeSHI  As great as it sounds here, it was amazing  at a live show.  I had never heard of this band before, but much like past headliners on Thursday nights, they have a new fan!

After the show I went home.  I had seen some posts on facebook about the blues jam session at Blowin’ Smoke.  Knowing it would be great, I went and caught the last half hour.  Eric and Lil Ed were jamming together and what an amazing “show after the show”  There were also some locals who were up there having a great time jamming with the band.  Sometimes I think the jam session can be better than the performances.  Obviously, the shows are great, filled with electricity.  There is something about just watching them having some fun onstage.

Day four of the Festival was also at Blowin’ Smoke.  We got there a little early so we could get a table.  One way to meet some new people is at the table.  Since there were only two of us and we were waiting for a couple of friends, they sat a couple of nice ladies with us.  They were delightful.  One of them was Bob Mastellar’s wife who just happened to be the first of two acts last night.

Bob Mastellar & The Jazz Corner All Stars  started at 7pm and they come from The Jazz Corner in Hilton Head, SC.  They have live music 7 days a week http://thejazzcorner.com/    I saw them last year as well, I thought they were great. This year, they were a little different. Jody as in for the entire show this time- last year year he sat in for a couple tunes.    They played a lot of New Orleans style jazz and looked to be having a blast onstage.  Later on in the show, they brought up a surprise vocalist- Gina Rene’,   and an accomplished vocalist right here in Savannah and  a regular during the jam sessions.  As always, the solos were spot on and everybody was into the show.  Some of it reminded us of the kind of music you might hear in films. If you can make it to the Jazz Corner and see this Quintet, I think it would be an awesome way to spend an evening.

The second  band to play, was Swing 42.  A nine piece Gypsy Jazz Swing Band  http://www.swing42hotclub.com/  Gypsy Jazz as a lot of people know was made famous by Django Reinhardt, and of course, they did some of his tunes.  They also did some originals that were excellent.  I have never seen a nine piece Gypsy Jazz group before so I was excited to see them.  They did not disappoint!  The recognizable strumming of the guitars started the show and from there, it never let up.  I don’t like to say anything negative, however,we missed  a few really wonderful solos on account of the mics not being turned up enough.  I don’t know why that was, they were doing a great job with the sound until that part.  I am glad we moved up to see this band.  The rest of the entire show was awesome.  A lot of it the music they played was just so relaxing.  I tell you, if you had a rough day yesterday, and came to watch that show, you would have left in the best of moods and/or very relaxed.  It was very nice to be in that audience and listen to them.  Their solos (that we did hear perfectly) were excellent.  I think they come from Columbia SC, and if you get to a chance to see them- do it.

On a personal note, every year at the Jazz festival I see some friends where it is the only time I see them.  I also make new ones throughout the week.  Some I see the following year and some I don’t. I miss my friend Christian, who is the first friend I made in this town at the 2009 Jazz Festival.  He moved away to bigger and better things after he graduated from SCAD.

There is a man named Stavros that I met a couple of years ago and I saw him last night.  I introduced Alex to him.  As I told her, he has a wealth of information about jazz music. He is 82 years old and has a lot of stories about musicians and some of them, I hadn’t heard of.  He is really great to talk to about jazz music and you can see the glint his eye when he tells these stories.

On the first two days there were plenty of surprises and last night, the 25th, they just kept  on coming.  Last night at Blowin’ Smoke, The Jody Espina Quartet took the stage for the evening.  I see him as much as I can, he has a standing gig here in Savannah every weekend at Rancho Allegre.  I have had the pleasure and the honor of being invited to play a song with on a few occasions.  Not only is he a world class saxophonist and musician, but he is also a class act as a man.  He also surrounds himself with other world class musicians so every time you see him in concert, it is a real treat!  He had Howard Paul on guitar, Billy Huffman on drums and Delbert Felix on Bass.  That in itself would have made for a great show, it always does.

Jody told a story of how he sat in with a latin jazz band a few months ago.  It was more like he “snuck in”  anyway, the band leader looked over and thought “cool”.  He said to Jody, “You played with me for free, so I am going to play with you for free”  This happened last night.  That man’s name is David Lugo.  He plays the congos and he was phenomenal.  I had never heard Jody’s band with this sound and it added a whole new flavor to the show. So now, it became the Jody Espina Quintet!

It said in the program there was going to be a vocalist, Claire Frazier.  She lives in Savannah now, but she has been all over the place and even opened a show for Ella Fitzgerald in her younger days!  I had also never heard Jody’s band with a vocalist. It was just surprise after another. So by the time Claire got onstage it was now, The Jody Espina Sextet!   She did a version of “What a Wonderful World”  and on the the final verse-and I don’t know how she did it- she said “Like Louis himself would say”  and she sang in a “Louis” voice, it was amazing.

During the second set, Kirk Lee, a fluglehorn player sat in for a a few tunes.  So for a while it was The Jody Espina Septet!  There was a lot of  things going on on that stage last night.  To the audience everything was seamless.  I find when Jody plays a show, you never know what is going to happen.  He was also doing things on the saxophone last night that were amazing.  I have seen him play a lot, and every time he just leaves me  in awe!  Last night was no exception.   If ever you get the chance to see him, DO IT!  You will not be disappointed.

The 31st annual Savannah Jazz Festival kicked off Sunday, September 23 with the usual opening Jam Session starting at 5:00pm.  We got there just after 6:00 and it was a full house under the tent at Blowin’ Smoke.  We were able to find a couple of seats and put our names in to get a table in the back.  They have an area where you get food, such as pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers and also get beers.  To get served though, there are limited tables, but well worth the wait as you listen to the music.  It is a great set up they put on there.

As always, the Jam Session is hosted by Teddy and several of the Coastal Jazz Association members get up and play familiar and not so familiar standards.  Throughout the evening, vocalists- both male and female got up there to sing. Horn players took turns and everyone had a chance to show their stuff.  This being the 4th time I have been, was not disappointed.  It is always a great show.  It was Alex’s first time there and she had a great time. Local legends such as Jody Espina, Howard Paul, Eric Jones and Huxsie Scott were all present and as always did amazing solos and performances.  There were a couple of surprises too, the legendary Warren Chiasson, who plays the vibraphone showed up and gave us a “preview”  of what is to come later in the week as he takes the stage in Forsyth Park on Friday night.  There was also a man, and I don’t know his name, who played the steel drum and had the crowd on their feet.  He added a wonderful element to show!  I think he was here last year, but I missed him.  I am grateful to have seen him this year and hope that he comes for the the Jam sessions later in the week.  There was one other surprise- to me, anyway- a fellow musician who was a busker on River St. for years was there.  His name is Rasheed.  A couple of years ago, he had a liver transplant and I hadn’t heard anything about how he was doing since there was a fundraiser for him.  It was such a treat to see him on opening night and see that is doing well.  He plays the soprano saxophone and he is an excellent musician.  It was really good to see/hear him play again and get to talk to him.  The show ended around 10ish and it was hard to imagine that we had been there that long.  It almost felt like we were just getting warmed up.  There will be more of these Jam Sessions later in the week and I am looking forward to them! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures available but I will in upcoming posts.

Monday night of the Jazz Festival is movie night, sponsored by the Psychotronic Film Society.  (Click the link below to learn more about that)

http://psychotronicfilmsavannah.org/

I have only missed one of the films in the 4 that I have been to.  The ones I have seen were all excellent, so I knew this would be too.  This year they showed “In Good Time: The Piano Jazz of Marian McPartland”.  I am embarrassed to say, I didn’t know who she is.  Well, I do now, she is amazing!  She has played with or knew EVERYONE.  This was a documentary  filmed over the course of 4 years.  She was 92 when the film was finished, she is 94 now.  She still plays and is still lively. There was a treat on that night too.  The director of the film, James “Huey” Coleman Jr. was there and he presented it and stayed for a Q&A session when the movie was over.  He also signed copies of the dvd for those who wished to purchase it.  For those who don’t know about Marian Mcpartland, I encourage you to check her out and do a little research on her and find out about her.  Here is a video of her performing “In the Mist” She plays beautifully.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PMP8RZ2-eo

The first two days of the Jazz Festival always get me fired up for the rest of the week.  It is what I look forward to all year, as many of you know- it is what brought me to Savannah!  Hope to see some of you later this week!

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