Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Just Another Average White Christmas

A very happy Christmas and New Year to you all, after what has been something of an up-and-down year for most people it seems. Aren’t they all, though, when you look back on it over a 12-month period – who could honestly say that their year has been nothing but joy, success and gay abandon from end to end? Maybe when you were about ten you could probably think that way, especially since almost none of today’s complex and inexplicable customs, mores and distractions were a part of life then, unless, of course, you were born after 1972 in which case forget it – none of this applies!

What does apply, though, is the fact that we here in the Over-age White Band have seen it all, and what‘s evident is what we live through today and have to deal with on an hourly basis would have sent better men than us running for cover back then if they had so much bombardment in a week or a month, even. Never mind the televisual, radiophonic and multisensual blitzes that savage our consciousness incessantly, but just the schedules and expectations put on everyone in this infancy of the 21st century are enough to keep you permanently on a state of high alert (and anxiety) and off-balance a great deal of the time, which makes any reasoned attempt to qualify a totally great year difficult, to say the least.

Nevertheless, we’ve had some great moments to carry us through this year, from the great snowfall that trapped us in DC for three days last February (albeit with a fine Irish pub in the hotel, which ensured a recent-record weekend bar tab for AWB...nothing that would have challenged the old days, you understand) to the very opposite, a fine weekend’s reward in the Bahamas and Florida as some kind of payback. That one had its own little hiccup, though, as the US base-ball season seems to go on forever and it ended up with the Florida Marlins contending for the final game on our gig night, which somewhat dented the crowd we would have had otherwise. Come to think of it, that same extended season caught us in Boston (with the same results) a week or so before that with the final couple of games of THAT series. Our usual second house at Scullers was by then delirious, drunk or delusional, depending on their team colours, and certainly were not heading for a jazz club either of these final nights. So add these elements to my aforementioned life-complications and you get the yo-yo factor I mentioned.

We had a fairly triumphant return to Japan this year after an absence of some little time, and a reintroduction to the greater audience at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival, which was held on one of the hottest weekends of the year there. It’s a fantastic setting up in the mountains at the old Formula-One grand prix circuit at Gotemba (now held at Suzuka, as those who follow the sport will know) and the view was incredible till the late-day heat haze blocked out the world.

The music on offer was fantastic, too, and the Brecker Brothers (who used to play on our early albums) made an appearance, closing the first night’s show with some amazing (and amusing) moments both musically and comedically. Randy is still a fine dry wit on the mic. besides one of the few trumpet players I can actually listen to, let alone enjoy. Funny, Brian Dunne and I share the same view of trumpet – if it aint the best, it’s a friggin’ test. Marcus Miller and his two ‘projects’ were on display each of the two nights, and right after us on Sunday, Nile Rogers and Chic gave a spirited performance – the first time Onnie or I had ever seen them live. The Chic girls were stunning, and seeing Omar Hakim do that set on drums, then turn around into a deep jazz thing with Marcus right afterwards was pretty amazing stuff. Unfortunately our bus had to leave before the end as the return journey to Tokyo on Sunday night totally eclipses the Long Island/New Jersey to New York City extravaganza one encounters on summer weekends, by at least double...and then we all had early morning departures back to the States and UK respectively.

While there, though, we reacquainted ourselves with the British jazzy-soul group Incgnito, which led to a double bill at London’s Forum to end out our performing year in style. This came as the finale to our European/UK tour in November – our second tour of duty there this year, after our May success – and it seems to herald another revival of sorts for us in Greater Europe. We had some success through continental Europe in the mid nineties, but have pretty much been UK-bound in most recent years, so it’s always nice to find territories opening up again as a new generation of funksters discovers the roots, and the root-ers with them. We are already set for the UK leg of next year’s first visit at the end of May/beginning of June, so hopefully we’ll be able to continue this trend past that and get a fill of food, wine and other delights of the Continent.

Whatever, we will have all our usual commitments in the States, beginning in April with a Nor’Easter lasting about three weeks or so, and taking in some of our favourites such as The Birchmere for a couple of nights at Easter, and The Keswick near Philly for a couple the following weekend, as well as other perennials like Turning Stone and Harrisburg, to mention but a few. If I miss anything, it’s because I’m a lousy ‘lister’ and it will all be available on the website, placed by our professional and fully-qualified ‘lister-of-events’ and master-of-web, himself. I’m in the wrong union for that sort of thing. 

I will stick to the matter-at-hand instead, and reiterate our holiday greetings to all of you, whichever continent you’re reading this on, and whatever particular festive proclivities you have, be it Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa or Buddha’s Big Bash, and we look forward to seeing you in the year absences accepted or excuses tolerated.