Saturday, September 29, 2007
Here's the routine: arrive in new town, check into hotel, soundcheck at 4, dinner at the venue, concert, back to hotel, the next
morning bags and instruments are loaded, arrive in a new town, repeat. Sometimes there's a few hours to check out the city and sample some local food and nightlife, but the days and towns start to run together. One constant is Cracker Barrell for breakfast every morning. There's a Barrell every twenty miles in The South and each one is exactly the same and it seems kinda homey to eat someplace familar every morning.
It was a privilege to hang out with the guys in the band for a week. I especially enjoyed being backstage before and during the concerts. There's a lot of time to kill and chess is played at a serious level by a number of the musicians. The hour before the concert reminded me of batting practice before a major league game. Everyone has their own routine. Suits are ironed with various degrees of concern for personal appearance, horns are unpacked, scales and blues are heard. The guys joke with each other, or walk around slowly concentrating on their tone , or lost in thought.
In each new town there's a souncheck around 4:00 pm. The guys run through three or four songs while David Robinson adjusts the mics for the best sound in each hall. Dan Nimmer is the first to sit down and warm up, each venue has it own piano and he must get comfortable with a different instrument every night.
Last spring Wynton Marsalis invited me to join him and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on the road for a week of concerts. The schedule took us through Louisville KY, Meridian MS, Nashville TN, Asheville NC, Atlanta and Savannah GA. I brought a camera and a sketchbook to make a visual record of the life of this remarkable band out on the road.