Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 20th: Day trip to Florence

I dont understand how English speakers derived the word Florence our of the native name Firenze. It was destined to be yet another day of walking-- although I dont think any of us really expected to be walking around for 8 hours-- I wore questionably comfortable flip-flops.
There is the most amazing artwork in Florence, most notably, David-- I opted out of seeing the actual David, mainly because there are about 5 copies of him scattered about the city, the cost was 13 Euro, and the que was an hour long. Instead we braved the 2.5 hour line at the largest of the Medici' museums. This was most definitely worth it-- the museum is MASSIVE and contains hundreds of ancient sculptures aw well as painting from every Italian artist you could imagine. Near the end of the museum there is even a room full of books of neumatic notation (old music) from the 14th century. Pretty amazing. I am disappointed htat I was unable to see more that I did in Florence. It would have been beneficial if I had re read my book from 12th grade humanities class (so I would be able to concisely describe the artwork).

July 20th: Day trip to Florence

I dont understand how English speakers derived the word Florence our of the native name Firenze. It was destined to be yet another day of walking-- although I dont think any of us really expected to be walking around for 8 hours-- I wore questionably comfortable flip-flops.
There is the most amazing artwork in Florence, most notably, David-- I opted out of seeing the actual David, mainly because there are about 5 copies of him scattered about the city, the cost was 13 Euro, and the que was an hour long. Instead we braved the 2.5 hour line at the largest of the Medici' museums. This was most definitely worth it-- the museum is MASSIVE and contains hundreds of ancient sculptures aw well as painting from every Italian artist you could imagine. Near the end of the museum there is even a room full of books of neumatic notation (old music) from the 14th century. Pretty amazing. I am disappointed htat I was unable to see more that I did in Florence. It would have been beneficial if I had re read my book from 12th grade humanities class (so I would be able to concisely describe the artwork).

July 19th: "That"'s it, the final concert

Today marks the final day of an era. It started out as an typical Italian day: Jason Hausbak and I walked to the nearest pizzeria for our 60th/61th pizzas. Im starting to get the hang of this language: "Prego, un pizza cotto e aqua natural"-- Ive successfully mastered the art of bastardizing Italian.
On to the good stuff: the performance. For the 3rd night in a row, we played in an open square in Perugia. Being that it was a Saturday, the square was even more packed than normal. We started slightly early, in an effort to lengthen our total playing time. The set was very ambitious-- it was made up of tunes that we, in general, play very well: Heat of the Day, The Other (a brand new Neil Slater original), Havona, Ordinary Deviation (comp, S. Jacovino), If you could see me now (arr. N. Slater), Beautiful Friendship, Until I met you , Side Effects (Slater), Song for Gabe (E. Weiss), and Got a Match (as fast as possible). Craig Marshall (with the help of our guide, Bobby) explained to the audience that it was the final performance of Neil Slater. He received a very long ovation from the crowd. We received such a long applause after Got A Match, that we played an encore of Machito-- after what I thought was the final note of my One O'Clock career, we proceeded off the stage to pack our horns. The audience wanted no part of this, they kept clapping-- so we had to play another encore: Night Visions-- then we ran off of the stage.
The band presented Neil with a signed poster of the Umbria Festival, a signed picture of Neil (in one of his typical open mouthed/pointing poses), and a bottle of nice champagne.
This show is the last for:
Saxophone: John Leadbetter, Isaac Lamar, Chris Bullock
Trombone: Sara Jacovino, Ben Polk
Trumpet: Sean Foley, Justin Stanton, Evan Weiss
Rhythm: Jiri Levicek, Tim Goynes, Ross Pederson

After the show, our bus driver drove us to the hotel and then back to the square for some celebration. Bobby led Hil, Ross, Tim and myself to a great restaurant (after traversing half of the city and finding every other one full). We enjoyed a huge 3 course meal-- 2 hours later, we returned to the square to find our friends (in general meals take forever over here) Back in the square, we were met by shoulder to shoulder crowds of thousands and hanging out and having a great time.
A few hours later, 4 of us decided it was time to return to the hotel-- This meant getting down the hill. None of us wanted to spend the extra money to take a cab: the most obvious route: run down the hill. It was a refreshing 20 minute jog down a steep hill-- I managed to avoid falling on my face. We were quire overheated and had to go for a late night swim (quite fitting considering that the trip started in a similar manner)

July 18th: Day 2 in Perugia

The festival is still going strong-- brought to you by Hag coffee and its "Pleasure Moments" campaign. Speaking of coffee, the coffee in Italy is amazing- and for only one Euro (for an espresso or latte), I can drink a ton.
That being said, I used today to catch up on some much deserved sleep (most likely spurred on by the over consumption of coffee, i'm certain).
Highlights of the day include:
1. consuming my 15th Italian pizza in 4 days: I am surprised at the quantity of pizza that is served in this country; I expected it to be a false stereotype. Like there were bikes in Amsterdam, there is pizza and pasta here (even in nice restaurants).
2. Playing another great set at the Umbria festival. We performed during the 9.30 time slot-- which, unfortunately, made it impossible to go watch Chaka Khan at 8.45. I took my last solo as a member of the One O'Clock (I didnt play one on the next show) over my arrangement of 3 Blind Mice. The audience was once again, humongous.

Tomorrow is Neil Slater's last performance as leader of the One O'Clock Lab Band. It will mark the end of a 27 year career- This also marks the last performances of at least half of the members of the band.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July 17th: Perugia/ Umbria festival

We arrived at the Plaza hotel early in the early afternoon. Our tour guide Bobby briefed the band on how to walk up the hill and reach the festival. The city of Perugia is build on and around a big hill-- there is an elaborate network of escalators, of all things, to help you reach the top. I found his explanation very confusing-- as did much of the band, and opted to stay in my room and get some work done. This is the first time the entire trip that I sat down and wrote something (quite an aberration- considering I practically live in the computer lab at school). I chose to miss a great concert by Bill Frisell--like North Sea, we have artist passes that allow us free access to all of the shows! I chose wisely: one band member got very very lost in the city, for a good 2 hours (and missed the bus to the gig), when he tried to make his way back down the hill. Luckily, he righted himself, and ran into us at the Gary Burton show.
Around 9, we were able to take in a bit of a concert of Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Antonio Sanchez, and Steve Swallow. I recognized the stage: this was the exact place that Keith Jarrett made so famous a few years ago! I wish I could have seen the entire set-- the programming was a little strange-- the first two tunes were both in A minor and were both the same feel-- this being said, they are great musicians and I am grateful that I was able to attend the show.
Now for our concert: I think I played for more people than I ever have in my entire life. We played the 11:30 PM slot (last act) on a stage in an outdoor square. There are several streets that converge at this location: the street and square were packed--If we had to escape quickly, we might as well go down with the ship. I'm not certain as to what 10,000 people packed into a space looks like, so I can't give an exact number-- maybe over 7,000?-- maybe I'll post a picture from the stage at a later time. What energy! The One O'Clock displayed the musicianship it has become famous for-- highlights include a great rendition of Neil Slater's composition "That" (the most difficult chart in the book). Neil was so pleased that he even told the band that they sounded pretty great (which if you know, Neil, is quite an accomplishment-- much preferable to hearing "you are starting to believe your own liner notes"). As the bells range ONE (in the morning) we concluded our set with blazing versions of "Do you have an incendiary device (Got a Match?) and Machito. The crowd applauded vigorously (and was almost all under 30 years old!). In Italy people stay up very late-- the scene was prepped for a huge all-night extravaganza as the square was mobbed with people. The band had its own celebration to undertake: the 17th is Isaac Lamar's birthday, and the 18th is Ryan Hagler's birthday. They received rousing renditions of happy birthday on the way back to the hotel. The band made certain that they partook in an authentically Italian celebration.

July 16th: Back to Italy-- this time Florence:

It has come to my attention that I forgot to talk about the heat in Rome and, in general, Italy. It is very hot now that we are in the southern portion of Europe. The hotel rooms, although they are very very nice, have very questionable air conditioning systems-- in other words, there are thermostats that have buttons we can press and knobs we can turn, but they might be more of a placebo than anything. It is very sunny and very hot-- my room thermostat says 30 C-- which i believe is about 86 F! This all being said, I now resemble the fine form that I did when I returned from my sunblockless trip to South Padre a year ago. It was put best by my favorite trumpeter in the band: "can I call you rock lobster?"
Several people have asked whether or not I have tried gelato-- and of course I have. I've had it twice (a couple small scoops each time) and enjoyed it immensely. My two favorite flavors are Coffee and lemon--- I love the texture of the coffee (it contains whole coffee beans), and the flavor of the lemon is great! (plus, it is great for cutting the feeling of heat exhaustion).
Back to the present:
Early in the afternoon, we arrived in the small Tuscan city of Arezzo. I knew that I was oddly familiar with that name-- then Justin Stanton (4th trumpet) pointed out the obvious. Guido de Arezzo was from... tadaa: Arezzo. Over half the band remembered who Guido de Arezzo was (thus exposing our true social dysfunctionality and music-nerdiness)-- the other half remembered when it was reminded that he is responsible for the Guidonian hand, an early tool that was used to explain music theory....Dr. Nordstrom would be proud. Apparently, the residents of Arezzo are also aware that Guido is from here, as there is a large statue and square bearing his name (Piazza Guido Monaco).-- Although, I found the monument slightly anticlimactic-- in the words of Jason Hausbak (4th trombone), "maybe I was just expecting a giant hand."
In the early evening, we drove to a different city to play our evening concert. The venue is a stage in a square just off of a larger square in the center of the city. The area is what I picture when I think "Italian city": cobblestone streets, blocks of solid buildings made of brightly colored stucco (so it appeared), children running through the street playing soccer, and people who resemble my grandfather riding bikes throughout the square (my grandfather was Italian). This city is completely different from Rome; the people you see in the streets are not tourists, they actually reside in the city. Many of the residents do not speak English, and they stop to see what is distracting them from completing their daily tasks.
We soundchecked in the early evening and then sat down to a traditional 3 course Italian meal with wine. In Italy, it is customary to eat around 8:30 in the evening-- we were ready to eat when the food came. The meal was excellent (and on the house)-- and not without excitement (a woman at a table next to us had a seizure-- luckily she was ok). Around 9:30 we played to a full square of eager listeners. The band played an atypical set: it swung really hard. We decided that it would be in our best interest to play a lot of the music of Thad Jones and other people along that vein. It went over very well and the band was well received! Many people were interested in our recordings and were asking when we would be returning--- maybe Weist should plan a trip for next year?!
Not much else worth mentioning happened that evening-- which is very surprising considering out hotel rooms were each outfitted with doorbells. Most people were quite apprehensive when we discovered these "gems" earlier in the day. In a band full of pranksters, this could make for a long night. Luckily the band collectively reached the point of exhaustion-- I didnt hear one single buzzer.

July 16th:Addendums

I remembered other things about our travels:
Addendum to Rotterdam:
Here is the much promised list of people I was unable to see at North Sea: Gary Burton, Pat Metheny, Kenny Wheeler, Bobby McFerrin, The Mars Volta, Alicia Keys, Zappa, Phil Woods, Diana Krall (Phil captured the true face of Diana Krall), and about 30 other acts you would probably recognize--keep in mind that all were free, all were in a small area, and all were occuring at the same time on Sunday.
Another thing I somehow forgot to mention: UNT alumnus and fellow trombonist Jeremy Stones spent the day with the band-- he happens to be in Rotterdam doing graduate work. He did a great job at the cd table, using his pretty face to sell merchandise.
--former UNT trombonists have been showing great enthusiasm and making great efforts to attend shows (maybe we just have the free time!). Another surprise guest at the concert was Jason Hausbak's middle school band director who he hadn't seen in 15 years.
PS. the Band misses stroopwafels.

Addendum to Amsterdam:
I left out two things:
1. There have been these "fast food" meat stands that sell kebab etc. in every country we traveled to. I'm certain that a person could make a killing of of one of those on Fry Street-- although it may not pass the stringent health codes of the Fry Street area.
2. I met Evan Weiss's older brother (the younger one), Adam, in Amsterdam. He has been living and working there for over a year (and of course, they look just alike).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

July 15th: The Obelisks of Rome

There are 12 Egyptian obelisks in the city of Rome, 9 of which were stolen (imported) from Egypt. They can be found peppered around the city, and mostly in-front of other historical ruins/monuments. Today was our free day to explore the city of Rome. We were dropped off by the Colosseum at 10am and were told to be back near the Spanish Steps at 10pm- this made for a VERY long day of walking. We chose to split off into small groups, my tour buddies for the day consisted of Jason Hausbak and Chris Mike. Our first stop was the Colosseum-- We opted to walk around the outside rather than wait in the massive line to go inside. We walked a few blocks around the ancient ruins on the Palatine Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome) and caught a glimpse of what used to be Circus Maximus: the Texas Motor Speedway of Rome-- where the Chariot races were held. All that remains of this track is the big field in the shape of the track and the ruins of an end house on one side of the track. The space is massive. We walked back to the ancient ruins and decided to wait in the line enter. The cost was only 11 Euro-- and as an added bonus, the ticket also served as admission to the Colosseum. These ruins are amazing, some were built as early as 700 BC. So many of the structures look incredibly well engineered and very modern. There are portions of the ground where the original marble flooring is still in tact-- all of ancient Rome was covered in Marble. Massive columns (and very detailed!) are everywhere-- we even got a glimpse of mosaic floors! This is when it occurred to me: in the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries, people lived in grass shacks. In ancient Rome, people lived in marble works of art! This culture is so advanced. We walked around this one set of ruins (which actually covers a very large area) for hours, and then headed back towards the Colosseum. I was quite happy that we were able to skip the long line (already being in possession of tickets). The Colosseum could hold 80,000 spectators. It was stripped of all its marble and iron about 1000 years ago--so it remains in its present form-- brick. I would have loved to see the Colosseum in full force-- among its modern amenities was a retractable roof (operated by sailors). I suggest you read about this building. A brief synopsis of other sites: We viewed the Pantheon- this building is very well preserved, it is in the same form that it was back in the second century (despite a bit of remodeling when it was taken over by the Catholics). Our travels also took us across the river to Vatican City. Although we were unable to get into the Sistine Chapel (it closed at 3), we were able to view St. Peter's Basilica. I can't describe how grand, ornate, and pristine this church is. It is an architectural marvel as well as a piece of fine art. Along the way, we viewed many other churches, fountains, and historical sites (including more modern sites-- such as Mussolini's palace and the monument built to the reunification of the nation--still pretty old by American standards). My feet are tired and I feel as though I've walked over 15 miles (I wish we kept track), but it was a great day and very well worth it. (although i wouldn't recommend wearing suede shoes of white shorts to walk through dusty old ruins)
Today I saw, in person, countless landmarks and artifacts that I have only read about in textbooks. This is all very surreal-- In the past two weeks I have seen more important historical sites than I can keep track of. Travel to Rome if you get a chance.
Tomorrow we set off for the hills of Tuscany.

July 14th: On a Jetplane to Rome

Make that a vintage jet plane. A few hours ago, the One O'Clock said goodbye to the wonderful country of the Netherlands and boarded a plane for Rome. We also said goodbye to a few people who have been traveling with us since we arrived in Zurich. Phil Bulla (our sound engineer) and his wife Renee are returning to New York-- they happen to live less than an hour from where I will be moving in 2 weeks! We also parted ways with our tour guide Padta (we will miss her early morning musings) and our slightly eccentric bus driver, Pierre Luigi.
As I write now, I am aboard what seems to be a particularly old MD-80 jet. The seats and UNT-green and many of the warning lights in the cabin don't actually work. The weirdest and most annoying part of this flight (all ninety minutes!) is the cabin beep-- you know, that beep that happens when you've reached your cruising altitude or when someone calls a flight attendant? It is about 10 times louder than any other cabin beep that I've heard and is blasted through speakers that sound fuzzy and broken-- but on a side note, I did just get a great sandwich as a snack-- and for free! Meh, its not that bad-- at least my seat it attached to the floor.
Later that day....
Wow, Rome is quite amazing. I mentioned earlier that we split ways with our old tour guide; we met up with a new tour guide today, Bobby-- he is very knowledgeable and is a great guy. Our first experience of the city included a guided bus tour of Rome. We saw such sites as the ancient city wall, the pyramid at the gate to the city, and the Colosseum. This sights are truly awe inspiring! After the bus tour, we were given a few hours of free time to explore and grab some food. I ended up near the Spanish Steps eating some Italian pizza-- this was surprisingly cheap and quite a humongous portion. We also purchased some gelato: I, being my paranoid self, made sure to ask exactly how much what cost-- others were not so lucky and some ended up with cones of gelato that cost 20 Euro!!
First impressions of Rome:
1. What a beautiful city-- full of so much history. I can't even fathom how the Italian people live amongst these ancient ruins without become distracted by the age, beauty and ingenuity of each piece.
2. If I said that Amsterdam and Rotterdam were crowded and crazy, I don't know how to describe Rome-- There don't seem to be as many locals roaming the streets, but the traffic makes up for it. I'm pretty certain that there aren't any traffic laws-- as it seems like nobody follows them (I couldn't imagine driving). Crossing the street isn't like a game of Frogger, it is more akin to Chicken. The houses are built on top of each other-- and on top of old ruins/ what i would consider as an American, to be ancient.
3. The Italian people are beautiful. Period.
4. Can I mention, once again, the amount of history in this city?
I can't wait for our free day, tomorrow, in Rome.

July 13th: North Sea Jazz Festival!

The North Sea Jazz Festival takes place in a massive convention center in Rotterdam (2 years ago it was moved from The Hague to its current location). This is, by far, the biggest jazz festival I have ever been to or played at.
A bit about the Festival:
The One O'clock played early in the day at an outdoor stage-- in fact, we were the first act of the day. It was a blessing that we played so early because we were actually the ONLY act going on at that time. For the remainder of the day there are about 10 stages going on simultaneously and have at least 4 MAJOR acts occurring at once. The sound check was great and for the first time on the tour, the band felt very comfortable playing with the sound set up. We played an hour long set that was very similar to the set that we played a few days earlier. The band performed far better than we at any other stop on the tour-- and that is a good thing too, because the plaza was packed. The set was high energy and the crowd wanted more when we finished playing. I hope I make it back there to play again someday.
After our performance, the band was left with a bunch of backstage passes and access to all of the concerts of the day. My first stop included a Brad Mehldau concert-- this festival is packed with so many great artists that I actually had to skip a great Dutch radio band, and a Kenny Wheeler performance in order to check out this show (yes they were all going on at once). The hall was huge and the audience sat in silence and listened intently to everything he played-- it was an amazing performance. We took advantage of the back stage passes and were able to catch Mehldau after the concert. (a very nice guy-- on a side note, he speaks pretty good Dutch). Other concerts that I was able to take in were: a group featuring Randy Brecker, a bit of a show of clarinetist Anat Cohen (sister of Avashai- trumpet), Antonio Sanchez, the WDR Big Band featuring Maceo Parker (which was in an arena-like setting that must have held at least 15,000 people), and a concert with Branford Marsailis.--- All this in one day of the festival (at some point, Ill post a list of all the people I didn't have time to see).

July12th: Day Trip to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a city that is full of culture and history-- At this point in the trip, it became my favorite location. Amsterdam is a very short bus ride (about 40 minutes) away from Rotterdam. After we arrived in the Amsterdam, we were met by Herman, who gave us a bus/walking tour. He showed us the windmills, the very modern architecture, canals, house boats, the Anne Frank house, several churches, and the site of Chet Baker's death. An interesting fact about the city: Amsterdam is a very young city in Europe-- it only dates back to the 13th century!! Wow, everything over here is MUCH older than anything I have been exposed to. The city is VERY crowded and that is why people live in the house boats on the canals. Speaking of canals: the city is below sea level and the canals (which look much like Venitian canals) are the only reason the city isn't under water (these add to the charm of the city). Another charming aspect: the houses (that are built in narrow rows) are all leaning. The soil is so moist that the building tilt over time-- they are even building intentionally tilting forward to make it easier for furniture to be hoisted into the houses. Hooks and hoists are attached to every roof, because the stairs are so narrow that furniture must be lifted in through windows rather than carried up staircases. For some odd reason, i find this fascinating.
I mentioned in an earlier entry that the roads were full of bikes/absolutely chaotic in Rotterdam-- Amsterdam is much busier, even than Rotterdam. You feel as though you are in a very large city even though the buildings aren't incredibly tall (everything is dense).
The fact that Amsterdam is a walkable city is very appealing to me- I would love to ride a bike around and not have to rely on a car. (anecdote: Herman said that it is a standing joke that bottom meter of the canals is all bikes-- i would believe it). At the end of the day, i opted to stay longer than our allotted time-- it was very easy to catch a train (for 8 Euro) back to Rotterdam and walk back to the hotel. Good times

July 11th: Welcome to Rotterdam!

Today we made yet another long drive in Peirre Luigi's autobus-- this time from Ruddesheim, Germany to Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The band departed from the hotel at a rather early hour and therefore everyone was tired and eager to sleep on the bus. This trip afforded us plenty of time: at least 6 hours (consisting of castles and at least one hour of people not knowing when to be quiet). In retrospect, 6 hours is a very brief amount of time considering that we drove to an entirely different country (the 4th in a week!).
We arrived in Rotterdam around 2 in the afternoon (14:00)-just before our sound check at 3 for our gig at 4.The venue is an off-festival stage of the Northsea festival, located right on the banks of the Rhine (Rotterdam is a huge port city, more to come of that later). Unfortunately, just as we started playing, it started raining-- this is not uncommon for Rotterdam, apparently it rains over half of the days. Although the audience became soaked, the band was kept dry under a great band shell/tent/tarp. The band took full advantage of the radio truck that was there to record us. We produced a pretty great live recording! The response was good from the people who actually stuck around through all of the rain. Let me tell you, we played a burning set (higher, faster, louder).
The rest of the day provided the band with free time to explore the city. I ended up at this great Indonesian restaurant named Bazaar-- some great ethnic food, although I'm not really sure what I ate--some type of meat, I'm sure.
Some general observations about Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in general:
1. The language, Dutch seems endlessly complicated. It is also strange because: my honest first reaction to the language is that a Dutch person speaking sounds like an American making up foreign words (the pronunciation sounds like American English-- plus a lot of throat-clearing). You shouldn't worry about speaking Dutch, everyone speaks English from a very young age-- and I mean great English. People switch between Dutch and English effortlessly.
2. Watch out for the bikes. There are thousands of bikes chained up everywhere-- easily 500 withing one block. It seems to be the primary mode of transportation around the city. Biking makes so much sense! The infrastructure is amazing-- there are bike lanes on every road (which include stop lights, line, etc.). The roads are crazy: filled with bikes, a sprinkling of cars, and a metro that runs right on the street (walk at your own risk). Crossing the street feels oddly like playing a game of Frogger-- avoiding crowds of pedestrians, bikers, and motor vehicles. This city is VERY densely populated- there are tons of people everywhere-- Remarkably, there isn't chaos (people don't J walk) and the city is clean (thanks to many street-cleaning crews).
3. Rotterdam is a huge port city: there are bridges, channels, boats, and water everywhere. I saw a fair amount of houseboats.
4. There are "no smoking" signs everywhere. Inside my hotel room, I counted at least 6 obnoxiously large signs. The country of the Netherlands just banned smoking inside all public locations. This policy went into effect less than 2 weeks ago, so the people are now trying to enforce that policy. It seems to be working-- don't get me wrong though, people smoke everywhere else. There are cigarette butts everywhere (disgusting)-- like I said, good thing for the street-cleaners.
5. There are hardly any police officers...anywhere-- I only saw two my entire stay in the country (both on bikes). Apparently it works for them;there is hardly any crime (some petty crime) and I felt very very safe.
6. Dutch people are very tall! Hildegunn tells me that they are the tallest in the world.
7. The architecture is very cool/modern
8. I have a new favorite snack: Stroopewafel! This is hands-down the best snack item I have ever tasted-- and I would be that at least 10 of my band mates would agree. What is it you ask? Let me tell you: A stroopewafel is shaped like a flat disc that is about 5 inches across. This type of cookie resembles a sandwich, the inside is a caramel substance while the outside is similar to an ice cream cone. I will definitely be hitting up Whole Foods and searching for those when I return home.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Im way behind

I just got to a computer for the first time in Rome-- in an internet cafe. I have a whole bunch of posts that Ive written and not been able to post because of the inordinately expensive cost of internet (10 Euro for 14 minutes at my hotel) -- so those will come later. So far Rome = huge, old , inspiring, and quite a tiring walk. Until later!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

July 10th: I didn't realize that Epcot was in Germany

Early in the morning on July 10th, we departed Mainz and headed towards the German wine town of Ruddesheim (sorry if the spelling is off, I am writing these blogs rather quickly). We traveled along the Rhine river-- and even ferried across the river in our very large bus-- It felt very much like a level on Oregon Trail: would you care to caulk and float or ford the river?? Our decision was a good one. Not only did we make it across the river, we had an opportunity to look out on the Rhine and take some pictures. A point of historical interest: There are many castles peppering the shores of the Rhine-- we saw at least 10. Apparently it was common practice to build some sort of a gate house in the middle of the river and collect tolls from passing boats-- The Rhine must have been a gauntlet of tolls-- worse than traveling down any Texas toll road (which always make me appreciate Connecticut and its toll-less roads).
As soon as we reached the other side of the river, I was transported into stereotypical "old Germany." The streets are very narrow-- they are all cobblestone and built more like alleys-- perhaps I shouldn't call them streets at all. Every building in this town is very traditional (minus the few that sit directly on the River adjacent the freight train tracks): they are white stucco with large wooden beams-- many have ivy growing up the facades. There are several building that are taller with spires, clocks, traditional trim, green shutters, even some with arches that cross the street. Very pretty!
We arrived at our hotel: the Lindenwirt and scrambled to prepare for our concert-- it was to take place on the outdoor patio in the wine garden. You have to imagine: this was a very small courtyard where people were sitting and enjoying a drink or dinner. I don't think they were quite prepared for the One O'Clock:
1. The issue of stands came up, again. This time, we only had about 6 of them at the hotel. The advantage to being the One O'Clock is that we have many contacts and alumni all over the world. My friend and ex UNT trombonist Phil Blienberger saved the day. I think i mentioned in an earlier post that he is a musician in the army stationed here in Germany. Phil drove his little car packed with 20 music and his wife about an hour to deliver stands to us! A small group played the first set while we awaited the delivery.
2. Once again we have the issue of the piano-- you are at the mercy of the venue when you are a pianist-- this piano was really out of tune-- and seeing as how i watched them drag it down a set of stairs after the set was finished, I'm not particularly surprised.
3. On a really positive note. Aside from Phil, there were several other UNT alumni in attendance. My friend Meredith Healy (Ex UNT euphonium and fellow Connecticution) is also stationed nearby in the Air force. Ex One O'Clock trombonist Hans Bettinger stopped by to watch the band-- and when I say stop by, I mean drove 300 miles!
All in all the performance was a good opportunity to polish our music before we hit North Sea.
The evening was spent exploring the town of Ruddesheim: although I am sure it is an authentic town something struck me as strange-- maybe it is the fact that the median age of the town is over 70, or maybe it is the fact that you can purchase a cuckoo clock, beer stein, or snow globe in every store-- maybe it was the bad American music from the 80's blaring out of every wine garden. ( and i really did feel like i was in Disney world) Ruddesheim is definitely a busy tourist destination. I'm glad that the One O'clock made a stop there because we were able to make it an evening of hanging out on the balcony of the hotel (that overlooked many of these outdoor wine gardens)-- a pretty cool location!
Tomorrow we drive to Rotterdam!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 9th: Our first day off/my birthday

--and the 8 hours we spent in a bus. Just as i became used to French culture, we left for the German town of Mainz. This meant a long day of driving-- and because our bus driver didn't have the proper permits to speed, 80km/hr speed limit on the German autobahn... I cant really remember much of the day-- as i spent most of it asleep-- not to say it was a bad day, I just needed sleep and here was the opportunity. After arriving in Maize we were pleasantly greeted by Phil Blienberger and his wife Anna (Phil is an alum of Unt who I met over 7 years ago-- he is now stationed in Mannheim in the army). He brought with him a bottle of a VERY strong liquor made of pear-- I wont forget the taste of that. The entire evening consisted of eating an authentic German meal and drinking some wine. I spent 25 Euros on 2 huge hef., a creme brulee and some sort of stew--- very tasty, very filling= very sleepy. 10 of my closest friends and I checked out the German television programming-- and their innovative advertising techniques before I became too tired to stay awake any longer. Now is the time to catch up on sleep, even though I can't keep straight which language I am supposed to dream in...

July 8th: "Gay Paris", uh, I mean Lyon

Today I played dumb American tourist-- and i had a great time at it. The city of Lyon is full of history an culture. A short walk from the island, across the Sohne river, puts you right in the middle of a historic district of Lyon. We walked around and viewed several large cathedrals as well as two more Roman amphitheaters. The mid afternoon was amazing: we went to individual stores to buy: breads, cheeses, cured meats (thanks to Carl for not letting us purchase 500g of the 120 Euro/kg ham) , meringues (my personal favorite) and lots of wine---oh and Jiri purchased a melodica. All of these elements combined at the fountain in the square in front of St. Jean's cathedral to form a perfect afternoon experience. I must admit, I was really inspired by the surroundings and culture (and even that dumb melodica)-- so much to the point that I want to write a suite about these experiences-- who knows if that will ever happen. Long Story short: very much walking in what turned out to be a great city= tired legs.
At night, the band headed to a jazz club in Lyon to give a combo performance and participate in a jam session. I had a great deal of fun, for some reason I felt particularly at home in this club, although I couldn't quite put my finger on the explanation. The bartenders were friendly and generous: the entire band had an open tab for the entire night-- of anything we desired. The clientele of the bar were particularly friendly and willing to speak English to the Americans. Some great players showed up to play- including a great "Django" influenced guitar player from Paris as well a very sweet jazz singer from Lyon.
One more point: at midnight, I officially became old-- the date turned to my birthday, July 9th-- 25th birthday-- what a great place to be! Another travel tip: don't drink french tequila, no matter how great of an idea it seems like at the time, it isn't like Mexican tequila, it doesn't taste good, and you wont feel well afterwards, enough said. Special thanks goes out to several new friends, Lucas, the bass player who fully embraced my inability to say his name, Derek, the American singer from California, oh, and especially Francois, the exceedingly wonderful lawyer from Lyon, who was so gracious and willing to talk about French culture. I wish we had another day in Lyon. Tomorrow off to Germany!

July 7th: The Lady of Lyon

On the morning of July 7th, we woke up and ate our last meal in Montreux. The quality of the hotel breakfasts has always exceeded my expectations. I must have eaten about five croissants with honey-- a breakfast staple that a good friend got me hooked on.
A great thing about Europe is the proximity of one country to another. A short bus ride landed us in the French city of Lyon, which, according to our tour guide, is the second largest city in France. The area where we stayed is very interesting (I love how that word has taken on multiple meanings). This part of the city is on an island between the Sohne and the Rhone rivers-- and is just outside of the historic area known as old town Lyon. Looking back on the drive: i know there must be some reason that justified our crossing the Rhone river over five times--I'm just having a difficult time finding it. Needless to say, we became quite familiar with the bridges traversing the Rhone.
Our hotel left many things to be desired, therefore I wasn't at all disappointed when we boarded the bus in early afternoon and headed off to Vienne. The Vienne jazz festival takes place in various locations throughout the historic city of Vienne. There are several Roman ruins as well as various other historic sites. Before our scheduled playing time, we were able to wander through and old episcopal cathedral. I wish I remembered the terms from my high school humanities class so I could describe the Gothic architecture... oh well.
We played and recorded a concert right next to a big Roman amphitheater. This was by far the best performance of the tour-- the playing situation was almost as close to the ideal situation as we can get-- although the sound guy still doesn't understand the importance of running soloists through the monitors. A point of note: we played right after a group of outstanding high-schoolers from Utah who read off of digital music stands-- maybe the school will buy those for Kenton Hall???
Immediately after our set, we after our set, we rushed up to the 9,000 seat Roman amphitheater to hear the evening concert: the Maria Schneider Orchestra. We sat very close to the stage and had a great view of the concert as well as the 2 giant projection-screen televisions. I can't remember every song they played, but amongst them were some of my favorites: Concert in the Garden, the 1st Dance from the same album, Evanescence, Sky Blue, and Hang Gliding. The concert was amazing, just as I had expected (although they didn't have a vocalist with them on this occasion). After the concert we talked with some members of the band that we already knew including Marshall Gilkes and Rich Perry. I met the tour manager as well as Ingrid Jenson who launched into a number of tour stories. She also explained to me a few tour games that they frequently indulge in that I was unfamiliar with. I have a feeling that being on tour with Maria Schneider isn't any different than being on tour with the One O'Clock. Did I mention that we are tailing them for several other festivals?
We left the festival at the early hour of 11pm because of some European law that forbids bus drivers from operating after midnight-- I don't get it. Unfortunately this made it impossible for us to see the headlining act, John McGlaughlin. Upon our return to the bus, we discovered that the driver had taken it upon himself to move our horns under the bus-- this did not sit well with anyone in the band. Anger helps your memory at times. I instantly recalled how to speak fluent Spanish (our bus driver is Italian, but speaks Spanish- sort of) as I told him to open the bottom of the bus and explained to not touch any of our belongings-- I realized that in my frustration, I told him I need to "look at my horn" rather than "look for my horn"-oops. Other people remembered some more colorful phrases.
Speaking of colorful: 2 blocks from our hotel, we encountered some locals (all while safely inside the bus) who revealed that they weren't quite what they seemed. It was relatively early when we returned to the hotel, so we decided to walk around and take in the night life of Lyon. It was too late to go to a bar (everything, once again, closes very early) and the type of a nightlife we encountered certainly didn't appeal to any of us-- or at least most of us. 1st full night of sleep on the tour.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 6th: The last day in Switzerland: Watches and Cheese (ok not really)

This will have to be quick-- the day is still young.
Public transportation is great-- we traveled down the street to a local castle that dates back to the 11th century. A great day trip!
A torrential rainstorm broke out midway through our afternoon set at Montreux. We had to quit early because the wind blew water all over the recording equipment. A point of interest: In 1982, Neil's first One O'Clock trip to Europe, the same thing happened at Montreux. In fact, if you read the liner notes for the "Live at Montreux" albums, you can read about the lightening striking the recording tower (or something along those lines).
Here's to our last night in Switzerland-- we travel to France tomorrow morning-- I still wish that I spoke French

July 5th

The city of Montreux is just as beautiful as Brienz, and the prices reflect that. I have decided that Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world-- the exchange rate of the Franc is almost equal to that of the Dollar--however, food and service items cost 4 times as much. I spent over 80 Francs today-- all that with a miser's attitude. I can't wait to hit places that deal in Euros... (sarcasm).
Some other observations:
1. I am in awe of the scenery in the Swiss country side
2. The people are very nice here-- even though most everything in in French-- which is another thing: I am amazed by the fact that one can travel 2 hours by car and be in place where a completely different language is spoken. I can deal with the German, but i speak no French-- I wish I spoke French...
3. European cities are great for walks. Drivers yield to pedestrians and there are well maintained sidewalks.
4. We recorded our first concert and Montreux. The One O'Clock played a 75 minute set on an outdoor stage-- we were very well received.
5. People here stay up ALL night. At 2 in the morning, people were still out an about on the boardwalk-- this prompted a 2 AM jam session... outside of the hotel. Half of the band congregated in my room for several hours as we enjoyed tasty libations and good company.

July 3rd/4th

It's the morning of July 5th, our second day here, and the trip is already in full swing.

Quick recap:

Around noon on July 3rd, we met in Kenton Hall for our grand sendoff--coincidentally, July 3rd is Neil's birthday-- Happy Birthday Neil!
After some minor passport panics, we loaded the bus and headed for DFW. Our first flight took us from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt-- an uncomfortably long 10-hour flight. The plane was atypically hot as we boarded and taxied the runway. I couldn't wait to take off and have some oxygen pumped into the cabin (this had to wait). After about 20 minutes taxiing the runway (apparently the pilot decided to drive to Europe), the captain informed us that the breaks have become "too hot" because the outside temperature in combination with the long taxi. The obvious solution: turn off the plane and wait for it to cool down-- in the Texas sun!? 30 minutes later and about 15 degrees hotter, we finally left the runway. It took about an hour for the temperature to regulate itself-- what a start to the trip!
After a connecting flight to Zurich, we drove through the winding mountain roads and arrive in the Swiss town of Brienz. Located in a Valley at the base of several mountains and along side a bright turquoise lake, Brienz is quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been. This location provided a million photo opportunities as well as a gorgeous backdrop for our first European performance. We played a quick 30 minute set at the Brienz "Mini- Montreux" Festival, located on Lake Brienz directly across the street from our hotel. Our sound engineer Phil Bulla produced a surprisingly high quality recording despite the difficult playing conditions. Let me elaborate:

1.There weren't enough stands for the band-- we are 3 larger than a typical big band, we were short 3 stands. Guitarist Tim Goynes read off of a chair, Sean Foley (trumpet) read off of a low table, and Justin Stanton (trumpet) read off of a stack of milk crates. The remainder of the band read off of wire stands-- which are less than ideal for supporting the 5-6 page charts that we typically play.
2. The drum set was rather "interesting" The bass drum was huge, not to mention that the front head was torn and taped back together using scotch tape. I'm pretty sure that the drum heads on the toms were painted black to match the shells of the kit. Our drummer Ross Pederson worked a miracle: after removing the front head on the bass drum and carefully tuning the toms, the kit actually sounded pretty good!
3. We were all completely exhausted. In typical fashion, the band pulled it together and made it through the set.
The highlight of the night was the evening celebration. According to our tour guide,lake Brienze is filled by melted ice from the mountains-- this seems logical considering the number of waterfalls feeding the lake. This body of water is extremely frigid-- I know this from experience: half of us decided to go for an early evening dip-- refreshing to say the least. After a quick escape from a approaching flock of swans, we wandered down the narrow village streets in search of and after-hang. Unlike the U.S., most everything in small mountain villages closes at 6 pm-- somehow we stumbled upon an open bar. We met locals of similar ages and mingled with them for quite some time. Jiri Levicek received a lesson in Swiss culture and showed great enthusiasm for national Swiss pride. (The One O'clock is friendly bunch that manages to make friends wherever it goes) After a few hours of mingling, we retired to our rooms to get some much needed sleep.
Now, off to Montreux!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Off We Go!

As you all know, the One O'Clock Lab Band is going on a three week tour of Western Europe. This blog is an effort to give a band member's perspective of the tour.

A little about myself: my name is Sara Jacovino, and i play second trombone in and write for the One O'Clock Lab Band. Like Neil Slater and many other members of this band, this tour is my farewell to UNT and the One O'Clock. This tour could not have come at a busier time for me, personally-- I have been packing my belongings and mailing them off in anticipation of my move to Connecticut.

For the past week, the band has met for about 3 hours a day to rehearse/shake the rust off of our repertoire. These rehearsals were long, but necessary! Today is the morning of the tour, and I still am running around like crazy trying to pack/clean house/tie up the loose ends-- That being said, I'm going to cut this short-- I only have 90 minutes until our scheduled farewell from Kenton Hall.... traveling with this band is always fun.