Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rehearsals in New York

The rehearsals for the show went really well. We were called to work everyday, rehearsing sometimes 8-10 hours per day. Usually, the band went through a list of songs selected by bassist Nate Watts, and Stevie came in later. The band sounds incredible!

Bass & Music Director: Nate Watts
Drums: Stanley Randolph
Guitars: Errol Cooney and Kyle Bolden
Percussion: Munyungo Jackson and Fausto Cuevas
Keys: Roman Johnson and ME (I'm singing too)!
Vocals: Keith John and Aisha Morris
Horns: Ryan Kilgore and Dwight Adams

After 11 days in Manhattan, we're heading to Wantaugh, where Jones Beach is located. During my stay in Times Square, I only had a small amount of free time (we were in rehearsal everyday with only 1 day off), yet managed to have a little bit of fun! I went dancing with friends, I had the chance to see my friend Eisa Davis in the musical Passing Strange (which won 1 of its 5 Tony nominations, Best Book of a Musical) during Tony week, I went to dinner with Eisa and meet members of the cast, and met my goal to play some of the exquisite pianos at Steinway Hall!

DANCING: One of the band members suggested that a group of us go to SOB's to hear the band "Ocho Y Mas". Several of us took a couple of taxi's to the club and had a great time! The band is awesome! Check out their myspace page and see them perform if you get the chance. I hadn't danced Salsa in ages, and I am very glad that I went.

PASSING STRANGE: "Eisa Davis" is one of my lifelong friends. I've literally known her since she was a little girl, and she's always been an amazing and inspiring person. Her latest creative venture is playing the role of Mother in "Passing Strange", a musical about the journey of a young black bohemian to find "the real". I saw the musical in Berkeley in 2006, and even then, I loved it. I was moved by the songs, the clever book, the performances of the actors and band. I was hoping they'd win Best Musical, but even though they didn't, I highly recommend you see it! You will be moved emotionally and physically (it's impossible to sit still when the band gets going!).
STEINWAY HALL: One of my favorite activities when I visit any city is to find a local piano store and go play a grand piano, visualizing the day when I'll own one for myself. There are a few wonderful piano stores in Manhattan, but on this trip I only had time to visit one, so I chose the most famous, Steinway Hall. Even walking to Steinway Hall is inspiring: right down the street is Carnegie Hall…what pianist doesn't dream of performing in Carnegie Hall? As is the case every time I visit, the staff at Steinway Hall were gracious and allowed me to spend as much time as I wanted playing the grand piano of my choice. Unfortunately, I only had about 40 minutes this time, but it was 40 minutes of heaven as I wandered through a series of musical meanders, playing piece by composers from Chopin to Bach to Chic Corea to Herbie Hancock to Stevie Wonder, on a beautiful Steinway D….ah… On the way back to my hotel, I ran into the immensely talented Tony Lindsay. Tony is the lead singer for Santana and they were in town briefly on the way to their European Tour. It's so awesome to see legendary acts like Santana and Stevie Wonder still out there performing and bringing musical joy to the world DECADES into their careers!

I didn't have the chance to visit my old stomping grounds in Harlem, or to visit the memorial to the World Trade Towers. I suppose I'll just have to visit the Big Apple again one day…

Photos from the trip:

Jogging through Central Park with Keith John, singer with Stevie Wonder

At my keyboard in the rehearsal studio


March to the Sea said...

saw you show in Boston (Comcast Center on 6/22) it was amazing..thank you! said...

Just saw you Saturday in Vancouver and you were great!
The whole band was such a collection of incredible talent!

The dedication to Oscar played beautifully with the jazz themes and at times you were as much Weather Report as classic Stevie.

Thank you thank you thank you for being the only place on the web I could find the names of personnel.

I have been digging for the names of the horn section in particular. They were spectacular! Dwight Adams is a soulful Marsalis Ryan Kilgore is simply a virtuoso.
I'll be scooping up their work, and I'm not even much of a brass fan. (Except that my other does a Chet Bakery thing.) Go figure.

What a joy to see Nate listed as "Bass Player and Director of Music". Heh. As a contra bass player with an all improv band, I totally get that, but of course he's taken it to a level I can only ogle. And listen. Sweet.

I'll be searching for your own solo work now. When you're part of a bank of keyboardists that includes Stevie Wonder, while your skill can't be questioned, your individual contribution is a bit hard to isolate from the mix.
Loved the Wonder Summer Night concert but only heard about half of wanted to. That was me with the crazy loud vocal assaults at the end, but I respect that you'd all given enough.
Hope you come back soon, current configuration preferred. Stevie has such a library you could do this three times without much overlap. I wanted to hear more from In Square Circle. The one, Go Home, has stuck with me constantly since Saturday; I sing it while I'm biking to work. I know this would be a peculiar request for Stevie but I would love to hear Spiritual Walker live sometime.
I'm rambling. Is it the single beer I've had or was it the concert? I blame the concert.
Love Mel