Saturday, Day 7 – Belo Horizonte
Another day off, so I invited the band over for lunch. Excellent day, we played some 2-on-1 basketball downstairs and hung out by the pool before sitting down for a long and relaxing lunch. All was going well until we went to the theatre to see the evenings shows. I’ve never written a review or critique of a band before and I normally don’t pay much attention to critics – on this occasion I feel compelled to write something. I could have written this Saturday night but it would have been an obscene diatribe – I needed some time to cool off.
With the exception of Judy’s band, there are two bands per night during this festival with one set each. The first band this evening was put together just for the festival. It was billed as the Gunhild Carling Band with Chris Flory, although there was no room made for poor Chris – the trumpet player and drummer were from Brazil, with Chris on guitar and Lee Hudson on bass, Gunhill on various instruments and her brother Max on reeds. Where do I start? If I had been in a circus tent I would have, perhaps, felt a bit better. I have never in my life seen such a pile of complete bollocks on stage as I did that evening. Incensed doesn’t even come close. Gunhild is actually a good trombone player and a very nice singer but when she played Stardust on a recorder I started giggling. The sort of uncontrollable, body shaking giggling that you did at the back of class when you were a teenager. This turned very quickly into shock, when she started tap dancing and singing through a megaphone, to disbelief when her brother Max started juggling. Then the anger came forth and I’m afraid I became somewhat verbally abusive. The audience, of course, loved it (the show, not my explicit remarks on human reproduction). They knew no better. It was entertainment – albeit of the very worst sort. The final straw came when he started juggling – badly. It would have been more acceptable if small razor blades had been handed out before hand so you at least had the option of ending it early. The Carling family are known for this type of show – and I have no problem with that. It does NOT, however, belong in a jazz festival.
I would like to make something VERY clear at this point. The pain that was felt by every musician on behalf of Chris Flory and Lee Hudson is almost indescribable. That great musicians such as these should be placed in, effectively, a circus band is beyond comprehension. THIS IS CHRIS FLORY FOR F**KS SAKE – HE SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS!!!!! The ONLY moment of real music from this evening was when the stage was handed over to Chris, Lee and Bo, the drummer, for a feature. Chris played a superb version of ‘If I Were a Bell’. His sense of time and feel is a pleasure to listen to. He is such a wonderful musician and human being that it is truly heartbreaking to see him in this situation.
Thankfully my sanity was preserved, and my belief in music salvaged, by the second band – that of Leroy Jones. He is one of my favourite trumpet players these days, and he played as beautifully as I had hoped he would. I spent some of last week hanging out Mitchell Player, who plays bass with Leroy and it was great to finally see him play. One of the highlights was the last number in which Leroy’s pianist, Paul David, stretched out in a wonderful McCoy Tyner-esque solo. Their set was a good mix of standards and New Orleans favourites. It’s a great band with great musicians playing great music – pay attention Jazz Festival Brazil!!
Day 8 – Rio de Janeiro
I always feel that Rio is a bit like a beautiful model. From afar it is stunning in its beauty. A closer look, however, reveals imperfections in the facade. The decadence in Rio is sad. Once grand buildings and streets have become worn and uncared for. Areas that were once thriving cultural centers have become homes for the dregs of humanity. Such is the neighborhood where the festival organizers have thoughtfully placed the musicians. It was once the heart of the entertainment district, full of art-deco cinemas. They are still here, although the films they mostly show these days are not rated PG! The hotel where we are staying was built in 1949 and I think that was probably the last time anyone decorated the rooms. The foyer retains a certain charm from that period – marble walls with some gold leafing and a large chandelier. As soon as you leave the elevator that charm dissipates rather quickly. A small, dingy corridor leads you down to a even smaller, dingier room. It has a look of great comfort to something with four legs. An immediate concern it what you might catch by lying on the bed, although as Dave Blenckhorn pointed out the acrylic bedcovers would have surely killed any germs off! There is an odd window built into the door that really adds to the sensation of being locked away!
Judy, Dave, Charlie and myself had no desire to stay any longer than we had to here, so we went over to Copacabana beach for a walk. We ended up having some Mojitos and Caipirinhas at the ever majestic Copacabana Palace Hotel, enjoying the regality of what remains one of the most beautiful hotels in the world. We then went a bit further up the Avenida Atlantica to a very nice Italian restaurant and splashed out on a lovely dinner with great wine. It was a superb evening, with each of us in turn regaling the others with various stories of being on the road. To be honest, we needed this – it’s very easy to descend into depression and despair when these circumstance arise on tour. To anyone who asks the question “why do so many musicians drink and do drugs?”, this hotel and the first set last night is the perfect answer!
Day 9 – Rio
Long day of waiting around for the sound check and gig. Raining here, so not much to do. Sound check went fine, although the sound in the theatre was pretty dead. Having waited all day, doing nothing, we then had a 30 minute turnaround between the sound check and gig – no dinner then! Just some snacks at the venue … and NO beer for after the gig. What’s with that!!!!
Gig was great. The band played very well under tough circumstances. Ed has screwed up his left leg, so he was playing without a hi-hat, and the airline company managed to break the pick-ups on Dave’s guitar. He managed to rig an acoustic setup which worked really well though. Judy called a varied, well balanced program tonight, featuring everyone in good doses and swinging like crazy. There are really very few bands around that can touch this one!!
Stayed in the hotel bar for a while having a drink and hanging out. 7 am leave tomorrow – deep joy!