So You are Playing at The Hollywood Bowl-Now What do You Do?
I got my first gig playing music when I was 14 years old. We had a band and we played at our Jr High School one night. The audience loved us. We played all the cool cover songs and I had my Farfisa Combo Compact Organ. I was hooked. From there when I was 15 years old I spent 4 summers and holidays and many weekends playing Catskill Mt Resorts. To me that was the big time. As time moved on in college I had some bands and we played some dances etc. When I came back to NYC I started to go to the various clubs and my dreams got a bit bigger. I also played in some bands and got to play at The Bottom Line, 7th ave South and Mikells. I was however really getting emerged in the studio scene in NYC because of what I could do with my synthesizers. I spent 15 years working with some great producers on some amazing albums with artists I only dreamed of working with. I started to produce full time in 1993 and it still took years to build ones reputation as a producer.
Then things started to change and I was encouraged to make some projects on my own by some musician friends. Even though I had 2 solo albums out I never went out and performed them. I do regret that because the music was strong. In 1999 I made the CD “Celebrating the Music of Weather Report”. The label wanted me to play live so I put together a real superstar band with Vinnie Coliauta on drums and we played a week at the old Iridium and it was off the hook with great music and sellouts every night and I then saw my ability to put together live performances on the same level I made my studio projects and albums.
Through the years I have had the opportunity to perform at places on my bucket .ist. Cape Town jazz Festival, North Sea, Umbria, Rio,Das Ostras Brazil, Blue Note Tokyo, Carnegie Hall,Berks Jazz Fest, Jazz Aspen and many others. This past summer however I had within a 2 week span the opportunity to play at the Blue Note NYC and the famed Hollywood Bowl. They might be different in size but they are equally important. I would perform with my Kind of New project at The Blue Noteand To Grover With Love at The Bowl. I always believe every show is important. You need the best players and also the best people. With the Blue Note the band was 5 members. It wasn’t difficult to pull that together and as I know great artists and musicians, but the real job is getting people there on a Monday Night. I hit Social media hard and hired a publicist for nominal fee to do some email blasts to the press and his mailing list 5 weeks before the show so there is plenty of lead time. Bottom Line-Great show and a packed house for 2 shows. That left a good taste in the mouth of the club owners.
Doing the Hollywood Bowl however is another story-If you don’t have the experience doing a large venue show you could get in trouble fast. I had been trying to get in the Bowl for 10 years and this year I heard from Festival West and they had a slot for me opening up for George Benson!! I was to do my show ‘To Grover With Love”. This was real pro so I contacted an agent whom I know and told him I would need him to contract the show. You have to look totally professional to these kind of situations so I needed a day or 2 to figure everything else out before we could come back with a quote for them. First how many people would be in the band, the show in Cape Town was great with 7 people. I learned early on from my mentors like Luther Vandross and Michael Brecker that when you play in front of a large crowd you have to treat the show differently soI first made sure that Maya Azucena a great singer who has worked with me before was available and also needed to get a superb LA rhythm section and then use East Coast sax players. I asked for recommendations for a drummer and two days later had a band and worked out a budget that included plane fares, anhotel (always ask the promoter if they have a deal with a hotel and fortunately the Bowl did and I got a great rate. Now it was to figure out the fee and you always go higher because you can always come down. They gave us a nice offer and we were with 9 Months to go before the show was going to happen.
As we got closer I got everybody the music and examples of the show. Then about a month before the show I started to hear from the promoters about details such as parking, ground transportation, soundcheck,set time.Then we had to deal with each musician and their needs for backline, food transportation etc. Now you can ask why didn’t I have a road manager or someone in our camp take care of this. This was a one off perfomance and if I hired someone it would definitely take money out of our pockets and we had the experience to pull it all together. We purchased plane tickets and with everything worked out we booked a rehearsal studio and as usual booked an extra hour just in case we need it.
Now we are days away and on our way to LA. They pick us up at the Airport and go to the hotel and everything is lining up just fine except for LA Traffic which is among the worst in the country. Everybody is now is in touch with me, the 2 horn players arrive and we are on our way to rehearse. My pre production pays off as everybody knows the music and instead of rehearsing we get a chance to play and groove and get in the flow. So now it’s sinking in and just what we’ve been doing-I have a bout of anxiety for awhile realizing that this is huge opportunity and I just want it to go well.
We chill at the hotel in the morning and they pick us up to go a few blocks to the Bowl where now everybody is there. The other musicians for the 2 other acts are all super top of the line talent and names. I hang out with George Benson for a few minutes to catch up and then we have a very nice catered lunch. Now it’s sound check time-they have a revolving stage at the Bowl so they set our gear up and spin the stage and there we are soundcheck looking out at 17000 empty seats. It is a great soundcheck all set up just like the stage plot and everything else that I sent over to the production crew. Now we need to kill a few hours and we’re not going back to the hotel. I have a very nice dressing room as does the band and other acts and time moves. We have a very nice catered dinner and now it’s time to get ready for the show. I chill and get dressed and hear Jeff Lorber’s Fusion start to play- we get the signal 45 minutes to call time. Now it’s 6:50 and we are all ready-We walk behind the stage and then countdown! 3-2-1 and they spin us around and there is a sold out crowd of 17,500 people waiting for us. believe it or not the show is the easy part. we groove hard and the crowd loved it.So you see it takes months to really put together something like this-You only get one shot-I was not going to let this great opportunity go by without hitting a home run!..Hopefully I’ll get invited back-Check out the clip below from the show
From his synth programming on Miles Davis’ 80s masterpieces to his current album Kind of New with Ingrid Jensen-dubbed by one insightful veteran journalist as the “Quincy Jones of Contemporary Music”—has not only helped shape the landscape of contemporary jazz, but also brought his rich sonic textures as a keyboardist, arranger and producer to artists in a multitude of genres.