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Michigan Tour Diary — Day 2 

Dmitri Matheny Group JAZZ NOIR
Michigan Tour Diary — Day 2
April 11 Traverse City, MI

After a four-hour flight to Detroit and a four-hour drive north through mist and fog,
dodging deer along the way, we've arrived in Traverse City.

TC is a small town (only 15,000 residents) but is the largest city in Northern Michigan, and something of a tourist destination. Situated on Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse is the self-proclaimed Cherry Capital of the US, and also produces wine grapes. Vacationing midwesterners come here for the freshwater beaches, vineyards, hiking and skiing.

Surprisingly, they're here now. Our hotel is full up with families, which seems odd, because it's so cold outside, with ice and snow piled up along the roadside. Why vacation now? Is it spring break? So many kids.

I hope a few of the older folks come to hear us tonight. It's always a white knuckle ride, arriving in a new place, wondering if anyone knows or cares that you're in town. You send announcements to traditional and social media, maybe do a couple of radio interviews, then it's out of your hands, entirely up to the Fates.

This morning at breakfast I perused the local paper, searching vainly for a photo listing or any mention at all.
Nope! No arts coverage. Just sports, real estate, gossip and TV listings.

Will they come?

Hope so! Regardless, I'm looking forward to the experience.

Traverse City holds much nostalgia for me.

30 years ago, when I was a teenager at Interlochen, we would come here on semi-chaperoned weekend bus trips to stroll around the shops, go to the movies and hang out away from campus.

I held hands with my high school crush here.

I also played my first ever paid gig in this town, a private party at the Maritime Hall.

Our little jazz quintet only knew six tunes from memory.

We played them all twice and made $50 each.

Look Again 

I've learned a lot from my years of watching Saturday morning cartoons.

For example, you think you know someone.

You think you know what their strengths and weaknesses are.
You think you know their character.
You think you know what they're capable of.

You get to know someone a little...a first impression.
You form an opinion about them and you carry it around with you for years.

You think you know all about that person—but you're dead wrong.

You don't know them at all.

You only saw what you wanted to see.
You only saw what you were ready to see.
And you only know what they wanted to show you.

First impressions are incomplete and quickly out of date.

To really know someone, you must update your perceptions of them continually.

Because people change. They evolve.
They experience pain and gain and loss and transformation.

As they're tested by the vicissitudes of life, they develop new powers and capabilities.

If you really want to see someone as they ARE, keep an open mind,
and take another look.

Christmas List 



Dear Santa,

As you know, Christmas Day is also my birthday. 

 

This year, I've been a very good boy and a hard working dog.

 

Please bring me anything from this list:

 

  • CD: Grand River Crossings by Geri Allen
  • Book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  • DVD: Johnny Staccato
  • Large black Rudy Vallee-style megaphone
  • Autographed Nicholas Payton pocket square
  • Medjool dates grown in Dateland AZ
  • Custom personal cologne designed by David Carlos Valdez
  • Working replica of the Mystic Seer
  • Hat like the one Mark Gross wears on the cover of Blackside
  • Property taxes windfall
  • Chili and lime saladitos

 

Thank you!

 

Love,

 

Dmitri

Happy Halloween 

The results of tonight's pageant at our front door: 1 Joker, 5 Skeletons, 1 Iron Man, 2 Scream Ghosts, 1 Kitty Cat, 1 Batman, 1 Hulk, 2 Ballerinas, 1 Priest, 2 Witches, 1 Chef, 1 Floating Eyeball, 1 R&B Singer, 2 Wizards, 1 Rocker Girl In Rainbow Fur, 4 Princesses, 3 Grim Reapers (1 with Jack-O-Lantern Head, 1 with Mirror Face, 1 with Pink Fright Wig), 2 Go-Go Dancers, 2 Pirates, 1 Unicorn, 1 Darth Vader, 1 Train Conductor, 1 Army Man, 1 Superman.

COURSE CORRECTION 



This week, Sassy and I have enjoyed the hospitality of some friends who've generously provided lodging for us in their home while I play a few gigs in the area. 

 

Their son (let's call him Freddie) is a very talented young aspiring jazz trumpeter. 

 

Although I regularly give master classes on the road, and have done my share of classroom teaching, spending time with Freddie and his family over the past week has been a powerful reminder to me of what it means to be a serious musician and what an industry jazz education has become.

 

At the age of 16, Freddie has already taken advantage of more specialized training and travel opportunities than I had in my college years, and he's already twice the player I was in high school. 

 

Freddie's days are so full that I'm actually hesitant to call him an "aspiring" musician. Not yet a high school senior, he's already playing professional gigs, studying advanced concepts and techniques, taking and teaching private lessons, listening broadly and living a decidedly music-centered life.

 

Freddie studies privately with two teachers: one for trumpet, another for jazz.

He's a veteran of jazz camp, Jazzschool, the Grammy band, SFJAZZ All-Stars, J@LC Essentially Ellington and Monterey NextGen. 

 

He participates in a summer music mentoring program and leads sectional brass rehearsals for his school jazz ensemble. He's won awards in all the regional and national honors programs you've heard of and several that you haven't. And he's already performed on the most prestigious jazz stages worldwide: New York, Monterey, Montreux, North Sea, Umbria. 

 

I never practiced like this kid, not even at Interlochen. He hits it hard for hours every day. Each morning I awaken to the sound of Freddie's horn, methodically working its way through James Stamp warm-ups, Clarke etudes, Clifford Brown turnarounds, articulation and lip flexibility exercises and chord scale after chord scale. Every afternoon he has a rehearsal or two with this or that band. Every evening he practices again. 

 

When I was Freddie's age, my bedroom was a shrine to Lindsay Wagner and Spencer's Gifts. I had only just begun to take private lessons and didn't take them very seriously. I loved to play but hated to practice.

 

Freddie's room is a hardcore crucible of brass: his chair, music stand and horn are at the center, surrounded by stacks of lead sheets and method books. His walls are festooned with festival posters and images of great jazzmen. On his desk a laptop computer is open to an overstuffed iTunes library. Two speakers face the practice chair.

 

I spent a couple of hours trading riffs with Freddie, and am astonished by his proficiency on the horn and his familiarity with the nuances of the jazz language. He's already familiar with every classic recording I mention, and he seems to own nearly all the available Aebersold and music-minus-one collections of standards. He has a remarkably sophisticated ear for modern harmony and can toss off bebop clichés over complex changes at bright tempos. He listens to all the same jazz heroes I do, plus the latest recordings by Alex Sipiagin, Ambrose Akinmusire and Billy Buss. He already knows the tunes, licks and lore that I learned in my five years at Berklee.

 

The other night I invited Freddie to sit-in with me and the band on "Invitation." The audience was knocked out. He played a mature solo, including some very creative motivic development. After the set, Freddie was appropriately gracious and grateful, pausing to individually thank each member of the rhythm section. He even possesses enough charm to balance all that swagger.

 

After 30 years in music, I'm now at an age when I think it's important to pay it forward. It's been my belief that I have a responsibility to share what I've learned over the course of my life and career, and to mentor and encourage the next generation of musicians.

 

But if they're at all like Freddie, I don't have the time. 

 

I need to practice. 

— D.M.
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