Dmitri Matheny Group JAZZ NOIR Michigan Tour Diary — Day 8 April 18 Interlochen
Today I returned to Interlochen Arts Academy for the first time in 30 years.
When I first came to Interlochen as a high school student in the mid-1980s, I loved it instantly. It seemed to me a magical place populated by social misfits and eccentrics, kids who, like me, were passionate about art and music.
Interlochen changed my life. For the first time I was surrounded by creative people my own age. Interlochen was where I learned the discipline required to build a life in the arts, and where I learned how rewarding an artist’s life can be.
Jazz was still something of a novelty at the academy back then. It's gratifying to see how much the school, and in particular the jazz program, has grown since those days.
Heartfelt thanks to my friend Bill Sears, director of jazz studies, for inviting me to come and spend the afternoon with his improv and combo classes.
Bill is a phenomenally gifted musician and educator. His students are serious and dedicated. Several of them already play like pros.
It was a giant joy for me to sit-in with them, present a workshop, and share some of my experiences as an IAA alumnus and working musician.
On a more personal note, coming back to Interlochen after all these years was soul-stirring. To spend the night in the campus hotel, dine in the cafeteria with the students, sit by the lake, stroll the grounds, see my old haunts, and share it all with Sassy, filled my heart with joy.
Dmitri Matheny Group JAZZ NOIR Michigan Tour Diary — Day 7 April 17 Berkley and Ann Arbor
Returning to Southern Michigan after our adventures in the Great White North, today I led a workshop at Berkley High School and played a concert at Ann Arbor's celebrated Kerrytown Concert House.
Warmest thanks to founder and artistic director Deanna Relyea for creating such a beautiful listening room and including us on the KCH schedule.
What a privilege to collaborate with such talents as these: the brilliant young Detroit saxophonist Marcus Elliot,whose debut album I absolutely love; Quad Cities pianist Corey Kendrick, enthusiastically recommended to me by Reggie Thomas; veteran bassist Tom Knific, a world class musician, mentor and friend since my Interlochen days; and rising star Sean Dobbins, that all-too-rare sort of drummer who simmers with quiet intensity, and then—at just the right moment—turns on the swang!
And what an honor to perform for and meet one of my longtime idols, jazz master Marcus Belgrave!
Mr. Belgrave and his lovely wife Joan (a vocalist I knew years ago in San Francisco) are pillars of the Michigan arts community and two of the warmest, most soulful people on the planet. Sassy and I are looking forward to getting together with them again next week.
If I accomplish nothing else on this tour, I did at least survive the terrifying and humbling (yet thrilling) experience of playing 'Stardust' in front of the great Marcus Belgrave.
Dmitri Matheny Group JAZZ NOIR Michigan Tour Diary — Day 6 April 13-16 Dearborn to Escanaba to Southfield
Brrrr! Who knew Michigan in April would be a scene from Currier & Ives?
Three cheers for Sassy, my amazing girlfriend, driver and tour manager, who celebrates her birthday today after a harrowing drive to the Upper Peninsula and back!
That's 13 hours and 900 miles in the snow, hands gripping the wheel at 10 and 2, eyes on the icy road ahead, ever vigilant that Kamikaze Bambi could dart out from winter wonderland at any moment.
Not an easy drive, but we made it, safe and sound. Taught two high school workshops on opposite sides of the state. Even had time to pause and enjoy a delicious Yooper Pasty in the quaint little town of Escanaba before heading south again.
Now we're relaxing in a nice warm hotel, car parked, nothing on the schedule... until tomorrow, when it all starts up again.
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.
Today is a joyous day: I received payment for last month's Girl Scouts music workshop! One box goes into the freezer and the other goes directly into my belly (minus 15% for Sassy because she booked the gig). Thanks, Girl Scouts!
Stumbling across this ridiculous photo today (31 years later), I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for GRANT WOLF, who somehow was able to see past the silly clothes and cocky attitude, and steer this kid onto the right path to a beautiful life in music. Wolf was an inspiring teacher and was one of the first adults to take my jazz aspirations seriously. His encouragement was profoundly important to me at a critical time in my development. I wish he were here so I could thank him.
Here at the Maricopa Cabana, Hoppin' John is one of the ways we celebrate the beginning of a New Year. Traditionally served with cornbread and greens (collard greens, mustard greens, chard, kale or cabbage), the main ingredients in this delicious winter dish are black-eyed peas, rice, chopped onion, country bacon (ham hock or fatback), green peppers and spices. Sassy always adds a little Arizona Gunslinger for an extra kick. Enjoy Hoppin' John on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity throughout the year.
Be sure to eat your fill: the peas represent coins, the greens are cash, and the cornbread, gold!
Practice what matters. Make each concert better than the last. 10,000 hours, 1,000 true fans, 100 shows. Be a citizen of the world. Make friends everywhere. Strive for authenticity, sincerity, sustainability. Hustle relentlessly. Be a hard workin' dog. Maintain momentum. Stick to your guns: don't get a smart phone. Increase touring income by 50%. Advance every detail of every show. Twice. Release the new album, no matter what. Do what it takes. Stay hydrated, eat right and walk every day. Forget the other guy. Focus on margins, not market share. Learn, earn and return. Give back. Don't neglect the minutia: clean horn, clean house, car in good repair. See the best in people, but be careful. Somehow get health insurance.
It's been a busy week, traveling to LA and back for 5 concerts, a radio interview, recording session and master class, but the highlight was playing Jazz Santa Claus to the most musically enthusiastic Girl Scout troop in Arizona. Appearance fee: 2 boxes of Thin Mints. Sassy gets 10% commission for booking the gig.