9. Romero Lubambo, Newport Jazz Festival, 2009. I had been delving into Brazilian jazz in the form of bossa nova and samba for a couple years when I caught Romero at Newport that summer. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I didn’t know much about him at the time, other than the fact that he was generally recognized as a master of this type of music. I heard him twice that afternoon but it was my initial exposure that I’ll always remember. Newport Jazz Festival takes place on the grounds of an old fort that sticks out into Newport Harbor. There are three music venues there, a small stage under a tent with seating for perhaps 200, a bigger one under a bigger tent that seats three times that many, and of course the big main stage with lawn seating. Romero was playing with his regular bassist and drummer but they were there to back up an alto sax man whose name I’ve forgotten. I was fortunate to sit about twenty feet from Romero, which I did on purpose with the intention of studying his technique and hopefully pick up a few tidbits.
Well, at this point in time I was beginning to feel like I was at least beginning to get a handle on the basic bossa nova chords and rhythms. “Pride goeth before a fall,” as some wise person once said. From the first few bars it was obvious I was a babe in the woods when it came to this music. Romero’s playing was sweet, swinging, melodic and just…. right. And way beyond any of my knowledge. It was an absolutely enthralling hour, to say the least. It came to me at that moment that the reason I was (and still am) so drawn to that wonderful music is that it was mostly written on guitar, for guitarists. This was a revelation! Most of what are considered jazz standards were written on piano and while they can all certainly can and are played by virtuoso guitarists, those tunes from Brazil just “fit” in a guitarist’s hands. The changes are logical, for lack of better description. And they sound oh so good.
I went home and immediately began learning everything I could about Romero Lubambo and also bought a wonderful instructional DVD that he produced a few years ago. It taught me a few of his tricks but also focused on the groove and how to get into it. I continue to explore Brazilian jazz to this day and while I don’t think I’ll ever come close to Romero’s chops it is a journey that I love to be on.
10. My brother John’s senior recital at Oberlin Conservatory, 1979 (I think!). I am very proud of my little brother. He is the REAL musician in the family. He has made a very nice career in a field of musical endeavor that few can claim to: classical music. He presently plays with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and lives in Kuala Lumpur. Previously he was with the Virginia Symphony, the Thunder Bay Philharmonic and other “bands” as he sometimes calls them!
That year when John was about to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Performance from Oberlin – one of the most difficult and prestigious music conservatories in this country, if not the world – my mom and dad, plus my uncle and aunt drove out to Ohio to witness this all-important event, the culmination of John’s intense schooling. Uncle Irv, a great musician, teacher and conductor in his own rite, had been John’s trumpet teacher from moment one right through high school and I don’t know what was more gratifying: watching my parent’s pride or Uncle Irv’s. Irv and my dad, grandfather and most likely my great grandfather too (clarinet player in the original P.T. Barnum Circus Band in the late 1800s) were wonderful people but stern taskmasters when it came to learning an instrument. They really didn’t know any other way! So when John absolutely nailed his most difficult and final piece in the program and his school friends, teachers and all of we in his family stood and cheered it was an extremely emotional moment for me, to say the least. That was my little brother up there! He had kicked some musical ass and I flashed on him struggling with the trumpet in the early years. Now, there was no doubt about it. He was a true master of his instrument, and soon would become a true professional musician. I regret that in spite of his being in the Malaysian for over ten years, I have not heard him with that world-class symphony. Perhaps I never will but its almost enough to know that he is out there doing it.
OK, enough with the sentimentality, already! I hope you’ve enjoyed my 10 most memorable musical experiences that I have witnessed. I welcome comment on yours!
Peace & good music,