i just finished my annual pilgrimage to chicago. i had another opportunity to collaborate with my friend and vocal virtuoso marcya daneille (watch the pronunciation, y'all). last year's show featured the world's finest trombonist wycliffe gordon and, even though he played his buns off, the tunes lacked cohesion. our rehearsals were all jacked up, and most of us were intimidated by wynton's right hand man. i was looking forward to another stab at marcya's project.
i had done some arranging for marcya, treating ellington, rihanna, shirley horn, jill scott, and autumn leaves.
ted brewer, bassist with the late art porter, was a familiar face. this show also featured the chicago tenor saxophonist and rising star chris greene. maurice cotton brought both a gospel-infused jazz piano style and his drumming cousin terrence pettigrew down from milwaukee. friday's rehearsal got started a couple hours late and was initially drenched in that drama, but quickly switched into a nice vibe. it became obvious that each of us offered a unique musical talent. we were definitely behind the eight ball going into saturday's sound check, but i was comfortable knowing that the musicianship was strong enough to give it the old college try.
my charts used a bunch of mixed meters and odd transitions, presenting significant challenges when paired with our tight turnaround. we hit our soundcheck, and it was obvious that terrence had shed the recordings of the tunes with maurice. that alone made us all feel worlds better about the show to follow. ted's stage presence was uplifting, marcya's excitement was infectious, and chris oozed professionalism. one of the band members told me that, with some spit and polish, we can make this a great show. they were right.
backstage before the hit was collegial, with all the guys in the band swapping jokes, sharing snaps of their kids, taping parts, and whirling through their phones while scarfing down veggies and chugging a box o' joe. the folks at the show brought some extra energy to the hall. marcya lit up the stage with her special spark. we were excited about playing the tunes, including a hank mobley original and some feel good gospel charts. of course it all worked out, once again proving that age old formula that good musicians + great material + even better people is often the secret to success.