It was quite the year. Whether it was a horrible year, a happy year, sad year, or a productive year, for me, it was a monumental one. Since this is summary of my year-in-music, I'd like to brag to you about some of the musical achievements that I'm most proud of.
The Blue Note Beijing Jazz Orchestra
This band is a bit unlike any other. It's pretty amazing to get to play with the best guys in China, and to hear them do their thing on some of the great charts in the history of big band music, but it's even more incredible when we get to do it with the most influential musicians, writers and composers in the world. This New Year's Eve we invited Mark Turner and Michael Mossman for a one night show at the Blue Note that blew everyone away. We sold out, despite having really high ticket sales, and I watched in awe as Mark just shredded the bandstand up. Michael's compositions are the pinnacle of big band large ensemble writing, and having the two of them on Joe Henderson's Recordame (arranged by Mossman) felt historically in line with how that chart should be played.
It was an amazing gig and an amazing band that I'm incredibly proud of. Those guys killed it on a fairly difficult selection of original music by myself, Mossman and Alex Cummings, my good friend from Oberlin and THC collaborator. Alex joined me for 3 weeks and we played all over Beijing and Hong Kong, together with cats from both scenes. It was an incredible month of teaching, playing, and composing and it inspired me to reach for the next level.
The Spice Cabinet
Another group that I'm particularly proud (and fond of) was my funk group, The Spice Cabinet, irreverently labeled "Spice Cabernet" on occasion. It's a really silly band that tries to take pop music and turn it into a more avant garde style of instrumental Jazz. I do almost all of the arrangements, and I've watched the band grow from something really pitiful (20 minutes of soloing over unarranged Stevie Wonder songs) to a three sets of fully arranged music that makes people chop up and dance all night long. We even netted an award from those infamously insular expat magazines selected for Editor's choice for Band of the Year. We played two shows at the Blue Note, this year, which was really the wake up call for me, that we'd gone from a collective of Jazz bros who rock out on arrangements, to a band that has really actually garnered some respect from the community. I hope that whatever happens, we'll continue to push onward and upward, making better music and reaching new levels. That's what the Spice is all about!
I'm really looking forward to 2017 as another year in which I can push myself to new heights, musically, intellectually, and philosophically. There's a lot to look forward to and a lot of improve. Despite the political woes in the back of my mind, I know that I'm always trying to fight the good fight with the only weapons I have: my instruments. I hope to keep you all updated in a month with more great news! Happy new year!!!