I freely admit to being envious of the vocalists who lived during the heyday of jazz clubs, back when touring wasn't so expensive. I have to hustle to find audiences anywhere I can... some jazz festivals and county fairs, classy nightclubs and dives, senior centers, cafes, weddings, on the street, etc. All of these gigs take a ton of preparation. It's supposed to look easy on-stage even when you're working with different bands, new material, questionable sound systems, traveling all day, wearing slippery heels, you name it. But I love the opportunity to sing for people, especially when I can move them with a song. Here is a recap of some of my favorite gigs this past year.
At the start of 2009 I was living in the Bay Area and had performed the National Anthem several times for the San Francisco Giants. Through a referral I began singing the anthem at Stanford Men's & Women's Basketball games in January. It was fun to experience the enthusiasm and spirit of college sports. February marked my last Valentine's Day show at KRML in Carmel. It closed not long afterwards. Jerry & I performed there as a duo and we also played a benefit for the Richmond Ermet AIDS Foundation at the beautiful old Post Street Theater. It was fun to hang out with Tuck & Patti backstage, among others. Another benefit concert I performed in was the 1st Rrazz Room Anniversary Gala with Rita Moreno, Paul Williams, Petula Clark, Freda Payne and disco diva Linda Clifford. That was shortly after the big dust-up between Etta James & Beyonce over who had the right to sing "At Last" at President Obama's inaugural ball. The Rrazz folks had asked me to sing "At Last" for their gala, so I'm just glad Etta James wasn't in the house!
The Marin JCC asked me to put together a "themed" show around well-known Jewish Songwriters. It went well and during the year I performed that show at several other JCC's and also recently at the Gardenia in Los Angeles. I played The Rrazz Room with my band for a week in April. In spite of the recession, Easter, Passover, etc...we had good turnouts and really nice reviews.
One morning in May I was surprised to find my picture on the front page of the New York Times website. I was part of a feature about how different people in the arts were dealing with the recession. That's an easy topic for me because it's always a recession for jazz musicians. In 2009 the well paying gigs for corporate parties nearly evaporated. I did a handful of private events in Napa and San Francisco but not nearly as many as the year before. Many independent musicians have had to work doubly hard to replace that "event" income.
One of my longest running and most enjoyable gigs in San Francisco started as a very low key affair with my duo. Sunday nights at Cafe Divine in North Beach were a real hit with my fans and friends. Owner David Wright, his brother Wade and the entire staff were so friendly and supportive that it became our "home." When we moved to Los Angeles we decided to have our "goodbye SF" concert there, and it was so jammed we reprised it 3 more times.
Through the summer we started looking for a place in Los Angeles. After settling in downtown L.A. we still had a lot of gigs in SF. We got very familiar with Interstate 5. One of the last gigs I had with my Bay Area band was at the San Jose Jazz Festival in August. Benny Watson, Seward McCain, David Rokeach and Jeff Buenz had been my nucleus for so many shows over the past 6 years. I'm glad we got to do it again. At that festival I also met Llew Mathews and Denise Donatelli.
In September I had a great time singing with the Jazz Arts Group Big Band in Fargo, where I graduated from High School. There were so many old friends and family members in the audience. From there I drove to Minneapolis for a gig at the well-known Dakota Jazz Club.
It wasn't until October that I could stick around long enough to feel like an Angeleno. I went out as much as I could to hear the L.A. singers and musicians. The depth and level of the talent here is a real turn-on for me. I met the incredibly gifted pianist, Theo Saunders, after his show at Vibrato's. For my gig at the Catalina Jazz Club in late October, Theo put together a 'killer' band for me including John B. Williams, Steve Cotter and Tony Austin. I look forward to many more gigs with them in 2010.