The Testosterone Tour '98 continued by taking three planes and a three-hour bus ride. Not bad, only 13½ hours of travel. The band flew from Molde to Oslo, then to Brussels. Going through the metal detector in Brussels, something upon or in my person activated the security alarm . . . again. The BOTB crowd was laughing at me . . . again. This time I was escorted by my new friend to a booth, he closed a curtain behind us, and he pulled out a large, long object that he rubbed most places, occasionally emitting a high pitch (the object emitted, that is). I was told to lift my arms, then one leg at a time (?!?!?!). Our encounter concluded and I confidently pushed the curtain aside and reentered the world with a look of just being "checked" on my face. Any further description of this rendezvous doesn't belong in this publication.
The third plane of the day from Brussels to Rome wasn't a Sabena flight as our tickets indicated but contracted out as a Virgin Express charter flight. Uh-oh! Economic? You bet! Comfortable? Not a chance! Two hours of squashed knees, a small, warm soft drink, and many, many screaming children. Thank you Sabena!!! What will you do with all the money you saved? Hang rating: -3.91.
Arrival at the Rome Airport was uneventful (we would return several days later to pay our dues). We rode the bus 3½ hours to Perugia, making for 13½ hours of total travel time that day. We checked into the hotel and had 30 minutes to shower before leaving for the soundcheck. Dinner was at 11:15 p.m. underneath the theater stage and we hit at midnight. Throughout the tour, the goal each day was to reach the vicinity of the performance with hopefully a little time to spare and cool out a bit, but even if time was tight a feeling of relief seemed to come over the band upon arrival at the venue. No reference of what the band had gone through that day was mentioned. It was a done deal and mental energy focused on the impending performance. The unspoken hope was that maybe tomorrow would be just a bit easier.
The 12-day Umbria Jazz Festival '98 had major corporate funding from Heineken, is in its 25th year, and the concert was held in the lovely Teatro Pavone in the incredibly beautiful hilltop town of Perugia in Tuscany. Now this was a festival! Striking architecture, quaint coffeehouses, and lots of quality music. Phil and the band performed for an audience of 700 who paid $17 and the event was broadcast on RAI (Italian National TV and Radio). We ate before the concert and the band loved the white lasagna. Could our taste have been influenced by the fact that we hadn't had a meal in 14 hours? Once again, the well-meaning sound crew didn't understand much about acoustic-based jazz and the monitor system was a nightmare. Bassist Steve Gilmore seemed to never give up, diplomatically pleading with the person on the monitor control board to rebalance the monitor mix on stage to reflect the acoustic nature of the ensemble. At the soundcheck during a few concerts the bass could be heard (and felt) in the next country. If they really wanted to hear how the bottom line is supposed to sound, they could listen to Steve's 1996 CD Reflections in the Night (Jazzmania Records JCD 6018) with Bill Charlap and guitarist Steve Brown.
Several nights, Phil asked the rhythm section to perform a feature selection. Each time they played a different selection and each time Bill Charlap, Steve, and Bill Goodwin delivered stunning works. This night was no exception as Bill Charlap started the trio feature with a prelude of Nessun Dorma! from this theater in Pucciniís home country. Ah, so that's why Bill was going through this piece before the first concert back in Vienne, France! Many audience members could be seen mouthing the operatic lyrics from Act III of Turandot during Bill's performance, reflecting the wonderfully constructed melody and Bill's sensitive, expressive interpretation. Absolutely lovely! Bill's recent CD All Through the Night features Peter and Kenny Washington on the Criss Cross label (Criss Cross 1153). Outstanding jazz writer Ira Gitler attended this concert.
Another interesting musical characteristic of the tour was the several nights that the tenor saxophonists on the band, Tom Hamilton and Lew Del Gatto, followed each other on virtuosic improvised solos during the same selection. They have very contrasting styles yet they complement each other beautifully. Personality wise, they too are opposites: Tom would seemingly say a few words each week, but when he did, they were killers with such great timing and striking intelligence; Lew talks to anyone at any time, despite his illustrious career of decades in the New York City studios and through the 1980s and 1990s as band member, arranger, and contractor of the NBC Saturday Night Live Band. His recent CD Katewalk features Randy Brecker and Steve Turré and may be obtained by leaving a message for Lew at 770/592-1241. Lew remains one of the most unassuming and kindest people I know. Just ask his good friend, the equally unassuming and kind Jim Buckley in the bari sax position. He, Jim Daniels, and I had the right side of the band sown up, each of us "anchoring" our sections.
The band arrived back at the hotel at 2:40 a.m. and wake-up calls were set for 8:30 a.m.