Day 19: Wednesday, July 22

The entire band was on the bus before 5:30 a.m. to travel to the Madrid Airport to fly to Geneva, Switzerland, and then to the French Riviera city of Nice. Changing planes in Geneva, our boarding passes indicated Swissair, but as we stepped onto the tarmac . . . could it be? . . . YESSSSSS!! It's crossair, the same airline as the first day from Zurich to Lyon! Crossair was quickly becoming our favorite airline with the champagne, sandwiches, large chocolate discs, and toys for all the children. Such class! We had a one-hour bus ride to Antibes, an incredibly active town on the Côte d'Azur (Riviera). The hotel was right on the Mediterranean and it was hot . . . in more ways than one! The BOTB went to the extremely crowded beach, walking around for quite a while looking for an empty chaise lounge and suddenly it hit a couple of us: Hey wait a minute! What the Hell is this? This isn't right! Many of the women are topless!!! This really angered, confused, and incensed the BOTB to the point that we said if they can do it, so can we, so off came our shirts. In our anger, we had no shame! These people are so free of American worry, guilt, and paranoia and this is a terrible thing, so the BOTB decided to write a letter to the president of France condemning this tolerance, but we lost the address.

That evening we were really ready to perform at the 38th Festival de Jazz d'Antibes Juan-les-Pins. Antibes is the name of the entire area and Juan-les-Pins is the small beach section where the event was held. "Pins" translates into the Mediterranean pine trees that are so prevalent in the area. Claude Monet's 1888 painting Cap d'Antibes features one of the pine trees with the Mediterranean and hills in the background and the performance site was situated in a grove of the pines on the beach with the incredible Mediterranean sunset directly behind the stage. The poster and printed program cover featured colorful artwork very similar to Monet's painting, depicting the topography, much like the artwork on the COTA festival poster and program featuring the Delaware Water Gap or local landmarks. The Antibes festival has been of major jazz historical importance with landmark performances and recordings by most major jazz artists of the 20th century. A case in point is the record album Miles Davis in Europe recorded there July 27, 1963, featuring Herbie Hancock and George Coleman, who we would be meeting up with two days later near Pescara, Italy.

An exciting part of the band's performance that night was our guest soloist, the incomparable tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. Johnny is originally from Chicago, moved to France decades ago, and in January 1998 he came to the Gap as a guest on Phil's first feature album for Blue Note Records. It was recorded at Red Rock Studio in Saylorsburg, PA, is titled The Rev & I (Blue Note 7243 4 94100 2 2) for a song Phil wrote about his good friend John "The Rev" Flick. It was produced by drummer Bill Goodwin and was released in the fall of 1998. After a few tunes by Phil and the band (including another memorial performance of Au Revoir Monsieur Lafitte), Johnny came out and played many improvised choruses on Phil's composition Banja Luka, which Phil composed for Quincy Jones' Big Band in the late 1950s and is named after a town in Yugoslavia. A hysterical incident occurred as someone pointed out to Johnny after 15 minutes on stage that pieces of sheet music he conveniently stored in the bell end of his saxophone to transport the music easily to the stage were still in the bell during his performance! The band and audience got a tremendous kick out of Johnny's and Phil's reaction to this discovery. The concert was broadcast on French TV and hopefully this special moment didn't get edited out. Johnny then performed an original composition with the rhythm section, Phil joined them for All the Things You Are, and the rest of the band reentered the stage ready to surprise Johnny with their rendering of Happy Birthday as a large saxophone birthday cake was brought out to celebrate his 70th birthday. We concluded our portion of the program with Repetition. The second half of the evening featured French violinist/trumpeter Didier Lockwood and his group. There were 2,500 people at the concert, general admission was $18 (more for a reserved seat), and this event had seven major sponsors.

Antibes nightlife is a whole other universe with thousands of people crowding the narrow streets and small bars until after 3 a.m. We were relieved to see that the women had put their tops back on. None of us hung, but it looked like a potential hang rating of 10.

 

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