Day 20: Thursday, July 23

We headed east and rode 5½ hours along the coast to La Spezia, Italy, a port city of 120,000 on the Mediterranean, known for its shipping industry. During the ride the BOTB set into motion a deceptive scheme, deciding not to tell Ken Brader III that humans are not supposed to perform the lead trumpet position as great as he was, especially with such a grueling travel schedule. The physical demands of playing lead trumpet are tough enough when musicians get routine rest let alone with the rigors of touring. On the many nights that the audience encouraged Phil to play an encore, Phil would come back on stage and perform his arrangement of Benny Carter's 1936 slow swing, soft ballad Just a Mood. Phil started the piece playing clarinet extremely soft, wreaking total havoc for each sound crew (hint to crew: it's supposed to be soft), and Ken Brader's stratospheric, electrifying, swinging, grooving solo in the middle of the piece had to be heard to be believed . . . every time . . . after having already played for well over an hour. The BOTB strategy worked. Ken never figured it out and completed the tour performing formidably each and every night (most nights with one lung on idle!).

We arrived at the hotel and while walking around the city I finally spotted what I had been looking for the entire time in Italy: a store that sells hand-painted Italian bowls and plates. Presenting her incredible cooking on these bowls and plates is one of my wife Mary's two passions in life and I purchased a lovely, large dessert plate. Only problem was that it couldn't travel safely in my suitcase, so it hung out of my trumpet bag for the final five days as a carry-on. It survived the rest of the tour.

The band closed the five-day 30th Annual La Spezia International Jazz Festival. This event featured one major performing group each evening and had five corporate sponsors. About 500 people paid $20 to attend. Phil once again opened the performance with Fred Sturm's outstanding orchestration of Phil's composition All Bird's Children. Fred is on the faculty of the famed Eastman School of Music and this up-tempo burner is one of the highlights of the Celebration! CD. Each time Phil called A.B.C., it got faster, and by the 20th day of the tour the tempo was probably around quarter note = 421 beats per minute for all we knew!! Why does Phil perform things at those tempos? . . . because he can!

Dinner was from midnight to 1:30 a.m. in a great family trattoria near the hotel. Drummer and producer of dozens of albums Bill Goodwin was a great maintainer of the morale of the band during the entire trip and tonight was no exception. He was "the glue" that kept the band sane as he spent some time during the tour hanging with each musician. Not that we had any problem person in the band whose "jerk light" would go on. Most of us would go out of our way to help each other when ill, exhausted, or had full hands, especially at the airports. We slammed on doors at 5 a.m. to make sure that we were all getting ready to roll. Lots of joke telling concluded the evening. Hang rating: 10. Throughout the tour there was a great deal of laughter. It goes along with the philosophy that if people aren't laughing and having a good time at your corporation, classroom, meeting, or home, something is wrong. Laughter is part of the creative process that leads to inventive solutions of life's problems.

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