Jim, Jesse, and I got to the concert site, Jim being the "stage meister" to guide the resident stage crew as to how Phil likes his band set up. Jim is not only an accomplished bass trombonist, what with his 20 months with Woody Herman's Young Thundering Herd in the mid-1970s (he's on five of the Herd's recordings) and years subbing and recording with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, he also paid major dues as a member of Woody's setup crew and has been heading the local COTA stage crew for years! The band arrived intact with time to spare, Phil handed out some new additions to the band's repertoire, everyone warmed up, and we soundchecked. Bill Charlap immediately sat down at the piano to give it his test, executing Puccini's Nessum Dorma! from the opera Turandot. Hmmm . . . why would he be warming up with that piece? Interesting . . . will we be hearing Giacomo's beautiful melody again? Time will tell.
The 18th annual Jazz à Vienne was a 15-day festival with 11 major sponsors held in an absolutely magnificent stone amphitheater built by the Romans around 200 B.C. It seems to be in better condition than the Coliseum in Rome! During the performance, proud Papa Phil showed his experience as a great leader, realizing that the band was jetlagged and sightreading as he counted off tempos slightly slower than expected. Nice and relaxed and no one got hurt. No train wrecks here! Trumpet wizard Brian Lynch ripped off several typically blazing solos. Unfortunately, ripping was the operative word as his sound was being amplified through a large monitor speaker next to my left leg, angling the sound straight up to my ear, ripping through my left tympanium, and coming out the other side of my head. So much for preconcert soundchecks. I probably broke French stage crew by-laws and turned the speaker directly at the trombone section.