Day 6: Thursday, July 9

The band was up by 5:45 a.m. to depart by 6:30 a.m. for a four-hour bus ride to the Zurich Airport. Heading north through the valleys between the Alps was some great scenery; however, inside the bus, two dogmas were becoming well established. The first was who was sitting where. Since most humans tend to be creatures of habit, they usually sit in the same seat, even when changing buses. Thus, each PWBB bus had established an area of permanent personnel known as the Back of the Bus (BOTB). This was a rather vocal group of about eight sidemen who tended to destructively analyze any travel problem whether real, imagined, past, present, or future in a rapid-fire, nonconstructive manner. Any time a potential problem was sensed or reminisced upon, the group erupted into about 35 seconds of verbal violence (usually dominated by people who play an instrument that relies on a slide to change the pitches) that never but never offered a solution to the problem. Yes, the BOTB was very dark, even at nine in the morning (it's an attitude). If the 20 flights would have allowed a back-of-the-plane group to form, more wasted energy would have been expended (fortunately air travel seating is random). In Europe, most buses even have a second door toward the back, conveniently creating "attitude segregation!" By the way, the front of the bus in any big band is reserved for intelligent, responsible persons capable of making important split-second decisions. This is where our leader Phil, tour producer Jordi, and tour guide Billy were encamped.

The second established set of rules involved a Jim Daniels project known as The Program. To be in The Program, a sideman could not spend any of his salary unless absolutely necessary (bring it home!). Since breakfast and dinner were always provided, being on The Program meant when the band stopped for lunch, Program members chose not to eat (not that anyone needed a meal three hours after a large breakfast). If you wanted to spend a little money you had to ask Jim if it fell within the rules of The Program. If it didn't and you still spent the money, you were brought up on charges, risking possible banishment from The Program. Reinstatement could take literally a couple of hours depending on if Jim could be found. Laugh all you want, but this is serious stuff. Sidemen need strict, detailed rules, especially when carrying salary. If you haven't already guessed it, Jim sat in the corner in the very back seat of the bus, surveying all before him, and it was wise to ask permission to sit anywhere near his corner, especially if you needed to stay in The Program.

While heading toward Zurich, the bus passed through Gotthard, the longest tunnel in Europe: 12 miles! (Ever feel like the world is closing in?) This information comes courtesy of lead alto player George Robert, director of the Professional Division at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and admirer of all things beautiful. George was subbing for woodwind wizard George Young. You must already be assuming that to play lead alto saxophone in Phil's Band you must be formidable, but what I can't understand about George is how such a sweet, friendly person can strap on a sax and play so wonderfully dirty, nasty, greasy, and stankful. Phil featured George several nights on Leonard Feather's composition I Remember Bird as arranged by Oliver Nelson, and every night George had the audience screaming for more. George's 1999 CD The Summit is on the German-based MONS label and features guest artist Phil Woods.

At the Zurich Airport I laid low so as not to be seen by my acquaintance of the first day. Trombonist Evan Dobbins was exhausted, and as we emptied the bus and entered the terminal, Jim Daniels and I had to convince Evan that his trombone and carry-on were not in the building. He claimed that theyíd already been checked and we explained that we didn't even know what airline we were on yet! Jim and I ran and caught the bus before it left, we found the items, and put them in his arms. Evan is not a morning person but functions and performs quite well during the afternoon and night. We boarded the flight for Lisbon, Portugal. Three hours later we were on another bus headed for Cascais, the farthest western point in mainland Europe.

The evening performance was at the Estoril Jazz Festival, in a palm-tree-lined park near the ocean. We arrived to find music stands constructed from wire even though the contract specifically stated "no wire music stands." Our heavy folders really needed sturdy
stands but maybe there were none in the country? Or maybe they didn't care?

The moderate-sized audience took its time taking their seats and as the concert started it seemed like a very low-keyed environment until halfway through the first set someone figured out that Tony Bennett was sitting in the front row checking out Phil and his band. After intermission, Phil was the most gracious of hosts and invited Tony to come up on stage and sing. They decided on Don't Get Around Much Anymore, starting out with the rhythm section as Phil and Bill Charlap presented beautiful improvisations and then the entire band took it home.

This five-day festival had five major sponsors and the audience of 400 paid $17 to attend. Dinner that night was from 12:30 to 2 a.m. (a 20-hour day) at a great little sidestreet restaurant (hang rating: 10). Jordi said that Portuguese wine is one of Europe's best-kept secrets and this restaurant proved him correct, once again. He left us for a few days and would later rejoin us.

 
 

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