I boarded our tour bus this morning at 6:00 and after getting settled in for a long ride I reflected on the past four days in Santa Fe. I am sure I was Native American in another life, because just looking at the turquoise jewelry, Navajo baskets and brightly colored, hand-woven rugs, makes me feel, strangely, at home.
It was very unusual to be in a city for four days with only one concert, and I took advantage of the free days by exploring this quaint, quirky town. I started by walking with no particular objective and found myself in a square eating Frito-pie from a street vendor. In a small paper bowl a man, perhaps 65, with leathery skin, emptied the contents of two small bags of Fritos™, added grilled chicken, then topped it with a creamy mix of roasted corn and green chili. Obscenely delicious, and I will probably never have it again.
Next stop was the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, where I enjoyed, in particular, the work of artist Meryl McMaster. (Her web site: http://merylmcmaster.com/home.html)
The next evening, after enduring (and, I admit, occasionally laughing at) twenty minutes of corny one-liners from Brad, the limo driver, photographer Frank Stewart (another one-liner specialist) and I were delivered at the beautiful home of Pam and Randall Onstead for a reception and fundraising event for JALC. When I walked in the front door I heard some very swinging flute and upon entering the room I saw it was Ali Ryerson, who I had met and heard for the first time almost fifteen years ago at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Joined by a local piano trio, she sounded great.
Wynton and drummer Ali Jackson arrived some time later. Wynton was invited to say a few words to the crowd of casually dressed, mostly wealthy New Mexicans. His fifteen minute speech was text book in how it expressed the importance of jazz, and culture in general, and the need to continue to support the many educational programs offered by Jazz at Lincoln Center, while embracing everyone in the room and making them feel part of something special. It was honest, insightful and artful.
Wynton sat in with Ali Ryerson and her group on some blues and later invited her to join us the next night on our concert, which she did, and sounded relaxed and expressive on my arrangement of Chick Corea’s Windows. It was a nice concert over all, presenting a real cross-section of the band’s diverse repertoire.
The final day of our residency in The Land of Enchantment was one of those special days, one that will go down in the history books. Victor Goines and I were picked up in front of the hotel by clarinetist Eddie Daniels, who moved to Santa Fe more than twenty years ago. Eddie, coming straight from his tennis lesson, drove us twenty minutes to his beautiful home where the three of us spent a solid two hours playing clarinets, alternatively comping for each other on the piano, playing tunes, trading fours, creating counter lines, and having absolute musical fun. We then repaired to his kitchen for some of his signature margaritas and were joined by his lovely wife, Mirabai, for a home-cooked meal.
Next stop: Midland, Texas.