What is it about live music that makes it so special for you?
It's amazing to watch musicians take a standard and make it their own song with their unique improvisations. I am constantly amazed at the level of skill that I see in so many jazz musicians, and I appreciate that it's not only hard work, but also an innate ability to internalize the songs. What is the farthest you've traveled to get to a jazz performance?
Once when I was in Moscow I decided to surprise Allan Harris
and Ark Ovrutski
who were playing a gig in Odessa, Ukraine. I had to fly from a relatively new airport in Moscow to Minsk, and then on to Odessa. I had arranged for the hotel where the concert was occurring to have a driver pick me up, and we navigated slowly through Odessa till we reached the hotel. As I was checking in, I heard Allan Harris's voice behind me saying, "I thought I was the only black person in Odessa...."
Except for the local pianist, I knew all the musicians, and there were several of my Facebook jazz friends at the concert as well. All in all, it was an excellent experience, with incredible live music. Is there one concert that got away that you still regret having missed?
There was a festival in Shanghai a couple of years back that featured Tina May
and Igor Butman that I really wanted to go to. I had not been in Asia for about a decade, and I had some local friends that I really wanted to see as well; it would have been the perfect time and venue for all of that to come together. If you could go back in time and hear one of the jazz legends perform live, who would it be?
Over the years I had been following the pianist, Eddie Higgins
, and always seemed to miss his performances. I finally got tickets to a performance in early September 2009 in Florida during an Art Show given by his wife, the great jazz singer Meredith d'Ambrosio
. Sadly, before the concert, Eddie passed away, and I forever lost the opportunity to see and meet him in real life. I had been communicating with him through email for a couple of years, so I did have the chance to tell him how much I appreciated his talent.
What makes a great jazz club?
I actually have two favorite jazz clubs, both in Moscow. I love Esse Jazz Club because it has just a great ambiance, and the staff knows exactly what I want (double Jack Daniels with Coke, and Chicken Kiev), and they always have great acts and bring in a lot of American talent. Next is Club Igor Butman; I started to go to this club because I've known Igor for over 15 years and he keeps bringing such amazing and talented acts to his club. I love both places because I always get a chance to interact with the musicians and they are usually pretty ecstatic to hear the musical opinion of an American.
Which club(s) are you most regularly to be found at?
When I am in Boston I will be at Ryles, Scullers, Regattabar, or Wally's. When in Moscow I am always at Esse and Club Igor Butman, but I try to also get to JAM club and Club Kozlov. In St. Petersburg it is always Dom 7, JFC, and The Hat Club. In Costa Rica I can always be found at the Jazz Café in San Pedro (there is also one in Escuzu, but I have never found the chance to get to that one).
Is there a club that's no longer around that you miss the most?
In the Boston area we had the Acton Jazz Café and while I did not know it for long (I only started to go there in 2009) I always loved it because I got to take my daughter Cynthiaeven before she was born! I also developed a lot of friendships with local musicians at this club and they helped introduce me to the Boston Jazz scene. Tell us about The Real Jazz Ambassadors.
About two years ago I started a company called The Real Jazz Ambassadors, LLC, because I had an idea about producing a documentary commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1958 jazz tour of Dave Brubeck in Poland. I produced a promotional documentary with Darius Brubeck
with the hope of filming a full-length documentary this year of Darius retracing the steps of the tour he went on with his father when he was 11 years old.