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Ralph Towner: The Accidental Guitarist

Ralph Towner is a rather atypical figure in the vast world of jazz guitar. His instruments of choice are the classical guitar, which when he started, in the '60s, was played almost exclusively by guitarists related to Brazilian music like Charlie Byrd, Laurindo Almeida and Bola Sete, and the 12-string guitar, very common in the folk world but virtually unknown to jazz. These choices led Towner to develop his signature instrumental technique without reference to any other guitarist. In doing so, he synthesized his various musical experiences as a self-taught pianist, with degrees in trumpet and composition, who discovered guitar at the age of 22.

A founding member of Oregon in the early '70s, the band that pioneered a bold and innovative fusion of jazz, classical, folk and world music, Towner is one of the prominent names in the roster of the ECM Records label, which has recently released My Foolish Heart after publishing, since 1972, almost his entire discography as a leader.

All About Jazz met with Ralph Towner, in his home in Rome, to learn more about his career and his particular approach to music and to guitar.

All About Jazz: Let's start with some biographical information about your musical education. Did you start your formal training on trumpet?

Ralph Towner: Yes, I was six years old when I started with the trumpet. I was also already playing piano, my mother was a piano teacher but I was such a stubborn child and I refused to take lessons from her, I would just listen to all the piano lessons in the back of the room. I always had this particular gift, composing and improvising is something I did naturally from the very beginning. I really started developing when I started imitating recordings and piano players, but I didn't really get seriously into playing the piano until later.

I played jazz trumpet, I was born in 1940 and I had two much older brothers that were both in second World War and they collected a lot of swing band music and some Duke Ellington and all the Benny Goodman and even Nat King Cole Trio recordings, so I learned all those standards, plus playing them on trumpet books, and my mother would play the piano to accompany me. I started playing in Dixieland bands and dance bands when I was really young, my brother-in-law played bass in this dance band and I was allowed to play in this club, I think it was a hotel bar, at 12, and he would take me out out during the intermissions because it was illegal for me to be in the bar [laughs]. I didn't really get interested in becoming a pianist until I heard Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro. I heard a lot of other piano players and I could imitate them a little bit, but my piano was for classical composition. I went to University [where he met and befriended bassist Glen Moore, his future band-mate in Oregon] and my diploma ended up being in composition.

I still hadn't discovered classical guitar until I was in the last year of my university studies, when I heard a student playing it. I was very fascinated and I somehow managed to buy one for almost nothing, I remember it costed about 100$ or something. I started to teach myself and I realized I was not gonna go very far, and play it at the level that I realized it needed to be played at. So I asked around and was told there was a great master professor at the Music Academy in Vienna. I somehow managed to get enough money by working in the summer, got to Europe and hitchhiked all the way to Vienna. I also managed to get accepted in that famous Academy. I only knew two classical guitar pieces, but it was very obvious to that panel of professors that I was a musician, so I got admitted.

The professor was Karl Scheit, a brilliant musical teacher, he didn't speak English so I learned from him in German. The way he taugh was a very wonderful step by step procedure, his whole intention was making the guitar sound to its full potential. I used to live in a single room I managed to find, rented for 12$ a month, I ate hardly anything, and I practiced 9 to 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for a year. At the end of the year I could play classical concerts. I returned to Vienna a second time but by then I had furthered my guitar studies, I had heard Brazilian music and started playing Baden Powell kind of things. Then I went back to studying the piano, the first year I was in Vienna I didn't touch the piano, I didn't go near it, I was completely concentrated on the guitar.

AAJ: Have you ever had other contacts with your classical guitar teacher, Karl Scheit, before his passing in 1993? Do you know how he regarded your musical career?

RT: About nine years after I finished my studies with him, I returned to Vienna to play with my group Oregon in a beautiful gilded concert hall (which I had never had access to when I was there as a student). Karl Scheit was in attendance, and he was thoroughly excited with the concert. He rushed back-stage at the end of the concert, grabbed my arm and took me immediately to his favorite restaurant (hitherto only reserved for Julian Bream and other famous classical guitarists as his guest). He raved about the music and the beauty of improvising with tablas, which he had always longed to do. He came to several of my solo concerts in the following years. This was the Hollywood ending every student would dream about, seeing their mentor in such perfect circumstances.

AAJ: So it was classical guitar that attracted you from the beginning...

RT: Yeah, it was just classical, and the playing of classical music and the classical technique really, which got the most sound, the most colors and articulation, more than it was required to play brazilian music or jazz at that time. When I studied the classical guitar all I played was classical music and I tried to stay away from improvising. The first year that I came back to the United States I started working as a jazz pianist, half the set would be jazz piano and the other half would be bossanova and I might play one classical piece. But what happened in that first break from studying in Vienna and playing bossanova is that my technique got worse and worse, the sound was disappearing and I knew something was going wrong. I had achieved such a high level playing classical guitar and I listened to it slowly disappear. Playing just Brazilian music wasn't that demanding enough, it didn't need much articulation. A lot of rhythmic things were exciting and the chords were all borrowed from jazz and the harmony was related to jazz, that's what attracted me, but it cost me my facility on the guitar, and I realized I'd better go back.

So I returned to Vienna and I paid much more attention, and at the end of the second year I really evolved my attention to detail on the guitar. I started writing music that sounded comfortable on the classical guitar, but also including all the colours and dynamics and expressions that you hear in any kind of classical music, treating it more like an orchestra playing and really using those possibilities on the guitar, and I included articulation, attack and different tone colours in my improvisation.

AAJ: Back then, there weren't many jazz players using classical guitar, maybe Charlie Byrd...

RT: There weren't any at all, Charlie Byrd came along but let's say he wasn't very talented. He was the only one playing what sounded like Brazilian music, and it was quite fine for him to play some of that music and record it for the United States to hear. People used to think that he was really something, but he wasn't actually very proficient. He had the right idea, though, I mean, the music he was attracted to, and what he was playing. Anyway, when I came back to the States I started working more on the piano and was able to play gigs on the piano.

That's how I kept improving, I do everything in blocks in my whole life, instruments, kinds of music, etc. I would spend a lot of time on each instrument learning it and by the time I was really close to a finished product I was ready to move to New York in 1968. So it really was a combination of a lot of experiences, direct experience with this kind of music, modern classical music, classical guitar music, and Brazilian music, I got involved in that wonderful sound and its great songs, Jobim, people like that. And then of course Bill Evans was the big, big influence. Harmonically for me he was it, but I also admire the way Bill, Paul Motian and Scott LaFaro played together, and the way they responded to each other.

AAJ: For Brazilian music, your main influence was Baden Powell?

RT: A little bit, not that much. Joao Gilberto, was more interesting to me, but that basically was a standard way to play accompaniment. I did a tour with Astrud Gilberto, it was 1970, I think George Mraz was the bassist and Airto Moreira was the drummer. We played a couple of concerts, not many, but I did play with quite a lot of Brazilians in New York. Actually I have to say a big part of my playing comes from Brazilians, I don't think people quite notice it this much, but that's a big part of my musical influence, especially Jobim's writing, I was really influenced by that.

AAJ: What bands were you playing with at that time? How was New York's music scene?

RT: I was just a freelance pianist in New York basically... I was playing guitar with some Brazilian musicians when I got to New York. Airto Moreira was one of them. I succeeded quite well as a jazz pianist. I played with Freddie Hubbard and even with Stan Getz. There weren't too many great piano players at that time so I had a pretty high rating. Since then the level of piano players has gone so far beyond mine as far as technique was concerned, but I understood jazz and how to play it.

Anyway, it was a great scene, a lot of music was happening in New York. I think one reason was that it was still very cheap to live in Manhattan. I was living in the Greenwich Village, the West Village, for about 120$ a month and I didn't have to work too many wedding gigs to pay the rent... you had lots of free time to get together with the other musicians all afternoons, nights... Once, in the middle of the night the phone rang and this guy who was running a nice jazz loft kind of club, said "Ralph come down, Sonny Rollins is here and there's no one for him to play with," so I spent all night playing duets with Sonny Rollins!

New York was great, it was the cauldron where all these bands came out, music was changing. We would do demo tapes with other people, half of Mahavishnu Orchestra was there, everyone was connected with everyone else. We were always trying combinations of groups and people, we all played and jammed together, composed and worked on pieces. They were jam sessions but people weren't playing standards any more, they were trying everybody's new pieces, so we were very cooperative and very constructive. You had to be a good player and had to know jazz to be involved with these musicians. I lived in New York City from 1968 to 1982, so that has been my favourite hometown, I still belong there somehow. That whole early Seventies era was just amazing. Only that level of creativity can explain why a group with a great jazz base like Weather Report would even consider doing a tune with a 12-string guitarist like me...

I remember in 1968 I went over to Wayne Shorter's apartment, and we listened to each other's music and we spent all afternoon, and this was before Weather Report was formed, I think he was having this idea of a group. The call for this Weather Report recording idea came much later, 1972 I think, but that's all a product of New York. Jaco Pastorius was in New York too, he came to my apartment almost the first week he was there. He knocked on my door in Greenwich Village and introduced himself saying "My name is Jaco Pastorius and I'm the world's greatest bassist, and I wrote this tune for you," and he comes marching right in with this piece, impossible to play, all harmonics... and he had also recorded an LP, "You gotta listen to this" and slams the record onto my turntable and starts playing it... I don't know how long he stayed but we listened to those stuff, and he was amazing, then he left, he did that with several other musicians. I think he even played for the Board of Directors of Columbia Records, he walked right in to the board with his bass and he played like for the president of Columbia Records using the the same line "I'm the world's greatest bassist." He was a real character.

AAJ: How was the band Oregon formed?

RT: I was hired by Paul Winter for his Consort and he said that he needed a percussionist and a bassist, and I said "I have the perfect percussionist and bassist," because Glen had met Collin Walcott in jam sessions in the city, and we got together, we all played for this folksinger named Tim Hardin in Woodstock. I thought it was gonig to be a folk festival while we were driving up there, but it turned out to be THE Woodstock festival... we had to be flown in by helicopter. This was very strange for a "little folk festival." We got above the venue and we looked down and we saw almost half a million people in one place, and that was quite a shock!

Actually the most important thing about that festival wasn't the music at all, but it was just that it could happen, and the feeling was so benevolent. There was such a good will, and of course it was completely spontaneous, they didn't know this was gonna happen, and it was never possible to repeat it, because it was something that was spontaneous. Everything after that became a money making machine, without that great magic that the first one had. I don't think I played in any other thing quite that big!

To get back to Paul Winter, Glen, Collin and me joined his Consort which I was with for maybe a year, year and a half or something. That group had such an interesting instrumentation with the oboe [played by Paul McCandless], it was really a great motivation to write original music for this particular group. Paul wasn't playing much original music before I showed up. I brought a lot of the music. The four of us with McCandless, we hit it off in such a way, that bond was already there, we did a lot of touring with Paul, thanks to him we basically were already a "group within a group." We came away from that tour with a great experience having put a lot of written music out so that we were ready to go on our own.

AAJ: How did your first album with the Consort, Road, come about?

RT: We had been travelling for seven weeks all over the United States. We finally arrives in Los Angeles where we had set up a soundstage just to play our repertoire for producer Phil Ramone. He was a more pop oriented producer, but famous for his sound quality. He agreed to record but he didn't know who wrote what pieces. We started playing a lot of pieces by Paul Winter, (not really written as much as suggested), and we also played all of my pieces that we had in our repertoire. Phil Ramone ended up selecting just my pieces, and a few arrangements that Paul Winter did... [laughs] I think he recorded some live concerts, but only one tune was recorded in the studio and that was "Icarus." Phil Ramone said that it was going to be the hit tune, so he wanted to do it perfectly in the studio. We did that when we got back home in New York City, and we did it in one take. Paul Winter could not believe it, he'd never done it in his life! [laughs]... Anyway, we're really proud of Road, I still think that first one is the best version of Icarus.

AAJ: Did you have trouble finding a record contract at that time?

RT: At that time in New York, that's when everything was happening. The Mahavishnu was getting started, Weather Report, a lot of music that was different. I met Manfred Eicher in New York around 1970. I was playing piano and a little bit of guitar with Dave Holland at one of his concerts. Dave introduced me to Manfred who had this this new, and still small, label. But the first producers to become interested in the group were those at Vanguard Records, who came to the "Free Music Store," a series of free concerts managed by the WBAI radio station in New York in an old church on weekends. We would start playing at midnight and play without stopping until 6AM, but we would switch, sometime we had two people play and the other two would go out and get donuts and coffee or something, but we kept the music going. We built up quite an underground following. That's how we started with Vanguard. At the same time I think Manfred Eicher was interested in the group but he only had a few records out at that time. We could have started with Manfred at that point but the allure of a big American company seemed more appropriate somehow... We ended up signing a 9 record contract that took us a lot of time to fulfill. When we finally finished off that contract we got a tremendous offer from Elektra Records, at the height of our popularity. We recorded Out of the Woods with them, probably the most popular Oregon album ever.

AAJ: Tell us something about your work with Manfred Eicher for ECM.

RT: That had to be the most important thing ever for me, being one of the first people on that label. Those first years ECM produced some classic recordings: first time solos by Chick Corea and Keith Jarrett, combinations of instruments that no one else had enough imagination to put together. These great piano players would only record when they were playing with a quartet, and even a trio maybe... but Manfred Eicher had a great ear and eye for the particular kind of musicians that he wanted to play solo. The whole approach for ECM from the beginning was to offer the quality of a classical label like Deutsche Grammophon, the best vinyl possible for the LPs, and keeping the costs of recordings down. All recordings were done in two days or less, and mixed on the third day. This kept the studio costs low. But money was also spent to ensure the studio had excellent pianos... Steinways with a piano tuner always present. All these great jazz improvisers were playing on really poor instruments most of the time. In Bill Evans records sometimes the piano was not in tune, and Bud Powell recorded on atrocious pianos. So keeping costs down, and the advances were very small for everybody including Keith, the money could be invested on quality, and you also got to keep your publishing rights... the record company didn't take them. For the first ten years or so ECM would even book tours without taking a fee. The result was these great records that would pay for themselves in a few weeks, and no one had ever heard jazz musicians at such a high quality. This was really due to Manfred's vision. And the other main thing is, every recording I've ever done my whole career is still available, it's a company that doesn't just drop records from its catalogue.

AAJ: However, it has taken a bit of time to have Five Years Later [1982 LP in duo with John Abercrombie that was released on CD in 2014] on digital...

RT: That was the only case. I don't know what happened with that. John and I would never figure that out, but here it is finally, and I think they also made a vinyl version of it. In general, everything I've ever recorded for the label is available. It's like your life's work is still there to be purchased or heard. No other record company ever functioned like that, it's very idealistic and it still kind of continues that way.

AAJ: Your collaborations with other ECM artists were Eicher's choice?

RT: No, that's my idea, I would choose the players. The Solstice group [with Jan Garbarek, Eberhard Weber and Jon Christensen] was my idea, I had heard their recordings and thought "Wow, that would be a nice group to put together," so I wrote specific music for that group of people. Every time I have a recording I try to write the music that I think will sound good for that specific bunch of people. So I ask Manfred if he likes it, he says "ok," and he has ideas too about some combinations, but basically all those combinations were my idea.

The Dis duet album with Jan Garbarek was Jan's idea, or Jan and Manfred together maybe. It includes Jan's compositions and I had to learn them and find tunings and things that would work because we were playing with a windharp. They had recorded this aeolian harp put on a cliff over the Norwegian sea, and the wind blew through it and there'd be a lot of strings all tuned to this wonderful chord. The wind would gust in, changing the octaves... Jan had recorded several different tunes and sent them to me with his melodies and I would find some way to make the 12-string blend in with this aeolian harp, it was a nice thing...

AAJ: When you recorded Batik in 1978 you used the same rhythm section (Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette) that Bill Evans had, for just a few months, 10 years earlier. Did this have a special significance for you?

RT: Eddie had just quit Bill's trio after a decade or so with him. He is such a great player, and of course we understood each other's playing. Jack is the ultimate jazz drummer, and we had become very good friends after having done an ECM tour of the United States in the mid-Seventies. Jack was also a Bill Evans alumni, and the combination of our concepts seemed a natural fit.

AAJ: Another nice combination was with the guitar of John Abercrombie

RT: Oh yeah, that's a lifelong duo, and a really great combination. We were best friends and we only lived about two blocks away from each other in New York. We did a lot of touring and a lot of those creative loft jam sessions in New York, John and I and Marc Copland. I don't know how long we lasted as a duo... 10-15 years. Not everybody can play that well in duo even if they sound like they could. The instrument is important, but also the way you play and the music that you listen to all your life, or just your sensibility about music. John had heard a lot of avantgarde music but he's also a great blues player, and people don't seem to realize how much blues there is in my playing also, the rhythmic thing is tied to a lot of stuff.

AAJ: You have also played with Egberto Gismonti on Sol do meio dia. How did you meet?

RT: Yeah, that was a nice recording, beautiful tunes, I love his piano playing. I remember when I met Egberto, I was living in New York and he came to my apartment and he brought this 12-string guitar that had been made for me by someone in Brazil, and actually it wasn't a very good 12-string at all... We spent the whole afternoon jamming and I think I taped it.

AAJ: Speaking of other ECM guitarists, have you ever met Bill Frisell?

RT: Bill and I are old friends from way back!

AAJ: Have you done anything together?

RT: No, that would be nice, it never occurred to us, and he's off recording on some different labels. My true electric guitar companion was Abercrombie, and I almost didn't record with any other guitar players because of that combination was to me such a deep part in my life. I don't make that many recordings, I don't record just because I can. Making a recording to me is still a big thing, and I want it to be something that I've written for and I thought about and somebody I'm really interested in playing with.

Bill Frisell would be great I'm sure. Bill has a wonderful way of playing and also putting together recordings. He's just like a musicologist to me, he knows where the music comes from and what it means, its history, and how he includes it in his way of playing it's really brilliant. This reverence for where the music comes from, that's what defines him the most for me. Music is personal, everybody hears music in a different way, in a way you're not quite sure how they use their music or how music affects them.

AAJ: Another very good duo is the one with Javier Girotto, which started with a concert in Rome in 2010. It's a good complement to your duo with Paolo Fresu. Playing with Javier brings out the energy and the latin feel in your music, it is a different approach from what you have with Paolo. Are there any plans for a duo recording?

RT: I remember I had sprained my arm or something before that concert in Rome. I couldn't raise my arm, I tried all kinds of things, and Javier was calling doctors, and I just barely got it together to play that concert. Anyway the concert was good. The fun about Javier is his energy. It is still an active project, we did a nice tour in Argentina. There aren't any plans right now for a duo recording, but I should consider it. I also did a recording with his group Aires Tango [Duende].

AAJ: Do you have some favorite album of yours?

RT: It is so hard to pick just one. I was always very proud of Solstice. Among the solo albums, I liked Blue Sun, that was my one man band record. In that recording I played every instrument that I can play, and overdubbed. It was really an interesting project, and sounds like a lot of people, not just one person. The music I wrote for it was very nice. Most of them I'm quite proud of, some of them it takes me a while to get used to, immediately after I recorded I'm not very convinced how good they are, I really need a little distance to hear them, but when I hear them much later, I'm usually surprised how well they came out.

AAJ: In 1992 you recorded the Original Soundtrack for an Italian movie, "Un'altra vita." How did that come about?

RT: The Director of the Movie, Carlo Mazzacurati, was a fan of my recordings, and wanted a score that had a real content, something that went well beyond "just ambience." Each piece was connected to a specific character, and hopefully stood on its own. This was my first feature film soundtrack, maybe my only one, although I've done many short films and made a few appearances with other composer's recordings for film.

AAJ: How did you develop your improvisational style on the guitar?

RT: Well, it comes from being a pianist. My intention was to use guitar as a piano and with the same approach, including being able to play each note in a chord, control the volume of every note (like bring one note out and let the others perfectly even). This is a piano technique, classical, when you play an accompaniment for yourself and you have the main line you don't play the accompaniment so loud that you can't hear the theme. How you organize what someone hears is the most important aspect when you have multiple parts going in the piece of music. So, that's the one thing I've been doing using all your fingers as plectrums on the right hand. Basically it ends up being a sort of lute but more advanced> It's more like a piano in the way I hear it and the way I use it. Guitar isn't just a strumming instrument for me, it's a whole world unto itself...

AAJ: When did you start playing the 12-string guitar?

RT: That was with Paul Winter, I didn't want to play the 12-string, it was very bad for my fingernails. He was trying to imitate the sound he'd heard from Joni Mitchell recordings, the way Joni played with the 12-string was really interesting, she made nice tunings and she used it in a nice way. Anyway, Paul had got a very nice 12-string from the Guild company and insisted that I play it. I said "Oh no, it's just going to ruin my fingernails..." but finally I gave in and I started playing it and realized that if I played it like a classical guitar, hitting two strings at once with one finger, like a classical guitar basically, it started sounding like a harpsichord. I also discovered that it had this wonderful ringing sound. So I started writing music for it that would sound good on that instrument, and something I would like, I would even tune all the 12 strings to different pitches sometimes.

AAJ: What kind of music do you like as a listener?

RT: I love Vince Mendoza's arrangements and his playing. I've been on two of his records. He's not only a great arranger but also a composer. I love Vince's approach, he's kind of the successor to Gil Evans. I love Miles' quintet, I love what Wayne Shorter does, he's so unique, and classical music, the Russians in general, Shostakovich in particular.

AAJ: Do you listen to other guitar players?

RT: I'm not so much a guitar fan as much as I am piano fan... that's the difference, I was never drawn to a guitar until I heard that it could do a lot of what the piano does plus more in a sense of having more colours than the piano. Being a composer I love piano harmonies and voice leading and Bach, and that's a very strong part of my music background, the way Bach's music fits together, so I have a love for the Baroque. The things that I like I try to incorporate in my own approach, it's almost more conceptual than it is literal... I mean I don't copy someone's lick and I don't use a lot of quotes. I'm trying to capture the essence of something and boil it down to hit a listener. It's nice to hear when they play something that's not immediately connected with a particular ethnic group, but uses the essence of that ethnic music sometimes. As we did with Oregon. We were not trying to play Indian music or Brazilian music, but we were using a lot of the instruments and the elements from those musical heritages. That basically was the result we ended up, with an oboe player as our lead instrument and the sitar and the 12-string, not a very ordinary combination, the only standard thing was the bass.

AAJ: Some of your guitar compositions have entered the repertoire of some classical players, and have also been recorded. Have you heard their renditions, and what do you think of them?

RT: I'm delighted to hear that a few classical people have taken an interest in my writing and playing. I was extremely flattered to meet some of the great classical guitarists such as John Williams, Manuel Barrueco, Leo Brouwer and the Assad brothers who said they were fans of my music. I hope to make a few inroads in being included in some of the classical player's programs.

AAJ: How long have you been staying in Italy, and how did the move change your musical lifestyle?

RT: I've been living in Italy for 24 years, 10-11 in Palermo and then Rome. I think my musical life is still going because of my wonderful italian love, Mariella Losardo. I was 50 when we met, she already had a great career as a theater actress in Toni Servillo's group and was traveling a lot, doing like 8 months tours for years and years. She was a fan of my music and of Oregon's music, thanks to one of our friends, Tobia Vaccaro, a musician in Palermo, who was a huge fan of Oregon and was playing it for everybody. I met Mariella at a concert. I had been living alone for 10 years in Seattle after I had left New York. I met her and that was it. It took up to a year or so to get to the place where we moved in together. She's an italian actress and I was coming from the U.S. but my work was in Europe anyway... I have a European booking agency, a European record company, and all the concerts all over the world. So it was easy for me to relocate, I was so accustomed to Europe anyway, and it wasn't a cultural shock even to move to Palermo, because I wanted her to keep her career.

AAJ: What are your current active projects?

RT: Let me see... the MGT trio [with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan] is still active, but there are logistics problems. Slava lives in Australia and is very busy, as is Wolfgang, so coordinating that trio is very difficult as much as we love to play together. Slava is suggesting that we do another Australian tour, we have done three of those already. My wife loves Australia, so she's very excited. Slava has come to Europe for some concerts, there was a kind of honorary concert for me in Stuttgart, and both he and Wolfgang were available, so they agreed to play half the concert with me and I played the other half. That was nice, it was the last time we played together [in 2015, Ed.]

AAJ: Anything else coming in your future?

RT: There is a nice theatre piece that we did with Mariella, I play the music live. It's a piece called "Madeleine Suite," it's based on a short story of Marguerite Yourcenar. We first performed that years ago, and did a version for the Swiss radio, and also performed it in concerts. We're about to do a video tape of it. Oregon is releasing a new record, we just finally mixed it so that's coming out on CAMjazz, and hopefully we'll do some touring with that. I have a few other concerts basically spread around, but no big projects at this point.

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