Chasing Music 2013

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve written about music.

In part because the political matters in this country had gotten to be intense enough to become distracting, and in part because I’ve gotten way busy – long story! – I’ve almost forgotten all the things I’ve had the chance to see this year, so far. But how can I forget? I have all the photos I’ve taken, thousands of them, that commemorate the shows I’ve seen, and that bring back some of the finest memories of the year.

Of course, I write this in the ramp-up towards another photo jaunt, this one planned well in advance. What’s absolutely most important about this jaunt is that there’s a buzz to see what I will turn out. Not just my own as an adventure-loving photographer, but turns out that my audience has been wider than I originally anticipated. My photos were seen, actually seen, and they are an anticipated thing. It’s a heady, exhilarating sort of feeling, to know that your venture is gathering buzz and success. And this upcoming adventure…well. :) We’re going to see what that’ll turn out.

This has been an interesting year for music so far, and I’m glad to say that there have been new experiences. I’ve had to sit out Newport Beach Jazz Festival – the lineup didn’t strike my fancy – but I had the chance to go to the Capital Jazz Festival in Maryland in June, and that was certainly an experience. My first time in MD, my first time at the Cap Fest, and my first time having people whom, for the life of me, I can’t recall by name, asking me about the pictures. But the hallmark of that fest, who else but Dave Koz?

Dave Koz and Summer Horns, a tour and a force to be reckoned with. Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, and the Koz himself – with a handpicked backing band – didn’t just take over the festival. They dominated the stage. And not just with music out of their catalogs, no; they took all the classic horn-section-powerhouse artists – Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Tower of Power – and reimagined it. Four powerful saxophones, all the music close to your heart, and an energy that defies description. If you have never seen a pavilionful of people up on their feet, having a grand ol’ party within the first five minutes of a song, then you have not attended a Summer Horns show. And, considering that that tour is coming back next year, I say that it’s imperative you see it.

Even at the gig that I went to later on, the Ridgefield Playhouse, back in August, the entire theater was up and partying within moments of Got to Get You Into My Life. But the show-stoppers were, hands down, Gerald Albright breaking out his inner James Brown, and Richard Elliot taking front and center on Reasons. I’m definitely a EW&F fan, even though I wasn’t even a concept in the universe when most of that music has been released – well, most of the good music has been around well before I was born, anyway – but Richard on that particular tune… Blazing sax doesn’t quite cover it. Explosive doesn’t do it justice. The way that Reasons rolls off the bell of Richard Elliot’s tenor sax is something that has to be seen and heard to be experienced; it floods every nerve in your system, well after the initial Good Music Goosebumps. You know what I mean. Even if you have never heard the song in its original variation, when Richard Elliot will get into it, you will remember it very, very firmly. You just don’t hear a rendition like that every day, and right now, looking through the Ridgefield shots, I feel the same heady thrill that I felt when I heard it strike up and the roar of the crowd as they remembered their favorite old-school song.

No school like the old school, eh?

And of course, there’s Dave, turning the last bit of the show into Dave Koz & the Sunshine Band. Yes, I’m going there, and everyone in the audience at both Cap Fest and Ridgefield can relate to what I mean.

You know, guys, this is a huge part of why I love to photograph live music. These things will grab you by your heart and soul and not let go.

One of the other pivotal moments in this year of music photography and music listening was the Long Beach Jazz Festival – Long Island’s Long Beach, that is – and it’s all the more crucial considering that Long Beach was never quite the same after Hurricane Sandy. I’ve not been able to – mentally, mostly – set foot there much prior to the fest. Just couldn’t put myself up to seeing the storm-ravaged town that, prior thereto, has been a home away from home, a place that I’d go out to just to while away a long weekend, see some music friends, and hang out on the boardwalk. Sandy, of course, wiped the original boardwalk out of existence.

But the new one has been finished up in time to open the first sections well before the festival. And of course, I had to go. The LBJF has been a staple of my life since 2007, and I wasn’t about to miss it. It was a sweet, lovely festival, complete with not your everyday swing band – Uppercut – and old known favorites: Special EFX, Edmar Castaneda, Steve Adelson, who put this entire thing together time and again… It’s always the place where I can have a lovely reunion with friends, as well as crank up my photo mojo.

Another new thing on the musical radar was my first foray into the Lyman Center series, that is to say the concerts at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. Every year, they have a great music series, and every year, the music series sells out like nobody’s business. I see why: the lineup is stellar! I got my season tickets early and right now, in retrospect, am I glad I did. The lineup is all the people I enjoy seeing, and all the people whom I enjoy photographing too: Marion Meadows & Cindy Bradley as a double bill, Boney James just two days ago, Acoustic Alchemy… I won’t be seeing Najee and Alex Bugnon, though. Can’t be in two places at once…whoops.

Yeah, there have been a lot of places for me this time around. Rochester, NY and West Point Academy’s Ike Hall (no photos from either of those – drat), Ridgefield, CT, Baltimore… and very soon, I’ll be embarking on yet another photo adventure; very very soon, I’ll be on a ship headed to many a beautiful island, where the music and the landscapes both await only one thing: my camera shutter.

And to think: all of this started with someone I know convincing me, back in May of 2008, to take a trip aboard a ship departing Miami in January of 2009. My very first Caribbean trip was, by all accounts, a life-changing experience, and it continues to pay itself off in more than just any money I earn through photography: it pays off in memories, experiences, and connections. And that, in and of itself, is what makes this life of mine colorful.

But this year also, there’s something else that’s very different. Since the trip is in November, not October like the usual, I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo while aboard. So I get to back-to-back photography and novel-writing. To say that it’ll be a busy trip is an understatement, and I’m sure I’ll need to set aside a few days for just sleeping everything off. Won’t happen, though; I know my life.


Summer Horns at the Capital Jazz Festival:

Summer Horns at Ridgefield Playhouse:


Until the next adventure…