If I was tired in Greiz, I was exhausted by the time we arrived in Vic for our concert on the 12th, after a train and plane to Spain. The traveling and early mornings were taking their toll, some cues were missed, some arrangement fragments forgotten. Even so, the majority of what we were attempting came across well, and this communicated what the band was all about. And it was great to be back in Spain, really one of my favorite countries- people, food, art… The next night we played in San Sebastian after taking a spectacular flight in a small plane, landing near the harbor after nearly clipping the masts of the ships in the bay. We played in a club called the Bebop bar, a small place filled with people right to the edge of the tiny stage. I had an off night, up to that point I felt like I was discovering new things to play on the material, but in San Sebastian it seemed like I was running on fumes. John’s drum set was in a state of collapse by the end of the evening and afterwards we both wondered if it would jbe better to just go to chaos in that situation instead of control. He said watching Han Bennink play made him think about that, I added that the trio with him, Brötzmann and Van Hove is one of my favorites, and that I envied their ability to to work in that environment and let it become what it needed to be, without borders of organization defining things.
After this night we had two days off. On the first of them I walked around the beautiful city. The weather was filled with wind and rain, watching the waves hit the stones along the shore was just incredible, and reminded me of how much I miss the ocean now that I live in Chicago- the lake simply isn’t the same thing. The next day I took a bus to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim museum. After struggling to figure out which one to take (I was told it was the “numero uno,” which should have been easy enough for me to find. What I wasn’t told was that there were several number one buses, all with different destinations run by different bus companies…), I eventually made it to the museum. There was a Kieffer exhibition and lots of other good work but the main thing, which I had forgotten, was that they have a major Richard Serra installation, and this completely blew me away. Somehow I figured out how to get home, and met the other guys for dinner and bar hopping in San Sebastian. Thankfully this ended more peacefully, though not earlier, than the night before. Nate and I had stayed very late at a place called the Whiskey Museum, after John and then Jeff had wisely gone back to go to sleep. We were having a very good time listening to a live-band version of Spanish karaoke, but this somehow turned into a ludicrous argument about music and politics, and whether these could function together or not. We yelled at each other as we made our way down the street to the pension. Jeff Parker told us the next day that he could hear us arguing when we got into the elevator four stories down, and the noise kept getting louder as we went up. By the time we walked into the front door we were basically in a full on screaming match. Jeff was standing there when we burst into the lobby, and in and even in our stupor we realized that we were being quite a bit loud. So we quietly decided it was off to get ready for bed. But when I opened the door to the hallway bathroom Nate was waiting for me and quickly resumed the argument, this time with toothpaste running down his face since he was yelling at me while brushing his teeth. That did it for the caretaker who ran out of his room and shouted at us to, “Go to goddamn bed for god’s sake!” Not one of our more diplomatic efforts. Another conversation that came up during the days off in San Sebastian brought up the fact that many years ago I had mentioned to John, one night while he was bartending at the Rainbow, that I was thinking of trying to put together a band inspired by the music of the electric Miles Davis period. I had forgotten all about this until he mentioned it to me. It’s completely strange to me why I never pursued the idea further at the time because he had expressed real interest in the idea. I don’t understand why it took me this long to try to organize a group that included both him and Jeff, but I am thankful for the incredible opportunity to be working with them and Nate now.
© 2023 Ken Vandermark – musician & composer | Disclaimer