27 December 2007


After Munich we went to Austria for some shows, first in Wels for a set on a double bill at the Alter Schlachthof on the 11th, then to Vienna at Porgy and Bess on the 12th where the house was packed and enthusiastic, aside from a few people who kept talking so loudly they were distracting Ab between tunes. Then, once again, the “Everything’s Going Perfect” jinx came into effect. All the concerts and logistics had been going so well, someone in the group made the mistake of saying so, which meant it was time for something to go wrong.

We had an 11:30 am train to Maribor, Slovenia to catch on the morning of the 13th, and our hotel was right across the street from the Westbahnhof. Ahh, to sleep late, just a three minute walk to the station, so the decision was made- meet in the lobby at eleven and off we go to Maribor. At 11:03am, as we stood under the postings for arrivals/departures in the Westbahnhof, Ab turned to me, a bit pale: “We’re supposed to be at the Sudbahnhof across town.” What ensued wasn’t exactly panic, but it was something close. Wilbert decided we should take the tram instead of a cab to avoid traffic, so we piled onto the narrow streetcar with all our luggage and instruments and proceeded to pause each and every hundred meters for the tram stops… Not surprisingly, we missed the train to Maribor by only five minutes. Thankfully there was another one leaving in an hour, so we sat in another smoke filled Austrian restaurant drinking coffee before moving on.

To say that it was great to be back in Slovenia again just doesn’t do the experience justice. Our first gig was in Maribor on the 13th, and David Braun organized a beautiful night for us, ending with a traditional heavy meal with strong beverages after the concert at the Narodni Dom. Martin was on a roll, it was like having dinner with one of Walter Matthau’s movie characters. His sense of comic timing and use of facial expressions are impossible to transcribe, but the double-take Martin gave me when one of the dinner guests said that the cadavers of alcoholics have perfect arteries and was evidence that everyone should drink more (“Uh, what about their livers?” Martin asked. “Well, they look terrible, but you really only need about ten percent of your liver to survive.”), was right out of the “Odd Couple.” Ab later told me a story of a night when he and Martin were waiting for a streetcar in Amsterdam when an enraged and belligerent drunk came up to them demanding their money. It was raining and Martin just looked at him and pointed to his head, “Sorry, I can’t deal with you right now, I’m having a bad hair day.” The guy immediately started to laugh and began a rather looped conversation with Martin and Ab before stumbling off, calm and pacified, into the wet Amsterdam evening.

Ab had tons of good stories, either from his own experiences or some that he had heard or read elsewhere. There were a number of conversations about Stravinsky during the tour, inspired by the fact that we were playing Ab’s piece, “Straws.” On one occasion he told me about a time after Stravinsky first moved to Hollywood when he heard a performance of some of his works. He arrived late and sat in the back of the auditorium in order not to create a scene, which turned out to be a good idea since the interpretation and performance of the his music was atrocious. With each mistake or miscue Stravinsky would cringe or flinch. This went on throughout the first half of the concert. When the lights came up for the intermission, an elderly woman sitting next to him turned and said, “I used to react that way when I first heard this modern music too, but don’t worry- after a while it gets easier.”

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