7 June 2009


A late night usually correlates with a long train ride, and the journey on the 24th from Vienna to Krakow was no exception, but at least it gave me a chance to get some rest- something I know never happens in Krakow. The Tentet played that evening at Mangha Hall, the same venue where the Resonance Ensemble had played a year and a half ago. This concert was perhaps the highlight of the tour, a completely sold out room and a thoroughly captivated audience, which gave us a standing ovation at the end of the performance. The musicians kept a strong focus going throughout the 2 sets of music, breaking apart into smaller fragments of the ensemble at a moments notice, or turning into an 11 piece juggernaut when the time was right. Marek Winiarski of the Not Two record label asked to record the show, and thankfully Peter agreed to the idea. With this music down “on tape” the group now has at least 3 excellent concerts in the can: the 10th anniversary performance from the MCA in Chicago from November, 2007; the 2nd concert by the complete band in Oslo in February this year; and now the May gig in Krakow. There is talk of making a box set of the days in Oslo, combining the best aspects of the small group performances along with the Tentet. In addition, the band is coordinating a tour in Europe for next May (always living a year in the future these days…), and the goal is to have a new release by the ensemble to coincide with that trip. So, there will be more albums by the group in the near future.

After the concert the band packed up our instruments and headed to Alchemia for some dinner (thanks to Ania’s planning skills) and some time to hang out with the friends who had arrived from all over Poland. There are certain cities where I feel that I’m home, and Krakow is definitely one of them; so much work has been created there, developed there, performed there, embraced there. An extraordinary place, so going to bed is more or less out of the question. The next day, when the band was preparing to head to the train for an overnight trip to Mulhouse, France, someone asked, “Who was the last one home from Alchemia?” Peter spoke up, “Ah, that would be Ken. I was walking in at 8am to get coffee, he was walking out to go to bed.” Sometimes sleep doesn’t seem like much of an option.

As always, the overnight train was brutal. Even when you can sleep it still feels like you’ve been hit with another bout of jet lag when the train pulls in to the final stop, and the trip to Mulhouse was no exception. We had an hour wait in Warsaw, everyone in the band searching around for something to bring onto the train to eat since there was no indication that there would be a dining car in our information. Luckily, there was a restaurant on board and Mats, Paal, and I stayed there as long as possible to kill time with cans of beer and pierogies, laughing and exchanging stories about various madness on various trips, now this one would be included in future bull sessions. We continued (without the Polish food) in our sleeper car, Mats playing music from his computer play lists after the restaurant shut down at 10:30pm. Things progressed until quite late, people slowly getting to the point of sleep as the train jostled its way along European tracks in the dark. Suddenly, there was some kind of panicked talk in the hallway- Per-Ake was having an allergic reaction to something he ate, he started to have trouble breathing, and it looked like things were going to get worse. To any outside observer, the scenario must have seemed absurd: 5 fairly drunk men, speaking Swedish and English, trying to figure out what to do about the 6th as they surrounded him and who was turning bright red at an alarming rate. Thankfully Mats had some antihistamine pills, and Peter had an inhaler as well. I called Ellen, who slowly tried to explain to me what to do to make sure Per-Ake didn’t collapse in front of us; the advantage of having a wife who’s a doctor. In the end everything proved to be okay, which was evident when Paal, Per-Ake and I went to lunch after arriving in Mulhouse that afternoon. Despite the fact he could hardly see out of allergically squinting eyes, Per-Ake downed a fairly huge chaucuterie plate. All was again well with the tuba master.

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