It’s been a 45 year life’s journey in the music business. It all began with my break doing studio work programming and playing synthesizers in the New York Studio scene that expanded to California, Nashville and Montserrat making albums with many of the iconic artists of the day. It was all consuming as the albums and artists I was involved with could take months to complete. It didn’t leave me time to really do anything else for a number of years.
I’ve always had the live performance aspect in me since starting my musical life at 14 years old. I also played in a number of bands in the 1970’s and early 80’s. However, I was doing what many wanted to be doing…making albums. That was what was important— album credits. That went on for over 20 years. After I made the switch to producer it was a continuing scenario of always being in the studio. I used to always remember many of my musical friends coming to Europe to play. Especially in Jazz. I remember hearing how great the audiences were and friends like Michael Brecker, Bob Berg, Joe Sample, Miles and others were always playing there at the great festivals and venues.
In 1999 I made “Celebrating the Music of Weather Report” and was able to put together some great bands and played at some great venues. I met an agent who encouraged me to do the project in Europe but we couldn’t quite put it together. After I made “A Love Affair The Music of Ivan Lins” a few years later, Ivan invited me to play in Europe at some of the bigger festivals. It was a magical night in Umbria that gave me a new goal in my life. That goal was to be able to tour Europe and play my music there. After I made ‘Kind of New’ in 2015 I met the great bass player Reggie Washington who told me about his wife Stefany and her company Jammin Colors. We had a great talk and hit it off and decided to give working together a shot. At the time, I was in London producing an artist, a jazz singer named Beverly Beirne and Stefany put together a nice press tour for ‘Kind of New’. It was exciting to talk to journalists who knew my work as a producer and artist but from years ago with Miles Davis, Marcus Miller, Michael Brecker, Luther Vandross, Whitney, Chaka, Roberta Flack AMO.
Moving the clock ahead and through lots of hard work by everybody, Stefany put together a nice European Tour for me for Feb-March 2018. They were truly great venues and places, and I really had dreamt about playing like Ronnie Scotts, Blue Note Milano, Porgy and Bess. It was happening… but also challenging to make it all work on a tight budget. I was so happy that musicians like Gene Lake, Theo Croker, Jay Rodriguez and Reggie came aboard. It would be an awesome band to really make a statement.
I started out doing a clinic (actually that’s how the whole tour started..with this clinic) in St Hilaire des Riez in France. Leaving from New York late and landing at noon in Paris. The jet Lag kicked in.. I had 4 hours to kill before the flight to Nantes. I can say the airport food in Europe is way better than any of the chain restaurants at US airports. What a great lunch I had. However, the dollar sucked against the Euro and everything was going to be more expensive. I was happy for my translation program in my iPhone, that helped. Not so much in Paris, Milan, etc but in smaller areas where many didn’t speak English. During the clinic, the food and the people were wonderful and I immediately felt at home. I was so appreciative.
When you travel in Europe the great thing is that the flights are short. You are in another country in 60-90 minutes. After a great ride in a nice BMW to Nantes I was on my way to Milano to play our first show at the Blue Note. I’ve played at the Blue Note in NYC and Tokyo and now Milan..I heard we sold about 200 tickets. It was not a sell out but still for my first time there I felt pretty good. It was great to see the cats when I arrived at the Blue Note. It was a really nice club with a great staff who immediately hipped me to a bar next door which offered a killer buffet if you bought a drink. I was starving and dinner was still 90 minutes away after soundcheck. The band sounded great during soundcheck and I had forgotten that being in Italy the food was totally happening.
We were now on stage and Theo played a solo and the audience just erupts with applause so I was feeling, at that point, this could be very special. We got a great ovation and did an encore and then sold some CDs. More CD’s than I sell in the US. More than a few of the songs really got the crowd going. Soon it was midnight at the hotel and it would be a 6 am lobby call for the 7 hour train ride to Foggia, Italy. Yes, this is how it goes. Early lobby calls and lots of traveling to play that 90 minutes of music. We got some seats in the first class car and it was pretty comfortable. A couple of hours into the trip it began to snow and we were hugging the Adriatic where the waves are violent and big, crashing onto the rocks, crazy. So much snow in southern Italy. Finally, around 2:30 PM we arrived in Foggia and our promoter, Nico, met us to take us to this vibey, funky but very cool hotel. He is a very nice cat who was really excited to see us. He says a lot of people are coming to the show despite the weather. The one thing you learn on the road is to sleep whenever you can. We grabbed some lunch at a place near the hotel then I took a nap for an hour and I was ready to go to the gig.
The venue was a cool restaurant set up for performance and they have excellent equipment there. I had a great Nord to play and the sound is happening. I look at the audience and one thing I notice is so many people who are really styling. Yes, Europe and Italy are very fashion conscious and I like that. We do an absolutely killing set. The audience is so receptive and warm and they’re also buying CDs. Oh Yeah..the food! Mangia..amazing! They couldn’t stop bringing us food.
I got interviewed by Italian TV and I was beginning to feel like maybe this is my calling as I’m getting a little older and have seen so much. I have a legacy of working on so much great music I’ve been involved with over the years and so far it seems to be respected and appreciated by everyone I meet here. So next morning 2 flights to Paris to play at Duc Des Lombards. Nino picks us up early and we take off from Bari. It is an airport that is new and really nice. We have a short layover in Milan after a 45 minute flight and we all went to eat lunch. Man! ..a great salad some great blood orange juice. I looked on facebook and there was a great review of our show in Foggia… The quote being “A concert rich in ideas, definitely a fresh wind of tradition and the future at the same time” Nice!!
Ok, 1 hour flight to Paris and we’re on our way to the hotel. This hotel had the bed tucked in the wall and it was a small but nice room. Duc Des Lombards is a very small room but with a great attitude and character. A legendary look that we in the US imagine what a jazz club should be. In a way, it’s kind of like the Village Vanguard in NYC. We were to be doing 2 sets a night for 2 nights. I will get to play some of the new ‘Kind of New Album’, ‘Blue is Paris’. The meal before the show is off the hook with salmon and veggies…Every venue we’re playing I had a different Nord to use and I had to program 6 sounds on it that are a part of the music The sound of the keys is so important. My programming chops always come in handy.
The crowd loves the band and I tell the story of ‘Blue is Paris’ and the audience is truly moved and gives us a great hand. The song that takes the set over the top is ‘It’s About That Time’ from ‘In a Silent Way’. I think the audience misses music like that as well as the vibe of the small electric band that can groove. We are certainly proving that. Reggie and Gene are such a great rhythm section..What a treat. Jay Rodriguez is also stepping up big time. He has brought three horns with him and uses them all in virtuosic fashion. Theo is the young but experienced cat who is bringing great energy to the group. I was also thrilled to see my friend, Karin Haslinger, who has done so much great graphic work for me over the last few years. She was filming the shows as well. I love the hang as well. I was meeting some very nice people every night.
The next day Theo and I make it over to TSF Jazz to do a noon radio interview with Jean- Charles Duoukhan. It is always fun being interviewed by him. It went really well. We played a song together (Ferrari) and talked about the tour. There is nothing like being on the radio the day of a show to promote! Next, back to the hotel to chill for the rest of the day. There was a small stone village a few blocks from the hotel that was so cool with shops and restaurants. I looked to see which place has the most people in it and that’s where I got some lunch to take back to my room. Great food and the Creme Brûlée even from a take out place was amazing. I could have eaten two!
Another very good night at Duc Des Lombards . Everybody there treated us great and the band threw down every show. Merci to all our friends there. So now we’re hearing it’s snowing in London which was our next stop to play a most important show at Ronnie Scotts.
Tune in on Saturday when we will publish part 2 of Jason’s trip. In part two Jason hit’s London before heading off to Germany. Stay Tuned! NOW read part 2 as Jason hits Ronnie Scott’s and then back into Europe and beyond…
Read the interview with Jason Miles here.
Photo credits: H.J. Maquet - and (c) info: all rights go to original recording artist/owner/photographer(s).