My New Columbus Band
Prior to Tel Aviv, I was in Columbus, Ohio. I was initially there to play as part of the great African American poet Amiri Baraka's group Blue Ark, but I used the opportunity (ie. the plane ticket!) to allow myself to hang out an extra week. I 've been trying to assemble a working band (ie., "The D.D. Jackson Group"), to support the music of my new album on RCA, "Anthem", which comes out Mar. 7th/00. I had been seriously considering a drummer from Columbus named James Gaiters for the last several weeks, and Chris Howes, the Columbus violinist, was already "in", having already appeared on the new recording. Initially my plan was to round out the group temporarily with some other musicians from Columbus, and to do a local gig at a small but active club there called "Dick's Den", in order to see how particularly James worked "live".
But what I discovered was that not only James and Chris, but the bass player, Andy Woodson, and even the percussionist, Jim Ed Cobbs, were all - how shall I put this? - kick ass players, who also played the hell out of my music, and, frankly, I couldn't really think of anybody in NY outdoing them. Plus, they were all enthusiastic about playing, something that couldn't always be said about some of the players I had dealt with in the past in NY, who understandably have other "real world" concerns (like paying exhorbitant rents, and spreading themselves thin with the numerous gigs needed to make a living). So I believe I've found my new band - and who would have thought it, but they're all from Columbus, Ohio.
So why Columbus - why are the musicians there so damn good, one might reasonably ask? Here's my theory, at any rate: Firstly, among the cities resources are several strong universities with decent music programs, and even a very impressive High School for the Performing Arts. Additionally, there's an active club scene, with all manner of music playing, often with mixes of university musicians and "locals". Finally and perhaps most importantly, there's a sort of midwestern sensibility, which is hard to define, but which seems to result in musicians not as locked into the musical "cliques" and conventions of New York. In short, these are people that really play music for a living, in all manner of styles - they know how to swing (a fact which I suppose would please the Wynton-ites :-)), but they also know rock, and latin, and how to play the "down 'n dirty" blues, with audiences that appreciate this diversity.
One more Columbus connection I should add: my parents first met in Columbus back in the early 60's where they were both graduate students at Ohio State University (now how's that for a cosmic coincidence? :-). And even my older brother Chris went there for a time before his death in 1986. I, too, have also found myself playing there with increasing regularity in the last few years, including an appearance with Bluiett/Jackson/Thiam a year ago, my participation in "David Murray Week" before that (which is when I first met Chris Howes), and on and on.
So, in short: the Columbus connections run deep, and I guess now will only run deeper...