On the third morning the band played for brunch on the veranda of the beautiful Hotel Ascona, located on the hillside with a terrific view. The Pfister Sisters (vocal trio a la Boswells) heard the band here and were most complimentary, and the hotel owner came over to congratulate them as well. The rest of this day was free. Our trumpeter Josh Keller rented a bike and pedaled around the area. Others took in more music or shopped for souvenirs. I opted for the boat excursion to a small island in the lake with a botanical garden, and I took the long way back as the boat pulled into the various lakeside villages. That night the band and I caught a set that combined Barnard with Christopher's quartet. Rain moved in, but the hardy souls who stayed with their umbrellas were treated to Christopher's beautiful reading of "After the Rain" by John Coltrane! This was followed by the Creole Clarinets, an international assemblage led by reed player Thomas L'Etienne. This group delivered an infectious and groundbreaking set that successfully combined trad jazz with Brazilian chorro music, complete with Brazilian dancers whose costumes left, um, little to the imagination. What a show! And a good lesson that there is still new ground to be broken in the trad jazz genre. I'm not sure how many band members caught this, because some of them were at a birthday party for a local young guy that they met through a social networking website. At the party, some friends of the birthday guy showed a trailer for a documentary they're producing called The Sound After the Storm, which deals with post-Katrina New Orleans, focusing on vocalist Lillian Boutté and clarinetist Dr. Michael White. The band members tell me it looks like a real winner.
The next day found the CFJB back at the waterfront restaurant for their final set, playing to an even bigger crowd than before. The band invited me to step in for "1919 March." Here we were approached by the director of a festival in Brazil (no connection with the above dancers) that sends trad jazz bands around to perform at different cities in that country. If that should come about for CFJB you'll read about it here! I spent the rest of the day taking the funicular and cable car up the Locarno mountainside for a spectacular view of the Swiss Alps, and a delicious dinner of lake-caught trout. On this final night, some of the band members dug more of Evan Christopher at the jam session, and sat in; others heard a set by vocalist Niki Harris and came away raving about her. The festival would continue for several more days, but our time in Ascona was over. "Wonderful band!" said Nicolas the festival director. "Let's talk about next year."
After a brief panic over a lost-then-found train ticket, the band assembled at the train station the next day for the return ride to Zurich with our accompanying PRJCers. Here the band had another laugh. Displayed in a vending machine were cans of "ice tea with Swiss cannabis...for a fantastic natural feeling"! The band wisely stayed away from this but came away hooked instead on gelato, an extra-creamy variant of ice cream that was dispensed from little stands all over town. "When we get home we're all going to suffer from gelato withdrawal!" lamented tubaist Liz Prince. The unusual heat and haze that had dominated the week had now finally lifted, giving us a good look from the train at the spectacular vistas we couldn't see on the trip coming down.
After resettling into our Zurich hotel, the band played a final concert at the headquarters of the American Women's Club of Zurich. Here the band was sat-in-upon by John Service, trombonist with Chris Barber's big band; banjoist Chris Mitchell and trombonist Thedy Schutz of the Zurich-based Harlem Ramblers; vocalist Gary Scott Koenigsberg and drummer Frederick Sheppard. This was an all-stops-out blowing session that had everyone dancing, clapping and second-lining, red napkins waving all over the room. The band publicly presented me with notes of appreciation (one wrote me a seven-page letter!), and the Club put out an amazing spread of Swiss delicacies for the band and audience. What a great end to a fabulous trip. Service e-mailed us afterwards, "I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you guys this evening and was honoured to have a blow with you. You guys have renewed my faith in the music and humanity -- there ARE rational human beings out there that want to play good jazz that are not over 60!"
My Trad Jazz Trooper Award goes to our pianist, Antonio Castro-Ossorio, who broke his foot two days before the trip but didn't let that slow him down. Hobbling on crutches, he kept up with the band, was there for every performance despite constant swelling and never once complained.
By the way, band members helped put the various components of this trip together --shopping and booking the train, tour bus, etc. It all came off without a hitch. As the band partook of the brunch at the Ascona Hotel after their performance there, I raised a glass and said, "Here's to one of the greatest groups of pros I've ever had the pleasure of working with." I've never said that more sincerely.
The Traditional Jazz Educators Network, formed in 1997, is an organization dedicated to perpetuating the traditional jazz idiom through education. TJEN promotes and facilitates the teaching of traditional jazz history and performance techniques to young people. Membership is free. For more information, visit http://prjc.org/tjen, or contact us at 5537 Belle Pond Dr., Centreville, VA 20120, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.