Friday, 29 February 2008

DR photos to come!

Dominican Republic 2/5/08

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

First, some comedy....Our first day in the DR, the morning TV show we were to do was cancelled and eventually, we found that out too! Happily it was rescheduled for the next day. It was an amazing two room TV set replete with drag queens, lip synchers, very sexy dancers (boys and girls), merengue-pop singers and too many stage hands to count and a one person make up crew. We waited to go on without much direction and then boom! at least four cameras for different angles...half way into the tune after the butterscotch tasting fog machine went off, so did all the power, really, ALL the power, mid-tune! We stood in pitch black for a bit and then picked it back up with a splice mid solo and did another song. Another act started while our set changed for the next act...non stop show in the DR!

Meanwhile, the venues we're playing in the DR are unbelievably artistic and flat out beautifully conceived. The Casa de Teatro in Santo Domingo, we played once and we play again tonight. (Sandwiched between these two performances there is another at a 700 seat theatre that we packed with young people who gave us several standing ovations.) But back to the Teatro, this place is a beautiful 250 seat theatre with a gorgeous stage, lights and sound (thanks Sly!), and a screen that projects the performance into the bar outside. The US Embassy folks here really worked so that we connected with the people, especially Rex Moser. Other amazing people make these things happen too, that have nothing to do with the Embassy. People like the creator of the venue Casa de Teatro, Freddy Ginebra, and Fernando Rodriguez, journalist and soulmate of the music, are people dedicated to great art and jazz in particular. We were lucky to have support like this. I think this is the most enthusiastic group of people I've encountered in my travels to date. They told me they loved the emotional quality of the music and the passionate way I moved. It's really nice to have an audience love what we love, so we created an experience together. They sang along without wanting to stop and even after opening things up to a jam at the end of our last show, it was hard to end the night. We hope we'll get back to the DR!!!!

Nicaragua 1/31/08


The whole time we were in Nicaragua, I had to pinch myself. This is a place I wondered about in my
youth with it's attempt at political liberation. Interesting time for the Nicaraguans now with
that same party just being voted back in power. It's a whole new era for them and people are
hopeful that their new Sandinista government will be able to spread some economic opportunity
through to the people with jobs and education. No one really knows how it's all going to work out,
but the people we met were hopeful.

We loved the work we got to do there and we owe that thanks to Jose Leonel (JL)Jimenez at the US
Embassy in Managua. This man is extremely dedicated to his gig because of his dedication to his
his country and people. We were really glad to get to do several workshops with eager music
students and played four concerts to audiences that really were open to new music in four
different cities. They loved the songs we performed in Spanish here too, of course. JL went so far
as to have my poem "From Here" translated into Spanish and I recited it here in concert. Poetry is
a high value in this culture and it's an honor to be well received in this way.

We were just sad to leave knowing we only grazed the surface of getting to know a culture rich and
full of hope. We'll want to come back for sure.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Panama post 12/28/08

Well hello you realize what a small world this is? First of all, we are using American dollars in Panama and most people speak a little, if not a lot of English. I'm having a blast getting my Spanish up and running and Panama is the perfect place to get re-acquainted. We are performing and teaching this time as part of Danilo Perez' Panama Jazz Festival and that makes the first leg of our ambassadorship different than anything we've done before. This has to be the biggest, most organized grass roots jazz festival of all time. The last few days has been pure pleasure and ease and it's been wonderful being involved. We gave a clinic on the subject of Jazz Ensembles to a group of serious jazz students of varying ages, instruments and abilities and we shared our ideas about what makes an ensemble work. As usual, I learn more by teaching and am always surprised by what I know and am able to impart. It was fun for us and a gift to get to share it. Most of the students attended the session on the same day that they auditioned for coveted spots for scholarships to Berkeley and New England Conservatory. Our clinic was sandwiched between Berkeley College and the Thelonius Monk Institute. Then we did an hour set closing the daytime concert at a small theatre in the convention center.  Danilo brought up part of the audience to sit on the stage with us at the end of the show, saying to them, "now you can feel it!" That was Thursday...
Yesterday, Friday, we performed on the mainstage in Casco Viejo en frente de Catedral Metropolitana, a beautiful spot filled with noticeably content faces. The sound was great and when we hit the stage, which was enormous, it was charged. I decided to perform a tune I learned from my dear Chilean friend Lorena Gueny Jorguera which she taught me by rote in Spanish long ago by pop singer Roberto Carlos. I thought that people would know it and enjoy hearing it in a different context, and oh boy...the response was overwhelming to say the least... the appreciation roared and the applause during the tune almost covered the whole thing. We'll try to get the video up for you to see if we can find the right cable!!!! 
Today, I got a good sunburn going sitting decadently as poolside in a ridiculously nice hotel on the water. We are surrounded by the elite in a country that has a 40% poverty rate and the poor are almost invisible to us. It's what you might expect of the dicotomy here. Tomorrow we will go see the canal and make a trip to the rainforest (get out of town a bit) before we venture to Nicaragua on Tuesday. That will be a different non-jazz festival view of what people are dealing with here. 
Talk to you soon....Love, Kelley 

Monday, 7 January 2008

Let the blogging begin

Hi Peeps,

I'm starting a blog so I can keep you all informed about my second jazz ambassador trip and other things.