Irregardless Brands

Carrying his instrument of choice, the trumpet, Al Strong will make his way across the Irregardless stage, come Saturday night. Jazz trumpeter, composer, educator, and curator, Strong is a jack of all trades when it comes to anything jazz. He’s played and recorded for artists such as Aretha Franklin, Clay Aiken, Big Daddy Kane, and Phonte Coleman, to name a few.

Having grown up in a heavily music-appreciated environment, with his grandmother playing gospel hymns on the organ during her weekly in-home church services, and his grandfather introducing him to Ray Charles, Jimmy Smith and Donald Byrd, Strong gained an interest in the production of music and the sounds instruments make.

Throughout his youth, he’s experimented with several instruments, some among them were the organ, drums, and violin, before settling with the trumpet. When asked if he thought the trumpet an instrument that he chose or that chose him, he answered that he chose the trumpet. “I guess partly because my last name is Strong, and I remember hearing louis armstrong’s music. Some of that as a child and then I more or less gravitated towards the trumpet.”

Strong attended Duke Ellington School for the Performing Arts where he was able to performing with his school’s jazz band overseas. From there, he received a full-tuition scholarship to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) to study jazz and then earned a masters in Jazz Performance/Pedagogy at Northern Illinois University. Now, he is an adjunct trumpet professor at NCCU as well as co-founded the Art of Cool Project, with Cicely Mitchell.

The Art of Cool project is a non-profit, jazz organization with its two major programs being Art of Cool Festival, a jazz music festival in Durham, and stArt of Cool, a jazz summer camps for at-risk youth. This year marks the fifth year anniversary for the Art of Cool Festival and just last year, the festival expanded to Charlotte!

“I like that [Art of Cool] fills a void in our music scene that before, didn’t cater to certain audiences, [such as] young working professionals. I would say primarily African Americans, but really diverse audiences,” Strong said. “Providing music and entertainment options that reach diverse audiences; that’s probably what I enjoy the most. A lot of the courses I’m making has been feedback from the concerts so it illustrates the point of the fulfillment of the void in the cultural scene.”

In 2016, AL Strong released his debut album, LoveStrong Vol. 1, which demonstrates the style he’s come into throughout the years. Perhaps over ten years in the making, as some of the tracks can be tracked to the beginning of his NCCU career.

I asked him if he thought his style has changed over the years or has it weaved itself to what it is now and he answered quite knowingly. “I would say that personal style is just that. It’s an individual thing and I think that what we strive for, as artists and performers, is that over time we work hard to refine that style and add to it. I think it’s more of a point of clarity; to be able to communicate your vision for the music in a more clear fashion to your audience. That’s probably the main goal for most artists who are also composers, also presenting original material or ideas.”

Having been boths sides of performing and composing, Strong finds himself comfortable with both and that both go hand in hand. “There are quite a few opportunities to perform and that opens opportunities to compose some things for those situations. It’s just that, in a sense, composing can be a little more of a challenge because most of the time, the only feedback you get is from yourself until it’s actually presented for people and you’re getting that feedback almost immediately. The composition angle of it is that the rewards come a little later than you find in a performing situation.”

The hardest question an artist or composer is often asked is: which is your favorite piece. The answer is never simple and it’s not often one single piece, because each piece of music, of art, of composition, is a part of the artist. Al Strong had hesitations answering this, but still, he gave an answer.

“I wouldn’t say I have a favorite piece; I have several that I have more a connection with for various reasons,” he mused. “I would consider myself more of a ballad player; I’ve always loved ballads, slow songs. The slower songs that you hear on the album, I feel like I have more of a connection with. If I think back to the recording studio, I just felt, because they were slower songs, there’s more time to create over them and improvise and really get to a point of expression so that’s why I’d say they’re my favorites.”

These guys are as humble as their beginnings at the restaurant, Humble Pie. Peter Lamb and the Wolves have been together since the first inauguration of Obama in 2008 when Peter was tasked to assemble a band for a party taking place at the restaurant.

“When he was elected the second time, the Democratic National Convention was being held in Charlotte that year they heard us and asked us to come up.” says Lamb, leader and tenor saxophonist. “That was sheer luck.”

Perhaps it was, but it was because of this luck that 9 years later, Peter Lamb and the Wolves are still performing, mostly as regulars every other Wednesday at the establishment where they started.

Paul Rogers is on trumpet and credits his brother – Lamb – to a bit of his start. “Pete is 12 years older than me so he kind of helped me as far as what to learn and helped me learn some of this music,” says Rogers, “so it’s been a treat learning and playing with him”. “We have a fun connection where we really know each other’s playing super well, so I know what he’s going for, he knows what I’m going for. We communicate on a pretty deep and interesting level musically because we’ve been playing now for almost 15 years. We just have a lot in common musically so it’s a lot of fun to share the band with Pete.”

The band’s style is a fusion of not only listening to each other but also listening to the audience as well. The engagement they have with the audience makes them exciting and gets the audience on their feet.

Mark Wells, pianist and vocalist, comments that they try to experiment with new sounds often and that process allows them to discover what songs and styles work best for them. “Part of that process is sometimes you’re gonna try something that doesn’t work, but I think it’s part of how you figure it out.”

With a band as big as theirs, part of what makes their band dynamic is working with each other as well. “Listening to each other is just so important,” he says. “You have to understand what you’re supposed to do and your limitations of it and accept each person and the way they sound and what their concept is. So what I’m always trying to think about is how can I play something that’s gonna help everything just kind of crystallize and sort of come together. And a lot of times what it ends up is you have to simplify what you’re doing.”

And listen, they have to. All of the recordings on their CD’s are live, meaning none are made in the studio. Every mistake, every feedback, every sound not typically heard in a studio-recorded CD, but often heard on a stage performance is recorded. And there’s a reason why.

Lamb says he thinks a live performance is much more interesting, especially for a jazz band. “I think if you’re playing jazz, part of the interesting parts is improvising, the wrong notes, everything about it is cool. I think it’s way more invigorating than sitting in a studio. There are mess-ups on the album but that’s intentional. We screwed up and we want to leave it there.”

These guys are as humble as their beginnings at the restaurant, Humble Pie. Peter Lamb and the Wolves have been together since the first inauguration of Obama in 2008 when Peter was tasked to assemble a band for a party taking place at the restaurant.

“When he was elected the second time, the Democratic National Convention was being held in Charlotte that year they heard us and asked us to come up.” says Lamb, leader and tenor saxophonist. “That was sheer luck.”

Perhaps it was, but it was because of this luck that 9 years later, Peter Lamb and the Wolves are still performing, mostly as regulars every other Wednesday at the establishment where they started.

Paul Rogers is on trumpet and credits his brother – Lamb – to a bit of his start. “Pete is 12 years older than me so he kind of helped me as far as what to learn and helped me learn some of this music,” says Rogers, “so it’s been a treat learning and playing with him”. “We have a fun connection where we really know each other’s playing super well, so I know what he’s going for, he knows what I’m going for. We communicate on a pretty deep and interesting level musically because we’ve been playing now for almost 15 years. We just have a lot in common musically so it’s a lot of fun to share the band with Pete.”

The band’s style is a fusion of not only listening to each other but also listening to the audience as well. The engagement they have with the audience makes them exciting and gets the audience on their feet.

Mark Wells, pianist and vocalist, comments that they try to experiment with new sounds often and that process allows them to discover what songs and styles work best for them. “Part of that process is sometimes you’re gonna try something that doesn’t work, but I think it’s part of how you figure it out.”

With a band as big as theirs, part of what makes their band dynamic is working with each other as well. “Listening to each other is just so important,” he says. “You have to understand what you’re supposed to do and your limitations of it and accept each person and the way they sound and what their concept is. So what I’m always trying to think about is how can I play something that’s gonna help everything just kind of crystallize and sort of come together. And a lot of times what it ends up is you have to simplify what you’re doing.”

And listen, they have to. All of the recordings on their CD’s are live, meaning none are made in the studio. Every mistake, every feedback, every sound not typically heard in a studio-recorded CD, but often heard on a stage performance is recorded. And there’s a reason why.

Lamb says he thinks a live performance is much more interesting, especially for a jazz band. “I think if you’re playing jazz, part of the interesting parts is improvising, the wrong notes, everything about it is cool. I think it’s way more invigorating than sitting in a studio. There are mess-ups on the album but that’s intentional. We screwed up and we want to leave it there.”

Ed Moon and the Stars orchestrating through the sky on a veil of smooth jazz and landing at Irregardless Cafe on Saturday. Either with groups or on his own, he has been playing jazz at Irregardless Cafe, as well as other venues, since the 90’s and has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

 

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Moon grew up in a family of musicians and he feels that music comes almost naturally to him having been surrounded in an environment where music is constantly being played. From there, he moved to NC to 1979 to teach part time at North Carolina Central University in the music department. Nowadays, he is a retired music and string orchestra teacher from the Wake County Public School System.

 

Being quite musically inclined, he plays bass and sometimes guitar. When asked about his musical style, he said, “they all have an influence on you. To me, personally, you’re working towards what your special niche is, and try to explore that. And all those influences come in and you might add a little to it or learn from it, and you can come up with something unique.”

 

Jazz, as a genre has changed over time and has evolved with different elements being added as well as the styles from other genres as well. What can influence a person may be the different music they have been exposed to.

 

With Moon, having grown up in Nashville, he was exposed to country music as well as played in the Nashville Symphony. He recalled, “a lot of things have come up that are new now that weren’t there when I first started out. But I also learned and studied that everything is interconnected and influences each other. I played in some R&B clubs in the Nashville area, and then the jazz club in the Nashville area. I learned that wherever you are there will be people who know a bit about the background that you’re playing with. Coming to the [Raleigh] area, I got to meet a lot of new musicians. And all that experience kind of goes into you as a musician.”

 

Performing on stage is often energetic and exciting, especially if the crowd is into the performer. “To me it’s not just where you are but who you’re playing with is where the energy comes from,” he says. “For me, that can be in the audience or your own stage. It all depends on the situation you’re in. Like in different genres, you’re expected to play certain functions, integrals, and dynamics. So you try to develop as many skills as you can. Sometimes they cross over and sometimes they don’t.” When Ed Moon and the Stars perform, audiences are sure to feel as transported as the band when they play.

 

Ed Moon and the Stars will be performing this Saturday with Emily Scott on piano, Reginald Leatherberry on sax, Bill Hayes on drums and Ken Demery subbing on guitar.

Grooving along to the funk/jazz band that has audiences tapping their foot and performing “a blend of ‘Funky Jazz and Voodoo Grooves’”, Zen Groove Funkestra joins us this Saturday, March 24th. The members are Dillon Partin (Bass), Scott Jones (Drums), Eric Earley (Sax), Chris Tomazic (Guitar), and newest member, Lauren Jenkins (Vocals).

 

Q: How did your band form?

Dillon: I’ll cover that really quick. So I had a bunch of music that I had written that was like an instrumental concept album that was inspired by my wife’s father’s death. Not a really happy funky dance type idea, but I just had all this music and the band that I was playing in, there really wasn’t a phase there for that music to be played. At the time, I was in another band with Scott Jones, [our] drummer, and talked to him about maybe doing something different and making it an album of that music. And that became Zen Groove Arkest which was a tribute to a band called Sun Ra Arkestra. So we thought that we’d record that album in 2015 and we did one concert to promote that album and we had so much fun we decided to make it into a band. We played as Zen Groove Arkest for about a year and then we had a lot of trouble with people remembering Arkest and so in the middle of changing the band members and changing the sound to become more listener-friendly and dance-friendly and adding a bunch of covers, we changed the name of the band to Zen Groove Funkestra. It’s a little bit easier for people to get but at least as far as I know, no one in the world has a band called Zen Groove Orchestra.

 

Q: You said you changed it because people mess it up often and now you’ve told me that people still mess it up and that’s what you wanted?

D: It wasn’t that we wanted people to mess it up, it’s just something that was unique. I didn’t realize that Funkestra would be so difficult but it honestly isn’t as bad as Arkest. We did a show in Miami in January and we were introduced as Zen Groove Fun-estra which you know, isn’t a bad choice for a name. The idea is like an orchestra, but we play Funk-based music.

 

Q: How would you say your style has captivated your audiences?

Scott: The different aspects such as being groove oriented and funky; the notion of making people involuntarily, at least, tap their foot, but ideally, shake their butt too, which would be difficult for Irregardless Cafe, cause you might be sitting. Beyond that, we like to interpret the music, meaning it’s not always played the same way every time, but rather, what am I feeling right now? What does it sound like in here? What are the people responding to? What energy am I getting? That informs how we play through the written part, and especially informs the improvisations which is a big emphasis for us.

 

 

Q: In Reverbnation bio, it says that funk/jazz is the genre. It may be that it’s funk/jazz, but why not be a band that plays funk and jazz, rather than be a funk/jazz band?

D: Yes, we do play funk music and jazz music, but if you compared us to a funk band or a more traditional jazz band, we’re not going to sound just like that. For instance, we can take a jazz standard and we’ll probably play it more funky than what more people are used to hearing it. And we’ll take a typical, three-minute funk song that’s everyone’s heard a million times and make it our own by adding solos or a whole new part to the song, which is more of from a jazz background. It’s not exactly a conscious process going forward; it’s just happened naturally with whatever kind of music we play. We also play pop songs, but we play them with a more funky, jazzy feel to it.

 

Q: When did you form your band?

D: The band was formed in March 2015, which was when we did the concert and that’s when the original CD came out.

 

Q: And you released Intergalactic Funketeers last year. Anything new you’re working on?

D: So Lauren, who’s our newest member and vocalist, is with child so we’re going to take a break from playing live and going to be doing a lot of writing for the next record. We haven’t talk about what it’s going to be like; normally, we don’t talk about it, we just say “Hey, got some ideas?” So we’re recording something new and we’re still going to be around but not playing much until late in the summer. By that time, we will hopefully have a bunch of new songs and hopefully a new record as well.

 

Q: Which is your busiest season?

D: For us, it seems to be the end of autumn through December. I’m not sure why that is, I know there’s a lot of festivals and community events that go on that we usually take part in. So that’s our busiest season normally.

 

Q: As a group or maybe individually, what’s your favorite place to play? Where have you gone that you thought the energy was really dynamic?

Lauren: Having just joined these guys, we played in Miami for Dan Marino’s Fundraiser for Autism and it was amazing. We played right outside of the stadium and there were about 1500 people there. That was such an amazing experience for me; just the energy, the people, the stage. I was really honored joining these guys and getting that kind of experience. I grew up doing a lot of musical theatre, so I’ve been in smaller venues but on this kind of scale [in Florida] I thought, for me, that was awesome.

S: I have a different favourite, but Miami is the most emotional for me. You’re not just playing to entertain people, you’re trying to have some impact on some aspect of the world which is profound in that sense. The one I would throw out is I used to live in New York and I networked with some of my friends last year and got us a gig at a club called Nublu which is pretty famous since it was founded in 2001. We played there on a Saturday night, pretty close to midnight and then there was a jam where I go on and play and that ended at 4 something. It was a very New York experience, which was awesome.

D: I think my favorite gig will be at Irregardless. [Band members jokingly laughs] I always mention on the stage whenever we’re playing. We love playing Miami, New York was a bucket list type gig that I’m looking forward to doing again. But Irregardless for local venues really is a great place because the sound is always super supportive.

L: That’s true. I’ve only played at Irregardless a handful of times but what Dillon is saying is that you can just see people really enjoying themselves. You look out there, you look at the tables and people are dancing in their seats and singing along and clapping. That has been really awesome just to seeing people have an amazing time.

 

Q: It’s funny, having read your bio and hearing you guys’ stories, you’re all non-Raleigh natives. Is that true for everybody in the band?

D: Eric is from Pennsylvania, Chris is from Ohio, Michael Pelz-Sherman who’s been playing with us on keyboard is from Minnesota. I think

Michael’s been here the longest and the rest of us from 5-8 years maybe. [Dillon is from Texas.]

L: I’ve only been here for two years actually.

S: Lauren and I both moved here from L.A., although years apart.

 

Q: That’s actually very interesting; you all coming together spontaneously from different place and forming in the Triangle area.

L: I moved here two years ago and I’ve just been impressed by the local music scene in Durham and the Triangle. It’s been amazing to meet so many musicians and it is pretty cool that so many people are from different places with different backgrounds.

 

Q: Can you describe the music making process?

S: I would say it is typically a presentation of parts or a thing that can then be grabbed onto by the rest of the group and hammered out into a framework or an arrangement. As Dillon mentioned with his first album, he had these wholly formed things where he would present a chart and say, “this is the music I wrote, let’s play through it.” In other cases, it might be me saying, “this is the recording I made; go transcribe it.” [erupt giggles from members] which is really not nice. Or “give me your bass, Dillon. This is a part I just heard. What do you guys think?” “That’s really cool. What if it did this too?” “What if this was the beat section?” It’s super collaborative, typically.

 

Q: Do you ever have moments where you’re playing and it’s evolved to something different from what you thought you would be playing?

L: Absolutely. The great thing for me as a vocalist, going back to the musical theatre background, you’re singing things as is, note to note. It’s been really great for me to watch these guys improvise and it gives me that kind of freedom to do the same thing with my voice. And so there are a lot of times where we’ll be playing the show and all of a sudden, I think “I’m going to throw something in; I’m going to do something crazy” and it really helps give me the confidence and freedom to go for it. For me, that’s been really freeing to just go with something and know that we’ve got each other’s backs.

 

Q: Last question. What is your biggest challenge as a band?

D: I think it’s trying to find that sweet spot in finding music listeners who are looking for what we’re doing. Irregardless is one of those places that people come to hear music and they’re so used to hearing different types of music. Everyone who comes there on Saturday night and they’re expecting a certain quality of music, but I don’t think they get caught up in this is a traditional acoustic band or party band stand. They’re there just to hear music and you have nights where people will sit and listen the entire night and nights where they’ll get up and dance. I think overall, it’s finding ourselves on social media or like Irregardless where there’s built-in audience that really appreciates what we’re doing.

Jazz Blogger, Alix Vo, was able to catch up with Giacomo Gates in this exclusive interview below prior to his scheduled live jazz performance on Saturday, April 7th at 9 PM at Irregardless Cafe.   $15 cover for the show

Giacomo Gates has always been interested in music. He began playing guitar as a young kid and got turned on to more music than just the pop music of his generation. Born in 1950, he began taking guitar lessons in 1958/1959, but he was listening to music that was written in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Those guitar lessons didn’t take him much further than the wedding band gigs he’d landed as a teen in Connecticut, as he didn’t actively seek a career in music performance until later on in his life. He took on a career in construction for over twelve years before becoming encouraged to give jazz performance a try. His career has propelled him to work with many jazz artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Rufus Reid, and Lou Donaldson and eight studio albums as of 2017.

Q: To begin with, can you tell me about the career you have had and how you got involved with jazz? I know it’s not exactly a conventional one and you started out later after you did some things.

A: I was always a fan [of jazz] and my guitar teachers were also jazz musicians, so they had a tendency to expose me to that music. I was a fan of it and I played guitar in my early teens in wedding bands, but I wasn’t pursuing it; it was just fun. I was not that far from New York City and there were great radio stations playing jazz music. I would listen to it, be interested in it and buy the records. I was always a fan of the music, even though I was hanging out in my late teens and early 20s with friends who were listening to the Rolling Stones and Marvin Gaye. I was too, but I was also listening to jazz.

When I left these folks and moved to Alaska, I moved there to work in construction and I was planning on staying a year, but I liked it and stayed much longer than I expected. I got involved in a festival and I got encouragement from people. Despite 14 years that somehow went by, still, I listened to the music and if I had an opportunity to sit in somewhere, I would. With all the encouragement, I thought to myself, I’ve been up here much longer than I wanted to be or expected to be. I guess the adventure of it was pretty much over so I wanted another adventure. I went back to the east coast and went into New York City, which was always considered the jazz capital of the world and started to shine it up, hone my craft, whatever you want to call it. One thing led to another and I started to work weekly, then regionally, and then nationally. I started to get a few recordings out, fast forward and here we are.


Q: Do you think your teachers were a big influence on you being active in jazz? Had they not exposed you to it, would you have exposed yourself to jazz later in life?

A: I don’t know. For me, I teach at Wesleyan University in CT two days a week. At the end of my students’ university career, they come to me and say, ‘I wanted to say hello; I’m graduating or I wanted to stop by and say thank you because when I signed up to take jazz voice lessons, I didn’t know much about jazz.’ Some of them even say ‘well I have sung previously’ or ‘I have never sung, I don’t know if I can carry a tune.’ They’ve also said prior to this class, I thought it would be fun, I thought it would be an easy credit, but it wasn’t that easy and after taking a semester or two with you.

Most of these kids don’t know who Count Basie is and when I play it for them, they all say ‘wow! I’ve never heard anything like that before.’ So when they are exposed to it, they like it and this music is not that hard to like. You have to be exposed to it because it’s not commercial anymore. It’s not being played on every radio station. You have to find it on the internet if you look for it, but it used to be broadcast over the television; it’s not anymore. So I have been lucky enough to be exposed to jazz by others.

My father played big band records when I was a kid in the house so I heard Count Basie and Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson. I really think that anybody who hears this music, if they give it an opportunity, they’d be compelled not to like it because it’s fun, it makes you want to move your body or dance or tap your feet. And lyrically, there’s usually a story connected to it; it’s not just ‘I love you baby, I love you baby, I love you baby’. It tells you why I love you.


Q: Did you think you’d be teaching?

A: No, I never expected to be teaching. But when I think about it, almost everything I have ever done, I ended up being an instructor at it. Like when I started to learn equipment, because I was a younger guy, I got pretty good at it because I wanted to get good at it. And I worked hard at getting good at it. So when they would have apprentices show up on the job, they would usually give me an apprentice or two. They’d say take these two guys and show them how to do this. So I guess I was honing my teaching skills.

I was involved in martial arts as a young man for 12-15 years. And part of that scene was that, when you reached a certain level, you had to turn around and give back what you learned to people who were trying to come up. And as someone who was getting involved in music, I would go to some workshops given by people and as you probably know, some people are good at what they do, but they’re not good at telling other people how to do it. I don’t know, I think I have some kind of a gift that allows me to explain how come you do this and why.

I’ve never been someone to just tell people to do this and that’s the way to do it. If you love what you do and you examine what you do and you try to do it better, I guess it makes it a little easier for what to explain to other people what you have to teach. There are certain things you can give somebody and if they remembered it, great, they get it, but you can’t force them. Either you get it, I tried to help you get it, I’ll give you more information on how to get it, but if you have a gift and you don’t polish the gift, then nothing happens. Everybody does something and there’s somebody who does it better. Well, how come? They either have a gift and they have to work hard at it. I think almost, almost anyone can have the attitude for it.

 

Q: Do you still do martial arts?

A: I don’t actively go out to classes, no. I still work out, I still train, but I don’t go out to classes. I don’t spar anymore. But I’m still limber and I try to stay strong.

 

Q: Was your style something you developed or that grew?

A: It grew. The people that I listened to were certainly stylistic and I think you have to be influenced by others who come before you.

 

Q: Backpacking on that, some people who have compared you to Eddie Jefferson and Owen McNally of the Hartford Courant said that you’re keeping the tradition of Eddie Jefferson alive & well. Do you believe so? Maybe in comparison, it’s difficult to describe, but do you think your styles are similar?

A: I certainly listened to Eddie Jefferson and the style that I sing is the same style, but that style also pursued by Lambert Hendricks and Ross and King Pleasure and Babs Gonzales. Most are gone now, but they were the people that really spread that around. That was the age that started the style vocalese. I’m proud that Owen wrote that I’m carrying on what Eddie Jefferson did. I certainly have embraced that, but I’m also trying to do what I do and having that influence on me. I want to be influenced by a lot of people. I don’t want to copy anybody.

 

Q: Do you believe the jazz community is a tight-knit group because you’re listing all these people you’ve worked with and it seems like to work with them was enthralling and so easy to do.

A: These people were who I listened to and was a fan of, they were hardcore. They didn’t accept you easily. It wasn’t like ‘yeah, come hang with us.’ No no no. You had to prove yourself. If you couldn’t cut it on the bandstand with them, they’d tell you to get off. If you could hang, then you could stay; if you couldn’t hang, you have to leave. So it was a certain level that you had to achieve. I mean, they were kind, but they weren’t kind to everyone. You couldn’t be half-stepping it; you couldn’t be faking it. If it wasn’t real, if they didn’t think it was real, then you were gone.

So, I felt very flattered to be accepted by these people who were much older than me. The people whose music I loved, they were not of my generation. These people were playing on 52nd Street in New York City before I was even born. I never thought I’d meet Dave Brubeck. I never thought I’d be on the bandstand with Dave Brubeck, but I was. I remember being at festivals and Dave Brubeck was standing on the wings and he said to me, ‘hey Giacomo, thanks for playing my song’. To me, that was very moving and I said to him, ‘thank you very much for writing it’.

I remember meeting Lou Donaldson, I had many of his records and I remember sitting in with him several times. One time I said to him, ‘Lou, I want you to know that I’m knocked out to sit in with you; I didn’t just come by your gig to take a free ride and sit in. I know who you are. I got your records when I was sixteen years old; I never ever thought I’d be on the same bandstand with you.’ He said to me, ‘Never mind that. You want to sing or not?’ That’s the thing about them; they don’t care if you know how they are. I’m flattered; I’m gassed that I got to meet some of these guys and women and was accepted by them. I may not be as big a name as Mick Jagger, but I got to have a conversation with Jon Hendricks. I sat on his gigs, he sat on my gigs. To me, that’s something I never dreamed would happen. I had no intention of even being in the music business. So when I got accepted by these people and embraced, it was a big deal.