This is the furthest I have traveled west for a gig. What an interesting town. It seems as I get older, the more I am interested in the day to day culture of towns that I visit, especially as far west as Washington.
Musician and friend Mark Gavoor coordinated a concert at Whitman College and as with any type of concert so far from home, we had to travel a day earlier. This proved to be important especially as Mark got caught up in some airline troubles which got him to Walla Walla later in the evening instead of during the day like the rest of us. Sorry Marko!
It also seems that the older I become, the less interested I am in airline travel. I am not afraid of flying and have no trouble getting on or off planes – but the stress involved prior to and arriving at airports seems to intensify with age. I am not alone in this thinking as my fellow musician travelers also chimed in that the stress is sometimes over consuming.
Anyway, I arrived in Walla Walla and had the opportunity to walk the town a bit to get a little of the local atmosphere. Wine country. A fellow on the plane next to me said this city has over 176 wine vineyards, apparently gaining competition for Napa Valley, California.
Once we landed, I could certainly see what he meant. There were wine tasting stores not only on every corner, but in places – right next to each other. I was amazed. I was surprised I didn’t find them in the bathrooms! We tried one of them out – what a cool experience. The vast lands in Walla Walla are perfect orchards for growing the grapes that in turn make these…yea…expensive wines. $50 a bottle. I mentioned “two buck chuck” and got a nervous giggle out of the one wine tasting store we visited.
Later that evening, our gracious host took us to a great restaurant for dinner and we had the opportunity to meet two colleagues of hers that were in the jazz music world and one is even working on a Middle Eastern jazz album. Suffice it to say, we all got along great and had a wonderful evening. We talked about other local jazz legends and as it turns out, they knew several of the jazz legends I had the opportunity to perform with in Virginia a few years ago.
It was great to see musicians and professors embrace Armenian and Middle Eastern music. They understood the makams (scales) and did their homework for sure.
I continue to say that the world of ethnic music is a small one, but one that the jazz community has always embraced and understood. Maybe its because jazz artists understand that the music may not be the most popular genre, but one with the most soul.
Day #2 is just around the corner….