Dream Gigs

Oscar Castro Neves at rehearsal

Dream Gigs - Oscar Castro Neves 

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to experience what I call “Dream Gigs.” Someone recently asked me which was my favorite. Actually, there are so many, it’s hard to pick one. But here’s the first one that came to mind: 

One of my very favorite “Dream Gigs” was with Oscar Castro Neves. With a grant from Southern Arts Foundation and Tennessee Arts Commission, the Nashville Jazz Workshop was able to bring him to town in 2010. I had been listening to Oscar for a very long time, and when I started my Brazilian band, Ritmos Picantes, we tried to learn a couple of Oscar’s original tunes. OMG, they were difficult! Then in 2008, I met him in Long Beach, CA, when the International Association of Jazz Educators convention (IAJE) was there. He was playing with an all-star Brazilian line up that included Dori Caymmi. Holy Moly!! 
Fast forward Our NJW friend Suzan Toney mentioned that she and Oscar were very good friends. She said she would like to see if we could bring him to Nashville. So she and our Development Director, Larry Seeman, went to work developing a air tight grant to get Oscar here. Well . . . they succeeded. Oscar came to Nashville in November of 2010. It was a dream come true! 

We put together a very fine band to back up Oscar: Chester Thompson on drums, Roger Spencer on bass, Dann Sherrill on percussion, Mark Douthit and Denis Solee on saxophones, and me on piano. For the show, we did several of Oscar’s originals, and the rest were Jobim tunes. The first night was with the full band. The second was a smaller group – Roger, Denis, Dann and me – more a historical performance of Jobim’s music, along with wonderful stories about him. (Also that second day, Oscar was having some vocal problems, so I called my best friend Ron Browning to come in and try to help. Of course, Ron being the Voice Whisperer he is, made a huge difference, and Oscar was able to sing more freely on the second night of his performance. (Thank you Ron!) 
At several points during both of these performances, I seriously had to pinch myself to see if this was real! The sheer delight on my face is obvious in the several videos we’ve posted of the events on our Jazz Workshop website. I could hardly believe we were playing with Oscar Castro Neves! 

Sadly, Oscar passed away in September 2013. But what an artist he was! What a man! And what an honor it was to perform with him and spend four glorious days learning music, sharing stories, eating, drinking and watching several students’ lives changed in the master class he did for us. WOW! Thank you Oscar for enriching my life. You were truly a “Dream Gig,” I will cherish the memory forever.

Dream Gigs- Terry Gibbs

Our gig with Terry Gibbs at Cafe Milano

It happened in 1998 just after we started The Nashville Jazz Institute (now the Nashville Jazz Workshop). The National Association of Music Merchants convention (NAMM) was in Nashville that year, and the great vibraphonist Terry Gibbs came for it. While he was here, Café Milano booked him for a couple of performances. As it happened, he needed a trio to back him, and we got the call. So Roger, Chris Brown, and I got the honor of playing with Terry. We were really excited because all three of us had been huge fans of Terry and the Dream Band. 

The day before the gig, Terry came to the school, and we ran through about twelve songs. And – boy! – he was accustomed to playing fast tempos! Yikes! That’s the thing that worried me most about the gig – the fast tempos and being able to keep up with Terry. He had the spirit and spunk of a 20-year-old! 
One memorable moment occurred the night of the performance in the green room, while we were getting ready to go on. Terry told about introducing John and Alice Coltrane to each other! Then he told several stories about Charlie Parker – Holy Cow! – and about how his band was the “House band “ for Birdland. With each story, I grew more and more nervous. Finally, I came to the conclusion that the night would either go well, or I would completely bomb and hit the wall. There would be NO middle ground! But . . .we made it and had a great time. 
After the gig, some guy came up to the stage and complimented my playing. He said, “Wow, you sound like Herbie Hancock!” (WTH!) Then he stuck out his hand to shake mine and said, “Hi, I’m Stephen Stills.” As I continued to talk with him, I noticed my brother, L.J., in the background, trying to make his way to the stage. He had the biggest smile. (Our family has a guitar strap business (LM Products) and always had a booth at NAMM, so they were at the gig that night.) After Steven said goodbye, my brother finally made it to the stage. He ran to me and asked, “Do you know who that was?” I said, “No, I’m sorry, I don’t.” He then told me it was Steven Stills from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young! OMG! My brother was coming unglued, because he was a big fan of that band. So . . . just another blond moment for Lori! And another Dream Gig.