Camp MMW 2011: Part II

Day 3 has begun. Wakey wakey eggs and Bakey!! I awoke as the sun rose over the ridge of the valley we are in and that signaled it was time to go take a shower. I washed up and headed up to the tent for a breakfast of eggs, bacon, french toast and fruit and then headed to the main lodge to write this entry.

I missed my entry yesterday and I did that on purpose. When I left for camp 3 days ago my plan was to write a beatifully descriptive account of all the days activities on a daily basis along with posting audio recordings, photos and video to boot. However, after 1 day here, I realized that may not be the best thing for my experiences here at camp.

During the opening address on the first day of camp, the band spoke about the merits of recording and documenting what goes on here vs. being in the moment and enjoying everything you can about it. After the first day here, I realized if I did a blog post everyday, that would be almost 2 hours  everyday where I wouldn’t be practicing my riddims or jamming with my new friends or simply just enjoying my time here. I would get so caught up with trying to solidify that which isn’t meant to be solidified. It was this realization that affirmed that I don’t need to try to capture every moment before it fades away. I need to focus on getting everything I can out of my time here and let the chips fall where they may and then recount them later.

I still plan on writing about my experiences in depth as soon as I get back to Brooklyn as well as posting links to all the shows and some GREAT photos as well. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to wait a couple days!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Camp MMW 2011: Part I

I just awoke to a serene morning in a dewy field here at the Full Moon resort. As I got up and made my way towards the shower, it was as if the entire resort was still asleep (and they probably are.) I walked towards the end of the open meadow and spotted a young buck chewing leaves of a tree. He spotted me and eyed me warily but did not stir. As I walked by him I probably got within ten feet of the deer but he didn’t jump, he didn’t run. The beauty and tranquility of this place has already permeated my psyche and I feel at peace. 11:15am yesterday seems like a week ago already.

I received a text from Hurricane at about 11:15 letting me know that he had just left his apartment in Jackson Heights Queens and would be arriving to pick me up in about a half hour. I tied up all my loose ends around the apartment and anxiously awaited the next text that said simply “I’m here.” I grabbed all my gear, my bass, and my bag of clothes, my tent, my old comforter and a pillow. I loaded everything into the car and with no further ado we were off. After a 2.5 hours drive and a quick stop to buy beer and ice, we arrived at the Full Moon Resort.

The grounds were just as beautiful as I remembered them. All spacious, lush and green I marveled at their beauty before getting checked in. Upon leaving the lodge after signing in I bumped into Chris Wood as we exited the main lodge. He recognized me but couldn’t quite remember how.

“What year were you here before?” He inquired.

“2009.” I responded.

“Oh yeah.” He said. “We have a lot of returning campers this year. We better come up with something new to teach you.”

A big smile lit up on my face and with a chuckle I said, “Somehow I don’t think that will be a problem Chris.”

After checking in, the next order of business was to find a nice spot to set up my tent. I walked down towards the campfire pit and followed the flow of the creek into the wide-open field where we all go to throw the Frisbee or football around after lunch. I found a nice flat piece of land next to the creek with an electrical outlet on a post right next to it.

“I think this spot here is calling my name.” I said to Hurricane. I found the flattest spot I could void of any rocks and began setting up my tent. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to get it finished and erected. Walking away from my home for the week, I felt very proud of myself.

I then proceeded up to the main lodge after meeting a few of my fellow campers and attended the “meet and greet” on the main lawn. I got acquainted with several of my campers while having some snacks before the wait-staff summoned us to the tent for dinner.

A dinner of Spinach fettuccine with Sea bass was served to us and it was delicious as I expected. I followed my meal with 2 cups of coffee (as I was already starting to fade) and a plate of delicious peach cobbler.

After dinner we all made our way to the newly renovated barn for the opening address by MMW. The band took this opportunity to address the basic rules of camp as well as the overall message they are trying to convey throughout the week. The phrase that sticks out to me is “Listen to one another.” Here are a few more quotes I jotted down during the address:

 “It’s all about the whole” JM

“If you realize you have it more together than someone else, play to their level, get underneath them and make them sound better.”

“This is the time for us to explore something new.”

“You learn more from your failures so don’t be afraid to fail.”

“I want to really know what you know, ya know?”

 After the opening address we all broke, changed into some warmer clothes (as it gets chilly here once the sun goes down) and headed down to the fire pit to watch the “sacred fire” get lit (sans matches or a lighter.) After the fire, the only place to go was to watch MMW play at the performance hall for an hour. Their performance was the typical brilliance you come to expect from MMW. Jazzy and un-predictable, it really brought to the surface what these guys are all about and what I can expect to learn from them over the course of the next four days.

After the performance, I bided my time between jamming at the café and jamming around the campfire. I’m fortunate enough to be one of only 5 bass players at camp this year so I know my services will be in high demand. I really got into a couple of the jams and it felt so great to play music from my soul once again and to get such positive feedback from my fellow musicians about my level of play.

Now I sit in the main lodge with a cup of this delicious coffee while typing away at my laptop. It’s nearly 7am and soon the camp will begin to stir from its slumber. New York City seems like it may as well be a million miles from here and I only left it yesterday!

I can’t wait to see what the day brings. Two things I know are for sure. One, Vernon Reid is set to arrive today and jam with MMW at their performance tonight. Two, Beauty surrounds everything here and that beauty will bring a wonderful day with it. Until tomorrow morning y’all, I got some learning to do!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tomorrow it begins, and I’m ready for the Magic!

I just got off the phone with my with my friend and fellow Camp MMW 2009 alumni Hurricane and he let me know that he would be picking me up at my apartment in Greenpoint Brooklyn tomorrow at about 11am so we could arrive at the grounds around 2pm and set up our tents. It’s just now dawning on me that the time has come!

The moment that I have been anticipating and blogging about for the last 7 weeks is less than 24 hours away. In just one days time I will be hanging out at the Full Moon Resort eating great food and meeting (and re-uniting) with some truly great people. Most importantly, I will begin my education by MMW once again.

While I know that it will be hard work and physically and mentally draining it will also be soulfully re-energizing. I know I will need to work hard in order to maintain my focus on the messages they teach throughout camp, I also know that I will be experiencing some of the best education in the art of musical improvisation that one can ever hope to attain. The atmosphere that surrounds Camp MMW and that flows from every soul that is lucky enough to be energized by it, is nothing short of True Magic.

It’s been just under 2 years since my first experience at Camp MMW and the beauty and magic from that experience has been buried deep down in the depths of my soul for the better part of a year, but it is still there. Now that camp is so close, I can feel that magic swelling deep down in my tummy. I can feel it beginning to come alive once again and make its way up to my surface. It’s ready to come out, and I’m ready for the experience that is coming my way!

I will be doing a blog entry per day throughout everyday of camp in an effort to encapsulate and share the Magic of every day at Camp MMW 2011. Please check in with me throughout the experience and take the journey with me. Ask me questions and become part of the magic yourself.

Now, it’s time for me to go practice, pack up my bass, my clothes, my tent and sleeping bag and prepare for my version of heaven! I can’t wait to see you all there. Safe Travels everyone!!!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

My Journal: Part IV

Saturday – Day 5

We awoke today treated to our standard breakfast with French toast and that coffee cake I like so much. Then off to ensemble practice with Chris. We reviewed the arrangement, fine tuned it and got it ready for performance tonight. We felt good about it and headed to lunch.

Lunch was typically wonderful with flatbread pizza as our main dish and some wonderful brownies. After lunch a bunch of us headed to the lower field to throw around a bunch of balls and frisbees. Then  we went swimming and afterwards got ready for John’s masterclass.

John talked about his influences and growth as a musician. He then played a 32 minute solo on piano, really amazing stuff. His master class ran long so I pretty much immediately had to get to John’s workshop where he allowed us Q&A for an hour. We then talked about structure and it’s benefits and limitations. John is a TRUE talent with a very open and accessible attitude about himself. I really enjoyed talking with him and picking his brain.

Our final supper consisted of sautéed vegetable with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and filet mignon steak (locally raised and slaughtered) with chocolate covered strawberries for dessert.

We then all grabbed some drinks and headed to the performance space for our final student performance.

The ensembles were good (and long) and the solo performances seemed even longer. Nonetheless, it was great to see everyone on stage performing. My solo was pretty mediocre but I played well during our ensemble performance and received compliments from my fellow campers and MMW and the GM of the Full Moon Resort. Even Chris Wood’s wife told me that I was a very good bass player which made me very happy.

We convinced MMW to play 1 final song, a sick 10 minute jam to close out all performances. The rest of the night has been filled with drinks, music, pool, campfires and good talks. While I’m looking forward to going home tomorrow I still don’t want to leave this place, it’s just too magical, too much of a dream come true. But alas, all good things must end.

While I’m looking forward to breakfast in the morning, I’m not looking forward to saying goodbye to everyone nor making the drive home. I can only imagine being consumed by this experience for months to come. It is now 3:00am and unfortunately I must close out this day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Notebook: Part III

Chris Wood Master Class

“Finding Your Voice”

He starts out by playing examples by masters who are instantly recognizable. Why are they so recognizable? What is it about their sound and their style of playing that makes them identifiable?

If you are attracted to someones playing, it’s because there is a piece of “your voice” in them. So go ahead and borrow from them because eventually whatever part of them that in you will shine through in your playing.

“Wrong and Strong” “Listen to Tensions by Mingus”

A source of MMW’s power is the “competition among the band to find obscure recordings and try to blow the other guys’ minds and then interpreting that piece of music into songs

Create your own ethnic music

Practicing – How you choose to practice determines your voice. Whatever you choose to practice comes out when you least expect it.

Practicing is one of a musician’s sources of power because it grounds you in the confidence that you’ve put in your time

Dissect solos and learn to play them. Then take their phrasing and switch it up. Play the same rhythms with different tones or vice-versa

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A light at the end of the tunnel: Part II

It’s about 4:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep.

I can’t stop thinking about how badly I want to be at camp right now. I can’t stop thinking about how badly I want to shuck all my responsibilities and head up to the Catskill Mountains and play music with my friends and heroes for a week. I can’t stop thinking about how nice it will be to lay in a tent under a clear night sky full of stars and wake up to a catered breakfast every morning. I can’t stop thinking about Camp MMW as an escape from my reality of humid subway stations, smelly piles of garbage on city sidewalks cooking in 95 degree temperatures, angry cab drivers, and a messed up work environment here in New York City. I can’t stop thinking, so instead I write.

I think you can safely say that this city has gotten under my skin once again and it’s time for a break. The beauty of living in New York is that you don’t need a car in order to get around. For the most part, I love not owning a car. No car payments, traffic, car insurance, gas, parking fees, parking tickets etc. However, the major drawback is that when you start feeling the city getting to you, there is nowhere to go. I haven’t left the city limits since I went to visit Montauk in April. Prior to that (aside from going to Hunter Mountain for a day of snowboarding with my friend Hurricane) I hadn’t left New York City since my last vacation in September.

It’s not that I don’t love this city, I truly do. It’s just that I need a break from it about once every 3-4 months. Living amongst the energy that accompanies New York City 24/7 is enough to drive anyone insane if you don’t get away from it once in a while. I mean, this is a get-up-and-go kind of city. If you are sitting still here, you are dying. If you are not on your hustle in NYC, what’s the point of paying these rent prices? If you don’t have the energy to keep moving with the herd,  you best get out the way or else you’ll get trampled. That’s where I find myself right now. Without the energy to keep up with the herd, I find myself getting trampled (morally not physically.)

I see Camp MMW as the light at the end of my tunnel. It’s only 10 more days until I pack up my tent, sleeping bag, bass, and put my life in NYC on hold for a little while. Only 5 more shifts at work (not that I’m counting or anything) until I get to cash in on my vacation time. I can’t wait until the day arrives when Hurricane pulls up to my apartment building in his Audi and we head upstate. Until then I guess I just have to deal with my anxiety at work, commuting in the heat and humidity, and anxiously awaiting a much-needed vacation.

Just 10 more days, I know I can make it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Journal: Part III

Day 4 – Friday

It’s late and I’m tired so I’m gonna try to keep this short. Today was amazing. Truly incredible!

Started off with a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, bacon, eggs, tofu and of course that delicious Woodstock blend coffee.

Then off to ensemble with Chris. We worked more on riddims and I did very well keeping my rhythms steady. We worked on our arrangement and did a great job holding down the bass line. I borrowed Aaron’s Fender Jazz Bass for the day. It is such a nice guitar. Easy to play, great tone. I think I need to get one. I am spending a lot of time thinking about how I can politely ask to buy Peter Manning’s (a family friend)  basses for less than they are worth. I think I need an upright as well. I can try right?

Then we were off to a lunch of salad, tomato basil soup, mozzarella sandwiches and Portobello mushrooms baked with peppers and cheese melted over the top of them. Dee Lish!!!

After that I got to spend about an hour with the manager of MMW, Liz. She did a Q&A session about how to manage a band and how to get a band started in a city like NY. It was really great info and I got some really good notes from the session. Once again, she was a well of info in her field of expertise.

After that, a master class with Chris Wood on the process of finding your true, original voice. An authentic voice. Some of it was review from our workshop together but it was still very informative.

Chris’ master class was followed by Steve Bernstein’s master class which featured Carl and Ingrid Berger. It was great to hear a new voice in class, a new teacher who also knows what he’s talking about. Steve is a great bandleader.

Then came a quick jam on the porch and a few good throws with Miles and a frisbee. Our dinner featured rolled eggplants with farmer’s market vegetables and wild salmon. Dessert featured fried wontons, smothered in milk chocolate. They were very dangerous!

Next stop, a performance with Bernstein and MMW accompanied by Ingrid and Carl Berger. Amazing, once again. After that I got to jam onstage with Bernstein directing. It was great and I think I played pretty damn well. Andy and I then hung out a little, checked out the campfire, played some pool & had a nice jam w/Oscar in the cafe. I then watched some of the “Jazz Baroness” video and came in to get ready to go to bed.

As I reflect on today and this week in general, I am struck by how amazing this experience has been. As well as how truly priceless it is. The food and the lodging is nearly worth the $2,000. The contacts that I’ve made and the instruction I’ve received will serve me for the rest of my life. I mean, Steve Bernstein gave me contact for bass teacher’s in NYC and gave me permission to drop his name when I speak with them.

I begin to be saddened by the fact that tomorrow is the last, full day of camp. I cherish every moment I’ve experienced and every moment I have yet to experience. I look at tomorrow with the expectation that it will be a beautiful cherry on top of an incredibly delicious sundae!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment