Rusty and MF in Thailand
Submitted by Rusty Lerner
Thursday, October 2 MF & full band arrive early morning, go straight from the airport to a press conference at the Thailand Cultural Center, where they are scheduled to perform Saturday night. Later in the evening, MF and the boys make a special, unannounced appearance at Brown Sugar, a small, local jazz club. Several of the band jam throughout the evening with the club's house band, then a small group consisting of MF, three horns, and rhythm section play a couple of numbers for the ecstatic, capacity crowd.
Friday, October 3 After a morning and afternoon at leisure, MF and the band travel by special, police escorted caravan to Chitrlada Palace, the residence of the King, at 8:30 p.m. After being served dinner, the band is led into the King's private studio, where his own band are already waiting. The King is a jazz performer and multi-instrumentalist who over the years has invited many of the world's greatest jazz performers (Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Benny Golson, Frank Foster...) to jam with him at the palace. The seventy year-old King himself jams with his own band every Friday night. When he arrives, he and Maynard spend around thirty to forty minutes chatting warmly before the jam session begins at around 11:00 p.m. MF and the band first perform two of the King's compositions, "No Moon" and "I Think of You", which have been arranged in classic MF big band style by Tom Garling. The King jumped right in, soloing and trading licks with MF on every tune. The rest of the session, which continues until almost 3:00 a.m., consists of jazz standards hand-picked by the King and played together by MF, the MF band, the King, and the palace band.
Saturday, October 4: In the afternoon, I escort Ed Sargent, Matt Wallace, Carl Fischer, and Sal (the saxophone player) on a shopping expedition. At 7:30 p.m., the band begins a public concert at the Thailand Cultural Center. The show is started off by "Kanok", a Thai group which won the nation's big band jazz contest earlier this year. Several MF band members are invited to join the band on a couple of their tunes. At 8:00 p.m., the main event began with MF and the band coming onto the stage to enthusiastic applause. In the audience were both the Canadian and American ambassadors, as well as representatives from the Royal Family. At the end of the "Hey Jude" jam that usually ends the show, the appreciative crowd cheers until MF and the band return for the first of four encore numbers: two of the King's compositions (as arranged by Tom Garling), followed by Rocky, then Birdland. After the show, MF and the band are presented with a huge bouquet of flowers and antique vases by the King's personal representative. Back at the hotel, the band cleans up, has a quick meal, and prepares for a night at leisure.
Sunday, October 5: A free, open clinic given by MF and the band begins at the Thai Cultural Center. The clinic is attended by everyone from seven year-old kids to members of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra, all eagerly clutching their instruments. The band first performs "Night in Tunisia" for the crowd, then MF gives demonstrations of his stance and breathing techniques. He then answers a number of questions from the crowd before an hour lunch break. I am invited to join MF and the band in a VIP room which has been set up with a buffet of Thai specialties. After lunch, the participants are broken up into groups (trumpet, trombone, brass, woodwinds, and rhythm) for a more intensive work-out with corresponding members of MF's band. MF shuttles between the groups, injecting his own knowledge and expertise at each stop. The clinic concludes with the MF band inviting over a dozen of the Thai musicians up on stage to join them and MF for a joint performance of a Tom Garling arrangement of one of the King's tunes. In the afternoon, the band enjoys some last minute shopping and socializing before heading off to the airport for their return flight to the US at 4:30 a.m.
It was a great weekend for me personally as I got to spend a lot of time with MF and the guys in a relaxed setting. It was both MF and the band's first visit to Thailand, and all seem to have enjoyed the experience. Hopefully, in view of the thunderous welcome they received from their Thai fans, it will not be their last.