My First Festival!

By Ruby Fradkin

You know how you always imagine things a certain way when you're going to do something you've never done before? Or go somewhere you've never gone before? Well, I imagined the Sweet & Hot Festival a lot different than it was - It was such an experience for me because I had never played anywhere like it before. The festival was Labor Day weekend, right before school started. I drove out to the LAX Marriott Hotel Friday afternoon where I first appeared with the Yankee Wailers, which is festival director Wally Holmes' band. After that, Wally led me around the hotel and introduced me to players whose shows I would appear in, including pianist Ross Tompkins, bassist Richard Simon, and the Fulton Street Jazz Band, but that was just the beginning...

On Saturday I got to explore and learn more about the festival and all the different performing rooms. In the "Coconut Grove" I sat in with Igor's Jazz Cowboys, at "Cheap Seats" (19th floor) with the Yankee Wailers, and in the "Roseland" I shared the stage with 92-year-old Herb Jeffries. In Herb's set I performed "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for a packed room of seven or eight hundred people. Afterwards, I got to visit with Herb and his wife Savannah, and since then, we've stayed in touch. Herb even asked me down to Oceanside to perform in a retrospective on his life! He's a very wise and articulate man, and interesting to talk to since he's been around tons of legendary performers; Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and more.

By Sunday the festival was getting closer to its end. I had really enjoyed being there both Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday I did a few more guest spots. I played with Yoshio Toyama & the Saints, a Dixieland band from Japan. It was really different sitting in for a blues with them; when I least expected it, on top of the piano, bass and drums, the horns came blasting in.....I always love it when unexpected things happen! That's what ensemble playing is - you never know what will happen, you just have to keep going and find out.

I also sat in with a jazz band called Chicago Six. I played with them for a couple of songs, including the "C Jam Blues" and a boogie of mine.

Leaving the festival was tough for me...when I compared the excitement of the festival to the idea of going back to school, well, there just was no comparison. I had a wonderful time at the Sweet & Hot Festival, it was a great experience for me, and I hope to be a part of many, many more festivals soon.

John T. Carney's Original Rags for Download

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