My debut tour of Japan was utterly amazing on so many levels. The food, the people, the music, everything . . .  EXCEPT . . . on the very last day I had sashimi. Delicious sashimi. Fresh sashimi. Positively glistening with freshness sashimi!.

People! I ingested an Anisakis worm!

This happens often enough in Japan (maybe 3,000 cases a year, although it has increased 25-fold in the past year) that the Japanese doctors probably would have spotted it as soon as I went in to the ER .

However, in the US, there are only maybe 10 – 30 reported cases a year. This is because all fish, which all have parasites and worms (and yes, I have given up fish and am now vegan), are frozen on catch to minus 4 degrees according to FDA regulations to kill all worms. In Japan, where they prefer the fresh flavor/texture, it is not frozen on catch.

Thus, the worm (sorry, if you are eating, perhaps stop reading now), sensing that its host is dead or dying, quickly burrows into the flesh where it is harder to spot, except by the most brilliant of sushi chefs perhaps, and where it waits for the next fish host. In humans it doesn’t live longer than three weeks but can (as in my case because I had the allergic reaction) wreak total havoc.

Kandinsky meets Martha Stewart

I had stomach pains too but didn’t focus on them because I was distracted by the insanely itchy rash. However, “Have you had any strange stomach or indigestion-like pains in the past few days?” would have been a great question to ask me in the ER the first time I went in with the rash. Right after, “You were just in Japan, you say?” As it is, when I went in on the Sunday, I was given Prednisone, which then masked the allergy markers they looked for when I had to go back in on the Tuesday, with a raging temperature and the Cray Cray itchy full-body version of the rash.

Four hospital doctors (at a cost of God alone knows what each) were put on my “team” and all failed to catch it, although one got close with a diagnosis of “Definitely Scombroid” which I am so glad it was not!

Meanwhile, I was hooked up to an IV machine and given Prednisone and Benadryl to no avail and would have gone completely mad if it hadn’t’ been for the incredible nurses who were above and beyond! If you are a nurse and you are reading this, I LOVE you, even if I’ve never met you! Thank you for your amazingness!

YIIIIIIIIKES!

And I have to say, I liked all the doctors, too. But, over-worked and over-extended, they were like those iRobot vacuum cleaners you see on TV which are activated into auto-piloting away in reaction whenever they hit a wall. They were impossible to find (e.g., it took until the next day to be seen by the infectious disease specialist and no one even CALLED the allergist until Thursday evening and I NEVER saw the promised dermatologist), When they did appear, they would swish in, hit the edge of the bed (which would activate the autopilot retreat response), ask about the symptoms, not appear to be listening, and be already backing out of the door before asking “Any questions?” (if they did) – by which time they were just a forehead in the door. And my case was probably only getting that much attention because it was so weird and bring-in-the-students-worthy.

This is not their fault, I realize. This is how hospitals run BUSINESSES. When I asked the pulmonologist a few weeks ago why he’d made my appointment for 2pm and not seen me until 5pm, he said his hospital insists on a certain number of patients per day in the quota and he took the spend-the-necessary-time-with-each-patient-choice, as opposed to the start-backing-away-as-soon-as-they-walk-in-choice.

Healthcare has no business being a business!  I literally was barcoded on arrival and every single procedure I had I was zapped with a barcode reader. Every three hours through the night having my temperature and blood pressure taken. Every pill. Every blood test (30 in all) Every kind of test – one of which was delayed because they needed a bar code to process it and it hadn’t yet been entered into the computer system by the chief doctor. I mean … just the time-wasting alone!

Those little boys and girls that dreamed of being doctors when they grew up probably did not have this in mind – and I am quite sure that with all the paperwork and crap they have to deal with, their jobs are even harder than they look from the outside. The doctors are made to run from patient to patient to make the most money for the hospital and are too tired and overworked with insanely long hours (one of my doctors seemed to be there from dusk til dawn and back again, literally) to NOT miss things. I certainly couldn’t work like that!

The diagnosis came from the one doctor (called in from the outside) who made the time to listen. The allergist, Dr. Bielory. He turned up at 7pm on Thursday night, wondering what had taken so long to call him. He introduced himself. He walked in. He closed the door behind him. (Wait, how will you back out of the room if the door is closed?) He had a cup of coffee in his hand. He SAT DOWN on the comfy chair (the rooms were amazing!). He looked right at me and said: “Tell me what’s happening.”

He listened to my answers while remaining in the chair. He looked at the rash. He touched it. He said, “I’ve seen this before and I’m pretty sure I know what this is and I am going to go away now and come back tomorrow morning when I am sure.” He had on no white coat. He was in casual clothes with a baseball cap covering his yamaka. He looked like one of Billy’s audiophile buddies. Maybe he even WAS an audiophile. He sure knew how to listen! I felt SAFE! I felt ATTENDED TO! I totally trusted him with all my instincts. He then went and worked for another two hours in the nurse’s station doing extra research on his phone (according to one of my spies – a nurse, of course!).

The next day he came in around 9am and broke it down for two of the other doctors. He explained how he arrived at this diagnosis (including my vivid description of how “it couldn’t be Scromboid because the fish was so FRESH” – which is the problem!) and why my IgE markers were skewed and then he prescribed THE SINGLE FRICKING ANTI ITCH ANTIHISTAMINE THAT WORKED and the medication to get rid of the worm.

“I start with the patient,” he said. “That’s how you get to the diagnosis.” When he left, I turned to one of the doctors and said, “Wasn’t that amazing?” And she said, “That’s why I went into medicine!” (Oh, not to fill in forms, be made to fulfill patient quotas and run around from bed to bed activating the hit-and-back-away reponse?) Incidentally, Dr. Bielory emailed me daily over the weekend to check on my progress.

By the time I left the hospital on the Friday it was evening, and my insurance auto-refused the remaining medication and was closed after 5pm and over the weekend and Veterans Day (crying out loud!). But I had taken two days of it, and probably didn’t need any more, since the rash quickly disappeared after treatment started.. This saved us all from enduring the merry little insurance dance of having the already overworked hospital doctor waste precious diagnostic time filling in stupid justification forms to get it. And it saved me from ingesting more poison (I’d already had a day of it in hospital and had been sent home with another day’s worth).

However, had I needed it, the cost of the pill in the USA is $962.28 per pill! Per pill! In Canada (online) $1.17 per pill. In the UK all medication, whatever it is, costs 8.60 pounds per prescription – not per pill – unless you are over 60, under 16, under 19 and in full time education or – God forfend in the US! – have cancer, when it is free! (I believe there is penalty for cancer here!). I am so glad I got a relatively painless education in how the system works (this is WITH insurance! God knows if I didn’t have it). But I worry for the people whose education is painful – or worse. Fatal!

WORM-STUNG LIPS! WELL … NOT LITERALLY OF COURSE.

As the giant welts and dark purple stains faded to a sort of mauve beige, that Martha Stewart Paints might have called “lilac mist reflected in fur of country mouse,” and as some of the Kandinsky drawings on my face and neck weirdly totally vanished, I felt more and more grateful for my lucky escape and lessons learned!

Like how we should bow down to all nurses, even while they are zapping the bar code on our wrists. How not scratching an itch is virtually IMPOSSIBLE – never mind if everyone says it will leave permanent scars! Like how kind people are when you are in trouble. There is a lot of “beauty is as beauty does” out there, for which I am truly grateful. Even the Walgreens in Rosedale called me to make sure I was okay and to say they were chasing up the prescription – without me even asking them to! Like there is a thing called Scombroid which I am very glad it wasn’t. Thank you also everyone who sent/brought flower/plants/cards/provisions.

And although it was hard to look at, thank the lawd it wasn’t  contagious – unless you killed and ate me without freezing me to minus 4 degrees first. And if you did that, then I guess you’d have deserved it!

BACK TO NORMAL!!!!

 

Perfect egg salad sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) that appear to have been lovingly handmade by actual angels. You can buy these at railway stations even, where no one is counting on your being an hour away on the train by the time you discover your sandwich is inedibly stale as in America. No! These angel-made sandwiches will still be fresh many hours – possibly even days – from now. Everything is so thoughtful. It’s not about getting the most money from you and too bad if you have to buy an entire loaf of bread, never mind that you’ll have to feed most of it to the birds in a few days. In Japan you can buy two slices of bread at a time. One egg. A tiny can of beer. It’s all about what is best for YOU!

And you know how in Macy’s, when you buy something the sales associate screws it into a sort of ball, like a teenager might, before shoving it into the plastic bag and pushing it across the counter kind of at you (as in “Take that!”)? Not in Japan. Everything, even in the 7/11,  is beautifully packaged, carefully folded, sealed and handed to you as if it were a pearl on a pillow (except without the pillow – or the pearl).

It’s all about presentation. It’s how you are handed a business card (with both hands) and how you receive one – in the same way, before inspecting and fondling said business card with the utmost interest and concern. There are so many ideas to copy in Japan but the Japanese attention to detail and concern for the “other”  is my favorite.. This society is not about the money, it’s about pride. Integrity. respect. These things rule.

First night at Mumbo Jumbo in Kobe

We had such an amazing time. From beginning (three sold out nights in Kobe) to the end (thank you, Romero Lubambo  for getting us into the Cotton Club on our last night –  wow! What a concert with you and Peter Martin). It was so exciting to have people show up all across Japan with our CDs and even vinyl to sign! Actually, it was crazy! Perhaps people get used to these things. I don’t know if I would. One person even came with pictures they had taken of me at the 55 Bar five years earlier!

From the 55 Bar five years earlier!
Thank you Masa for epic hangs and help. Thank you Dai for everything you did to make Kobe amazing – and sold out. . Thank you Hristo Vitchev for everything, particularly your riveting musicianship, and your sweet company in our teeny weeny airbnbs.. Thank you, incredible Star Eyes in Nagoya for sheer audiophilia amazingness and great sound. Thank you, Body and Soul and Kyoko in Tokyo for packing the house for us.  Thank you Akihiro for guidance. Thank you Masaki for hangs and lunch and my souvenir phone ring. Thank you to all the clubs – Mumbo Jumbo, Seishin NT, Bar Request, Star Eyes and Body and Soul.. Thank you, Tower Records for carrying on the good work SOMEWHERE! Thank you, Mount Fuji for just being there when we wihizzed by on the train. This was truly a dream come true!

 

Bar Request
Body and Soul with owner Kyoko
Owner of Star Eyes
You can leave your bicylcle unlocked because NO ON E WILL STEAL IT!
These places are so tiny! How do they make money? Anywhere else they’d be closed down for not doing more custom!
Soundcheck on our first night.
The grooves are for blind people’s canes. They carry on along the manhole covers! So thoughtful!

  

I hope you can make it to Pizza Express on June 23, to celebrate love and happiness with Sean Hargreaves, Alec Dankworth, Winston Clifford and me. The deal has now been changed (well, the World Cup is on!) to TWO sets for $20.  So if you can’t get enough of me (which I hope you can’t), then come to both. And if you can only make the second set, that is only $15. So book (please!) accordingly. The other day after a strangely happy set, Kirby (bar person at the amazing 55 Bar, where I am blessed to have been singing every month for the past 15 years) said I should do an entire CD of happy love songs called “Love Wins.” So let’s test it out! Love is a many splendored thing (no, I won’t be singing that) and should be celebrated more.

But I may have to include one or two sad songs, to keep people … er, happy! Because, apparently, negative emotions are addictive – activating the exact same beta-endorphine and dopamine pathways in our brains that heroin does! Here is a great article on TinyBuddha on what to do about it if you are a negaholic (yes, that is a word!).

Meanwhile, I have certain songs I simply won’t sing because I can’t mean them. “Don’t Explain,” for example. Are you kidding? “Skip that lipstick…?” I don’t think so! And if you can’t come up with a convincing explanation (what is amazing here is that you might think there IS one!) I will be a private detective until I find out whose it is. Now that I am with someone “perfect” (well, except for the hoarding!), I know that if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer. And having got used to a “good” one, and perhaps broken my addiction to that other kind, just looking at that other kind turns my stomach, like smoking does now that I’ve not had a ciggie for years!

In related news, I am on a “Negativity Fast” – you are not allowed to say anything negative for seven days and if you do, you have to start again from the beginning. Which is hard (in fact, just saying that might mean I have to start again from Day One – let alone bringing up the hoarding!). I’m on about Day … okay, I’m on Day One (again!). But it’s great to keep trying and be aware of it. And every night I list ten things I am grateful for. On my list today, I am super grateful to be going to Vienna for the weekend on the 15th to stay with one of my very best friends/kinda-sorta spiritual guru, singer-saxophonist Sheila Cooper – I will be recording one of her songs on my next album – followed by singing at Pizza Express and eating my favorite pizza, the FIorentina. Here we are the last time I was there.

Picture by Sue Edwards. Showing me with Neville and Winston last time

It was such fun playing the London Jazz Festival, which was sold out! Two separate sets – they turned the house – and amazing audiences. The first set they were so quiet I wasn’t sure if they were even enjoying it (yikes!) but in the break so many people said they loved it and even cried (one person was “transformed” they said!) that I realized yes, British people are kind of shy – unless, of course, they are football hooligans (hopefully, the hooligans will be at the world cup).

There was a mini review of the second set at the Jazz Festival in LondonJazzNews: I have helpfully included it in its mini entirety  below, but please do google Mini Reviews and LondonJazzNews to read more festival mini reviews, including Chris Potter, Jameo Brown and more. My friend Sue Edwards had requested I do the song, even though I wasn’t prepared and suddenly thought, Crikey! Will I remember the lyrics, it has been so long. But looking into Winston’s eyes reminded me. We used to sing it on every gig (about once a year). HERE is a 2009 version of us doing it.

Me and WInston Clifford singing my original tune, Usha’s Wedding Song.

“Tessa Souter, Pizza Express Jazz Club (18 November) A really beautiful, surprise a cappella duet from Tessa Souter and her drummer Winston Clifford at Pizza Express Jazz Club on Saturday night. Tessa’s version of Wayne Shorter’s Ana Maria (with her own lyrics) was also very moving.” (John Watson)

See you there! PS If you want to review my book, which would be super helpful, this is the LINK, where I see someone called Natascha just reviewed it. Thank you, if Natascha is one of you! What? You didn’t buy it yet? Well, I’d love it if you would. That $3.99 (minus Amazon’s cut), along with all writing proceeds, is going towards my radio promo campaign for the new album, which officially drops in September.

Well, actually, it aired already … on Valentine’s Day this year. But it’s coming back to be re-aired on the Rochester PBS Network on Friday, June 17th at 10pm on WXXI-TV, and has just been released to the national networks. Watch this space for more news. Meanwhile, you can read all about the unbelievable series of cock-ups that led to this gig almost not even happening HERE12714500_10206026427763224_1052229277_n

So here is a picture of my wonderful recording band. We will be playing this Friday at the 55 Bar in New York (if you or friends happen to be here) – all deets on my gigs page. Billy, is in Argentina so he won’t be at this one, which is a shame. Playing with him is like riding a racehorse – both incredibly sensitive and powerful at the same time. And, even if he is playing gently, you can feel that immense power is available to you – should you decide to go galloping off into the sunset, flying over every fence and hedge on the way. It’s so exciting. If you’ve seen him perform, watching him play gives you some idea, but actually playing with him is … well a whole other …er, animal. A horse animal.

Picture of me by Walter Wagner. Yotam Silberstein (guitars and oud), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Adam Platt (piano), Billy Drummond (drums), Dana Leong (cello)
Picture of me by Walter Wagner. Yotam Silberstein (guitars and oud), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), Adam Platt (piano), Billy Drummond (drums), Dana Leong (cello)

Meanwhile, the rest of the band is amazing and we actually rehearsed (with Billy) and had more ideas. And I’ve had tons more since then. It’s hard to make myself go to bed even! I am so inspired by the subject and by my musicians (we have chemistry) – both their incredibe talent and their confidence in me (and mine in them). I can’t wait to go into the studio on Saturday and Sunday. I am so excited – and grateful – to be making this recording, and the more I think about it, the more important I think it is – speaking of runaway horses. I feel like I’m just riding this idea with no reins – clinging on and seeing where it’s going, hoping I don’t fall off (like I used to when I did real horse riding as a girl) because I really want to see where we end up. I have never been so excited to make a CD – and this will be my fifth.

In other news, my dear mentor, Mark Murphy died while I was in California. I was asked to write a tribute, which ended up being the Number One most read article in LondonJazzNews that week – which he totally deserved – and more. You can read it HERE.

w/ John Schiflett (bass) and David Udolf (piano) at Cafe Pink House, Saratoga, CA. Photo credit: Walter Wagner
w/ John Schiflett (bass) and David Udolf (piano) at Cafe Pink House, Saratoga, CA. Photo credit: Walter Wagner

And speaking of California, HERE   is one of the songs we are recording this weekend in a video made by someone who heard me the last time I was in Saratoga and asked if he could film me this time. Somehow one of the camera mics got messed up but I think it’s manageable. This is a trio version. When I record it for the album, I think I want to do it just duo with my fabulous cellist, Dana Leong – one of the ideas I had this week. But we’ll see how it goes in the studio. More to come. Meanwhile, here are some photographs of my trip to California.

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Picture credit" Walter Wagner
Picture credit Walter Wagner

 

My little trailer for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
My little trailer for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
Hanging out with one of my sweetest, oldest friends, Fordy, in Los Angeles
Hanging out with one of my sweetest, oldest friends, Fordy, in Los Angeles
It ended up being standing room only at Doc's Lab in San Francisco, where we had SUCH fun
It ended up being standing room only at Doc’s Lab in San Francisco, where we had SUCH fun
Jasmin's little tea set
Jasmin’s little tea set
Alisa Clancy and me before my KCSM radio Desert Island Jazz interview
Alisa Clancy and me before my KCSM radio Desert Island Jazz interview
My favorite airport. So retro
My favorite airport. So retro
The new tram in LA - not even operational yet
The new tram in LA – not even operational yet
Outside a jazz establishment where the Rat Pack used to hang
Outside a jazz establishment where the Rat Pack used to hang
Pool at house concert number 2
Pool at house concert number 2

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Egg provider at Xandra and David's
Egg provider at Xandra and David’s
My little trailer INSIDE for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
My little trailer INSIDE for two nights staying with dear friends Xandra and David and Jasmin
Please note retro cowgirl curtain fabric
Please note retro cowgirl curtain fabric

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Me with “Jamie” (Sam Heughan) and “Dougal” (Graham McTavish) at the Outlander premiere mini party

I had a fantastic birthday week this year! Those of you who were there when he popped in to my gig a few months ago will recognize Dougal – AKA my friend Graham – in the picture (left). He took me to the premiere of Outlander Season 2, on April 1, which was one of the most fun parties ever! More fun even than mine and Graham’s “Come as a Cocktail” party we had in the 80s. I was a midnight lace (I know, I’d never heard of it either). Graham was an aviator. This was so much more fun – not just because I got to have my picture taken with the (other) series’ hunk, AKA Jamie. Phoar! But mostly because I got to hang the whole night with one of my oldest and sweetest friends. And of course there was Champagne! And unlike our “Come as a Cocktail” party, I didn’t pass out and wake up the next day having missed the entire thing. (I think the Golden Cadillacs did me in).

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My birthday at Birdland Jazz Club with cake provider, Billy Drummond

Graham, by the way, is given notes and gifts of things like undies (okay, they were socks, but still!) by people in the crowd. Shameless! After Party # 2 (the picture above was taken at Party # 1) Graham’s limo dropped me at Birdland where I had a lovely hang with Sheila Jordan and the Steve Kuhn Trio and was groupie to my own man, Billy. If I’d had socks to give, I would have! And Kurt Elling was there and sat in. It was fun. And then on Friday I celebrated my actual birthday at Birdland and Sheila sang Happy Birthday to me from the stage. And Billy had secretly procured a chocolate cake for me with nine candles (hmm!) which I made a wish on. And I wore the necklace my brother made me which spells out H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y T-E-S-S-A – a fitting gift for a nine-year-old, except I was minus 29 when he gave it to me because I’ve had it 20 years.

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Emmet Cohen on piano with me sitting in at Richard and Tara Dolan Wright’s fab party

And then on Sunday we went to an Easter party with MORE cake – and also Pavlova (an Australian confection which is insanely delicious … recipe HERE). And they had a great pianist Emmet Cohen and I sat in and I wasn’t nervous at all! (which I normally am if it’s just sitting). Billy took this picture.

Being a musician is such a hard road (maybe even if you are wildly successful, I’ll let you know when that happens!) that these little things –  a fun party, performing (speaking of which, I am at the 55 Bar on Friday with Saul and Yasushi), a surprise birthday cake (especially chocolate), Pavlova cake,  having the great Sheila Jordan sing Happy Birthday to you, hanging with old friends – make it like you have memory foam in your shoes – not those horrid hard gel inserts (will someone please explain those to me!) – a bit easier.

And speaking of old friends, Graham is Grand Marshall this Saturday for National Tartan Week in New York. Leading the parade starting at 2pm on 6th AVenue between 44th and 55th Streets. http://nyctartanweek.org/ if any of you want to go and throw socks at him!

And here is Sheila singing at Birdland – an entire week at age 86 and a quarter – where she sang Happy Birthday to me and made me feel like a movie star!

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Sheila Jordam at Birdland, with Steve LaSpina in background.

I am so excited to be coming back to Rochester – although the last time I was there, sweet Lew Soloff was with us on the bandstand, so it might be a little poignant too. I missed him when I played the 55 Bar without him the other night and then I went to see David Chesky’s Jazz in the New Harmonic project at the Iridium and realized that the last time I was at the club, Lew was playing with me there too. I was very lucky to have known him and played with him as much as I did. I will definitely do a song for him in June. Meanwhile, looking at the poster, I can’t quite believe I’m going to be there – and at Kilbourn Hall this time (this will be my fifth time at the festival). I wish I was there for the whole thing – there is so much I’d want to see, flashing my little club pass at the door!

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Lew Soloff died on Sunday. A terrible loss for the jazz community and for everyone who knew him. I was invited by LondonJazzNews to write a short tribute because we played together so often in the past couple of years – in fact, the very last thing Lew said to me, a few weeks back on the phone, was: “You know I love playing with you, right?” I did. Because he told me all the time. And everybody loved playing with him. Click here to read the tribute at LondonJazzNews. Meanwhile, a few photographs of some of our gigs below. And to view a video of Lew soloing on ‘A Taste of Honey’ at our gig at the Iridium Jazz Club in September 2014, click the B&W image below.

w/ Lew Soloff, Yotam Silberstein and Yasushi Nakamura in the Green Room between sets at Rochester Jazz Festival, 2014
w/ Lew Soloff, Yotam Silberstein and Yasushi Nakamura in the Green Room between sets at Rochester Jazz Festival, 2014
w/ Lew Soloff at iridium, 2014
w/ Lew Soloff at iridium, 2014
w/ Lew Soloff, Dana Leong and Saul Rubin at 55 Bar
w/ Lew Soloff, Dana Leong and Saul Rubin at 55 Bar
Having sushi between sets at the Xerox International Jazz festival 2014
Xerox Rochester International Jazz festival with Yotam-Silberstein, Yasushi-Nakamura, and Lew-Soloff-2014

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xmas tree 2Everjazz was fantastic. Perhaps particularly because I actually made it, after a hair-raising drive from Perm, which was … fascinating – if by ‘fascinating’ you mean scary as hell and twice as fast. We started out at 9am, still dark, under a mauve sky which turned to blue to white to gray as our journey progressed into a snowstorm. “Finally!” I thought, all excited. “Real Russian snow!” But I kind of got less excited about the weather as we drove.

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L-R: Mauve, to blue to white skies

Hurtling along a slippery road, with snow blowing about on it like stage smoke, lined with relentless pine forests on either side – or silver birch copses hiding the odd triffid-like pine tree – every now and then we’d come upon twisted trucks stuck in a ditch, sort of like Star Wars metal beast versions of skeletons in an elephants’ graveyard. It reminded me of Los Angeles driving, except the cars whizzing by are only on one side of you because the road to Ekaterinburg is only two lane traffic. That sounds like it would be kind of country-lane-ish, doesn’t it. It wasn’t.

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Holiday Triffids lurking amid the silver birches

Who knew there were so many trucks? And daredevils wanting to play “Chicken” with trucks. At one point I dozed off and woke up to see – skittering towards us  out of the blizzard (at speed) – a car in OUR LANE (at speed) with a huge truck in its lane. Yes, at speed. We were all at speed!

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The car in front of us had just overtaken us and was at this point merrily tailgating the truck in front of us

“Is okay! Is okay!” said my driver, Tatyana, patting my arm, as I hurriedly texted Billy the details of my travel insurance policy, which includes a clause to have my body shipped home so my son never has to pick up that cost. “Russian drrrivers!” she said, rolling her eyes. “Crrrazy!” (and her Rs) “Da!” I thought, with one eye on the speedometer (120 km per hour!) as we shot past a fresh wreath on the snowbank to our left followed by about 100 feet of charred car remains.

No danger of me falling asleep again. I don’t know why you feel safer if you keep your eyes peeled (well, obviously if you are driving, but I mean even as a passenger). But every time I looked up, it was to see cars or trucks looming out of the white coming towards us in our lane (at speed). And Tatyana patting my arm and smiling comfortingly. So when I say like driving in Los Angeles, I mean with cars hurtling towards you in your lane, as opposed to on either side of you heading in the same direction (which is quite bad enough, thanks). I guess the car in front was having trouble picking a lane because of the ice. Eek. Eyes closed! No, eyes open! No closed! Okay, open!

Rather like Los Angeles, I was very relieved when we came upon a huge accident-induced traffic jam, until Tatyana (who could have given Lewis Hamilton a run for his money),  whizzed off the road to make a massive detour through several snow-submerged villages, linked by extremely narrow one-lane roads. The only signs of life were gigantic Newfoundland type dogs on long chains in people’s front drives. Oh, and one guy ahead of us who seemed to be digging himself out of a snow drift. Amazingly, about half an hour later, we came out on the main road, ahead of the traffic. If that had been me driving, we’d have come out two or three hours later in exactly the same spot we went in (that actually happened to me in Central Park once).

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Success! Back on the main road (and off the snow-trail detour!)
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This poster is not from THIS trip but from my 2008 debut at Ekaterinburg Philharmonic. I have it somewhere. Unfortunately it is too big to fit anywhere in my apartment. It is HUGE!

But it could have been worse. I could have been waiting for a bus in one of the many bus shelters we passed. What? Are people air-lifted to them? Because I didn’t see any towns or villages nearby. Or buses, come to that. Just miles (and miles) of snow and pine forests. There were also random pedestrian crossings. I’m not kidding. In the middle of nowhere! Perhaps they are thinking if you build the pedestrian crossing, the pedestrians will come or something.

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A bus shelter. No houses (or buses) for miles.

Anyway, arriving at my lovely hotel (the same one I stayed in when I performed at the Ekaterinburg Philharmonic Hall) was … well, lovely. More than lovely – a blessed relief!

The club, Everjazz, was great! I loved the decor – even though the tables had all been moved around for the party. Huge photographs lined the walls, the menus were sort of vinyl records, and in the room where the band ate dinner, the lighting was beautiful – cymbals (pictures below). Very clever. cymbals lightingThe band was wonderful again (same pianist, Anton Zoobarev, along with Portuguese drummmer, Luis Candeias, and bassist, Nelson Cascais), and the entertainment was … fantabulous.

They even had a bar tender show, with people flinging bottles around and making cocktails at the same time. And then I came home and packed – no time to sleep – so I could be ready for the 4am lobby call to come home …. for Christmas … with Billy.

how to do a fruit plate
Fruit plate, or wot?
red carpet treatment
Literal red carpet treatment at Everjazz
snow-spikes
Snowspike shoes, which double as Russian man-catchers
everjazz giant posters
Full size poster of Esperanza Spalding
guitarist
with guitarist, Igor Trekusov
everjazz menu
Menu

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stage 1 xmas tree 1
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Singing in Perm "Fort Grand" jazz club with Anton Zoobarev and Alexandr Bulatov
Singing in Perm “Fort Grand” jazz club with Anton Zoobarev and Alexandr Bulatov

Arrived at Perm feeling very capable, having negotiated my way to the airport on the  same civilized train that brought me into Moscow, for only 400 rubles (pretty much free at the current exchange rate). I was picked up by my driver, Tatanya, at the other end and driven to my hotel and whisked out to dinner by Mary (like all Russians, she has about ten names but this is the one she uses with English speakers) and her fiancé, Alex.

Both so sweet. I have to say that I love the fact that, in spite of being super capable of doing anything a man can do, the men still help women on with their coats and pour their drinks. Very Southern gent and all. I’m talking men and women in their 20s.

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And speaking of super capable, Mary is who I want to be anywhere near in the event of The End of the World. She is so absolutely in charge (in a good way), and fun. She introduced me to some truly evil (as in irresistible) chocolates, took me shopping in the freezing-arse cold across a giant parking lot to a huge shopping mall and caught me every time I nearly slipped over. Plus she speaks perfect English – which would come in particularly handy if I happened to be in Russia when The End of the World happened.

Poster at the door
Poster at the door

Next day, after a full night of actual sleep, I went to the club, Fort Grand, where I was greeted by giant picture of Beyond the Blue album at the door.

The rehearsal was easy peasy. Musicians have a superstition that if a rehearsal is too good then the gig will be bad, but it was good but not too good. The best rehearsal is when things “come up” to be dealt with. The worst rehearsal is when everything magically happens exactly as it is supposed to and then on the actual gig, when things come up you can’t stop and say: “Ah yes! Not like that, like this”. The band was great (Russian musicians are always, in my experience, extremely soulful), the audience was lovely and not too talky (they talk more in clubs there than in the US), the venue was beautiful and I had fun! And my shoes didn’t even kill me. I am so grateful to have been invited out of the blue to do this gig. In fact, I am so grateful to do gigs at all – especially in distant climes (even snowy ones). Especially when my shoes didn’t even kill me. More pics below.

Rehearsal
Rehearsal
Intriguing ceiling at the club
Intriguing ceiling at the club
Kirill Kirpitchov, Alexandr Bulatov,  Anton, Mary, me Vlad Leibov, and Max, the promoter
Kirill Kirpitchov, Alexandr Bulatov, Anton, Mary, me Vlad Leibov, and Max, the promoter
At "Fort Grand" jazz club with Anton Zoobarev
At “Fort Grand” jazz club with Anton Zoobarev
At "Fort Grand" jazz club with Kirill Kirpitchov, Alexander Bulatov, Anton Zoobarev, Mary, me and Vlad Leibov
At “Fort Grand” jazz club with Kirill Kirpitchov, Alexander Bulatov, Anton Zoobarev, Mary, me and Vlad Leibov
At the Italian restaurant in Perm
At the Italian restaurant in Perm
On my way to shopping mall in slippery ice and snow
On my way to shopping mall in slippery ice and snow

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