California knows how to party!
The gals of DUCHESS hit the ground running after our August hiatus: our jaunt way out west to sunny California was absolutely amazing. We had a blast swinging with Cow Bop in Los Angeles before heading to the Bay Area for a gig in Oakland and a workshop at the Jazz School in Berkeley. Our tour was capped with our debut at the Monterey Jazz Festival along the rugged Northern California coast.
Of course, no DUCHESS tour would be complete without a little excitement right out of the gate. Melissa and Hilary barely made their flight when, after an excruciatingly long and slow security line at JFK, they discovered they had to take a jitney (a JITNEY!?!?) to their gate. Picture, if you will, two chick singers running frantically to their gate at 7:30 am, boarding in the nick of time. Then, picture Amy, smiling and waiting patiently in her seat, having already procured Shake Shack breakfast sandwiches for everyone so there was sustenance, post-unforeseen-morning-cardio. Whew!
We landed in Los Angeles, got our bags, picked up the rental car, and gazed in wonder at the palm trees against the blue, blue California sky. Then, we did what any self-respecting New Yorker does upon arriving in LA: we headed straight for In-N-Out for some Animal Style burgers and fries. Okay, yes, and a milkshake, too.
Melissa, our champion designated driver, and Amy, navigator (navigatress?) extraordinaire, piloted us through the hills of Sierra Madre, where we were warmly greeted by our hosts and dear friends, Bruce Forman and Pinto Pammy, of Cow Bop. We reminisced about last year's Route 66 tour as we sipped margaritas and ate (what else!?) chips and guacamole in their sunny front yard, surrounded by succulents of every shape, size, and hue.
After that welcome bit of R&R, we headed to Rockwell, where we made a special guest appearance with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, led by none other than Jeff Goldblum! It was a madcap evening full of laughs and we were so happy to be a part of the fun. Reggie Watts also came by to get a dose of girl-on-girl harmony. All in all, our first night in the city of angels was a rousing success!
The next morning, we woke up and strolled into the mountains with Bruce, Pammy, and their sweet dog Joey. The breakfast we ate at Mary's that day was unforgettable: eggs benedict and a poached egg atop potatoes au gratin with a poblano cream and fresh scallions. Thus fortified, we did some rehearsing for our Vitello's gig that night, backed by Bruce himself, and the lads of Cow Bop.
Following our all-acoustic set at Vitello's E Spot Lounge, we high tailed it over to Seven Grand, where we may have sipped some whiskey while Cow Bop brought down the house. All three members of DUCHESS sat in: Melissa wowed the crowd with her elegant, swinging rendition of "I'm Beginning to See the Light," while Hilary revisited her country roots with "Your Cheatin' Heart." Then Amy got the joint jumping with her take-no-prisoners version of "Route 66." We've said it before, and we'll say it again: DUCHESS LOVES COW BOP!
We were sad to leave LA, but gigs up north beckoned, so we packed our bags and headed to the airport the next morning and hopped a quick flight to San Francisco, where we were greeted by our always-dapper, always-delightful pianist, Michael Cabe. Ain't he suave?
Our first Bay Area gig was at the Sound Room in Oakland. What a ball! We were thrilled to have a great crowd, and the team at the Sound Room (Robert, Karen, and Carey) made us feel so welcome. The food and wine were fabulous, the audience was enthusiastic, and our Bay Area bassist (John Wiitala) and drummer (David Rokeach) were VERY swinging.
The next day, we taught a vocal workshop at the Jazzschool Community Music School in Berkeley. The three singers who joined us were fantastic: beautiful voices, unique styles, and deeply personal approaches to singing. It's safe to say that DUCHESS left feeling inspired!
Our friend Matt Wilson put us in touch with his friend, Chef Paul Canales, of Duende restaurant in Oakland, and we decided to treat ourselves with some incredible Spanish food for our last night in Oakland. Exquisite cocktails, house-made jamon, fideua with aiolli, steak, and a personal tour of the restaurant from the chef himself? Can we just say...olé!?
How could this tour possible get even better, you ask? Well, the next day found us driving along the coast en route to Monterey. We arrived at the Hyatt Grand Regency and spotted Chris Botti in the lobby. Then, we checked into our rooms and prepared to take the stage at the Monterey Jazz Festival that evening.
Our buddy, Jazz at Lincoln Center baritone saxophonist Paul Nedzela joined us for our set on the Garden Stage, and we sang our hearts out for an appreciative, wonderful crowd. We headed over to the Amoeba Records tent for a CD signing, then closed our amazing California tour in the beer garden, already thinking about when we can head out west again for more food, fun, and girl-on-girl harmony.