“Present Joys” Roundup


Photo by Alberto Gallo

 Thanks to everyone who came out to hear Uri Caine and I on the just completed duo tour celebrating our new recording “Present Joys.” Each location–festivals in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Poland, UK, Ireland, France, and Portugal–had its own special story and particular environment. We were honored to be in these venerable locations, and it was a true pleasure to play night after night.

One of the special things about this tour was that we were able to play mostly acoustic almost everywhere. To not be pegged to a microphone, to rely purely on my own sound and dynamics, was a real thrill, a sense of freedom, and it enhanced the communication between the two of us, and the audience. We could really play with the unique sound of each venue, and we played in some spectacular ones.


From the Auditorium Rai Arturo Toscanini in Turin, to the Teatro Lope de Vega in Seville, to the Opera North Howard Assembly Room in Leeds, and the Abbaye de l’Epau in Le Mans… and many more… These were superb settings for the intimacy and vibrancy of the duo context. The music changed and bounced off the space differently every night.

Playing nightly also gave us a chance to dig deeper into the repertoire of Sacred Harp music, improvising and elaborating further the beautiful themes of that music. George Jacob, brilliant director of the festival in Bray, Ireland (where Keystone recorded “Moonshine,” what, eight years ago?), pointed up some links from the melodies in this early North American music and various older musics of Ireland. I would love to go back to listen and explore those connections further someday.

 Present Joys Cover with Border - Web

This was an avant-premiere tour of sorts, as the record (in CD and vinyl!) won’t be released officially until July 22 in the US. The beautiful cover was done by Peter Schumann of the Bread and Puppet Theater. Great to finally record a duet with Uri Caine, longtime friend and collaborator. Uri is so deft and so quick to hear new directions and diversions. He took my tunes to new places every night, and that’s the kind of inspiration that immediately makes me hear new pieces to be developed and explored. I hope we get a chance to pursue this.


For now, we are both on to other projects. One thing about a duo is that the travel and the sound checks are exponentially easier than most! We had a good time traveling together. I don’t think I am divulging anything unfairly (and I’ve checked with Uri) to tell you that in almost every free moment of this tour Uri was composing, tweaking, and producing musicians’ parts for new orchestral works to be premiered in coming weeks and months. Hard to believe he can literally go from knee deep in an orchestral score back stage, to the piano on stage, at the flip of a switch. Amazing.

I’ll be on to a Quintet visit to Seattle, Eugene, and Denver early next month. With Rudy Royston, Linda Oh, Matt Mitchell, and Jon Irabagon, we’ll be working on some new material that I have plans to record at the end of the summer.