John McLaughlin: On The Road, Part 7: Stories from the Road
Seventeen dates from coast-to-coast over twenty-three days, thousands of miles traveled by air and road, and thousands of happy fans later, guitarist John McLaughlin and his group, The 4th Dimension keyboardist/drummer Gary Husband, bassist Hadrien Feraud and drummer Mark Mondesiralong with tour manager Christophe Deghelt and soundman Sven Hoffman, have now gone their separate ways. While they'll be reconvening again in the spring of 2008 for a European tour, a tour as extensive and intensive as the just-completed North American one is filled with memorable experiences and "road warrior" storiessome good, some not-so-good but, in the final analysis, all part of life on the road.
McLaughlin, during his introductions at the final performance in Toronto, Canada on October 5, made a couple of important statements: "I want to introduce you to these outstanding musicians. You may not know who they are now...but you're gonna." While fusion fans may have been familiar with Husband and Mondesir, few will have heard of young bass phenom Feraud, unless they've picked up a copy of his self- titled debut on Dreyfus, released earlier this year. But there's little doubt that this tour has raised the profiles of everyone involved.
- The Life of a Tour Manager
- Stories from the Road: The Case of the Lost Bass
- Stories from the Road: A Special Welcome
- The Musician's Perspective: Gary Husband
McLaughlin also said: "I would like to thank our sound engineer Sven Hoffman and our tour manager Christophe Deghelt... you do not see them, but we really need them." Truer words were never spoken, as Deghelt and Hoffman did everything to ensure that the group could focus on nothing but the music. According to Deghelt, "I keep in mind John's words on stage after our last performance of the tour in Toronto. It is a good formula to describe what we are supposed to do. John is our hero, and only a few words from him are really a great compliment and recognition of our work. No need to say, Sven is my best friend on the tour."
But in those few words there's so much that's implied. "The first goal," Deghelt says, "is to have the musicians happy, take care of them, and make it possible for them to give the best onstage, and protect them from any hassles during traveling, hotels, sound checks and the rest. You need to take a lot on your back, and I love it!
Mark Mondesir, Hadrien Feraud, John McLaughlin, Gary Husband
"On this tour I was in charge of organizing all travels, all payments, all the expenses, coordinating the time schedule for each show with all the promoters, setting up and preparing stage with Sven, taking care of interviews, guests lists, coordinating with the booking agency, the management agency, and our accountant (in charge of the withholding taxes). As you can imagine, it is a lot to do: almost two thousand emails received on the tour, dozens of phone calls everyday, and it must be as smooth as possible.
"In fact, you can drive a van with the equipment, book a nice table for a dinner on a day off, find a Roland Cube 60 in NYC (John's amp), go to the Social Security, send a Fedex with the CWA forms, buy aspirins, change a flight ticket, arrange comps for musicians' friends, give a call to the next hotel to make sure you are pre-checked in upon your arrival, find an adaptor for a power supply, set up a drum kit onstage, deal with check-in of gear at every airportall of this on the same day. The tour manager is not only the guy who puts the towel and bottles of water on stage, or picks up the money at the venue. Thanks to my computer, a good internet connection and Excel, that really helps to make it possible. Thanks also to Leila, our back-office assistant, who really helps and supports my job.
"For the audience, musicians are very lucky people, traveling all over the world, having success everywhere, and making their money in the best conditions. They consider we have a wonderful life, and they are dreaming about having the same life. They do not imagine how hard it is to travel everyday (especially flying in those days), far from our families, our homes. New hotels everyday, not that much time to rest, not much sleep, being tired, traveling, airports, different food and living out of suitcases. This makes every performance more appreciable. A tour is like a marathon, and musicians are performers but also hard workers. Every day on tour is a fifteen-hour rush...and believe me, musicians are really strong people!"
Every tour has its stories, and there were some good ones here. "Hadrien's bass is certainly the most amazing story of the tour," Deghelt explains, "and I must confess one of the most surprising ones of my career. First time in New York City for Hadrien, we arrived one day early. After a nice dinner at Kitano's hotel, we decided to hang with Hadrien and Sven, and I was happy to bring them to the Zinc Bar, one of the most 'vibing jazz clubs' and my favorite place. Hadrien had in mind to jam and brought his bass there. We did not stay that long; we were already tired after two weeks of tour.
"On the way back to the hotel, we took a cab. It was already late, and the driver decided to drop us off at 40th street and Park Avenue, two blocks from our hotel, as he was on his way back home. As it was not a tour expense, I did not ask for a receipt, and while I was paying the run, I thought Hadrien was taking his bass that was in the cab's trunk. We walked back to the hotel, and after one minute, I realized that Hadrien did not have his bass. Too late to run, the cab was gone, and we did not have his number or his name, and he had our bass, the one that we were supposing to use for the concert at Town Hall the day after. A panic situation....
"I went back to the hotel, explained to the Kitano's guest service and we started to give calls to Lost and Found, the 311, the police...I was told that without any information it would be almost impossible to get back the bass... More than eight thousand taxis are driving at night in the Big Apple. As we say in French, we would have more chance to find 'a needle in a bundle of hay.' I could not sleep the whole night. The morning after, we went to guitars stores on 48th Street, giving all the details about the lost bass, and finally bought a new one. As we had only a small chance to get back Hadrien's bass, it was the best option. I did not want to inform John about it, especially before the Town Hall concert, and create more stress than necessary. He just noticed that Hadrien had a new bass at the sound check.
"During that day, and others, I kept calling all the numbers I had, and also had very nice support from the Kitano's hotel (highly recommended) to try to find the bass. Even if we stayed very discreet, the buzz was growing... and everyone in the guitar business knew that the bass of a French guy playing with the great John McLaughlin was lost in a taxi cab, which would make it impossible to sell it without drawing attention. Leaving New York, we told everyone involved that we will give a great reward to get the instrument back. Hadrien was desperate, and confessed to me he was praying to [the late] Jaco [Pastorius] to give him a hand. This bass, a Ken Smith model, was a very unique one, and his favorite.
"After three days, I received a strange phone call from the Kitano, giving me the cell phone number of a taxi driver that might be able to help, and then called him. The Kitano's team was really taking care of our problem, and I would highly recommend this hotel for the professionalism and the kind attention of its personnel. I called the guy right away. He was a musician, a saxophonist and a taxi driver. He was not the driver of our taxi, but certainly helped and explained to our driver how important a musical instrument can be for a musician. He was the one to help, thanks to him.
"We were playing in Pennsylvania, and Tony Grey, another great bassist, went to the Bronx to get it back, give the reward and drive the instrument to Bethlehem, PA. Hadrien was so happy (and so lucky too). I cannot imagine that we were so lucky. The hand of God, of Jaco, who knows? No need to say that from this day, Hadrien kept his bass with him always, and will never forget it again!"