Jazz Travels: Big Cities

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Jazz Travels: Big Cities

Edan Krolewicz photo by Kristyn Harder

By Edan Krolewicz

“Give me the bright lights, big cities for me.” – Cannonball Adderley, “Big City”

I pushed my bag through the turnstile as crowds of men in black suits brushed swiftly past me. Emerging from the multi-level underground of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, I found myself strolling through the impeccable streets as the bright lights glossed across my tired, excited eyes.

It was my first stop on a two-month trip through Asia and Europe, where I discovered the sights and sounds of jazz around the world. I visited popular clubs and hidden jazz jams, performed at small venues for American friends, and made some new friends in Tokyo, Seoul, Florence, Rome, Berlin, and Dublin. The virtuosic playing and stylish exuberance proved that jazz is very much alive all over the world.

Can I Get a Gig?

Traveling alone as a musician is not easy, but, with some careful planning and an open mind, it can be incredibly rewarding.

Like all musicians, the first thing you need to know is how to get a gig. The rules of gigging abroad are the same as they are in Seattle; you don’t have to be a star, you just need to be persistent and timely.

For each city, I made a list all of the jazz clubs well in advance (2-3 months before arrival date is best). After researching each club for an email address or booking form, I sent out an email describing recent shows I had played in Seattle, and shared my personal website and some other digital promotional material (a press kit helps). It is crucial to have some music online that they could listen to. (I used my Bandcamp profile, but SoundCloud or Dropbox links work just fine.)

The toughest part of playing overseas is finding musicians to play with. As a vocalist, I needed to find a rhythm section. One great way to find musicians is to go to music and gear shops. Often times, you’ll find musicians there working or gear shopping, and they can direct you to local venues. They are also a great place to rent equipment, or to sit around and practice for a few hours since you had to leave your keyboard back home.

Tip: Before emailing clubs in Seoul, I asked a friend to help translate my gig request email into Korean and sent the English text below it. This is not necessary, as most club owners speak English, but it can certainly be a respectful gesture and may help you get booked at smaller clubs.

Personally, I found that the best way to find musicians was the Internet. Once I had my list of venues, I looked at each venue’s Facebook Page, which often has videos of the bands with the musicians tagged in the description. After I had confirmed some possible gig dates with the clubs, I messaged several of those musicians to see if they would like to play. Some of the musicians were interested, and several more were booked but gave me some great jam recommendations. I was able to set up a rehearsal the day of the gigs and provided charts for all the music.

Sometimes a good audience shows up, sometimes gigs felt like a rehearsal. To me, the point was to force myself to find musicians to play with and to immerse myself in the local scene. What better way to do that than to go to jazz jams, where you can not only pick up gigs, but also truly feel the spirit of jazz in each city.

Check out next month’s issue to read more about jazz jams around the world.