Today Rose Lane flies to England to attend the West Dean College for a week studying art. She took the train from Lausanne to Geneva to fly to London…where a car picks her up to drive to Chichester where West Dean is. The band travels on to Düsseldorf where the next show is, but I take a train to Frankfurt to rehearse with the HR1 Radio band for some of my solo shows in Germany after the Stones tour ends. Rose Lane left first, and my train left around 11:30. I walked to the train station…it was down a steep incline from the hotel to the station, and as I only had hand luggage it wasn’t bad. The first part of the trip was fairly crowded, but after about an hour most of the other passengers left and it was nice and comfortable for the other 3 hours of the journey. I just rested and enjoyed the ride, spending some time looking at the charts and song list to be prepared at the rehearsal.
I arrived at the Frankfurt train station about 3:45 and my friend Christian Raupach picked me up. From there we drove to the HR complex where the rehearsal would be. This would be the first time I met the players in person. We’ve communicated via emails up to this point, and now it was time to see each other and play…. and get to know each other as well. I met Paul Hochstetler first…he is the drummer that Tim Ries had suggested a few weeks ago when we played Frankfurt with the Stones. Paul had put the rest of the band together. Christian Denier on bass, Lutz Haefner on sax and Martin Scales on guitar. We all met in the studio and had short conversation before getting down to work. The guys were great…. they had prepared well and we tackled some twenty or so songs over the next 5 hours. I was happy with the results, and when we finished up Christian drove me to the hotel where I would stay the night before taking the train to Düsseldorf the next day. But we had some business to discuss, and Christian stayed with me for dinner as we went through the particulars of the tour. This will be a combination of some solo shows, some with the band…. some public and some private. We will also be doing quite a lot of press during the tour…talking about conservation issues, forestry, and global climate change and such as well as music.
We’ve lined up several sponsors for the tour…. AXA Insurance (they insure a lot of German forestlands against storm and other damage), Stihl, Yamaha Keyboards, Lexus (they are providing a nice hybrid car for the tour) and the HOLTZ group (a forest landowner’s association). So far there are nine shows, starting in Laubach, Germany at a festival called “Blues, Schmooze and Aplemus” on Aug 25th.
This will be a challenge, as I will be in London for the last three Stones shows during that time. The Stones play 21, 23 and 26 at the ‘02 Arena, and I will go back to Frankfurt on the 24th for one more rehearsal with the guys, then play the show the next day in Laubach, then fly back to London for the last show on the 26th. There were other details to go over, and Christian and I spent about two hours during and after dinner discussing things. Finally we wrapped it up and I headed up to bed a tired puppy around 11:30.
My train to Düsseldorf left at 11:20, and it was only about an hour and a half journey. I made my way to the hotel and prepared to go to the show. All the guys asked me how the rehearsal went, and I recounted the experience to them, telling them that I was very fortunate to have such good musicians to help me out. The gig was another good one…we seem to be hitting a stride now. I was tired afterwards and didn’t go out of my room after getting back and turning in my stage clothes. It’s been a long couple of days, but very productive!
Now we’re off to Hamburg. I like this city quite a lot…and of course it has a strong musical history with the Beatles, Stones and other bands getting their start here in the 60’s. I love the beautiful lake and have enjoyed walking around some of it in past times here. We stayed at the Park Hyatt…. nice new hotel. I went out for a walk to shake off the travel…. but had to make my way through a crowd of fans that were hanging out at the front door. They were all nice, but many wanted things signed, and it took me a little while to do that and then finally stroll around. I thought about going out somewhere for dinner, but I wasn’t really up for going out on my own, so I wound up eating in the hotel restaurant. I saw Dillip Doshi in the restaurant, and he kindly invited me to sit with him and several of his friends (Dillip owns some Mont Blanc stores, and Hamburg is where they make some of their products…and he had several business associates with him). I politely declined as I just wasn’t up for a lot of socializing and they were about finished with their meals anyway. I did go over and meet them and chat for a minute or so before taking a table by myself. After dinner I just went back to the room to chill.
Next day was showtime again, and all went well. Nice turnout in the stadium, and a very positive reception. Before the show I strolled around the area near our hotel again for a while, but it was raining a bit on and off, and I didn’t stay out long. After the show I had a peek in the bar, but I could see it wasn’t a scene I really wanted to deal with, so I opted for quiet time in my room with a couple of glasses of wine before bed.
The 16th was an off day in Hamburg. Again I walked around, and in the afternoon I had a call from my friend Axel Zwingenburger. Axel and his wife Eva live not far away in a village called Ahrensburg. They were coming back from a gig (Axel is a great boogie-woogie piano player…one of the best in the world) and offered to come pick me up and go to their house. I accepted the invitation, and we met at the hotel for the drive to his place. It was wonderful to see them both, and they were most gracious to me. At their house we sipped some wine and played the piano some…I am always amazed at Axel’s talent. I picked up a few licks from him, but it would take me a month of hanging with him to really learn some of the finer points off his playing. It’s much more complicated than it seems! We also listened to some of the historic rare recordings he has of some of the famous players of this style…then we walked to a nice Italian restaurant that is owned by a friend of theirs that is also a piano player (of course!). There we had a nice meal and afterwards we played some on the upright piano that was downstairs. Great fun, and good company. After that they drove me back into Hamburg. It was so great of them to take the time to do all of that for me…especially after coming back from a gig. Axel and Eva are top-notch folks and I feel very fortunate to know them and share such a friendship with them! Great day….
Now we move on to Ireland.