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Paris Part 1 by Mark Ziegler

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I'm looking out my window as the trees still hang on to a few last leaves: the tipsy friends who don't realize the party ended hours ago. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay green. I feel as though I've been in a perpetual fall for several months. I couldn't be happier about it. Okay, maybe if it rained a little less. Even so, it's a great season and never hurts to get a little more of a good thing. Speaking of ... here's the first round of photos from Paris. Eiffel's tower, Montmartre, Sacre Cour ... enjoy!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharkvan/sets/72157632063118745/show/ (slideshow for mobile)  

Long Distance by Mark Ziegler

Recording is an enjoyable experience for me, so I jump at the opportunity to do it whenever I can. In the spring, my good friend Jeff Moehle (longtime collaborator and drummer for Butterfat Trio) was producing a record by Ann Marie Boyle, a singer/songwriter in Kalamazoo. They needed some upright bass on a track and he had me give it a shot from my home studio in Brooklyn. The first one went well, and they asked for another. The back and forth continued, and within a few weeks I'd gotten to play bass on most of the record. There is one amazing and still strange-to-me thing to keep in mind. It's not a new concept in the collaborative-ready digital age, just one that's fun to be reminded of: I've never met Ann Marie. I'm sure I will at some point, but for now she exists only through my bearing witness to the fascinating life cycle of her original recorded music: the evolution of several really interesting songs into a highly enjoyable album, and one that is a credit to all of the talented people who went into making it a reality.

There were several people involved in the project and I'm proud to say they are friends of mine. Even if we haven't met yet.

Ann Marie has a few words of her own about the project on her website.

You can purchase and/or stream the album "Human Nature" from Bandcamp.

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Big Apple Season by Mark Ziegler

It's been a great month to be back in New York. Reacquainting myself with a few basses, friends, and cooking for myself. I'm also playing a few gigs! Last night was my first foray into the bi-weekly improvised Out Of Your Head series at Freddy's. It was a great night with many very cool improvisers and some broken pint glasses. Tonight (Monday 9/17) I reunite with Gato Loco de Bajo at Zirzamin for some serious low-end fun: double bass, bass sax, bari guitar, and tuba! (and drums, too.)

I've gotten to be a band photographer a bit too, so I'll be sharing a few pics in the coming weeks.

Some great things I've gotten to do/see on my break:

Into The Woods @ Shakespeare in the park

A very rainy, but fun, day at the US Open

Chaplin @ the Barrymore theater (major kudos to my Ave Q friend Rob McClure for his amazing portrayal of the Tramp!)

John & Scott @ UCB

Alex Wyatt @ Douglas Arts

Grand Army farmers market ... cheese, fish, maple & mint iced tea ...

food friend outing to fantastic Thai @ Pok Pok

And, I got to bike around Governor's Island and scope out future squatting possibilities for the next layoff. I only have to figure out how to get there and back without the summer ferry. Anyone have a kayak I can borrow in January?

And lots to look forward to before heading out again. My brother turns 30, I get to see the east coast premiere of "August, Ossage County", and my mentor Michael Formanek is releasing a new ECM record  along with 2 nights at the Jazz Standard on Oct 2 & 3. Be there!

zig likes leipzig by Mark Ziegler

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I don't know if I hate packing, or I'm just no good at it. Maybe it's just that I'm easily distracted. Either way, instead of packing, I'm going to write a few words about Leipzig. Yes, it was a few weeks ago. But Köln has been pretty packed with adventure it's been hard to find time to sit down. That and the fact that the internet is pretty bad. Definitely not the worst I've seen, but it's up there. Certainly nothing to write home about. Which is good, because it'll take a while for that email to send.

Leipzig was a good stop. Lot's of music history - Bach and his tenure at the Thomaskirche, the boy's choir that's still going strong - and one of the most bike friendly (or at least, bike busy) places I've seen. Lots of streetcars, too. Makes for an interesting pedestrian adventure.

I tried Göse, which is a regional beer top-fermented beer. It doesn't comply with the German purity standards, but has an exception as a local treasure. It's an interesting brew. If you're here, find the old train station and walk around back. You won't think you're on the right track until you see the biergarten. You've made it. Try some göse. And maybe some potato bread. Good job.

One of the nicer days in Leipzig, I happened upon some performers in the street. They were good and I chatted them up on a break and found out they were on tour and are based in New Orleans. The singer/guitarist and I kept looking at each other with that "you are pretty familiar looking" look. Turns out, we were both at Western Michigan together for a few semesters. The bass player used to live in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, too. Lives and paths intersecting, years and miles and oceans apart. Small world. I sat in for a set of busking, making it a quartet, and got a couple of guys to come out to their gig later that night. A really fun hang at a cool pub and the band sounded great. A highlight of the week, for sure.

The Köln photos are going to take a minute to sort out, but I'll have them up soon. Nothing like a long bus ride to Hamburg to get some of that stuff done.

Til then ...

(slideshow for mobile)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharkvan/sets/72157630810421318/show/

early walks by Mark Ziegler

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The last week in Berlin was equal parts rain and sun, but just as enjoyable as the first two. Now that we're getting used to the tour schedule, I find it easier to plan and get out to do things. Here's the rundown and a new batch of photos to go along with it: I got to catch a really good jazz trio let by Shai Maestro (great name, huh?) at the Jewish Museum. They moved it inside because of inclement weather, but the museum is beautiful and it was a great way to spend a drizzly Sunday morning.

I mentioned a video from the "jazz fest" and here it is. If I knew how to prepare you for this, I would try. Pay specific attention to the revolutionary use of "house/house" rhyme scheme.

[wpvideo yFOXTRKT]

The Fest, at the very least, led us to Bergmanstraße and to some good food. Bergmanstr. is part of Kreutzberg which is a really hip part of town and appears to be in the somewhat-early stages of the inevitable Yuppification era that happens in (or, to?) the cool neighborhoods. It borders Friedrichshain, though at one point it was difficult to cross the border. Why? There was this thing called the Berlin Wall in the way. And some of it still stands as what's called the East Side Gallery. I didn't get a chance to see it in person, but it's worth going here for some more information.

The Reichstag was an obligatory tourist activity that was even cooler than expected. If you make a reservation a few days in advance, they'll let you go to the top of the renovated government building and walk up the spiral staircase in the glass dome. As you walk around - based on your location - an audio guide tells you what you're looking at throughout the city. It would be a great place to go at night, but in early July the sun sets around 10 pm and at that time I'm in the middle of act two.

I kept hearing from German friends about "X-burg". I like to be in the know, so instead of asking someone I decided to become a super sleuth and figure it out. Is there a "Christ-berg"? No. Dang. "Chi-berg"? Nope. Although, "da bears" - statues, at least - seem to be big in Berlin. And there's plenty of grilled meats for Ditka and co, but still no dice. So, I went neighborhood by neighborhood. I knew it had to be a cool area. And a berg. And, then I realized I'd been there. The coolest hood around: Kreuzberg = "cross mountain." I even got another German vocabulary word to throw around.

I made it back to X-berg (feels cool to write that) for lunch with a friend from Lake Placid Jazz Seminar back in the day. Great to see her, and have been checking out some excellent albums of hers in the meantime. We took a walk up the "berg" - not really a mountain but cool views of the city, even with some tall trees. It's another gem of a little park hidden in the middle of Berlin. There's even a waterfall with nice views of the monument at the top.

Sunday night I wasn't feeling well, so I packed and turned in early. Monday morning we were headed to Leipzig, and I found myself awake at 4 AM, wishing I had taken some early morning pictures. Had it not been for the free coffee machine in the lobby, I might have hit the pillow again. But, I actually got up, downed some espresso and hit the road. I got to the hauptbahnhof (main train station) with enough time to get to the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate before the early morning colors went away. I was pretty much the only one at the gate: the only tourist, at least. By the time I trekked over through museum island to Alexanderplatz, the sun was in full force and I was ready to get back to bed for a few hours before leaving for Leipzig.

Since Monday, I've busked with a guy I met in college, caught a few pieces sung by the Thomaskirche Boys Choir, and saw a guy play trombone with his foot. But more on all that later.

(Berlin 3 slideshow for mobile devices)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sharkvan/sets/72157630583587204/show/