On Friday, September 4, I, and a small combo consisting of Reno Behnken, Josh Zucker, and Patrick Gardner (2015 graduate of AVPA), opened for an event honoring Kenny Burrell at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). In the middle of summer, I was asked to put together this combo by Larry Hathaway from the LA Jazz Society who knew me from the Bill Green Mentorship I had completed a few months prior. I received his email while eating dinner at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. I quickly scrambled to get the people together and responded as fast as I could. At that time I really did not know what the event would be like, who else would be there, or how big it would be.
We arrived on Friday at 5:00 to set up and do sound check. As we set up we soon realized we weren’t the only group playing that night. There were chairs, stands, microphones, and other equipment set up for an entire big band as well as a crowd of professional musicians warming up. This band was the Los Angeles Jazz Orchestra Unlimited playing with the jazz guitar legend Kenny Burrell. The musicians talked with us and helped Patrick and Josh set up the bass and drums. They were very accommodating and encouraging. After the featured performance did their sound check, we walked up and played half of Red Clay by Freddie Hubbard to test our mics. In the intermittent period before we began our actual performance we started getting nervous. I was anxious at the thought of all those professionals listening to me, possibly even musicians I would see again in different circumstances for college auditions. After an introduction by Mitch Glickman, the director of music programs at LACMA, as well as the father of a CCHS student and director of the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, we played three tunes: “Impressions,” “Maiden Voyage,” and the Kenny Burrell tune, “Chitlins Con Carne.”
The Jazz Quartet performs at LACMA (L-R: Reno Behnken, Patrick Gardner, Josh Zucker, Milo Bechtloff Weising)
Happy and very relieved, we walked off stage after enthusiastic applause to go pack up our instruments. Many audience members came up to us to congratulate us as we mingled with the crowd before the big band’s performance. We watched as they presented the award to Mr. Burrell, and set up the band. Then we saw a jaw dropping performance which included beautiful solos, excellent sectional work from all sections, but especially the saxes, and possibly most amazing of all, Kenny Burrell’s legendary guitar playing in action. Overall, this was a wonderful and unique experience that none of us have had before. It gave us a taste of what it feels like to be a professional musician. We feel very honored and thankful to have been given this opportunity.
Milo Bechtloff Weising performs while Kenny Burrell looks on