Monday, August 27, 2012

Jazz in the Pines

Saturday morning I woke up quite cold but otherwise comfortable in the passenger seat of my car, and went for breakfast in the cafe. I am sure I will get used to the combination of eggs and ketchup, sausage and mustard, and pancakes and maple syrup, all on one plate... Though sausage and maple syrup is a good combination. Try it!
Also I manged to do a bit of this:


It was a good start to the day! Bright and fresh, wandering through the mountains on horseback with just my high-school guide and her sister (plus the horses) for company. I was on an 18-year-old mare called Dakota who had clearly 'seen it all' and was very well behaved, if a bit windy.
This left me just enough time to drive down (about 3 miles of more awesome mountain road) to Idyllwild and park up in the town centre. So, why am I here? Well it just so happens that there is an annual Jazz festival which attracts some huge names in the worlds of jazz, funk and big bands. As well as all that, there was one reason why I was going along. Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band is a world-famous ensemble of exceedingly tight and exciting music in all sorts of styles. The University of Bath Big Band plays lots of Gordon's music, I own a number of their CDs, and for just $65 I could come and watch them play along with a whole host of other impressive ensembles.

Here are some of the other bands I managed to see:

Barnaby Finch and the Straightjackets (fantastic flowing jazz, especially one amazing composition with an orchestral opening. The saxophonist in particular was probably the best I saw all day)

Janis Mann - a brilliant singer...

...upstaged at times by her very enthusiastic drummer! Here, the whole band stare at him while he completes his solo...

Rocky Zharp and the Blues Crackers. Lots of people dancing to this!

World-famous Kenny Burrell (the guitarist)

Lunch for me was slightly unusual. Have you ever had battered catfish and hush puppies on a bed of seasoned fries? Me neither, but I suppose I did want 'a taste of Louisiana'... To finish, of course, I had a root beer float. Which tasted for all the world like Milton disinfectant - the stuff that you clean baby bottles with? So much so that I took it back and the guy tasted it but assured me that's what root beer tastes like!! So I did my best to 'acquire' the taste before the end of the cup (but unfortunately failed).

And finally, on the main stage and under a shady canopy of parachutes...

Gordon Goodwin and his very own Big Phat Band!

What a show it was! I love Gordon Goodwin's amazing composition, and the band was so tight it was like listening to a recording. They played a whole load of awesome pieces including That's How We Roll (, Rippin' and Runnin' ( and of course, the finale of the Hunting Wabbits trilogy ( I filmed a couple of these, but frankly I was just enjoying the awesome music-making! What was new to me, of course, was seeing which instruments were played by which musicians - I had no idea that the lead Alto player was also the clarinettist, and the soprano player, and had a flute in his arsenal as well...

So I just sat back and soaked up an awesome hour and a quarter of top-notch music. Worth every cent :-)

After GGBPB had finished, to raptuous applause, I (and most of the rest of the audience) headed out to the shuttle to take us back to our cars. Upon reaching mine, I tried to put the roof away and, part way through, it came up with 'Convertible Top Malfunction'!!! So now I have a car with the roof half-down and the boot open the wrong way, and can't put it away or put it back up... Dave, what should I do in this situation? Turn it off and back on again, of course :-) And the problem was solved.

Following this was the fantastic drive back down the 22-mile mountain road. In case you're wondering, it's route 243 ( which you can explore on Street View if you're really bored) and the route down was just as good, if not better, than the route up! Of course I had the roof down the whole way, and every time I came up behind another vehicle, it either pulled over in a layby or just happened to be at a good overtaking opportunity with no oncoming traffic! I guess they just see a white convertible being driven 'enthusiastically' and don't want to be anywhere near it....

Following that was another couple of hours of freeway driving, to take me to my final LA destination, the Travelodge at LAX. By far the most costly of the accommodation I've had, it's only redeeming features were the laundry, the pickup from the car rental, and the free airport shuttle. And I suppose its location! I mean, there was nothing wrong with it at all, but apart from the aforementioned features, it was no better than the Days Inn at Palmdale, just twice the cost (and that was with a 30% discount).

The time, therefore, had come to return the hire car. I couldn't believe how upset I was to part with this nice little white car! We'd done close to 800 miles together which is 10% of its total mileage (for a mere $80 of fuel, in fact, since I got the car full and was meant to return empty, which I did) and I reckon at least 16 hours in the saddle - not to mention the night in the passenger seat. The sound system was fantastic and it handled really nicely. The only thing I could complain about was the gearbox - not the fact that it was automatic, but the fact it was quite slow to kick-down and not very easy to control using the throttle. I reckon it was probably a hydromechanical one rather than electronically controlled, and was the only weak point in an otherwise nice car. Though more on the driving in a later post.

However, I consoled myself with one last photo, and the knowledge that the car would now be properly cleaned and looked after and fuelled, ready for a whole new adventure with a new driver. It certainly wouldn't miss me!!

Back to the hotel to finish off the laundry and finally rid myself of the cursed Formil travel wash which had started to leak through it's now-triple-bagged protective layer. I was fed up with putting it in yet another bag and it was far too lubricated to repair the slit in the tube - so I finished it off and took great delight in binning it :-)
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  1. Aww, I feel just as sad as you to see your little car go :( Just FYI, if I ever have to get a user to turn it off and in againi pride myself in the skill to make up some excuse as to why it needs to be rebooted rather than just "have you tried turning it off and on again".

    I think the best to date was "I have remotely applied a registry fix to your machine, when you have a spare 2 minutes please can you reboot so the fix can be applied" :D

    Anyway enough about me, griping write up as always :) The Jazz festival looked fun and I've actually heard of Gordon's band!!!! :D

    Have fun and I look forward to your next update :)

  2. Well that was a mammoth read; your abstention for 5 days certainly gave you a lot to update your readers on.

    Very much enjoyed the read - thought it was more of a gripping than griping write up (common Dave it wasn't THAT bad!!); but don't get too emotional about a car, chum!!!

  3. What a fine yellow T-shirt that is Colin! And so versatile, gliding, horse riding and so much more!