Photo Above (L - R): Akira Jimbo, Mike Henry (Owner - Percussion Center in Houston, TX), John DeChristopher (VP, Artist Relations - Zildjian), Brian Hayes (Zildjian Sales Rep) & Earnest Potts (Percussion Center)
Tour notes from John DeChristopher - Vice President, Artist Relations & Event Marketing Worldwide:
Saturday, November 21st
After a smooth trip from Tucson to Santa Ana, CA (with a quick stop in Phoenix and a Joe Perry sighting at Phoenix Airport) we arrived at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA for the last stop in the Continental USA, Jim's Music in Tustin, CA. We landed around 3:30 PM and Yamaha District Manager Kenny Updegraff picked us up and took us directly to Jim's. Yamaha's Daryl Anderson drove down to Orange County from North Hollywood - the 5 Freeway is never a pleasant experience with traffic, especially on a Friday. It was also great to see Prudence Elliott (from Yamaha in Buena Park, CA) with her three boys. This was my first visit to Jim's Music and what a beautiful store it is! The staff was amazing - Mark in the drum department had set up Akira's kit nearly perfect. This saved lots of time with set-up and we had 90 minutes before the clinic was due to start, so we ate a light dinner around the corner from Jim's Music before the clinic. By the time Akira hit the stage at 7:45 PM, we had a crowd of 200 people (on a Friday night!). Akira is one of the most consistent drummers I've ever had the honor and pleasure to work with. He plays great every night, but tonight he reached for a little more and played off the energy from the audience. After the clinic, a young drummer in the audience bought the entire kit Akira played on, so we pulled the heads off and Akira signed the inside of each drum shell. It was almost 11:00 PM when we finally got on the road to Los Angeles - Yamaha's Daryl Anderson drove Akira and I to LAX and we checked in sometime around midnight. The next morning I was on a 7:15 AM flight home to Boston and Akira was headed to Honolulu at 9:00 AM for the last stop on the clinic tour at Drummer's Warehouse in Honolulu, HI on Sunday, November 22nd. I'm still scratching my head on why I didn't go with him - it was Honolulu, Hawaii! After three weeks on the road, it was nice get home.
I'd like to personally thank all the hosting dealers and their excellent staffs for making this clinic tour such a great success, and for their continued Zildjian business. I also want to thank all the fans we met on road for coming out and for their continued support of Zildjian. Aaron Jackson at Zildjian for all his hard work, all the Zildjian and Yamaha Reps for their time and effort and for taking great care of Akira and I on the road...the other sponsors: Yamaha Drums, Vic Firth and Remo.
And last but certainly not least, my dear friend Akira Jimbo for presenting another "High-End" clinic tour and for being the great Zildjian Ambassador and person you are. It's always a pleasure AJ, and I look forward to doing it again soon. YOU are the MAN!
Friday, November 20th
Our flight today is not too early - I even managed to get a nice run in this morning and Akira and I are sitting here in Tucson Airport (love the free public WiFi!) and we're on our way to Jim's Music in Tustin, CA.
Thursday, November 19th
The trip from Albuquerque to Tucson was smooth and when we arrived at our hotel in Tucson, we actually had a few hours before the clinic, which was an added bonus. The weather was absolutely beautiful - perfect for catching up on e-mails in your hotel room! The clinic was hosted by Rainbow Guitars, another return stop from the last Akira Jimbo Tour in 2006. Clay, the store manager (formerly the drum department manager) and Jeff in the drum department had everything together for us. I've been to Rainbow Guitars 5 or 6 times over the years with various artists and the staff is totally pro and the crowds are always fantastic. Last night was no exception! Just before Akira went on, I received a call from Steve Gadd who had just returned home to Phoenix, but couldn't make it out to Tucson, so he wished Akira "good luck" on his clinic. Akira had another full house - many fans had seen him in 2006 and came back again. It was great to see so many young drummers in the audience and to see their excitement watching Akira's performance. Next stop, Tustin, CA!
Wednesday, November 18th
We left the hotel at 7:00 AM, but smooth sailing through check-in and security and an easy flight to Albuquerque, NM for the clinic at Grandma's Music. We had a great lunch at Quarters BBQ, close to our hotel, and Zildjian Rep Thomas Mitchell picked us up and we headed to Grandma's Music for the clinic. The clinic started at 5 PM (earlier than usual) and we had a great crowd - over 100 people but they sounded like 500 people! As Akira said; "A really nice vibe" - Darren and all the guys at Grandma's did a great job putting it together. Afterward, we all went back to Quarters BBQ for dinner and Akira and I enjoyed being back at the hotel by 10 PM and getting more than 5 hours sleep. Next stop: Tucson, AZ...
John DeChristopher - Vice President, Artist Relations & Event Marketing Worldwide
Tuesday, November 17th
I flew from Boston to Houston, TX to rejoin the Akira Jimbo tour and had to connect through Dallas-Ft. Worth, never a fun proposition. I've done this many times and sometimes you get lucky and your connecting gate is in the same concourse, but other times (like this time) you have to get to another concourse. My flight was supposed to arrive in Dallas and allow me just about an hour for my connection, but after a 20 minute delay on the runway I started thinking "I might miss my connection..." I finally got off the plane with my carry-on and had 20 minutes to get from the D concourse to the C concourse, so there I was running through DFW Airport with my bag behind me, dodging people, saying excuse me, getting on the Skylink and finally making it to my gate literally seconds before they closed the jet way. I made it. There's something funny about a sweaty guy getting on a plane, so I just laughed at myself! The clinic that evening was at the Percussion Center in Houston, TX, owned by my old friend Mike Henry. Mike had hosted Akira and I three years ago on the last tour and we had a great and enthusiastic audience. It was good to see John Scully from Yamaha again and Dave Jewel, Yamaha's Marketing Manager was also there - this was his last date on the tour. Zildjian Rep Brian Hayes was also there and after a nice dinner with Mike and the Yamaha guys, drove Akira and I back to our hotel. On to Albuquerque!
Sunday, November 15th & Monday, November 16th
A late night and early flight (7:20 AM!) made for sleepy flight home. Thanks to Dave Jewel and John Wittmann from Yamaha for taking care of Akira on Sunday for the clinic at Samuel Music in Champaign, IL and Mozingo Music in O'fallon, MO on Monday. It was good to get home, even if only for 36 hours...
Saturday, November 14th
Day 3 of PASIC and another busy day, starting with a meeting at 9 AM followed by Joel Stevenett at 11 AM. He put on an amazing clinic where he explained the process for recording the music for dozens of popular video games. And he can really play! The audience really enjoyed it. The main event was Tommy Igoe and the Birdland Big Band performing the Saturday Evening Concert. Tommy took no prisoners and the band sounded absolutely amazing. It was a special honor for me to introduce Tommy that night - we have a relationship going back 20 years to 1989 when I started working at Zildjian. Tommy was the first artist I signed to Zildjian and it's been great to watch his career blossom into one of the world's greatest players. He's a huge talent - all 6'5" of him!
Friday, November 13th
Another busy day of clinics, running around, and meetings all leading up to Akira's clinic at 5 PM in the Ballroom. When they opened doors to let in the audience, the people just kept coming. We estimated between 2,000-2,500 people in attendance (there were over a hundred people overflowing into the hallway due to the room being at capacity). Akira put on an amazing show - a great way to close day 2 of PASIC. Afterward, we attended the PAS Awards Reception and this year PAS honored the legendary Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead. He gave an inspiring and very funny acceptance speech and it was nice to chat with him afterward. He's quite a character. After the reception, Joel Stevenett, Juels Thomas and Garrison from DW and I went to dinner where many, many laughs ensued! It's a good thing we had a private room.
Thursday, November 12th
Thursday was the first day of PASIC and among the Zildjian artists performing was Sergio Bellotti, a great drummer and teacher at Berklee College of Music. The booth was buzzing with people checking out all the cool new Sound Lab Prototypes and the day was filled with lots of meetings, seeing old friends and running around. All in all, it was another PASIC. Thursday night a few us had dinner at an unassuming little Italian restaurant. The hotel bar is usually the hang spot at night and it's always great to see my Industry friends. Akira had dinner with the Yamaha folks.
Wednesday, November 11th
Wednesday was set-up day for PASIC so it was all hands on deck for booth set-up and Akira set up across the aisle at the Yamaha booth where his drums were being displayed. On Wednesday evening, the Zildjian crew and Akira attended the reception for the Grand Opening of the Rhythm Discovery Center (PAS' museum). An amazing facility! Afterward, Craigie & Debbie Zildjian, Akira and I were invited to join Jules Follett (editor and publisher of Sticks 'N Skins) and her staff for dinner. A quick sidebar: If you haven't checked out Sticks 'N Skins, it's a must-have book for every drummer! Also at dinner was my old friend Joe Hibbs (Mapex Drums) legendary drummer Ndugu Chancler and Philly drummer Charles Collins. It was a great hang but we all ate WAY too much...
Tuesday, November 10th
The thing about clinic tours is the evenings go late and the mornings come early! Fortunately, it was to travel to Indianapolis (no clinic that night) because when we arrived at the airport in New Orleans, we learned our flight was delayed an hour. We had to fly through Atlanta, so we basically were following what was left of Hurricane Ida! We finally left New Orleans (about 90 minutes late) and luckily didn't have to change planes in Atlanta - just add enough passengers to make the flight as cramped and uncomfortable as possible! Akira is a total pro when it comes to travel - we've both done this long enough to know you just go with the flow. The funny thing about Akira is, he's sound asleep a minute after he's in his seat and wakes up as we're taxiing to the gate. When we finally arrived in Indy, we were exhausted and hungry and looking forward to checking into the hotel. We met up with the rest of the Zildjian Team who had flown in from Boston for PASIC and had a nice dinner.
Monday, November 9th
I flew from Boston to New Orleans to meet Akira (he'd flown down the day before from Portland, ME). It's been three years since our last clinic tour together (Oct. 2006) - the year we launched the K Custom Hybrid line. We've been planning the tour for several months and it coincides with his appearance at PASIC '09 in Indianapolis.
Ray Fransen, an old friend for many years, was the host and he held the clinic offsite at function room. It just so happened, Hurricane Ida was forecast to hit parts of the Gulf Coast and they were saying parts of New Orleans would feel some of the effects. Fortunately, all we got was some strong winds and very light rain. We had a great turnout - over 100 people and Akira's performance was over the top! He's worked in some new material and the crowd just ate it up!
Afterward, Akira, Ray Fransen, John Scully (Yamaha) and I, had dinner at a little diner in Kenner, LA. Great food and people and lots of laughs!
Saturday, November 7th - Day 1
We are off to a great start for the Akira Jimbo Clinic tour! Akira arrived in Boston safe and sound on Thursday evening, and spent most of the day on Friday hanging out at the Zildjian headquarters. Its been 3 years since his last visit and we were all very happy to see him. On Saturday we enjoyed a beautiful drive to Portland, ME, for his first clinic at The Drum Shop. Fall is a great time of year in New England and Akira mentioned how jealous he is of the area we live in.
We were greeted with a very warm welcome by the The Drum Shop staff upon our arrival. These guys are true pros. Set-up was a breeze. All the drums were tuned and ready to go. Soundcheck took all of about 10 minutes!
The clinic was held at the store and man was it a packed house! There were over 80 people in attendance! If you haven't seen one of Akira's performances you are missing something truly special and unique. Akira is an innovator in combining electronics with acoustic drums. He does not play to any backing tracks or samples. Rather, he plays these tracks and samples himself in real time! Every drum of his is triggered, all the way down to the left-foot woodblock! He is able to play the melody, harmony, and bass lines all while maintaining a killer drum groove! Wow...
He opened the performance with a tribute to Michael Jackson and played a medley of hits, including "Don't stop till you get enough" and "Rock With You." Akira then immediately played a phenomenal, 15 minute drum solo which had everyone's jaw on the floor. Other highlights include a jazz set, featuring Sonny Rollin's "Oleo" and Chick Corea's "Spain." He ended his 1 1/2 hour performance with the soundtrack to Pirates of the Carribean.
Thanks to Chris Dealerman, owner of The Drum Shop and his entire staff for an incredible job. Also, thanks to Mark Maulucci (Yamaha) and Mike Gross (Zildjian Rep) for all of their hard work. We couldn't have done this without their help! Next stop - New Orleans, LA...
Aaron Jackson - Artist Relations Liaison and Events Coordinator