Austin360 will be posting dispatches from Austin singer-songwriter Gina Chavez and her band as they tour through Jordan. The full band – which includes Michael Romero, Brad Johnston, Jerry Ronquillo, Kenneth Null, and Mike Meadows – will give us insights into what it’s like for an Austin band to perform, lead workshops and collaborate with local artists in Jordan.
BY KENNETH NULL
What sticks with me on every tour, and Jordan is no exception, are moments when we’re on stage creating organized noise around Gina’s songs. There’s joy, frustration and decades of practice poured into every note, snare hit, key press, and string bend before the moment is gone.
Each show is different, and there are parts from each one that stay with me like when I look over at Mike during a drum solo in the Herbie Hancock tune “Chameleon” as he treats the beat like a finite moment in time around which he wraps a polyrhythm. Or sometimes I see the look on Gina’s face after she sings the second longest note I’ve ever heard sung. She whips her head around to look at Jerry while her white Kendra Scott earrings swing around. She acts like she sings that every day (which she has this tour).
MORE TOUR DIARY ENTRIES: Gina Chavez Middle East Tour Diary
I’ll look over at Brad on the eighth bar of the intro to “Like An Animal” to signal that we’re both coming in on beat one of bar nine. I’ll catch Jerry hit his best biceps pose during “Siete-D” as he yells “Oh!” and lays into his congas. I’ll listen to Michael pour his heart into a trumpet solo and the different phrases he wraps around the chord progression. I’ll feel the bass through the subs when we hit the second half of the bridge of “Gotta Get.” All of those goose bump-inducing moments stay with me long after the show.
In Jordan, seeing the joy on the faces of children when Michael, Brad, and Jerry walked around and let them play trumpet, accordion, and agogo was the part that made me cry. The kids’ faces lit up as I took pictures with the U.S. Embassy’s Canon 6D with a 20mm f1.4 lens not only for the joy of capturing the moment, but mainly to keep my eyes dry. Seeing the kids at the Al Hussein Society for People with Disabilities almost abandon their assistants in joy will always stay with me.
I heard and saw how classical musicians at the King Hussein Foundation’s National Music Conservatory, who are trained to maintain a certain posture so as not to distract from the music they play, loosen up just a little. They physically internalized the differences in a straight beat and a swung beat and took on a new sonic voice. Brad, Mike, and I lay a foundation for them to start gaining this freedom. Hearing normally conservative Jordanians scream lyrics back at us so loudly that I couldn’t hear my band mates are moments that will always bring a tear to my eyes.
The part that hits me the hardest every day, though, is that I have an amazing wife who said ‘Yes.’ Yes to marrying me five years ago, and yes to me going on this tour. I love you, Liz. It is an honor to be on this adventure with these spectacularly giving people in this amazing country full of beauty and struggle.