Travellin’ Light

Lafayette Gilchrist
Answers 20 Questions About Life on the Road

Lafayette Gilchrist                                                                                           Courtesy of Lafayette Gilchrist

Baltimore-based pianist, composer and bandleader Lafayette Gilchrist initially gained notice for his membership in David Murray’s Black Saint Quartet and a series of albums for the Hyena label, including the 2005 future classic, Towards The Shining Path, recently featured on BBC 3’s Jazz on 3, and the 2008 solo album, Soul Progressin’. The latter exemplifies Gilchrist’s stylistic range – within seconds, Gilchrist veers across terrain first mapped out by such disparate pianists as Speckled Red and Andrew Hill, with whom Gilchrist studied. In addition to his octet, The New Volcanoes, a band equally inspired by go-go, hard funk and progressive hip-hop, Gilchrist also leads the acclaimed trio Inside Out with Michael Formanek and Eric Kennedy. Recently, Gilchrist has developed collaborations with Hamid Drake, Louis Moholo-Moholo and William Parker, among others. Upcoming projects include a July performance with Inside Out and guests Sabir Mateen and Steve Swell at University of the Streets in New York. Gilchrist will tour the UK and Europe this fall, giving solo concerts and initiating collaborations with local musicians. For more information about Lafayette Gilchrist, visit:

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What is the most difficult airline to deal with in terms of instruments and equipment?

Luckily I don’t carry nothing more than a bag. But seeing other guys go through the hassle when I have been on a group tour I would say Continental and US Airways.

Which airline has the worst economy seating and food?

Same as above.

Which airport is craziest for making connecting flights?

London Heathrow and Chicago O'Hare.

What is the most important thing you ever forgot to pack?

Nothing important, but I left a nice hat behind once.

What is your worst lost baggage story?

Air France flying out of DC into Hungary. They rerouted me and I kept asking about my bag while I was still in the US because it had been checked on a different flight. I told the desk attendant that I knew my bag would not arrive; I wanted to take a bet with him. My stuff did not arrive in Hungary for 4 days (I was only staying for 5) I was on my way to a gig on the Transylvanian border so you can imagine how that turned out!

What country hassles musicians the most at customs and passport checks?

The UK and US.

Which city has the worst cab drivers?

Baltimore!  Los Angeles.

What is the best hotel that a presenter has provided for you?

Hong Kong. I cannot remember the name but it had superb views of the harbor and was just way more luxurious than any other hotels I've been in.

Do you travel with a laptop or a PDA? If so, how many times a day do you check your e-mail?

No, and my phone doesn’t get anything including calls from US. It is a crappy old thing but I will probably join this century soon.

Do you listen to music on the road? If so, what device do you use? 

No, there is enough going on in my head.

Do you do your own laundry on the road?

I am a master of the sink/shower wash/dry combination.

What is your most nightmarish sound check to date?

Finland. Waiting for the headline act to wrap up a 2 plus hour soundcheck. Their concert was pretty bad but it was definitely not the engineers fault!

What is the scariest food that has been laid out for you backstage?

Food does not scare me.

What are your three favorite venues?

Bimhaus in Amsterdam, Porgy & Bess in Vienna, Brecon Jazz Festival in Wales (got to hang with McCoy Tyner) and always had a great time in the midst of beautiful countryside. And The WindUpSpace at home in Baltimore. Also I remember playing this amazing castle somewhere in Southern France which was the ultimate gig and hang but can’t remember the name.

Which cities have the best restaurants for late after-gig meals?

Rome and Indian food in London.

Which cities have the best after-hours sessions?

Chicago was great. Also, Paris. A young drummer whose name escapes me runs these late sessions that are always great fun.

What is the best city that closes down too early?

Everywhere closes too early for me. But if I have to name a big city it would be London.

What is the best locale to have a day off?

Vienna and Budapest.

What is your cure for jet lag?

Don’t sleep; it’s overrated.

What is your best tip for the novice?

Be flexible and stay calm.

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