Touring is tough. And the ordeal of modern flying has upped the headache factor. But Mark Guiliana has learned to deal: He’s traveling ultra-light and loving it.
The Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet is touring the U.S. and Europe in support of its latest disc, Jersey (Motéma). Following the group’s previous release, Family First, the innovative drummer further explores an adventurous acoustic setting, while highlighting the rhythmic explorations that have made him a future-leaning groove messenger.
“I bring a cymbal bag with two 21″ Sabian rides, both with rivets,” Guiliana says. “I was at the factory a few years ago, and we collaborated on some beautiful prototypes. I also have a pair of 14″ hi-hats. I squeeze the cymbals into a 20″ MONO cymbal bag. I found that having that 20″ bag—although it’s just a little smaller—really does make a difference with airlines; it’s a lot less intimidating for airline employees. And it fits in the overhead on the majority of planes. In that bag, I throw in two or three pairs of Vic Firth 85A sticks and a pair of Vic Firth [Dual-Tone] 5As with mallets on the end. And that’s the gear.”
The only other equipment toted by the quartet is Jason Rigby’s saxophone. Pianist Fabian Almazan, bassist Chris Morrissey, and Guiliana use equipment provided by each venue. Though he must forgo the luxury of having his favorite drums, Guiliana transcends it all with a positive attitude: “I do love that challenge of sitting down at a kit that’s new to me—trying to get to know it and communicate my own ideas.”
When he has his druthers, Guiliana chooses Gretsch drums. On Jersey, he played a Broadkaster kit. “I’m intentionally playing on a traditional setup,” he explains. “It’s a bit of an homage to my jazz heroes. It’s your basic 18″ bass drum, 14″ snare, 12″ rack tom, 14″ floor tom, and two cymbal stands.”
One routinely packed accessory is a Reflexx practice pad. “It feels great and it’s very quiet,” Guiliana says, “allowing for hotel room practicing at any hour or a little warm-up in the greenroom before gigs.”
Guiliana cites family FaceTime sessions as the most important salve for road survival. But he also travels with simple creature comforts designed to appeal to various senses. Naturally, having cherished music handy is key.
“If I put on A Love Supreme, I’m good,” he laughs. “Coltrane and Bob Marley are two guys that will always make me feel better. Adding to that, I bring incense that I like to burn at home. And visually, just closing my eyes becomes a ‘familiar place’; it removes the distraction of all the new stimuli, and I can be anywhere. I also bring my own coffee. It’s a bit of a passion. I roast my own beans at home and travel with my grinder and portable kit.”
Despite its travails, Guiliana does enjoy traveling. “I love getting to see these incredible cities,” he says, “and I do my best to take inspiration from these places.”
And, of course, there’s always the love of playing: “I hadn’t originally intended to make two jazz quartet records in a row. But I didbecause this band has just been euphoric.”