Monday, December 29, 2008

RIP Freddie

Many of us will know that Freddie has not been well lately.   Today, I received the very sad news that he passed this morning.  Here is Downbeat's obit.

Freddie has always been an inspiration to me - some of the most swinging' eighth notes ever!!

I heard him live a couple of times, both in the 80's.  He was one of the first trumpet players I REALLY LISTENED to.

In tribute, enjoy this clip of Freddie playing some amazing stuff...

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Favorites of 2008

Another cat I have been deep into lately is saxophonist Matt Otto.

I've been listening to 2 of his recordings:  "Red" which was recorded in 2005 but I've just been into it lately, and "La Commune" which was recorded this year and is available for FREE (donations are appreciated) at Matt's blog.  

Matt is a new discovery for me; discoveries like him are always such a blessing.  His playing is incredible melodic and lyrical without being overly sentimental and his sound is nothing short of beautiful.  He has a very organic approach to developing a line and an understated quality that has been appealing to me more and more.  His harmonic vocabulary is very interesting - he is a protege of George Garzone -  but I never feel that harmonic playing is in the forefront of his approach.  He doesn't play harmony for the sake of harmony.  Everything he plays is in the service of melody.  His rhythmic language is just as fluid and organic.  His tunes float through mixed meter effortlessly but again, all in the service of melody.  In short - I love his playing.

As evidenced by his distribution of "La Commune", he is a very giving cat.  Not only is the entire project available, he also makes lead sheets to all the tunes available as well as his thoughts and insight in each of the compositions.  We have had some email conversations and his comments and advice have really been eye-opening for my own playing.  His website has many lessons available for download.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It must be true, I read it on Facebook

Here is a link to a very good post by Lindsay Beyerstein featured today at her blog Majikthise.

She has some good thoughts on a very obnoxious and sexist photo but what she has to say about the immediacy of  Facebook is very important and needs to be kept in mind.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Great quote and great blog

I came across Saxophonist Sam Sadigursky's Blog "The One Seat" today.  In reading though I found a great Bertrand Russell quote that I hadn't thought about for a long time.  Just wanted to share:

We're never as good as we think we are on our good days, nor are we as bad as we think we are when we have a bad day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorites - 2008

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting some reflections on the recordings that have been in heavy rotation in my house this past year.  The first thing that came to mind was the second recording by The Saxophone Summit - Seraphic Light.

Liebman has been a touchstone in my life.  I remember my first experience with him very vividly.  It was at one of Jamey's camps when I was in high school, probably 1988 or so.  He was in residency for a couple of days, did some lectures, performed one evening.  I was just enamored of everything about him:  his total command of the language, his teaching style and ability everything.  I will always remember his performance of "After the Rain" at that venue One afternoon I was walking across the campus after lunch and Lieb was sitting on a bench alone (this in and of itself kind of knocked me out - here is this heavy cat, just digging the pleasant afternoon...).  I introduced myself as only an awkward 15 year old  could and he was very gracious and we had a very cool talk.  I eventually wound up studying with him at his annual Saxophone Masterclass and I still send recordings to him for comment.  

This project has been very important because it brought three of the major voices and to my ears the three "archetypical" approaches to playing saxophone, tenor specifically, in the post-Coltrane world.  Lovano, Brecker and Lieb all in one place was a dream come true for me. Lovano  is just as important to me.  I have never met him but he has one of my biggest modern day influences.  Brecker was, of course, just superlative in all ways.  When Brecker passed and Ravi stepped in, the energy of the group of course changed, but it also evolved as an ensemble.  This latest recording has probably been my most-listened-to recording of the year.

Here is a nice You Tube clip of the group from the summer.  Really nice statements from Lovano and Ravi.  Lieb, unfortunately gets cut off.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


As I wait for my bread dough to finish rising, I thought I'd follow suit with some others in the blogosphere and share some things that I am thankful for this year:

My wonderful family.
S is finishing up a very demanding degree program (she graduates in a couple of weeks) and there has not been a time that I haven't been amazed at her focus, insight, determination and courage at this massive undertaking.  Joey breaks every stereotype of a 13 year old that there is.  My parents are in good health and happy, my brother is home safe after a long trip to a not so safe place and my sister is very happy.  I also have, simply put, the best in-laws ever.  I truly love my father, mother and sisters-in law.    

Friends - old, new and reconnected.
I feel very luck to have a group of friends, colleagues, and fellow artistic strivers that make both my personal artistic journey so much more rewarding.  I also have reconnected with so many old friends through the marvel of Facebook and MySpace.  It's wonderful to have so many of you back in my life!

I am optimistic and hopeful about the next four years.  A welcome change!

I am always thankful for so much music but here are a few individual things that have brought joy to my life lately...
Maria Schneider - Sky Blue
Darcy James Argue's performance at IAJE last January
Beethoven's C# Minor String Quartet
John Coltrane's "One Up live" recording
Sonny Rollins "Night at the Village Vanguard"
Wayne Shorter - Both his 6o's stuff and his latest explorations
The Decemberists - "The Crane Wife"
Radiohead - "In Rainbows"
Jerry Bergonzi "Tenor Trilogy (Tenor Talk, The Tenorist and The Tenor of the Times)"

David Liebman
Stephen Duke
Christopher Collins
and most recently, Matt Otto
I am so grateful to have learned from you and that you continue to provide guidance and inspiration.

And finally I am grateful to have this outlet to share ideas and to you for reading and participating.

Happy Thanksgiving


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This is a great talk on listening.

I love Evelyn Glennie.  Her musicianship and virtuosity are a given, but here I am really touched my her thoughts on both the ideas of interpretation vs. translation and listening in general.

Glennie has been Profoundly Deaf since she was 12.

This is from a Buddhist blog, 21Awake, that I have just started reading.  Enjoy.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Perfect Moment

Very early, sitting.  
A perfect breakfast, in the quiet and cold.
Waiting for the Loves of my life to wake,
Observing the perfect moment that this is.

24 November
5:54 am

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Scofield Quartet c. 1992

I came across tonight.  I have always loved this tune and this quartet.  Dennis and Billy get into some deep stuff here....

Thursday, November 6, 2008

There are no words...

for both how proud I am of the Electorate and how proud I am to be a part of the Electorate.

We have spoken.  And in doing so, shown that we are both individually and collectively ready to take the next step in social and political evolution.  When I heard President-Elect Obama's victory speech.  I was very touched by the lack of ego that I heard.  The essence that I got was that this was indeed a great and historic day, but now the work for ALL OF US really begins.  I feel a sense of responsibility as a citizen that I must admit has been lacking for a good part of my adult life.

I have heard my Father talk about Kennedy.  I have heard him talk about how Kennedy made him want to help this country.  I have heard him talk about how Kennedy defined what it meant to be patriotic.

I think I may finally understand what he was talking about.   

Friday, October 31, 2008

"I hope for peace and sanity — it's the same thing." - Studs Turkel

Studs Turklel has passed.

I have read several of Turkel's books including: "Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do", "Race: What Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About The American Obsession" and "Giants of Jazz".  I have been greatly affected by both his writing and his contributions to Chicago radio.  His observations were invaluable to my beginning to understand a bit about the human condition.  I will miss hearing his voice. 

"Take it easy...but take it!"

Amen to that, Studs!

Here is a link to The Trib's story.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tenor Madness

Chris Collins at Wayne State University has put together a great program that goes through tomorrow called Tenor Madness.  Performances, Lectures etc featuring:

Chris Collins
Jerry Bergonzi
Emanuele Cisi
Francois Louis

And others.

I am no where near Detroit so for me,the best part of this whole thing is the LIVE WEBCAST!!!!

More educational institutions need to be doing things like this...
Check it out...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


These have been making the rounds.  Two videos; one very funny, one very curious.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

While you're in a mood of giving...

Many of us have had our checkbooks and credit cards flailing lately in support of whoever we're supporting in the upcoming elections.  While we have them at hand I'd like to draw your attention to another cause that could use your help.  

Darcy James Argue and his Secret Society have a very important opportunity to record a much needed collection of Darcy's original material on New Amsterdam Records.  This sure to be magnum opus will be entitled Infernal Machines  Unfortunately, such things can be prohibitively expensive for a quartet, let alone a full steampunk big band.  Darcy is making an appeal for help.  This is a great chance for all of us to support a wonderful composer and project.

About Darcy and his music;  I first became aware of Darcy through his blog.  Truth be told it was one of the primary influences for this blog.  I had heard recordings of his music there and was really inspired by his composition.  The real tipping points for me were his performances/lectures at IAJE(RIP) this past January in Toronto.  I was absolutely floored by his music.  He is in a class with Maria and the few others that are really going places with large scale jazz composition and orchestration.  You can read my initial reactions to his performance here.

Please consider helping him out.  Here are the details...

Monday, October 6, 2008

An informed Electorate...

There are very important issues for all of us to think about regarding the upcoming election. However, there are some that don't get the same press as others.  The issues shown here are certainly important to me and may be to you also.  Please make sure you register and participate in the election in November...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Know Thyself....

According to the "what breed of Liberal are you" quiz, here are my results....

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Peace Patroller, also known as an anti-war liberal or neo-hippie. You believe in putting an end to American imperial conquest, stopping wars that have already been lost, and supporting our troops by bringing them home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Birthday...

 John Coltrane

I will be listening to Trane for most of the evening, the playlist I have put together has material from all three of the big periods.  His music never ceases to inspire, everything about him is superlative.

Here is one of my favorite videos of Trane in performance.  Such beautiful intensity and dig the steam pouring off of Elvin...  

Friday, September 5, 2008

You know, the rain is gonna come...

Well it's been a busy week!

After a wonderfully relaxing vacation in Chicago/Northwest Indiana I'm back at work with two new classes.  My role this term is much more administrative (yuck) than pedagogical and I am dealing with that shift with varying degrees of success.

Going back to work, as with many musicians who teach, always brings my thoughts to priorities; where do I focus..on my art or on the teaching?  I read something that brings that question into very specific relief a few days ago.  Over at Bottomless Cup, D0nna Tr0y has written so eloquently about this dichotomy that I feel I can add nothing but kudos on articulating a very complex set of concerns.  I also must congratulate her on her very brave decision to focus on her art full time.  Read the entire piece here

I have just completed a few arrangements for various people and ensembles, but my own writing seems to always get pushed aside in favor of other projects.  If any writers out there have any wisdom to share on this point, I'd love to hear it.  I have a composition that has been sitting on my piano for several months now!  I hate to sound like I'm complaining because I am truly happy and grateful for the work, but it is a true dilemma of balance.

This past Wednesday I played a very "sustaining" gig.  I have a standing trio that I do occasional work with.  We have a "semi-steady" hit at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk VA.  This past Wednesday was especially rewarding.  The communication and energy was great and I felt myself playing in a much less self-conscious way.  Self-consciousness is something I have been dealing with in my playing a lot lately.  It seems that the more I deal with vocabulary, the more aware I am of it NOT being present at certain critical times.  Of course, upon listening back, it is often more coherent than I think but the point is that I am not as in the moment as I'd like when I'm playing.  This past Wednesday was a breath of fresh air if for no other reason than I was able to play and detach from what I played in a very quiet and calm way.  It feels nice to get back to that again.

This next week I'm presenting a recital in honor of Trane's Birthday.  We'll be performing material from all three of the big periods and I'm looking forward to exploring this material in a much deeper way over the next few months.  The challenge for me in presenting something like this goes back to the idea of self-consciousness I wrote about a bit ago.  When I'm playing standards or tunes in general, I feel that I bring a good bit of who I am to them.  When ever I approach Trane's material, the history and archetype is SO strong in my mind's ear that I begin to think about how I SHOULD be playing over these tunes instead of what the music is doing now.  As Lovano says:  "The tune is playing you"!  As I work through this recital my goal is to present the music in a way that not only highlights Trane's music but also his aesthetic of individual expression through the music.

Finally, we're waiting for Hanna to pass over.  We're expecting a tropical storm by the time it gets here...nothing too serious, I hope.  I will say this, my friend Jackie is right!  Kenny Wheeler is wonderful music to listen to while watching rain!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Checking in...

As I continue to enjoy a brief respite, please enjoy this new (for me) discovery. Great footage of Lovano and Harrell:

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Jazz Showcase & Jimmy Heath

A benefit to having family near Chicago is that on every visit, I get a good Chicago fix.

Last night I ventured in to the new Jazz Showcase to hear Jimmy and Tootie Heath and it was just beyond words. First, a few words about the venue. I have a long history with the Showcase, going back to its tenure at The Blackstone Hotel, through its location on Grand. It was the first jazz club I ever went to thanks to their very progressive and still in place All Ages policy. I have heard too many heavies there to count but some of the standouts include: James Moody, Elvin Jones, David Liebman, Ira Sullivan, Tom Harrell, Dave Holland, Joe Lovano and John Scofield. I even had the great opportunity to perform there for a week. When I was at NIU, the Jazz Ensemble had a long standing performance there the week of the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic - this is when the Showcase was at The Blackstone - and I played there with Jon Faddis doing all of Dizzy's Big Band rep. I was very happy to read that the Showcase was back in action at Dearborn Station in the South Loop.

The room is great. Not a bad seat in the house and the sound is to die for. It is still a pantheon of jazz history with pictures and playbills of "Showcases past" and enormous photos of Bird and Trane still watch over all proceedings.

Jimmy Heath was just KILLIN!!!!! If you have the chance, RUN, do not walk, stroll or otherwise prevaricate to hear him. The man is a walking Rosetta stone of the jazz language of the past 60 years. His vocabulary is deeply rooted in Bebop but he has kept pace with the rhythmic, sonic and harmonic progression since the Bebop era. He has a rich, dark sound with, to my ear, overtones of Trane and Joe Henderson but not sounding at all derivative. The harmonic language, while rooted in Bebop, was very forward thinking and always grounded in a sense of melody that can sometimes be lacking in very harmonic playing. His rhythmic interaction with Tootie was just off the map. These two were completing each other's sentences left and right. Something that comes for YEARS of playing and developing together.

The only disappointment was the size of the audience. There were probably 25-30 people in the club, and for a town like Chicago on a Friday night, I would have expected more.

Through Sunday at The Jazz Showcase
806 S. Plymouth Ct.
Chicago IL 60605

Sets at 8 & 10 on Saturday
4, 8 & 10 on Sunday

Friday, August 15, 2008

Live from beautiful Hebron IN....

I'm on vacation for the next few weeks.

It's very nice to have days where I can shed, write and ride at my leisure. Tonight I'm going into Chicago to hear Jimmy Heath at the new Jazz Showcase, expect a full report tomorrow.

Not nearly as exciting as what's happening over at Bottomless Cup...reporting from Down Under and all...

In the mean time, enjoy some Wayne here, here and here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Links

In the second edition of the occasional feature, Here is some killin' Newk!

My Top 5 Sonny Rollins Tracks:

Sonnymoon for Two - A Night at the Village Vanguard
St. Thomas - Saxophone Colossus
Without A Song - The Bridge
The Eternal Triangle - Sonny Side Up
Body and Soul - Sonny Rollins and the Big Brass


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher. " - H.H. The Dalai Lama

I've been thinking about this quote a lot over the past few days.

Most will probably have heard about the tragedy in Knoxville this past Sunday.  If not, here is a link to one of many stories covering the events.  Now, it is probably safe to say that there are incidences of gun-related violence every day, but this one hits me a bit closer to home.  I attend and am very active in my local UU Church.  I have found a home there where I am free to explore and develop a personal theology while being in a caring and supportive community that cares about many of the same issues that I do.  

Yes, it is true that I am a Liberal.  I wear the term proudly.  Most of my friends are Liberals and the Church I attend supports many Liberal causes.  I have always valued discussion and discourse with those whose viewpoints differ from my own, but the level of discourse has been steadily declining and I believe that this decline is one of the many things that contributed to this tragedy.  

Discussions decline into defensiveness.  Defensiveness declines into shouting.  Shouting declines to silence.  Silence declines to anger.  Anger declines to irrational rage.  Rage...well, we can see where that leads.

In that light, I will not use this space to bring an indictment to any of the icons that one could blame.  In fact I won't even list them; we all probably have a long list of both individuals and institutions that we feel are responsible.  Instead I will offer these words which have been serving as a mantra of sorts for me in the past few days.



After my initial shock and rush of feelings, compassion was the strongest emotion I felt. Compassion for the victims, families, community, and even for the shooter.  I can't imagine the series of events and circumstances that would lead a human being to the conclusion that this was not only a rational act, but that it was the best course of action. 

I feel compassion for the community of Knoxville.  And, of course, for the congregates of TVUU. I hope with all my heart that you will be able to feel safe again.

I also hope that as we process, grieve, and discuss this horrible tragedy that we can remember tolerance.  If we allow our discourse, discussion, thinking, speaking and action to decline to the level of irrationality, we will loose much of what we as Liberals - religious and otherwise - strive for.

Suffering, I have learned, is a fact of life.  I am angry.  I'm sure many of my friends are angry. But it is not an anger that consumes me.  I see it, acknowledge it, allow it to pass over over me, and come back to my "baseline" of compassion and tolerance.  When a being allows anger and rage to replace compassion and love, the consequences become more and more unthinkable. 

Please, keep the city of Knoxville in your thoughts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

If I knew you were coming I'd have tidied up a bit...

At 2:03 today there was a hit on this site from the US Senate Sgt. at Arms.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The date would help...

Yeah, I forgot....

Roy Muth Big Band
Thursday July 24th
8-10 pm
Enrico's in Norfolk

Once more into the swing, dear friends....

It has been a light summer with regards to gigs for me, but there is this:

Roy Muth Big Band
4012 Colley Ave.
Norfolk VA 

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday Links

In an new feature, we at "The Ear of the Mind headquarters" are passing on interesting links to video, music etc.  We'll be doing this on Sundays, allowing for more substantive writing throughout the week.

This week, some very interesting interviews with John Coltrane.  I had never heard these before.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nick Hornby, please sign in...

Inspired by this, I thought this might be fun.  

What are your top-ten tracks by a given artist?  Every so often, I'll post my 10 for whatever artist catches my fancy and I hope you'll chime in with yours.  There is no rank ordering, any track is just as good as any other...

We start at the top:

John Coltrane:

Moment's Notice (Blue Trane)
Liberia (Coltrane's Sound)
Wise One (Crescent)
Crescent (Crescent)
After The Rain (Dear Old Stockholm)
Giant Steps (Giant Steps)
I Want to Talk About You (Live at Birdland)
One Down, One Up (One Down, One Up)
Welcome (Transition)
Evidence (Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall)

This list is subject to change at any time...

Please add yours!

Monday, July 14, 2008

This one time, at band camp...

First things first:  I had every intention of blogging from Jamey-land but as far as "madness" goes IJAE had nothing on Jamey's camp!  

I first went to this workshop about 20 years ago - give or take - when I was a high school student and the experience I had this time was very different.  I got to work with David Baker very closely for the week and the man is a bona-fide National Treasure.  His depth of knowledge, sense of history, and commitment to pedagogy is like no one I have ever worked with before.  The man is a walking history, harmony, composition and improvisation textbook. It is safe to say that I had a very meaningful experience and got a huge dose of inspiration.

Some other high points for me were:

Tim Armacost...Very deep player with a refreshingly organic approach to practicing and vocabulary development.

Ralph Bowen...Some very tangible processes for development of technique and amazing harmonic language

Marty Nau...Marty wasn't a faculty member (he should be!!).  He and I were in the same combo. If there is someone in the US with a deeper knowledge and command of  Phil Woods' conception I have never heard him/her.

I was really inspired by the range of ages and abilities here.  There was no vibe at all, everyone was very open and giving with their time and knowledge.  If you have ever considered this workshop...go!  It is worth EVERY penny.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

A thought for today...

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety."
-Benjamin Franklin

Here is my favorite editorial page today...

Watch this space as I will be blogging my experiences from Jamey Aebersold's Summer Jazz Workshop beginning Sunday...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lazy Afternoon - well really lazy several weeks, but that is not nearly as poetic...

I have been criminally negligent in the care and feeding of this blog as of late.  It was brought home for me as I was having lunch with a friend and we were talking about blogs - I asked him if he reads any and he said, "well I read yours this morning...".  All I could think was:  how embarrassing - nothing for almost a month.  I have no reason.  No big project to detract me, no hordes of students yipping at my heels.  I have just been feeling very uninspired in general and nothing seemed worth writing about.  

Now, before anyone sends free samples of Zoloft, I am coming around. 

First, some horn talk...

I have been going through a period of extreme naval gazing with regards to almost every aspect of my playing.  I have been unhappy with:
1.  My sound
2. My vocabulary
3. My technical control
4. EVERYTHING about my soprano playing

Something I know about myself is that when I am going through a valley with regards to my playing, my first inclination is to step back from the horn and let the magic of not playing work out all of my kinks - I think we all know how well that works.  I was listening back to some tapes of recent gigs and while I can objectively say that some things sound good, there is a higher percentage of stuff that I am not happy with (see list above...)

Tonight I took the "first step out of hell" and did some very rudimental work.  Overtones, long tones, basic technique (scales and 9th chords).  No transcription, no tunes, no "free association improvisational etudes" but basic nuts and bolts saxophone work.  I feel that I need to focus in this area for a while - I have been so into just playing tunes gigs that some of my foundation has really suffered.  I know better than this and I can not believe I have let it get to the point that it has but this is where I am and it is time to move on.  Have any of you struggled with bouts like this?  How did you deal with it?

My writing - 

NOTHING to report here.  I have a couple of project in mind but with no firm deadline I am having a tough time coalescing ideas.  They are both big band projects:
1.  A re-constructionist approach to "Epistrophy"
2. A transcription and subsequent arrangement of "Respiration" by Ben Allison

There is some exciting news on the horizon...I'll be going to Jamey Aebersold's Jazz Workshop in a few weeks.  I am looking forward to getting a good buzz from this.  Secondly, I have been talking by email with Michael Blake and have some tentative plans for a lesson this fall.  I LOVE his playing and writing so this is a bit of a dream come true for me.

If you've stuck around and still read this blog - I thank you.  I'll try to do better...

PS - This just in...I saw this as I was linking to Ben Allison's site...Man Size Safe featured on WNYC's Soundcheck.  Listen to the audio on Ben's site...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Keep your eyes open...

This is awful.  If you ride, please be careful and if you drive, PLEASE be aware of us.  Bicycles are everywhere...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Notes from the couch...

One of the benefits of laying on the couch all day is it allows for catching up on listening/videos. Here are a couple that have made my day much brighter...

I picked up the Chick Corea DVD of the Three Quartets reunion and finally got around to watching it today.  Three Quartets was a touchstone in my development, this was to me what modern small group jazz was about; an aesthetic grounded in communication and improvisation but the perfect balance of compositional elements, transitions, sectional writing etc.  The music of Ben Allison, Michael Blake and Ted Nash appeals to me for the same reason, but Three Quartets will always hold a special place in my heart.  To see Brecker, Gadd, Corea and Gomez tearing this music up was a wonderful experience.  If any of you were lucky enough to hear this performance live, I'd love to hear about it.

Secondly is this.  I have heard about Brecker's solo concerts and I had the great experience of hearing him do a solo version of Namia in Chicago several years ago but this video is nothing short of amazing.  Never mind the technical display, but dig the motivic development Brecker displays in the first several minutes.  I miss Michael...

The "my legs feel like rubber" edition

This past weekend was the MS150 bike ride on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

I have loved bicycling for a long time and I made it a goal to complete this ride this year.  Here are the details:

150.69 miles (over two days, roughly 75 miles each day)
Average Speed: 15.2 MPH
Max Speed: 24.2 (hills and pacelines can be fun)
Calories burnt: 4329.3
Total time in the saddle: 9hrs52min
Number of sunburnt extremities: 5 (arms, legs, neck)

I had a wonderful time and I am now addicted to distance bicycling.  I have tried to get into distance running (I've done a couple of half marathons) but nothing comes close to this.  Let me be clear; I am very sore in various places including my legs, but I don't feel a fraction of the "beat-upness" I have felt even after my best runs.  It was not all without event, however...

The first day we went out feeling great and at about the 6th mile I heard a familiar and stomach turning sound:  (SPHINGGGGG).   A spoke broke on my back wheel.  Luckily, the SAG support on MS rides is top shelf.  Within 5 minutes I had a truck and mechanic with me wrenching on my back wheel.  We couldn't replace the spoke (it was on the cassette side and would have required some major surgery) so this "field medic" mechanic tweaked the tension on my remaining spokes (causing another one to pop) enough to get the wheel true - it would spin - but not perfectly round.  Imagine riding over a speed bump with every wheel revolution.  This guy was a godsend - I would have been REALLY DARK on the prospect of having to SAG in after 6 miles.  His work got me to mile 58 or so when...SPHINGGGGG!  Another one!!! %$^*&%$#^^%$#@#^&*(&^%$!!!!!  Luckily I was about a mile from a rest stop so when the SAG truck showed up, I tossed my bike in the back and rode up to the next stop where Bike Beat had a bike M*A*S*H unit set up.  Roger the mechanic replaced all three spokes and got me set up enough to finish the ride - into a 20mph headwind.  If that weren't service enough, he had me come by at the camp so he could do some MAJOR surgery on my wheel, ensuring a smooth ride back on day two.  He did a great job as I had no mechanical problems on day two.

Day two was uneventful but for some beautiful scenery, one giant turtle and soreness.

A great time all around!!!

Another voice silenced

Bo Diddley has left town.

DJA has a nice video up at his blog.  I'll echo his thoughts about Bo's sense of time.  I defy you not to move when you hear him play!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gone Camping Edition

The family and I are leaving within the hour for the mountains to camp for the rest of the weekend. 

I wanted to quickly acknowledge Darcy's post on Bob Florence's passing, he includes a wonderful story from Ingrid Jensen.  I play in a big band where his charts constitute a bulk of the book and they are always a joy to play.  His writing was a big factor in my decision to pursue arranging as part of my aesthetic.

Also, not sure of the street date of this but The Saxophone Summit has a new recording on the way.  Here is a bit from Bret Primack's video page.  Some wonderful words about Brecker here.  Lieb sums it up well with his comments.  Thanks to David Valdez for hipping me to this...

Enjoy the weekend....

Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Birthday...

To Adrienne Rich.  

I love her poetry, here is a link to one of my favorites.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How 'bout a big hand now...

This is KILLER!  48 glorious minutes of Art Blakey and the Messengers circa 1961.

Thanks to Russ Neff at My Favorite Things for posting it.

Most of my posts of late have been links to other sites like this.  I do apologize and I will have some substantive writing very soon...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chuck says it all!!!!

Things have lightened up for me a good bit.

We graduated two classes yesterday and my teaching load has dropped considerably.  Now that things are a bit lighter, I can focus on some projects I have put on the back burner, most importantly, my transcribing.  I have spoken before about how I feel about transcribing as a pedagogical tool and those feelings were reinforced today upon reading this.  What a great article!!

Thanks to Revd. Andrew for posting the link...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Busy Sunday

The past 72 hours have seen some extraordinary activity in the world of Jazz Education.

First, was this.  This letter was posted on IAJE's website as well as delivered to the membership.  Upon reading this I checked my Vienna and sure enough, the blogosphere was abuzz.  Here are some of the more informative posts:

A new blog for me, The Independent Ear, has several posts.  Here is one of the most telling.

I am deeply saddened by the news that IAJE as we know it no longer exists.  I have been to three conferences in my my life and they were very positive experiences for me.  I was able to to get enough of a "Buzz" to keep my energy and enthusiasm up for most of the rest of the year. I must, however, agree with some of the voices that have characterized the experience as too commercial.  There is (or I should say, was) quite a consumer culture around the conference - all the newest books, horns, records etc.  But, again, let me emphasize, the experiences were overwhelmingly positive for me.  I will miss that experience.  Some of the highlights of the past three years have been:  Maria Schneider, Kenny Werner's Trio, David Liebman (in a variaty of ensembles), John Holenbeck, Jerry Bergonzi, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, One for All, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society North, Nordic Connect, and countless clinics and other performances.  Here are some links to my posts from Toronto.

In other news:  My trio piece was premiered today.  An amazing, sensitive and giving performance by the "Diversions Trio".  Pictures will be posted here soon and a recording will be posted on MySpace as soon as it is mixed.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Sound

Here is a great video of Stan Getz with The Boston Pops.  Thanks to Bev Getz for posting it at her MySpace (you're awesome, Bev!!)

Stan has always been, for me, THE example of playing with a sense of inevitability.  I'll always remember where I was when I heard he passed - driving home from my girlfriend's (now wife) house.  I was listening to WBEZ and I think it was Dick Buckley who made the announcement.  I was 18 years old and I wept like a baby - I had always wanted to hear him live and never had the chance.

Billy's arrangement is nothing to sneeze at either...


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Daniel Melnick's Soundslope

Soundslope is a great jazz and creative music blog that I read fairly religiously.  Dan keeps his finger firmly on the pulse of the Chicago Creative Scene and offers wonderful insights in the bigger world of music as well.  

I was reading today's post and it really resonated with me.  It was a short excerpt from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review (another periodical I often read...).  Here it is in full:

The artist's dilemma and the meditator's are, in a deep sense, equivalent. Both are repeatedly willing to confront an unknown and to risk a response that they cannot predict or control. Both are disciplined in skills that allow them to remain focused on their task and to express their response in a way that will illuminate the dilemma they share with others. And both are liable to similar outcomes. The artist's work is prone to be derivative, a variation on the style of a great master or established school. The meditator's response might tend to be dogmatic, a variation on the words of a hallowed tradition or revered teacher. There is nothing wrong with such responses. But we recognize their secondary nature, their failure to reach the peaks of primary imaginative creation. Great Art and Great Dharma both give rise to something that has never quite been imagined before. Artist and meditator alike ultimately aspire to an original act.

--Stephen Batchelor, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. IV, #2

I like this passage for a lot of reasons.  I have often likened practice to a meditation, in fact Matt Otto has some great thoughts about that here.  But I especially like the parallels that can be drawn between the faith required to sit every day and the faith required to go to the horn every day.  Neither discipline has much to offer in the immediate gratification department.  At this point in my life I don't hit plateaus in such a way that I have big breakthroughs after each practice session and I certainly don't feel any more enlightened after chanting (I currently practice Nichiren Buddhism)for 15 minutes (although I do feel more relaxed and centered) but yet I keep going back.  I have faith that the act will manifest positive results over time.  

Another parallel I like is that both disciplines place you squarely in the present tense.  Bergonzi says playing jazz makes you addicted to the moment.  This is so true for me.  The more I do it the more I stay in the moment - this goes for both music and meditation.    

I am thankful that Dan posted this today.  It was a beautiful gem of wisdom.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Kelly Bucheger's "Daily Grind"

Greetings all...
Apologies for the dearth of posts as of late.  I have two classes going into finals and they have been taking up a good bit of my thinking as of late.  I did want to share this.  Kelly is a sax player who I met several years ago at IAJE.  A great cat, great player, wonderful writer and one of the most light filled beings I have ever met.  Any time we hang I feel very energized after.  His site is chock full of good stuff but I especially like his approach to warming up and working technique. Very methodical and complete.  I have been using it in my "horn hour" and the results have been wonderful.  Nothing earth-shattering but very effective, efficient and worth checking out.

In other news, my woodwind piece: Largo, Fugue and Improvisation is set for premiere on April 20th.  Watch this space for sounds soon.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Go West ( and a bit North... where the hell are we?)

I mentioned in an earlier post that my brother is now safe at home after a very extended deployment overseas (not in a good place).  A couple of weeks ago we got to spend some great time together as a family issue came up in the City with Big Shoulders that we both had to attend to.  He lives in Fayetteville NC and I in Virginia Beach so we met in Emporia and made the drive together.  There is no better way to connect or reconnect with someone than to get in a car together for 2o hours.  In short we had a blast.  We talked about everything.  The war, politics, the elections, his girls, my son, Buddhism, bicycling, baseball, running, not running, Elvin Jones's time feel, How our relationship with music differs and is similar...that just about got us to Richmond.   :)

The circumstances under which we made the drive were not the best but it was a gift to be able to spend so much time with him.

I hadn't realized just how much I missed him.  My family is very quiet.  We don't call each other on Sunday afternoons and an email every month is really a lot of talking.  It may be months between conversations, but they always pick up in the same spot they left off.  As we drove and talked, I thought that most families probably have their own dialect.  A version of English that anyone could hear and understand, but not get the subtext of.  Ours revolves around movies.  For example, I was driving and looking at his GPS.  He saw me and just muttered one word..."lost".  I was worthless with laughter for several minutes because I knew he was quoting a scene form the old John Landis film "1941".  There are probably only three people in the world who could witness that exchange and understand the meaning.  

Here is a list of some of the things that our discussions made me remember:

I love to be outside.  
I miss camping.
Will can always win. 
It is possible to be objective and admit what I do well.
Family is paramount.
There are never enough books.
It is possible to disagree pleasantly.
Ars Longa.
Education is not something that a school gives you.
Focus on what you can do for change and do it, regardless of the seeming futility.
Tony Williams really was THAT BAD!
The difference between job, career, and vocation.
Speak your truth, even if amounts to casting pearls before swine.
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a camera.

It was a really nice drive.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Man With The Time

By now, most will know that Denis Irwin left town on March 10th.  Read here and here for some wonderful remembrances.  I was deeply ensconced with some familial issues during that time frame so I heard the news late and am just now adding my thoughts.

I remember in 1992/93 a friend of mine busting into my room at NIU with the new Scofield Quartet CD "What We Do".  I had been following Sco's group out of my love for all things Lovano and was itching to hear the new side.  By the time we got to track 8 (Why Nogales) I was hooked on this record.  "Why Nogales" features some incredible bass work by Dennis that made me an Irwin fan from then on.  As with most things, after I became aware of Dennis, he started popping up on records (or, more to the point, I began noticing him on records) all over the place.  

His issues of late have been well documented.  I came across this wonderful video tribute that Bret Primack put together before Dennis passed.  Anyone who knows that much Lord Buckley deserves a special place in history!

It goes without saying that he'll be missed.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Rob Wilkerson and Sage Advice

Rob gave a very nice clinic where I teach today.

I have heard his name around for the past year or so but I had never heard him play, other than on MySpace.  Happy to say I was not disappointed; great sound, deep harmonic sense and a time feel to die for.  He gave our students a great class and when he fielded questions, I got some insight into one of my own weaknesses.  I asked him if he could share any strategies for becoming fluid in odd meters.  This is something I really have a problem with and I know with the circles he runs in he has had some experience with this.  His explanation hit home with me.  He said basically he had a breakthrough in his comfort level with odd meters when he got his playing in three together.  My jaw dropped a bit because upon reflection, my three is not together.  Whenever I do a tune in three my playing feels very stilted and tight.  I really should focus on three and see if it helps me deal with meters.  I have to say that I am encouraged that he could isolate something as "simple" as "get your three together" and that it resonated so deeply with me.

There is never a "magic key".

I just finished writing a waltz to use as a tool to work on this...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Next Level

When I attended Lieb's masterclass several years ago transcription was a big topic.  It has come to be a huge part of both my own study and my teaching.  Lieb has several tapes of cats playing transcriptions along with the original recording where the transcriber is dead on with the tape.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I don't know if it is because of my liberal leanings or my upbringing, but I am afflicted with a chronic case of volunteerism.  I often end up taking on things that I, upon reflection, wish I hadn't.

This is not the case today.

On Sunday I worked the overnight shift at a homeless shelter sponsored by the church that my family and I go to.  We had 38 guests and while there were a few folks that fit the stereotype of "homeless person", I was humbled to be reminded of how many of these folks are just like all of us but for having a spot of bad luck that spiraled out of control.  I was certainly very thankful that I could help these folks out with a place to sleep and a meal, but it got me thinking about how close any of us are to this situation.  I know that all it would take for me is a couple of missed paychecks before I would have to make some SERIOUS choices about what I could do without.  As some of the current news in the jazz world reminds us, artists are generally not looked at as a necessity and the economic reality is that many who slave over craft and make huge art live hand to mouth.  I am lucky and thankful everyday to have a day job that both takes care of me and my family very well and is often very personally and professionally satisfying.  I will admit to having taken that for granted as I look around my living room and see the very high stacks of books, records, and CDs that we have amassed.  

Working the shelter was a wonderful, humbling experience that has made me more mindful of both how incredibly lucky I am and how things are so impermanent. 

This is one of my favorite Buddhist passages:

Just like a dream experience,
Whatever things I enjoy
Will become a memory.
Whatever has passed will not be seen again.

I didn't sleep much Sunday night, not because of the work or the discomfort of being away from my own bed, but because I sat in awe of how much courage, compassion, warmth, and love I felt at this shelter from both the volunteers and the guests.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I may now exhale...

I mentioned earlier that I was preoccupied for a while.  My brother has been on a deployment for 15 months (he is an Army Musician - fine drummer) and was due to return this week.  I just spent almost an hour talking with him on the phone - he is home safe and sound.

Please enjoy this very uplifting music in celebration...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tough News

I am a bit late to be adding my thoughts to this, but I have been doing a fair amount of navel gazing lately and have been preoccupied with some other stuff, more on that later.

By now most will have heard about the terrible news in the  jazz community.  Both Dennis Irwin and Andrew D'Angelo are fighting cancer.  I have loved their music for a long time.  I have seen Dennis many times with Scofield and Lovano and while I have never heard Andrew live, Human Feel was a very important band in my listening during the early 90s.

The real drag of all of this is that neither of these cats have health insurance.  There has been a tremendous outpouring of both opinions and support in the past few days.  Of note:  Nate Chinen's NYT article, Darcy's posts (16-23 Feb), and Andrew's own blog.  I really don't know what I can add beyond what Nate and Darcy and Andrew have written other than in the 21st century, with as many leaps into greatness that this society has made socially, technologically, and medically, it is OBSCENE that a human being has to filter such a complex amalgamation of emotions through the filter of "how am I going to PAY for this?" 

Help Andrew if you can...  I am going to organize a benefit with some of the cats down here.  I'm sure it won't be much, but it will be this space for details.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Truly worth 1,000 words

I am an occasional sub in a GREAT R&B band called the Rhythm Kings.  Pretty typical horn band fare with the perks of a great book, great charts and always a great hang.  I did a gig with them this past Saturday.  The hit was great, but as we drove up to the place, here is what we saw (pardon the low-res, this was taken with my phone):

The venue was as you might imagine. was a fun gig and always good to hang with those cats.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Howard Johnson with Gil

This is some bad footage!!!

Very hip version of Friday the 13th...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I feel sick

There has been a shooting on the campus of Northern Illinois University.

I attended NIU from 1990-1994 and can still remember having classes in Cole Hall.

15-17 wounded at last report.

Please keep NIU, the students and Faculty in your thoughts tonight.

I'll have more to say when I don't feel so queasy...

Monday, February 11, 2008

So, I was looking through my news feeds...

I didn't watch the Grammys.

Pat Donaher has some interesting thoughts on the whole thing and lately, I have been pretty ambivalent about the awards.  Don't blink or you'll miss the whole of the jazz, classical, and spoken word awards.  I also have increasing problems with the word "Best".  I say this out of total ignorance but really, what is the criteria that one can use to make an intelligent decision about whether Brecker of Lovano had the "better" or "Best" solo.  No disrespect to Michael's record or memory.  Pilgrimage is an amazing project with wonderfully artistic playing from all involved, but Kids is no less beautiful.  Thankfully, most people I know that share my love for this music don't buy into this type of rank-ordering.  But I digress...

Herbie won Album of the Year.  I really like the Joni project and I am truly happy that Herbie got this award.  It is deserved several times over as Herbie has always followed his own aesthetic without fear.  I have to admit though, I have mixed feelings.  I am thrilled that Herbie and this project has gotten the recognition it deserves.  But I can't help feeling like...well I don't know.  I think the closest feeling I can relate it to is the awkward silence that follows small talk in a group of people that have nothing in common.  

I guess I have a problem with award shows.  I know what I think the best recordings, movies, plays, etc were this past year, but that list applies only to me.  I think the general population might have a better aesthetic sense if they were to develop their own lists that aren't based on an award show or ad campaign.

Congrats Herbie!!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I can relate...can you?

I came across this great story that I'm sure anyone who does copy work will relate to.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Saxophone Summit on You Tube

There have been a few of these videos floating around, but this one really kills!  I'm looking forward to the new recording...

And Another Thing....

Just came across this in my Vienna inbox.  A great Chicago-centric Blog called Gaper's Block has reviews of some new releases from the Chicago jazz scene.


Whither Improvisation?

I mentioned in a previous post that I was wondering when exactly improvisation ceased being a common skill in music.

In days of yore, the ability to realize figured bass was a common skill among keyboard players. Today, it is only a specialist that can do this spontaneously.  I will often draw the comparisons between a harpsichordist realizing a continuo part to what a piano player in a quartet is doing behind a soloist.  This always seems to make things clearer for students who aren't versed in the performance practices of modern jazz but to me it begs the question "why does improvisation have to either belong to jazz today or baroque then?"  Of course this is a big generalization and exceptions abound, but how many everyday students of music have improvisation as a part of their daily experience?  I am so encouraged in speaking to many music educators today who are:

a.  Not afraid of improvisation, themselves.
b.  Making improvisation something that all of their students can experience.

My son is a cello player and his experience in his school orchestra is typical of of most music education programs.  A VERY GOOD experience, but very traditionally based.  He is lucky that his private instructor (and his dad, too...) encourages improvisation and composition based on some of the things he is studying (scales, arpeggios etc...).  I have noticed that the material he improvises on becomes much more internalized than material that he just reads.  Of course, for many of us, this is no news at all but when I see how much more fun he has while improvising I can't imagine why it is not a part of all music curriculums.

I know I am being very naive and I further know and utterly respect the tireless work of elementary and secondary music educators.  I give thanks every day that people like Dan Pritchett (my old high school band director) continue to do what they do everyday.  I very humbly pose these questions to any music educator who may be reading:

1.  How can we integrate improvisation into the mainstream of music education for all musicians in all styles?  
2.  How can those of us not directly involved in middle/high school music education help?
3.  Not a question, but:  Thank you for everything you do to bring music to the future... 

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Turtle Island Quartet with Stefon Harris

Heard a great hit tonight:  The Turtle Island Quartet with Stefon Harris.

I have always liked TIQ because of the sensibility that they approach music with.  They play in the moment, improvise and maintain a jazz aesthetic in everything they play.  From their bio:

"At the time of Haydn's apocryphal creation of the string quartet form, musicians were more akin to today's saxophonists and keyboard masters of the jazz and pop world, i.e., improvisers, composers and arrangers.  Each Turtle Island member is accomplished in these areas..."

I have often wondered exactly how it was that improvisation stopped being a common skill, but that is a topic for another post.  

The centerpieces of tonight's performance were several pieces from Duke's Sacred Concerts arranged and set into a suite by violinist David Balakrishnan.  The suite was composed of:  It's Freedom, Praise God, and Come Sunday.  The setting was transcendent and Stefon's vibe playing was the perfect color to offset the strings.  Other than Stefon's playing, other highlights included 'cellist Mark Summer's channeling of Mahalia on the theme of Come Sunday and Stefon's reading of a portion of the text from a eulogy that Duke gave for Strays over the setting of It's Freedom.  It was no surprise that Duke's Sacred music translated  very well to the string texture, but I was very pleasantly surprised at the concert's closer, an arrangement of Chick Corea's Senor Mouse on which everyone stretched.  Stefon, of course, was bad.  Other great moments were Mark Summer's pizz work and Mads Tolling's solo work.

Here is a portion of the text that Stefon read.  "He demanded freedom of expression and lived in what we consider the most important and moral of freedoms:  freedom from hate, unconditionally; freedom from self-pity; freedom from fear of possibly doing something that might help another more than it might himself; and freedom from the kind of pride that could make a man feel he was better than his brother".

Monday, January 28, 2008

It Is Accomplished

The Woodwind piece is done...

I just finished printing score and parts, it will be delivered tomorrow and the coaching will start in 2-3 weeks.

It settled into a three movement structure:
I Largo
II Fugue
III Improvisation

The largo and improvisation are based on a 12-tone row and the fugue is based on a theme based on an intervalic structure of up a whole step, up a minor third, down a half step and up a major third.

The premiere is in April and sounds will be posted on MySpace as soon as they become available.  Watch this space for some more substantive writing now that the project is done but now...I'm going to have a drink.

This is a happy night!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

News from Home

I read a very nice review of the Jazz Institute of Chicago's Jazz Fair over at Howard Mandel's blog, Jazz Beyond Jazz.
As a frequent attendee of the Jazz Fair before I left town (kicking and screaming) I must second everything Howard writes about.  The scene is Chicago is wonderfully open to various flavors of jazz.  At the Green Mill in one week, one could hear the likes of Kurt Elling, Ken Vandermark, Von Freeman, and a performance of Kathy Kelly and the wonderful Chicago Jazz Composer's Collective.  All of which would be enthusiastically received.  
The Chicago Jazz Festival was a staple in my growing up.  I remember sitting transfixed hearing Dexter Gordon and the "Round Midnight Band" on a warm night with the most beautiful skyline in the world behind him.  Yes, I am biased...

Will remove upon request

I heard a "This American Life" episode once that dealt with a Chicago native being show around NYC for the first time and saying something along the lines of "yeah, it's great but it's no Chicago".  I think I will always feel this way about my beloved Chi-town.

The Hawk may be out, but I know the warmth that is always there...

I miss that scene - Jim Gailloreto, Brad Wheeler, Von-skis, Mitch Paliga, Eric Schneider, Ari Brown, Ken Vandermark are just a few of the saxophonists/composers that I include in my pantheon of influences.

Enough sentiment - I have writing to do.  The woodwind piece is due on Tuesday and score and parts must be edited.  I'm still not sure about the fugue either....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bad News

Found this sitting in my Vienna inbox upon return from the gig tonight.

From Do The Math...

I haven't been able to find any details other than a mention of the benefit on the Small's website.

Sending positive vibes...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Tune

I have posted a rough cut of the blues I spoke about the other day.  It's on my MySpace page.  A bit too wet in the 'verb department, but over all not bad...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Time, once again, to make the jazz...

January 24th 8:00-10:00pm
The Roy Muth Big Band
4012 Colley Ave. in Norfolk
Reservations are suggested

January 26th 7:00-10:00pm
Dudzienski/Brydge Duo (Gregory Dudzienski - Saxophones & Chris Brydge - Bass)
11820 Merchant's Walk in Newport News

Hope to see you there, we want to play for you...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Got Greedy

I had a few minutes between classes and and hearing chart proposals this afternoon so I sat down at the piano...

A very nice motive appeared, I was able to develop it into a nice blues without really trying - it wrote itself, so to speak.  I called it "Got A Second?" in honor of my students and what is very often their greeting to me (note to any who are reading this: I don't's OK).  The fact that it came so easily caused me to say - "I'm going to do some more tune writing tonight".

SLAM went the door to my muse's house.  I have just emerged from my studio where after 2 hours of rambling on my horn and piano I have exactly ONE 4 bar idea.  The long and short of it is I was trying, and we all know how well that works.  Sometimes I have no idea how I can work on deadline.  

The good news is I have a good blues (you can never have too many of those), the Woodwind piece is all but finished, and I have a 4 bar germ to work with.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Big Snow...

Since Friday, the local news has been warning us about the "winter weather" coming this weekend.  Here is the result...

In costal Virginia, we take what we can get...

I do miss snow.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I'm Very Excited

Living where I do (Southeast Virginia), news sometimes takes awhile to filter down, especially compared to where I come from (in and around Chicago).  But...Ben Allison has a new record coming out in a couple of days!!!!  Ben had a nice feature this evening on NPR and that's how I heard about it.  

I really admire Ben as a musician.  His bass playing is second to none, but I especially respect his compositions and the aesthetic he brings to small group writing.  I first laid my ears on Buzz in 2004 it made a big impact on me.  I an almost embarrassed to say that up until that point, most of my small group listening had fallen into conventional paradigms - horn w/rhythm section.  There were exceptions but not enough to keep me from being very taken with Ben's compositional approach, orchestrational choices, and especially use of texture.  Prepared Piano!!!!

I still remember my first listen to Buzz.  The first track is called Respiration (also on his new record).  The texture of the the Wurlitzer, the counterpoint between the two tenors and bone were all very refreshing, and when "time" finally was NOT what I expected (Buzz, too.). His work with the Jazz Composer's Collective (1992-2005) was inspiring both musically and as an example of "making a scene"as well.

The street date is January 22nd.  

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Back to life...back to....


The woodwind piece is due in a few weeks.  Three movements are done and Monday will be dedicated to the fourth.  The trio that is premiering it leaves on a tour at the end of January. They will work on the piece while they are out (I'm not sure how, but I didn't ask), come back for a few coachings with me and premiere it in early April.  I am really excited about this, it is my first venture into chamber music and I am really enjoying the textures and colors I am discovering.   I have come up with a long list of projects to dive into upon completion of the WW piece, no mind atrophy for me!!!

I also have a trio (sax, bass, drums/perc) hit of original stuff coming up that I need to get things together for.  My trio rep has been about 20% original and 80% other people's writing. I'd like to get that ratio flipped within the next few months.  

I'm not sure if Blogger will allow it, but I am going to try to get audio of the WW piece and some other stuff up here as it becomes available.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thoughts on "Good Enough"

Darcy wrote a really nice recap of his IAJE experience, you can read the whole thing here, but there is one section that really stood out for me:

"The jazz tradition isn't about elements of style or a particular harmonic or rhythmic vocabulary, and it's not about some bullshit notion of "progress" in music, either, where "progress" = "increasing density" -- it's about having the fortitude to get out there and make a heartfelt personal statement that only you can make.  You want to honor the legacy of Bird or Miles or Trane or Mingus -- honor their searching, individualist spirit.  Study the past but make YOUR OWN music." [emphasis mine]
-Well spoken sir!

For a long time I put off making my own music.  At first, I felt it was more important to study the masters at the expense of all else.  I still feel this is a valid way to STUDY music, but not to be an active participant in the music.  I put off bringing my tunes/charts etc around to gigs and I would never program a whole set, let alone, a concert of my music.  My reasons for this were "it's not good enough".  I think I used to equate (and I still can if I'm not careful) "good enough" with "sounding like X".  I have come to terms with the fact that I will never sound like Trane/Wayne/Newk/Joe/Bergonzi/Lieb etc, but I can, will, and do sound like me.  As DJA says above, only I can do that.  

There was an interesting discussion going on in the comments section of my post "You're Doing it Wrong".  My Sister-in-Law, who is an author and has thoughts about this same type of thing, had a lot to say about the idea of "good enough".  Here is an excerpt:

 "Well I think getting to the point where I can say it is okay to be "good enough" - putting that enough on the end really helps.  But I think what helps me to get to that "good enough" point are two things - reading other writers and how they write - learning that there is no "right way" to do it - and reading many, many books and being able to see that I write as well as or better than a lot of authors who have already been published.  Although being able to see that means ignoring the emotional part of me that says how - horrible, stupid, idiotic, etc... - my writing is and getting to the more objective part that can assess those kinds of things."

What I am coming to realize is that waiting until it is good enough is important, but being objective about that point is MORE important.  It can be a double-edged sword as "good enough" can give one license to move on from or abandon the work before it is ready while "not good enough" can become a cop-out, shield to hide behind, and ultimately the sand that we bury our artistic heads in.

If we as artists put our minds into a quiet objective place, chances are we'll see that much of our work IS "good enough" and deserves to be put out there.  

As one final word about The Madness, I'll say that the most inspiring thing for me was hearing and seeing so many artists that, I'd guess have or continue to struggle with, this putting it out there.  It's time for more of us to do that.      

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back Home

It is nice to back after four whirlwind days.

Not much to say that hasn't already been said.  I want to mention the post by Carl Wilson (Zoilus).  Carl was on the panel that discussed Blogging.  He shares some good thoughts here.

Also, I just want to send out my respect on the anniversary of Michael Brecker's passing.  Much has been written and I won't add but to share my one Brecker Story:

My wife took me to see the "Directions in Music" tour in 2003 (I think).  We were living in Chicago and the group was at Ravinia.  We were on the lawn which is normally a bit noisy with picnickers etc.  Michael played the solo version of Namia and it went about 10 minutes.  At the end, the whole park was silent, it seemed like the crickets even shut up.  I had never been in an outdoor setting where the audience was SO tuned in to a performance.

Remember him in your own way today...

Day 4

OK, it took me three tries to log in...I must be tired!

Today was mostly about hearing music.  A couple of good sessions; at 9:00am (damn...) there was a research presentation on Blogging and the Jazz Community.  Ken Prouty did some good research, including blogs such as Greenleaf and Be.Jazz.  During the Q&A we had a good discussion about the vibe in academic circles regarding blogs as a valid research source.  Granted, he is one guy and can not speak for the whole of the academic world, but I was encouraged by his thoughts.  He feels that artist blogs are great resources for students.  I worry that some of the more conservatively minded will let the "Peer-Reviewed" thing get in the way, but if a student is researching, say, trends in contemporary classical composition, what better place to start than with something like Eighth Blackbird's blog?

The think I like most about this conference is how much new music I get exposed to.  The SOCAN/IAJE Composer Award performances piled on even more inspiration.  The emerging award went to Andrew Jones and the established award to Fred Stride.  Props to the Paul Read Orchestra on stellar performances.

This evening I caught a set by the DMB Quintet.  3/5ths of this group (Ian Froman, Mike Murley and Jim Vivian) was at The Rex last night with Lieb.  Add to that David Braid on piano and Tara Davidson on Alto/Soprano and you have the group.  With the exception of Froman, these are all cats I was totally unfamiliar with and probably would have remained so.  I am so glad they played here. The compositions were very interesting, utilizing sectional writing, different orchestrations away from the horn(s) with rhythm paradigm, and deep, deep playing.

The closing concert was very forward looking:  
Francois Houle Octet - I once heard Ellery Eskelin speak about the time feel in free music being more related to momentum than pulse and I definitely caught that tonight.

Les Projectionnistes - These guys were great, there was a bit of a Zappa vibe but they really reminded me of some bands I used to listen to in the 90s like Mr. Bungle.  I hate describing someone's music in the context of someone else; these cats were very original - as the bone player said "we don't play jazz, we play music".

Finally, Barry Romberg's Random Access Large Ensemble - I am totally repeating myself, but this killed too.  

All and all - I am exhausted, both physically and mentally.  Overall, I think IAJE did well with presenting creative music.  I really dug getting to know what I am sure is just the smallest bit of the Canadian jazz and creative music scene, I have a lot more music to check out and I look forward to learning more about all of these cats.  Safe travel to anyone going tomorrow...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day 3 Addendum -Lieb's hit

Ok, let me get this off my chest first...I will never understand why a group of people would stand in line for 45 minutes, pay $20.00 and TALK through most of the set!!!!!  Sorry, I'm ok.  And to be fair it was just one person...but COME ON!

Rant complete, as you were.

The hit was very powerful.  The quartet of Lieb, Mike Murley, Jim Vivian, and Ian Froman have recorded together (Day and Night  -Live at the Atlantic Jazz Festival) and their empathy was very evident tonight.  Lieb always moves me.  If you know me or have been reading this blog with any consistency, you know that he is a former teacher, huge influence, and guru.  His commitment and courage to follow what he hears is a model for all.  If it's possible, I think his soprano sound is even becoming MORE expressive.  What really knocked me out, though, was the rest of the group.  I gathered that the trio is Mike Murley's working trio but I'm not sure.  Ian Froman was the only name I was familiar with.  This group KILLED!!!  The sensitivity to every musical stimuli was a wonderful model for the many students in attendance and the communication between Froman and Vivian was almost telepathic.  Can I just say, Ian Froman, DAMN!  He and Lieb got into it a couple of times and there were times I had the same reaction that I have at the 4:50 mark on Afro Blue from Trane's Live at Birdland...glorious tension and release.  Great night!