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...