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!