a couple of weeks ago here at isu, we hosted the mike lee group new tricks. they were good. straight ahead-ish stuff with two horns, bass, drums. original tunes. lots of the familiar vocabulary being tossed around. a feigned genuine interest in education oozed from the band, with the exception of the legit ted chubb. this performance (and late night hang @ jim's) reminded me of my undergrad days at uiowa. mike lee came through and did a clinic and solo spot with our band. i remember taking a car ride with him to a gig, and was anxious to hear him tell me all of the secrets to great jazz saxophone playing. i expected to get an earful about trane or bird or sonny, but instead we listened to ray charles and betty carter. mike also talked with me about how he worked on improvising. no, he didn't shove patterns, chord/scale relationships, and quotes in all 12 keys blarble down my throat. he instead spoke of shutting up the negative voice that booms inside your head when you solo, offering a critical play-by-play of everything you do. that approach resonated within me (no pun intended) and became a staple of my teaching.
i also had the opportunity to be a guest soloist/lecturer at the university of wisconsin-whitewater after Easter weekend. i coached my tunes to a combo, worked with them for a bit, and guested on their spring concert. i taught a jazz ped class, held an interactive forum about principles of improvising strategies, talked shop with saxophonists, and pressed the flesh with fellow colleagues. i was fortunate to have the opportunity to solo with their top jazz band in a very fun evening concert, whose program featured the music of iowans. we closed the concert with rev. jack, a wonderful (and popular) chart by the legendary bob washut. i've always wanted to play that tune since i wore out the uni @ montreux vinyl copy i got when i was in high school. don jacques tore up the original solo (and i got to play in a pick-up band with my teen idol back in march!) and i got a crack at it on the uww gig. all of this was put together by my teacher and mentor matt sintchak. that guy has pulled me through SO much self-inflicted shit, and i owe him so much.
and now...this week one of my wonderful undergrads did a concert poster for me on photoshop (you may have seen his handywork on facebook - the poster with the pic of me wearing a rey mysterio mask). i promised him a couple of recordings as payment for his services, and hooked him up with chris potter concentric circles (got turned on to this by john 'joop' rhodes in iowa city) and django bates quiet nights (got turned to to him by my buddy matt bernemann back in undergrad). i also just got a note from my friend tim bulkley (old swcc vocal jazz survivor turned nyc drummer) that he split a show with my friend chris morrissey (bass player who made society gigs way fun back in mpls).
and did i mention that this ames kid harrison barnes, who i shot hoops with when he was in 6th grade and occasionally had him catsit for us, is the usa today's high school basketball player of the year? geesh... where does the time go?
for some fucking reason, i struggle with the brutal fact that we all get older. thinning hair, cracking joints, pop culture references my students don't get, slowing metabolism (oof), woulda coulda shoulda career choices, and grown-up bills. however, this is me forgetting to acknowledge all of the wonderful things in my life: two wonderful children, an incredible wife with whom i am incurring said bills, the charm of a bald spot, and a steady college teaching gig (...for the time being...)
man, mike lee was right after all. gotta shut up that negative critical voice and ac-cent-uate the positive. work work work, fight the right fight, and stick to my mantra of living each day as if it were my last.