top ten for two thousand eleven

here is my gratuitous list of ten things i discovered in 2011 that made it a super awesome año.  in no particular order...

i don't watch too many movies.  i'm a professed tightwad, can't figure out how to run my blu-ray player, and have troubles sitting through a two hour flick anyway.  the wife and i occasionally see stuff in the cheap theater, and knocked out a bunch on our trans-continental flights.  we rented
get low from the local redbox this summer, and it was the best movie i saw.  robert duvall, bill murray, and sissy spacek were fantastic in this invigoratingly fresh story about a hermit who stages his own funeral.  the massive undertaking required to make a motion picture inspires me to tackle smaller music projects.  i am also aware of the various emotional and sensory spots a film can touch upon, and try to figure out how to weave that parallel technique into my music.

this summer, my oldest son tried out for (and made) a traveling club basketball squad.  he is now the proud member of the iowa wolves which, as it turns out, has several different packs of players in both genders and multiple grade levels.  simon and his buddy ben are the only two from their school, and the other eight teammates are from all across the state.  the vibe is super positive and encouraging, trickling down from the coaches to the ballers and even to their parents.  the sense of community is strong amongst all parties.  it's been great watching these young men give their all every minute that they log for the team, reminding me that i need to be "all in" whenever i pick up my horn.  

ever since i got started up with p90x, my favorite workout has been the yoga routine (90 minutes...uggh).  i have picked up other various yoga dvds through beachbody and other companies. i feel great every time i finish a yoga sequence.  i remember a guy from bang on a can all-stars mentioning that everyone at some point should practice yoga. i'm definitely not a whiz, but i'm becoming more flexible and take less time to get to my chi balanced.  the breathing exercises definitely help my playing and the clarity achieved through mental focus is just what the doctor ordered before i improvise or write music.

my grandma fry died this summer.  she was a wonderful woman with so much spunk and vitality.  her passing provided me an opportune moment to reflect on her spirit and worldliness, both undeniably strong characteristics that i want to further develop in my own personality.  i wasn't able to be there for the funeral (super long story), so i recorded a couple of hymns for the service instead.  playing solo saxophone from my heels in one take reminded me that making music is not always about the details and right vs. wrong.  it's about living, a lesson that bev fry still teaches me today.

i'm thankful for all of the musical opportunities i have had. the rise and fall of the 3x5, adventures in chicago, summer camp stuff, international performances, sitting in with simon estes, working with great students, shaking the trees with contemporary classical chamber music, and my recent work with john/karl/nick in workshop.  throughout these experiences, 
i have learned that a) i'm lucky to be able to do music professionally, b) participating in creative music is very important to me, c) the people with whom i do this are more important, and d) try not to take shit personally.   

i think i found my new girlfriend.  gretchen parlato is the best thing i've heard this year.  the tracks she has put out go on repeat in my ipod, especially butterfly by herbie from "in a dream" and that simply red old school jam holding back the years from "the lost and found".  yeah, she's pretty.  
and yeah, she sings with a thin (and unsupported?) sound.  
but yeah, she phrases so beautifully, collaborates with a myriad of interesting musical forces, and is steadily doing adventurous arrangements.  doesn't hurt that she's photogenic.

my good friend joel ponied up a bunch of his own rain barrel money to help sponsor the newest halloween, alaska album (which kills) on kickstarter.  in exchange for joel's right arm, he received a masterclass of sorts with their drummer dave king in exchange for his contribution.  king is such an incredible player, colorful mind, and really genuine guy.  he is literally enchanting, which sounds goofy, but those of you who have hung with the man himself know what i'm talking about. he spoke about topics that spanned from creative improvising to techy drum stuff to hilarious stories about random experiences.  occasionally i need defibulators applied to my musical chest.  this clinic with king resuscitated me.     

writing is therapeutic for me and helps me document how my brain works.  i'm not naive enough to think that legions of people are reading my musings, but solidifying ideas that i could never remember helps me form solid opinions and strengthen my philosophies.  i've eulogized cultural icons, covered the nba draft, discussed osama bin laden, found parallels in professional wrestling, and have reminded myself why i like music. this past year has definitely been my most prolific. if you have the itch put your thoughts down, i'm here to tell you that it is well worth it.  amateur tips i have learned?  read your blog out loud, be sure to proof your writing, less is more, and never publish after a long night of composing.  thanks to those of you that read this thing...

i finally took charge of my mental health (and let me tell you, it costs way the hell more than five cents).  my guy is the best.  he has helped me figure out how my head works, suggests readings that i sort of read but really pay attention to when he is talking about it, and is helping me (along with some good meds) unravel this mess inside of my head.  the roller coaster is outstanding for being creative but can also be a nightmare in everyday life.  once i figure out how to run full throttle artistically while managing to be a tolerable person in the meantime, the sky's the limit.  

i love traveling.  the wife and i spent a month gallivanting across europe.  the family road tripped for a month out west. the four of us tackled numerous week-long sojourns around the u.s.  seeing different people while staying in different places amongst different cultures while eating different foods makes me constantly reconsider the way i live.  a life chock full of experiences and subsequent surprises makes for an exciting one.  my crew is down for whatever, whenever, making us the best globetrotters this side of harlem. survival techniques we have gleaned throughout the years include; don't plan too far ahead, bring mix tapes that everyone will like, omit soda pop and fried foods, pack extra underwear and comfortable shoes, be sure your camera has batteries, snag a magnet wherever you go, and remember that cash spends slower.

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