the butcher, the baker

candlestick park, the legendary sports venue of northern california, hosted its final event tonight.  i saw a baseball game there about twenty years ago.  rocking my black cross colour jeans and matching tshirt, i felt like a million bucks but nearly froze to death that evening. barry bonds, pre-roids, went deep and helped the giants beat the expos.  and this reminds me of two stories:

i played in a jazz trio back in college.  saxophone, bass, drums - and i was totally outclassed.  i was definitely the weak link in that group, and that was the first time i experienced becoming motivated by that inferiority. playing with the mustafas marked the first time that i ever really cared about learning tunes, thought much about improvising, and practiced my saxophone to actually get better.  we played standard rep and a few originals.  we were doing a casual somewhere and the bass player called out a blues.  i couldn't remember how the melody went and was starting different tunes.  he kept looking at me, shaking his head, barking out "wrong head, man", and turning around the opening to offer me another crack at it.  i really wanted to punch that guy in the face, but learned two valuable lessons - you owe it to your bandmates to be prepared, and you can't bullshit your friends.

i played in an electro-acoustic quartet while i lived in minneapolis.  about ouch! was a really fun band, doing all original music and plenty of free jazz.  i ran my horn through a bunch of effects alongside a great guitarist, a talented drummer, and a remarkably creative electronics guy.  we played a bunch around the twin cities and cut a record up in ann arbor.  we toured the album a little bit, and played a hit at the candlestick maker in chicago.  we crashed at the drummer's grandma's house, and she hooked us up with cozy crocheted blankets and yummy polish food. only four people came out to our show, but it ended up being one of our best ever.  the final tune was a free thing, and the other three guys were killing it.  man, i wanted to play so badly, but i just couldn't find the right spot to jump in and not screw up what they were doing.  i sat out.

i think about these two moments often.  i have to remind myself to work work work, study study study, prepare prepare prepare, and then make sure that what i'm doing actually serves the music properly.

t-i-o-n shun shunshun shun

i can't be the only person shuffling around the earth's surface who thinks about that schoolhouse rock bit every time i write out a word with that suffix.  i hum it whenever i type or write out that four-letter cocktail. that's either some type of ocd tick or my own personal tradition. this holiday season brings traditional routines to life, often met with wide smiles and warm hearts. prince once sang that there is joy in repetition, although i'm pretty sure he wasn't referring to christmas customs.

some family rituals are etched into my mind from childhood. my mom would teach me & my sister how to make christmas candy, something he has shared with my own children.  we used to go to the 11:00 candlelight christmas eve service, and often help set up the homemade luminaries that lined the sidewalks of our church.  i remember slipping under the covers of my parents' bed on christmas morning, giggling with my younger sister while my dad arranged flood lights and our super8 movie camera.  every year we would alternate who opened the first package, wrapped in a big black garbage bag (which, cleverly, was used to gather up all of the trash before it piled high in the living room). the entire family would walk our dog "popcorn", go have lunch at the farm with my grandparents and extended family, and return home to mess around with our newfound loot.

my mom always played music while we opened presents.  our dilapidated record player would keep spinning two albums in particular:  kenny rogers & dolly parton once upon a christmas and the oak ridge boys christmas (pretty creative title, guys).  these albums became iconic in our family.

i usually do musical things during the holidays.  i have regularly played the ellington/strayhorn nutcracker suite, showed up at the elementary schools and played sing-a-longs for the kiddos while talking about life as a musician, and annually drug my saxophone studio out into the community to play jazzy quartets while wearing santa hats. i used to play piano for my church, including a service where i put all of the christmas hymns in the key of D.  last year i recorded a tune for the isu president's e-card, and last week soloed with a handbell choir for their vespers show.

the wife and i have developed our own family traditions. we pin our family ornaments from the ceiling, pose for makeshift cmas photos, hang lights all over the place, write and edit and laugh at our family cmas letter, put up the nativity, and drive around the town in search of neighborhood light spectacles.  we still wad up the wrapping paper and chuck it at each other, make christmas candy together, start with the stockings and keep the christmas tunes cranked throughout the days on either side of the 25th.  our favorites include james brown funky christmas, johnny barstow a bowtie christmas, and we always kick it off with this tune by mr. sinatra.

playing those old bird licks or treating melodies like miles tips your hat to their legacies.  mixing up the hot fives with kurt rosenwinkel honors both time periods. understanding and acknowledging how the great ones did it is important, but creating your own practices and holding fast to them is truly seeking what the masters sought.


double d

being artistically landlocked in central iowa can be a tough road to travel for the creative few.  not only does the gigging scene continue to shrink, but many musical acts still believe that iowa is simply a state between here and the next hit.  we do have our share of cool annual events, but summer doesn't run year round.  my good friend abe is working hard to singlehandedly change the scene.  he curates his own jazz series, and somehow managed to finagle dave douglas as his big finale for the calendar year.

i have been a fan of dave for about 15 years, ranging back to when i first saw him play with his string band at the sanctuary in iowa city.  i shared the same stage with his quartet, flew 1800+ miles to hear him with masada, and sat front row for back-to-back sets at the walker.  i own a ton of his recordings too.  i dig him as a sideman with steve berseford, fred hersch, & uri caine, and moreso as a leader on stargazer, charms of the night sky, songs for wandering souls, and sanctuary.  he plays the trumpet the way i want to hear it, and makes me believe that chasing the ideas that are dancing inside my head is not only a worthy but realistic pursuit.  his unique approach has had a sizable impact on my own concept of sound and ideas.

dave played from the heart, as always, but turning 50 seems to have made him more outwardly appreciative and self-aware.  he spoke quite a bit, candidly sharing his gratitude for most everything that he is experiencing. writing, good musicians, the opportunity to tour, being able to make music, health.  it felt like a good vibes session, and the music was great.  he had matt mitchell on piano, whom i only know from his duets with ches smith; saxophonist jon irabagon, whom i have heard with mostly other people do the killing; young drummer anwar marshall, whose shenanigans reminded me of that one snl guy; and the gorgeous linda oh on bass, whose recent album is so great.

as expected, they played tunes from the new record.  they snuck in one of linda's tunes, and did a peerless version of "east of the sun, west of the moon", a required request from abe for each band.  lots of groups kinda mail that one in, but dave's quintet launched it to the moon.  they also did a handful of old hymns, and pumped new life into that often stodgy music.  i remember giving wild treatments to "what a friend we have in jesus" in my twin city days, playing with guys who now anchor arp of the covenant, pert near sandstone, sara bareilles, and trampled by turtles.

i rented an isu sled and hauled a handful of my students to the show.  i believe in dave's thing so much, and wanted my kids to know that there are more jazz acts out in our world aside from what they see on campus.  alex bought the last vinyl copy of dave's record, others snapped photos of the group, several talked to the performers afterwards, and all seemed excited to have gotten out of town with a concert road trip.  hearing them talk about the music afterwards was very intriguing, and made me wonder what i actually thought of some stuff back in my early twenties.  did i really get what joe henderson was up to?  could i even appreciate sun ra's arkestra?  what did i miss in joe williams's phrasing?  ah, life's cruel irony...

in a whirlwind week of rubbing shoulders with people who are dealing with divorce, sexual assault, depression, alcoholism, cyber bullying, major vehicle accidents, heart problems, and the loss of a family pet - life has been put in perspective for me.  every moment we are blessed to have is worth cherishing.  i am fortunate to be able to do what i do, and am thankful for it from the souls of my shoes.  i second dave's gracious sentiment, and appreciate him refilling my tank for the next stretch of this road.


too scared to sit down

i never do those surveys on facebook.  i can't tell if they are legit or shiny shells that house some kind of computer virus that blasts crass stuff all over my page.  plus, does anyone really care about how i fit into these social rubrics?  i'll break it down for you - my favorite color is blue, i've been to 47 states, i am a liberal, i like the abstract tree image, i am an introvert through and through, i haven't read enough books to register on the grid, and i stink at playing video games.

the movie list i saw (one of many, i understand) had me perplexed. most of the blockbusters are too much for my peabrain to manage.  i bet they're fun movies, but i can't get into them.  i like quirky films, films shot with high quality images at odd angles, films without too much dialogue or music, films that include me in the thinking process.  blues brothers, spinal tap, scarface, gone with the wind, pulp fiction, sound of music, it's a wonderful life - a big fat no to all of those.  many of my friends are aghast upon learning that i have never seen some seminal film from their list of favorites.

wanna know the ones i actually have seen? shawshank (it's always on tv), godfather (thanks jacob & kathy), the dark knight (imax, baby), the empire strikes back (at the strand with my dad), return of the jedi (still have a leia keyring), both lord of the rings movies (way too long), usual suspects (benicio!), raiders of the lost ark (if that's the one with the melting faces), forrest (and that ping pong scene), american history x (biting the curb), silence of the lambs (too spooky for me), and saving private ryan (after visiting the normandy coast).

i decided that this week away from the school grind was primed for me to get back on the movie train.  i curled up with some headphones, an ipad, and dialed up netflix.  i actually went to the theatre.  i watched some things from our free week of hbo.  i threw back ten movies, which is most certainly a career high for me.  i get nervous when i see how long a film is supposed to last, unexplainably scared to make a two hour commitment to anything.

i watched a good documentary on hip hop music with ice-t, featuring several of my old school heroes, and another one about the punch brothers.  i laughed with mike birbiglia, lost interest in bernie, and wasted my time on identity thief (but give it up for t.i.).  i was fascinated with the director's cut of ferris bueller, took the in-laws to we're the millers, and couldn't get fred armisen out of my head while watching behind the candelabra.

i loved the original concept in the movie safety not guaranteed.  the intoxicating april (from parks and rec) is the main character here, an intern out on a research assignment for a seattle magazine.  she & her cronies follow up on a classified ad, in search of a companion for time travel.  this offbeat puzzle is right up my alley. april is great, and the flow is digestible.

my favorite of the bunch, hands down, goes to the giant mechanical man.  it is slow going from the beginning, but real peculiar and captivating.  a street performer with hard opinions on our universe ultimately crosses paths with a lost soul.  they both get gigs working at the zoo, and their personal lives (away from the animals) shape them into polar opposites.  it's about believing in your art and finding a reason to live your life, which is an eternal struggle for me.  tell me i'm not walking alone...

tim berne has said that he watches movies for inspiration. i know, i know - none of these films are on that list, but the last two really resonate within me.  they have fed my soul, and will hopefully counter all of that pie i ate.


knife or banana

people often ask me how long i've been playing saxophone. my usual answer, offered up in an effort to dodge the guilt i have about it, is that i should be way better than i actually am.  truth be told - i've been playing since fifth grade. so, that makes it almost thirty years oh my god. the first half was spent trying to not practice at all, attempting to snow the professors with doctored-up time sheets while hiding behind a fear of actually working on something.  the second half has been about trying to find an original sound, my personal voice on the alto.  i have rifled through reeds, ligatures, and mouthpieces in an effort to unlock the path to my holy grail.

but tenor?  i have no clue what i want to do with that. there are lower notes.  the sound booms from a different spot on my body.  my arms hang differently.  i'm not sure i really hear on tenor, and get nauseous at the thought of most tenor players on the scene.  however - i've stumbled on to a chunk of change which, timed with this midlife crisis, means that i'm ready for a new musical mistress. this new set of gams will go well with my life partner (the alto saxophone) and my muse (the fender rhodes).

tenor players i love include ben webster, hank mobley, mark turner, rick margitza, rich perry, tony malaby, charles lloyd, and chris speed.  other guys are good too, of course, but eight is all i can think of at the moment.

i made the trek to waterloo last friday with a brand new credit card and a stomach full of butterflies.  i wasn't sure i actually knew what i wanted to sound like.  i didn't really have a reeds ready because i hadn't played tenor in a while.  i've been playing on a selmer usa, a school horn, and put all of my hope into a refaced link i picked up from doc tenney back in the year 2000. i had heard that the guys over at tenor madness were really gonna work me out on some horns, and boy was that the truth.

randy jones is a wiz, pure and simple.  he and his guys have designed a new line of saxophone that rivals the great Mark VI horns.  he was so patient with me, kicking back on a folding chair with a small glass of either iced tea or scotch, listening to me play a whole bunch of musical nonsense on a variety of horns.  he would ask me what i thought of the neck/body combo i was using, and could somehow decipher my abstract descriptions.  i spent five hours playing soft, loud, palm keys, middle action, bottom end, altissimo, into the room, up against the glass door. randy stuck it out throughout the day, helping me choose my next horn.  definitely must have been scotch.

i finally settled on something beautiful.  for all of you sax nerds out there - i got an unlacquered tm custom with rolled tone holes, high f# key, walnut thumb rest, tino schucht thumb hook, copper 550 neck, and am shoving all of that into an (unfortunately named) hiscox flight case.  

mucho thanks to randy, jim, drew, and the rest of the clan over at the shop for being on top of your game and cutting me a sweet deal.  and double thanks to the wife for not killing me after i come home with a new love interest.


i've got big calves

it seems that all of the cool designer jeans are slim fit, boot cut, skinny, or straight leg.  i can't wear them, and believe me - i've tried.  bigger waist, different brand, different shoes, belt/no belt, stuff in the pockets, nothing in the pockets.  regardless of how badly i want them to fit or how cool i predict i'll feel by rocking them with a t-shirt and this beard, i can't get them wriggled up my legs.  i strike out every time, but that momentary feeling of defeat goes away as i slip back into my nike thermafits and bust out of the dressing room.

i remember attending a kenny werner masterclass, where somebody in the crowd asked him about his influences on the piano.  he mentioned an assortment of guys - bill evans, chick, tatum, monk.  after hearing that answer, the same guy quipped "hey - you didn't say bud powell."  kenny snapped back "you asked me for my influences, and i told you who they were."  nearly everyone was astonished at that exchange, but i was relieved.

my life's path can be carved out however i want!  i can like who i want to like!  i can put it on a chain and wear it around my neck.  i can listen to whomever i wish.  for me, i've got dolly parton > the beatles, mary halvorson > ellington, tribe > bach, bjork > bird, zorn > wynton.

i see, hear, and read about other people doing important things that will garner them academic notoriety or street cred.  facebook is a fertile ground for those seeds of self-doubt.  i often struggle to remember that i am doing good things, and measure my work against my own standards and desires.  i trust that others do the same, and never the two shall meet.  but i'll hand it to you - that grass sure does look a little greener than mine.

early in my time here at isu, i was asked to re-submit my bio.  it was pretty bare bones initially, so this guy asked me to fluff it up a bit.  color in the gaps with names of famous people with whom i've performed.  i didn't want to include that crap, because really - who cares?  he told me about how he once played with rosemary clooney as a last minute sub for the music director.  they pulled off a great gig in front of a packed house, and he always puts that in his bio.  i was happy for him, but began to feel insecure and sheepish about my own history.  i gave my bio the once-over, and handed a new copy into him.  the only adjustment i made was to include a sentence about his experience with ms. clooney.  he left me alone after that.

i talk with my students about being their music guide; riding shotgun with them as they grow personally and artistically, exposing them to new and different ideas while helping them codify their own, encouraging their development and risk-taking, role modeling for them as best i can.  i remind them of the famous quote from oscar wilde "be yourself. everyone else is already taken."

i want to play outside of the changes and stick in some old school ballad froof froof lines.  i don't want to play "i'll remember april" ever again.  i practice improvising with line design and intervalic bounces as my focus, but don't want to shackle myself with patterns and licks (plus, i can never remember them when it's time to blaze).

i taught one of my combos how they could mashup "fly me to the moon" with "come fly with me" and "i believe i can fly", flittering between the different chord changes on cue between solos.  i taught another combo how to do my favorite things with the mccoy intro in 7/4 while sticking this andre 3000 groove beneath it.  i told one of my students to phrase the glazounov concerto with beauty and precision throughout, just like this allen stone tune.  we found check points throughout the solo where we could reference this idea.  i have recently arranged tunes by snarky puppy and adam sandler for my jazz band, and have no interest in doing any of that gordon goodwin schlock.  

do these things make me great?  pathetic?  nope ... they make me ME - the guy who is still playing on the horn he got in high school, is bringing back the diamond stud earring, puts pictures of casey kasem on his jazz combo posters, and sprays down his office with an aveda body mist.  i'm not living for the instant gratification found in immediate acceptance or a pumped up curriculum vitae. i'm simply a soul in this universe, a soul who still has a terrible time finding jeans that fit.


the giddy vol. 12 - the halloween edition

wayne shorter witch hunt speak no evil
it took me a long time to get into wayne.  his sound was an acquired taste for me, one i couldn't get past in order to check out the music he was playing.  i always liked the tunes, just not his voice.  well, i've finally gotten over myself and now can dig back through the old stuff with the joy you find in trying on a vintage jacket that belonged to your dad.  this tune is often overlooked for other songs from this same period.  my favorite moment starts at 1:42, when elvin helps wayne kick open the front door, swinging quarters harder than you could fathom.

maria schneider dance you monster to my soft song evanescence
this album really shook me from the roots up.  there are plenty of great tunes on maria's debut record, but this song is a sleeper for me.  ben monder's guitar work throughout honestly re-calibrated my understanding and appreciation of jazz playing.  the writing here is thoughtful, thorough, and exciting.  my favorite spot hits throughout the tune - the insistent line that occupies the pianist's left hand and keeps the bari player busy.  

philip glass & the kronos quartet dracula
i've seen kronos a couple of times, and had the opportunity to catch glass himself in concert.  hey man - double thumbs up to guys who employ saxophonists for classical gigs! there are several variations of these themes, but this cut in particular captures the mystique of dracula - a steady and unsettling presence.  the second section, first appearing at 0:14, does it for me.

inxs devil inside kick
i got hoodwinked into acquiring this album by the sneaky folks over at columbia house.  you know how they do - lure you in with some ridiculous "11 albums for 1¢deal, then expect you to remember to return that postcard that says you don't want the featured record mailed out to you with their astronomical price tag.  this record actually has a bunch of good stuff on it.  the music videos that inxs put out were very cool, sending me into a multiple-month tailspin of wanting to grow up and be michael hutchence. (i guess if you gotta die, that's one helluva way to go).  my favorite thing about this track happens at 0:55 when michael croons "wonder, wonder".  so great.

johnny cash & willie nelson ghost riders in the sky vh1 storytellers
this is absolutely one of my favorite albums of all time. i grew up on old country western music, and these two guys lead the pack.  seriously - all of the tracks on this record are incredible.  the stories, the human element, the music.  if i could ever amount to a shred of what these guys have done, i'll consider my life a humble success. this track is the first on the album.  aside from their own salutations, i love it when johnny enters at 0:59 and later at 2:54 when he calls out "take it willie".

this is the best band out there, period.  you should get all of their records, go see them in concert as often as you can, and tell your friends.  the writing and playing and singing tug at my fan of 80s pop/ music aficionado/ lover of quirky lyrics heartstrings.  this record is their first, and it's lights out.  i love everything about all of these songs, but the corner of my smile draws upward at 5:27 on this cut.  it's worth the wait, i promise.

when i was a kid, my folks would deck me out in a cowboy costume and cart me around to talent shows.  i played pretty mediocre guitar and sang oak ridge boy tunes.  i think i pulled in a $25 gift certificate with a 2nd place finish on my rendition of this classic.  all of those grade school honeys went bananas when i hit 'em with the money making line, which first appears here at 1:00. dig that crazy beard and those clever music note decorations.  


over & out

this post is dedicated to my father.  happy 10-4, good buddy.

my dad is a retired truck driver.  my grandpa had a trucking business.  his sons (and my dad, on occasion) drove for him. my dad's brother was a trucker.  a bunch of my uncles and cousins and what-have-you from my mom's side of the tree are truckers.  most of my dad's friends are truckers, and he would often refer to them by their cb handle instead of their real names.  one of the most vivid memories i have from my youth was of a time when i climbed in the sleeper of my grandpa's truck, found a bag of those bite size milky way bars, ate the entire bag, and got a crazy case of the hershey squirts.

the routine for our family table was to try everything put in front of you, thank mom for cooking, and shush when the weather comes on the tv news.  my seat was situated so, when i looked over at the tube, i was leading with my right eye. (i've got this weird lazy eye thing, and the optometrist - jr robinson's dad - told my folks this would strengthen it.)  i would frequently hop to my feet and theatrically reenact what went down at school that day.  my sister & mom watched, not amused.  my dad, decked out in his ups browns, would give me the wtf look while i got wrapped up in my own dramatics.

the logical career path for me would have been to go into trucking.  nobody had earned an undergad degree in my family. the trucking business had provided a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, for all of our family members.  i couldn't see myself doing that.  i wanted to figure out what all of the notes and colors swimming inside of my head meant. i knew the performing arts was probably the way to go, but it was a sharp left turn away from what i had always known.

my folks were actually supportive of these pursuits.  i'm not sure they ever fully understand/stood what the sacrifice is like or why & how i do what i do, but that's ok.  that's for me to figure out, right?  i think that, ultimately, they just wanted me to live a happy life (and not mooch off of them).

i share the same philosophy when it comes to my kids.  we've never pounded the music thing into their heads.  they go to a bunch of concerts, observe us practicing and studying, and listen to their own music.  they have quit grumbling about listening to marina piccinini or snarky puppy, and have learned good concert etiquette (which is a life skill that will pay off in more ways than one).  but their not into music as a passionate pursuit, and that's cool with me.  i just want them to get fired up about something, find a partner in crime who can get with that, and make their way in the world.  and don't mooch off of us.  we're musicians ... remember?


get in where you fit in

grew up in a fishing community in panama city.  graduated high school when he was 16. after having his soccer dreams dashed by recurring ankle injuries, aspired to become a mechanic on the boats.  joined an amateur baseball team as their shortstop.  threw a handful of solid relief innings after the starting pitcher got injured.  did this in front of an mlb scout, and was offered a tryout with yankees two weeks later. despite not speaking english and having never left home, joined the yankees farm system as an underwhelming starting pitcher.  moved to the setup role, and eventually came out of the pen as the closer.  enter sandman.  game over.

the career path of mariano rivera is not ripped from a storybook.  there was no silver spoon in his mouth.  becoming the single-most valuable player in the history of baseball wasn't originally in the cards.  mo rivera found his niche in life, doing something that he loved and making himself indispensable.  and he did this with essentially one pitch.

today, i taught a class on careers in music.  i have shared several conversations recently with some of my college students, contemplating some eternal questions - what am i gonna do with myself?  can i make it in music?  should i keep going with this or should i switch out to something else?

the obvious gigs for musicians, to the pedestrian eye, are performers and teachers (and sadly, that is often the order of legitimacy).   there are so many avenues to making a living in music.  i know performers, arrangers, personnel managers, disc jockeys, concert curators, sound engineers, promoters, writers, studio musicians, teachers at all levels, researchers, producers.  one friend mixed the audio for the breaking bad dvds.  another is a bicoastal freelance performer.  another is waiting for the minnesota orchestra battle to subside.  several make the late night tv circuit.

life is a tricky thing.  you can never tell if this is the break you were waiting for, or if it is right around the corner.  you can never tell if you are really cut out for this kind of thing, or if that epiphany sits on tomorrow's horizon. you can never tell if you will fix fishing boats or become the most successful relief pitcher in the world's biggest market.

patience.  preparation.  professionalism.  positivity.  and one thing in particular that separates you from the rest.


cooling out vol. 3

the third installment of keeping calm is a scattershot snap of what ripples through my mind, in addition to trying to remember which kid i'm taking where while batting away the collection agencies until the next paycheck.

when i first started my gig at isu, i wanted to connect with the students.  i found myself in a tricky spot - the guy who used to teach saxophone was really popular, lead the top sit-down band, and had actually just become department chair. (as it turns out, he still is our chair and is one of the best people i know.)  a lot of the kids loved him, and would rather have him for their applied teacher instead of the newbie.  i began taping a new vignette about chuck norris folklore to my front door every day.  "chuck norris doesn't call the wrong number - you answer the wrong phone", "chuck norris can run you over with a parked car", "chuck norris doesn't wear a watch - HE decides what time it is".  it was an odd way to make a first impression, but it helped break the ice.

i remember playing in a masterclass for evan ziporyn, clarinet powerhouse and co-founder of bang on a can.  he genuinely suggested that each of us consider getting into a yoga routine.  learning to hold balance postures would heighten our body awareness, and the breathing regimen that becomes the focal point in yoga would facilitate our growth as wind players.  i thought he was off his rocker.  i'm not gonna hold chataranga while i clear my mind.  i'd rather swim through the testosterone and put up stacks at the gym. boy was i wrong. yoga is often the only thing that gets me through the day. whether i'm doing basic sun salutations in my office or an extended routine in my home gym, yoga helps me keep calm.

i really dig the p90x dvd workout series.  the good news - i have completed three rounds.  the bad news - that was 18 months ago.  i always knew i could get better at scales, finish writing an arrangement, book and play gigs, but never thought i could get into a high level of fitness.  i'm not really the jock type, but do have some natural athletic inclinations, which i was more than happy to ride into the ground.  tackling and completing and seeing results in the p90x program helped my confidence, which i carried over into my art.  i really can do whatever i set my mind to.  if you haven't already, i would recommend the p90x series to anyone looking to resuscitate their physical well being.  but beware the pithy jokes and one-liners get old after a while...

it's true.  i have three cats.  what were we thinking?  they are actually the best thing to happen to our family.  sure, they poop all the time and jump on your chest when they want you to wake up.  but these guys are always so comforting when i come home from a long day, or humbling when i come home with a big ego.  their demeanor quickly evens out the wife and i, and our kids are lovey dovey pet junkies.  our three cats are brothers.  we named them kareem, abdul, and jabbar.

early snoop dogg tracks are off the chain.  late cameos sound like nonsense.  i think he ran out of motivation and began playing down to his collaborators.  the tracks with dre and from his debut album stand as some of his best work, but you can keep all of the snoop lion garbage.  this cut from 2009 pairs him up with hip hop genius pharrell williams, who broke snoop into his universe with the neptunes album from a decade ago.  the snap crackle pop beatbox, smoke sounds, and timely synth voicings helped put snoop back at the top of the heap.  

it took me a long time to get into tom waits.  i made the grave error of judging a book by its cover.  this guy looked weird, sounded bizarre, and was a cult favorite of many interesting college people.  i slowly dipped my toe into the waters of rain dogs, and was stunned by its strength and beauty.  he reminds me of jazz guitarist pat metheny.  they are both leaders in their respective domains, record a bunch of albums, and cover the gamut (meaning, you won't like everything).  one thing is for sure - you can't question his passion.  he is the definition of iconoclast.  some of my favorite albums are bone machine, blue valentines, mule variations, and dig his spot on helium by the tin hat trio.


cooling out vol. 2

i guess this post could be subtitled "the big peach", referencing the des moines register sunday sports section that only folks alive in the '80s would get.  many mild spats with my dad arose over who gets to read it first, and  me & my friends survived countless sunday school classes by swapping this rag amongst ourselves.  long live the newspaper.

my brother-in-law was a compliance guy for the university of alabama sports program.  we visited his digs over christmas break.  i swear that their facilities were a direct rip from the jetsons.  daniel needed a thumbprint identification (complete the "swoop" sound) in order to allow us access to their swanky recruiting area, national championship trophy displays, and the largest weight room i have ever seen. sports vs. the arts is a long-standing feud, in terms of financial backing.  the exchange of philosophical ideals stops abruptly when you start talking about the generating of revenue. people will often pay whatever so they can attend the big rivalry sporting event, yet will double check the tv guide and the local weather before committing to attending a concert.  the arts need a rabid fan base, with co-eds painting their torsos with letters that spell "fortissimo" who then go on to found fortune 500 companies. now - in the meantime - let's go put a hurting on that johnny football kid.

people say that jazz is dying.  people also say that all star wrestling is fake.  what!?!?!?  it is one of my guilty pleasures.  i'm not necessarily nuts about huge dudes rubbed down in glistening baby oil, but the macho soap opera is intoxicating.  there is a real focus on storyline that is woven into the underrated athleticism of these wrestlers. don't believe me?  read this candid interview with the game on grantland.  triple h (and the rest of the crew) steer their entertainment juggernaut towards drama and creativity, attempting to keep their audience's collective eye on their prize.  jazz music could take a cue from wwe.  stay relevant, pay attention to what your fans want, lead them to what you want for them, and look good all the while.

i attended college at the university of iowa and currently work for iowa state university.  people ask me who i cheer for, and i remind them that i pay my mortgage out of my isu paycheck.  when i was in college, our jazz band would play a split concert with the top ensemble from neighboring jazz powerhouse uni.  we would alternate venues, host each other, and feed off of the split show concept.  our band was much different than theirs, in terms of players and repertoire.  it was great.  i learned a lot from watching their stuff, and dug getting our act together for the annual show.  one year, we fortuitously advertised the concert as a big band collision. our director, full of liquid courage, backed his car into the front end of their school van at the end of the gig.  

money, it's gotta be the shoes.  no mars, it's a desire to stay relevant by perching yourself in the heart of the action. not only did mike get it DONE in the nba, he also managed to parlay his talents and charisma into an unstoppable marketing allegiance with nike and gatorade.  mike just turned fifty, and is still at the top of the heap in terms of notoriety and cash money.  i like it when musicians perform, write, give guest lectures, produce other people's stuff, and collaborate. staying active in a variety of fronts provides obvious sustainability while improving viability amongst multiple generations. how many kids out there have ever seen mj play? how many kids out there have actually heard duke play? manifesting what you do onto many platforms could be a hidden path to deleon's fountain, or at least a couple more gigs.

sometimes i forget that there are other things going on in the world, and not everything is generated from within driving distance.  as much as we hear about rg3, lebron, & a-rod, they pale in world-wide popularity to cristiano ronaldo.  the gist of it is that folks are getting it done beyond this particular continent.  it's often argued that the audiences in europe are better educated in our art form and, therefor, enthusiastically appreciative and willing to financially back live improvised music.  you know - they actually turn out for the live shows.  some of my favorite european jazz acts include enrico rava, paolo fresu, han bennink, and hakon kornstad - but none of them can freestyle like CR7.

my cardinals are in a tight playoff race, and it has the makings of being too close for comfort all the way to the end. when i first started teaching at isu, i found out that one of my colleagues hails from east st. louis and is also a big redbirds fan.  another fella up north, an outstanding pianist and composer, follows the cardinals.  they both chuckled upon learning that my mother named me after her favorite baseball player.  when i became immersed in pursuing a career in the arts, i myopically assumed that everyone in that field only cared about one thing - art.  what a refreshing epiphany for me to know that people are people, complete with hobbies and secrets and childhood allegiances. some are chicago cub fans. may god have mercy on their souls.