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.

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