this past week was a wild one, yet has revealed itself in a musical way to boot.  i went to the matinee movie, had an out-of-control pest problem, and survived an office crash.

my oldest son has been getting into hip hop music & culture over the past couple of years and, like any responsible middle-aged man, i can't let him think the sun rises and sets with drake.  i dumped mp3 mixtapes onto his phone - tupac, biggie, nwa, sugar hill gang, grandmaster flash, public enemy, krs one, gangstarr, mos def, early eminem, outkast, missy, tribe, rakim, and others.  he slowly embraced this stuff and, when i thought he was ready, we went to the cinema and checked out "straight outta compton".  pretty cool movie, but even cooler hearing your 16-year old giant whispering along with ice cube's lyrics. that's one point for mike giles.

our house is situated on the outskirts of town, backing up to an alley of cottonwood trees and a quiet ravine.  it is a gorgeous location, but comes with its share of wildlife. fox, groundhogs, deer, rabbits, chipmunks, and a veritable who's who out of the aviary textbook.  we also have plenty of mosquitos, dragonflies, and wasps.  we started noticing a few yellowjackets flying around our wall of windows, trying to escape.  (no, not bob mintzer and jimmy haslip). in about ten days' time, we ran into a whole mess of them, coating the glass.  we found their entrance and nest - inside the house - and went hellbent with the wasp spray. we eventually called an exterminator, sealed up the seven entry points, and wiped out the colony (fingers crossed).

throughout the whole time, i couldn't help but think of my early interest in the jazz fusion group sharing the same name.  they seemed so harmless.  there was something about will kennedy's drumming and marc russo's saxophone work that had me smitten with their sound.  the harmonies moved around more than most smooth jazz acts, and their album production shined with that grp glitter.  this insect fiasco had me listening to geraldine, feeling guilty with my ears in the clouds & the wife waging war on the wasps.

my friend chad, engineer and office neighbor, called me on friday, concerned that i had fallen (and couldn't get up) in my office.  he had heard a loud thud and freaked out. my top bookshelf, loaded down with a bazillion magazines and assortment of lps, took a spill and miraculously missed my horns.  i had a huge mess to clean up, but an opportunity to go through all of my old journals and records.  what a blast - magazines with covers of lester bowie, george benson, ornette coleman, zorn/wynton, and the bad plus. albums by shalamar, anthony braxton, eddie jefferson, john coltrane, and the thompson twins.  it took me a long time to embrace my eclectic tastes, to feel like it's okay to like what i like and to ignore the naysayers.  i'm glad i have finally found that settling space and am always excited to build upon this myriad of influences.

as the rapper atmosphere so eloquently put it -
when life gives you lemons, you paint that shit gold.


the power of the half note

i hate playing fast.   everyone who knows me musically is hip to that.  i guess i can hang, but i get so frustrated when i allow the speed of things to dictate what i'm doing. i often play insincere and artificial shit instead of meaningful lines, merely because i'm wanting to ... actually, i'm not sure what i'm wanting to do with the fast tempos.  am i making an artistic statement to which i want to be accountable?  i'll confess that i don't really work on playing fast.  i'm not sure i view it as a fault as much as something i just don't like doing.  call me stubborn, hypocritical.  i'd simply prefer to put my time into other musical outings that trip my trigger.

i love listening to the late charlie haden.  his solos are simple, melodic, and full of depth.  he smells the roses while waltzing through these chord changes.  as i write this, i'm listening to his duo effort with guitarist pat metheny.  it's rare to hear charlie tackle and burn on a fast tune.  the way he digs into mid-tempo songs feels like he's playing in half time, swapping out the quarter note with a half note - simply (and cleverly) changing the 4/4 meter to a 4/2 pulse.

i turned over another year yesterday.  bushwick bill's line "my mind is playing tricks on me" is a fitting caption for last year.  success as a parent, spouse, educator and artist is all subjective.  my manic, perfectionist perspective pollutes my self image while fueling my creative machine.  quite the cruel twist, but a battle i'm up for on the daily.  i'm working on gratitude, pumping the brakes on my self-induced tailspin so i can enjoy more of what i have and focus far less upon what i want (or better yet, what i think i'm supposed to want. THAT is the first taste to my demise.)  my jazz professor from undergrad used to preach the adage "the race is not to the swift", and i think it has finally resonated within me.  so for my 42nd spin, i'll be with charlie - digging on those half notes.



the sheriff

i have decided to systematically vanish from the social media world.  i have a difficult time managing myself and my thoughts while flashing through an assortment of posts and comments - staying positive, keeping perspective, living in the now.  my wife assures me that there are plenty of good articles out there.  i guess i'd rather have her be the mercenary who brings me that bounty.

but thank god for facebook.  i was thumbing through it this morning and noted two things:  a fellow class of '91 survivor has taken up a blog, and another good friend posted an nytimes obit.  i'm glad to know that tina is writing, as she has always been a multi-talented and intriguing young woman.  and i usually check out what james is up to, a fantastic guitarist and one of the most down-to-earth guys i know.  sadly, he reported the news that my one of my heroes has passed.

i experienced ornette coleman in giant steps.  an early college pal geoff, possessing a myriad of musical influences ranging from neneh cherry to primus, first hipped me to change of the century.  the music deconstructed my ears, which were replete with syrupy vocal jazz harmonies.  i loved the new direction of this sound took a copy of that album back to my apartment, which roosted in the top of an abandoned funeral home, and popped it in the cassette deck.  ramblin' changed my life.

as an undergrad, i walked into the old real records in iowa city, at it's original location on washington.  i had no real idea of what i was looking for, and was dressed with the house music - ornette playing with prime time on the album tone dialing.  the sound, that of the saxophone and of the ensemble, was what i had been searching for through most of my life.  a yearning, urban, poignant, feel-good vibe.  street blues changed my life.

i went to a festival of new music and film at the walker art center in minneapolis.  i sat in the same seat for 9 hours, consumed with the aural and visual stimuli, which were no doubt fueled by an urge to go pee but doused by my fear of losing this choice location.  i watched the bang on a can all-stars play a set of chamber music written by ornette, only to have him join them on stage for a handful of charts.  i was punch drunk on creativity, exhausted from the core exercises i was doing to keep my bathroom needs at bay, and smitten with ornette's sound.  he was dressed in all white, wore a snappy fedora, played a white saxophone, and spun harmolodic lines that soothed my soul.  i literally felt like i was in heaven.  this performance changed my life.  at that very moment, i committed myself to chasing an artistry that is built upon my personalized belief system - not created by institutionalized jazz education or documentaries (i'm looking at you, ken burns).

my therapist says i need to spend more time thinking about, experimenting with, listening to, and creating alongside ideas that are nurtured by those who are most important to me and this pursuit.   he calls them 'the authorities'. ornette coleman wore the shiniest badge in my town.  rest in peace, ornette.  and thanks...