Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why The Road Sucks

One of the sights in Milan I won't see because I'm looking for a laundromat
There's an old saying:"How do you get a musician to complain? Give him a GIG!" Well, it's funny because it's true. Musicians are either moaning because they aren't working, but they might moan even louder if they are working. I've been enjoying my gigs more lately because I get to play music so much less than when I lived in New York and was just freelancing. However, the things that surround the gigs still suck. Well, it's not all bad, but especially when it comes to traveling, that's starting to become more annoying, and only because I'm becoming more comfortable in my home, and being home more than being away. For most of my years in New York, I was on the road about 50 percent of the time. So the road was as much home as my apartment was. Since I, my wife and son have moved into our house in Southeast Portland, it's become way too comfortable for me to want to leave. This makes the unpleasant parts of traveling more unpleasant psychologically.

Don't get me wrong, it's a privilege to get the opportunity to get to tour with Jack DeJohnette, a true legend in jazz drumming. Besides the musical experience,there are the practical advantages; Jack is, like most jazz greats, much more appreciated in Europe than in the U.S., and is treated fairly well when we tour here(I'm in Milan at the moment). We stay in mostly 4 and 5 star hotels, get free excellent dinners before every gig, and all of our instruments and sound is set up before we get to sound check. It's nice to get the star treatment. It's not like we are The Rolling Stones or anything, but we are treated with respect.

Still, there are things like jet lag, getting on and off planes, in and out of airports at ungodly hours, changing money of various currencies(Not everyone is on the Euro over here), dealing with lost luggage, getting a roaming plan for your phone so you don't get a bill that costs more than you are making for the tour, trying not to catch a cold or anything worse, hoping there is a gym in the hotel and if there isn't looking for one that doesn't charge 60 Euros a day( there is one in Milan that does!). Getting sick on the road, even just a cold, really sucks because you have no choice but to keep moving; you can't just say, "Sorry guys, I need to rest up and drink some chicken soup. You guys go on ahead to Berlin; I'll catch up to you when I'm feeling better...." Nope. I now pack tons of Vitamin C , Zicam, Oscillococcinum, Ginger Tea, and Amino Acids to prevent getting sick, and NyQuil and Dayquil in case I do get sick. Just hope you don't get something intestinal because if you are driving 4 to 12 hours a day and you have the runs, you are going to be miserable.

But the kicker is laundry: How do you go out on the road for weeks and get your clothes washed so that you don't feel and smell as funky as Parliament Funkadelic? Finding a laundry can be
Joey Barron, known for great drumming and traveling light
challenging, especially when you are doing constant one nighters; there is such limited time that you fly in, check in to the hotel, go to the soundcheck, play the gig, go back to the hotel, get up the next morning and do it all again. There just isn't time. Some people bring clothes that dry quickly and they spend a lot of time washing their clothes in the sink of their hotel room. The legend is that drummer Joey Barron brings only one change of clothes on a tour; he wears silk clothes which he can wash and dry every night. Barron also doesn't even bring cymbals; he apparently just uses whatever cymbals the promoter provides and just puts tape on them to make them sound really dry. I suppose he got tired of lost luggage all the time, so now he travels light.

I wish I could get to that point. I have three bags. One is a large suitcase full of clothes and two pairs of shoes(dress and running). I also have my vitamins in there. I have a computer bag(which is actually brand new, I had to buy a new one in Oslo because the one I bought finally broke after 10 years. Oslo is expensive so the new one cost about 4,000 dollars.....) which has my computer and various electronics and my passport. Then I have a shoulder bag which I put my pocket trumpet case inside. I might also put a sweater or a jacket in that bag so I can have it on the plane if they have the air conditioning blasting(which they often do, apparently to keep the flight attendants awake). I spent about a week making sure that the large suitcase was well packed but not over 50 pounds; that's the overweight limit before you get charged extra. I bought some undershirts, underwear and socks as cheaply as I could at Target because I figured maybe if I can't find laundry I'll just throw it away and try to find the European equivalent of Target-meaning a place to buy dirt cheap undershirts, underwear and socks. Sounds like a waste? Well, many years ago I spent 110 dollars having the good people at the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos in Barcelona wash my undershirts, underwear and socks. I'll give it to them, those undershirts, underwear and socks came back gift wrapped and smelling like an angel's underarm. The hotels can't rip you off with phone calls now that we all have cell phones, so they make up for it with the laundry service.

Now, if you do have a little extra time in one place, as we do in Milan( this is our second full day here), then it's possible to venture out and try to find a laundromat. There are a few problems; one, I only know two words in Italian: "Bongiorno" and "Corleone," the later which is just a name from The Godfather, so it doesn't really count. (It's a shame because supposedly I'm a quarter Italian.) Second, I don't know my way around Milan at all. (We are staying in the Chinatown section of Milan, which is actually kind of interesting. There are a lot of Chinese grocery stores, but I didn't see any laundromats. )Third, the people at the front desk are somewhat clueless; they did a search for
This is what I want, not a drycleaner, darnit!
"laundry" on the internet and printed out a map, however, all of the laundry listings are actually dry cleaners. But I didn't know this until walking around for about an hour to 4 different places. I followed the map, carrying a big bag of stanky clothes, hoping that the next one would be a coin laundromat. Also, I had drank a pot of coffee at breakfast, so now I was not only lost but I had to use the bathroom. I was starting to curse the people at the front desk of our hotel. I came across another hotel, a Best Western that was called Hotel Mozart. I figured that they would have a bathroom and also possibly help me find the proper laundry.

It's already bad enough that I'm walking around aimlessly with my bag of clothes feeling like a schmendrik, and then having to beg to use a toilet, or having to figure out how to get the point across of needing to use the toilet as a non-italian speaker is just too much indignity for one morning. The guy at the desk of the Hotel Mozart is laying for me: I have a plastic bag of clothes and I look like I'm not from "around here."

Me: Where is your bathroom? You have a toilet?

Hotel Mozart Jerk: Sorry sir, what room are you in?

Me: I'm not staying here but I really need to use the bathroom.

Hotel Mozart Jerk: I'm sorry sir, but the bathroom is only for guests of the hotel.

Me: Ok, then, (raising my voice) can you help me with something else then if you won't let me use the bathroom?

Hotel Mozart Jerk: Perhaps.

Me: Is there a coin laundry around here?

Hotel Mozart Jerk: Go out and make a right and a left.

Me: (Walking out and cursing under my breath)


I finally got someone at yet another dry cleaners to show me where a coin laundry was. It said "Self Service," but there was a guy there who looked at me and could tell I wasn't from "around here." We communicated ( I think) that he could wash my clothes by 3pm for 10 Euros. And he had a toilet around the back of the store. I thanked him, "Molto Grazie" and said I would be back at 15:00. I hope he's washing my clothes; who knows, maybe he interpreted our conversation as " I want you to burn these stinky clothes, burn em up, I say. I'll give you 10 Euros to do it, and I'll be back at 3pm just to make sure you've done the job. Too many bad memories with those sweaty undergarments...."

 At home, we have a washer and dryer. I take that for granted; when I want clean clothes, I just have to walk down the hall. On the road, it's a terrible humiliating ordeal. I wonder what will happen if I need a laundry when we get to Bosnia? Maybe I'll just wash them in the sink......

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Salsa Basics

Although I've played in a few "Latin" situations, I'm actually fairly ignorant about Latin music. I did play timbales, drum set, and later piano with a Baltimore based group called Rumba Club, and I did work with Don Byron's 6 musicians, which was Latin-tinged originals and featured the great conguero Milton Cardona.( I did also live in the same building as Eddie Palmieri in Queens, but that's another story. And that certainly doesn't make me know anything more about Latin music.) I also don't think "Latin" is really the most proper nomenclature. "Latin" could imply almost any music from the South American vicinity. "Afro-Cuban", "Afro-Caribbean," even "Salsa" is more appropriate. "Latin Jazz" will do just fine. In terms of the origins of the music, you have to remember that African slaves brought their rhythms to Cuba and other islands, and the rhythms blended with the music of the Spanish settlers. The son clave is derived from the 6/8 African clave. Here's a short video explaining:

We have a salsa band at Portland State University. David Valdez recently took over the ensemble from Farnell Newton. I worked with the group one day last week; it seems as though the two pianists in the group were having trouble with the montuno, which is the basic piano part for salsa music. I explained and demonstrated some things, and then one of the students made a video of a second run through of the explanation. Obviously, I didn't know about this video; otherwise, I would have had my hair, makeup, and wardrobe guy on the premises. Anyway, I hope that you'll find this to be informative and entertaining.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Minimum Wage

"Would you like some JAZZ with that?"
I have noticed that the jazztruth posts that seem to get the most attention are the ones where there is some controversy or something that deals with the current state of the music. I say this because in some ways I want to avoid always talking about these kinds of things, because, let's face it, it's depressing. However, I saw something on facebook which piqued my interest.

Dave Captein, a marvelous Portland-based bassist, posted this:

I played 3 three hour door gigs last week (including one of which was on a Friday night). My total take was $64. $16.55 below minimum wage.

There are hundreds of comments below this post. Some are humorous; indeed, this is an instance where you would have to laugh to keep from crying. It's interesting to me that we have reached a point in time where many younger musicians almost don't believe that it's possible to make money as a musician. I remember(before I started touring)as a local musician in Baltimore and Washington in the late 80's and early 90's that we tried to avoid the dreaded "door" gigs because they were beneath us, and because there were actual paying gigs. Now, it almost seems as though it's reversed; the gig that actually pays is a rarity. Some people are not aware that even the major jazz clubs in Portland are door gigs. In our present day, if you refuse to do door gigs, you will find yourself playing very infrequently. 

This is the new paradigm. Because live music is not considered essential anymore(at least in America), we have nothing to bargain with; if we, the musicians, somehow were able to say to the clubs, "You need to guarantee pay for the musicians," then the clubs would say,"We'll just buy an ipod," and that would be that. So we begrudgingly play for the door and hope that people will come. But oftentimes, people don't come, because we, being the musicians that we are, spend much of our time thinking about the music and less about how to get folks to come out. 

Sometimes, we can convince our friends and family to come out.(When I would come back from New York to play Blues Alley in Washington D.C., my father would try to get all of his friends to come out to see the show, and I would do pretty well. My mother would do the same when I played at An Die Musik in Baltimore.) But this is cool only once in a while. Unless you have an extraordinarily supportive family who has nothing but time on their hands, you could do that maybe once or twice a year. Once a month? That's pushing it. Can you get friends and family to come out once a week? I'd be surprised. The friends and family plan just doesn't work after a while.( I played a gig recently where the young bassist in my group invited everyone from her work to come down. They weren't jazz fans, consequently, they didn't like or understand what they were hearing. They most likely won't be coming to any more of her jazz gigs.) You have to be known enough to get strangers to come to your gigs. How do you do that? I have no idea. If I did, I would probably be doing something other that writing this blogpost about door gigs. 

Mr. Captein is a high level musician, and he's no kid right out of college; he SHOULD be paid for his time, but he also remembers a time when gigs paid real money. The minimum wage analogy is somewhat facetious; obviously, Captein and other musicians of his caliber don't always do door gigs and often do receive respectable compensation for their work. This is a different kind of life than a life where one has no choice but to work at McDonald's or Starbucks or what have you.(I worked various minimum wage jobs in the late 1980's. Let me tell you, I would much rather play music than drop McChicken sandwiches in the fryolater....)

In a way, the lack or musician income, the lack of audience, and the general lack of abundance in our community is a by product of our current economic situation; the top 1% has all of the money. There isn't enough money circulating to do things. Everyone is doing more for less, unless you are part of the 1 percent, and then you are just sitting around while your money earns interest. Until we can figure out a way to get money back into the community, this is only going to get worse. 

In the meantime, people are offering solutions, or at least, ideas which could lead to solutions. Drummer and educator Jason Palmer writes:

I was having this conversation the other day (seems like all most musicians talk about these days...), and I was wondering if maybe there needs to be a broader discussion of how to make it seem 'cool' for people in our society to seek out live music in general. If we could somehow figure out a way to make it seem like 'the thing to do,' then it would be easy to fix the other parts of the equation; like pay, contracts, and our relationships to club owners. We need a picture of Miley Cyrus in a Portland jazz club...I'm joking, but I think this is really the issue. When I talk with musicians who played a lot in the 60's, 70's etc. and were making good guarantees, seems like they also always mention how the clubs were often packed, and that there were a lot of folks OUT. Some of them were getting drunk/high, some were trying get laid, or what have you, but the music was the center of this. Now, the Dj's are doing that job for younger folks in my generation. So, how do we change this? Just a thought...

Again, if I knew how to make jazz cool again, I probably wouldn't be sitting here writing. (It's kind of odd because I'm actually sitting in a hotel in Umea, Sweden; last night, I played with Jack DeJohnette at a major venue to a packed house at a major jazz festival. Have you ever heard of Umea? I hadn't either. They have a major jazz festival, and people of all ages come to it. Baltimore doesn't have a major jazz festival. I'm just sayin'.....)

Ben Jones added:

Ok, so, part of the issue is the age group. There are still people paying to go hear music they are just younger and listen to younger music. I have heard of folks spending upwards of $10 to go where there is a DJ. Why you ask, because neither the club, nor the patrons, have to worry about a 'BAD' band...the music is the real deal, all the time, really loud and at the end of the day, much less expensive than a live band of 1/3 the caliber...maybe. It boils down to the fewest moving parts theory...get the most out of doing the least. The venue owners have to go back to taking pride in their venues regardless of band, DJ, tap dancer or whatever entertainment they may have. Sure having a band with a following is good but it should not be the main draw. The venues have to help...end of story. We as musicians also need to realize that the only way we will ever get there is to work together...musicians w/ musicians, musicians with venues, and venues with venues. There's room for all if we stop trying to cut throats to try to get it all for ourselves.

This point has been made over and over again; have a PLACE where people go regardless of who is playing, and everything will take care of itself. Relying on individual bands to draw people just doesn't work. This reminds me of when I played at the Blue Note in New York with Christian McBride about 6 or 7 years ago. It was a packed house. McBride was telling a story, and it involved trumpeter Roy Hargrove. " I called Roy Hargrove. Y'all know Roy Hargrove, right?" The audience was silent!  So you mean to tell me that in the top jazz club in New York, in the jazz capital of the world, in a packed house, not ONE AUDIENCE MEMBER had HEARD of Roy Hargrove? One of the more famous trumpeters in modern jazz? Not one person had heard of him? Who is in the audience? Clearly not jazz FANS! They go to the Blue Note because they heard of the Blue Note. They go because somebody told them to go the Blue Note in Greenwich Village. It's the PLACE. Not necessarily the artist performing.

Pianist Peter Boe gives a darker picture:

The entire situation is flatly untenable. It's a joke. It is no longer a business (for the musician) and cannot even be viewed as one. It is a LESS than zero-sum proposition. The only people that go to clubs on a regular basis are kids - and they don't go to what we persist in calling 'jazz clubs' in Portland - well, we have ONE, and even they seldom have jazz on weekends, when people tend to go out much more. Why do you suppose that is? The other thing that bugs me is that no other club owners wish to take ANY of the risk in putting on a show. It's all placed directly in the laps of the musicians - promotion, advertising, press, internet. The club owners are in essence saying 'OK, you want your band to play here? Fine. Decide on a cover charge and, IF you get enough covers, we'll kick down a hundred bucks or so. But don't expect US to do a damn thing to help bring people here - that's YOUR job. Hell, it's OUR club'. If that isn't some stupid-ass reasoning. Whatever happened to the idea of a business promoting ITSELF? Three gigs, 60 bucks? That's working at a deficit. That's about a 200% reduction in what we were making 30 years ago. I'm beginning to think it's hopeless. Sorry to be negative. But do you know a single local musician able to make even a poverty-level living by doing nothing but gigs? I can't name one.

This might sound strange, but I actually think negativity is important. I can appreciate trying to stay positive in the face of doom and gloom; nevertheless, if you are unwilling to look at what is wrong, you can never fix it. If you are fat, but insist on seeing yourself as big boned, you'll never make attempts to lose weight. If you can't play your scales, just saying that you don't want your music to sound too "technical" won't make you play your scales any better. Negativity in this sense will actually HELP. Let's fix problems instead of acting like everything is cool.

At least one definitive solution was offered from Kit Taylor:

I could write a book on this, but I just had to put a few points in... first thing, every time I see one of you refer to Pop Music or Top 40 as the dumbing down of the industry, or the market, I cringe. How many of you would guess that the primary songwriter behind 20 Number One songs over the last few years is an absolutely shredding guitarist, studied Classical and Jazz, and was the lead guitarist in the Saturday Night Live band for 10 years? He's only 39 right now. You must adapt to your surroundings gentlemen and gentlewomen. There are millions being made on YouTube (, and there are countless other Music Sites such as where hundreds of thousands of dollars are made by artists you've never heard of creating new and fresh music. This is the digital era. It doesn't mean people are less musical. Just that people don't go to traditional jazz clubs anymore unless you give them a damn good reason to go. I'm just spitballing here... but what about Live Streaming some of your shows? Create a nice looking YouTube video... something edgy and modern but with the music you love. Using loops onstage along with a live drummer? Yes even for Jazz. ANYTHING to make it more current. Build a YouTube audience. I've worked with Shoshana Bean before, and she does shows ONLINE from her home, charging an online cover. That's bad-ass and brilliant if you ask me. I love and work in Pop Music, so I'm a little biased, but I grew bored and tired with Jazz for a reason. You must make it fresh. These same discussions are going on in cities all over the world, some bigger some smaller than ours. But the only thing that is for sure is, the change WILL happen, with or without you. Ok that's it for now. I respect all of you as musicians! Just felt like this needed to be 

At the very least, we need to think outside the box and come up with new ideas on how to have a life in music. As an educator, I feel a responsibility to acknowledge the difficulties and to be aware of and make my students aware of possibilities. I want my students to have a reason to try; if they don't believe they have a future, why should they spend years cultivating their skills? Thanks to people like Captein and others for keeping an honest dialogue; perhaps as one door closes, another will open. 


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Jet Lag Like A Mug

I'm sitting in a chair in a departure lounge in the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in The Netherlands. Why? I'm asking myself the same question. I just got off a nine and a half hour flight from Portland, Oregon. I'm waiting for my connecting flight to Oslo, Norway. This is the beginning of the 2013 Jack DeJohnette Quartet Featuring Don Byron Tour of Europe. I'm excited about the tour and the prospect of musical conversations with DeJohnette, Byron, and bassist Jerome Harris. However, there is a 9 hour time difference between Portland and Amsterdam. Which means that, although the morning sun is shining through the huge glass windows of Schiphol, all I want to do is sleep. So why did I just have 3 cups of coffee? I can hang on until I get to Oslo, then it's night night for GC. If my room isn't ready, I'll have to bribe someone. Or just get on my knees and beg for any room that's available. I'll take even a broom closet….. a smoking broom closet with no view. Maybe I'll just fake an illness. Or just remind the people at the front desk that I'm an American and we are known internationally for our whining abilities.( If WHINING was an Olympic sport, USA would take Gold, Silver, and Bronze every four years.)

I almost never sleep on flights. The only way I'll sleep on a flight is if I haven't slept for three days straight. Otherwise, I just can't do it. I don't know why sleeping sitting up in a tiny uncomfortable seat surrounded by strangers and food carts while turbulently tossing in the upper levels of the atmosphere is so difficult. I guess I'm just finicky.Or maybe it's because there are SO many great movies to watch on the plane. And when I say great, I mean crappy. Did you know that they made at least 4 of those "Beethoven" movies? Not Beethoven the composer; Beethoven the DOG. They made at least 4 that I know of, they all suck, and they might be coming to an airline near you. The joke is that the titles of the movie are "Beethoven's Second" and so on, just like the Beethoven Symphonies, except nobody
even gets the joke anymore, because no one has heard of Beethoven. These are the kinds of movies you might see on a plane. Or movies with Ted Danson in them. Oh, you KNOW it's some sad flick when it's STARRING Ted Danson. And you know it's a crappy airline as well.

So I didn't sleep this time, and right now it's just an exercise in sleep deprivation. Well, I guess it's only 1AM in Portland, so it's just as if I stayed up late reading or emailing. (I would have said it's like a late gig, but Portland doesn't have too many of those. I wonder if anyplace has those really late night gigs like in the old days, like Bradley's. I guess Small's in New York goes til the wee hours. But a 1AM hang in Portland is only a thing of legend.) Still, regardless of the jet lag math, I don't feel that great. Although, I will admit that since I changed my diet and have been exercising, I feel better than in years past. Plus, you can just stay awake using mental willpower. (Oftentimes, people will say "Get on the schedule of your destination city the first day; get out in the sunlight as much as possible…..go for a run…." I used to try but lately, since I haven't been traveling as much, my willpower is so weak that I don't even try. It's a 5 hour afternoon nap followed by a groggy dinner followed by going back to bed followed by waking up too early and saying, " I shouldn't have slept so much when I first arrived!")

I used to think that touring was always an exercise in sleep deprivation. But when  my son was born, my wife and I didn't sleep for a solid year. Even now, my son will get up in the middle of the night. He'll come into our bed, and then kick us all night long. (Oftentimes, I end up going in his room to sleep the rest of the night.) So sleep isn't a given at home. I used to be skeptical when other musicians would say " I get more sleep on the road than at home!" Now I totally get it.

This tour is a little over 3 weeks, and it takes us to many cities around Europe. Many of these cities I have been in before: Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Essen. We're also going some places I haven't been: Oslo, Gotenberg, Sarajevo. It took me about a week to pack. I don't want to get charged for overweight baggage, but I also don't want to wear dirty clothes for 5 days straight. I also don't want to be cold. I have some wash and wear items that will work if I can't get to a laundry. I may get a few things cleaned in a hotel, but that can get expensive.( I love how in these hotels they have a printed list of how much they charge to clean each different clothing item. Who comes up with these prices? " Socks: $7.50…….Men's Trousers: $12.59………….Women's Handkerchief: $6:45." Talk about rip-off city. I guess it's nice that they tell you how much they are going to stick you for. I remember before cell phones and laptops if you tried to call from the hotel, there would always be somebody who had a 300 dollar phone bill. I asked one time how much it would cost per minute and the lady at the desk said, "I don't have access to that information!" Can you imagine going to a restaurant where they refused to tell you the prices?)

I won't lie; I have mixed feelings about going on the road right now. I love to play and certainly this is a high level musical organization. However, my son Liam is in a real Daddy phase right now, and he's very sad that I'm not going to be around for a few weeks. I miss him already; we've been having a lot of fun lately doing Dinosaur races around the house. On my way out the door, he told me that he wanted me to bring him a "mad Alosaurus." He's also really in a heavy Dinosaur phase at the moment. He equates "carnivorous" with "mad" for some reason. I'm also missing my teaching. All of my classes and ensembles at Portland State University are covered, however, I'm really enjoying this first term and I feel as though we have more potential than ever this year. So I don't want to miss too much time with the students.

As I sit here in the airport, missing my home and my family, I can't help but think that if jazz was more popular in the U.S., then we wouldn't have to fly to Europe to work. We could work in our home country, maybe even our home states or cities. I have mentioned many times that the real jazz tours for me have always been in Europe, ever since I started touring in 1993. It's weird that America's music is more popular everywhere else but in America. I'm about ready to reverse my criticism of the notion that Europe can claim some stake in the ownership of jazz. That's right, I might owe Stuart Nicholson, the author of "Is Jazz Dead? Or Has It Moved To A New Address?" an apology. Well, let's not get carried away. That might just be crazy jet-lag talk.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Endless Mysteries

I'm extremely excited about my latest CD. It's my 24th as a leader and it's on the Origin label, a great musician-run company based in Seattle, Washington. The CD is called "The Endless Mysteries," and it features two extremely heavy musicians: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer/musician/composer/bandleader Jack DeJohnette. It's an interesting trio because we had never played together before; although I have been working with DeJohnette, but never in a strictly trio setting, and I had only played with Grenadier a handful of times. Also, we didn't have a chance to rehearse. So what you will hear on this album is very spontaneous and fresh. We did no more than two takes per song, oftentimes just one take. It's a blowing date, although calling it a "blowing" date sells it short; Grenadier and DeJohnette have such distinctive voices on their instruments that even the first takes are masterpieces of creativity.

Although we didn't have the luxury of performing this music beforehand, I had the luxury of using one of my small groups at Portland State University as a guinea pig, so to speak. I have a group called The Park Avenue Group which, during the Fall term before the CD was recorded,  played most of the material which appears on the album. This gave me a chance to get comfortable with the songs and the chord changes. I think it was a good learning experience for my students as well as for me. The songs aren't the most technically challenging things I've ever written; nevertheless, it's always good to come to a date with some musical ideas.

The session took place last December up in Catskill, New York, at the studio of Scott Pettito. I took the bus up to Woodstock and stayed over with DeJohnette. Jack and his wife Lydia could not have been more hospitable. They picked me up at the bus, and cooked a lot of nice food for me. The night I arrived, Jack and I went down in his basement and played some duets: Jack played piano and I played drums. I think we played "Giant Steps" for about twenty minutes.

It's challenging to teach full time, be a Dad and also keep my musical aspirations flowing. In some ways, I've slowed down, but on others ways, I've grown more determined. New York City can be a great motivator, but I've always gathered my motivation from within. I did the most practicing in my life(the early 90's) in Rockville, Maryland, which is hardly a hotbed of jazz. I can be inspired anywhere. I'm still writing, still practicing in small ways when I can, and still trying to grow artistically. Hopefully, this CD will demonstrate this.

I don't have the exact street date but it will be available on Itunes, from the Origin website, and when you see me! I will have some copies muy pronto. Keep you ears open for "The Endless Mysteries."

Monday, October 7, 2013

Mike Clark at Jimmy Mak's in Portland!

If you live in Portland, Oregon, or live anywhere near Portland, tomorrow night is a great opportunity to hear a legend: drummer Mike Clark is coming to PSU and Jimmy Mak's! From 2pm to 4pm, Clark will do a clinic in Lincoln Hall 47 for PSU jazz students, and then at 8pm, he will be performing at Jimmy Mak's in the Pearl district. The group will include your truly on piano, Nicole Glover on tenor saxophone, and Jon Lakey on upright bass. Although Clark is known as an Oakland School of Funk drumming extraordinaire, we are going to play mostly straight-ahead jazz and maybe throw in a few funkier tunes as we see fit.

This gig is important for a number of reasons. The first is that I am somewhat of a beginner at planning events like this. Bringing in a guest artist, regardless of whether they are well known or unknown, is a lot of work and organization, which of course takes me away from all of my principal responsibilities. This is kind of a test to see if this sort of thing can be a positive experience, because I'd like to do more in the future. Secondly, it's important because it gives two of my best students, Nicole Glover and Jon Lakey, a chance to grow through playing with one of the masters. This is the best way to learn as a jazz musician, and history proves this. Sure, an academic program can teach a lot of skills, but there is no substitute for the experience of being on the bandstand trying to hang with more experienced musicians. In my opinion, Portland and many other scenes need more integrated bands; young musicians can learn from the older cats, and the older cats can be inspired by the younger cats.

I hope to see you tomorrow! Please come and not only hear great music but support live musicians, both legendary and up-and-coming. If you aren't familiar with Mike Clark, here are some you tube clips which might pique your interest: