I'm a freelance writer by day and a working jazz musician by night, and often I am able to combine my two lines of work. This blog is for posting gigs & various rants about music and life in general.

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Location: Central Illinois, United States
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Tuesday, November 30, 2004


I don't get it. Now my first attempt at an intelligent, artful post has appeared. I thought it disappeared into cyberspace for all of eternity, or that it ended up on someone else's blog by mistake. Now my readers (both of them) will see that it wasn't so intelligent and artful as I have claimed. Sorry.

As procrastination sets in I think I'll add a few more tidbits here. Like reading blogs? Check out these notable ones of sorta-famous-but-not-too-famous folks:

Jason Mraz
Under-rated musician slowly gaining media attention. He just may be the savior of contemporary popular music today.

Wil Wheaton
Former Star Trek NG whiz kid Wesley Crusher and leech dude from Stand By Me. One of the best blogs on the net if you want good, entertaining writing & storytelling.

Both guys posted yesterday (Nov 29).

Ok, now I'm getting to work.

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26 days till xmas

Crap...I just typed an informative, beautiful post and when I hit published the whole darn thing disappeared. More later, I guess, as I have to get some actual work done. Nuts. Had some good links in there, too. Will try to recreate later.

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26 days till xmas

Can ya believe it? Time to get started on that holiday shopping! Ugh...

And of course the holiday season means it't time to whip out the Xmas arrangements. Guitarist and friend Billy Cook tuned me on to the Band-in-a-Box website, which has a folder of holiday lead sheets for your downloading pleasure. Just go to the "files" link and scroll down until you come to the folder titled "Christmas Songs."

So I'm playing my first Xmas party of the season this Saturday. It's with the Second Story Trio, which is myself, Kevin, and Dan "Sweetie" Diefendorf. Sort of a scaled back version of the Swing Daddies...Dief came up with the name one summer when the 3 of us played on Wed. nights at a local restaraunt. It had an outdoor patio for dining, and they wanted us to play outside. There wasn't enough room on the small patio, so the management told us to take the elevator to the second floor of the building and set up on the fire escape balcony...above the customers. This was weird at first but it turned out to be kind of a cool way to do things. Hence the name...Second Story Trio.

Public gigs this week include:

Thursday, December 2 @ Panache with:
Steve Degenford (guitar) & Jamie Jenkens (bass)
7:30 - 10:00 pm

Friday, December 3 @ the Pere Marquette with:
The Fulton Street Gang
5:00 - 7:30 pm

Enjoy the week if I don't holla at you before it's over.

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Have i lost the write stuff?

Better question...did I ever have it in the first place?

I'm taking a break from griping about music stuff today. Instead, I'll gripe about writing stuff. To put it bluntly: I'm lame. Even the title of this post is lame. How trite can I get? "Write Stuff." That's so overused.

I haven't been very motivated this week, even though I have several projects I need to be working on. I actually have been working but my general creativity and specific wordsmithiness has taken a turn for the worse. Early in the week I blamed it on the weather (it's been rainy, then snowy, then rainy again). Then I blamed it on the upcoming holiday. This morning I blamed it on stuffing myself with stuffing and overindulging on the absolutely awesome pumpkin pie my sister put together. Today I blame it on post-holiday whatever. Tomorrow, who knows? I'm getting very good at displacing blame.

But enough of that. I'm sure that at the last moment possible a stroke of genius will capture my being and cause my keyboard to pound with vigorous strokes. I just hope it's not too last minute because I have the same deadline--Dec. 1--for three of my projects. Oy.

But the traditional Turkey Day was great. Both of them were great, actually. This year we split the festivities between two days--Thursday at the Harts, Friday at the Smiths. Usually we try to do both dinners on the same day, which would be ok except for the driving time in between houses, and then it never feels as if we've got enough time with any one family. This year there was plenty of time to eat, groan about being full, play a few games, torment a few family members, eat some more, groan some more (repeat cycle endlessly)....And today we don't have to drive anywhere and that's real nice. I haven't left the house yet and may not do so all day.

I hope your holiday was as relaxing as mine has been. Enjoy the rest of the weekend and we'll see you back here sooner or later--sooner if I still can't seem to write anything but crap and need to vent, or later if I instead resort to eating the remainder of the leftovers in the fridge and explode from an expanded intestinal track and happiness.

Caio, or in light of the season, CHOW!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Gobble gobble do-wop

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. No gigs to report for the weekend since all have been cancelled due to the holiday. We will resume our regularly scheduled events next week. Here's a preview of my gigs the month of December at Panache:

December 2 - TBA
December 9 - with Kevin Hart (piano)
December 16 - with Larry Harms (piano), Jamie Jenkens (bass)
Devember 23 - with Dave Hoffman (piano), Jamie Jenkens (bass)
December 30 - with Kevin Hart, Mike Nellas (bass)

Enjoy your family & friends over the holiday and hope to see you soon.

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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Road trip

Lots to report here but I don't want to ramble too much so I'll try to keep things brief...I don't have much time as I have a lot of stuff to do before heading down to St. Louis tonight to catch the Caribbean Jazz Project at the Bistro...but more on that later.

Panache update
Thursday was better. We did some newer tunes...as a group. I did have to ask one of our perpetual sitter-inners to give us some time to work through our "new" tunes, to which he responded, "So what, you don't think I can read them?" Not the point, dip$*%#!. Thing is, it's nice to have things sound a certain way sometimes, and if I've hired piano and bass to help achieve that sound, and it doesn't have to include...well, any other instrumentation, and you should just nod and say, "ok, cool." Because it ISN'T YOUR GIG. Anywho, he did sit down but about 3 tunes later, when we began a blues, he jumped right back up there. One step at a time, I guess.

Road trip!
We've been on the road quite a bit lately. Last Sat. we went to the Jazz Showcase in Chicago to catch Gary Burton, which was excellent. Tonight we're meeting some musician-friends in St. Louis at the Bistro (see above) and tomorrow we're going back to the Showcase to see Benny Green. So we're literally all over the map this weekend, from the middle to the south to the north back to the middle again. It should be fun, though, and seeing such high caliber of musicianship is always inspiring. Yes, even if none of the groups include a saxophone. :) Actually, I have no idea what the current instrumention of the CJP will be. The bio on the Bistro's web site mentioned Paquito D'Rivera as an original member, but I doubt he's with the group now.

So I'll wrap up now. I've had a crazy week with meetings and a couple of writing projects to wrap up, and a couple new projects to begin. So stuff at home has fallen behind a bit and I really need to catch up.

Have a great weekend, all. Check ya later.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Forward, march!

My plan is in place. I've contacted my piano guys and solicited their opinions on the Thursday thing. Rehearsals look like a very real possibility and everyone's up for actually working on some new tunes.

It's interesting...as soon as I took a minute to identify the problem and pose a possible solution, I immediately felt better. Relieved. Like a two-ton brick had been lifted from my chest (how cliche). I kind of feel stupid for taking this long to take action...guess I actually liked being miserable and feeling like a failure and a cheat and a faker on a weekly basis. Ha. No, it wasn't quite that bad but I did have several nights where things just weren't fun any more. And I don't want that to happen.

So, I'm inspired and I'm beginning to think of a schedule for December. Making a list of tunes to work on, too. Kev and I went to see Gary Burton at the Showcase on Saturday and on the way up we listened to one of his CDs, with an all-star cast (Pat Metheny, Roy Haynes, Dave Holland). I fell in love with Metheny's tune Question and Answer and spent yesterday afternoon putting it in Band-in-a-Box and working it over. (Good soprano tune, I think.) For a Metheny composition it's not that difficult, with the exception of a 4-bar Coltranish thing ine the middle. It's a lovely modern-sounding waltz and totally doable...I hope to try it this Thursday with Kevin and Jamie.

So off we go, on to better things. Come out this Thursday and check it out! Panache. 7:30-10:00 pm. Coffee. Cheesecake. Jazz.

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Saturday, November 13, 2004


So. I've had a couple of days to think really hard about the direction of my coveted Thursday night gig at Panache. Since my talented and reliable bassist left for the Peace Corp, I've been experimenting with various personnel, in various combinations, in trio formation. Being a horn player I need to solidify a two-member rhythm section, which usually includes bass and piano. Sometimes bass and guitar. And occasionaly piano/LH bass and drums.

Some of these "expreiments" have worked. Others have not. I've come home from these gigs lately very frustrated--both with my own playing and with the direction many of the gigs seem to take. So after having a very under par night last Thursday I decided I need to make a few decisions. Sat and thought about exactly what the trouble has been and how to attempt to fix it.

I came to the conclusion that
(1) I need to just book rhythm sections that are comfortable playing together...no more mixing and matching to see what works and what doesn't. I think I have a pretty good idea now. So, while I'll still be having various folks play with me each week I'll be making some decisions based on who plays best with whom, which in turn will probably cut back the number of various folks' appearances. This is unfortunate but I think necessary in order to enhance the quality of music.

(2) I need to be stricter about having people sit in. I hate to do this, because part of the local music scene is based on friendiness and easy-going attitudes. It's fun to hang at other peoples' gigs and join in every now and then. But there have been a few sitatuions lately where it's gotten out of hand. So, I still want people to come out and sit in, but I think I'll reserve the first set for the hired musicians only for the most part. This leads to the next point....

(3) Playing with different people all the time makes it tough to really get a handle on any specific tunes. We end up reading stuff out of the Real Book--the same tunes everyone else plays b/c everyone is familiar with them--week after week. I'd like to take my reformed groups and make a list of stuff everyone would like to play, for each group. Have a few arrangements maybe, or learn some new tunes, but really just concentrate on not flying by the seat of our pants all the time. And a few guys I play with write their own stuff, and we should be doing more to promote original music. Dave has written lots of great tunes, and so has Kevin, and I have a few of Larry's tunes in my book now. There are also tunes by musicians we all know (but who live out of town and I can't ask them to drive an hour or more for what they'd be getting paid) that we could work up. This will also keep the sitting-in thing to a minimum...if you don't know the tune, don't play. (Unless you have an unbelievable ear, which some folks do...then it's cool.)

I'm hoping this doesn't hurt anyone's feelings, but it's time to establish a few boundaries. I think it will help us musicians enjoy our time together more, and I think that because the quality of music will be enhanced, our audiences will notice a change for the better as well. Panache is a great place and I don't ever want to take this gig for granted. My plan will hopefully make Thursday nights better for everyone.

Wish me luck.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Or not. Anyone else ready for another weekend?

Last weekend was great. Had a Swing Daddies gig Friday night in Springfield and the crowd was very appreciative...and the hang afterwards (wit da band) was nothing short of entertaining. How can you fail to be amused when the entire dinner conversation revolves around porn stars?

Saturday was excellent...Kev and I had the night off. What a rare occasion! Saw the movie The Corporation at the Normal Theater and I'm swearing off Wal-Mart permanently. Or at least until I need some really cheap socks or something.

So, the week is in full swing and has gone fairly well thus far. With the exception of a couple of lessons I had to teach today. Actually, the second lesson was fine...I've got a flute student who is the nicest young girl ever. She's polite, friendly, and she...*gasp* practices! Which is a huge change from student #1. She's friendly too, but has the attention span of a flea. Which would explain why we've managed to get her to learn just 3 notes in the 2 months I've been working with her. She can do it...she understands counting and rhythm and all that...she just can't remember how the note on the page relates to her fingers. And it's all because she doesn't touch her horn outside of lessons. I'm getting gray hair and I don't even have any kids yet. Sheesh.

Well, on to better things. I think I may have booked a Christmas party. I've already got 2 on the schedule, why not one more? And in case any one is interested, here's the gig schedule for the week/end:

Thursday @ Panache, 7:30 - 10:00 pm
with Larry Harms (piano) and Dan Diefendorf (drums)

Friday @ the Pere Marquette, 5:00 - 7:30 pm
with the Fulton Street Gang

Takin' Sat. off to go see Gary Burton at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. Have a great weekend in case I don't get around to posting again.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Vote jazz!

Hope y'all got out there and cast your ballot today. In honor of election day, I think I'll spin my Bill Clinton CD, appropriately entitled "The Pres Blows." True story. Someone recorded him at a jam session in Prague (Reduta Jazz Club, January 11 1994). It only mildly sucks, but I still think it's cool that we had a pseudo-jazzer in the White House.

Spent Sunday "fixing" a solo from a recording session about a month ago. Sam Crain's new project features a bunch of great musicians and many of his wonderful original tunes. He kindly asked me to do a cameo on "Trail of Suds" which if you'll read some of my earlier posts, I did. My original solo was not so hip, tho, so I opted to rework it. Funny how particular you can get when working on this kind of thing...every solo "could" be better, and there's always something you want to fix. There comes a point where you just have to say, STOP I can live with that! Logging some studio time has certainly got me thinking about my musical weaknesses. I've spent a lot of time over the past week hashing out some stuff I've needed to work on for some time. It actually feels good to be practicing again.

Gigs o' the week
Thursday at Panache with Dave Hoffman (piano/trumpet) and maybe a bass player, if I hear from Jamie Jenkens soon
7:30 - 10:00 pm

Friday at Robbie's (Springfield) with the Swing Daddies
5:30 - 7:30 pm

I'm not playing Sat or Sun but Kevin's group is at Tonic (downtown Peoria) on Sunday from 7:00 - 10:00 pm. It's a new place trying to get jazz going so come out and support them, if you can!

New blog
I may have mentioned my new blog, Writing4You, before. Got a new post up today...I'm trying to keep this updated a couple times each week. Let me know what say ye if you decide to take a look. I've enabled comments on both blogs.

Happy Election Day!

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Monday, November 01, 2004

Title test

Second, very brief post of the day. I finally figured out how to post a title...yessss! I feel so dern bright!

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Get out there tomorrow and vote!

In brief...very brief
Gig news coming later this week. I'll have the entire schedule for Panache for November...I'm in the process of setting it up now. Check back, thanks!