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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Thursday, March 31, 2005

battle royal

It's only March, but it's not too soon to start planning summer trips. If you haven't yet been to the Iowa City Jazz Festival (Iowa City, IA) I urge you to make a note to attend! This year the festival will be on July 1-3.

This is one of the best jazz festivals around. First of all, it's free. Second, top names in today's jazz scene are featured--in the past few years headliners have included Christian McBride, the Yellowjackets, Patricia Barber, John Pizzarelli, Roy Haynes, Joey DeFrancesco, Joe Levano, Greg Osby, Charlie Hunter, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and many other fabulous musicians. (You can see them all for free.) Third, it's held outside on the streets of downtown Iowa City, a wonderful combination of independent shops, bars, and restaurants mixed with a casual college vibe (Univ. of Iowa). Did I mention it's free?

The lineup this year looks good, as always. Kenny Garrett will be the headliner Saturday night and Conrad Herwig takes the stage on Sunday. Lots of other great performers will be featured throughout the weekend. Check out the schedule for more info.

Until next time....

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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

conga blue

I've been listening to this great CD by Poncho Sanchez (Conga Blue) lately and absolutely love it. If you like this sort of music and even if you don't, you'll not be disappointed by these cool Latin grooves.

Random note: For those of you who use Mapquest faithfully, I urge you to try Google's new location finder. It's super simple to use and downloads much faster than MQ.

Been busy here with the writing gig. Just as I finish up 2 assignments and begin to get worried that more work might not come my way (such is the life of a freelancer) I receive 2 emails and 1 call yesterday from folks wanting to talk business: a letter for a local realtor, possible brochure & letter work for a photographer, and potential marketing materials for an insurance company in Peoria. I love days like this!

My good mood remains because the weather is improving. Today it's supposed to be 72 degrees and sunny. If I get through my list of work tasks today I think I'll head outside and begin cleaning up the yard. Might be able to get an hour or so in before heading over to the store to teach some lessons. Supposedly I have a new student starting today, which will bring the grand total up to 3.

I also have to work in some practice time this evening. Got a gig coming up on Friday in Springfield doing a bunch of tunes I haven't played before. I'm looking forward to the gig--it's a CD release party for Sam Crain's new disc, "Bird' s Eye View." (Read more about it here.) The tunes are really great, but not all of them are simple. I'm transposing (for alto) from a C lead sheet which isn't usually a problem, unless the tune is up-tempo and accidentals are plastered all over the place. A couple of the tunes are like this, so I need to spend some extra time making sure I don't biff every other note. I've been playing along with the CD and that helps, but I might have to write some stuff out in my key. This is good for me, though...I've been slacking in the practicing department lately. It seems that with everything else going on I really have to make an effort to carve out practice time in my schedule, which I don't always take time to do.

It's times like this when I wish I were back in school--or at least wish I had worked harder when I was a student. Every time I stop and think about what I need to practice I begin to feel as if I should know this stuff already. Which is true in some instances, but in others not so much. After all, we're always learning and we can't ever know everything. Even the best musicians are always finding new ways to express themselves and discovering new ideas as they improvise.

I've added a section for gigs--look to the left if you haven't already. Thought this might be a more upfront way of keeping track of upcoming performances. Maybe someday I'll put up a music-specific website, but for now this'll have to do.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Friday, March 25, 2005

here's that rainy day

By now you've probably noticed I tend to use weather-related post titles (tune titles) quite often. Don't ask me why 'cuz I don't have an answer for ya. Maybe it's b/c we're in this transitional period between seasons--which can be so gosh dern depressing. I'm not depressed, mind you, but it's sure hard to be Little Miss Sunshine when gray skies are continually dampening the days.

Anywho. Played last night at Panache and had a really good time. Had to find a drummer last minute (thanks, Mike!), but that worked out fine. Actually, I rarely use drums at Panache due to financial constraints, but every now and then it's nice to have someone kick a groove. And this week I really wanted to have that full group sound. Doug drove from Galesburg to play some bass & Kevin and I trekked from B-N as usual. Doug's sounding good...he's an excellent trumpet player, and about a year or so ago he also decided to take up the bass. Doug bought Andy's rig when before he left for Guatemala so he's got a nice setup. I've played with him occasionally over the past 6 months or so and I'm noticing steady improvement...too bad he's thinking of moving back to St. Louis! We can certainly use more bass players--esp. upright--in the area. BTW, Doug's got a real creative blog that combines life stories, ficticious events (i think) and rhythmic musings. Some good stuff here, check it out.

Playing today at an open house/sale-type-thing for a car dealership. Sounds like they're gonna feed us, which is always a bonus. I'm just happy to have a gig in town!

Other news...got an email from the Yellowjackets mailing list today--the group's new CD, Altered State, was just released. I'm hoping to head to Borders tonight and pick up a copy. I know it'll be awesome.

Ok, chat time is up. Back to work for me. Just finished a couple of assignments for DGM and I've got to get to work on a newsletter for a new client. Hope everyone has a good weekend and I'll see you back here real soon.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

a foggy day

And foggy ineed. And gray. And cold. It's spring, now, what's going on? It snowed last night!

At Baga a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to reconnect with fellow musician/college pal Marc Piane. Actually, we chat online ocassionally but hadn't seen each other since last Baga, or maybe even before. Marc is a great bassist living in Chicago. He plays in groups ESP and QBlue (among others), so if you're ever in the Windy City be sure to check him out. Another Knox alum, tenorman Gabe Patti, also plays in ESP. We're all over the map, I tell ya.

This'll be short as the mailman just pulled up and I'm anxiously awaiting a PO for a writing job, so I'll leave you with gigs for the weekend:

Thursday @ Panache with Kevin Hart (piano), Doug Falk (bass), and Mike Krusa (drums)
7.30-10.00 pm

Friday @ Suds (car dealership, corner of Towanda & Ft. Jesse in Normal) w/ Trefan Owen (guitar) and Kevin

Kevin's group, Kevin Hart & the Vibe Tribe, will be at the Rhythm Kitchen on Saturday from 7-10 pm. I'd offer a link to the RK, but I just noticed that the site's no longer functional. Sorry!

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Saturday, March 19, 2005


Thought I'd mess around a bit with font size here, just to see if anyone complains about not being able to read tiny text on a computer screen. I think I can make it even smaller...there, is that too difficult to read?

Sorry, just being goofy on this overtly overcast Saturday morning. Spring's tomorrow and that's a good thing. My tulips (planted by the former homeowners) have been pushing through the ground for a few weeks now, and that's another sure sign that we'll be leaving the doldrums of winter behind shortly.

Played last night at the CAC. The crowd was intimate. That's a polite way of saying the attendance wasn't very good. I think that since the CAC has been having music every Friday night (instead of twice monthly like before) that the number of folks coming out has dwindled. That's my second gig there since the CAC instituted this change and the results have been the same both times.

It was an ok gig...kind of weird in a way. Usually folks are talking the entire time, which generates some noise in addition to what the band is doing. Some folks think this is annoying...but I kind of like it. I don't expect anyone to show up and devote their attention entirely to the band. Music is a social thing, so it's good to come out with your buddies, talk a little, listen a little, laugh a little (but not at the music please).

Anyway, last night the crowd was SILENT and it was sort of odd. I'd speak on the mic in between tunes and feel like everyone's eyes were drilling right through my head. The crowd was appreciative...they applauded after solos and tunes, but they didn't seem very excited. I guess that's what really seemed strange. I couldn't tell if they liked what we were doing or not.

William, the guy who runs the show at the CAC, paid us a nice compliment, tho. He said that most jazz groups show up, play standards all night, and plaster every tunes with long solos. "I know jazz is about improvisation," he said, isasmany words. "but it's nice to hear songs, too...you know...."

I do know. He meant songs with actual arrangements. And songs where everyone doesn't take a 20 minute solo. He even noticed that we added some new tunes to our repertoire, even though he didn't know the songs per se. We didn't play a jazz standard all night. Which the band liked, and apparently William liked, but I'm not so sure the crowd liked it.

Well I'm off for the rest of the weekend, which is nice because I seem to have picked up a cold and I'm going through Kleenex like crazy. I'm pretty sure I contracted whatever virus that's making my days and nights miserable from playing Knox's soprano at Baga. The reeds in the case weren't exactly fresh and the mouthpiece probably hasn't been cleaned in years. I would've brought at least my own mpc & reeds, but of course we left in a hurry and I didn't even think of it. So here I am, sniffling, sneezing, and honking. Poor me.

Enjoy the weekend, all. I'll see you back here soon.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

someday my prints will come

Actually, they already have. Picked up prints of my digital photos from 'Baga the other day. As always, the power of the lens has captured a number of once-in-a-lifetime events.

Speaking of 'Baga, for another take on the weekend, check out fellow alumni/sax chick Meghan Rutledge's blog. Great review (better than mine). And she's got pics on the way, too, so be sure to check back.

And just one more quick bit of news...Kevin is on his way to posting his new website. There's just a temporary page up now, but very soon this space will contain all sorts of exciting info about my talented husband and his musical endeavors, including his soon-to-be-released CD, "The Road to Everywhere." Once the site is completely functional I'll post it in my links section. Until then, check out the temp site for a brief bio.

Thanks for checking in. Hope to see you out and about this weekend! See previous post for gig schedule....

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ah, well, another 'Baga has come and gone. I didn't have a chance to report live from Galesburg, so I'll try to recapture the eventful weekend as I remember it a few days later.

Thursday night--the Faculty & Friends jam session--was a ton of fun. I did make the suggestion for next year to rename the session Faculty & Friend (singular) since everyone who participated either teaches at Knox currently or has taught there in the past. I guess I should feel special knowing that I'm the only one invited (voluntarily?) as a friend, not an employee. Ha.

It was a little strange not having the jam at Cherry Street, which is where 'Baga has always been. The combo is playing at McGillicuddy's this year, so that's where most 'Baga events took place. It's a nice establishment. Though not as intimate as Cherry Street, there is a nice stage area with lots of room for the band. And there's a bigger bar. Can't beat that, now, can ya?

Friday night the alumni big band kicked off the evening and the Youngblood Brass Band finished it off. The guys in the YBB are super energetic--and super loud. I really liked what they were doing...it was different, mixing elements of second-line drum beats, funkified tuba lines (he was the bass player), a couple of wailing trumpets, and a tenor man, who was the only guy in the group who could have been a bit louder. The snare guy/vocalist delivered some rap-type-stuff which was actually pretty neat (I do wish I could have understood what he was saying tho). Kevin had to retrieve some ear plugs from the car (fortunately I had a pair in my sax case, which we sliced up to make enough for the two of us) about a quarter of the way through the show. Must be getting old.

We stayed for 4 am hangs both Thursday and Friday night, and headed back to Normal on Saturday afternoon. I hear the concert Sat. night was good...it featured the current KJE lineup and Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts group.

Managed to take some decent pics with the digital camera. I wish I was smart enough to figure out how to post the darn things here. If anyone knows how to work this "Hello" program please share your expertise...I've got it downloaded on my computer, but I haven't had time to mess with it to see if I can actually get things to work properly.

I think I've finally recovered from this two-night adventure. I conked out real early the past several nights. We 30-year-olds don't bounce back like we used to in college! I guess by now I should know better. :)

I'll go ahead and post gigs for the weekend because it's going to be a busy week and I'm not sure I'll make it back here again to add more stuff:

Thursday @ Panache w/ Dave Hoffman & Jamie Jenkens, 7.30-10.00 pm

Friday @ the Contemporary Arts Center w/ Cassie Hart & Friends, 5.30-7.30 pm

We've got a few new tunes to debut on Friday so be sure to check us out! Hope to see the locals out and about--and thanks, as always, for supporting jazz.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

spring ain't here

Hey readers & jazz fans. Thanks for checking in and posting comments & signing the ol' guestbook (GB). It's great to hear from you. But I'm wondering about the last message in the GB:

Great website. Everything looks fine. The only I'd change is your homepage font color. Keep up the great job! Welcome to my site online resource about health insurance or [url]http://healthinsurance.ruwww.ru/[/url].

Huh? At the risk of sounding defensive, I gotta say this at least...I don't get the comment re: font color. It's black. How can you go wrong with black? And what's up with the health insurance plug? Doesn't this guy know that musicians can't afford health insurance? (j/k...that's why we need to have "real" jobs in addition to the music thang.) I'm thinking this is a general comment that's posted randomly. I don't think it's specific to this site at all. And no, I didn't follow the link.

Looking forward to this weekend! The Rootabaga (affectionately called BAGA by us alums) Festival is gonna be great. If you haven't seen the schedule yet, here it is.

Thursday night will be the Faculty & Friends jam session. I'm a "friend," as I don't teach at the college. My former roomie is the current jazz director, however, the piano/percussion teacher is my husband, and the sax teacher was my best friend (we also dated for a year or so) in college--we're still good friends--though, so you can see how my connection to my alma mater has remained strong.

The whole weekend will be a large time. That's a Scott-ism. Speaking of Scott, our former jazz director will make a return appearance to direct the alumni band on Friday night. Scott is now getting jazz program off the ground at Ashland Univ. in Ohio--has been for the last 2 years. Haven't talked to him for a while, but I'm sure he's doing a great job.

I do have subs lined up for my regular Peoria-based gigs: Thursday at Panach will be Billy Cook (guitar) and Steve Thomas (flute). Steve will also be subbing for me Friday night at the Pere Marquette.

I'll have all day to kill on Friday and I'm planning on bringing my laptop, so I'll try to post an update while I'm in the 'Burg.


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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

question & answer

Title inspired by the recent trip to see the PMG, even though they didn't play this particular tune. Also...

Why, after spending all day in front of my computer, do I opt to plop down in front of the monitor at night, too? My eyes already hurt.

I have no idea. But I did just find something cool online. I've already mentioned that I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan, and after watching tonight's episode I visited the GG fan site I found a "link this site" section. I'm gonna copy the HTML code and see if I can put the banner under my own links section. Sorry, it's not music related, but that's the way it goes. I'm addicted to this show! BTW, Luke & Lorelei are back together. :-)

Ok, on to the music stuff.

The Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival is just about here! Those of you who've never heard of this festival (and I'll bet there are a lot of you), you're probably asking (1) what's this festival all about? and/or (2) what's a rootabaga?

I'll try to provide better answers for this set of questions.

(1) The Knox-Rootabaga Jazz Festival takes place in Galesburg, IL at my alma mater, Knox College. For a dinky 'lil farm town, this is one cool festival, and if you're anywhere near the area I highly encourage you to attend. Wonderful musicians have been featured over the years, including Curtis Fuller, The Hornheads, Bobby Shew, Joey DeFrancesco, Benny Green, and others. Here's the schedule for this year:

March 10 - Faculty & Friends Jam Session, 8 pm to midnight

March 11 - Knox Alumni Big Band directed by former Knox Jazz Prof. Scott Garlock (8 pm), Youngblood Brass Band (10 pm to midnight)

March 12 - Knox College Jazz Ensemble directed by Nikki Whittaker, Matt Wilson Arts & Crafts (7.30 pm)

'Baga is like homecoming for the jazzers. We hang for the weekend and forget we're now self-respecting adults...and regress to the sloppily drunken habits of our college years. (hic) It's a blast! Won't you join us?

(2) This is courtesy of Dictionary.net:

noun1: the large yellow root of a rutabaga plant used as food [syn: swede, swedish turnip, yellow turnip] 2: a cruciferous plant with a thick bulbous edible yellow root [syn: turnip cabbage, swede, Swedish turnip, rutabaga plant, Brassica napus napobrassica]

Cool, huh?

Jazz this week:

Thursday @ Panache w/ Trefan Owen (guitar) & Jamie Jenkins (bass), 7.30-10.00 pm
Friday @ Pere Marquette w/ the Fulton Street Gang, 5.00-7.30 pm

Sat. is free but I think I'm having a rehearsal for my group on Sunday. Got a gig coming up at the Contemporary Arts Center in a couple of weeks and I'd like to do some new material.

Enjoy your week!