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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Friday, April 29, 2005


Two new CDs have graced the disc changer in the living room: the new Yellowjackets recording, Altered State, and a Gary Burton's Generations. Both are superb. The 'Jackets sound as good as ever, and I'm looking forward to hearing them again live next month at the Jazz Bistro. Gary Burton has with him Julian Lage, the 16-year-old guitarist who plays up a storm. The kid was only 15 when the CD was recorded, and the liner notes notate that "Julian is currently a high school sophomore and is looking forward to getting his driver's license." That kills me!

Summer is looking good, gigwise. Have several Shoppes @ Grand Prairie gigs lined up, a couple of weddings, and a few misc. other things in addition to the regular stuff (Panache, Pere Marquette). Of course this means that between Kevin's and my busy schedule, we won't have much time to take off and actually go anywhere for a weekend (except the Iowa City Jazz Fest, which we reserve time for every year). That's what's nice about being self-employed (me) and working as a teacher (Kev)...we can take a couple days in the middle of the week during the summer and take a mini-trip. We've been talking about taking the train to Chicago for a brief getaway, so maybe that'll happen this year.

That's it for now. If anyone's out and about this weekend, we're at the Shoppes on Saturday from 4-7 pm. Let's hope it doesn't rain!

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I'm back. Didja miss me?

Seems like I did a gazillion things today, yet I don't feel as if I really accomplished anything. I ran around all morning to meetings, attended a ribbon cutting, made a delivery, and finally headed back home. By then it was lunchtime and I had a few hours to work on some web content for a client before going to the store to teach lessons. Here's the frustrating thing. I've got 4 students now, supposedly. The first is relatively new. Before today he was 2 for 4...showed up for 2 lessons on time, with horn in hand, ready to go. There were excuses for the other 2 times, but at least he came by to deliver them in person. Today he didn't bother to show up at all. So I sat around for a half an hour. Student #2 is reliable as can be and since she actally started practicing, we're making strides so things were a-ok. Student #3 was supposed to start last week, turned out to be a no-show, and decided this week that she didn't want to take lessons after all. This is a pain because we moved student #4 to a later time slot to make room for new student #3. Oh, and student #4 couldn't make it today at all (but at least I already knew about this). Out of four scheduled lessons, I taught only one.

I hate wasting time. But at least I got home early enough to trim up the lawn before my Tuesday night show (Gilmore Girls) came on. Been working on the Jazzscope newsletter ever since, tho I did take a bit of time out to visit the drumset downstairs that continues to call my name. Been working on a few bossa nova grooves from one of Kevin's teaching sheets, playing along to a few piano trio (drummerless) CDS, and trying to figure out how to coordinate all four limbs when playing in general. My right hand (ride cymbal) and left foot (hi-hat) are decent. The left hand (snare) is coming along better. My biggest deficiency is the right foot (kick), although this particular appendage is certainly responding better than it used to. I'm just not sure what else I'm supposed to do with it, other than slam it when I hit the crash or drop a bomb of sorts, which I don't really know how to do yet in a non-awkward and timeless, groove-busting-but-not-in-a-good-way fashion. Maybe it's time for a real lesson.

The eyes are getting heavy thanks to this morning's 5.30 am wakeup call, so that's about it for now. Stay tuned for new, ramblings, and whatever else have you. I'll update the gig list soon to include new performances.

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time after time

Feast or famine. That's the motto of a freelance anything.

As a writer, I encounter this sort of thing regularly with writing projects. As I finish up one or more pieces of work, I'll look ahead at my calendar(post due dates) only to see that I have no more immediate assignments. Will I ever work again? I ask myself. Fortunately, a dry spell hasn't lasted more than a couple of weeks, and I've used this time to pump up my marketing efforts.

Same thing with music. I haven't booked a new gig in about a month, then within 5 days I received calls resulting in a wedding reception, a couple of summertime outdoor functions, and a Christmas party. Crazy. I'm grateful, of course. This summer is shaping up to be a very busy time.

More later, as it happens....

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

road song

I've been a bit lax about posting this week due to a jam-packed schedule. Maneuvering my way around meetings, writing work, gigs, and practice time left but a few measly seconds, it seems, to update the blog. But now it's Saturday and I'm grateful. I have no real plans to do anything today and hope to keep it that way.

Today let's talk about something anyone with a vehicle--those who venture out beyond the city limits into interstate territory, anyway--is forced to deal with once the winter months begin to fade: CONSTRUCTION. This is going to be a killer year, at least for anyone traveling on I-74 between Peoria and Bloomington. Since I make the journey anywhere from 2-4 times each week this is an issue that deeply concerns me. I'm convinced that IDOT (IL Dept. of Transportation) has it in for those of us who want to visit either town.

First, the interstate bridge in Peoria closed for the next 6 months, which in all honesty, doesn't seem to be nearly as bad as I had anticipated. There are plenty of alternative routes to take, and if you don't follow the alt. route signs that the construction crews posted, you'll actually get where you need to be much faster. Fortunately, I'm from that area and know how to get around without any of this generous "help."

No, my big complaint now is that about 15 miles of road--on and off between Morton and Carlock--is down to one lane in both directions. I guess this is to make way for a new paving job. That's cool. I'm glad the State wants to provide us with pothole-less roads with smooth black surfaces. But I want to know...WHY NOW? Instead of the usual 45-50 minute drive to P-town, it's going to take probably just over an hour. All because there's always someone who has to drive 35 when squeezed between orange & white barrels, causing the rest of traffic to keep the same pace. And then there's the idiot who likes to ride your @$$, knowing full well that you can't go any faster than the person in front of you. Or the driver who sees that the overall speed has picked up a bit and floors the accelerator to hurry up and pick up 1/16 of a second, thinking he'll reach his destination that much sooner, only to realize that traffic isn't really picking up...and he has to slam on the brakes to avoid kissing the bumper in front of him. Problem is, he forgets this scenario quickly and the next time he gets an inch, the cycle repeats itself. Steer clear of these thoughtless drivers and make sure you leave plenty of space between the two of you, should you happen to get stuck in the rear.

The message for today, then? Please be careful out there. Drive safely. Watch for construction crews. Happy driving!

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

sleep all day

Jazz aficionados and musicians are probably scratching their heads and saying, "Well now, I don't recall that one," and frantically searching Google to find a jazz standard with this title. Or not. For those of you who remain puzzled, however, I should explain that I've bent my own rules here. As of late I've been straddling the fence of popular music. Hey, at least it's good popular music. Perhaps I should explain...

I've been away from the Top 40 scene for quite some time. Since my first year in college I think. Ever since I discovered Bird, then Coltrane, and Stitt, and on and on. Every now and then, however, I'll turn on a local radio station to see if anything interesting is being put out there. Most of the time the results are quite disappointing...but there are a few artists that I find intriguing (Black Eyed Peas, Matchbox20, and even a bit of Green Day...even though I just saw them on Saturday Night Live and they didn't sound very good). About a year ago I discovered Jason Mraz, who has a fantastic voice and actually writes his own music. I've never paid much attention to lyrics before, probably because most of the time they're mindless and dull. Mraz's words, however, are quite poetic and catchy and makes you really want to listen to see what he has to say. Wordplay, analogies, near-rhymes, and themes that we can all relate to (mostly love) weave in and out of yes, simple song structures, but there's something more. At first I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I found a live CD/DVD combo of his last tour and I realized, (1) the guy really loves music, (2) his band plays really well together, (3) it's not about showmanship, and (4) Mraz is isn't just another iconic rock star, he comes across as a truly down-to-earth individual. Just visit his journal to see for yourself.

So with this in mind, I'm going to try to attend the first non-jazz concert in many, many years. Mraz is coming to ISU at the end of the month and if I can find someone to go with me, I may pick up a couple of tickets next week. Any takers?

My admiration is so great that this artist has earned a spot on my "Other Links" section. Check it.

The weekend will be busy, with a gig tonight, 2 gigs tomorrow, a wedding to attend on Saturday, and a gig on Sunday. I'm looking forward to making some good music and will be sure to report anything inspiring, unusual, or humorous next week.

TGI(almost)F! See ya back real soon.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

body & soul

Title post inspired by a book I picked up from the library last weekend.

Every now and again I get an urge to rummage through the stacks to see what's up with jazz fiction. Sadly, there isn't much out there that I've discovered, although I did read an interesting novel entitled The Bear a few years ago. So Saturday I was searching for one book in particular. I had heard an archived interview on NPR's Fresh Air with novelist Frank Conroy (who recently passed away) and he was promoting his book--Body & Soul--about a young piano prodigy and it sounded interesting, so I decided to see if the local lending library had it. Found it, checked it, and I'm in the process of reading it. It's got a good, solid story (so far), descriptive writing (but not so attentive to detail that I lose my train of thought--tends to happen when 27 adjectives are strategically placed in each sentence), realistic dialogue, and accurate presentations of the thought process of a musician. I guess. I was no prodigy, but I have known at least one, and some of the characteristics seem to mesh.

What else in the news...Britney Spears is pregnant (says the MSN home page this morning) and the flags are resting at half mast for the recently departed Pope. Hmmm...do you suppose anyone has ever mentioned Spears' and PJP's names in the same sentence before? This just might be the very first time ever. We're makin' history here folks.

Short post today...gotta return to the working world. I've got two new clients to please this week plus an overdue issue of WriteTips to write/distribute. So it's back to work for me. Take care, peace 'n love 'n jazz to y'all. Hope you have a kick@$$ week.

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Friday, April 08, 2005

time after time

Post title inspired by the tune I'm currently listening to on the radio. Coltrane's version. Very cool.

I didn't have a chance to report on last Friday's gig at Robbie's in Springfield with Crain & crew. It was a good time...again, it felt great to play an entire gig of someone's original tunes. Nice to do something different. I love standards and I've by no means mastered any of them, but when you play the same tunes at gig after gig it's certainly refreshing to have a few jobs here and there where you can make use of some of the locals' talents. I don't have any (music) writing talent myself but there are several folks in the area who do. We should be helping them get their music out for others to enjoy!

Last night at Panache was fun also. We had a nice crowd and our trio (Steve Degenford, guitar; Jamie Jenkins, bass; and myself) worked well together. Good times.

ISU had its annual jazz festival last weekend. We went to the concert in the evening, which featured the ISU Jazz Ensemble with the guest artist: Benny Golson. If anyone claims to not have heard of Mr.Golson before, I'll prove you wrong. He's written lots of tunes--not just jazz, but also stuff most everyone has heard of, including the themes to M*A*S*H and Mission Impossible. The man plays smoothly and man, you should hear him speak. He's got the most soothing voice imaginable, and he's a great storyteller. I'd love to record him reading a book or two, then play it before I go to sleep at night. Anyway, it was great to see yet another big time jazzer perform. Many of these guys are getting up there in age...we're making a point to see them while they're still able to play. Some of the notable musicians I've had the good fortune to hear in the past few years include:

McCoy Tyner
Ray Brown (about 1 year before he passed)
Sonny Rollins
Elvin Jones (a couple years before he passed)
Roy Haynes
Curtis Fuller (he was guest artist w/ the KJE in '95)
Buster Williams
David "Fathead" Newman
Cedar Walton
Dave Brubeck

There's a lot of new talent out there, too. Making an effort to see this level of musicianship is always worthwhile and ever-inspiring.

For info on jazz festivals w/in a day's drive of Central IL, check these out:

Indianapolis, IN: Indy Jazz Fest (June 17-19)
Iowa City, IA: Iowa City Jazz Fest (July 1-3)
Quad Cities, IA: Bix Biederbecke Festival (July 28-31)

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I just offered up a pledge to WGLT 89.1 fm (that's the station's call letters and no, they don't stand for anything) to support the only full-time jazz format in the state. Every year Kevin & I contribute (usually in the fall but now I guess we'll be on the spring schedule) as it's definitely a worthy cause--esp. for us musicians--and we're able to glean new ideas for tunes. If you haven't pledged yet (and if you listen faithfully to this station) please do so now!

Added a couple of new dates to the April gig schedule (look left): April 17 & 24 with the Swing Daddies at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie. These are outdoor gigs, so I hope the weather is nice. April seems a bit early to be booking outdoor performances, but then again this is the Midwest--who knows what the weather will be like. There's a 50/50 chance of having a 90 degree heatwave or a viscous snowstorm.

I must return to work now. It's been a crazy couple of weeks--packed with meetings and project deadlines. Got 3 things due this week, not to mention my ezine, which is delayed due to my busy schedule of late.