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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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

c jam blues

It's been a pretty exciting day in the music world. I ended up booking a number of gigs: a jazz n' steak fundraiser and several potential gigs with a group that may be losing its regular sax player, at least for a while. The best part is that every single one of these gigs will be in town. That's right, no driving the I-74 westbound construction-based disaster zone (I think the crews are on strike or something) for these gigs!

The other big news doesn't concern myself so much as it does my superbly musically-talented husband. He got to be a guest DJ for a day on GLT and...here's the really big news...he got the first shipment of his new CD today. It's called "The Road to Everywhere" and will be available shortly on CD Baby. His website is also about ready to go live and when it does I'll post the link here. If you're in the area, you can catch his group (Kevin Hart & the Vibe Tribe) this Thursday night on the Peoria Riverfront (7.30-9.30pm) as part of the CEFCU/ParkDistrict Summer Jazz Series. Yes, I know I'm promoting a gig that competes with my own (Panache). I'm just glad that this week it's not me who has to be outdoors in 90+ degree heat performing! I'll be indoors, in the air-conditioning, sipping iced tea in between solos.

The Iowa City Jazz Festival is this weekend. We'll be attending, for like the 5th or 6th year in a row. It's a great, FREE, festival in the heart of downtown Iowa City. This hear promises to be another fabulous time with a host of fantastic musicians, including Eric Alexander, Conrad Herwig, and my favorite living altoist/headliner: Kenny Garrett. If you are anywhere within a day's drive of Iowa City, I urge you to make a point to attend!

Blogger is very slow today so I'm going to sign off before I get too annoyed. Have some swingin' dreams this week, all.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

musings in Dm

It's been a while since I contributed any sort of thoughtful commentary. Been too darn busy to think about stuff, let alone write it. But in the spirit of conversation (and it can be two-way conversation, if anyone cares to post a comment or sign the ol' guestbook), I've got something now.

Word of the year: prodigy.

This has to be one of the most overused terms these days. The definition, according to Webster, is "(a) an extraordinary, marvelous, or unusual accomplishment, deed, or event (b) a highly talented child or youth." While I'm on board with example (a), I guess I'd have to beg to differ with (b). There are a lot of parents who think their kid is a prodigy (I used to work music retail and can't count the number of moms/dads that went on and on about how their precious 3-year-old Jimmy-poo could sit down at the piano and play just like Oscar Peterson. Uh-huh.) I suppose this is natural. But when this word is used to label every kid who plays a little above average, it begins to lose its meaning.

For example, last week a local restaraunt/bar had signs plastered all over the place announcing this 15-year-old guitar player from Chicago who had a gig lined up for Saturday night. We had the night off and considered checking him out, but due to laziness we couldn't decide whether to go or not. The deciding factor would be, we said, what we thought when we heard the sound clips on his website. Preparing to be blown away, we tuned our ears eagerly towards the computer speakers.

Hmmm. The kid sounded ok, but he didn't sound like a prodigy. He was actually kind of sloppy and didn't really play anything out of the ordinary. (We didn't go to the gig.) In all fairness, I realize it's probably not cool to judge someone based on a few low-quality sound clips on a website. But I did talk to a friend who attended the show and asked what he thought. "Kid sounded all right," he said. "Better than average, maybe. But no wow factor."

Shouldn't a prodigy have some sort of wow factor? (See definition [a]). Shouldn't something about their playing make you stand up and say, holy crap, this is unbelievable? Shouldn't you be envious of their ability, as you've been playing for many more years than this youngster?

I can honestly say I've known exactly one prodigy...a young saxophone player from Peoria. He was amazing at age 13. Blew most--if not all--of the adult musicians away. Today he still sounds great...he's grown in many ways--his approach to music, the type of music he plays, etc--but you know, anything he plays now (technical, general sound, improvization-wise) he could do then. It really is amazing. I've known other kids who were really good for their age, and who work hard and have become fantastic musicians, but I wouldn't describe them as prodigies. This is a special term that should be reserved for really exceptional individuals.

Like 13-year-old Kit Armstrong, a classical piano player who was recently interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition. (He's also taking graduate-level classes in math & physics.)

Or a kid I just heard on the radio today, 18-year-old Eldar Djangirov. Now he sounds like Oscar Peterson!

And 16-year-old Julian Lage, a guitarist touring & recording with vibraphonist Gary Burton these days (I wrote about him before).

So am I writing this out of jealousy? Maybe. But not really. I'm a wordsmith in addition to being a (very mediocre) musician, and misuse of terminology bugs me.

Every prodigy (both real ones and those who are mislabeled) has one thing in common: one day, he/she will grow up. Then that wow factor will wear off. While she'll certainly be regarded as an excellent musician, the special attention that was lavished upon her will cease. (Well, maybe not for "her" if she continues to perform wearing skimpy outfits and long, flowing blond hair...but for the guys, definitely.) Will he be confused? Will he think he's no longer good enough? How does all this special attention affect the kids?

All I'm saying is to think before labeling.

My $.02...go ahead, hit me with your commentary. I'm ready!

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

dolphin dizzle

This is so great I just have to share it right away. A friend just tipped me off to this super fun link: www.gizoogle.com. Go to this page and type in any URL...you'll be transported to the page of your choice, only it'll be translated into ghetto speak. This is hilarious! Warning...you could spend all day laughing.

I just fixed the link above...I accidentally typed in the wrong URL before. Do try this site!!

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Friday, June 10, 2005

in walked betty

Played a really nice gig last night at Panache with Steve Degenford on guitar and my staple bass player, Jamie Jenkins. Dave Hoffman also came out and played some trumpet. It was a relatively small crowd, but a few of the regular Jazz Society folks showed up and stayed the whole night, and there were some students that hung around also. The local community college (ICC) offers American Music classes for Humanities credit--these classes focus on jazz history. Students are required to attend two performances and have to write a paper about what they hear. I took this class when I was at ICC, so it's kinda funny now that I'm on the "other" end, I'm the one who ends up being reviewed instead of doing the reviewing. I wonder what they write? Some nights It's probably better that I don't know.

Some students try, but don't dig the jazz thing much (you can tell). Some don't even try to get it. But a few become quite interested in this "new" music (new to them, anyway) and are curious about it. They'll ask questions, try to incorporate terms they've learned in class in converstation, and every now and then you'll see them out again, even after class is done and they don't have to write any more papers. And that's great. We've reached another one! Now go buy some jazz recordings and boost that 2% to 2.5% or something.

I updated the gig schedule the other day, so all public gigs are listed thru June. This summer is just crazy, with lots of outdoor events and a few private things. This weekend is busy...going to a jam session in Springfield tonight, tomorrow I'm in Peoria for a country club thing, and Sunday I've got two gigs. I guess jazz isn't dead, after all. Cheers, everyone.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005


It isn't yet, but it sure feels like it. I wish it would just rain already. The grass is going dormant and the air feels like a giant cotton ball. A giant, wet cottonball. Ick.

I'm always on the search for other jazz blogs, and it's always great to come across those that are insightful, useful, and entertaining. Here are a couple to check out--I even noticed they've got this blog linked to their sites.

Jazz Authority - saxophonist discusses all things sax...and jazz in general. Great tips for players.
Xanax Taxi - mp3-based site with commentary
I was doing all right - trumpet player talks jazz improv and describes his return to playing after taking time off

If you were a saxophone, what kind would you be? Take this quiz and find out. Of course, I was hoping for a mint-condition vintage Mark VI, but I ended up as a Yamaha student model alto. Wonder what that means.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, all.