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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Sunday, July 24, 2005

it's just talk

Or is it??

So today's discussion will be about the strange remarks conveyed to band members during (or after) a gig. I've got a whole list of 'em, but will only address a few here.

The most recent comment came from a fellow at a nice outdoor performance this past Thursday, after the band I was playing with, the Swing Daddies, concluded the first set. This man seemed to genuinely enjoy the music, and I was glad he said so, except his choice words were a bit annoying: "You're the best girl sax player I ever heard."

Ok. I realize this is a compliment. Sort of. I'm glad he liked the band...and my contributions to the music. But why stick the "girl" thing in there? That's like saying, 'You're the best black basketball player I've ever seen' or 'You're the smartest Jewish guy I know.' And I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the best all-around sax player he--or anyone else--has ever heard, but what's wrong with a nice, neutral, 'I really enjoyed your playing'?

I know it's a bit unusual to see a chick playing horn in a band. Most of us seem to gravitate towards piano or vocals. Not sure why that is, but rest assured that there are plenty of female instrumentalists out there. Check out Virginia Mayhew (alto, tenor, soprano saxes), Terri Lyn Carrington (drums), Kathy Jensen of the Hornheads (bari sax, alto sax), Clora Bryant (trumpet, played with Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie), to name a few. I've been fortunate to play with musicians that don't really care one way or another what sex their band members are. They just care that the musicians show up to the gig on time, play their best, and in general, take care of business. That said, we all get along just fine. And that's all that should ever have to matter.

BTW, here's an interesting story I found about a woman jazz musician who lived her life as a man, partially in order to be able to play the kind of music she enjoyed without judgment:

Other interesting comments at gigs:

"Can you play Old MacDonald had a COW??? Ha ha ha ha ha...." (Walks away laughing. Yeah. Ver'funny.)

"Oh, so (insert name of other local sax player here) couldn't play today?" (Um I always play with this band. There's more than one saxophonist in the area, ya know.)

"Gee, sure miss the bass player." (Comment directed to keyboard player playing left-hand bass on a gig...as well as or better than many actual bass players!)

There are many, many more where this came from. I'm sure you all have comments of your own. Feel free to share 'em!

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

well you needn't

Just a bit of news here: for anyone who hasn't yet heard, Kevin's new cd is FINISHED. That is, he's got the actual cd in hand and online, and he's ready to share it. There's lots of great music on this recording, including many original tunes and just for fun, a couple of jazzy 80s tunes (ah, nostalgia). Check out sound clips on Kevin's website. If you want to actually watch/listen to the band, check out the video clips section. Some cool stuff here.

More as it happens.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

body n soul

I actually had a request to provide an overview of the Iowa City Jazz Festival, so of course I must oblige. Was planning to do this anyway, but a little urging never hurts....

This was the 7th year we attended the festival. While I've heard a lot of fantastic groups over the years, I'm not sure this was my favorite year for featured performers. Of course everyone was excellent, musically, but some of the groups got a little too "experimental" for my taste. I'm by no means a jazz purist, but for me, a little bit of dissonance goes a long way. Here's the rundown:

United Jazz Ensemble, The FunkDaddies (didn't arrive until Sat., so sorry...no feedback!)

This group apparently began in 1983 by a bunch of Berklee students. Founding member Gabriel Espinosa moved to Iowa and resurrected the band in the Heartland. I liked Ashanti a lot. Excellent "authentic" Latin grooves and a good deal of variety. The group had a female vocalist but used her sparingly. When she sang she sounded good. She could also play a shaker in time (it's true, not all musicians can do this!) This was one of my favorite groups...great way to start the Saturday portion of the festival.

JUICE Big Band
FYI, it's pronounced "juice" not "juicy." (Juicy sounds cooler though.) A local band led by composer/trombonist John Rapson. While the musicians were obviously very accomplished and the arrangements were quite intricate, this was the day's introduction to some bizarre jazz. The tunes were lengthy and each supposedly had a story to tell. I did begin to get tired of clashing chords, sparse melodies, and solos that were sometimes just plain weird.

Kim Richmond & Clay Jenkins Ensemble
Why did I think Richmond was a smooth jazz guy? He's anything but. He sounded good, but for some strange reason I'm not recalling much from his performance. I will say that somehow he reminded me of John Lithgow, both in appearance and the way he spoke.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
These guys are crazy! Really. A trio of piano, electric bass, and drums, they really put on a show. Though the music was a bit zany I have to admit I liked it quite a bit. The sound guy, however, ruined it by cranking the bass drum, causing listeners to receive a slam to the chest every time the drummer used the kick drum. This was annoying and definitely detracted from the band's esoteric yet totally creative appearance. I'd check them out again if the opportunity arose.

Kenny Garrett Quartet
Go Kenny! Woah, Kenny! Always the energetic altoist with a larger than life, robust sound, Garrett entertained us with his fast fingers, intense solos, and calisthenics (if you've ever seen him perform you know what I mean). He had several young players with him, including the most animated drummer I've ever seen. The kid knocked over a few cymbal stands at one point in time, causing 2 stage hands to rush forth and try to put the set back together. The band primarily performed hip-hop stuff, not so much the burnin' tunes like you'll find on "Songbook" or the light, melodic jazz on "Simply Said." I think it was because the group was headlining on Saturday night and the audience likes to hear something a bit more partyesque. It was good though. Gotta love the "real" Kenny G!

Susie Miget Group
Unfortunately, we missed Susie. (And I guess it's pronounced "Mih-shay" not "Midget"...oops.)We were having lunch at Panera and it was raining at the time, so we didn't venture downtown until after her set was over. I heard it was good, though, even though the band played intermittently between showers. Susie sings and play bass, as my dad learned while they were outside catching a smoke together at the Super 8 earlier that morning.

The X-Tet
Led by saxophonist/composer/educator Chris Mertz, this 10-piece group also performed a host of original compositions that were quite involved. Great soloists, interesting arrangements, and an overall good band. I was left longing for a nice, easy melody by the end, though.

Henry Threadgill's Zooid
I heard my first-ever oud on this day. The other musicians played acoustic guitar, cello, tuba, drums, and flute & sax. This was definitely weird stuff and we had to get up and walk around at this point. I was really starting to crave something melodic...

Eric Alexander Quintet
...and I got it with Eric. These guys saved the day! Swingin' sax, organ, guitar, and drums were literally music to my ears. I think I'm going to become a big Eric Alexander fan. He's got a beautiful tenor tone and plays the way I'd like to. He knows jazz, for sure, and he doesn't abandon melodic statements because he's bored with them. Fabulous job!

Conrad Herwig & Brian Lynch: The Latin Side of Miles
This band sounded excellent, too. A nice way to end the festival...I liked Herwig, and Lynch sounded fabulous too. The drummer & conga player worked extremely well together, and left my head spinning with their rhythmic interpretations of Latin fare.

All in all it was a good festival. Of course we'll be back next year. I just hope they have the vendor with corn on the cob there (he skipped town this summer). I did sample an excellent pork chop sandwich and some superb black cherry ice cream at Whitey's. And the porta potties were clean. (Hey, it ain't all about the music!)