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, November 27, 2005

Xmas time is (almost) here

Hope everyone's recovered from the holiday by now. It's the last day of the long weekend (or not if you work retail, where there essentially are no weekends from here until after Xmas) and I plan on enjoying it to the fullest. It's kind of rainy out anyway, so it'll be a good day to stay indoors and get stuff done.

I didn't have any gigs last week due to Thanksgiving. Which presented me with the perfect opportunity to finally take my poor alto in for some maintenance. I practically have no low register anymore and some of the pads on the upper stack look as if they've been through a minefield. My wonderful repair tech is suggesting a repad, but I'm opting to just get the thing in playing condition for now. I'll have more time to leave it for a complete overhaul in the spring when I'm on "jazz maternity" leave.

This coming weekend the Xmas parties begin! I have one scheduled for Sat. night, and a couple for the following week. I guess this is an indicator that it's time to start writing Xmas cards, dragging out the decorations from the basement, and thinking about shopping. I enjoy everything except the shopping part...dealing with crowds of people, standing in line for 12 years, and trying to find a parking spot are not among my favorite things to do. This explains why, over the past several years, I've started making a lot of gifts (and not entirely because I detest the shopping experience...this rather adds a personal touch, dontcha think?) and occasionally cruising Amazon in my online purchasing endeavors. But there's always something that can only be obtained from a retail establishment, and that's when I take a deep breath, grab my shopping list, and plan my routes around town so that the most efficient paths are used. If there's one worse thing than dealing with in-store crowds it's driving along Veteran's Parkway, trying to change lanes to gain access to one of the thousand, brightly lit strip malls, and dealing with people that are too stubborn, rude, and just plain anal to let you into their lane. It's a good thing I don't live in Chicago...I might end up on trial for doing something terrible to these people.

Sorry to go all bah-humbug on ya. I think it's because I'm hungry. Ate breakfast #1 about 2 hours ago and my stomach is rumbling for more. (Ah, the joys of pregnancy.) But I'd better be smart and forgo picking at the leftover stuffing and such and stick with my plan to snack nutritiously...a cup of yogurt with a few Grape Nuts sprinkled on top should suffice. And I'd better eat this away from the keyboard, else I'll end up with those micro-sized Grape Nuts wedged between the keys. Which would NOT make my dear husband very happy. So I'll sign off for now. TTFN....

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Monday, November 21, 2005

another one bites the dust

Another gig, that is. The Creole Cafe, Bloomington's home to jazzchocolat's monthly Tuesday night gig, is now closed Mon-Wed. That means the gig is defunct. I'm not sure exactly how long this gig lasted--I didn't begin playing in the group until last spring--but I'm pretty sure it was under 1 year.

Sadly, there just aren't that many long-standing gigs around these days. Many clubs decide that they want to have jazz, try it for a period of time, then decide it's just not for them. Some either switch to blues/rock after a while or discontinute music entirely.

One exception is Panache, which is a fabulously tolerant coffeehouse/cafe owned by Peoria's illustrious John Valentine. I say tolerant because of this: I've got to give kudos to John, who has supported musicans such as myself and other locals for 8 years now. When he first decided to have music, John made a committment. "I'll do it for one year," he said. "Then we'll see how things are going."

It's a good thing he offered a year's worth of gigs, because just because a venue has music doesn't mean it's guaranteed an instant crowd. It takes time to build a following. It won't happen in a month, or even three. But with a consistent schedule and some patience, live music can indeed draw a crowd. We have regulars who come out on Thursday nights. We've seen folks come and go, new groups of patrons form, disband, and others that begin to take their place. And there are still people in town who don't know about the music schedule at Panache, but when they come out and catch us by accident they're pleasantly surprised. And many of them come back again and again. We appreciate all of them. Thanks, y'all. Thanks, John & staff.

On a different, completely unrelated note...I just ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers while typing this. The little one must be hungry! Now I need more milk...so I'm off to pour myself a glass. Be good, and I'll see you back here soon.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

free press!

Somehow I managed to land an interview with Journal Star writer Scott Hillyard. We did a phone interview (I wish I could say I'm more articulate, clever, and witty when I speak!) and it's available for viewing here. Enjoy, and don't flame me if you happen to be a Kenny G fan. Thanks for the publicity, Scott.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

a day in the life of a fool

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler lends his voice to a jazz recording? Say it isn't so!!

Sadly, it's true. While I am an Aerosmith fan (my first rock concert was the Permanent Vacation tour) and believe that Tyler's raspy vocals suit the band perfectly, I have to say I'm less than thrilled to hear him try his hand at jazz. Then again, isn't that the trend nowadays? Pop stars must be bored with their own genre, because they all seem to be coming out with jazz standard albums. Most of them just don't sound that good. (e.g., Rod Stewart...and he keeps coming out with subsequent recordings!) The jazz stylings of truly great vocalists like Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holliday, and Mel Torme are missing. I'm convinced that these pop gurus haven't listened to much--if any--jazz at all.

While I'm going off on vocalists, I need to say a word about smooth jazz guy Chris Botti (this is the recording Tyler appears on, by the way). His new album isn't much better. It's a carbon copy of Chet Baker's stuff...and that's precisely the problem. Baker already did the muted trumpet/wimpy vocal thing. Why does Botti need to emulate this? Can't he come up with his own concept? Granted I haven't listened to the entire album, but based on the tracks I've heard: B-O-R-I-N-G.

One more artist I'm disappointed in: the great pianist Herbie Hancock. Caught him on the Tonight Show the other night with the buttocks-bearing pop diva Christina Aguilera. While Aguilera sang well (and I do have to give her credit for dressing appropriately...she was even wearing a dress with sleeves), I can't understand why Hancock needs to use pop stars to generate record sales (the new album, Possibilities, also features Sting, John Mayer, and Annie Lennox). He's a genius and should be worshipped as such. He doesn't need these other guys. He's proved himself--many times over. What the F*#$! ???

Maybe it's pregnancy hormones, but this sort of thing is really starting to irritate me. There are tons of jazz artists who don't feel the need to copy someone else's style or align themselves with current hotshots. Why don't these people get the recognition that's due to them? Why is America dumb when it comes to choosing intelligent, thoughtful music?

The rant is over. Wonder if there's anyone I haven't offended?