Thursday, May 28, 2015

Weekend Itinerary

Back in the day when I was out touring with Maynard Ferguson, a daily itinerary was slipped under my hotel room door each morning.  Ed Sargent was a marvelously organized tour manager who made our lives trouble-free.  My only concern during that period of time was making sure I was on the bus punctually; he took care of the rest. I spent my days transcribing, listening to, and thinking about music.  That's it.

This morning I received a slightly different itinerary from my 6-year-old daughter:

If you're having trouble interpreting some of those phonetically spelled words, here's a translation:  
  1. go swimming
  2. go to the (UConn) Dairy Bar. Eat a lot of ice cream.
  3. go have a picnic
  4. watch TV, with popcorn
  5. cuddle
  6. go (out) for dinner
  7. eat junk food
It looks like a plan!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

No More CDs

Does anyone else see the irony in this Disc Makers' catalog caption?

Time is definitely not on the side of the CD manufacturing industry.  The writing has been on the wall for years, but now that laptop computers are no longer made with CD slots, I think it's safe to declare the debate over.  CDs and CD players will now join the ranks of Polaroid cameras, cassette tapes, palm pilots, answering machines and dot matrix printers.

The reality is hitting me hard as I plan my next recording.  Will I only release it digitally?  It's a tough decision because on past projects, physical CD sales have far outweighed digital sales.  At the moment, I'm leaning towards making the leap, with the exception of printing a few physical discs to sell after gigs and to send to those reviewers who like me, appreciate having tangible, printed rosters and liner notes as part of their listening experience.  I don't envision ordering 1000 copies as I have done in the past.

I'd love to hear from other musicians on this one.  Have we all accepted the demise of the CD at this point?  Are any of you planning to release a recording on CD this year?  In your experience, are people buying download cards?  They are not a big seller at my post-gig "mech booths", but I wonder if this might be different if no other purchasing option were presented.

I still like CDs, but maybe it's time to accept that the technology has changed.  Let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Stepping It Up A Notch

In my reading this week I stumbled upon this poem by Lee Fisher.  It made me tear up and has been on my mind often since then.  Oh man... the role of Dad is a mind-blowing responsibility, and one where we fathers need to be so thoughtful and deliberate.

A careful man I want to be; 
A little fellow follows me;
I do not dare to go astray,
For fear he'll go the self-same way.

I cannot once escape his eyes,
Whate'er he sees me do, he tries;
Like me he says he's going to be,
The little chap who follows me.

He thinks that I'm so very fine,
Believes in every word of mine;
The base in me he must not see,
The little chap who follows me.

I must remember as I go,
Through summer's sun and winter's snow;
I am building for the years to be
That little chap who follows me.

*extracted from the book "Coach Wooden, One-On-One", by John Wooden & Jay Carty.

The little fellow who follows me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Memories and Nostalgia

This is the final installment of the UConn Jazz Nonet's spring semester project, "The Complete Rebirth of the Cool".  As I mentioned previously, we acquired the music from Jeff Presslaff, a pianist/composer/trombonist now based in Winnipeg, Canada - my hometown. Of the six composers represented, I know five personally, so memories and feelings of nostalgia were often awakened as we prepared the music.

Saxophonist Ken Gold wrote "Tango Para Rosalba".  He was one of the first professional musicians with whom I gigged.  For a summer we played on weekends in the courtyard of Basil's restaurant in Winnipeg's Osbourne Village.  I remember him saying, "You too will reach an age when you have forgotten more tunes than you have learned."  I suppose I'm there.

Tango Para Rosalba:

Lastly, here's "November Night" by Jon Stevens, whom I haven't had the pleasure of meeting.  It's one of my favorites on the album for its eerie quality, tight harmonies, pretty melodies and the very subtle incorporation of extended instrumental techniques.

November Night:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Some Folks Just "Have It"

Will Bonness is a musical genius.  That he took piano lessons with me as a middle school student is a mere fortunate coincidence (for me).  'Nuff said.

"Stream of Unconsciousness", by Will Bonness
performed by the UConn Jazz Nonet, directed by yours truly.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Regrets? I've Had A Few...

I was 17-years old when Jeff Presslaff moved to my hometown of Winnipeg from New York City.  I was a headstrong and impetuous teen, so rather than warmly welcoming him, I viewed him merely as competition. I made the assumption that he was just another cocky American musician rolling through town and was determined not to be outshone by this new jazz pianist.  I used his arrival as motivation to practice harder and made a point of trying to outplay him at jam sessions.

Thankfully I have mellowed as I've grown older and I now value relationships a whole lot more.  If I could do it over again, I would have befriended Jeff, gotten to know him as a person, and tried to learn a thing or two along the way.  Jeff Presslaff is a highly skilled and devoted musician (both on piano and trombone!) and he writes brilliantly.  He's also a really nice guy.

When I returned to Winnipeg last March to play with the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, there was Jeff, capably playing in the trombone section.  I really enjoyed the depth of our conversations during breaks.  It was at this time that I learned about his "Compete Rebirth of the Cool" project and was intrigued.  The way he described it, I thought it might make for an interesting programming choice with my student ensemble at some point.  We traded CDs, as I often do with musicians in my travels, and when I listened to it on the plane ride home, I knew I had stumbled upon a winner.

I really like Jeff's idea of using the instrumentation from the original Miles Davis nonet (a.k.a. "Miles Davis' tuba band") and attempting to continue where Davis, Mulligan and Evans left off.  I saw a similar approach when the Wind Ensemble conductor at UConn, Dr. Jeffrey Renshaw commissioned composers to write something using the same instrumentation as Stravinsky's Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments.

Earlier this week I posted Jeff Presslaff's "Marda Loop", the opening selection from my UConn Jazz Ensemble concert on 4/16/2015.  Here are three more of his terrific pieces from the same concert:

Measure for Measure for Measure:

Sincerely Ours:


All of this music from "The Complete Rebirth of the Cool" is available for purchase on Jeff's website:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Let's Hear It For Dean McNeill

For starters, Dean McNeill is arguably the world's tallest trumpeter.  If he were to play in my big band, I would have him stand on the floor with his section mates on a riser.  But aside from his physical stature, he's also one hell of a composer, as you will hear in the pieces below.  I like how on a composition project inspired by Miles Davis' nonet, he made very thoughtful, subtle references to songs from the original Birth of the Cool recording.

Dean and I were students together at McGill during the late-1980s and we are both from the Canadian prairies.  After graduate school at UNT, Dean returned to western Canada and become a professor of music at the University of Saskatchewan.  We occasionally cross paths now when adjudicating high school bands. It is fun seeing him in the role of music educator.

Two of Dean's compositions, "What Fourth" and "Such Sweet Sadness" were included in my 04/16/2015 UConn Jazz Ensemble concert billed as "The Complete Rebirth of the Cool".  Both pieces were unique, well constructed and unquestionably worth the effort to prepare.

Let's hear it for Dean McNeill!

What Fourth:

Such Sweet Sadness:

Trivia fact: During the early 1990s Dean was the director of the Edmonton Jazz Society’s Little Birds Big Band.  By default, did that make him.... _____ ______ ?

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