Sunday, October 11, 2009

As good as it gets

My sis once told me (before I had a kid) that there's no way to describe how much you love your own kid. I figured that was probably true at the time, but when you've had a kid, then you know - there is in fact no way to adequately describe it.

It's hard to appreciate as well how proud you can be of your kids as they progress in life. It dwarfs any feelings about what you yourself may have accomplished. When I see my son perform in any capacity (school play, graduation speech, living museum at school, his band at the Rock School), the chest swells out.

But man, how about jamming with him with your own beloved band in your hometown? I can't imagine it getting any better than that. On the Corn Day stage with the Voodoo Blues Band, having the boy come up and do his thing on Albert King. Whoah.

This was a great day. I wanted to share the band with my hometown folks. I wanted to share my hometown and my family and friends there with my band buddies. I've been happy to share my music with my son - and to see him take to Albert King and the blues (and start picking out tunes he wants to do) - ok, not his first, first choice of what to do--but, still, he's not playing the blues because Dad makes him; he digs it. And I wanted my boy to show everyone he's got game on the bass. Everyone came out a winner.

As great as it was to have the band play, the best two things were (1) having that boy on the stage grooving on I'll Play the Blues For You, and then Crosscut Saw (funky version, circa 1972), both out the Albert King playbook and (2) seeing the Voodoo Blues Band being welcomed by my wonderful family at my house. Thank you, thank you, thank you to my wonderful parents for being such great hosts - my Dad just talking to everyone, making them feel right at home, my Mom and her delicious pies (the look on their faces as they ate that wonderful crust!), and my sis and brother-in-law for the incredible work on the chowder. Those guys dug into that chowder like you'd never believe - I think some of the guys would have done just as well to pull up a chair to the pot! And thanks to the Voodoo Band for doing the gig--a long drive to some place they only vaguely knew about (except for Mr. Marshall). A leap of faith--thanks guys!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You must check this out

This story about Wynton Marsalis is one of the more amazing things I've read in a while. But actually pretty well in keeping with what I know of the man.

Two quick stories about Wynton. When Ken Burns did the "Jazz" series he told of his amazing collaboration with Wynton. As Burns tells it, when the Civil War series was airing, Burns got a call from Wynton (or maybe a knock on the door), and Wynton said he needed to do the same thing (do a documentary) with jazz music. Wynton was very passionate, apparently, but Burns said he was already in his next project (Baseball), but he'd think about it. After the Baseball series, did in fact decide to tackle jazz and decided to contact Wynton about it. Burns went to his apartment and was talking to him and Wynton was saying "whatever you want, whatever you want." Burns said he was trying to set up an interview with him ("it won't take too long...") and after a while, Wynton finally said, "you're not listening to me--whatever you want"). (See 19:00 mark here, on Charlie Rose:

The other story is a personal one, when Wynton was in St. Louis at the old Clayton Jazz festival. Afterwards, he was signing autographs, selling CDs, etc., and I decided to get in line (when was I going to get a chance to see Wynton like that?--plus I didn't care too much about the act after Wynton, which was more of a pop act). The line was long, but man, did it move SLOW. I was getting annoyed, couldn't figure it out, etc. Then I got up to a place in the line where I could see Wynton, and I figured out why it was moving so slowly. He was talking to every person. And I don't mean saying a few words ("What's your name" so he could sign the autograph)--but really interacting, listening, talking and spending whatever time people wanted to spend. He didn't rush one person. And everyone "got it" and was so happy to spend time talking to him. I mentioned our Juilliard connection (I was there a few years after him). I fully expected to get that look ("Oh, that's nice" with gritting of teeth ("How long do I have to talk to this guy?")). But no, not at all from Wynton: "When were you there? Who'd you study with? What kind of horn did you play? Are you still playing? Yeah, what kind of stuff? Where? What mouthpiece you using? That's cool." After my full time, a big hug and off to the next person. That showed me something.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's blogging time

To paraphrase Ben Grim, a/k/a, the Thing, from the Fantastic Four. (Which, by the way, is one of the worst comic book movie adaptations going. Trust me, I loved comic books and still love movies, so I should know!)

A busy week of playing last week. Wednesday I was the featured sit-in with the Park Avenue Jazz boys at Hammerstone's (always a treat). They always seem to call at least one tune I don't know that ends up going into my list of new favorites, and this was no exception--Triste by Jobim.

Saturday I was part of the Jazz and Blues Revue at the Old Webster Jazz Festival with Anita Rosamond. Actually, Anita and her manager put the group together, and it was billed as a triple leader feature--Anita, guitarist Rich McDonough, and pianist/singer Jessi Gannon. I was playing alongside Lew ("Blue Lew") Winer III on saxophone. It rained a bit but there was a nice crowd anyway. That gig went better than I dared hope--great band, but folks who had not played together in that configuration before. That is always risky, but we did a lot of pretty familiar material, which helped greatly. The program was put together as a smorgasbord of jazz and blues tunes by people with a connection to St. Louis (included some Chuck Berry, Albert King, Ike and Tina Turner review, and of course, one Miles Dewey Davis).

Sunday I took a break from the usual Voodoo routine and did a fundraiser with John Farrar at the Hidden Lake Winery in Illinois. A nice little trio gig that John has asked me to do about four or five years running now. David Certain rounded out the trio this time; the man can Certain-ly play. We played in a trio using Dave once before (he was worried it wouldn't swing without a drummer, but was pleasantly surprised), and he showed us a new way to do Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise, with frequent modulations, and now that's the way we do it.

And speaking of John Farrar, Nathaniel and I have tickets for Son Volt in early November. We are looking forward to hear John's brother's band at the Pageant!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Injustice at the Hall!

Ok, not really. But more about that later.

Great trip to Cleveland this week to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nathaniel and his friend Pete Holohan made what they describe as their first sojourn there (of course, counting on that time in the future when they themselves will be inducted).

We started off things right with a Monday night visit to Progressive Field (f/k/a Jacobs Field, or "the Jake"). A short walk from our hotel room, we settled into some great seats right behind home plate. Pete treated us to burgers and waffle fries (well, he slipped me the cash later, but I had to fork over the actual $$ to the concessionaire because I bought a cold frosty one). The Indians were playing the White Sox, and there were quite a few Sox fans (good thing, it wasn't very crowded there, by St. Louis standards). Just the day before, the Indians and Cardinals had made a trade, swapping everyday player Mark DeRosa for reliever Chris Perez and a player to be named later. From the Indians' perspective, the other player better be named sooner rather than later.

Perez entered for the Indians in the top of the 9th, with the Tribe trailing 2-0. He hit the first batter in the head (had to be removed from the game). Then he hit the second batter in the head. Then he walked the bases loaded. They left him in for some inexplicable reason. He got a couple of outs, but along the way coughed up three. Then wild-pitched in the fourth. As he left with two outs and the Tribe down 6-0, he was lustily booed off the field. Then of course Cleveland plated 3 in the bottom of the ninth, which would have been enough to win the game (pre-Perez). Oh well. We had fun--we certainly didn't care! We did notice the ridiculousness of that crazy mascot Cleveland has.

Then on to the main event Tuesday--a short walk in the other direction was the RRHF. It's a really cool building designed by architect I.M. Pei. The streets have giant Fender Stratocaster sculptures to lead the way and whet the appetite. A modest Michael Jackson figure was in front of the hall, where people had laid little mementos, but there was no real MJ memorial set up yet (I'm sure it will come).

We entered and Pete and Nathaniel posed for the obligatory entry photo (forgot to check it out at the end--just now remembered--I was going to spring for the photo this time). You can't take photos inside the hall (bummer!), but it was the right tone from the beginning. Before you enter the exhibitions and get your wristband, there is a neat display of guitars, with about six Jerry Garcia guitars (these boys are real Dead-Heads, so that got them going), a Kurt Cobain guitar, and a Jimi Hendrix guitar, among others. (I don't think they were as impressed as I was with the Johnny Cash and Chet Atkins guitars there, but oh well.)

Then we parted ways and I let the boys ramble and explore. We'd bump into each other periodically and exchange the "did you see" this or that conversations, and then go to respectively check out what the other party recommended. I think they particularly enjoyed seeing the original lyric sheet for Hendrix's Purple Haze, Jeff Beck's well-worn Telecaster:

and the signature display (instead of plaques, like the baseball Hall of Fame, the inductees have their signature on a wall in the induction hall; the signatures are white against a black background and the lighting is quite cool). Pete and Nathaniel violated the no picture rule once, telling me they couldn't resist getting their picture beside the display of the little statuette the inductees receive when they get in. That was neat.

But the "injustice" they marveled at (2 really) was that neither Nirvana nor the Red Hot Chili Peppers had been inducted. There was a big Springsteen thing going on ("two whole floors to Bruce Springsteen?!?!" they said, "but no Nirvana??? Metallica is in but not the Peppers??"). The rules of induction are that you are not eligible until 25 years after your first record release. My dispassionate pleas to them that, they probably are right on the cusp of those numbers, don't worry, they'll get in, was not enough for these boys. Then we hit the gift shop. They were very reserved shoppers, opting mainly for some cool posters (the Who and the Grateful Dead for Nathaniel).

A late afternoon swim, then dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, which itself had some pretty darn cool memorabilia. We googled Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and found the dates of their first releases, and when we found they were almost, but not quite, at 25 years, I think they felt more reassured. That, and getting their picture taken next to Jimi Hendrix's purple pants, which were on display at the restaurant.

A lazy day on Wednesday, sleeping in, trotting briefly down to the Science Center, then on the plane back, and voila, what a trip. Thanks to the Holohan family for taking us to the airport and then feeding us pizza on our return. Really one of the best parts of the trip was the "debriefing"--the boys are great, well-suited for each other, but VERY quiet (they retired to their room (we had a pretty large suite that worked out nicely, I slept on the fold out couch in the main room), and I looked in to see what they were doing and they were reading books!!). But it was so great to hear them just buzzing about the whole trip to Faith and Michael, Pete's mom and dad.

Bad dad--I also suggested a return trip (senior trip, anyone?) to the induction ceremonies in a few years. The clips they had of those ceremonies looked pretty darn cool! (Prince jamming on While My Guitar Gently Weeps with Tom Petty? C'mon!)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Monday is the big adventure to Cleveland--Monday night at Cleveland Indians game, then Tuesday to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Nathaniel. We'll be going with his friend Pete. Looking forward to it!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Good Weekend

Happy that my Uncle Dick made it through his difficult surgery this weekend! Also, it was great seeing family. We all were so happy he made it through the surgery - we couldn't even "see past it" to imagine enjoying each other's company, but it was great. Steve and Barb hosted several family meals and they were all delicious and fun. Then we went to a ballgame today (Mom, Nathaniel, Steve and I)--bad outcome, but fun at the old ballyard nonetheless. And Tom got a chance to come by Hammerstone's, and I know he enjoyed it.

Nice weekend!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

How about a little TLC?

Ever tell a friend to go get a nice bath? How about a nice chemical bath?

Well, I just did this week. Heck, I even agreed to pay for it.

I've known this friend since I was nine; met her in 1973. She was very dear to me, and I had a wonderful relationship with her through high school. She was my old stand-by. My first love, in a way.

"She" is my first horn, my beginning Conn cornet. She was squirreled away in my parents' garage for many years after I went to college and graduated to "finer" horns. But a few years back I got her out and she sounded pretty good. Real darn good, actually. So she came back to St. Louis.

I took her in to the wizard of St. Louis horn repair men, Bill Meyers. Blind Willie turned me on to him and he did a marvelous job with my 1979 Bach Strad (30-year birthday coming up in the fall--we'll have to have a celebration at Hammerstone's). Legend has it, according to Willie, that Bill Meyers once worked on Freddie Hubbard's trumpet, which had never been cleaned and was purportedly in terrible shape. I think the look of shock on Bill's face when I showed him the Strad several months back in its deplorable state must have been the same as when he saw Freddie's horn. (Hey, I've always fantasized about being called the second coming of Freddie Hubbard--I'll take what I can get!)

And who helps Bill out with his magic? Brian "Big B" Casserly of course. Brian sidled up to the counter with interest when I was dropping the horn off (in fact, he sort of edged Bill out of the way). They were looking at her lovingly, knowingly, like a dear friend we were all trying to do right by ("Look at the way the tuning slide curves under!" "Nice big bore!" "Oh, that's a Japanese manufacture" "I'm guessing 1960s, maybe 50s on that?" Brian noted. "Oh, no," Bill chimed in, "Got to be mid-70s, right Rob?" "Yep, she was new when I got 'er in '73" I said. "Oh yeah, look at that serial number, '70s for sure" said Brian.)

She'll be ready next week, and I can't wait to take her down and show her off on the Wednesday jazz jam session. Love a cornet sound--not a trumpet, not a flugel, but it's own wonderful sound. You just play different on a cornet--they horn makes you play different ideas.

Good to see you again, girl--enjoy that chemical bath!

Friday, March 6, 2009

One more thought on Bobby Jindal

There is one thing I never hear discussed about a particular passage Bobby Jindal's speech responding to President Obama's joint Congressional address last week that has been bothering me. The principal theme of the speech was that "Americans can do anything", but the federal government cannot, is inept, is incompetent, or should generally "get out of our way," etc. Bill Maher tonight made the point that this is a false dichotomy, that we (Americans) are the government. Without the government building roads, bridges, electrical grids, enacting sensible regulations to keep us safe etc., none of what "we" accomplish is impossible.

But the specific thing that jumped out at me was the passage near the end of the speech, when Jindal cites a laundry list of what "we" Americans have accomplished:

"Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery, overcame the Great Depression, prevailed in two World Wars, won the struggle for civil rights, defeated the Soviet menace, and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. "

In every example he cites, the a federal government was, by far, the principle actor, if not in some cases almost the exclusive actor (and certainly the dominant one). So how can someone get away with railing against the federal government holding "us" back, saying "Americans" can achieve anything, then cite as evidence only federal government-led actions. I guess you can make the point that there was significant non-governmental activity in some or most of those achievements (the private actions of Martin Luther King's non-violent protest campaign), but anyone who has had remedial civics (let alone a state governor and former Congressman) should know by heart the role federal government played in all of these things.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Monday was a Fun-day

After a long day at work, I stopped by the Broadway Oyster Bar before heading home. The Voodoo drummer, Kirk Gryce, is the Soulard Blues Band's drummer, and Kirk and SBB hold forth every Monday night at the BOB. I don't know if it is officially a jam session but they treat it as such, at least with folks they know. I wanted to show support for Kirk--Mondays are generally a tough slog after Sundays at Hammerstones--Kirk never mentions it, but you can tell he truly likes when his buddies show up.

A lot of familiar faces were there--Jimmy Stevens, a great alto player, and as well as the Voodoo's own Raul. The Soulard Blues Band's personnel has shifted over the years, but now is pretty regularly Kirk, Art Dwyer on bass and Tom Maloney on guitar, with another rotating player. I thought Matt Murdick (keyboard) was going to be there (that's what Kirk thought Sunday), but Matt apparently couldn't make it, so they called in trumpet player Brian "Big B" Casserly.

And boy what a treat. Brian used to be a mainstay of the SBB, but has developed his own career, principally with a group called Cornet Chop Suey, as well as the Big Bamou. He is a wonderful singer and an incredible trumpet player. He has got that style down pat. And they were inside (not on the roofed over patio), which meant it was a mellower sound. Brian plays a wonderful Selmer trumpet, with a big, buttery sound. He is the best blues trumpet player in town in my book. Jim's comment to me after a particularly memorable solo: "He doesn't suck." (If you haven't, go out and hear Brian some time.)

I was reluctant to sit in, but the fellas were having none of it. I'd never played with Brian, and he'd never heard me play before. At most we'd had a few quick conversations and I'd mentioned I was a trumpet player too--and he gave me that look ("Oh, isn't that niiice")--I don't say it with any mean-spirited-ness toward Brian (I've given that look many a time too, and I can spot it a mile away--hey I would've given me the same look!). It was nice, no blasting away, but some very fun ensemble playing. I felt good in that I played a couple of tunes then made it clear I'd had fun and was skedaddling off the stage and Brian said very gently but sincerely, "Where you going, man? Stay up here until you have to go." (Didn't hurt that it was a small crowd--felt like we were all just playing for our mutual pleasure.) Trumpet players don't often "play nice" with each other, but this was a true exception. I popped off some serviceable solos (and even some good ones) and was enjoying watching Brian work his magic (and learning--I was glued to those fingerings up close and I'll be copying some of those licks come Sunday). John Wolfe stopped in with his new E flat alto trombone and it was just a gas, especially when Raul also came up.

Fun playing with friends.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Love the Thing You Do

I talked to my friend Matt Farmer last night as he was driving to his two-guitar-man gig last night. Matt has taken to playing about once a month with Chicago guitar ace Brian Willkie at whatever bar will let them in, I think. (Actually, usually Finley Dunne's in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago.) Brian is one hell of a guitar player, a master of all styles, including the rockabilly influenced style that is in Matt's sweet spot. Matt sings and plays guitar, too. He has studied under the careful tutelage of Jamey Aebersold, I believe.

In any event, that has become something of a monthly thing for Matt. I've been playing with Matt (through and with my sax-a-ma-phone pal Neal Connors) for 10 years plus now. Matt has been working the six-piece full-on horn section bar band for all that time. He loves it, but it is a ton of work for him, corralling all us crazy players. It allows him to do a bunch of material he truly loves to do in a way that is very satisfying. Who wouldn't want to do Sweet Caroline with a horn section and all the trimmings? (OK, some of the trimmings.) But make no mistake, it's a slog, and it happens once every two months at best, and at times Matt decides to (or has to) take a break for half a year or better. All of that is frustrating for him, I can imagine.

But I think Matt started doing these two-man things to scratch his performing itch--fun for him, way easy for him compared to a six-person group, way less pressure to bring out a crowd, way less pressure to get good comp for the band members (Matt never takes any pay himself), likes to hang and play with Willkie (or their mutual buddy, Stevie Doyle). And I think he loves it.

Just the way I love doing my Sunday blues band. Easy, no-brainer in terms of scheduling, set-up and the rest. I love playing Wayne Shorter tunes with a full-on Miles Davis style jazz quintet, but the blues band thing is so cool and easy, I just embraced it, the way it sounds like Matt is embracing his two-man thing.

And things have a way of morphing anyway--the blues band has become a little hang for the jazz musicians in town. Last weekend, we played So What with the base band, as well as a blistering Red Clay with our good friend David Certain kicking our butts on bass. And absolutely smoking versions of The Jody Grind and Blue Bossa with John Farrar and Darryl Mixon sitting in--both the best versions of those tunes I think I've been a part of in my life, anywhere, anytime. And Matt similarly I think has quite a crowd of friends, sit-ins coming by his two-man thing. Both things are a "scene"--hence, the title of the blog: like Ray Sasaki's exhortation years ago--when you've got a chance to create a scene, do it.

My point is, it seems you can spend years picking at something or other, trying to make it work, which is a good, worthwhile and necessary thing. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, but related to that effort, there's another little thing that comes up, that you may ignore for a while, but it keeps presenting itself, insisting on itself, "Try ME!!" And you do, and that little thing turns out to be just the thing.

And you love it.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I've not blogged in a long time. It's like anything (most notably exercise and diet in my view)--once you get in or out of any habits, it's harder to break them. I got out of the habit and it just didn't feel easy to get going again. So I'm doing a shorter post now with the hope that I can get back on the bandwagon again. More later (hopefully!).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Go Kurt! Part Deux" or "Huh??"

Cardinals 33, Panthers 13? What? At Carolina?? These are the Football Cardinals, right??

I had a gig last night at a private party in a country club. In the distance I could see a T.V., which had the Cardinals/Panthers playoff game playing. I could see pretty much who had the ball, where they might be on the field at the time, and a very vague sense of what was going on. But I was way too far to see any screen rolls or running scores.

And I saw my man Kurt. A lot. And I mean a lot. I don't know what the time of possession margin was, but it must've been huge. I saw Jake Delhomme cringing after an interception (I didn't realize until well after the game was over Jake pretty much single-handedly lost the game by his lonesome by throwing five picks altogether).

But I was worried. I saw one Cardinal drive stall out with a field goal, and then another. I saw a Panther touchdown. And I had visions of a 7-6 Panther lead, and the Cardinals doing their best to one-up the Titans (who earlier that day had squandered opportunity after opportunity), and letting Carolina hang around, only to pull the game out. Then I saw a Cardinal receiver on a reception, getting tackled at about the four or five, but s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g to get the ball over the end zone line. I never saw the call on the play, for I was called on to play (a solo over a blues in E, or some such).

Then I saw the score in the 3rd quarter (27-7, apparently the halftime margin). Who knew? Who knew?

Watch out for the Cardinals next week in the game to get to the Super Bowl. My feeling after last night is that this team has come to the belief, somehow, some way, that they can actually win the game they are playing. That happens to a team sometimes...Hey, why can't we win it? Don't see any reason why not--let's go and get it done. No one expects them to win. I think teams in this mode don't necessarily expect themselves to win (e.g., Patriots of last year--they expected to win every game). It's different--I think they just don't see necessarily why they have to go out and meet expectations and lose--why not just win this next one? And the next one? And so on. This is what happened to the baseball Cardinals when they won the World Series in 2006. They limped into the playoffs, but suddenly were sort of healthy, and figured, why not win this game, this series, the next series, the whole enchilada?

So watch out. I don't think these football Cardinals expect to win. But I think they haven't also gotten the message they're supposed to lose: "What the heck, we're here, we've got football uniforms on, we've practiced and watched the films...what's say we just go out and score more points than the other guys?" And who better to lead them than Kurt Warner--I think we tend to forget that the Super Bowl winning Rams weren't supposed to go all the way either, even deep into the playoffs. But somebody forgot to tell that to weepy Dick Vermeil, "Mad Mike" Martz, "Marshall, Marshall, Marshall" Faulk, the Reverend Ike Bruce and that HyVee stock boy they had at QB for the fallen Trent Green.

Keep them away from anyone associated with the Chicago Cubs.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Go Kurt!

The Arizona Cardinals have just started playing the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL playoffs, and Kurt Warner just connected on a beautiful fleaflicker for a touchdown pass. I didn't realize it until just now (although the feeling's been creeping up on me), but I've been pulling for Kurt all season. I'm sorry he didn't get the MVP (and I don't think he deserved it, although he was the leader at some point deep in the season). But with the Rams so pitiful this season, it is just fun, like a blast from the past, to see Kurt zipping amazing passes all around the field. It's early and the Cardiac Cards may be wiped out by the Falcons, but I'm feeling good now.

Go, Kurt, go!

Post-script: I walked into a restaurant with a bar & sports on t.v. around the beginning of the 4th quarter, and every person in there was just like me, pulling for the old Cards, hoping Kurt could get it done. And they did--yippee!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Well, my long, local nightmare is over, to channel Gerry Ford. I had two big transactions that had to close by year end. They did, but with not too much time to spare. 4:28 p.m. central, according to the person who had the last "button to push" to consider the second deal done--two minutes before the 4:30 deadline. Whew!

Working hard is like working out--and my muscles felt a little flabby. Not complaining, but I had found a rather nice work/life balance for the first time in my (legal) professional life over the last 18 months or a year. So putting the nose to the proverbial grindstone was not fun. Not one bit!

But in this economy, to have deals going on that need to be closed is a blessing, for a corporate business lawyer. Let's hope I've got work to do in 2009.

Are you making New Year's resolutions this year? I am feeling like this year I want to reflect and set some goals this year, but have not had enough space and time to think about the right ones. Maybe the long weekend will give me the chance.