Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Still alive!

Well, I seem to have survived my surgery, although last weekend I wasn't entirely sure that would be the case. The first few days after surgery were a little rough, but they gave me good pain medications (whee), and June took great care of me -- I really did very little for about five days.

June gave me a terrific book to read during my recovery: Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks. I highly recommend checking it out -- Dr. Sacks is a great storyteller, and all of the stories are about how the brain is related to music.

Seven days after surgery I went back to work. I was really feeling OK. Not much pain, mentally clear, good energy. Then on the tenth day post-operative, I had a setback. Without going into too much detail (nothing like an "organ recital" to make people stop reading), I got very sick, and spent a very unhappy weekend flat on my back. I'm OK now, and going back to work, but I have had to cancel all gigs and other activities for the rest of the year.

Work on the CD is on hiatus as well, at least until after the first of the year. I am so looking forward to completing this CD!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Photos from the August 11th recording session

My friend Peter Uchytil is a terrific photographer. I invited him to take some shots at our recent recording session at East2West Studios in Clackamas.

You can see the entire set of color and b&w photos at Pete's Flickr page:


Here are a few shots I like from the session:

Friday, June 01, 2007

R.I.P. Gerard Lock

We lost another member of the Portland jazz community last month. Gerard "Gerry" Lock, a very talented young bassist, was found dead in his apartment. This was totally unexpected and a shock to all who knew and made music with him.

Gerry played with a local group called the Groove Collective, and was a frequent performer at local jams. Last night, a number of his friends and colleagues raised a glass and played some music in his memory at the regular Thursday night jazz jam at Proper Eats in St. Johns. It was a very sweet evening. I got to sit in and play Gerry's 6-string bass for a few numbers, and I spent some time talking to Gerry's uncle, who had flown in.

I first heard Gerry at one of the jam sessions sponsored by Portland Jazz Jams at the Fireside Coffee Lodge a couple of years ago. I was impressed by his pocket playing and his soloing when he sat in. Many bassists fall back on clich├ęd licks and phrases when soloing, and I sometimes play a little game of humming their solos along with them. Not so with Gerry. His solos were always fresh and inventive. One of the imperatives for any jazz musician is to develop a distinctive personal "voice," and to my ears, Gerry was well on his way to achieving that.

Bassists are an interesting lot. Who chooses this instrument as the vessel for their creative urge? Certainly the upright bass is an unlikely choice for a youngster selecting an instrument -- it's big and unwieldy, with thick strings that will raise blisters on your hands should you try to coax more than a few notes out of it. There's no place to put it in the house where it's not an obstacle to navigation or -- for those with pets -- a magnet for urination. At least you can tuck a bass guitar into a closet.

While I'm not big on sports metaphors, I have heard it said that the bass player is like the third-baseman of jazz. Nobody pays a heck of a lot of attention to you -- unless you're not there. One advantage of playing the bass is that every band needs a bassist (I don't want any emails from B3 players, OK? I know you can do without us), but the disadvantage is that most bands don't need more than one. This means that we dig each other's work from a distance. At a jam session, we sit in one at a time. We never get the experience that horn players and guitarists get -- of jamming with someone else who plays your same instrument. When we tell non-musicians that we play the bass, often they have no clue what that means. Most of us have had the experience of playing a recording and explaining to our spouse or lover, "Now that part there -- doom, da-doom-doom, doom -- that's the bass. That's what I do." I think there is a kind of a bond, perhaps a brotherhood, that bassists feel for each other. We'll never be in a band together or even play music together, but we just kind understand.

We lost Gerry too early; he was in his 30s, I think. Like so many bassists, he left before the third set. I think of Scott LaFaro, Jimmie Blanton, Jaco, Mingus. Gerry joins them now, but he'll just have to wait for his turn to sit in.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Memories of Greensburg, Kansas

I've been very affected by the recent devastation in Greensburg, Kansas. Although it's been many years since I've lived in Kansas, I felt a kinship with the folks I saw on TV, who had lost so much.

I have a memory of Greensburg that was triggered by this event. In the 60s, when we traveled around the midwest with bands, we'd look for the odd roadside attractions to liven up the trip. Prairie Dog Town, the Big Ball of Twine, and of course The Big Well in Greensburg was a must-stop.

I remember stopping at the Big Well one time on the way back from a gig. We bought some junk in the gift shoppe: The singer bought one of those giant novelty "Texas" cigars that's a foot long and three inches across. One of the other guys bought a rubber snake. Then we just HAD to go down in the well. Yes, you could go down to the bottom on rickety wooden steps.

We got down to the bottom and decided it would be funny to throw the rubber snake into the water. It wasn't as funny as we thought it would be, since it sank instead of floating. Then the singer decided to fire up that huge stogie. Oh, my god, what a stench! It was like burning chicken feathers in a rubber boot. The well filled with thick, acrid smoke and we could hardly see or breathe. We beat it up the stairs as fast as we could, stepping on each other's heels and laughing and choking all the way, but the smoke seemed to follow us up. Then I saw that the singer still had the stogie going! I yelled at him to get rid of it and he reluctantly tossed it into the water.

That rubber snake is probably still down there in the bottom of the well.

Aerial Photos of Greensburg

Greensburg's Website

Monday, February 05, 2007

LV's Jazz Brunch is no more

All good things must come to an end, it seems, and the management at LV's Uptown has informed Ted Clifford that they are canceling the Sunday Jazz Brunch -- at least the live music part of it. Ted and I have enjoyed this gig very much over the past few months, and LV's management has assured us that this is a business decision and not a reflection on our music.

I am disappointed, of course, but this is how it goes in the music business. We are now free to accept other gigs, and I'll keep you all informed of upcoming appearances.

Thank you for your support, and for supporting live jazz in Portland!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Musician Story...

St Peter is welcoming new arrivals at the Gate.

A guy walks up and Peter says, "Welcome to Heaven. What did you do for a living on Earth?"

The guy says "I was a carpenter".

"Very good", says St Peter, "Go right on in".

Next guy walks up and Peter says, "Welcome to Heaven. What did you do for a living on Earth?"

The guy says "I was a doctor".

"Excellent", says St Peter, "Go right on in".

Next guy walks up and Peter says, "Welcome to Heaven. What did you do for a living on Earth?"

The guy says "I was a musician".

"Great!", says St Peter, "Just go around the back and you'll see a door next to the dumpster that'll get you through to the kitchen....".