Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Favorite Album Cover

Hands down, my favorite album cover has to be the Mercury Records release of Lester "Roadhog" Moran & His Cadillac Cowboys "Alive At The Johnny Mack Brown High School". The liner notes on the back side of the cover are a hoot. The Statler Brothers must have had a blast recording this classic comedy. It is my favorite comedy album...it's "mighty fine, mighty fine".

Monday, January 30, 2006


I've always enjoyed getting autographs. I have tons of them. Some of my favorites that I have personally obtained include Muhammed Ali, Woody Herman, Pete Rose, Sonny Stitt, Bob Gibson, Dan Issel, Yusef Lateef, Carson Palmer, Dexter Gordon, Crystal Gayle, Donny Osmond, Joe Torre, Phil Woods, Tubby Smith, Rudi Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Chad Johnson, Ernie Ford, Justin Smith, Urbie Green, Johnny Bench, Marie Osmond, Buddy Rich, Junior Walker, David Clayton-Thomas, The Kingston Trio, Mitch McConnell, Maynard Ferguson, Christopher Cross, Percy Sledge, Robert Lamm, Jerry Claiborne, Cawood Ledford, Chris Perry, Andy Williams, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Arnie Lawrence, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Walker, Marvin Lewis, Buddy DeFranco, Tony Perez, Chubby Checker, Dermotti Dawson, Don Gullett, Derrick Ramsey, Helen Reddy, Denny Crum, and Joe Hall. I could be mistaken, but I don't remember any of these folks asking for mine!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rosemary Clooney Room at Caproni's Restaurant

One of my favorite gigs is playing Caproni's in Maysville, KY. The legendary restaurant is located along the scenic Ohio River bank next to a railroad track. Caproni's was vocalist Rosemary Clooney's favorite restaurant. Honoring Rosemary, the private dining room area is named after her.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Desert Island CDs

OK, if I can only have ten, here goes:

1. Miles Davis/Kind Of Blue
2. John Coltrane/Blue Train
3. The Beatles/White Album
4. Antonio Vivaldi/The Four Seasons - Boston Symphony Orchestra
5. Paul Desmond/Pure Desmond
6. Stevie Wonder/Songs In The Key Of Life
7. Kirk Whalum/Hymns In The Garden
8. Dexter Gordon/Go
9. Steely Dan/Aja
10. Statler Brothers/The Complete Lester "Roadhog" Moran & The Cadillac Cowboys

Friday, January 27, 2006

Signature Win For Mickie DeMoss

Mickie DeMoss, head basketball coach of the University of Kentucky Lady Kats, must be on cloud nine today. Last night she and the home team pulled off what may be the biggest win in team history by beating #1 ranked Tennessee 66-63. The Lady Volunteers are coached by Pat Summitt, Mickie's mentor, which made the win even sweeter.

I am fortunate to know Coach DeMoss after having met her at my Giuseppe's gig. She and her staff visit the restaurant frequently and I always enjoy our conversations there. She is an energetic lady with a positive outlook on everything. Coach really enjoys life, and it shows. We at Giuseppe's are very proud of her and the team.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Tip Jar

Musicians like to have a tip jar nearby. The musician takes pride in his jar. Not just any jar will do...it has to be the RIGHT jar, an effective jar. Other than his axe, the tip jar could be considered the most important item for a musician to have with him at the gig.

Factors in determining the proper jar include size and design. When it comes to size, it must be big enough to hold the lettuce coming in on the big nights, but not too large as to make the slim contents of a slow night look really pitiful. The jar needs to be large enough that it will not go unnoticed. It should "call out" to everyone in the room, yet in a subtle way. My idea of having a bright neon flashing arrow pointing at my jar as it rotates on a special fluorescent elevated display table is probably not subtle enough. The design of the jar is very important for maximum positive results. It must have a large enough opening to easily accept multible bills at once, but yet be small enough that the tipper won't have the ability to stick their hand into the jar to root around and grab change back from a large bill.

Once you've decided on a jar, it is essential that you take into consideration a very important factor...LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! A jar at the bandstand is mandatory. Sometimes it may be appropriate to have more than one jar set out. I like to put one at the bar, in each restroom, in the lobby, at the front desk, on each table, at the cash register, in the manager's office, at the aquarium, and, of course, one or two next to the door. I prefer to use jars of various colors. Studies show that different individuals are attracted to different colors. To maximize results, I like to put the colored jars in a placement rotation throughout the evening. The most effective method is to rotate the jars every hour. During the musician's break it is always good to go outside and stuff tip reminder flyers underneath the windshield wiper of each parked vehicle.

After the gig is done and all the jars have been emptied and contents tucked away in a safe hiding place, I go home and tell my wife that I forgot to set out a jar.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bird & Cat, Friends Or Foes?

Bird, my cockatiel, is the coolest winged creature in the world. He flys to my shoulder no matter what room of the house I'm in. If I put him on a chair and go to another room in the house, Bird will always find me within a few minutes. His favorite room in the house is the bathroom...because that's where the shower is! He loves his suction-cupped perch in the shower, and looks forward to being there as much as possible. Bird is also a jazz fan. He digs Thelonius Monk, James Moody, and Eddie Jefferson.

Socks, the family feline, is pretty cool too. She likes to listen to the blues. Her favorite artists are B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Les McCann. She generally stays outside, but on cold or rainy days she has been known to beg her way into the house.

I've never seen the cat show interest in the bird, though Bird always talks and chirps to Socks. Socks will lay down next to the bird cage and sleep, but never even looks at Bird. Still, I'm careful not to have Bird out of his cage while Socks is inside.

The other day I saw a picture of a dude's parakeet perched on his cat's back. Evidently his bird and cat were best of friends and played together all the time. I'm trying to decide if I should allow Bird out of the cage when Socks is hanging around.

After thinking about it, I guess I had better not try it. Bird may peck Socks' eyes out.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Favorite Musicians

People often ask me at my gigs to name my favorite players. I don't think my answers are consistant, as my list of favorites is continuously evolving. Here's my list as of today. It is not a list of who I think are the best players, it is a list of the musicians whom I enjoy most.

Alto Sax - Paul Desmond, Sonny Stitt, Phil Woods

Tenor Sax - John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Kirk Whalum

Trumpet - Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Arturo Sandoval

Trombone - Bill Watrous, Carl Fontana, Frank Rosolino

Guitar - George Benson, Jim Hall, Jonny Lang

Piano - Oscar Peterson, Ahmad Jamal, Bill Evans

Organ - Joey DeFrancesco, Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff

Male Vocalist - Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Bill Champlin

Female Vocalist - Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt

Flute - Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lew Tabackin, Jean-Pierre Rampal

Clarinet - Paquito D'Rivera, Ken Peplowski, Buddy DeFranco

Big Band - Woody Herman, Count Basie, Maynard Ferguson

R&B/Soul Band - Tower of Power, Earth Wind & Fire, Average White Band

Rock Group - The Beatles, Steely Dan, Chicago

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Right Office Chair

I needed to get a new chair for my office. I figured it would be a simple thing to look in the online catalog, quickly pick one out, and take advantage of the free delivery. Easy. Wrong!

The online catalogs of the national office store chains showed all kinds of chairs...way too many choices to make it easy. I saw big chairs, little chairs, brown chairs, black chairs, work station chairs, manager's chairs, executive's chairs, secretary's chairs, customer's chairs, chairs with arms, chairs without arms, computer chairs, leather chairs, wooden chairs, ugly chairs, pretty chairs, high back chairs, low back chairs, swivel chairs, ergonomic chairs, etc. Decisions, decisions!

It's been a number of years since I have needed a new chair. I had forgotten all the factors involved in making such a titanic decision. After studying the catalogs for a while, I decided to drive to the store so I could actually look at the chairs and even sit down in some different ones to see how they felt.

I made my way over to the office furniture section of the store and looked at the huge selection of chairs. A salesman came over and asked "What are you looking for in a chair?" I thought about it for a few seconds and told him that I needed a chair to sit in. He then inquired "Do you want an executive's chair or a manager's chair?" I took that as a compliment, figuring that I must look like a person possessing some level of authority. I asked him to explain the differences between a manager's chair and an executive's chair. After his explanation, my eyes caught a glimpse of a very comfortable looking chair on the next row. I walked over to the comfortable looking chair and sat down. Wow...it felt great! The salesman immediately told me that it was definitely not the right chair for me, that it was a secretary's chair. I asked him what he thought my vocation was, and what if I was a secretary? He thought a minute and then quizzed me, "What do you do for a living and exactly how are you planning to use the chair?" I told him that I am a musician, and that I needed a chair to sit in when I am in my office. He replied, "Oh...so you really don't work. Any of these chairs would be alright for you". I told him to get me the black president's chair, the ridiculously expensive one made with the real Corinthian leather Ricardo Montalbán used to talk about.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Good Week

This past week was a good one for me. Many friends came to Giuseppe's to dine and hear me play. What a great feeling! Last night Nick Clooney came to Caproni's for dinner. During each of his visits, he comes up to my bandstand and has kind words for me regarding my playing. He always mentions the name of a song or two that he particularily enjoys during each visit. Last night he thanked me for playing "Frim Fram Sauce" on my alto sax and explained that he and his wife are also fond of Diana Krall's version of that tune from her "All For You" recording. It's been a while since his son George has stopped in, but it's nice when he does.

I received a call from my agent earlier this week with news that he plans to book me to play with The Temptations later this year when they come to Kentucky. I've played that show several times before, and it is always a blast.

He also booked me to play solo dinner music for a February corporate function to be held at The Peabody Hotel in Orlando, Florida. My wife and I are looking forward to enjoying a long weekend in the Sunshine State.

Marty's sermon this morning at Madison Hills Christian Church was inspiring. As always, Kevin played well.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Satellite Radio Is Great, So Was Sonny Stitt

Satellite radio is three shades of fine. I listened to XM channel 70 (Real Jazz) a lot today, as I spent a lot of time on the road. I enjoyed the cuts they played today even more than usual. They played some classic Sonny Stitt and it really burned! If I had to choose a favorite saxophonist, Stitt might be my pick. He was an incredible player.

I was fortunate to have been able to hear and see him in person. When I was a student at UK in the late 1970's, he played a few sets at a little Lexington KY jazz club called O'Keefe's. My Dad and I sat at the front table just in front of the stage. I was so close to Sonny that I could read the Selmer engraving on his Mark VI horns. At intermission Sonny sat and talked with me. I was hoping to pick up a helpful playing hint or advice from the best sax player in the world. He asked if I played an instrument. I replied, "I play the tenor". Sonny put his hand on my shoulder, pulled me close to him so that I could clearly hear his words of wisdom, and told me in a soft but stearn voice, "tenor is a bad mother". That was it. Nothing more, only a confident nod emphasing his statement.

Like the tenor, Sonny Stitt was a "bad mother". So is XM radio.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Remembering A Great Day

My ten year old son Matthew and I were pumped up at the thought of attending our first Bengals opening day game. We've always wanted to do it, but this season we finally broke down and bought season tickets to follow our beloved Bengals. This was the first time we were going to see them in person for a real game (we had seen them many times at their training facility in Georgetown, KY and in exhibition games, but never in a game that counted).

It was the perfect day. We arrived early, parked in Kentucky alongside the Ohio River, set up our trusty camping grill, and grilled up some ribs and brats while we passed football in the sunny 70 degree weather. Located directly across the river from us, Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark were beautiful sites to behold. Matthew wore his autographed Carson Palmer jersey and I sported my autographed Rudi Johnson jersey. We had met our heroes after a team practice and had them sign our jerseys, hats, yearbooks, etc. Many players let me take photographs of them standing beside Matt. We consumed mass quantities of the best beverage on the planet (Mountain Dew) and prepared for the big game.

Matt and I walked across the Ohio River bridge and ventured up a block or two into the city to experience some of the Octoberfest festivities. We enjoyed watching the polka participants and the entire celebration. It was now time to head out for the main event...Bengals vs. Vikings, Paul Brown Stadium, opening day 2005.

After hearing a powerful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, the excitement of the four fighter jets flying over the stadium was awesome. On the Bengals first play, Carson Palmer completed a long bomb touchdown pass to Chad Johnson. Fantastic! Chad did his celebration dance. Yes! The Bengals went on to blow out the Vikings and completely dominated all phases of the game.

On our walk back over the bridge to our Bengalmobile, Matthew voiced his concern of the prospect of not seeing Brett Favre on TV for the 4:15 game. I told him not to worry, that we were not going to miss anything. We got in our van, drove three blocks to Willie's Sports Cafe, and watched Brett Favre on the widescreen while eating some spicy chicken wings.

After all that excitement it was finally time to head home. As I was driving down I-75, Matt turned down the volume on the swinging Dexter Gordon cd and told me, "Dad, this is the greatest day of my life". When I heard him say that, it was about the best day of my life too. I looked up and saw the Dairy Queen sign at the next exit, and told him that our day wasn't yet over...we were stopping for ice cream!

Matt at the 2005 home opener

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Soul Mate

Sharon and I celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary today. It's hard to believe that she has been able to put up with me for that long. I'm a lucky guy! It will be a nice night for us to enjoy a few choice Stan Getz and Paul Desmond recordings together. Unfortunately, I'll need to include a country love song or two in the playlist, as she prefers country music to jazz. Oh well, nobody's perfect!