Monday, February 26, 2007

Paquito D'Rivera Quintet Experience

Paquito D'Rivera And Me

It was certainly a thrill for me to meet and hear nine time Grammy winner Paquito D'Rivera and members of his jazz quintet yesterday prior to their University of Louisville concert. My jazz buddy Kim Harrod, my sax student Shane Leger, my son Matthew and I arrived early and entered the music building through the back door. Not being familiar with the building's layout, we stumbled upon the backstage entrance that led us right onto the stage. The band was just beginning to set up their equipment and didn't seem to mind us being there, so we took advantage of our good fortune and stayed to check things out.

Paquito signed cds for us and appreciated our enthusiasm for his talent. After meeting him, we stayed and heard them rehearse and do a sound check. It was exciting to hear these master musicians as they rehearsed. When they finished, we followed them to "The Green Room" where shrimp and soft drinks were presented on a table. The room was a comfortable place for the band to relax and mentally prepare for the upcoming concert. Paquito brought his clarinet into the room, bassist Oscar Stagnaro brought his axe, and pianist Alon Yavnai sat at the baby grand piano next to the couch. It was then that we were treated to an impromptu mini rehearsal of some of the intricate passages of several things they planned to incorporate into their concert performance that evening. It was awesome to watch these incredible musicians work as the latin jazz great and clarinet virtuoso Paquito explained to Alon and Oscar the way he wanted certain passages played that evening. He demonstrated to them by playing the licks on his clarinet and by scat singing the notes and phrases that he wanted them to play at certain times in the tune. After ten minutes or so of music discussion and practice, they concluded their session by playing a few choruses of "All The Things You Are" and then smiled with satisfaction at the astounding music that they had just created. It was quite an experience for us to watch and hear. Paquito is perhaps the best clarinetist in the world, and we heard him executing his incredible jazz ideas between bites of shrimp as he sat in the large cushioned chair.

At the concert we sat on the front row and had an unbelievable view of the players. I snapped the above photo from my seat as the band acknowledged the crowd. Shown is premier bassist Oscar Stagnaro, accomplished pianist Alon Yavnai, exciting trumpeter Diego Urcola, Paquito, and the amazing drummer Mark Walker. I can't imagine a stronger rhythm section than the one we heard. The Margaret Comstock Concert Hall was a nice place to hear the concert and the volume balance of the different instruments was very good. Paquito cracked us up when he brought audience member Jamey Aebersold onstage and had him count off a tune in his trademark monotone...", two, three, four." It was the exact same way Jamey does it on his famous educational playalong series of records. It was a hoot.

The concert ranked way up there on my favorites list. I've always loved Paquito's music. His playing of both his alto sax and clarinet are fabulous. He can play with electifying technique and also in a very soulful way. I've not yet heard anyone handle a latin ballad as nicely as Paquito. He demonstrates a wonderful command of his horn on everything he plays. He is also an accomplished composer. The opportunity of the being there for the rehearsal, then watching and listening in The Green Room, and finally sitting in the front row at centerstage for the concert made the evening one of the most enjoyable musical experiences I have ever had. Viva Paquito!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Fat Tuesday At McCready Manor

I played a fun Fat Tuesday gig tonight at McCready Manor in Richmond. A good time was had by all. Kelly, the energetic jester, was in top form.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Snowy Weekend Gig At Maysville's Caproni's

As the snow and temperature fell during the drive to my music gig at Caproni's this past Saturday night, I wondered if the weather would keep customers away. As it turned out, we had a big crowd. They enjoyed the great food and picturesque view of the snow, the river, and the train as it rolled down the tracks next to the restaurant as I played.

Tubby's Kentucky Wildcats had just lost another basketball game. Maysville's Chris Lofton, a fabulous player for the Tennessee Volunteers, had also lost the game he played earlier in the day. Many of the customers had watched those disappointing games on their home televisions and were anxious to get out, regardless of the weather.

Due to the slick roads, it took me a little longer than usual to arrive home. I didn't mind the extra time. It allowed me the opportunity to enjoy John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme", Richie Cole's "Alto Madness", and most of Fourplay's "Elixer" on my cd player.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Chet Baker has long been one of my favorite musicians. I have always loved his musical treatment of "My Funny Valentine". Have a great Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Men are coming out of the woodwork to make public announcements that they may be the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby. At this time I would like to state, for the record, that there is absolutely no way that I am the father of the child. I am not entitled to any money, custody, visitation, or anything having to do with with anything or anyone associated with the recent events. If other men would step forward, as I have done, and announce their non-association with Anna Nicole, perhaps the search for the father would yield faster results.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Paul Brown Stadium Named Top NFL Stadium

We love Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Bengals. Matthew and I have visited several other pro stadiums including the homes of the Cleveland Browns, Tennessee Titans, and Indianapolis Colts. We have always felt that none of those come close to PBS. Our observations have been validated by a Harris Interactive Survey.

From The Wall Street Journal via the Bengals website:

Paul Brown Stadium is the only football stadium to make a list of “America’s favorite 150 buildings and structures,” according to a Harris Interactive survey.

PBS ranked 101st on the list, whose range included all manner of major structures — skyscrapers, museums, churches, hotels, bridges, national memorials and more. No other football stadium was voted among the top 150, and among all sports venues, only Wrigley Field (31) and Yankee Stadium (84) ranked higher than PBS.

The survey was commissioned by the American Institute of Architects and was published this week by the Wall Street Journal. Results came from a scientifically selected panel of 2000 Americans, who were asked to choose their favorites from photos of 247 “finalist” buildings, which had been selected by a panel of 2500 architects.

Paul Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000, features a futuristic, open design that incorporates views of the Ohio River and Suspension Bridge to the south and downtown Cincinnati to the north.

Cincinnati boasts the only two Ohio buildings on the list, and they are just two miles apart. The historic Union Terminal, striking Art Deco home of the Cincinnati Museum Center complex, is ranked 44th on the overall list.

In all, there were 10 sports facilities on the list of 150. The seven behind Wrigley Field, Yankee Stadium and PBS were AT&T Park in San Francisco (104), Fenway Park in Boston (113), American Airlines Center in Dallas (118), Camden Yards in Baltimore (122), the Astrodome in Houston (134), Safeco Field in Seattle (135) and Ingalls Ice Arena at Yale University (149).

The Empire State Building was rated America’s favorite piece of architecture overall. Reflecting the diversity of candidates, other structures in the overall top 10 included The White House (2), the Golden Gate Bridge (5) and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (10).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Paquito D'Rivera To Play At U of L

My favorite clarinetist is nine time Grammy award winner Paquito D'Rivera. I'm excited because his quintet is scheduled to play a concert in Louisville on February 25 at U of L's Jazz Week 2007. Also a monster alto sax player, Paquito has played with many greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Arturo Sandoval, Irakere, Claudio Roditi, and numerous others. He also has been leader of many world class jazz and classical groups. He is a phenomenal musician and excels at composition as well as performance.

I have been collecting Paquito recordings for many years and have quite a large representation of his work. Dad and I heard him in concert several years ago when he was member of The Caribbean Jazz Project. That group was incredible. Andy Narell was playing steel drums and David Samuels played vibes and marimba. Paquito was excellent on alto sax and soprano sax, but it was his fabulous clarinet chops that really knocked me out. I love the guy's playing and keep at least 15 or 20 of his albums in my iPod at any one time. I will definitely be in the audience for the 7:30pm concert at U of L's Margaret Comstock Concert Hall on 2/25/07.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Musician/Venue Associations

Musicians are often associated with the great places they played.

They loved Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall.
They loved Thad Jones & Mel Lewis at The Village Vanguard.
They loved Frank Zappa at The Roxy.
They loved Dizzy Gillespie at Birdland.
They loved Duke Ellington at The Cotton Club.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"The Saxtress" Pamela Williams To Play In Nashville

As part of the Smooth Grooves Concert Series, "The Saxtress" Pamela Williams will perform on Friday, 2/16/07, for two shows, 7:30 & 10:30, at The Rhythm Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee. This club is located at 174 3rd Avenue North in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Tickets are $25 and $50.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bob Mintzer On Michael Brecker

Prior to Michael Brecker's death, he and Bob Mintzer were recognized by many as the two greatest tenor sax players in jazz. The following note was posted on Bob's website after Michael's passing:

The passing of Michael Brecker has had a profound effect on the jazz community, the community of Hastings on Hudson, where he lived with his wife Susan, daughter Jessica, and son Sam, and many others who were inspired and helped by Mike to be a better person. He was a gentle giant, who would give you the shirt off his back, and make you feel as if you were the most important person in the room. He gave relentlessly to his fellow man, to his family, and to the art form he helped shape. My dad used to say that someone was “a gentleman and a scholar” when acting in a valiant and decent fashion. Mike was a gentleman and a scholar of the highest order. He was a friend, a mentor, and a power of example. I am forever grateful to have known this man and all that he believed in.

There were two instances in my musical life where I truly got my butt kicked. The first was when I sat in with Rashaan Roland Kirk at age 18 at the Village Vanguard. The second was in 1973 when Mike stopped by a jam session I was at. He had returned from a gig with a band called White Elephant (Mike Manieri, Frank Vicari) somewhere out of town. He came from the airport to a drummer’s loft on 21st street named Bob Jospe to play a couple of tunes. I had heard Mike on record with the band called Dreams. But I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to hear. His sound, energy, and fluid way of playing the saxophone literally made the whole loft vibrate as if we were in the midst of a tornado. I was paralyzed with fright and a sense that I had a long way to go as far as playing the saxophone went. After Mike finished playing and the molecules in the room returned to somewhat of a normal state, he looked as if he was quite dissatisfied with what he had played. I was afraid to even touch my horn at that point, and simply sat there sheepishly taking all this in. Despite my obvious “deer in a headlight” demeanor, Mike was very friendly towards me, as he was to everyone he came in contact with.

We crossed paths again in 1977 when Mike was the featured soloist with a repertory band in NYC called the National Jazz Ensemble. After the concert Mike invited me to his loft to listen to some music and talk saxophone. He struck me as such a dedicated musician and genuinely giving human being. It was hard to not be moved by his sincerity and warmth. At that time I was playing with the Buddy Rich band. Whenever we were in New York I would try to hang with Mike. I remember when the first Brecker Brothers first recording came out in 1975. Al the cats on Buddy’s band were marveling over this music. What Mike and Randy were doing was something totally fresh that had the intensity of modern jazz, a serious R and B groove, and a modern approach to composition, which hadn’t been heard before.

I was quite awe-struck by the varied situations I got to hear Mike play in during this time. One night with the Brecker Brothers, another night with the Hal Galper Quintet, and then hear him on a James Taylor or Steely Dan recording playing the perfect 16 bar solo. In the late 70s when I began to do some studio work in New York the standard rap from the producers was “I need a solo like Mike Brecker”. His playing set the standard for jazz, R and B, and pop saxophone playing. As I heard it, he had combined an interesting mix of influences (Coltrane, Stanley Turrentine, King Curtis, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins) into a totally unique and fresh sounding approach to playing. You couldn’t help but be influenced by Mike. He had managed to encapsulate the history of jazz saxophone, and put some other stuff on it that was all his own. I wanted to be like Mike when I grew up. Still do!

We actually played on a few recordings together in the late 70s. There was an Al Foster recording and one by the great pianist Joachim Kuhn. I remember soloing on a rather complex tune before Mike, and having a hard time getting through the unfamiliar dissonant chord changes. Mike soloed next and absolutely tore it up! I looked over at him and he had his eyes closed. He had memorized the form and chord changes in seconds and was playing some jaw-dropping saxophone. Out of frustration I asked Mike “how the hell were you able to do that?” Mike said “Awe, I was just bullshitting”. Like hell he was! That was Mike back then. Always self-effacing after displaying musicianship that was nothing short of total brilliance.

During this period we got to hang, talk shop and play. It was one of the most productive times in my musical life. Mike was so open and generous with musical information. His playing was so powerful and honest. It was a reminder to me that learning to play music was serious business that required many years of intense work dedication, and study.

In 1980 Mike and Randy Brecker opened a jazz club in Manhattan called 7th Avenue South. It was there that I did my first small band and big band performances. Mike and Randy were very generous about having young players play in the club. The other real significance here was the fact that the booking policy of the band allowed for virtually any kind of improvised music imaginable. At that time there weren’t any venues for electric music, at least in a small intimate jazz setting in New York City. I got to play there with Randy Brecker, Jaco Pastorius, Mike Manieri, and several other bands that didn’t fall into the standard jazz category that most other clubs prescribed to.

Mike played in my first big band along with Dave Sanborn, Randy, Will Lee, Peter Erskine, Don Grolnick, and all the cats! It was an incredible thrill for a young guy to have all these seasoned players playing the music. People would come to the club to hear us to hear Mike and Dave and all. I once heard someone say, “Who the hell is Bob Mintzer?” Mike wasn’t what you would call a big band kind of guy. He was a dynamic soloist who was most at home in a small group playing his heart out. He was a spectacular ensemble player as well, but it was a little like keeping Michael Jordan on the bench for most of the game. I remember playing a solo one night with the band and suddenly realizing that the audience was laughing wildly. Evidently Mike and Sanborn were clowning around behind me, and it was so funny that everyone stopped listening to the music and started paying attention to the comedy act in the sax section. Two of the funniest and fun-loving cats I know! On another occasion, while collecting the big band books, I noticed that Mike had drawn several cartoons on the folder holding the music while he was sitting there not playing. I quickly realized Mike needed to be playing, not sitting in a sax section. But before he split he did make two recordings with the band, as a means of showing his support. A real giving soul!

In 1981 Mike and I played with Jaco Pastorius in the Word of Mouth band. This was an extremely challenging and inspiring band, in which you were called upon to be a real improviser and composer in the moment. I remember at the rehearsal for our debut at 7th ave. south having my wife Carla show up with her flute. Carla was playing in charanga bands around NYC at that time. Mike noticed the flute and asked if he could check it out. He said he hadn’t played a flute in years. He picked up Carla’s flute and sounded like Julius Baker meets Hubert Laws meets Coltrane. Our jaws dropped in unison. At that time I was studying flute and just trying to get the notes out. Mike took to it as if he had been practicing 4 hours a day. He was that way. He could play any instrument well (drums, piano, whatever).

Mike graciously played on a project I did for BMG Japan originally called “The Saxophone”. It was supposed to have been a leaderless date with a bunch of friends playing some music dedicated to the great tenor saxophonists of jazz. I was naïve as to how record companies work at that point. The project was eventually renamed Twin Tenors, which got Mike and I into trouble with GRP (who we were both associated with at the time) for seemingly recording for a rival label as leaders. In any case, Mike showed up totally prepared to play this music, having shed all the written material, and played in his usual magical way. I learned an important lesson doing that session. There was no way I was gonna out-play Mike. He was just so connected to the music. So I discovered that I could play slower and shorter phrases (well within my technical ability) that managed to contrast Mike’s virtuosic approach. In the end I think we fit together pretty well, despite the fact that when you played saxophone in the same room as Mike he would play so much saxophone that there wouldn’t be much left for you to play. (At least this is how it felt at the time).

Mike's work through the 90s and beyond with his brother Randy, as a leader of his own ensembles, and as a collaborator with countless others, is nothing short of astounding. He pushed the envelope in everything he did in and out of music. He was a really decent guy to all around him in the process.

I will be forever grateful for the moments shared with Mike. As Randy Sandke so aptly put it, Mike would make you feel like a musical equal despite being light years ahead in so many ways. To me, Mike represents a musician who was able to be totally dedicated to his art while being there for his family, friends, and community. He did it all with a joyous heart and a good word for all around him. Despite living in the same town as Mike for the last 12 years, we only saw one another a few times a year. But we talked regularly on the phone. I would be more likely to see Mike at the North Sea Festival in the Netherlands than in Hastings. The thing is, he was always there, somewhere. Now that he’s gone there is a void that will take some time to reckon with. I felt a similar feeling when Mel Lewis passed. He was a friend and mentor that was always there, at the Village Vanguard every Monday night. At the end of the day, it’s really about us being there for one another. Mike was there for us all. And his spirit and musical legacy will continue to be there to inspire and motivate from now until the end of time.

Travel safe, Mike We love you.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lynne Arriale Trio To Play At MSU

Piano great Lynne Arriale will play a concert with her jazz trio at Morehead State University in the Duncan Recital Hall on Thursday, March 8, 2007. She is a fabulous player and leads one of the best touring jazz trios in the world. Morehead State University Jazz Ensemble director Gordon Towell was very enthusiastic when announcing the event the other night at a DOJO concert. He is hoping for a big audience turnout. Admission is free!

She is also scheduled to perform 7:30 and 9:30 shows on Friday, March 9, 2007, at The Jazz Factory in Louisville.