Thursday, June 28, 2007

Gig Break Time

One of the cool things about playing music gigs is the treat of checking out things at the breaks. When I play at Giuseppe's I can sample the wonderful food at the break. When I play at the Lexington Legends games I can check out a baseball game at the break. When I play with the Andy Williams, The Temptations, The Four Tops, or other famous acts, I can hang out with the musicians at the break. When I play Caproni's I can meet celebrities such as George Clooney or Miss America at the break. When I play at big political functions I can meet presidents, governors, senators, and other leaders at the break. Yes, break time at our gigs can be fun.

Earlier this week Dad and I played for the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association. Each year we play at their Louisville convention. At break we have the opportunity of checking out the newest cremation machines, embalming fluids, funeral cars, and caskets. Yes, break time can be a learning experience and allows one to gain information on just about anything!

The N-20 Cremation Retort Is A Hot Item

The Newest Mortician Fluids

This Baby Rides Just Like A Cadillac!

Choices, Choices, Choices

Once again, Dad and I had a blast on another gig experience. We look forward to the next one and the interesting things we will encounter on our breaks.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Matthew Hall Named Richmond Little League All-Star

Richmond Little League has announced the 2007 All-Star Baseball Team. The team will compete later this summer in All-Star Tournaments throughout Central Kentucky.

The 2007 11-year-old National League All-Stars are Daylan Culton, Matthew Hall, Dakota Lakes, James Logue, David Benton, Stephen Sears, Michael Young, Willie French, Tyler Reeder, Kendan Angel, Clay Jordan and Grant Willougby.

Matthew had an impressive season. During one game he hit two doubles and a triple, driving in eight runs and scoring three times. That was a big night at the old ball orchard! Matthew tells us that it is just a matter of time until his hits start flying out of the park.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Meeting Jules Camara

I met former Kentucky basketball player Jules Camara last night at Giuseppe's. I immediately recognized the slender 7 footer as he came in for dinner. He was a favorite of mine from Tubby Smith's #1 ranked 2002-2003 team. His athletism and size made the Dakar, Senegal native a promising NBA prospect while being a valuable sixth man off Kentucky's bench. I also remembered that he was an outstanding student and spoke three languages well.

Jules told me that he had just completed a professional basketball season in Turkey. He said that he really enjoyed the season, made some money, gained valuable experience, but that there was a whole lot of travel involved. When I asked if he was able to communicate well in that country, he told me that he was picking up the language slowly, that he now spoke four languages and is working on a fifth. He explained to me that the Dallas Mavericks have invited him to camp for a tryout and that he was excited about being able to compete against NBA MVP Dirk Nowitski, arguably the best 7 foot player in the world today. He is hopeful to get a shot playing for an NBA team.

He told me that he stays in touch with many former UK teamates including Cliff Hawkins (playing professionally in Italy), Marquis Estill (having a huge career overseas, but is just coming off knee surgery), and Antoine Barber (having a successful professional career overseas as well). He looked great, impressed me as a quality individual, and was very personable and easy to like. Jules enjoyed the fine dinner and my music. I look forward to seeing him again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Al Vizzutti & Vince DiMartino

When I think of trumpeters who display amazing technique, the list would certainly include Al Vizzutti and Vince DiMartino. Vince was my jazz ensemble instructor for four years at the University of Kentucky. I have always enjoyed listening to him and admiring his dazzling technique. I remember when he brought his friend Al Vizzutti to UK to lead a clinic and perform for us. I was the only sax player in the room of about twenty trumpet players who had come to hear these masters play. I remember Al demonstrating to us how he could double tongue octaves and then Vince displaying his own tremendous range and accuracy. It was an incredible exhibition.

Click here to watch a short video clip of Al and Vince performing with the UCLA Bruin Marching Band at the 1986 Rose Bowl game.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Father's Day Baseball

It is a drag that I am unable to be with my family this week as they vacation at Myrtle Beach. Sharon, Melody, Michelle, and Matthew met my parents Saturday in South Carolina for the annual beach vacation. I had to stay home this year for business reasons.

One of the best things about the annual beach vacation is that Dad, Matthew and I always attend a Myrtle Beach Pelicans minor league baseball game on Father's Day. True to Hall tradition, Matt and Dad went again this year and called me to let me know that they once again had great fun.

Since I knew that I would be missing out on the game this year, I called friend Barry to see if he would be interested in going with me to the Cincinnati Reds game on Father's Day. Barry's ex-wife had his two sons with her that day, so it was going to work out great. I told a couple of my friends that we were going and they both told me that we were crazy to go the game in the expected 90 degree heat. Barry and I love our Reds and figured we could find some shade somewhere at the ball park if we needed a break.

We arrived early at the game so we would be sure to get our free Father's Day Reds Radio. The radios were an awesome freebie and definitely a great collectors item for the true Reds fan. Since we had a little time to kill before the game was to start, we decided to check out the air conditioned restaurant overlooking the field down the third baseline. We lucked in to the best table in the joint. It was located next to the window where we could see the entire field from our seats. In addition, we had two televisions located directly in front of us that allowed us to see the game and all replays from our seat. It was like having a private luxury box of our own.

We decided that we would drag out our lunch as long as possible and told the good looking waitress of our loitering intention. I think she had a thing for Barry as she seemed to give him a lot of extra personal attention. And to think...he is old enough to be her dad! We enjoyed seven innings of air conditioned comfort while dining on LaRose's pizza, Skyline chili, and tea. The 92 degree heat outside didn't bother us at all! In fact, I had to ask the waitress if she could partially close the air vent above us, as it became a bit chilly in our luxury box. Barry observed the fans fanning themselves while sitting outside in the hot sun and stated that he "felt sorry for those little people".

For the last two innings we decided to join the "little people" and found us two great seats on the sixth row directly behind the Reds dugout. The Reds got whipped by the Rangers this game, but our day was great nevertheless.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Michael Brecker's Final CD

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

A Sax Virtuoso's Final CD
June 13, 2007; Page D8

Among the jokes musicians share while filling time on the road, there's one that asks, "How many saxophonists does it take to screw in a light bulb?" The wry answer elicits knowing smiles and speaks a truth that almost every modern-day reed-player must face eventually.

"Twenty-one. One to screw it in, and the rest to discuss how Michael Brecker would have done it."

Mr. Brecker -- who died this past January at age 57 while putting the final touches on "Pilgrimage," his last studio album -- was arguably the best-known and easily the most influential saxophonist to come of age in the rock era. From his point of arrival in 1969, he grabbed the ears of his generation with a fluid virtuosity on the tenor saxophone. He had an uncanny ability to construct passionate solos that slid seamlessly into pop ballads, rock tunes and funk workouts. He was just as dexterous adding shade and intensity to radio hits by Aerosmith, James Brown and Paul Simon (his 20-second solo on Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years" is considered a miniature masterpiece) as he was playing with jazz giants like Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones.

Perhaps Mr. Brecker's most singular achievement was garnering star-like status among general music fans while maintaining the respect of jazz purists -- not to mention the highest regard of his fellow musicians. Many of Mr. Brecker's recordings, as a leader or as a member of jazz-rock fusion ensembles like the Brecker Brothers and Steps Ahead, are now considered primers for serious instrumentalists. To those who chose to pick up the saxophone after Mr. Brecker, his astounding technique and emotional depth remain required listening.

"I began studying in the '80s, and there were only a few modern-day saxophone players that most of us focused on," says saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. "Michael was just another caliber of musician. What he was playing nobody else could play technically, and conceptually he was very methodical."

Pianist Brad Mehldau, who performs on Mr. Brecker's final album, stands as proof of the saxophonist's sway beyond reed players. "In high school there was a group of us -- we had what we called 'Breckeritus.' The tenor players were playing Brecker licks verbatim, or trying to, and it was all rubbing off on my very fledgling vocabulary. We were all trying to figure out what he was doing."

Mr. Brecker's approach was widely imitated, to a fault according to some. "We used to call them 'Brecker-heads' -- guys who would play in a Brecker style, just being brash and doing whatever they could do to play all those licks," Mr. Coltrane recalls. "But Michael always maintained an elegance and a dignity about what he was doing. It wasn't just a hyper-development of technique, out of proportion with the emotional connection. Every note he played made sense."

So, what made Mr. Brecker's style so distinctive and dangerously seductive? The answer, as is often the case with musicians, lies in his history.

Born in 1949, Mr. Brecker grew up at a time when walls between musical -- as well as political and cultural -- categories were crumbling at a rapid rate. From the late 1960s into the '70s, rock bands were jamming over extended, modal passages, while jazz groups -- like those led by trumpeter Miles Davis -- were breaking ground by adding rock and funk rhythms to their acoustic mix, along with electric guitars and keyboards. In the best sense, Mr. Brecker's musical priorities reflected the prejudice-free ideals of the day. To him, music, played in any style or in any key, offered an equal opportunity to improvise.

To his contemporaries, like former Davis saxophonist Dave Liebman, Mr. Brecker was among the first of his generation to successfully translate the jazz innovations of the 1960s. Especially those of John Coltrane.

"He was able to take the incredible detail, the language of Coltrane, and find a place for it in rock and popular music without betraying either side," recalls Mr. Liebman, who later co-founded the group Saxophone Summit with Mr. Brecker. "In the early '70s, his sound became the thing: Every musician, every producer wanted it on their record, and Michael was the one to give it to them."

Guitarist Pat Metheny -- who also performs on "Pilgrimage" -- was 18 when he heard one of the saxophonist's most celebrated contributions to rock radio in 1972. "I was driving by a major intersection in my town, Lee's Summit, Mo. I heard James Taylor's single 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' with this tenor player on it. I just had to pull over. I was like, that's the best tenor sound and best tenor conception -- who is that playing that post-Coltrane style of saxophone?"

Coltrane was indeed a guiding influence at the start. "I remember going out and buying 'A Love Supreme,'" Mr. Brecker said, in 2001, of Coltrane's popular album. "I listened to that record every day in my bedroom. It's still etched in my psyche." Though he developed a lifelong enthusiasm for other sax-based improvisers like Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson and Sonny Rollins, Mr. Brecker remained primarily focused on Coltrane. In a number of ways, his own history paralleled that of his inspiration.

Both reached maturity in the Philadelphia area and relocated to New York City, all the while studying and practicing on the sax with the intention of knowing the instrument completely. "I'm constantly discovering more things that the acoustic saxophone can do," Mr. Brecker once said. "I don't feel it's been pushed to the limits yet." Both became hooked on hard drugs during their 20s, then kicked their habits after reaching 30, rededicating themselves to their musical path.

Like Coltrane, Mr. Brecker initially established himself as a sideman, sessionman and band member, hesitating to strike out on his own until he was in his 30s. "I quite honestly was scared to do it -- I [preferred] sharing the pains and successes," he admitted around the time his first solo album finally appeared in 1987.

And as Coltrane added soprano sax to his creative arsenal in midcareer, Mr. Brecker also expanded to a more demanding one and pioneered the use of the EWI -- or electronic wind instrument -- essentially a reed-driven synthesizer. "There's a part of me that feels like I'm playing this museum piece," Mr. Brecker said of the saxophone. "Now the tables are turning. Partly because of the new technology . . . I'm very happy to be in the time I'm in."

Mr. Brecker was happiest when creating music, and averse to most career-oriented activity. He accepted accolades and accomplishments (like 13 Grammy awards) with extreme humility, and agreed to interviews only reluctantly, preferring to spotlight those who inspired him. He spoke of his deepest passions through his horn: In 2001, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and keyboardist Herbie Hancock toured with Mr. Brecker as Directions in Music, a tribute to the music of Davis and Coltrane. Mr. Brecker's solo rendition of the latter's "Naima" was the show-stopper, eliciting standing ovations as he hopped from the saxophone's lower to upper register and back with fervent agility.

During a Directions tour in 2005, Mr. Brecker discovered he had developed myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare cancer of the blood marrow. A well-publicized, two-year search for a stem-cell donor ensued. A partial-matching transplant from his daughter allowed him to gather his strength, and last July he made a surprise appearance at the JVC Jazz Festival in New York. It was his last public performance.

A month later, Mr. Brecker was strong enough to revisit some compositions he had been working on with the arranger Gil Goldstein and return to the studio. "Pilgrimage" is the happy result of those sessions, a nine-track album that bristles with the band Mr. Brecker assembled: not only Messrs. Hancock, Mehldau and Metheny, but drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist John Patitucci.

"Pilgrimage" is an inspiring tour de force that measures up to the promise of its all-star cast: Vibrant and edgy solos abound, and varying moods and memorable themes color much of the album. In its energy and upbeat, visceral flavors it transcends any tendency to hear it as an epitaph. There's but one slow ballad ("When Can I Kiss You Again?") that is more soaring than doleful. Listening for the variance between Mr. Hancock's and Mr. Mehldau's keyboard styles is a delight in itself.

There's a playful piece of abstraction that slyly suggests a funky groove ("Loose Threads") and a fast-lane romp that relies on a dizzying series of rhythmic shifts ("Anagram") that Messrs. DeJohnette and Patitucci deliver. Mr. Brecker's muscular tenor ("The Mean Time") and urgent, EWI-triggered vocal cries ("Tumbleweed") testify to the restorative power of music. The lyrical heart of the album reveals itself on the title track: opening with a Coltrane-like benediction, passing through a series of uplifting improvisations, and closing with a bold and confident thrust.

"Pilgrimage" also captures Mr. Brecker's startling growth as a composer, already suggested in 2003 on his album "Wide Angles." Significantly, "Pilgrimage" features all new material written by Mr. Brecker alone, flush with a feeling of risk-taking and a strong sense of moving forward. Had he not departed, who knows what steps lay ahead?

Mr. Kahn is the author of "The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records" (W.W. Norton).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ecton Park Big Band & Jazz Concert Series

Dad Playing Trombone With Colonel's Choice At Ecton Park

The Ecton Park Big Band & Jazz Concert Series is one of Lexington’s longest running and best attended musical events. A weekly summer concert is held in Ecton Park and features jazz, big band or concert band music. Folks can bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating and may even pack a picnic dinner. The concerts start at 7:00pm and admission is free.

Here is the schedule of remaining events for this year:

June 19 – Jay Flippin

June 26 – Dan Brock and Friends

July 10 – David Hummel Jazz Octet

July 17 – Miles Osland Little Big Band

July 24 – Colonels Choice Dixieland Band

July 31 – Rick Cook

August 7 – Lexington Concert Band

August 14 – Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra

August 21 – Lexington Jazz Project

August 28 – Men of Note

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Views From The Bandstand

One of the neat things about playing music gigs is the "view from the bandstand". Over the years I have seen a United States President working the crowd, a governor's wife doing the gator on her back in the middle of the dance floor, the argument and preliminary buildup to a fist fight, a young man asking his girl for her hand in marriage, a man falling to the dance floor from a heart attack (he is now fine), cool movie stars, jerk movie stars, good and bad dancers, a lady pouring her drink in a man's lap, and many other interesting sights.

I played a couple of nice gigs this past weekend where I enjoyed the views from the bandstand. At Berry Hill Mansion in Frankfort, I played from the balcony during a wedding reception. I had a bird's-eye view of everything and enjoyed watching all the happy people having fun.

Berry Hill Mansion Balcony View

On Sunday evening I played on the patio at Idle Hour Country Club. The facility and grounds were absolutely gorgeous.

Idle Hour Country Club Patio View

I may start taking a photo from each bandstand that I play and post the most interesting photos to this blog. I'll probably enjoy looking back at them when I'm retired from playing and beginning to reminisce about the good old days.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jazz Great Oscar Peterson Honored

My favorite jazz pianist is Oscar Peterson. I have loved his music since the first time I heard him play. I remember back in school when University of Kentucky Jazz Ensemble pianist Brian Gallagher turned me on to Peterson's "Night Train" and "We Get Requests" albums. When hearing that awesome trio made up of Oscar, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Ed Thigpen, I was hearing the very best. Those crackly lps have long since bit the dust and have been replaced in my collection by crisp and clear compact discs. Oscar's trio recordings remain some of my favorite jazz releases of all time.

This morning I ran across the following 6/10/07 article by Charles J. Gans of the Associated Press and have decided to post it here:

Wynton Marsalis In Tribute To Oscar Peterson

NEW YORK - His doctor's orders prevented Oscar Peterson from traveling from his home near Toronto to attend the tribute concert featuring Wynton Marsalis and other jazz stars at Carnegie Hall — where the legendary jazz pianist launched his international career nearly 60 years ago.

"Even though he can't be here this evening and is quite disappointed about that, he sends his heartfelt thanks, his deepest appreciation and his love to all of you," Peterson's wife, Kelly, told the audience at the Fujitsu Jazz Festival concert honoring the 81-year-old "Master of Swing."

Peterson's daughter, Celine, recalled that it was on the same stage that her father's "amazing career began."

In 1949, jazz impresario Norman Granz invited a then-unknown pianist he had heard performing in a Montreal club to come to New York for one of his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts at Carnegie Hall. Peterson was brought up from the audience as a surprise guest to play a duet with bassist Ray Brown, overwhelming everyone with his dazzling technique and mastery of different jazz styles.

Pat Philips, who produced the Friday night tribute with her partner Ettore Strata, came up with the idea after hearing Peterson in a rare club performance at New York's Birdland a year-and-a-half ago. Peterson, who lives in Mississauga, Ontario, has cut back his touring schedule in recent years due to arthritis and a mild stroke he suffered in 1993 that affected his left hand.

"I wondered why there hadn't been a recent or important tribute to Oscar Peterson in the United States, and I was sort of astounded that I couldn't find anything," Philips said in an interview. "This is where it all started for him ... and I thought it important that America pay tribute to him because he's been such an inspiration to all the great jazz pianists here and all over the world."

Pianist Roger Kellaway, the program's musical director, opened Friday's concert in a trio with bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone performing the Gershwin tune "I Was Doing All Right," as a tribute to Peterson's classic 1950s drummerless trio with bassist Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis.

Peterson's fellow octogenarians, though frail, provided some of the evening's most moving moments. Hank Jones, 88, whom Peterson described as his favorite pianist, accompanied Clark Terry, 86, who charmed the audience with his vocalese on "Mumbles" — reprising a tune the trumpeter recorded with Peterson in 1964.

Terry then performed a touching version of the ballad "The Nearness of You" with the 87-year-old pianist Marian McPartland, another longtime Peterson friend.

Other performers spotlighted memorable collaborations from Peterson's 65-year career: singer Dee Dee Bridgewater soared through "Midnight Sun," a tune the pianist recorded in 1975 with Ella Fitzgerald; while trumpeter Marsalis played a spirited version of "Just Friends" in homage to Peterson's 1980 "Trumpet Summit" album with Terry, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard.

Gypsy violinist Florin Niculescu flew in from Paris to play "Someone to Watch Over Me," evoking memories of Peterson's recordings with the French swing violinist Stephane Grappelli.

Peterson's own compositions were showcased throughout the evening — most notably several movements from his 1964 "Canadiana Suite," which he wrote to express his pride in his native country. The 20-year-old piano sensation Eldar, who was inspired by Peterson recordings growing up in Kyrgyzstan, set a blistering tempo on "Place St. Henri," named for the Montreal district where Peterson grew up; while Canadian pianist Renee Rosnes created a more pastoral mood on "Ballad to the East" about the Maritime Provinces.

"It really is nice to be able to pay tribute to someone who's alive, and Oscar is very much alive," the 85-year-old pianist Billy Taylor told the audience. "He couldn't be here with us tonight but he's here and his music is still happening."

It was left to Peterson himself to provide the evening's final coda. As the performers lined up on stage with Kellaway holding aloft a large color photograph of the pianist, the audience exited to the sounds of a 1950s recording of the Oscar Peterson Trio playing "(Back Home Again In) Indiana" at breakneck tempo.

Monday, June 04, 2007

2007 MCHS Graduate Melody Hall

Melody graduated from Madison Central High School with the high distinguished honor designation. She maintained a 4.0 gpa each year, was named Kentucky Governor's Scholar, was a member of the National Honor Society, and was named All American Attorney in the 2007 National Invitational Mock Trial Tournament.

She has accepted the William C. Parker Scholarship, Provost Scholarship, Alumni Scholarship, and Leadership Scholarship and will enroll at the University of Kentucky. She plans to study political science and law. We are excited about her bright future and are thankful for the great opportunity that awaits her.