Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hearing Toots Thielemans & Kenny Werner Was A Treat

I remember the first time I heard a Toots Thielemans recording. I was visiting my friend Paul Weiler, who had broken his leg and was unable to get around for several months. He had a cassette playing in his boombox beside the bed. As it played, I heard the most unique musical sound I had ever experienced...a harmonica player burning up a bebop tune and playing stuff that Charlie "Bird" Parker might have played on alto sax. The next song on the tape featured the harmonica player playing a bluesy ballad that knocked my socks off. Of course, I was hearing Toots.

Toots and piano virtuoso Kenny Werner played today at the University of Louisville in the Margaret Comstock Concert Hall. It was the finale of the school's "Jazz Week 2010".

Jazz fan friends Zack, Kim, and Wayne made the trip with me. We arrived at the concert hall about an hour prior to the start time of the performance. In the back hall of the building, I saw Toots just outside the green room. He was heading to the stage for a sound check and short rehearsal. At age 87, he walked carefully and held the arm of his assistant as he made his way to the stage. I followed them in and decided to stay awhile, or at least until someone asked me to leave. Kenny was already sitting at the piano and playing a beautiful and lush ballad. Toots joined in playing with the most heartfelt and soulful sound one could imagine, and as the two jazz masters played, I marveled at the communication between the two as they prepared the concert. They were choosing the songs to be played, the keys they were going to play them in, and shaping a rough sketch of the form and interpretation of the tunes they were planning to use. No words were spoken, only eye contact, nodding, chuckling, winking, pointing, and the playing of song introductions, heads, and phrases on their instruments. They have played together many times before, so not a lot of time was needed. I stood about ten feet away from them and watched these masters work until they were satisfied that they were on the same page for the upcoming concert. It was an amazing twenty minutes.

The concert was fabulous and an absolute treat for everyone in the audience. Lexington Herald Leader music critic Walter Tunis was sitting next to me and enjoying the concert as he scribbled in his notebook. Jazz educator Jamey Aebersold was intense as he operated his video camera. U of L saxophone professor Mike Tracy listened carefully to each musical line offered by the musicians. My jazz buddies, all sitting within twenty feet of the duo, were grinning and shaking their heads in amazement.

They played many great tunes, including "Autumn Leaves", "Bluesette", "The Days of Wine and Roses", "The Dolphin", as well as a gorgeous and interesting medley of songs made popular by Frank Sinatra. Throughout the day, it was obvious that the two musicians enjoyed performing together. The standing ovations from the audience, both before and after the performance, made it obvious just how much everyone appreciated this treat.

Friday, February 26, 2010

This Will Be A Great Jazz Weekend At University of Louisville

Houston Person is one of my favorite tenor sax players. It bums me out that I can't make his concert tommorrow due to a scheduling conflict. The good news for me is that I should be able to make the Toots Thielemans concert on Sunday. Toots is an incredible musician and considered by many to be the finest hamonica player in the world.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Going Through Old Home Music Videos

I've been having a ball going through a box full of old home videos. Last night I ran across a video of "The Sensations" playing a gig at Masterson Station Park in 1989. My friend Jill Coffman was sounding great on vocals. The keyboard player in the band is Jeff Kazee, who went on to fame playing on the David Letterman Show as a sub for Paul Shaffer, and touring with Jeff Golub, Bon Jovi, Southside Johnny and many others. It was a good band that also included J.R. Hardin, Robert Moser, David Devore, George "Boogie Man" Burdette, Tim Tyler, and Anthony Key.

I also found a video that my daughter Melody recorded when I was playing a gig for President Bill Clinton. Melody met President Clinton, Governor John Y. Brown, Governor Martha Layne Collins, and many other political figures at the event.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our ESPN GameDay Experience

Matthew and I had ordered tickets for the ESPN GameDay event at Rupp Arena held this past Saturday. When the tickets arrived, I saw that the seats were way up in the crow's nest, so I wasn't overly excited about going. Matthew, however, thinks Coach Calipari hung the moon and insisted that we attend.

As I drove down East Main Street toward Rupp Arena, Matthew shouted "Dad, Coach Cal is inside Dunkin' Donuts! I see him through the window. There's nobody else in there!" I immediately whipped our '87 Nova into a parking spot and we hurried into the shop. Coach was tweeting and talking on his phone, so we waited until he finished to approach him.

Matthew was thrilled to have his photo taken with Coach Calipari. Coach asked if we needed tickets to Gameday as he pulled some out of his pocket to give us. After letting him know that we already had tickets, I thought of the poor location of our seats and regretted not having taken him up on his offer. I would imagine he has access to some pretty good seats!

In addition to thanking him for the great job he has done coaching the team, I told Coach how much we enjoy watching his television show. We record the show on our dvr and watch it as soon as we arrive home from church each week.

When we made it back to our car, Matthew wished he had asked for an autograph. I gave him our tickets and an ink pen and sent him back to see Coach Calipari. Just as I had figured, Coach generously accomodated, much to Matthew's delight.

Rupp Arena was electric. Though our seats were crummy, the experience was fantastic. The 22,144 fans in attendance stood the entire time. Rece Davis, host of ESPN's College GameDay, said "We've never seen anything like this. This place is so special."

During the broadcast, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who has been voted "America's Sexiest Sportscaster" by readers of Playboy magazine, came up to the crow's nest to do an interview. What I had thought were bad seats ended up being the best seats in the house!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

UK Wildcats Pregame Party Music By David & Dad Duo

Dad and I had a ball last night playing a pregame party at the Lexington Downtown Hotel & Conference Center. The private party was for members of the Kentucky Funeral Directors Association at their 2010 Mid-Winter Conference.

We played plenty of dixieland, big band, swing, blues, rock & roll, and of course, "On, On, U of K". One of the highlights of the evening was when Dad wowed the crowd with his stunning version of "Chantilly Lace".

At every gig I've played with Dad, he has commented on the food table selections. No matter what is served, he always says "They really don't have much in the way of crackers". Last night, for the first time in 35 years of playing gigs with him, he exclaimed "Nice selection of crackers!"

Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl Fun

Matt and I watched the big game yesterday with Robert and Zack Howell. We had hot wings from Hooters, chips, dip, shrimp, pizza, pop, and more. Matt and Zack wore special helmets allowing for hands-free consumption of mass quantities. In addition to watching the game, we played some competitive ping pong. The boys also went head to head playing "Call of Duty" on the PS3.

We all had a great time. We also had some preliminary discussion regarding next year's Bengals road trip. We are leaning towards Atlanta.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Richmond KY Clarinet & Saxophone Teacher

I enjoy teaching young students to play the clarinet or saxophone. Students and I have lots of fun playing many styles of music together. Scale study, tone and technique development, sight reading, jazz reading, classical solo preparation, and jazz improvisation are offered in the lessons. Areas of focus are influenced by the student's musical interest. It is very rewarding to watch my students as they advance their playing skills and improve their self confidence along the way. I am designing two new websites to advertise my teaching service, for sax students and for clarinet students. These websites will be enhanced in the future.