Saturday, June 30, 2007

What's I'm listening to right now

Just downloaded "Flow" by trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Billed as one of Jazz's "young lions," Blanchard's CD is a lush suite reminiscent of one of my favorite Metheny CDs, "The Way Up." Check it out if you get the chance.

So, what's today's special again?

This clip was filmed (not by me) at a restaurant we frequent, partially because it's a short walk from home. That being said, I don't think I'm familiar with the special being offered on the day this video was made. video

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Changing old habits...

When New Years' Day 2006 rolled around, I made a simple resolution that I've actually managed to keep: to use fewer disposable cups. Although I'm not a coffee person I do have a daily diet soda habit, and it was starting to dawn on me that if I stacked all the cups I'd get at fast food restaurants (another sad fact of life, given my schedule) over a year, I might just be able to build a tower to the moon. Not cool.

So, I started the easy way--I just began re-using my cups. Soon, it became a habit, and since pretty much every fast food joint around here puts their large soft drinks in the same size 32 or 44 ounce cup these days, lids are almost always interchangeable. While it wasn't the reason I started this, I've discovered that many places will give a discounted price for refills; 7-11 stores, for example, will refill any size drink (up to 44oz) for $.99. So it saves me money, too.

That was the humble beginning of what's now becoming a personal challenge to reduce my resource consumption and, more recently, my carbon footprint. It could be that I've failed to pay attention, but the discussion of environmental issues really seems to have picked up in the last year or two, and it seems like everywhere you look there's a new tip for painless, everyday conservation. So I'm paying attention to little things: walking to errands whenever possible, replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescents, taking shorter (or, um... sharing) showers, and taking my name off junk mail lists. I'm also investigating bigger things like a new fridge (yay for rebates!), and we're on the waiting list for a Smart ForTwo which will replace an efficient-but-aging Toyota. For now, however, I'm just happy making progress in the the little things I do daily.

But before I get off the subject, I have to show off my latest enviro-weirdo accessory. Another resolution I made (this one for 2007) was to drink more water and less crap, which is something I especially have to pay attention to while playing. The predictable side effect to that resolution was an increase in our use of bottled water, since the tap water in my city still tastes kind of weird. That will eventually be solved by filtering at home, but in the meantime I've been buying water in bulk and re-filling my own bottles. My favorite, pictured here, came from Sport Chalet and has survived being dropped a number of times with no ill effect. I think it cost around seven bucks.

Now, go forth and be green!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A belated concert report...

I've been so tied up with work/gigs/Punky these past couple of weeks that I never got around to reporting on the June 3rd concert out at Glendale College. So, without further ado... the show was a blast! For starters, the band performed my very first big-band vocal arrangement, an Afro-Cuban (well, sort of, anyway) interpretation of Henry Mancini's "Charade." Diane Wallace did a great job of singing it down, and while the chart certainly has room for improvement, I'm proud of this first effort and looking forward to doing more writing.

The second half of the concert featured our guest artist, Roger Neumann. One of the veteran studio reedmen here in L.A., Roger has not only played with damn near everyone--he's written music for them all, too. His own band, the Roger Neumann Rather Large Band, is one of those bands that it seems everybody who is anybody has played in (check out his CD on Sea Breeze Records here) ...and on top of all this, he's an unbelievably cool guy.

Whenever we do one of these shows, we typically get the charts a week or two in advance of the concerts. We read them down, play through them with the soloist in our dress rehearsal, and then perform them later in the week. One of Roger's charts was a cool arrangement of Gerry Mulligan's "Cat Walk" that featured tenor and baritone saxes, and At the soundcheckalthough *I* was digging it a whole lot, the show was threatening to go a little long and it seemed like that was the tune that would end up getting the axe. Nevertheless, we ran it at the dress rehearsal with both Roger and I on baritone, and Craig Kupka, the group's director, wanted to keep it in the show. That kinda put me on the hook to work up the changes, so I took them into my lesson and spent some time with them at home later that week. Of course this was right in the middle of finals-week-paper-grading-hell, but come Sunday I felt reasonably prepared, so I poured on the attitude and what do you know...? It actually worked.

Anyhow, a recording of that performance is here in mp3 format. We play the melody with Roger on the top line and me harmonizing below him. I take the first solo chorus, he takes the second (and I gotta cop a couple of his licks... they were great), and then we trade fours/twos on the third chorus with me leading off. Was it flawless? Hell no. But for the first time, I'm actually seeing progress in my playing... like, maybe the work is paying off. Yay me! By the way, the other soloists are (in order): Kendall Wallace, trumpet; Harry Smallenburg, trombone; Richard Tuttobene, piano.

Meanwhile, here's a few upcoming gigs:

Sunday, July 3rd
First Christian Chuch
221 S. 6th St., Burbank
(This is my first solo flute gig, and I'm accompanying the choir)

Tuesday, July 3rd
Big Bad Jazz Band at the M-Bar Hollywood
Corner of Vine and Fountain, 7:30pm
(I'll be playing bari sax)

Wednesday, July 4th
Multiple locations, TBA when I figure out where I'm supposed to be...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The little dog with no eyes

Just an update for Punky's well-wishers: She's doing great, and is getting back to the little hellion of a dog she was a few weeks ago. She's had a bit of local swelling (not surprising when you consider all the connective tissue the eye had to be released from), but she hasn't needed any pain meds today and was up for her usual ride to the donut shop this morning, where she shared a plain donut with Dexter. Since she really shouldn't be left alone much at this point, Punky joined Dexter and me for a Father's Day visit to my folks' house. Judging by her snoring on the dog bed in the next room, she's pretty tuckered out... but I'm glad to see her doing so well and in relatively little discomfort.

Those who might be facing similar challenges with a pet of their own (or, anyone who is just curious) must certainly wonder what a dog with no eyes actually *looks* like, so I've included this picture that I snapped with my cameraphone this afternoon. As one might expect, Punky just looks like her eyes are closed all the time. It's taking a little getting-used to, since even blind eyes help give a dog an "expression" that provides a cue about their alertness/mood. Without them, I'm finding myself paying more attention to Punky's ears; combined with the direction she turns her head, I get an idea of what she's listening to or what she's about to do. Meanwhile, her other body language--putting a paw on my knee, rolling over for a tummy rub, or jumping up and putting her head on my arm--is, of course, unmistakable.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Just when I thought it was safe to relax...

Some vacation week *this* was. Finals were last week, and with everything going on--including some unexpected filling-in for a colleague--I didn't get all my classes' term papers graded. So that, along with all the other end-of-quarter grading I normally have to do, spilled over into this week in a major way. I got everything posted by the deadline, but that required a few *really* late nights that I'm just recovering from now.

Speaking of paper-grading, one problem that I can see has gotten markedly worse is the volume of cheating I'm seeing in class assignments. In fact, I don't think it would be exaggerating to say that plagiarism has now reached epidemic levels. I beg people not to do it; I warn them that I wrote professionally for years and I can spot this stuff (and yes, I check), and I schedule additional office hours the week before case studies are due. In spite of all this, I've found more papers with unattributed copied-and-pasted material than I *ever* have in a single term. One particularly lazy student actually pulled stuff right from Wikipedia and pasted it into his first two pages. I don't know if they think their professors are retarded, or whether they just don't care, but either way, but I'm frustrated with the apathy and especially irritated that I have to waste so much of my time being the plagiarism cop. And since it's clear that many/most of these folks have no intention of actually learning from assignments like this, I don't really see the point anymore in putting us all through the exercise. Instead, I'll make a group strategic plan (which can't be ripped off) more intensive, make it worth more toward their course grade, and then give an objective final exam. Yeah, I realize this amounts to giving in, but I'm not sure what else to do and keep my sanity intact.

On other fronts, the show with Roger Neumann went well, and I'll post a recap of that later. Also recently heard a CD that I played on a couple of months ago (I was sitting in for a friend), and a solo I played sucked *SO* bad that I'm going to pretend it never happened and just move on with life. Right now, though, I'm dog-sitting. Punky, my Springer Spaniel who was born blind from an inherited eye malformation, had a second eye develop glaucoma and had surgery to deal with it this afternoon. The condition is very painful--human sufferers compare it to a migraine headache that never goes away--and treatment in dogs depends largely on whether the dog has vision in the affected eye. If so, medication is typically used keep the intraocular pressure down. When the dog doesn't have vision to preserve, treatment is often more aggressive and ranges from surgery to relieve the pressure, to replacement of the interior of the eye with a prosthesis (which gives the dog a more normal appearance), to enucleation (removal) of the entire eye. Since Punky has been through this once before, the decision to remove her remaining eye was an easy one; she's the kind of dog who pile-drives her way through life, and a useless eye just gets in the way of things like catching rats (yes, really) and terrorizing mailmen. It's also a permanent solution to the constant management of cornea ulcers and secondary infections common with blind but active dogs. She's home from her surgery and in a fair bit of discomfort now, but experience has shown that she'll be back to her evil ways in a day or so. It'll also take some getting used to for me since her eyes are now permanently closed, but I'll figure out a new way to "read" her. I'm just glad she'll be out of her pain.

And on that note, I'm off to cook some doggie dinners. Cheers...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Help save Internet radio!

Musicians and music lovers, listen up!

Internet radio is in danger of extinction. The Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of judges who make rulings on copyright fees for broadcasters, has enacted a set of rules that, if enforced, will likely result in the death of most independent Internet radio stations. From the website:

The future of Internet radio is in immediate danger. Royalty rates for webcasters have been drastically increased by a recent ruling and are due to go into effect on July 15 (retroactive to Jan 1, 2006!). If the increased rates remain unchanged, the majority of webcasters will go bankrupt and silent on this date. Internet radio needs your help! The Internet Radio Equality Act has recently been introduced in both the House (H.R. 2060) and Senate (S. 1353) to save the Internet radio industry. Please call your senators and your representative to ask them to co-sponsor the Internet Radio Equality Act by clicking below.

Ironically, the effects of this legislation will probably be felt most profoundly by musicians, as independent bands/labels depend heavily on the Internet radio stations who would be put offline by the increase in fees. NPR's costs will also skyrocket, which puts additional pressure on a national resource that is regularly threatened by budget cuts.

Please help. Follow the link below and ask your legislator to co-sponsor and/or support the Internet Radio Equality Act. And hurry--as of this writing, Internet radio has about forty days left!


Friday, June 1, 2007

Okay... getting better....

I'm home from playing a gig at the elementary school a couple of blocks away. I remember being that age, and seeing a concert where they demonstrated the instruments, just like we did today. The rest, as they say, is history.

Busy weekend coming up. Saturday we're doing the yard sale fundraiser for Springer Rescue. Saturday night I'm playing a private party with the R&B band. And Sunday, the GCC band is playing a concert (4pm, Glendale College Auditorium) and featuring Roger Neumann as our guest artist. He's a great reed player, composer, and a very cool guy, so the concert should be a lot of fun.

Other than that, just trying to get papers graded and a jump on working out final grades. One more week to go in the quarter, then I'm off for a week. Whew!

Happy weekend to all you working folks, happy retirement to my mom (YEAH!), and a big "hang in there" to my teacher bretheren. Summer is almost here...