Thursday, July 31, 2003

Saluting the Sis

Happy Birthday Kristen! I don't get to see my sister too much since she moved to Austin, but it's always great when we do get together. I'll have to head down there before too long just to relax around the beginning of school, and then of course there's the impending arrival of Nephew #2 in September. Hope the day goes great, Sis.

Some Trunk Funk

OK, I didn't think I had anything to post today. Zack's been posting some hilarious links on his site lately, and now I have a link too...not laugh-out-loud funny, just really, really different....

Elephants improvise music in the jungles of Thailand!

Dig the sound files....

Tuesday, July 29, 2003


So today I got to direct the college big band while Kris was out; I even brought in enough "ringers" to where I didn't have to play. I don't mind being "player-coach" but in a big band situation it's a lot easier to just do one or the other. I brought Chris and Matt in as subs, and then Zack showed up at Chipotle afterwards, so we had a little Renegade Reunion going. We actually crammed seven people around "our" big round table at one point. Stephen S., the 2BC pioneer, tried again but missed by about 1/3 on the last one.

Oh yeah, happy birthday Pat! I was able to return the favor of the birthday burrito tonight, and we all regaled him in big band with the usual serenade: "OK, everybody play Happy Birthday, pick any key." It was wonderfully cacophonous...

A New Look...

OK, so I've cleaned up the site quite a bit: did a little editing, added some headlines, wrapped it all in a shiny new template and got my links goin' on. I think the default font got bigger and easier to read too.

Good News/Bad News (Musician's Edition)

Good news for musicians?:

Scientists have created a technique called "neurofeedback" that trains musicians to clear their minds and produce more creative brain waves. The technique helps musicians improve their performance by an average of 17%; some improved by as much as 50%. Read more.

Bad news for musicians...

Yeah, it's about the G-weasel. But don't let the subject scare you away; read it and gag. And yet it figures that something like that is what the Machine would call "jazz." From the quotes in there (especially the misinformation about how Charlie Parker got his "Bird" nickname), you can tell that the guy wouldn't know jazz if it bit him. Still, it made for a good laugh in saxophone class at jazz camp when one of the other faculty members brought it up.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Not Your Usual Graduation Speech

I read a great article that was sent to me a few days ago. It's called the "Neal Boortz Commencement Speech," and you might find it interesting. Even if you don't agree with what he says, you probably have to admit that a lot of thought went into it. Personally, I think it's one of the best things I've read in a long time, even if some of the truths and ideas expressed might make a lot of people uncomfortable. (Now, understand that I don't agree with the "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" idea in there, at least as a blanket statement; but in my years in academia, I've certainly known plenty of people who fit the bill.)

And I guess you might have read that the RIAA (the nucleus of the Machine; see my previous post on the subject) started sending out those subpoenas to suspected file-sharers this past week. I think one of the first people to get one was someone's grandfather...sheesh. I still say they might win the battle, but they're gonna lose the war if they treat people like this. Anyway, perhaps it's time to take Zack's advice and listen to some foreign music. He made one of his famous "Zax Mixes" for Matt and included a lot of this thing called Orange Lounge, which I think came from DDR and Beatmania machines but has a decided jazz element in there (for those in the know, the famous ii-V-I progression is all over the place). My understanding is that there's never been a commercially-released Orange Lounge CD, but I did find a cool streaming Internet radio station here that you might wanna check out. It's definitely different.

Oh, and congrats to Lance Armstrong on his fifth straight Tour win. You've done Plano and Austin....and America...very proud.

OK, back to being lazy again for a while... :-)

An Ode to Summer Laziness

Ahh, the lazy days of summer. I say this almost wistfully because I know full well that there won't be many of them left. It doesn't seem right that the end of July should basically mean the end of summer, but that's almost the way it is. Some of my schools are actually starting marching band this week! (*shudder*) So even though I feel like a slug when I sleep till nearly noon on Fridays and Saturdays, I really feel no guilt for doing so, because I know that the dual-alarm-clock clarion call of 6 a.m. will be coming all too soon, and I'll be up to my ears in teaching again....and I'll love it, but I'll miss these days where I get to do a whole lot of nothing but recharge a little bit.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Burrito Bloggin'

OK, this is funny...all three people who were there for Zack's winning 2BC last night have blogged about it now. Zack of course gives a firsthand account of the gastronomic punishment. However, it does contain one factual error: he credits/blames Matt alone for egging him on, though Matt and I concur that it was a collective effort...he and I both were hitting the table and chanting "2-B-C! 2-B-C!" And now Matt has chimed in with his own take on the evening. One event, three views. Just remember, you saw it here first. :-)

So are we all just in serious need of a life? I'd like to think, rather, that this is simply the really cool aspect of summer in the academic world, where the biggest care of the day might very well be whether someone can down one giant burrito too many...

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Second Time's The Charm...

Tonight, Zack became the fourth person in our little circle to successfully complete the 2BC (that's the Two-Burrito Challenge at Chipotle for any of you newbie readers; go here for a primer). He's now proven that you don't have to be really large or named Steven/Stephen to complete this feat. Oh yeah, and he was really hating himself afterwards. No DDR for him tonight. :-)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Happy campers

OK, I'm back...the whirlwind week is over. Whew!

First order of business: Happy Birthday to my bro-in-law Justin. He's the CEO of a really cool company, Despair, Inc., and an all-around good guy.

So Jazz Camp was maybe the best ever. We topped out in triple digits, student-wise, and over the five nights we recorded stuff, the faculty band laid down enough tracks for what should be a very good live CD. I think all the students really learned a lot and had a great time; my theory class went much farther than it did last year (even if they blew a collective gasket when I discussed the Super Locrian mode on Friday), and the student bands sounded really good. (If you want, you can read my annual letter to jazz campers from my website, as well as the info page for ordering the CD.)

Best quote from the camp:
"Usually, the best way to not to transpose."--Ed Petersen

If you're not a musician, that quote won't mean anything to you, and even if you are, it may have you scratching your head for a minute. After several days, though, I realize that I totally agree with him.

Ed is in many ways the "star" of jazz camp, though he'd be uncomfortable hearing that. Let's just say that he's a very special musician and one of the most innovative tenor saxophonists around today...and for sure, the best one that most people have never heard of. I now have all of his CD's, as well as several of the ones he's done with Kurt Elling. You can hear samples of Ed's CD's and buy them online. It's a major privilege to sit next to him in the faculty big band; I think I learn as much from that as the campers do from us during the course of the week.

I also have a link to the page for the unique saxophone quartet "Thrascher," which includes Ed and three of my old schoolmates at UNT--Randy Hamm, Tim Ishii and Glenn Kostur. They have a CD out as well.

So after this full week, which ended at 10 p.m. Friday night with the final camp concert, I got to relax...NOT! For this year, the two biggest obligations of the summer happened at almost exactly the same time. And since they haven't gotten the legalities of that cloning thing figured out, I couldn't do both at once. So Saturday morning found me on a plane at 5:30 a.m., headed for Washington and the last 24 hours of the Sinfonia convention.

Fortunately, the plane trip was less "eventful" than the one to Vermont...meaning I didn't get stuck in a strange city for an extra day. The only downside of this trip was: no sleep, no food. It basically went like this: No milk in the house; Mickey D's not open at the airport before a 5:30 a.m. flight; layover in Atlanta was waaaaay too short--had only 40 minutes to get from terminal E to terminal A (thank goodness the trains were fast and were inside the security zone...Newark, are you listening?); no food on either flight, just a Coke (and 2 biscotti and a bag of pretzels, but they don't really count). When I got to D.C., there was actually someone from the convention to pick me up (that blew me away), but still, with traffic, we only got to the hotel with 10 minutes to spare before the national elections...just enough time to get my room key and put on my suit. At this point, I'm going on 28 1/2 hours awake, and 13 hours since my last meal.

But wait, this story has a happy ending. On the way in from the airport, I noticed something as we turned the last corner: there is a Chipotle across the street from the hotel!! So five minutes into the session, after we cast our ballots, they recess us for 15 minutes to count them, and you know where I'm heading. Yeah, it was weird to go into Chipotle in coat and tie...yeah, it was about 50 cents more expensive than Dallas, and they made a big deal about using this Pennsylvania free-range chicken, though it tasted about the same to me--still awesome, mind you--and of course there was no Dr Pepper. But still, it was great to walk up to my seat in the meeting room with that big honkin' burrito, trying not to spill rice and beans on my legislative packet.

And just as the camp was perhaps the best ever, so was the convention among the best of the six I've been to. It was unfortunate that I only was able to make a cameo appearance, but I caught a lot of the high points. I was happy that I've been to D.C. before, though, because my "sightseeing" was limited to the airport trips: on the way in, I went near the Washington Monument and the Capitol, and on the way back, my route "grazed" the Lincoln Memorial...that was it.

But all in all, a great time, and now back to "normal" for a few weeks before school starts.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Setting Up Camp

I may not post too much for the next week, as Jazz Camp starts today at the college. I've been tapped to teach the 8:30 a.m. theory class again, and the concerts don't end till 9 or 9:30, so it'll be a long week, but it's always great to play in such an awesome big band and see old friends on the faculty. And we're recording a live CD during the week, so that'll be a lot of fun also.

So camp will end around 10:00 on Friday night, then I'll fly out at 5:30 a.m. (*shudder*) Saturday morning to catch the tail end of the Sinfonia convention. I'm still frustrated that the two biggest events of the summer are scheduled for the same week, but what can ya do?

I'll chime in on this site if anything especially cool happens. Till then, peace out.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Ranting Against The Machine

About two weeks ago, some scary stories came out in the paper, and they didn't have anything to do with terrorism or SARS or "Legally Blonde 2." The first one you may have seen: The music industry is attempting to file lawsuits against those whom they consider the biggest downloaders of copyrighted music.

The second one is related: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told a hearing on copyright abuse that he's in favor of technology that would remotely damage the computers involved in unauthorized file-sharing. When someone else at the hearing, a representative of a company that creates technology to slow downloads, said that nobody was actually interested in destroying anyone's computer, Hatch replied, "I'm interested."

Ever since the heyday of Napster, the music industry ("the Machine" in all subsequent references) has been whining that CD sales are down because of peer-to-peer file sharing. part of that statement is true: CD sales are down a bit in recent years. But blaming Napster and its progeny is a lame excuse. If anything, the sour economy would be a more accurate scapegoat....but the big reason that CD sales are down is that the stuff the Machine has regurgitated lately is absolute crap. So much of it has been over-produced and "polished" to such a high sheen by the corporate know-nothings that the very soul of the music is gone. There's no "there" there. The Machine refers to music--ostensibly the creative output of the heart and soul of its performer--as "product," and after years of dumbing-down, that's exactly what most commercial music has become: a "product" with all the emotional value of a box of cereal.

I would hate to be a programmer at a "classic rock" radio station in ten years. What the heck are they gonna play? Does anything that's come out commercially in the past several years stand a chance of becoming "classic?" The carton of milk in my refrigerator has a longer shelf-life than most of this drivel.

The Machine says that, if we're not careful, file-sharing will result in its destruction. I say bring it on! Despite all the blather about kicking some butt and taking everyone in sight to court (I'm not saying that they can't do that--not even saying that they won't--but it just ends up being reeeeally bad PR if you keep suing the pants off the people you're trying to sell things to!), I bet the music executives are secretly quaking in their boots because they know deep down that we really could get along fine without them....

How would that work? Well, all you'd really need is a high-quality CD burner and a website, and maybe a friend who does drawing or graphic arts. You could sell your CD's online, at gigs and on places like You wouldn't sell things as fast as if they were part of the Machine, but you'd be cutting out a Goodyear blimp-sized layer of fat, a completely unnecessary middleman...and you'd probably feel as good afterwards as you would if you'd lost the blimp's worth of weight off your own body.

Sure, you might not get played on the radio...but since radio is almost all owned by a few megacorporations too, nothing gets played anyway unless it's the particular sound that the Machine has selected as "flavor of the week." My generic description of that recent flavor is "Britney Aguilera and the BackSync Degrees"....or maybe lately it would be "Limp Puddle of Stain." You get the idea. It was bad enough already, but the FCC's recent ruling that allows even more consolidation will only make things worse. For me, radio means two things: news and sports...and thank goodness for a CD player in the car. (OK, the station where I worked gets some ear-time from me, but first of all, it's noncommercial, so it almost doesn't count in this discussion, and second, reception is sometimes spotty out in my area.)

The Machine probably didn't set out to be evil, back in the day. The problem in a nutshell is that, somewhere along the way, what was the music business became the music business. With the exception of a few artist-friendly jazz labels like Verve and Blue Note, and a decent amount of Christian labels, which have managed to be absorbed into the Machine relatively unscathed, the people in charge of things aren't musicians, don't hang out with musicians, don't know or care how musicians think or feel, or how the creative process works. Businesspeople and artists are totally different types of people; we're wired differently. (I've known this fact for a long time; my dad is a retired accountant/auditor with a business degree, while I, as you might imagine, have two music degrees. I love Dad to death, but the fact is, we don't understand each other a lot of the time.) Musicians are often lousy businesspeople themselves, so they are easily manipulated by the Machine into doing unwise, short-sighted things like signing away all of the rights to their songs, just in an effort to get that first recording out.

And the bean-counters at the top are either too untalented themselves (maybe even tone-deaf?) to recognize true talent when they hear it, or under too much pressure from above to sell more "product," which doesn't allow them to take chances with new and interesting artists. Everything sounds like everything else because that's all the Machine will release, while those with talent and innovation often work two and three jobs just to keep the wolf from the door.

It's time for a change...but I'm not advocating revolution (yet?). Honestly, I don't think we'll have to do anything. If things stay the way they are, the Machine will collapse upon itself, under the weight of its own mediocrity. They can blame file-sharing all they want to, but the true culprit will only be found in the mirror in front of them. Then, when the remnants of the beast have been ground into fertilizer (not hard, considering its usual output *grin*), upon its ashes can rise a more noble blend of art and commerce, where the artists are making more of the artistic decisions again and the bean-counters return to their still-necessary but much-lesser roles.

Incidentally, Sen. Hatch did relent later at that same hearing and say that maybe he wouldn't advocate destroying anyone's computer until they'd been given, say, two warnings. Gee, Senator, that's decent of the Church Lady used to say, maybe someone thinks just a liiiiiitle too highly of himself.

Oh yeah--someone told me that the good Senator is actually a recording artist himself, which could explain some of his ire towards file-sharers. Seeing as how this is the longest blog post I've ever written, I'll wait until later to look up his, uhh, "product" and come back with a vote on whether anyone would actually want to download his stuff or not.

(Kev was in fact listening to music on his computer while writing this post...but most of it came from his collection of over 600 CD's and 1000 vinyl LP's. Is this the kind of customer the Machine really wants to alienate by filing lawsuits?)

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Kev's Summer Reading Continues

I finished Miles Davis' autobiography tonight. If you're keeping score at home, that's six books that I've read in a year...

Now on to a Kurt Vonnegut book that a good friend gave me around three birthdays ago. Summer reading can be cool, once you're old enough that it's not an "assignment" anymore.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Too Young to Jam?

OK, I have two more rants left in me, both about music (imagine that), but I'll save the big one for later and throw this one out before I go to bed:

Everyone, repeat this after me: The sale of alcohol should NOT prevent people from experiencing live music!

I've felt this way ever since college, but it came back to the forefront the other day after I found out that one of my under-21 buds was asked to leave a downtown jam session the other night. He was not trying to buy alcohol; he had no intention of doing so. He was just there to enjoy the music and maybe sit in, but he wasn't even allowed to be there.

I'm not gonna name names, since I've been to this place myself (and I'm not saying that I'll never go back again), I'm friends with the guy who leads the jam, and it's basically a great scene...except for the "21+ only" part. Never mind the fact that this place calls itself a "coffeehouse" when it obviously serves way more than coffee...the thing is, any young jazzer, which would include a majority of the area's college students, can't experience these sessions because of the sale of alcohol, and to me, that's wrong.

Granted, in Texas, there's this thing called the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission), and they've been rather sneaky in the past, sending in "undercover underagers" and busting the bars who served them. This makes everyone a little paranoid--justifiably so. But the law doesn't say that people under 21 can't be in a place where alcohol is served--that would rule out bowling, going to Chili's, etc., for high schoolers and most collegians; it just says that the under-21's can't be served alcohol--justifiably so. There's nothing that legally prevents people of all ages from seeing live music (which I feel, as a music instructor, is an important part of the learning process). So why does it happen so often?

A simple answer: Lazy club ownership. It would take work to pull this off, and many owners don't care to do so. But it's worked beautifully in the past; let me cite some examples (yeah, I'm not slamming the bad guys by name, but I'll happily give shout-outs to the good guys):
  • The Gypsy Tea Room and Trees in Dallas (run by the same company). Most of their shows are 17 and up (not like most parents of under-17's would let them go to Deep Ellum anyway), and the way they still make their money is by charging the 17-20 crowd a little bit more cover charge to make up for the alcohol they won't be buying. They do big X's on the hands of the 17-20's and a totally different stamp on the hands of the 21-and-up's. Also, they have a "no in and out" policy for the under-21's to keep them from going and sneaking a beer in their car or whatever.

  • The late, lamented Liberty Lunch (say that ten times fast?) in Austin. All ages were admitted; the 21+ crowd had wristbands, and the under-21's had this huge stamp of a fish that took up the whole top of the hand and took like four days to wash off. The music was enjoyed by all. (I'm not sure if this ever reopened or not; the original location lost its lease and was bulldozed for an office building or a parking lot *sigh*.)

  • The likewise late, lamented Rock Bottom Lounge at the University of North Texas. My alma mater did the all-ages thing with wristbands for the of-age as well, and it was a great music place for the whole university community. Lab Band night has never been the same since it closed. (UPDATE: Thankfully, Lab Band night would get better, as I discovered the following spring.)

  • Sambuca in Deep Ellum and Addison. These jazz venues have bar sections which are taboo for the underage, but they also have sizable restaurant parts, so as long as you go there during kitchen hours and buy a certain amount of food, everyone is welcome.

  • Many of the Deep Ellum clubs in Dallas have all-ages shows on occasion.
Now the cynical among you might say, "Kev, we can't help but notice that two of those clubs aren't there anymore. Maybe they can't make any money without selling tons and tons of alcohol." Maybe, but the demise of Liberty Lunch, for completely nonalcoholic reasons, is stated above; the RBL at UNT closed because of the campus smoking ban, which couldn't "grandfather in" the little club in the basement of the Union. (The only night that made money after smoking was banned was Lab Band night.)

So I'm not begrudging the club owners' need to make a living...I'm just saying, take the extra step and make your place available to all, especially if you have jazz music, which must be experienced "live" at times, and definitely if you're going to have an "open" jam session. Do wristbands, hand could even go nuts and have two separate entrances, like this pizza parlor we used to visit when I was a kid. Please don't let your alcohol sales keep people from enjoying live music!

Besides, there's a selfish reason for the club owners to be nice to the younger crowd: They're not going to be under 21 forever. If you disenfranchise them now, they might just take their money elsewhere when they come of age in a few years.

(Oh yeah--I don't know if this will work, but I'm about to start looking for a place that would like to host an all-ages jam session. If I'm really ambitious, I'll put the house band together myself...)

I Want My Tour!

OK, so the Tour de France is upon us once again, and I'm going through withdrawals...

I've been a fan of the big bike race for over 10 years now, dating back to the last of Miguel Indurain's five straight wins (the record Lance Armstrong is going for this year). For the first several years, it was on ESPN and/or ESPN2, sometimes playing more than once a day. It was never actually "live" because of the time difference between here and Europe, but it was enough to get us our "fix"...

Then a few years ago, the main contract went to this cable offering I'd never heard of, called Outdoor Life Network. Even though it's not listed in the newspaper or TV Guide, they still had some sort of deal with ESPN to where they could broadcast it tape-delayed, even if it was at hideous times of the night...but no big deal, that's what VCR's are for. I was still able to watch...then last year, I think the basic cable thing went over to Fox Sports Net, but that's still a channel I get on basic. This year, I was hoping for more of the same...

But alas, as I thumbed through my TV book, I found that there wasn't any other basic cable showing this's OLN or bust. There's a thing on their website where you can "call your cable provider to get OLN added to their lineup" but what's the chance of that happening during the three weeks of the Tour? So now all I have is the three Sundays it'll air on CBS...even the OLN website's video clips didn't work; all I got was audio. :-P

It won't be the same this summer without the picturesque French countryside coming into my TV set every day (reminded me of my Switzerland trip four years ago)...the lilting British tones of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen calling the action, and of course cheering for Lance (he grew up in Plano within rock-throwing distance of the college where I teach, just across the alley from an old friend of mine). He's already off to kind of a rough start these first two days, and I haven't been able to see it. Just like in the Dire Straits song where Sting wanted his MTV, I WANT MY TOUR!!!!

So I hope that, whenever this contract runs out, that either OLN will find its way into the cable mainstream or cede the action to someone who's already there.

...or maybe I'll just win the lottery and buy a satellite dish. ;-)

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Wild About Harry

Hey, I'm back...

No, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth this past week; I've just been...reading. Now understand, even though I read a ton of newspapers and magazines during the week, I haven't read a book in eons. And then, along came Harry.

I'll admit it--I've gotten hooked on Harry Potter. I started the series before school let out and then got really, really into it when summer hit. In fact, I finished the fourth book and the new one in five days! I just couldn't put them down. Just goes to show that the series isn't just for kids...

And now that I'm done with that, I went for an old project: Miles Davis's autobiography. I started it in 1996 (!) and just, well, got busy. So now I've gone back to the beginning and will finish that in a few days. Who knows what the next thing I'll tackle will be...

I'll do some more stuff later....I've felt a few rants coming on.