Sunday, February 29, 2004

Leapin' Wizards

Well, I just had to post something today since today only happens every four years...

I have to give a shout-out to Sassy, one of the most awesome dogs ever. She was born on Feb. 29 of '84 (thus making her a "leap dog") and gave my family many good years. At first when we got her, my folks called her a "moodle" (part maltese, part poodle), but later on they found out she was probably a bichon frise, which sounds fancier (and more than a little bit like cussing in French). When she died, Dad got sympathy cards. For real.

As for the whole issue of being born on Feb. 29 and getting to divide your age by four--J-Guar may think it's hokey, but I thought it was at least somewhat cool to read about the guy born in 1908 who's celebrating his "24th" birthday today. It appears from the article that he really has taken a few swigs from the fountain of youth (he's a musician, natch). Someday, I want to be that guy...

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled update: Demon Matt, Fizban, Coop and I did the Trifecta (Chipotle, Krispy Kreme and Starbucks in one sitting) for Coop's birthday yesterday, then walked it all off around Stonebriar Centre. Last night was bowling part two, and we continued to run into the shallow end of the gene pool. To wit:

--More drinking couples; though nothing like Lush Life and Pouty Waif, they did seem annoyed when we asked to use our actual assigned table, which they had been hogging.

--The pre- or early-teens who gave themselves vulgar names up on the screen and had no concept of lane etiquette whatsoever. Fizban almost threw a ball at one of them.

--The cowboy/cowgirl on the other side who had to paw all over each other between every shot. Coop was saying "Get a room!" (out of earshot, of course), but my reply was that they were probably more likely headed for a bale of hay instead. It was fairly nauseating, especially when they were leaving and he knelt down to tie her shoes for her! C'mon dude, grow a pair.

--The family who brought ten elementary-aged kids to the adjacent lanes at 10:30 at night. What were they thinking? Besides taking all year to bowl, the kids would all crowd around the lane when someone else was bowling and totally get in our line of sight. Oh, and they screamed like banshees when the lights went down for blacklight bowling at midnight. Shouldn't that tell you that they were out too late?

At any rate, we had a good time even if the element around us was distracting. Maybe that was the point--we all need to work on the whole ball of focus thing a little more. Birthday Boy Coop even beat me one game by five pins. Much as I enjoy schooling my friends, I realize that one night, Mark will make it out and my reign will be over.

Oh, and Halfling, Fizban (that's the "wizard" part of this title, heh), Coop and I did the "Extra Day, Extra Burrito" thing tonight at Chipotle, for which we'll be handsomely rewarded next week.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I'm surprised any of the houses in between you guys are still standing."--Me, to Halfling and Fizban, who live on the same street and pretty much hurled a nonstop volley of insults back and forth for the duration of the burrito hang.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

The Reverse Vampire Syndrome

Vampires lose their power when the sun comes up; Fizban loses his bowling ability when the lights go down and the blacklights come on. After five consecutive spares, his whole game went to pot, the chance to beat me suddenly quashed. But wait, let me start this story at the beginning...

I was pretty spent at the end of the teaching day yesterday, but of course there was still stuff to do. Halfling needed to run over the last remaining movement of his audition piece, so we got right on that...eventually (as most saxophonists will tell you, the motivation to play "legit" isn't anywhere near as strong as it is for jazz). When we'd done all we could do, the hunger pangs were setting in. I asked Halfling what he wanted to do, and the answer was immediate: "Guys' night out."

After a quick trip to Whataburger, we decided to hit Bowl-A-Rama so I could school him in some bowling (he had missed the past two TD/D excursions); my away message on AIM directed others there if they were so inclined. Surprisingly, the wait wasn't very long--45 minutes, according to what the counter dude told me--so we decided to hit the air hockey table.

I've always been a fairly aggressive air hockey player; we actually had a little table at home growing up until Mom got sick of the black marks on the wall whenever my sister and I would play and the puck would go flying everywhere. Years later, the pucks still fly. On the last TD/D night, we just thought they were all over the place, but nothing compared to this night.

The puck went left; it went right; it nearly went out the front door. It hit a few people, nearly hit several others (including the cop--yikes). It went under one of the video games so far that one of the workers had to find it with a flashlight and fish it out with a stick. It went over some of the video games, all the way to the far end of the arcade. I hadn't laughed that hard in a long time (well, OK, except maybe last time when I accidentally hit the leopardskin-clad lady at the next table right in the middle of the cleavage).

Halfling and I were pretty evenly matched; a lot of the games were won 7-6, and it seemed like we'd each have streaks of good and bad, as if we were passing the "ball of suck" across the table to each other. Near the end of one of the games, my phone rang; Demon Matt was on his way. I even beat him in a game, which didn't happen last time out. Partway through the Duel of the Matts, the beeper went off and we got our lane.

I started out on a tear--I didn't even have an open frame until the fifth, I think. Once I finally failed to convert a spare, the "real me" came back to an extent, but I still ended up with a 157, I think. Fizban joined us for the last two games. We all talked about how much fun this was and even pondered the idea of finding some summer league and forming a team with the four of us and Dingus--a true Team Demon/Dingus if you wish. (Dingus was the only one missing in action that night; he was, of course, out with his new "squeeze." We really are happy for him, even if it does lead to some overly sappy posts lately. Heh heh.)

The only downside to the whole night was the drunk people who were on the lane next to us for the last couple games. For some reason, I always attract the drunk women at bowling alleys. These two women I'll call Lush Life and Pouty Waif; the former was the tipsy, obnoxious one, and the latter came back from every ball with this blank, drug-addled, someone-just-ran-over-my-puppy look on her face, and she never said a word the whole time. I'll let the quotes tell the story:

LUSH LIFE (blocking the way to my lane before the next turn): Here, why don't you use this ball instead? (referring to the other 14-pounder in our area)
ME: No, I can't; the holes are too small.
LUSH LIFE: Too small? No, look how big these holes are! (putting her own fingers in them)
ME: I don't think that will work for me, you know...
LUSH LIFE: Well here, why don't you let me take that turn for you and you can bowl over on my lane?
ME: Why would I want to do that?
LUSH LIFE: C'mon, it'd be fun...
(nearly a minute passes; she's still staring at me and all in my face)
ME: Umm, can I bowl now?
LUSH LIFE (to her friends): Wow, he takes this bowling thing seriously...

In the meantime, the guys were also noticing what was going on...
DEMON MATT: Whoa, look at that; that chick is flirting with Kev...oh wait, she's drunk.

ME (after my turn): This always happens to me at bowling alleys. Do I only look good to women when they're wearing beer goggles?
HALFLING: Man, I hope not.

At any rate, I spent the rest of the evening trying not to bowl when Lush Life or Pouty Waif were up there, because they had no concept of "lane etiquette" and would just barge right there up in front of you when you were getting set to go. After I missed a shot because of that, I just gave up and let them go ahead.

So it was a great night all in all. Fizban and I capped the evening by Whataburger-ing (yes, it's a verb now) until "only" 2:20 a.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "It's like pissing all over a really good cake."--Halfling, when I told him about an extremely flat, boring performance of the famous "Groovin' Hard" sax soli that I heard the other night.

COLLECTIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Too many fetuses."--All of us, upon noticing the preponderance of middle-schoolers at the Bowl-A-Rama.

BLOW OUT THE CANDLES: Happy Birthday Coop! The Trifecta awaits...

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Back Where They Belong

Last night, I saw something I hadn't seen in years: Lab Band Night in a club-type setting on the UNT campus. 'Bout time...

Years ago, the lab bands played every Wednesday night at the late, lamented Rock Bottom Lounge (RBL) in the basement of the University Union. The lounge itself, a great little club (touted in my Too Young to Jam? post) fell victim to the campus smoking ban a number of years back. Since then, the lab bands have been on a restless journey of near-epic proportions.

For a while, they played at Rick's Place, a rock club across from campus; the acoustics were all wrong, the stage was way too small, and there was an amusing sign next to the stage warning customers to MOSH AT YOUR OWN RISK. After Rick's burned down, they moved to the Square to a place called Andy's (nice place, but small, and the off-campus location was a deterrent to car-less students), and then a year or so ago they moved to the Silver Eagle Suite, a large ballroom in the Union. The location was better, but everyone told me the atmosphere was just way too formal and stuffy.

Finally, they moved to the Syndicate, the pool hall in the back of the Union. I went there last night--my first Lab Band Night since the Rick's days--to see John (a.k.a. J-Guar, Joho, etc.) play with the Nine O'Clock. (I also caught part of the Eight O'Clock, directed by my old schoolmate from years ago, Kevin Brunkhorst. He was quite surprised to see me, needless to say.)

Though I remembered the Syndicate as a brightly-lit place with wall-to-wall pool tables, they've changed it a lot, and they've really succeeded in re-creating the vibe of the RBL: Mostly dark, bar in the back, lots of round tables to sit at, etc. It was the usual rowdy atmosphere I remember from my days in school, but the acoustics seemed a little less barn-like than the RBL, which is a good thing.

So it's great to see this kind of thing revived. I'll probably go back in a few weeks during my spring break (which isn't theirs), and next year, with Halfling there, I'm sure I'll be up quite a bit. (I also got to do some "scouting" on his behalf; since, technically, he has to beat the second alto in the Nine to get into the lab band system, I was able to gauge the competition a bit.) After so many years, Lab Band Night is once again truly "home."

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Not a Very TAKS-ing Day, or "Yay, I Got My Weekend After All"

It's a Tuesday, and I'm posting shortly after noon. How in the world did that happen? Well, my butt-ugly schedule ran headlong against the TAKS test...and we both won.

If you're not from Texas, the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) is one of those odious state tests that they make people suffer through every year instead of actually letting the teachers teach their respective subjects. If I were in charge, I certainly wouldn't spend the taxpayers' money that way (I'd gut the administration and pay teachers more instead), but it's here until someone is brave enough to challenge it, and now the stakes are higher: you have to pass several extra portions of it in order to graduate. (Incidentally, I read that there are still seniors taking the TAKS' predecessor, the TAAS, this week--a test they were supposed to pass as sophomores to graduate this spring. Youch.)

At any rate, they always schedule optimistically, saying that the classes will resume by lunchtime...and then it never actually happens. I knew I had the morning off, but I had to be nearby just in case they actually did get done on time. I got seven whole hours of sleep last night (yay), met up with Halfling and Fizban for a quick, cheap breakfast, ran some errands and then found out that classes were delayed...and delayed...and delayed, until finally it only made sense to tank the day. My wallet hurts a tiny bit from that, but the rest of me feels just great. :-D In the meantime, I think I'll watch some TV before combo, since the VCR spit the tape out last night. I didn't really "lose" my weekend after all; I just swapped Sunday for today.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

It Was the Weekend That Wasn't, But It's OK

It's after 10 p.m. on a Sunday night, and I hardly had any "me time" at all this weekend, yet I'm strangely relaxed. I guess a weekend filled with activity is OK if all the stuff is good stuff.

So the gig in Frisco went fine; very short (five tunes)--in and out, nobody gets hurt. I did manage to throw in the "Four" quote during Mantooth's "Misty" arrangement, thus making a subtle allusion to Halfling's taping session that afternoon. We had a long wait beforehand, so we occupied ourselves by looking at all the old band composite pictures on the wall (found a few of our old bandmates on there, heh) and laughed uproariously at everyone's haircuts in the '80's pictures (especially the mullets).

After that I hauled back to Garland to meet with the gang at Siciliano's, a place I hadn't been to in nearly four years, way before their move to the nice new building. Following dinner, the after-party was supposed to be at Dingus's, but a lot of people wimped out or went elsewhere. I was there for a few hours, just chillin' and watching the tube, and Halfling and Angie stopped by for a while as well (Halfling was in pure relaxation mode since the taping was over).

The only problem with late Saturday nights is early Sunday mornings; I played my two church services on five hours' sleep. It was pretty interesting this morning; two of our missionaries from Macedonia were there, and we learned a lot of things about the Gypsy people that I bet not too many people knew (for instance, they play their music really, really loud and keep the TV on all the time--hmm, sounds students?).

Afterwards, there was no rest for the weary, as I raced home to teach one lesson (which got prolonged when the dude locked his keys in his car) and then another one in Lewisville with an old improv-class student who's trying out for UNT on the same day as Halfling.

With that, the business part of the day was done. I made the quick trip to Denton to hang with my friend J-Guar at UNT. We chilled at the Tomato for a bit (sorry, TD/D members; we'll hit it ourselves over spring break) and then I played him a slightly-amusing, slightly cringeworthy tape of an old combo of mine. You see, J-Guar's trumpet teacher in Minnesota was Brad, an old Sinfonia bro of mine who played flugel in my combo for a few years. I found a tape of that combo doing a few of my originals, so we listened to it. He got to hear his teacher in much younger days, and I got to go "dang, why did I play that?" It was a good hang, and I still got home by 8:00 so I could have some chill time here.

On to the week ahead...

UPDATE: Since this post, I've actually heard from Brad--both in the comments and by email--for the first time in about 12 years. I wonder how many other old college buds I'll run across now that we all have the Internet.

The Brad/John connection just goes to show that musicians don't need that "six degrees of separation" that people always talk about; we can usually get by with two or three. (Incidentally, the novel Six Degrees of Separation was written by someone named "John Guare." Weird...)

Saturday, February 21, 2004

*whew* Part 1

Halfling's audition tape is in the can, as they say (think film talk, not toilets). It was really weird having an entire rhythm section at Casa de Kev, but everything turned out well. He still has the legit audition (actual entrance into the College of Music) in two weeks, but this in many ways was the biggie.

And now for the rest of the day: a short gig with the college big band in Frisco, followed by dinner with most of the senior members of Team Demon/Dingus. The "longest four-day week on record" isn't exactly being followed by a chillin' weekend, but if I'm going to be busy, at least it's all with good stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Too Much Drama for One Week

This week was busy enough, and now everything's been knocked out of whack by one thing: a very small college play. How could their drama cause me so much drama?

It goes like this: the band rehearsal room at the college backs up to the "alternative" theatre (pretty much a tall-ceilinged classroom with seating for maybe 20 people), which means that sound from one bleeds through to the other. The few times they have actual plays in the theatre, we have to curtail our classes and rehearsals. The plays never start before Wednesday, so the two classes that are affected are mine. Last year, this caught me by surprise on occasion (as in, someone came in and said "oh yeah, we're having a play tonight"), so I checked with the appropriate people at the beginning of the semester to make sure this didn't happen again.

I thought it was working well; I got an email about a month ago telling me the dates of the plays, and they said they wouldn't start until a Thursday night, and the start time would be 8:00. So you can imagine my chagrin when I got an email on Wednesday afternoon saying that, in fact, the play would start Wednesday (as in that night) and the starting time was 7:30. This forced me to cut my improv class literally in half. If I'd had a week's notice, I could have scheduled a nice quiet little written quiz for the second half, but I'm not the type of prof who pulls surprises like that (although, in retrospect, I should have given the test, seeing as how three people skipped class that night).

So I reluctantly agreed to cut my class short, as well as combo rehearsal the following night (understand that the theatre people have been nothing but cordial and apologetic, and we've agreed on a compromise for future shows). Then I read the bottom of the email, where they mentioned weekend matinees...


This weekend, you see, is Halfling's recording session for his jazz scholarship, and the plan was to use my rhythm section from the last "Kev and Friends" gig and do it there in the band room. The play would nix that as well. Since it's become my project as much as his, I was now starting to take this personally.

I scrambled to check for alternatives: the choir room was also in use; using Halfling's school would require the presence of a "real" faculty member and all kinds of red tape to call off the security dogs (literally, I think). We finally decided to move all the living room furniture and just do the thing here at Casa de Kev. No interruptions (not even Tasha, who'll hide under a bed upon hearing the first chord), it's close by (especially for me, heh), and he's comfortable playing here. Whew--we can collectively exhale now.

So all that's left is the final preparation tomorrow, along with just getting through this teaching week. Dingus put it best when he asked how a four-day week could feel so long.

Is it spring break yet??

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

One More M.F.-ing Jazz Concert

I went to hear Maynard Ferguson tonight, and my ears are still ringing.

(Oh ears have been ringing since 1999; never mind.)

I've seen Maynard three times in the past year and a half, all at local high schools (his preferred venue, since he knows he'll get a young, energetic crowd to go with his young, energetic band). The show hasn't changed all that much--even some of the gags are the same--but it's still great to see a living legend out there working it all the time.

This time the gig was at Plano Senior High (alma mater of 15th Street Jazz), which was thankfully close to the college, since lab band let out ten minutes before the concert started. Halfling, Demon Matt, Fizban and Dingus went up there ahead of me to save seats (and had their own little adventures, which were chronicled in Dingus's latest post). Unfortunately, we were a bit too close to the speakers up front, but I understand it was way louder during Plano's short opening set. (Our location did prove advantageous later when we all got to shake hands with lead trumpeter Patrick Hession during the obligatory trumpets-in-the-audience part of "Hey Jude.")

As I said, it was a typical Maynard show (lots of energy, lots of screaming trumpets), and the audience ate up every bit of it. Dingus always cracks jokes about the fear of seeing Maynard die on stage during a show, but if anything, he looked quite a bit healthier than a year ago. He still wheezes a bit when he's talking to the crowd, but he seemed to walk more surely across the stage this time and did a lot more "conducting" gestures during the show.

The set list was pretty typical: "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" and the funky in-your-face rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema" have been staples of all the recent Maynard shows I've seen. Of course, he closed with the obligatory "M.F. Hit Medley" (when the band feigned horror at his uttering of the M.F. part, he reminded everyone that those are his initials; I laughed even though I knew exactly where that gag was going), then waited until the crowd was whupped into a frenzy before going back onstage for "one more trip to Birdland."

There was something different at the beginning of the show: Trombonist/musical director Reggie Watkins and trumpeter Carl Fischer (yes, they evidently named him after a publishing company) each have new CD's, so they preceded their legendary boss's arrival with a combo tune apiece. Fischer was especially impressive; give him enough time, and he could take over the Maynard mantle one of these days.

At any rate, this is a show I never tire of seeing; here's hoping for several more trips to a high school auditorium for some high-octane jazz like this.

Quote of the day: "I think we're Whataburger-ing again."--Me, when I realized we'd stayed nearly an hour at Starbucks after the show.

Blowing out a couple full sets of candles, and a fractional one: Happy birthday to Andrew from Combo Too and Allan G. from SHS. Also, happy half-birthday Halfling (say that ten times fast).

Monday, February 16, 2004

Catchin' Up (On Everything Except Sleep)

We had a three-day weekend in my district, but it sure didn't feel like it. After coming back from TMEA on Saturday night, yesterday was spent recovering--doing laundry, napping, catching up on reading and other such minutiae--so I felt like I was playing from behind rather than "stocking up" on rest.

Last night was the Team Demon/Dingus monthly bowl-a-thon and air hockey tourney. I owned everybody in the bowling part, winning all three games, but my supposedly "mad air hockey skillz" ain't so mad no' mo'; I slaughtered Dingus but lost horribly to both Demon Matt and Coop. (I also lost badly to Ben a few weeks ago at the college band retreat; I really need to learn to play defense again.)

After that, Demon Matt called it a night, but Fizban, Dingus and I went down the street to Whataburger--one of the few whose lobby is still open all night. We get to talking, and all of a sudden it's 2 a.m. (we had arrived at 12:15). Next thing we know, it's 3:40. Holy crap, I have lessons to teach at 11! At least they're here at the house...

So after way too little sleep, I taught my three middle-schoolers (I don't normally teach on holidays, but these folks would've missed their last lessons before solo and ensemble this Saturday) and then helped Halfling with his jazz audition for quite a while before teaching at the store (they almost never take holidays there, for which my wallet is most thankful).

Tomorrow night is the Maynard concert, and then Halfling owns me for most of the rest of the week till we do his audition tape. But first, a little bit of housecleaning from the trip:

Weirdest item seen at TMEA: A tie between the Tubone, a device that lets tuba players play bass trombone parts on a valved instrument with a tuba mouthpiece and a front-facing bell (Fizban gagged upon hearing of it), and Flavoreeds, a set of, that's right, "flavoured" clarinet and saxophone reeds, including such exotic tastes as pina colada and bubble gum. (What would keep sixth-graders from eating them?)

Most hideous item seen at TMEA: Again, a tie, between the burgundy-colored trombone (it was almost Texas A&M maroon, actually) and the purple straight tenor sax. Why, oh why?

Coolest news out of TMEA: I got to talk to Ron Wilkins, amazing trombonist and my old fraternity brother, on Saturday. Even though he wasn't playing in town that weekend, he has a new agent and hopes to score some gigs in Dallas soon. Fizban and I are so there when that happens...

Funniest mishap at TMEA (since it happened to someone else): While walking in front of the Rivercenter on Saturday, I noticed some shady-looking characters leaning up against the wall at Dillard's. The guy in front of me, walking with his girlfriend, noticed them much so, that he didn't notice the bus-stop sign up ahead, upon which he subsequently conked his head rather forcefully (he wasn't hurt, just really, really embarrassed).

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Back in one piece: I'm back; got here with no ice-in-the road adventures, though it sure is wet in this area and may freeze over again by morning. I'll update and do random "housecleaning" later.

I'm Dreaming of a White....Valentine's Day???

KEV, LIVE FROM TMEA, PART 3: It snowed here in San Antonio last night for the first time in 15 years, I think. It didn't really stick or anything, and it was more of a mixture of snow and sleet and rain...and a couple of my friends swear they heard thunder, which would make it a thundersnowsleetstorm (!). Evidently the roads were horrible this morning; I saw pictures of a 15-car pileup here on the local news. The coast back to Dallas appears to be clear; Fizban's dad and sister made it down for the jazz concert, even though it took about an hour longer than usual. It should be all melted by the time I hit the road.

The jazz concert itself was good, probably the longest one on record at nearly an hour and a half. They kept a lot of Mantooth's music as a fitting tribute, and his replacement, Matt Harris, added a few charts of his own. This was the senior year of the amazing Booker T. altoist Matt Marantz; remember that name, as it'll be a household word in jazz within a few years. The sound engineering left a lot to be desired, and there was no excuse for the piano being as out-of-tune as it was, but overall it was a fine show.

So I'm out in a few moments; they're rolling up the carpets here in the exhibit hall in about half an hour (they literally roll them up in front of you--sometimes over you if you're not careful). Even though I was going to stay here until tomorrow, the V-Day thing got in the way--most of my friends with significant others will be going back to Dallas for tonight, and those who remain are all couples, who will of course be.....uhh, busy tonight. I'll swing by to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephews in Austin on the way back and will be able to spend tonight in my own bed (yay). Next year should be a total blast when most of Team Demon/Dingus will be here.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Kev, Live from TMEA, Part 2

"Jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it. Always love it."
--Louis Armstrong (1965)

The above quote is featured prominently on the wall of The Landing, the storied jazz club in the Hyatt Regency on the San Antonio Riverwalk which I visited last night for the first time in several years. Jim Cullum and his cohorts have been holding court since 1964, playing the traditional New Orleans-style jazz that some call Dixieland (though I understand that the practitioners thereof shun that term). There was a lot of fine musicianship on that stage; special kudos to the clarinetist, who was all over the place (Woody, you would've loved it). Some hardcore boppers thumb their noses at this style, but it really is played from the heart, and it is the basis for all we do today, so it's all good with me.

Other than that, this TMEA has been all about the vacation. There aren't a lot of clinics that interest me, so I've been chilling with Miles and his dad, having Fizbucks with Starban Starbucks with Fizban and company and just relishing the fact that I'm not going 200 miles an hour like I usually do. Oh, and it's probably the coldest TMEA in recent memory also...and rainy today. Ewww. It was so cold on the morning Starbucks run that I actually used the hood on my hoodie (ever notice that? Everyone wears hoodies nowadays but the hood itself is mostly a prop). They're predicting snow for Dallas tomorrow, so the trip back may be interesting. (I may be coming back tomorrow after all, as almost all of my friends are bailing to get back for Valentine's stuff; we'll see.)

I'm gonna keep enjoying the break for now. Enjoyed TCU Jazz last night (Micah wailed as always) and will catch the Metropolitan Winds this afternoon. I'll report more when I get the chance; 'till then, Kev out.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No, I have absolutely no idea who that is either."--Me, to Miles, as I ran into yet another person who recognized me but whose name escaped me at the moment.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Kev, Live from TMEA, Part 1

Made it here fine; the trip wasn't so bad because I ended up having company on the way down after all. Got in at 3 a.m. (yawn). I'm in the gargantuan exhibit hall now and will hear Micah and TCU later on tonight. More later.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Off to the Alamo City

I leave for TMEA tonight, right after improv class. Since class lets out at nearly 9 p.m., I obviously won't make it all the way to San Antonio in one trip. I'll try to hook up with Chris C. when I pass through Waco, and then I'll make it maybe as far as Temple or Georgetown before I call it a night. It sure won't be nearly as much fun as the drive down last year, when I had Micah and his 257 Stevie Wonder CD's in tow. That was the shortest trip to S.A. on record; we ended up making it all the way down there in that one night.

But it'll be a great time down there, with Micah, Fizban, Gold Dingus and all my zillions of fraternity brothers and miscellaneous old college buds around (last year I got to hang with Fizban so much, I almost could have renamed the event "Lee-MEA"). I have more money in my bank account than I have ever had going down there, so my mission is to avoid the huge temptation of spending it all on cool jazz CD's. (Micah, in all likelihood, will not avoid this temptation. Heh heh.)

Perhaps when I get back, I'll be able to finish all the incomplete posts that I've done lately (this will confuse people who read the archives later, since they won't know which posts I'm talking about). This has happened basically for two reasons: 1) the normal mad rush to get stuff done during the short TMEA week, and 2) the thing that Halfling posted about yesterday. In a nutshell, we found out that, instead of having until April 1 to finish his UNT jazz audition tape, we have until the 23rd of this month. That's right--twelve days, which is just a little less time than the seven weeks we thought we had. We got together last night and charted out the plan of action, and even though his post from Monday was titled "I'm screwed," I think we're both pretty pumped about it now.

Well, I won't be at a fancy hotel with free Internet, but there is a little "Internet cafe" in the exhibit hall, so if the line isn't too long, I'll at least do a quick "Kev, Live from TMEA" post while I'm down there. Until then, peace out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Noah's Spark

Happy third birthday (that's "this many" *holds up fingers*) to my nephew Noah, the most awesotastic nephew in the whole world (at least until his little bro Caleb develops his own personality and gives him a run for his money). Since my sister and her family are in Austin now, I won't be there for the actual day, but I will get to see him on Sunday on the way back from TMEA. As I've said in previous posts, he's really entertaining right now as he's starting to carry on conversations (with either you or himself), and he's a total ball of energy.

Though I'm missing the party, I did send him an iCard this morning. I thought this particular card was appropriate, since it looks a bit like him when he totally destroyed his birthday cake a year ago.

Since I wasn't a blogger three years ago, I'll recount the story of his actual birthday: I was in San Antonio for TMEA; my sister and her family were still living in Dallas at the time, so not only was I going to be an uncle for the first time, but it was all going to happen nearby. I had explicitly (and jokingly, of course) told my sister not to have him during TMEA, but you know how much babies cooperate in matters like that. Besides, he wasn't due for a few more days, so I figured I'd be back in time.

Saturday morning dawned without me. Friday night is always the UNT reunion at TMEA, followed by the Sinfonia sing, which doesn't let out until midnight. After that, it's usually a trip with the alumni bro's to Durty Nelly's or somewhere else along the Riverwalk. I didn't have anything until the All-State Jazz Concert at 11, so I was sleeping in.

The silence was broken by a ringing phone. I reached over and grabbed for it, said "hello," and....nothing. Total silence on the other end. Dangit...wrong number? Why would someone call the wrong room at a hotel?

A few minutes later, it rings again. "Hello?" (silence) "Hello, is this thing working?" Nothing on the other end. James, my Sinfonia bro who was rooming with me down there that year, said "just unplug it," which sounded like a good idea at the time. Sleep resumed.

When we woke up an hour later, the message light was on. I plugged the phone back in (which seemed to fix whatever the problem had been before) and called the message center. For some weird reason, the automated system told me I had to call the front desk for my message, which I did.

The clerk took a second to find the message; she said "Hmm, Room 322, let me see...oh yeah...your sisterhadherbabycallyourmom!" Yes, that fast. The news of my uncle-hood arrived by someone who could have done a FedEx commercial.

Of course I called Mom, and my sister herself later on, and it was really cool. I didn't get to see his first day of existence, but I was there the following night. I have to say, it was awesome--maybe even a little weird, since I knew my sister when she was a baby and now she'd gone and had one. I just sat there for a while, transfixed; I couldn't take my eyes off the little guy. It just hit me that this was life--a new life--and my sister had helped in the process. I was truly awestruck.

In the years since then, he's turned into quite a cute one, with a sweet personality (of course I don't have to change him, heh). I can't wait to see him on the way back from TMEA.

Monday, February 09, 2004

"I'd Like to Thank Spank the Academy..."

The Grammy Awards were last night, and as those old Garfield posters would say, big fat hairy deal. I wasn't even watching until some of my friends on AIM told me to go watch something or another: Kurt Elling getting some nice face time, Sonny Rollins receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, stuff like that.

So why am I so down on the Grammys? Well, I had a friend in college who got a nomination, actually, for an arrangement on a One O'Clock Lab Band CD, and I found out a lot about how the process works. It ain't pretty...

Maybe I'm naive, but I expected that the voters would actually listen to the things they were voting on. Turns out that's only true if the record label's promotions department makes it so. For a big label like Columbia Records, this is actually doable, despite the large number of voters (to be a voter, you have to be a member of the Academy; to be in the Academy, you have to have appeared on a Grammy-nominated recording...sounds a bit inbred to me). For a small outfit like North Texas Lab Band Records Inc., this is nearly impossible. Sure, my friend was up against some heavyweights--Dave Grusin, Henry Mancini and James Horner, if memory serves--but he never had a prayer if the voters didn't even get a chance to actually hear his arrangement. Without this ability, the voting is as much of a popularity contest as a high-school homecoming queen election.

I've also been miffed at the Grammys for years for almost never including the jazz awards in the live evening telecast; most of the categories are awarded in the late afternoon, well before the TV cameras are rolling. My friend was in the third row for that presentation; when the "big stars" arrived for the evening show, he got moved to the third balcony. There are also some issues with pronunciations; the PA guy one year referred to one of my favorite guitarists as "Pat METH-uh-nee." I griped about that for five minutes on my radio show the next morning; my basic idea was hey, fly me in there if you need to, since I can pronounce the names of the jazz stars and the pop stars.

At any rate, the credibility of the Grammys suffered a great deal in my eyes since then, so I tune in only if I know that someone really cool will be on. Kurt Elling is some sort of VP of the Academy at the moment, so maybe some good will come of that, but until then, I sit here happily at my computer until one of my friends tells me to go watch the TV.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


For the first time in recent memory, I didn't have anything scheduled after church today. It was really nice to have a chillular afternoon around here for once; while I'm not likely to be completely caught up with things by day's end, at least I'll be plugged into the recharger a bit before I drive to San Antonio for TMEA on Wednesday night.

Yesterday was a "bond with the band" session at the college, as we had our second bi-annual big band "retreat" (thankfully, no camping was involved, as it was 29 degrees outside when I woke up). Basically what we do is rehearse a few hours, then go over to Main Event for pizza and pool and come back and rehearse a little more. It gives our once-a-week band a few extra "weeks" on the schedule and also helps the band members get to know each other better, much like I did with my hangs at the Tomato when I directed a lab band at UNT.

When that was over, I went to North Garland to check on the results from Solo & Ensemble. Generally speaking, most things turned out like they were supposed to (though I heard that the rooms for some other instruments were somewhat of a bloodbath at times). Halfling got a first division (even if he said he would have been harder on himself), as did Fizban, Dingus and the Rowlett quartet, so I'll be taking my fifth consecutive trip to State at the end of the year. Most of the rest of the Kevosphere also got first divisions, so it was a good day once again.

And now starts my favorite teaching time of the year: the time between Solo & Ensemble and tryouts for next year, where I can pretty much teach whatever everyone wants to learn (which often ends up being jazz...imagine that). That's right, instead of teaching contests, I can teach music. What a concept.

Jumpin' for java joy, part 1: Even though there's still a little time until Firewheel Town Center is built, there will soon be a slightly closer Starbucks to me in Garland. I found out today that it's going in somewhere among the new stuff being built in the parking lot of Super Target. That's not as close as Firewheel will be, but closer than the one in Rowlett or in my old neighborhood.

Jumpin' for java joy, part 2: My perseverance paid off; even though I had been stuck staying out by the airport for TMEA this year, I kept on going back to various websites every day or two, just in case. Sure enough, my efforts were rewarded; I'll now once again be at the Red Roof Inn downtown, within walking distance of everything. Yay! No rush hour to deal with, no parking fees...and my Starbucks breakfasts with Fizban are intact. They just better not try and put me in a smoking room again (a story for later).

One more Starbucks story: I did a coffee hang with Demon Matt and Coop last night, and I heard a funny story: Evidently, that Starbucks was taking names with everyone's orders last week, and Coop, who's a huge Homestar Runner fan, used that as his name. However, the guy behind the counter (and several customers) thought he said "Humpstar Runner." That was really funny, since it sounds like a porn-star name, and Coop is pretty much the polar opposite of that. And hopefully the cartoon-porn guy from Halfling/Fizban/Dingus/Frobird's webmastering class won't hear that name and get funny ideas...

Saturday, February 07, 2004

A Tribute to the Tooth

The New Trier Jazz Festival has established a Frank Mantooth Tribute Page. Check it out; it already has some great anecdotes in there (I'll add mine eventually).

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Big Push Is Over...

No, nobody had a baby here. The "big push" is the week before Solo & Ensemble Contest for the high-schoolers, and it's always a mad frenzy. Three of my teaching days this week have gone for 15 hours *shudder* as I put in some extra time to get the ensembles ready and give a few elite soloists a little extra attention.

The way it's set up, there really isn't time to do this properly, especially in a year like this one with a really late Thanksgiving. When All-Region isn't until early December, that gives everyone two months (on paper) to prepare for this contest. In reality, however, it means they'll get a solo picked before Christmas (I'm not in school, so I don't have to use the term "winter break," dangit), then totally forget about it over the break. Thus, they'll come back to school in total "oh crap!" mode as they realize they only have a month before they have to perform it. Also, since they reinstituted the memory requirement to go to State a few years back, not nearly so many people do that anymore. The end result is a contest that doesn't always live up to its potential but usually turns out OK anyway.

So while the overall level of the contest may not be as high as it would be if we had, say, another few weeks (maybe switch with the middle schools, whose solos are easier, yet they have more time to prepare), most people end up coming through in the clutch, and I'm happy to put in the extra hours to help make that happen. But I'll be even happier to go back to my "normal" 12-hour teaching days next week too.

Last night was a cool diversion from all that as we once again donned the hat of Supersax Jr. in Combo PM. I found a chart on "Groovin' High" last week that should be more than playable. We also added depth to the ensemble by bringing Jazzy G's tenor into the mix this week. Collin was out playing a concert, so I played lead alto, which was fun to do with Halfling on second. It will take a whole lot of work to perfect this, but if when we pull it off, people will be talking about it for a long, long time.

Lee-gol (or would it be Gollee?): For reasons unknown, Fizban just did an entire post in the character of Gollum (how preciousss).

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Class Count

I'm pretty sure the Wednesday night improv class has been winnowed down to its final roster. Here's the instrumentation:

No horns (!)
2 pianos
6 guitars

It'll be a good semester. Really different, but good. All the guitars read music, so that's a definite plus (I would've lost the betting pool on whether or not I was asked the question "Do you teach this class in tabs?" this semester). With everyone's different strings and the weird temperature of the room, it sure makes tuning interesting. At any rate, it's like Dingus said: "The world needs more chording instruments."

The WORD OF THE DAY is prestidigitation.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Payday Week Blues

(As heard during a lesson this morning)
ME: So, did you bring me a check today, or will I have to eat cat food this week?
SIXTH-GRADER (grinning sheepishly): food.

I don't really have to eat cat food if students forget to pay me, especially now, but I don't mind throwing that little minor guilt trip out there every once in a while, just so they remember that teaching them actually is how I make my living. I used to use Alpo as part of the gag, but most of these people have been to summer lessons at the house, so they know I have a cat. Every once in a while, I'll encounter one--usually a sixth-grader--who believes me, if only for a second.

These are the last candles I'll blow out for a whole week...I think: Happy birthday Jeff C., aka Cranny. Welcome to a new decade...

Monday, February 02, 2004

Sonic the Groundhog

Happy Groundhog Day! Evidently, the famous Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, so there'll be six more weeks of winter, at least if you're the kind who relies on large rodents for your meterological forecasting needs.

It's also a new month, which means that the famous Sonic sign has been changed. I went three-tenths of a mile out of my way today to check it out (if you're new to this blog, the previous entries to the Sonic sign saga are linked in last month's post on the subject).

At any rate, they're getting a little better at the English thing over there. One side of the sign successfully asks us to ENJOY A SWEETHEART SHAKE. The other side is at least a little interesting:


This message is open to interpretation; it would be a lot clearer with a bit of punctuation, like the HUNGRY CONEY & TOTS offering of a few months back. If you're using "Tuesday night half-price burgers" to mean a singular promotion concept, then you could indeed say that said concept IS back. If you're talking about the burgers themselves, then you would have to say that, on Tuesday nights, they ARE back. But hey, they really are improving at this...

My lungs hurt from blowing out these candles every day: Happy Birthday to Kevin D. in Austin. Maybe I can catch you on the way to TMEA this year.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

"It was beautiful..."

(One year ago today...)
GREENVILLE, TX: The sun rose brightly on the outskirts of town on a crisp Saturday morning. I wasn't usually up this early on a Saturday, now that I was freed of the weekend job I'd had off and on for over a decade. But this was a special weekend: my annual Province Workshop for Sinfonia, where all the chapters get together for a big weekend-long meeting. This year it was being held at Texas A&M-Commerce--a small school in a small town, but one of my stronger chapters.

Seeing as how Commerce wasn't a big place, I didn't want to tax their hospitality by staying with one of the local brothers, so I got a hotel in Greenville, the nearest big town. I had the place to myself, at least on paper, but James (my collegiate representative), Baker (who would be elected this morning to that post for next year), and about four other guys from UNT crashed on my floor that night. No biggie--it's all about the brotherhood.

Since I was running the meetings, I left around 8:00 a.m. to get back to Commerce. I went in the lobby to check out of the hotel; Baker, who was riding up there with me, stayed in the car. When I came out, I was greeted by a loud noise, the likes of which I had never heard before. Baker was outside the car, looking at the noise's source.

A large jet contrail, much bigger than usual, appeared in the morning sky above. It was I watched it, the main stream kept going forward but also split off into equal arcs to the right and left. I wasn't sure, but I thought I was watching an exquisitely-choreographed military training flight. Baker had been in the military before college, so it made sense why he was watching it, but I was equally enraptured.

The only thing was, I was pretty sure that we weren't anywhere close to a military base. That spawned an exchange that neither of us would understand for a while: "I wonder what we're near," I asked. "Armageddon," replied Baker. Even though that didn't make sense, we watched the display until it no longer could be seen, and then we got into the car to head to the meetings.

As the coffee-and-donuts hour drew to a close and we got ready to start the meetings, James pulled me aside for a second. "I thought maybe you might want to make an announcement or something; I just heard on the radio that the space shuttle blew up." Only then did I realize what Baker and I had seen, and our conversation now made sense (he knew it hadn't been a training flight and thought maybe it was an asteroid hurtling toward the earth).

Just like when Challenger had gone down so many years before, the viewing audience had gotten complacent, taking the safe return of NASA missions for granted again. To tell the truth, I had even forgotten that Columbia was still up there, much less that it was scheduled to land today.

Though the meetings continued, the thought of what happened was never far from anyone's mind. On the way home, my radio was glued to the news station. There was a definite pall over the day--that sadness that you feel because of what happened, whether you knew the people or not. Thankfully, other things weren't canceled either; seeing my buddy Lee in Grease proved to be a good escape from reality on this day.

(I wasn't a blogger a year ago at this time, but I can remember it as if it were yesterday, so the anniversary seemed like the right time to post this. We have not forgotten you, Columbia Seven.)

Blowing out even more candles: Speaking of James, happy birthday bro! It's cheap auto insurance time now...