Sunday, April 24, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

As always, here's a rundown of the (mostly) new (at least to me) stuff that's served as the soundtrack to my week as I drive between schools and what-not:
  • MONDAY: Imagination Quartet, IQ. Debut EP from Polish foursome includes some fine originals.

  • TUESDAY: Jerry Bergonzi/Joey Calderazzo/Lars Danielsson/Jukkis Uotila, Fast Company. Legendary U.S. tenorman joins pianist Calderazzo, a Swedish bassist and a Finnish drummer for an engaging set, many of which are Bergonzi originals.

  • WEDNESDAY: Kim Edmundson/Alan Oldfield Project, Reality Check. My esteemed friend and fraternity brother Oldfield, a former Californian now living in the DFW area, and his L.A drummer buddy lead a quintet through a set of excellent Oldfield originals and a cover of Bobby Timmons' "Dat Dere."

  • THRUSDAY/FRIDAY: Jane Ira Bloom, Mental Weather. A fine recent effort from the eminent soprano saxophonist/composer.

  • SATURDAY: Spymob, Sitting Around Keeping Score and Steps Ahead, Modern Times,. My "early drive to Ft. Worth" tradition from the Minneapolis-based band best known for their work with the Neptunes and N.E.R.D., followed by one of the best U.S. albums by the Mike Mainieri-led fusion outfit from their Michael Brecker days.

  • SUNDAY: Jars of Clay, Much Afraid. My favorite among this band's many albums, likely because of its Beatles influence.
As you can see, it was an uneven week of driving--Thursday's CD bled into Friday, while Saturday had two all to itself. But no matter how little or how much I drive, the music is always good. Stay tuned next week for more!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adios to Amosan; I"ll Miss You, Old Friend

For as long as I can remember, I've had problems with canker sores, and I've also managed to bite my tongue (in a literal sense) more frequently than humans should be allowed to do. Until I got about halfway through college, there wasn't much I could do about it; I tried products like Anbesol and Carmex (the latter touted itself as being "for cold sores," but I found it worked even better as a lip balm), but nothing really worked.

But then a friend turned me onto this product called Amosan. Manufactured by Oral-B, it was sort of a weird concept: It billed itself as an "oral wound cleanser" (which prompted another college friend to say something like, "Help, I've been orally wounded!") and came in these tiny little packets of powder. The idea was to dissolve one packet in water "as hot as can be tolerated," swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds, and...ahhh! Relief!

Amosan was never available everywhere I shopped, but I could find it sitting faithfully on the shelves at Walgreens and Albertsons for years, until recently. Even then, it was still possible to buy it on (yes, Amosan on Amazon), which I, having run out (and having bitten my tongue at least five times in the past two days), set out to do.

Except it's not there anymore. It was discontinued a year ago. D'oh! Even Amazon doesn't have back stock, so I'm pretty much out of luck on that front (unless I can find some on the shelf at a mom-and-pop drugstore somewhere...and yes, I'll be looking).

Is anyone else out there a faithful (and now equally bereft) Amosan user? If so, have you found a suitable replacement? One forum suggested using "3% hydrogen peroxide," but I'm not sure how to mix that, so I'd be open to suggestions in that vein as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Playing Last Week in the Kevmobile (and Other Conveyances)

OK, this is an abbreviated post (and it's a day late, because I was exhausted from yesterday's 12-hour bus trip), but I can't let a week go by without giving a shout-out to some of the bands I've been listening to recently, no matter what vehicle I might be in at the time:
  • MONDAY: Dan Haerle, Jack Mouse and Bob Bowman, The Truth of the Matter An excellent piano trio (with some synth enhancements) led by my former jazz professor. (It's so cool to hear an original of Dan's and think, "Hey, that was really hard when it was assigned in Improv IV.")

  • TUESDAY: Mike Murley/David Occhipinti, Duologue, Vol. 2. Guitar/sax duo (a format that's of great interest to me at the moment) from Canada explores a variety of styles, mixing originals and standards.

  • WEDNESDAY (on the bus): Roy Hargrove, Earfood, and Snarky Puppy, Bring Us the Bright. As we drove through Oklahoma and Missouri, I listened to tunes by artists who got their start in Texas.

  • THURSDAY-SATURDAY: Nothing. The trips from the hotel to the performing arts center took less than ten minutes, and even on the trip into downtown St. Louis on Saturday, I spent my time not with headphones on my head, but rather doing this odd thing called "talking to people." I wish I could do more of this while I'm driving.

  • SUNDAY (on the bus back home): Tim Collins, Fade, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Winterwood, and the eponymous debut by Speak. In my effort to chronicle lots of new tunes, I don't do a lot of reruns (or if I do, it's on a day when the logged album is completed and I still have driving time left), but today was devoted to a few old favorites to make the long trip go faster.
So this may not seem like a lot of music for a pair of 12-hour bus rides, but, well...the bus had a DVD player, and I also got to see four movies that I hadn't seen before (and one other that was a rerun to me). But the new music has already resumed, and I'll recap the week ahead next Sunday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

That Three-Week Gig Has Worked Out Pretty Well So Far

ST. LOUIS--By now, the story of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra--née Mel Lewis and the Jazz Orchestra, née the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra--is fairly well known by now: At the request of Jones and Lewis, Max Gordon allowed a big band to booked for three Monday nights in February, 1966 at his legendary Village Vanguard in New York City at the request of Jones and Lewis, who had each come off the road with Basie and Kenton, respectively.

And forty-five years later, the band is still going strong, having survived the passing of both Jones and Lewis (as well as Gordon) and performing under a name that now reflects its home base instead of its leadership. Many of the band's veteran players have a history with the group dating back to Thad's day, so tightness and swing still rule the day. And even with a few subs on board tonight (at least if one compares tonight's lineup to the personnel listed on the band's website), the band played in such a unified fashion, it was as if everyone on stage had been together for the entire 45 years of the band's existence.

And a lot of the core band was there tonight: Four-fifths of the saxophone section (Dick Oatts and Billy Drewes on altos/sopranos, and Rich Perry and Ralph Lalama on tenors) was in attendance, as were trombonist/spokesman John Mosca and bass trombonist/producer Doug Purviance. Lead trumpeter Nick Marchione and jazz trunpeter Scott Wendholdt were on board tonight, as was new bassist David Wong (as we pause to remember the late Dennis Irwin). And the subs--most notably pianist Michael Weiss, drummer Andy Watson and the bari player, whose name was Mark something (help me here!)--did an outstanding job of filling in for their missing counterparts.

As imagined, the evening featured a healthy portion of charts both famous and obscure by co-founder Thad Jones, including "Central Park North," "Kids Are Pretty People,' "Groove Merchant" and the encore "Mean What You Say." Other highlights included the music of pianist/composer-in-residence Jim McNeely, represented here by his arrangement of Jimi Hendrix's "Up from the Skies," along with a brand-new suite of three movements, each featuring one of the band's premier soloists--Oatts, Wendholt and Perry (in fact, the movements were simply entitled "Oatts," "Scott" and "Rich," respectively).

Needless to say, the band blew the roof off the place. The 40-year-old charts sounded as fresh as ever, and the new music stood ready to take its place among the classics. Very few times can a big band where virtually everyone is a world-class soloist (many of them leaders in their own right) be found outside of New York City, and it's great to see this band hit the road every now and then.

Another treat this evening was a brief but memorable appearance by Clark Terry. The legendary trumpeter/flugelhornist/vocalist/sweetheart of a guy was our guest artist at the college in '98, back when he was "only" 77 years old. Now, at age 90, he's very frail and can no longer play (thanks to a heart attack a few years ago), but he came onstage to sing an old favorite, "Just Squeeze Me," with the UMSL band's rhythm section, and he closed out his portion with his famous "Mumbles" routine (in case you're curious, the last intelligible part of the song this time around was a shout-out to his hometown St. Louis Cardinals). Clark is one of our national treasures, and I'm glad that I had the chance to see him again.

The festival is off to a great start! Tomorrow, it's the Ron Carter Trio; I'll blog that as well.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh, So Close to Old Home Week

ST. LOUIS--I lived in this area--Florissant, to be precise--in first and second grade. Since then, I've been back as an adult six times, but never in my own vehicle (or even in a rented one). I've always wanted to see my old house, but I've never been able to find the means to do so--again, mostly because of lack of personal transportation.

But I have gotten closer than ever as of this evening; after coming back from dinner, the bus driver offered to make a supply run for anyone needing provisions, and I went along for the trip. As we went onto I-270, I realized that we were skirting the border of Florissant, so that we were within five or ten minutes of my old house (coming back and plugging it into Mapquest showed us to be 2.8 miles away).

How I wish I were the one driving! I wasn't going to inconvenience eight other people and make the bus use the extra gas, of course...and besides, I'd want to go during the day when I could take pictures. And my "consolation prize" was that I got to pass by the hospital where my sister was born when we went back to the hotel.

I'll get to see that house again one of these days, but it really brought out a sense of longing to be that close tonight.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


ST. LOUIS--At the end of what's been a long day of travel, I pause to note that today marks the second anniversary of my accident. I'm thankful for a virtually complete recovery, and I'm having much more fun on this bus trip than the one in '09 when my leg was all braced up.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go here for the whole story; if nothing else, the post from 4/14/09 will give you a general rundown of that fateful evening.)

As I said a year ago, little things that I used to take for granted are back to normal now; here's hoping it stays that way for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


It's hard to believe, but it was eight years ago today that I started The Musings of Kev. Why did I begin this? Well, let's review what I said at this time last year:
I began blogging for several reasons: To have an outlet for creative writing; to vent about a few things in a larger forum; to satisfy the journalism bug that bit me in college (writing CD and concert reviews, among other things); and, well, because a lot of my friends were blogging at the time (I guess that's the "all the cool kids are doing it" line of reasoning).

I started out doing very short posts--things that would probably be Tweeted today. Eventually, the Blogger software went through a few updates, and suddenly, my posts had headlines, tags and so on. As I learned more and more about HTML, things like links and embedded videos would make their way into various posts. As I read more and more "A-list" bloggers, some of their styles inevitably crept into mine.
And in the year since I wrote those words, The Musings has run into its most formidable adversary: Facebook. I finally caved and joined the social networking behemoth a year ago this month, after holding out for quite some time. It's been a great experience, as I've reconnected with plenty of old friends from college and high school, kept up with former students and met a lot of new brothers in my fraternity, Sinfonia.

So what does all that have to do with blogging? Well, I've always had a limited amount of computer time during the business day, since I'm teaching lessons or directing ensembles for most of the day. And when something as immediate as Facebook (which I read and update from the phone) gets the bulk of my attention, my other forms of online presence seem to suffer. (I've also been practicing and arranging more this year, both of which also cut into my limited non-teaching time.)

But nonetheless, I remain committed to this blog, and one way I've done is by a slight duplication of effort. Every Sunday has become a recap of the new music I'm listening to in the Kevmobile (which itself grows out of a daily series of tweets on Twitter that simulpost to Facebook), and some of the shorter posts on Facebook about the unusual things I run across in daily life (such as the perennial "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" series) will become posts here as well. I may not always have time to do a long post with links (as has been the custom over the past several years), but I usually have something to say every day, so I may end up saying the same thing (in various states of brevity, or not) across all three platforms. If nothing else, my blog readers, Twitter tweeps and Facebook friends don't have all that much overlap, so it's not as if too many people will be bombarded with the same post several times a day.

And for those of you who stop by regularly, whether for a short time or for the entire eight years (is there anyone out there in the latter category?), I thank you for your patronage, as well as for your patience when I do get backed up on posting. It's a big, wide Internet out there, and I appreciate your visiting my little corner of it. (And if you really want to get this thing going bigger, start up a discussion in the comments. It's nice to know the thoughts and opinions of those who read this.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Copyrighting Pi: The Saga Continues

Right after Pi Day (3/14), I posted the story of Michael John Blake, the Canadian musician whose video of a clever musical rendition of the first 31 digits of pi was ordered taken down by another ocmposer who had done a similar thing a number of years back. I said that I'd post an update once I got more information, and this weekend, a reader did the work for me:
I saw that you posted about this issue back around Pi Day and said you'll "keep following this story here as well".

Well, there has been a significant new development. Michael John Blake was finally successful with his counter-claim, having his video restored recently after a wait of weeks. But now, Lars [Erickson] has taken the next step, and filed an actual lawsuit.

A PDF of the filing can be found on Scribd if you simply search for "Erickson v Blake" (I'd link it but I don't want to be eaten by the spam filter)

As you can see, Lars wants to thieve EVERYTHING from him:

"This is a case of copyright infringement against Defendant Michael John Blake. The suit seeks actual damages, plus disgorgement of Defendant's profits, and statutory damages as well as the recovery of Plaintiff s expenses and reasonable attorneys' fees. Plaintiff also requests additional relief in the form of an injunction preventing
Defendant from engaging in further infringing acts."

Pretty disgusting that he's going to this length. I'm also surprised he took it this far. It's easy enough to bully someone with a DMCA takedown, but to actually file a suit? I posted a mocking comment on his Youtube profile a few weeks back - when "Newscientistvideo" uploaded a copy of Blake's video - taunting him about whether he wasgoing to claim against them too. He deleted the comment in moderation but replied in PM claiming he HAD already submitted a claim against them too. The video never went down, so that's obviously a lie.

--- Billy Wenge-Murphy
And in a later correspondence, Billy adds the following:
One more bit you might be interested in is that Lars was already aware
of a pi song which was created independently of his own, and he
treated it much differently. This video by "DSarahGarland":

If you follow the Youtube comments, Lars has been going around arguing that people clearly must have learned how to play Pi from his "Explanation of the Pi Symphony" video (nevermind its measly 24K views).

But, wait! Look at the comments! He put up that video in the first place because of her! He knows damn well others didn't have to copy him, because this girl's nearly identical creation inspired him to explain his own.

That seems to suggest ulterior motives for his treatment of Blake's work - jealousy maybe? Greed? Blake got more attention in one shot than Lars did in decades. Why be so friendly to that girl and so aggressively litigious to Blake?
Agreed--that's pretty strange. Thanks, Billy, for the update; I agree that Lars seems to be going way too far to protect a melody that's generated by a number. It reminds me of the music that came out after J.S. Bach died, where every composer and his cousin was writing melodies on the figure "B-A-C-H" (with "B" meaning "B-flat" and "H" meaning "B-natural" in old-school notation). Had there been stringent copyright laws in those days, would anyone be filing "Hey, I thought of that first!" lawsuits against each other? I sort of doubt it.

Sounds like this one isn't over; more updates to come.

UPDATE: Only a few hours after I posted this (and a mere ten minutes after I watched the video again for the first time in nearly a month), the video has been taken down again, at Erickson's request. This guy isn't exactly winning friends and influencing people, is he?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

Do I really play something brand-new in my car every day with no repeats? Well, yes and no. I do play something new each day--the "official" album that gets blogged and Facebooked and Twittered. But sometimes, I do more than one album's worth of driving in a given day, and that's where the repeats come in; I simply don't include those in the postings.

And now, a recap of this past week:
  • MONDAY: The Claudia Quintet, "Semi-Formal." Composer John Hollenbeck presents jazz minimalism and other cleverness.

  • TUESDAY: Vijay Iyer Trio, "Historicity." A fine recent effort from the rising piano star.

  • WEDNESDAY: Curtis Macdonald, "Community Immunity." Impressive debut from the saxophonist/composer, and perhaps the soonest that a CD has made it to the Kevmobile after its release (it dropped yesterday).

  • THURSDAY: Dafnis Prieto Sextet, "Taking the Soul for a Walk." Cool grooves and tunes from Cuban-born drummer & group; many of the compositions have a definite Chick Corea-ish vibe.

  • FRIDAY: Miles Okazaki, "Generations." Latest effort from the innovative guitarist adds wordless vocals to the mix.

  • SATURDAY: Vijay Iyer, Prasanna and Nitin Mitta, "Tirtha." Jazz meets India in this great trio of piano/guitar/tabla; the sound was so fresh to me that, after hearing it on Iyer's website when snagging the link for Tuesday's entry, I had to snag it almost immediately. (Read more about it and hear two full-length tracks from the CD here.)

  • SUNDAY: Dave Holland Quintet, "Critical Mass." It's a tough choice, but--in my humble opinion, of course--I consider this to be the best of all the excellent albums by the group I consider to be the best working combo in jazz.
Yet another great week for music! Next week includes two days of long bus travel, so the theme will be a little bit different, but I may have more entries per day as well.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

It's Just a Sign of...I'm Not Actually Sure

I've passed by this sign regularly for several weeks, and I still have no idea what they're going for here:

Did they mean to say something about the Bible, but were lacking many letters, or was the church having an emo moment and attempting to say "BLEH," lacking only an H? (And what would it be like to go to Emo Church? I bet the sermons would be entertaining: "Lo, and thou shalt wearest thy hair only over thine eyes, and cloak thy loins in the skinniest of jeans.")

UPDATE: One of my Facebook friends suggests that perhaps the sign meant to read "BLESS" and the two S's fell off. Who knows...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Wondering About My Favorite Bari Player? I'll Take a Mulligan

On this day in 1927, Gerard Joseph Mulligan (known to the world as Gerry) was born. Throughout his 68 years of life, he would be known for several things: His major contributions to Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool recordings; his baritone sax style that was also rooted in the "cool jazz" aesthetic; his Concert Jazz Orchestra; his piano-less quartets with Chet Baker; and his many well-loved compositions such as "Line for Lyons."

As I noted on Facebook this morning, anyone who loves the bari certainly owes Gerry a debt of gratitude, as does anyone who loves cool jazz. I was fortunate to be able to meet him at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago in 1993 and also see him perform with the One O'Clock Lab Band as part of the Gomez Artist Series at the Meyerson a year or two before his passing.

Happy birthday, Gerry; you won't soon be forgotten.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Beer: It May Not Just Be for Breakfast Anymore, But It Still Is for Some People

When I was buying my newspaper this morning, the guy in front of me had several items: A Coke, a bag of chips..and a rather large can of beer. A few things came to mind:

1) I hope the guy was just getting off work and not headed there.
2) If he was headed to work, I hope his job isn't something like brain surgeon, air traffic controller..., or the guy building bridges on the Bush Turnpike extension.

I've never seen anyone buy a beer that early (~7:30) in the morning before. How about you?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

As always, the weekly recap of music from the car--hopefully something that's new to you that you'll end up checking out:
  • MONDAY: Stockton Helbing,"Lodestar." Debut CD from the amazing drummer/writer/producer who's also an esteemed colleague of mine at the Texas All-Star Jazz Camp and a producer on the Kris Berg recording project with which I'm currently involved.

  • TUESDAY: Gino Vannelli, "Black Cars." This album is more stripped-down than Gino's usual fare (especially its lush predecessor, "Nightwalker," and the synths scream '80s, but they're still great songs.

  • WEDNESDAY: Miles Okazaki, "Mirror." Engaging debut from the guitarist/award-winning composer.

  • THURSDAY: Numinous, "Vipassana." Composer Joseph C. Phillips, Jr. offers up a fine variety of jazz-tinged minimalism--think Steve Reich meets Maria Schneider.

  • FRIDAY: The Flashbulb, "Réunion." Tasty collection from Chicago-based guitarist/electronic musician Benn Jordan.

  • SATURDAY: Tiny Tribe, "Strange Stories & Faraway Places." German trio and special guests mix jazz with electronics.

  • SUNDAY: Niels Lan Doky, "The Target." Danish pianist joined by the great Danish bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Jack DeJohnette on drums.
It's been a great week for music, and it starts again in the morning!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Time for a Change?

I'm growing weary of the rat race, and it's getting harder to make a living doing what I do. But I may have an out: An uncle has offered me a stake in his highly successful New Zealand sheep farm if I go work part-time there for 5 years (after that, I can come home and still see the profits). I'd have lots of time to practice and write and could even do lessons over Skype. I'm considering it; what are your thoughts?

UPDATE: April Fool! I don't have any uncles in New Zealand (though I have to admit that working a part-time job for five years to earn a perpetual stake in a thriving business would be nice if it really happened). A lot of people fell for it on Facebook.

Did you fall victim to any pranks today, or did you pull one yourself? Let me know in the comments.