Monday, May 30, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

With the three-day weekend (and because I had something else to post about yesterday), I've delayed the end-of-week music roundup until today:
  • MONDAY: A continuation of last Sunday's CD, Roy Hargrove & Crisol's Habana (it's a long CD that didn't finish on Sunday, and I didn't do much driving either day).

  • TUESDAY:Astral Project, Voodoobop. My favorite release from longtime New Orleans collective of Tony Dagradi, Steve Masakowski, David Torkanowsky, James Singleton and Johnny Vidacovich.

  • WEDNESDAY: Avishai Cohen, As at the Blue Note. Great set of mostly originals from Israeli=born bassist and band. (Interestingly enough, there's also an Israeli-born jazz trumpeter of the same name; they're not related to each other, and, to my knowledge, they've never collaborated.)

  • THURSDAY: Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel, Riding the Nuclear Tiger. Great set of originals by the bassist/composer. (And here's a first: As some of you know, these notices get tweeted by me every day, and after this one went out, Allison started following me on Twitter that very same day.)

  • FRIDAY: Beats Antique, Blind Threshold. Latest full-length release from a band that's perhaps best described as "electronic Gypsy music." (The live performances evidently involve a belly dancer as well, though I obviously couldn't see her on my iPod.)

  • SATURDAY: Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Viaticum; Pat Metheny Group, We Live Here; They Might Be Giants, Factory Showroom; Joshua Redman, Elastic; Level 42, Running in the Family and Snarky Puppy, Tell Your Friends. (That day was a round-trip to Austin and back, which explains all the music.)

  • SUNDAY: Nils Petter Molvaer, Solid Ether. The second of two ECM releases by the Norwegian techno trumpet titan.
As I said last week, the school year comes to a close for me after a few more days of teaching this week, and my driving is considerably less during the summer. So while I might not have a new CD to report every day, what I do listen to will still be found here each week.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Finance

It's not my usual policy, but sometimes I have kids who pay me once a week, in cash. Today's transaction provided much more levity than usual...

KID (handing me a payment): Here ya go.
ME: Woo hoo--lunch money!
KID (ponders that for a second): Lunch money. Man! Sixteen whole dollars. You must make a fortune. Sixteen dollars a day!

I'm pretty sure he seriously thought that was a lot of money. But I did successfully manage to explain to him that I made more than $16 a day (because I teach more people than just him), I told him the total number of people I'd be teaching today. He then proceeded to do the math (on his hand, with a pen), and, after computing the total, came out with this gem: "Oh, man--I'm gonna have a sweet side job when I get older!"

(He also noted that he would do this as far away from here as possible, so he wouldn't have to compete with me. Heh.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Relatives

On the last regular Wednesday at the middle school, it was only fitting that a kid would say the darnedest thing. Today, a sixth grader was talking about last night's storms:

KID: I hate driving in weather like that.
ME: No offense, but I don't want to hear about you driving anywhere for about four more years.
KID: Hey--I drive better than my grandma; she runs into poles.

(I'm pretty sure that Grandma only ran into a pole once, but at that age, a kid won't let someone live something like that down.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

As always, our weekly musical rundown:
  • MONDAY: Fried Dähn, Cuento. Cellist uses electronics to explore different styles and textures, becoming a virtual one-man band in the process.

  • TUESDAY: Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society. Newest release finds the recent Grammy sensation in good voice, playing great bass, and accompanied--as you might guess--by a string ensemble.

  • WEDNESDAY: Eric Vloeimans' Gatecrash, Heavensabove! 2010 release from fine Dutch trumpeter and his electric group.

  • THURSDAY: Pat Martino and Joyous Lake, Stone Blue. Not only a fine effort from the veteran guitarist and his electric group, but this album also introduced me to the awesomeness that is the tenor sax of Eric Alexander.

  • FRIDAY: Rudresh Mahanthappa, Codebook. Altoist (who just happens to be a former schoolmate of mine) leads quartet (featuring his longtime cohort Vijay Iyer) through a set of spirited originals.

  • SATURDAY: Rubblebucket Orchestra, Rose's Dream. Now known simply as Rubblebucket, this Boston band mixes Afro-beat with funk, Latin and a heavy jazz vibe.

  • SUNDAY: Roy Hargrove's Crisol, Habana. Dallas-bred trumpeter teams up with Cuba's finest (including the great Chucho Valdez) along with David Sanchez, Russell Malone, Gary Bartz and Frank Lacy.
As I start to move into summer mode, I'll be doing less driving, but hopefully, I'll still have at least five entries in this series every week. Stay tuned, and be sure and click the links if you haven't heard of these artists!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

You Say "Tomato," I Say "Welcome Back!"

Ever since The Tomato closed the doors of its original Denton location in 2007, there had been much speculation--first on its MySpace page (which seems so ancient now) and then on Facebook--about when and where the reopening would finally take place. And for those of us die-hard fans, there seemed little doubt, no matter how much time had passed, that The Tomato would be reborn again--somehow, somewhere.

It was a bit entertaining for a while to see all the possible future locations--Loop 288, a few blocks off the Square, the proposed second incarnation of New Fry Street--but in the end, all those leads came up dry. And then a few months ago, the announcement was made on their Facebook page: "You say: TOMATO! We say: Sanger, TX....June-ish. Details and pics to follow..." Need I say that I "Liked" that status?

And of course, June-ish turned out to be May-ish; in fact, the grand re-opening took place last Friday--not, I would think, because it was Friday the 13th, but because it would be exactly four years to the day since the original Denton location had shut down to make way for a business development that never got off the ground (grumble, grumble). I couldn't make opening weekend, but I got there as fast as I could, when a friend driving from Oklahoma to DFW Airport today suggested the meet-up. (And had I been able to make it on Friday, it would have been nuts; a friend went on Saturday and said that they told him that they went through 11 batches of dough on the first day, while a typical Friday in Denton would have only required four!)

So it should go without saying that the Sanger Tomato experience will not be exactly the same as the Denton Tomato experience; Bolivar and 3rd will not become Hickory and Fry anytime soon. The location, apparently a former nightclub (which is one thing in common with the original Tomato if true), is a lot smaller, and the building isn't configured for the famous balcony from where so many of us watched the world go by in Denton. The only signage at the moment is a big banner in the front window (though there is a hanging sign from a previous tenant that is, happily, almost tomato-shaped.) There's plenty of nearby street parking that doesn't require feeding a meter. As one college friend pointed out, it would be rough to try and stumble home to your apartment from there (though it appears that lofts have gone in, or are about to do so, across the street). And while my first impression shows Sanger to be a nice, sleepy small town, it's a sleepy small town just the same.

But you know what? None of that really matters in the long run, because the heart of the Tomato experience was always some Really Freakin' Good Pan Pizza and Breadsticks. And I'm happy to say that, after spending my lunch hour(s) there today, that experience has been revived to perfection, as if the hiatus of the past four years was all an illusion.

I've always been a fan of the Tomato Special (nee Gutbuster, from the days when it was a corporate Flying Tomato store), which is pretty much "the works"--pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers. I had to confirm with the cashier to be 100% sure, but I even remembered what came in a Slice Special (one slice, breadsticks and drink), and that was my fare of choice today. Sure enough, from the first bite of a breadstick (which was a little bigger than before--no complaints here, mind you!), everything was exactly as I had remembered it.

A few things have been kept from the old location; I smiled when, at meal's end, we deposited our plates and forks in one of the exact same receptacles as before. And I'm pretty sure the wood used to make the counter where silverware and napkins is kept was also salvaged from Denton as well, and some of the wall hangings looked very familiar.

So while Sanger is not Denton, it's not all that far, and it wasn't even a bad drive for me from Garland (I made it in an hour). There's a chance that there will be a Denton location again in the future, but the owners and financial backers were ready to go, so they jumped on a good opportunity when they saw one. It's hard to believe that it's been four years, which means that a whole generation of UNT students has gone by (OK, not the music majors; they'll be there for a fifth year just like I was) without experiencing some Tomato-y goodness, and this has to change. Local alumni: Make the drive north; it's worth it. And current students, come see what all the fuss is about; I think you'll agree that it's some really good eatin'.

Me, I have a birthday in three weeks. I'll be back then, if not sooner.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kids Say The Darnedest Things at High School Auditions

Week in and week out, kids say the darnedest things. This one was surprised to find out he had to play his Db scale for auditions, and we were discussing how to deal with it:

ME: You'll probably want to think of this as your C# scale, rather than Db--all seven sharps instead of five flats.
KID: But will they know I'm playing C# instead of Db?

Some of my Facebook friends noted that there is a slight difference in pitch between C# and Db (the former is a bit higher), but my response was that they're not going quite so deeply into physics in high school auditions.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

The weekly recap of wonderful obscurities (and occasionally something that a reader has actually heard of) continues anew:
  • MONDAY: New Jazz Composers Octet, "The Turning Gate." NYC-based collective led by my college classmate David Weiss features compositions by himself, pianist Xavier Davis, saxophonist Myron Walden and bassist Dwayne Burno.

  • TUESDAY: Nik Bärtsch's Mobile, "Aer." Swiss jazz minimalist leads percussion-based group in "ritual groove music." (Evidently, this group uses a lot of multimedia elements in its live show, so I hope I get to see them sometime.)

  • WEDNESDAY: Matrix, "Proud Flesh: A Matrix Reunion." The '70s-'80's "little big band" of six horns and rhythm returns with its classic style intact. (Now, guys, let's work on getting the rest of your old recordings re-released on CD!)

  • THURSDAY: The Flashbulb, Kirlian Selections. I'm building up my collection of the works of Benn Jordan one by one (and, as one of my friends noted, "this is a good'n").

  • FRIDAY: The eponymous debut from AGOGIC, the latest project led by former Pat Metheny Group trumpeter Cuong Vu.

  • SATURDAY:Matthew Shipp, Equilibrium. 2002 effort from prolific pianist adds vibes and synths to his usual trio, featuring longtime collaborator William Parker on bass.

  • SUNDAY: Kurt Elling, The Messenger. My favorite recording from the modern vocal master, featuring both originals and new twists on standards, with major contributions from my camp colleague Ed Petersen.
As always, click the links to check out these artists, especially if you've never heard them before; I think they're deserving of your attention.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Teachers Say the Darnedest Things (Sometimes When Prompted By Kids)

Sometimes kids prompt me to say the darnedest things:

KID (coming into his first lesson after a big audition over the weekend): So what are we gonna do today?
ME: Same thing we do every day, Pinky...try and take over the world.

(The kids we passed by in the hall seemed amused, if nothing else.)

There was some debate on Facebook as to whether or not a kid that young would be familiar with Pinky and the Brain, or the Animaniacs in general, but my informal, unscientific survey--consisting of every kid I taught after this went up over there--shows that most of them actually do know the show. (And it still warms my heart that most high school kids I know can quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail as well as I could when I was their age.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You won't Get In-N-Out Quickly for a While, But It's Worth Checking Out

Until today, I had never been to opening day of a restaurant, never mind the debut of an entire chain in the area. As much as I've always joked about camping out for free Chick-Fil-A when one of their stores opens, it has yet to happen. In fact, I'm usually one of those "I'll wait for the crowd to die down" type of people. So the fact that I ended up at the new In-N-Out Burger in Allen within an hour and a half of its opening may have meant that I was in totally new territory, but I'm totally glad that it happened.

So the obvious first question would be, "How bad were the lines?" Well, the walk-up line for the dining room really wasn't too bad, considering the crowds; it was "only" an hour and ten minutes from the time we entered the line until we hit the registers. The drive-thru line, however, was a much different story; one of the police officers directing traffic told me on the way out that the line had peaked about two miles back. And I heard somebody in line behind us asking a driver who was about six cars in back of the menu board how long he had been in line up to that point, and he said, "two hours." Yikes--I can't imagine using that much gas!

As for the food itself? I really liked it! Here in the DFW area, there are really two types of burger joints: The typical cheap, greasy McDonald's/Burger King/Wendy's-type places, and the much better (but usually pricey) options such as Scotty P's, Five Guys and Mooyah. In-N-Out slides quite neatly into its own niche in between those two types of places.

If you've never been to an In-N-Out, the menu is quite minimal: Hamburger, cheeseburger, and Double Double (two meat patties, two slices of cheese), and you can get a combo of same with fries and a drink. Sure, there are some things on the "not-so-secret menu" that can add variation (the most notable being "animal style," which involves grilled onions, double the secret sauce, mustard-fried patties and pickles, though I dispensed with the latter as I always do), but it's still pretty easy to memorize everything.

Texans will have to get used to the fact that the burger is built up, not out (much like urban architecture vs. suburban); it's skinnier than the burgers sold by the high-end places, but the famous Double-Double does go up a little higher, so while it takes a smaller grasp to pick it up (and includes less bread, which might please the carb-conscious folks), it was still quite filling and satisfying.

The fries were quite good; they could have maybe been a little warmer (although I'm somewhat forgiving in that regard because of the insane opening-day crowds), and--this surprised me--I almost felt the need to lightly salt them. (Understand that I'm a minimal-to-no salt guy who's been known to take salt off my fries at other places, so the fact that I thought something might need a pinch of it is telling; still, I prefer that to the other end of the spectrum.)

The thing that was most impressive was the prices: A #1 combo (Double double, medium fries, medium drink) comes in at only $6.15, whereas a Mooyah or Five Guys will usually set you back nine or ten bucks. (But as I noted on the Facebook picture I took of the receipt, they should probably tweak their price on the #1 by a penny or two, so that it doesn't come out to the purely evil amount of $6.66 with sales tax!)

I'm sure a lot of native Texans will want to know how it compares to our beloved Whataburger. And you know what? I'm going to punt that one--elude the question like the best of politicians. Each of them is unique, and in dine-out-crazy Dallas, there's room for both of those places.

And in case you're curious, I got a #1 combo: Double double, animal style (save for no tomatoes or pickles), fries and a Dr Pepper.

So when the initial hoopla settles down, what will be left is a pretty unique take on the all-American burger and fries, reasonably priced for what you get, and open till 1:00 in the morning (1:30 on weekends). If you're not a fan of big crowds, wait a week or so, but if you're a serious burger fan, check the place out so that you'll know what everyone has been talking about all this time.

(And let's open that proposed Garland location pretty soon, OK? We were originally supposed to be first!)

I'll have pictures added to this post once I can sync my new iPhone to the computer.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kids Have the Darnedest Ways of Getting to School

Saw a kid get dropped off at school in a Yellow Cab this morning. I sure hope that either Mom or Dad is a cabbie, because otherwise, that would be a really expensive way to get to school.

(It was pointed out to me that it was also possible that the kid overslept and missed his/her ride, which actually happened to one of my Facebook friends one time.)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Kids Say the Darnedest Things at Gigs

Kids say the darnedest things at gigs:

KID (walking by the band): Are you going to play jazz?
BASSIST: Yes we are.
KID: Is that a bass (pronouncing it like the fish)?
...BASSIST: Yes, it's a bass (pronounces it correctly).
ME (after kid is out of earshot): Yes, it's a bass [like the fish]. You play a lot of scales on it.

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

Last week's post reflected a week that was heavily devoted to the music of one artist, as I was looking for inspiration for an arrangement I was doing. This past week, I was back to my usual collection of stuff that might be new to many of you, but hopefully you'll click the links and check these folks out.
  • MONDAY: Fieldwork, "Door." Trio with unusual instrumentation (Vijay Iyer, piano; Steve Lehman, alto; Tyshawn Sorey, drums) continually redefines musical boundaries.

  • TUESDAY: Fly, "Sky and Country." Second CD (and first on ECM) from Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard--the first, and thus far the only group I've had the pleasure of seeing live at the Village Vanguard.
    WEDNESDAY: Fredrik Kronkvist, "Ignition." A fine release from altoist best described as the Kenny Garrett of Sweden.
    THURSDAY: "The Essence of George Benson." Great early compilation of pure instrumentals with Ronnie Cuber on bari and Brother Jack McDuff on organ,and a variety of drummers.
    FRIDAY: Level 42, "Running in the Family." A quick break from pure jazz with this funky UK band with jazz roots.
    SATURDAY: Chris Potter Underground, "Ultrahang." Potter is always inspirational to me on concert days, and the latest one from his bassless fusion quartet filled the bill this time.
    SUNDAY: Christian McBride, "Gettin' To It." Debut from acclaimed bassist mixes strong originals (including my favorite composition of his, "The Shade of the Cedar Tree") with a few standards.
Stay tuned for more next week; I've gotten lots of new music lately that's still waiting to be played in the car.

Monday, May 02, 2011

This Series Is Keeping It Real

It's easy to go to a musical performance and see the really good parts: The end results of all the hard work, the applause, and so on...but unless you've ever been a musician, you might not think about all of the grunt work that goes into what is seen on stage:
When we talk about full-time or professional musicians, we don't really look at the inglorious parts of being one: the practicing, the rehearsing, the chasing down of gigs and recordings, the way most actually make money. (It's not gigging, that's for sure.) And with good reason: That's boring to most people, usually.

Not to Luke Rabin. He's a drummer, and founded a group called FREEWAYarts: "a company that hopes to alternatively finance music through supportive communities while offering artists a more sustainable livelihood." And FREEWAYarts has started a series of short online interviews with musicians (mostly drummers so far) about the realities of making a living in music. Check out its Vimeo channel for more, including one feature with Rabin himself.
There's a lot more on the subject to be found in this excellent post over at A Blog Supreme. Here's the money quote, in my opinion:
Musicians don't choose to do music — it chooses them. It's almost a cliche by now, but how else do you talk about an inexplicable driving passion? Time and time again, you get people saying things like this: "For me, the decision was kind of already made. It wasn't like I decided, 'Oh, I think I'm just going to do this.'"
As they say, read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

It's been an unusual week for music for me, so here's a slightly unconventional recap of my car-tunes for the past seven days:
  • MONDAY: The Flashbulb, Love As A Dark Hallway. Newest release from prolific multi-instrumentalist Benn Jordan shows more of a jazz influence this time around.

  • TUESDAY: Pat Metheny, Secret Story. Great "solo" effort from '92 includes most of the Group, plus strings.

  • WEDNESDAY:Pat Metheny Group, Letter From Home. Yes, two in a row. I was listening to a lot of Pat this week as inspiration for an arrangement I was doing on a very Methenyoid tune.

  • THURSDAY: Pat Metheny Group, The Way Up. The Pat-fest concludes with the epic '05 work by Pat and longtime cohort Lyle Mays.

  • FRIDAY: Trio Elf, 746. We return to wonderful obscurity: a German group reminiscent of the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, but with heavy breakbeat influences.

  • SATURDAY: Youngblood Brass Band, center:level:roar. A wonderful New Orleans brass band/hip-hop hybrid with ace sousaphonist Nat McIntosh.

  • SUNDAY: James Morrison, Snappy Doo. In settings ranging from a quartet to full big band, the amazing Aussie plays every instrument on the album with the exception of guitar, bass and drums (which are ably supplied by Herb Ellis, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton).
As noted above, I listened to a lot of one artist this week for a good reason; next week will have a more typical collection of wonderful lesser-known musicians. (It was also funny to hear people say "Hey, I've finally heard of somebody who's playing in the Kevmobile!" on the days I posted Pat. Click on the links and change that, folks!)