Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Vintage Horns

Glancing at my Selmer Mark VI alto (with the expected areas of missing lacquer), one student said, "Why is your saxophone so dirty?" (If only she knew how much that "dirty" saxophone was actually worth...)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

This past week was a mixture of old classics and new arrivals; let's talk about 'em:
  • MONDAY: The debut album from James Farm. It's been repeated a few times already,'s just that awesome.

  • TUESDAY: Kurt Rosenwinkel, "Heartcore." Guitarist experiments with different textures on what's become known as his "electronica album."

  • WEDNESDAY: Stefon Harris & Blackout, "Urbanus." Latest release from vibraphonist and his genre-bending collective.

  • THURSDAY: Ingrid Lukas, "We Need to Repeat." Estonian-born vocalist, who works regularly with Nik Bärtsch, does her own brand of jazz minimalism on Bärtsch's Ronin Rhythm label.

  • FRIDAY: Level 42, "Guaranteed." 1992 release from premier UK funk/rock band features guitar wizard Allan Holdsworth.

  • SATURDAY: Aaron Parks, "Invisible Cinema." James Farm - Joshua Redman + guitarist Mike Moreno = a great debut CD from the pianist.

  • SUNDAY: Brad Mehldau, "Highway Rider." Pianist's 2nd collaboration w/ producer Jon Brion features Joshua Redman.
Look for a few more new items in the week ahead; every month, when my eMusic credits refresh, it's like a mini-birthday for my ears.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Marathon Friday?

The first week of the fall semester has concluded, and two things are apparent at this point: 1) Business is looking up--way up--for this school year, and 2) I'm going to be insanely busy.

Sure, some will say, "But Kev, aren't you always insanely busy?" Yup. But with the high schools where I teach undergoing a radical schedule change--moving from a five-period day with trimesters to a seven-period day with semesters. There are advantages and disadvantages to this move (which is being used this year by two schools--the only two district high schools where I have a studio--that will be adopted district-wide next year if it's successful), but the long and short of it is that the top bands at the high schools and those at the middle schools now meet at the exact same time, for the same reason: Using the period that encompasses lunch means a longer rehearsal.

But with five schools' top bands meeting simultaneously, and five days in the school week, this means one school per day for me at that time. Needless to say, this creates logjams at that hour and requires some students to come in before or after school, though this is mitigated somewhat at the high schools by the addition of year-round jazz band class (which only used to meet during second and third trimester when the day had two fewer periods).

It's actually been much easier to schedule than I thought it would; I was expecting all kinds of chaos, to the point where I started compiling my schedule two weeks earlier than usual, only to be surprised at how effortless most of it was. Still, I've never quite seen this busy of a Friday before. How busy, you ask? This busy: I teach at the high school from 8:15 (the beginning of second period) until nearly 2:15 (halfway through seventh). When a few final slots are filled, this will happen nonstop; I don't even have a lunch break. (I did bring one today, but I was playing along with students so often that, by 1:00, I had consumed only my carrots).

But wait--there's more! When I'm done there, I go over to the middle school (after a 45-minute decompression break) to teach two more kids in last period and three more after school. That's 18 students, assuming all the slots get filled, and by far the Busiest Friday Ever. Sure, I have Marathon Wednesday every summer, but Marathon Friday is new territory for me.

Still, I came out of this week with a decent amount of energy, and I felt that I was "on" for the duration of the day, despite the large number of lessons in a row. (OK--I sank into the couch like a rock for a few hours when I got home, but that's beside the point.) And as I noted earlier in the week on Facebook, it still amazes me that I get to do what I love and get paid for it.

My prayer is that I come out of the last Friday of the semester as refreshed and excited as I am now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Strike Out the Band? Only Partially, and It's Better Than the Alternatives

A friend on Facebook tipped me off to this story, which evidently was on the news today (I don't get to watch "the news" all that often, sometimes because I'm not home that early). One local school district's budget cuts have affected fine arts in a negative way, but not the way you might expect; for one thing nobody got fired. So how did they do it? They decided to let the high school bands perform only at home football games:
Starting tonight high school football teams in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD left the bands behind for away football games. The approved cuts are to the fine arts and athletics departments.

Benching the band is expected to save the district $50,000 in transportation costs, meaning hundreds of students at the district's five schools will perform to recorded music during the 17 away games.

"None of us are happy about having to do that," said the district's fine arts director Jim McDaniel. But "we literally save a teacher's salary, at least, by not going. We didn't cut anybody in the district. We kept everybody. We've been very committed to teachers. They're gonna go to some of the JV games as well and on Sept 23rd we're going to have a night that's just for our high school bands."
There are cuts being made in other areas as well--certain junior high "B" teams are being eliminated, sports camps are being shortened, and parents will have to buy letter jackets for their kids now, instead of the district picking up the tab.

As someone who was a Band Guy in high school, and works with school band programs now, my initial impression is that I'm not wild about the idea. Part of me says that's unfortunate, and that they should have cut the position of Deputy Associate Vice Superintendent for Curriculum Development in the Northwest Quadrant as a better way to save money.

And yet, another part of me is glad that no faculty positions were cut, realizing that not going to away games is just like marching at a second-tier football school such as my alma mater, UNT, where we went to maybe one away game a year. And while the bands won't be quite as performance-tested as usual by the time they get to their regional marching contest in October, it certainly could be worse. (Picking a random C/FB school, Newman Smith, it appears that the band only loses three out of ten games during the season; they only have four away games, but one is against another C/FB school, so it's played in the district stadium.)

I always hate to see any cuts done to fine arts...or any other area that affects students; as you may know from reading this blog, I'd prefer to see non-teaching areas trimmed down a bit first. So while this news disappoints me, I can't keep thinking about this one thing: No teacher lost a job here. So while I hope that a lot of districts don't make this move--football games might become as dull as some of the ones I attended at UNT during college--you have to give them credit for thinking at least slightly outside the box.

What say you? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

There were a lot of reruns this week, but it's all been stuff that's well worth repeating:
  • MONDAY: Playing today in the Kevmobile: Nobody's Business, "Forward Momentum." Great '07 release from quartet of then-UNT jazz students Teriver Cheung, Evan Weiss, Roberto Verastegui and Colin Hinton.

  • TUESDAY: Oktoposse, "Blues Lee--Volume III." Latest release from creative and occasionally wacky German octet.

  • WEDNESDAY: The debut album from Speak, a creative Seattle quintet w/ trumpeter Cuong Vu and four of his former students.

  • THURSDAY: Weather Report, "Heavy Weather." Rockin' to the classic album by Zawinul, Shorter, Jaco, Acuña and Badrena, featuring the original "Birdland."

  • FRIDAY/SATURDAY: Miles Okazaki, "Generations." Sophomore release (2009) from up-and-coming guitarist/composer.

  • SUNDAY: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, "Winterwood." 2009 release from Tulsa-based group, still available as a free download at their website.
There's likely to be some brand-new music here next week, so stay tuned!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Playing This Week in the Kevmobile

This week was a bit of a challenge, with the venerable iPod going into hibernation on Thursday...but I made my old iPhone into a backup iPod Touch and kept moving on.
  • MONDAY: Radiohead, "OK Computer." Now I know what the original versions of those Brad Mehldau covers sound like.

  • TUESDAY: Nils Petter Molvaer, "Khmer." My favorite among all the releases by electronica-loving Norwegian trumpeter.

  • WEDNESDAY: Mark Wingfield/Jane Chapman/Iain Ballamy: "Three Windows." Gtr/hpschd/sax trio infuses jazz w/ many things--world music, classical, electronica and prog rock, just to name a few.

  • THURSDAY: Pat Metheny Group, "We Live Here." It makes frequent appearances here, b/c it never fails to lift my spirit.

  • FRIDAY/SATURDAY: Marco Benevento, "Me Not Me." Pianist known for using circuit-bent toys mixes covers, originals.

  • SUNDAY: Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/Christian Scott, "Ninety Miles." US trio joins with two different Cuban rhythm sections in lively set of originals from the three leaders.
Here's hoping the old iPod just needs a break from the heat and "wakes up" in a few days...

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

I'm Perfectly Happy to Wave Goodbye to This Misguided Tradition

I'd seen the messages on the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington video boards this year, and they both amused and pleased me. And now the Texas Rangers' only partially tongue-in-cheek campaign to get rid of the Wave at baseball games is generating national attention:
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington has become the focal point for a movement this season.

It's a push to stop a trend that has long-since slowed at some ballparks across the nation, but still has ardent supporters in Arlington.

It's the drive to end the wave.

The Rangers' public-address announcer Chuck Morgan puts anti-wave warnings on the video screen in the outfield. Fan Stephanie Blumenthal wears an anti-wave T-shirt that she and a friend designed. There's even a website ( that would like to see fans give up on the stadium tradition of different fans in sections rising in unison during the game.

The race for the American League West may be the most important goal at Rangers Ballpark. Stopping the wave could be No. 2.
I for one am totally on board with the idea.

I've been a non-fan of the Wave since it first made its way into the Ballpark. Why? Well, for two main reasons:
  • People do it at the wrong time. As noted in the linked article,
    When the Rangers were up 20-6 over Minnesota seemed like an OK time. Same goes for during a rain delay. Maybe even between an inning every now and then. And kids should have a chance to do the wave at least once, right?

    But when the Rangers are in a close game and either attempting to rally or trying to snuff out one? That's an absolute no-no and that's what has rankled so many in the no-wave clan.
    And my own opinion is that, no matter what the score, it should never be done when the home team is at bat...but maybe that's just me?

  • Not only can it distract the players, but it detracts from the game itself.. It's as if the fans are more interested in themselves being the entertainment than the game itself. People pay money--sometimes good money--to see the game, not their fellow spectators (the only exception to this in all of entertainment may well be The Rocky Horror Picture Show). If you want to create your own entertainment, stay home and play the MLB video game.
Does the Wave even have a place in baseball? Depending on which source you believe, it was created at a college basketball game--or hockey, football, or even auto racing. (And a well-known piece of lore has it being created by Robb Weller, former college yell leader turned Entertainment Tonight co-host, which ought to disqualify it from pure sporting events right then and there.) According to a commenter at the linked article, the purpose of the Wave at University of Washington games (Weller's domain at the time), it was used to distract the opposing team during signal-calling and fire up the crowd during big defensive stands by the home team--neither of which is exactly applicable to the game of baseball. In fact, it came to baseball late, and a lot of us out there wouldn't mind if it just quietly slinked away.

Nobody--not even Morgan or founder Greg Holland--expects the Wave to die completely, but if the video board campaign prompts even a few people to think, "Oh yeah, this is pretty idiotic, isn't it?", then it will have succeeded.

And there's no way this will ever happen:
Morgan knows there is one sure-fire way to stop the wave at the park, but it will never happen.

"Any more waves, no more beer," he joked.
Yeah, that would be a bit much. But you know what? Back when the Rangers had a section of the park designated as the "non-alcohol family section" (do they still have this?), the Wave would die there every time. Food for thought...