Thoughts on the mortality of a friend

On December 12, a friend died. She was younger than me, and had only known about her cancer for 11 months. Those 11 months contained some fear and some optimism. At one point she asked fearfully, “what if I die? What will my life have meant?” I didn’t know how to answer. I mentioned her many students and friends and all of the other people whose days and lives she brightened, but I don’t think that was what she wanted to hear.

After her death, a friend from her teenage years shared something that was written 20+ years ago. in 1997, my now deceased friend wrote, “One more thing: When I die, I would like to be remembered as an open person, open to the world. With big and understanding eyes that have seen and see lots of things. More than full of knowledge, wise (in the greek sense, I mean, I don’t want to tell books by memory, but know how to live and help others to do the same).” (This was translated from Spanish)

That is a lovely and accurate description of my friend. She was open and understanding and wise. She successfully lived the life she imagined for herself when she was a teenager. May we all live so successfully. Rest in peace my friend.

A year?

It is hard to believe it has been over a year since I posted anything here. I need to change that. I am in Chicago right now for the Instigation Festival. My band Unanimous Sources played last night at Constellation, and today the Instigation Orchestra played a new composition by Katinka Kleijn.

Jeff Albert, Katinka Kleijn, and Steve Marquette

On Judging Creative Activity or Sometimes My Kids Teach Me Stuff

The ranking of creative activity often strikes me as awkward at best, and counter-productive at worst. Competitive cooking shows are a great example. One chef leaves in tears, as I am thinking, “that looks great, pass that plate over here.” “This band is better than that band” always seems like a futile exercise.

Last night we attended the big end of the season high school marching band competition. My daughter is in one of the bands that competed. This competition has a prelims and finals format. They played two great shows. I think the best two shows they have played all season. When the rankings were announced after finals, they did not place as high as many hoped, or expected. There are some natural emotional reactions that can flow out in times like that. But, it made me remember something that my step-son said to me a few years ago.

My step-son, Blake, spent three summers performing on the DCI Tour with the Madison Scouts. (DCI is the highest level of marching band field show in the world. They would be pros, except you have to pay to do it…maybe another post.) At the end of one of Blake’s seasons, as I picked him up at the airport the day after finals, I commented that I thought they should have placed much higher. His response taught me something. He said that they had played one of their best shows of the season, and the audience loved it, and that was what they were there to do; be as good as they could be, and make something that moved people. They did that, and it was a success in his mind.

I feel like that is what my daughter’s band did last night. They performed as well as they could, and people liked it. That’s all that really matters.

…and that third place cheesecake can still make someone VERY happy.

AAJ Review of Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert with William Parker: New Normal

Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert with William Parker: New Normal:

“If sentimentality is the synonym of nostalgia, then the antonym is anticipation, and maybe a better word would be modernity. That word comes to mind spinning the trio recording New Normal by trombonist Jeff Albert, drummer Dave Cappello and their guest, bassist William Parker. “

Tour recap and shout outs

I just got back from a lovely two weeks in Europe. The main purpose pf the trip was for a tour in Italy with Marcello Benetti’s Shuffled Quartet, but I worked in a trip to Switzerland for the International Society for Improvised Music 2015 Conference.

Our regular woodwind collaborator, Rex Gregory, could not make the trip because he is busy being a new father, so we had Dan Kinzleman on clarinet, flute, and tenor sax. Dan is an American musician who has lived in Italy for the last ten years or so. He is a wonderful musician, a fun hang, and a great road comrade. We were happy to have him with us. It was also nice to have two people who spoke the language of Italian sound engineers at sound checks.

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We did most of the touring in Marcello’s Toyota Yaris Versa. Somehow we all fit, with the stuff.

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Setting up for soundcheck in Udine, for our performance at Udin&Jazz. The concert space was lovely and the sound was very good. The festival also had great hospitality.

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Sound check selfie.

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The last gig of the tour was in Rovigo for the summer jazz series presented by the conservatory there. We shared the concert with the quartet of Massimo Morganti, who teaches at the conservatory. This pic is Massimo’s band at sound check.

After the gig in Rovigo, Marcello and I drove overnight to Chateau-D’Oex, Switzerland for the ISIM Conference. The over night drive was crazy, but when you arrive to this view from your hotel room, it feels less stupid.

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This tiny alpine village seemed like an odd choice for the location of this year’s conference, but the setting was lovely, and the hosts were great. There were some good conversations about diversity, and community building. I presented on improvisational structures I use with my student laptop orchestra, and I really enjoyed Jeff Morris’s presentation on his weblogmusic.org project.

I also got the chance to hear a great house concert before I came back home. The band was led by Filippo Vignato, and they did his arrangements of Albert Manglesdorf’s music. The band included Piero Bittolo Bon, who has performed at Open Ears, and a great young bass player named Rosa Brunello.

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It was a great trip. We made some good music, and I met or reconnected with a bunch of great people. I am happy to be home, but a touch sad that I left before I could experience Mirano Baseball Day.

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Breakfast for Dinner Records

I have a new record label called Breakfast for Dinner Records. The music is available in most of the usual digital places and CDs are available from the label’s band camp page.

You can also buy the downloads on Amazon ( Staffa, Duets 2014 ), or iTunes ( Staffa, Duets 2014 ), or listen on Spotify ( Staffa, Duets 2014 ).

My thoughts on Cutting Louisiana higher education by $300 million

A note to the apparent morons who run the state in which I live: I WILL PAY MORE TAXES TO SUPPORT HIGHER EDUCATION!!!!!!!!!

The nature of Louisiana’s backwards legal system makes much of the state’s budget protected and very hard to adjust, except for higher education, which is easy for the legislature to cut. Our governor, who pays lip service to a religion that is supposed to be based on helping the poor and caring for our fellow humans, refuses to allow taxes to be raised for any productive reason. I think he (and his fellow lawmakers of similar political ideology) does this not out of a sense that it is really the right thing to do, but out of a loyalty to a political party that places money above all else, and even then, really just the money of people who already have a lot of it. The lawmakers of Louisiana, led by our governor, are cowards, who are afraid of the dogmatists of their own party, to the point that they will do nothing to help the people of our state in any way.

I actually voted for Jindal. I thought he was a smart man, and he made me believe that he would use that intelligence to run our state well. I did not realize at the time that his political aspirations would out weigh all other considerations to the point that he would be incapable of straying one millimeter from republican dogma, even if it is the best thing for our state.

I got both of my graduate degrees from state schools (the University of New Orleans for my M.M., and Louisiana State University for my Ph.D.). The system worked well for me. These degrees helped me learn many things, and led to me getting a great teaching job and staying in our state. I can now afford to pay more in taxes, and I would love to do that if that is what is needed to keep our higher education system alive.

One more note to our lawmakers: PLEASE LET GO OF YOUR POLITICAL DOGMA AND USE THE BRAINS THAT GOD GAVE YOU TO MAKE DECISIONS WITH THE WELL-BEING OF YOUR STATE IN MIND!

This nola.com article offers a good perspective on the amount of the cuts that are being envisioned.

Cutting Louisiana higher education by $300 million, putting it into perspective | NOLA.com

Al Belletto

I just received news that Al Belletto, the great saxophonist from New Orleans, passed away on Friday. Al had been living in Dallas with family for the last few years, but when I first moved to New Orleans, Al was a fixture on the scene. He had a great influence on many young musicians, some of whom aren’t that young any more (myself included). His nickname was Coach, but as the joke goes, that doesn’t make sense, because he was first class all the way.

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A beautiful sound…

In 1999 I was fortunate to fall in with some musicians who were doing things that I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure that I could. These were people who I had been hearing play for some time, and I was getting to play with them. I didn’t know if I belonged there.

After my first gig with the Naked Orchestra (which was only the band’s second gig), Tim Green walked up to me and said something nice about what I had played. I don’t remember his exact words, I just remember that the guy who made the most music in this group of (close to 20) great musicians went out of his way to say something encouraging to me. He made me think that maybe I could make some music that mattered. Those few words from him really did change my life.

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Tim Green passed away this week. He was a beautiful person who made beautiful, deep, soulful sounds. To hear him play was to peer into his soul, and it was beautiful. Tim went out of his way to help create peace for those around him, I hope he has found the peace that sometimes eluded him in life. Rest well brother.

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We’re (part of) #41!

For Downbeat Magazine’s 80th Anniversary (July 2014), they published a list of the 80 coolest things in jazz. #41 is New Orleans, and the Open Ears Music Series got a brief mention in the article:

At…events like Jeff Albert’s Open Ears Music Series, improvising players innovate new sonic concepts on the fly, giving listeners direct and immediate access to their creative process.

WWOZ got their own (well deserved) solo shout out, as did friends Jason Adasiewicz and Mike Reed. These sorts of lists always make for good arguments, but this one is pretty well rounded.
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