Hello folks! The day that I’ve been waiting for, obsessing over, and in a state of near-panic about for the past several years is almost here—I’m talking, of course, about the midterm elections Tuesday. (Vote!) But I’ve also been doing pretty much those same things in anticipation of the world premiere this Sunday evening of my new piece Fire In My Head (the Anxiety Suite) at SFJAZZ’s Joe Henderson Lab (joined by my longtime partners in crime Kasey Knudsen on alto saxophone, Sheldon Brown on bass clarinet, Jon Arkin on drums, Fred Randolph on bass, and Adam Shulman on piano).
Some back story: a few years ago I wrote a suite for my Quintet+1 called Interview Music, which was purposefully not about anything. I wanted to let the music stand on its own, and while I don’t regret that decision, in retrospect 2016 was a not a good year to be “above the fray,” artistically speaking.
So when I was very fortunate to receive a grant (from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program) to compose a new major work for my band, I decided to write about something I’ve been struggling with on a personal level for ages, and that pretty much everyone I know has been dealing with on an hourly basis since, oh, late 2016: anxiety.
Fire In My Head is my five-part, 50-minute attempt to translate that emotional cyclone into music. But one thing I discovered in the process is that, just as my wife pointed out to me that “even your happy songs have an undercurrent of anxiety,” even my intentionally anxious material can’t seem to help but to also reflect hope and a desire to create beauty and connection.
So please join me and my bandmates (who have been working their butts off on this challenging material—see a sneak peek below) Sunday at 6pm or 7:30pm for this opportunity to hear original music by local musicians at the beautiful SFJAZZ Center! Buy tickets here.
ALSO: I’ll be talking about the show (and giving away some tickets!) with Alisa Clancy this Thursday morning at 9am on KCSM Jazz 91. Tune in or listen online.
Hello folks! It’s been a happily busy musical spring so far (in spite of the daily horrors of the news), and I wanted to let you know about a few upcoming events.
CJC Workshop: Fluency in All 12 Keys
This Sunday (4/9) at 11:30am I’ll be at California Jazz Conservatory/Jazzschool in Berkeley, kicking off the Contemporary Jazz Improvisation Workshop Series, a four-part educational series for musicians featuring different local players exploring a variety of topics. My focus will be “Developing Fluency in All 12 Keys,” and I’ll be looking at several strategies for getting comfortable in the intimidating key signature-hinterlands. Open to anyone with basic knowledge of jazz theory, and also available on a single class-basis. Registration info here.
Asian American Orchestra at SFJAZZ Poetry Festival Sunday (4/9)
Sunday evening at 8pm, I’m excited to be joining Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra and SFJAZZ Poet Laureate Genny Lim at the Joe Henderson Lab as part of the SFJAZZ Poetry Festival. We’ll be performing our updated version of Max Roach’s We Insist: Freedom Now Suite (with new poetry by Lim). Information and tickets available here.
ESO in San Francisco (4/16)
On Easter Sunday evening (4/16) from 6:30-9pm, I’ll be back with the indomitable Electric Squeezebox Orchestra (directed by Erik Jekabson), which has been holding down its residency at Doc’s Lab in North Beach for over two years, performing only original arrangements by members of the band and other local composers (like me!). We’ll be joined by a special quest, the phenomenal clarinetist Ben Goldberg. More info here.
Finally, for no reason other than that it’s good, here’s some video from my performance last month with the Adam Shulman Sextet. Enjoy!
This morning, NPR’s A Blog Supreme featured a story about a wealthy music lover who has donated $2.5 million to Drake University’s jazz program, to be used for a professorship and a new facility. Confronted by that number, I started to wonder if there might be ways to spend that money which would actually benefit the music and musicians more–like subsidizing 12,500 gigs at $200, for example.
It was with those numbers ringing in my head that I saw the even more staggering news that SFJAZZ has secured a $20 million donation for a permanent center in the City. (Think about it! $20 million! I wonder whether every single jazz album sale in the past 10 years even made that much money.)
First of all, genuine congratulations to SFJAZZ on the jazz center–that really is incredible, especially in this economy, in this country, in this culture. But again, as a thought experiment here–that money would pay for ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND $200 gigs. Just imagine for a second what kind of a rejuvenation any jazz scene could get from even a smidgen of that.
I managed to get a ticket last weekend to see Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette, and Gary Peacock (the “Trio at 20”) as the closing headliners of the SF JazzFest; I’ve never seen the group live before, so I don’t know what the standard etiquette is, but I was surprised when His Keithness began speaking after the band had been introduced (since he has a reputation as something of a “difficult” performer). “Twenty years,” he said, “is not really enough.” He spoke haltingly, in choppy phrases that suggested this wasn’t something he’d prepared; he closed his remarks by saying (and this is only my best recollection), “I feel like we should thank… I don’t know, whoever we need to thank, certainly not us. We sometimes sit backstage and think, ‘What is it exactly, that we do?’ People come to hear us, I guess, and we show up on the stage, and… something happens.”
Something then proceeded to happen for the next few hours—based on the large swaths of time I’ve devoted to listening to the Trio’s recordings over the years, I would say they had a hell of a night. The second set was especially good, opening with the rarely-played “Golden Earring” (not the rock band), a fast and rollicking version of “All the Things…” (with a long sheets-of-sound-y solo intro from Keith), and a re-creation of the funky rendition of “God Bless the Child” as heard on their very first studio recording twenty years ago. The crowd was relentlessly appreciative, and wouldn’t leave until they were placated with two encores (a muted “When I Fall in Love” and a wild, quick version of “When Will the Blues Leave?”, complete with frightening fills from Jack played on those little bowls attached to his cymbals). It made me think, “Oh yeah… this was why I got into this business.”
Announcements and thoughts from a Bay Area trumpeter and composer