Sundays in the studio

As I was in the gym this morning trying to distract myself from, well, being in the gym I spend some time thinking about this blog, why I do it, and what I want it to be.  I think I’m going to try writing once a week and see what happens.  I do enjoy writing and I hope you enjoy reading.  The podcast I was listening to at the gym was NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour.  It’s a new one for me, recommend by my wife.  As with most things she recommends, it was awesome.  They spent some time talking about the film “Roma” (see it, it is as amazing as everyone says) and after hearing it, I’m going to rewatch it soon.  But the thing that really gave me pause was a brief segment about Mary Oliver.  Most know that she passed recently and there has been much discussion of her work.  I won’t rehash any of it…instead I want to talk about one of her poems that I love.  It’s called “I Worried”  Here’s the text:

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.”

I am, and have been for as long as I remembered, a worrier.  There were times in my youth where it just paralyzed me.  I’d get it under control sometimes and other times it would come back.  I forget where I first came across this poem but the thing that resonated with me the most is the last stanza.  “Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.  And gave it up.”  I love that she writes about the futility of worry…not something that happened to show her that her worry was unnecessary.  The fact that the worry has no result or positive end is, objectively, something that most of us know.  When we’re stuck in the middle of it though, it’s harder to see that.

My baseline state is to hide.  This sounds strange for someone who makes his life in the performing arts, but if I don’t take active steps all the time to put work into the world, I would never leave my house – maybe never leave my bed.  I don’t know if it’s realistic to expect that one can just “give up” worry and be done with it…I know I can’t.  But I still have to take my old body out into the morning and sing.

I marvel at people who are able to put work into the world without trepidation…although I suspect that there are in reality, fewer of them than it seems.  So, for the time being and for the future, I’ll continue to take my old body out into the morning and sing.  I’m going to try not to worry about the result.

 

 

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So, what’s good?

A dear friend of mine greets almost everyone with this question.  In the midst of January, I find that it is a very important question indeed…here are some things that I’m finding very good, indeed.

The “100 days challenge”

Although I’m only 10 days into this, I’m really surprised at how enlightening doing this project has been.  I’ve received lots of feedback; all very supportive, but often with the subtext of “why are you doing this to yourself? (or doing this to us?)”.  I have a couple of reasons.  Firstly I’m doing it for some of my students.  I have a couple that are very curious about what I practice, so I thought that this would be a good way to show them.  Secondly, there is an accountability aspect to it that is really helping me.  Thirdly, the Heisenberg Principle is a real thing and I find that observing my practicing in this way is changing the way I do it.  I’m learning that I don’t spend enough time on any one thing before I move to something else.  A daily review of my recordings really drive that home.  I’m learning to be more mindful and to really sit with something longer.  Finally, there is a therapeutic aspect to this…it is making me put something out into the world everyday…essentially showing my work, warts and all.  This is proving to be very good for me.  Again I’m just getting started, so we’ll see how this project evolves.  If you’re curious, you can follow my Instagram page to see the dailies…

Some great music

There has been no shortage of great music in Chicago this month.  Highlights have included Jerry Bergonzi (!) passing through at the Green Mill.  He is as inspiring as ever!  I was introduced to a new group called “Real Feels” a couple weeks ago at Constellation.  They’re a trio of flugelhorn, guitar, and drums with some effects and pedals.             Heart-achingly beautiful colors and textures and a deep melodic sense.  Some of my friends are doing some great work as well – fellow saxophonist Mitch Paliga‘s sextet project knocks me over every time I hear it and just night before last I heard a quartet project led by trombonist Chris Shuttleworth that was very forward-thinking.

Coming up

I’ve been doing a lot of writing for trio in anticipation of my next recording.  Next Wednesday (1/30) we’ll be playing at The Montrose Saloon and starting to work out some new material.  In February I’ll be playing at The Serbian Village with Tommy Muellner’s group.  Then things really start ramping up in March.  Check out the website for more info…

See you in a couple weeks….

 

The Return of the blog and the 100 Days challenge

I’ve been thinking for a long time about resurrecting this blog (again) and I’ve decided to go ahead and do it.  I’ll be posting various types of things here…some will be boring, some won’t but they all will be from the depths of my mind.

Late last year I came across the great jazz violinist (and former Chicago resident) Zach Brock’s instagram feed where he was documenting his progress on something called the “100 days of practice challenge”.  I was intrigued watching his snapshots into his day and his process.  I did a bit of research and I discovered this article, which I believe informed Zach’s challenge.

I was hooked.  This was something I wanted to do.  It seems like a great way to start 2019, so starting tomorrow my instagram feed will be the exclusive home of my 100 days challenge.  I’ll be posting little snips of my practice recordings along with explanations of what I’m working on and some commentary.  So, fair warning.  If this sounds interesting to you, please slide over and follow my feed.  If this sounds awful to you, you may want to unfollow my instagram feed for a bit.

At the conclusion of 100 days I’ll post some thoughts on what I discovered about myself.

Stay tuned for more posts about other goings on.

I hope to post every couple of weeks…

It’s been a while

My last post was the night before Thanksgiving, 2016.  It goes without saying that a lot has happened since then.  I seem to have taken some time off from posting.  This wasn’t planned nor was it intentional, but it happened.  So…what’s new?

Transitions!

Thanks to some fortunate timing, I’m transitioning from the Navy a bit sooner than expected.  I’ll be finished up here in September and I’ll be back in Chicago in October.

Yes, I said CHICAGO!

Stephanie and I have decided to make the big leap and move back to where I’ve always considered home to be.  We’re excited about this move and I can’t wait to begin exploring the scene in Chicago and figure out where I fit in.

Didn’t you say something about some recordings?

Yes, at the end of last year I went into the studio with my Italian Quartet and made a couple of albums.  I’m really happy with the results and you can learn more about them here and here.

I’ll try to do better at writing.  I always feel better after I do it, and I hope there are those who enjoy reading…

Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving Eve here in Napoli and I just finished a duo session with my man Francesco D’Errico.  We are moving very quickly toward our recording next month and I am getting very excited about the project. 

This is a time of year where I begin to look back and take a little stock of what the year has been.  While 2016 has been – shall we say challenging – I still have some reasons for optimism.  

Yes, I’m away from my family, but I have a warm place to go tomorrow with dear friends to slow down for a bit and enjoy my favorite meal of the year.

I get to work with some truly amazing colleagues every day.

I have dear Italian Brothers and Sisters with whom I am privileged to make art, share food and drink, and enjoy deep friendships.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone… 

Adding Value

I recently came across a new (for me) podcast..”The Minimalists Podcast“.  I’ve always been drawn to the idea of minimalism and the idea of living better with less, if for no other reason than it resonates with the somewhat austere lifestyle that awaits as I transition from the relative comfort of my current situation.  As I listened to the first episode, I knew I would be hooked…but not for the reason that I thought.

In the first episode, Joshua Fields Millburn spoke about “adding value” and the idea that adding value is a basic human instinct.  That idea really made me pause…adding value is a basic human instinct.

I’ve been thinking all day about how I choose to spend my time and if I’m honest, much of it does not add value.  I consume…a lot.  I consume web content.  I consume videos on Netflix and iTunes…not because I am genuinely interested in them, but because they distract me.  They distract me from doing the kind of things that really would add value to my life.  I don’t know why I make these choices…that’s a question for my therapist…but I SUSPECT that I make these choices because they’re comfortable.

It’s comfortable to sit on my couch and watch movies that I’ve seen a hundred times.  It’s comfortable to consume salty, pre-packaged food (in ITALY of all places!!), and it’s comfortable not to challenge oneself.  But, none of these things – if I’m honest – adds value to my life.

Now to be clear, I stipulate that there is value in recreation and relaxation.  But, when that state of being becomes the default, something is out of whack.

Everything one owns should have a purpose, or bring one genuine joy.  I’d extend that tenet to say that everything one DOES should serve a purpose or bring one genuine joy.  How then, do we balance the needs of survival with living within these tenets?

I don’t have the answer, but I am starting to look around and within with a very questioning attitude.

Here are some things that have added real value to my life this past week:

  • Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work”
  • Greg Fishman’s ideas about practicing
  • Dexter Gordon’s solo on “Three O’Clock in the Morning” from the album “Go”
  • Time spent with my Italian brothers and sisters
  • Deep conversations with small groups of people

I tell people all the time that any choice you make will either take you towards a goal or away from a goal…saxophonist, heal thyself….

September News and Detritus

September is not yet half over, and its been busy.  I wanted to take a moment to talk about a few things…

GIGS AND PROJECTS

Last Sunday I was able to participate in Jazz Napoli’s benefit for the Amatrice area.  A great day of music with the Leonardo De Lorenzo Quartet.  I was also able to hear some wonderful sets from dear friends Francesco D’Errico, Giulio Martino, and Elisabetta Serio.  Jazz is alive and well in Napoli and I am really happy and lucky to be a part of it.

 

Coming in October, I’ll be playing on a new series in Salerno with the Elisabetta Serio Quartet.  E plays beautifully and has an individual conception to her own music as well as her interpretations of standards and popular songs.  I’m really looking forward to this collaboration.

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In November, I’ll finally be documenting some of my music.  Francesco D’Errico and I have been playing together for several months and we have stuck a really great level of communication and musical empathy.  We’ll be doing a recording of some of his and some of my original music.  Some will be in Duo and some will be in Quartet.  Ahead of the sessions, there will be some local performances…watch this space.

There is a studio here in Napoli that does a unique version of “Crowdsourcing”…they combine the precision and laboratory-like environment of a studio recording with the immediacy of a live performance by opening the studio to an audience during the session.  Cover charges et cetera are used to defray the costs of the recording.  This will be my first recording project of my own music.  To say I’m nervous doesn’t even to begin to describe it.  But, an artist creates…I can no longer afford to wait for perfect.

PROJECTS I’M CONSIDERING

I’ve been friends with Giulio Martino for years (see above photo of us together).  He’s a FINE tenor and soprano player with whom I have been lucky to collaborate.  We have conceptions that balance each other well, and we share a similar background with regard to our influences and important recordings.  One of the most important recordings in our shared history is the Elvin Jones “Live at the Lighthouse” recordings with David Liebman and Steve Grossman.

live_at_the_lighthouse_elvin_jones_album

I think a reason that this recording resonates so strongly with us is that we both have a personal connection to it.  Giulio studied with Grossman and I with Liebman.  The instrumentation is one of our favorites – two tenors/sopranos, bass, and drums.  We are talking about presenting a recital of the music from this recording.  No details yet, but I am hopeful that we can make this happen before I leave Europe.

That’s it for now.

Straight ahead and strive for tone!!