Category Archives: From the Trenches

My Lucky Quarter

I perform for children.  A lot of children.  Every day, with the children.  One hundred thirty shows a year, just for the children.  As they say, it keeps you young.  It also presents a rich opportunity for teachable moments. For example: we played a school show a couple of weeks ago.  Not important where.  Let’s …

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First Seven Jobs? That’s an easy one!

People on Facebook (I use the term “people” loosely, but that’s as close as I prefer to get) have been posting their first seven jobs, which got me to thinking: Have I even had seven jobs? Surely I must have by now.  So let me dust out the dark recesses where my brain used to …

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You want us to play where?!

Musicians put up with a lot of strange requests, hopefully with good grace, but one thing we do like assurance on is that we will be allowed to play in a location that is adequately lit, covered, spacious enough, and in some appropriate proximity to those we are playing for, i.e. other people.  OK, I …

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A Bad Case of Whiplash

OK, so I’m a little slow getting around to things in popular culture–for example, I stopped listening to new music thirty years ago–but I finally got around to seeing the movie Whiplash.  I put it off awhile because, as a UNT grad, it sounded an awful lot like Orals, which is something that sounds fun …

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Why Musicians Deserve Decent Royalties

The recent kerfuffle between recording artist Taylor Swift and Spotify has gotten a lot of folks questioning why recording artists need royalties in the first place.  I mean, why can’t they just earn money when they’re working, like everyone else?  What makes them so special that they deserve to draw payment while they are off …

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Performing Without a Net

The Internet is killing live music. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!  And don’t think I’m bitter or angry.  I’ve worked plenty and I’m well-compensated, and I’ve been doing it thirty years.  No complaints here. But between the dwindling ‘pay’ presented in clubs, the all-but-complete disappearance of royalty income due to online file-sharing, and the general …

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In Praise of Z

One of the best things about this profession is the opportunity to work with people who are great at what they do.  There have been scores of them, and I learn from every single one.  Quite often, it’s somebody from the rhythm section, because they have the greatest need to ‘roll with it’ and make …

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Does Jazz Belong in Nightclubs?

Just asking the question makes me feel queasy. I mean, on the one hand–of course it does!  Jazz was born in nightclubs.  And speakeasies.  And whorehouses.  (Sorry, Mom…) But that was over a hundred years ago.  Is it still a good fit? I’ve been thinking about it lately because of recent efforts in Portland, Oregon …

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Why should anyone pay anything for music ever?

Oh Lord, not this again. Speaking as someone whose sole income has been derived from performing/arranging/recording/teaching music for the past thirty years, I’m hardly impartial on the issue.  It seems like a no-brainer, right?  Commerce is based on the exchange of money for goods and services. But the onslaught of technology has now brought every …

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My Fitzcarraldo Season

Actually, it’s the Count Basie season.  But the parallels are there. In case you missed the 1980’s (and who could blame you, really?), Fitzcarraldo is an epic motion picture by the great director Werner Herzog, who insisted on living firsthand the madness he put on film.  In this case, he insisted on moving a 320-ton steamship …

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