Category Archives: From the Trenches

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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The Tao of Basie

Starting this September, the AJW is going to do something never attempted in our 20-year history.  We are going to take a swing at recreating the sound of the Count Basie Orchestra, using ten players.  That’s half as many as Basie used, but twice as many as we fielded in the just-completed Sonny Rollins season.  In fact, it’s the …

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How Dry I Am

Years ago, I was having a conversation with a fellow saxophone player about playing styles, and he made a comment that left me a little bewildered.  He said: “I wish I didn’t have such a beautiful tone.” Huh?  Isn’t that what we all strive for?  But then he elaborated: “I can sell anything just through …

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Strange Bedfellows

This is a gig I had almost forgotten about, but then as people started telling gig stories on Facebook’s Gigs From Hell page, it suddenly popped back into my consciousness.  Thanks a lot, guys and gals. This wasn’t really a Gig from Hell, more like a Gig from Heck.  Still, the nature of this business …

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Blank Check–The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Next year will the be the 20th anniversary of the Walt Disney motion picture Blank Check.  I assume you already have tickets to the Hollywood Gala, or the simulcast planned for Washington DC, Tokyo, London, Paris, and Madrid.  Or perhaps, like me, you will pass on all the hoopla and stay home, cozied up to …

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Ya know what really chaps my quiddick?

The following is an edited version of a Facebook thread I started a few weeks back.  Other than my own, the names have been reduced to initials.  If my friends are still recognizable–well, that’s just the way I do ’em.  –MM “It really pisses me off when people get more gigs than me just because …

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I like playing Christmas tunes. No, really.

After my last post, I took some flak for daring to suggest that jazz musicians hate playing Take Five.  Even though we do, so enough already with the frickin’ requests. So it may come as a surprise to many that I actually enjoy playing Christmas tunes, especially people who know me personally.  But  rest assured …

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We hate playing ‘Take Five’. Quit requesting it.

OK, it’s time this got put out there again, because the message just doesn’t seem to be getting across. So here it is:  We hate playing ‘Take Five’.  Quit requesting it. Even if only a tiny fraction of club-goers heed this advice, it’s still worth it.  That’s how deep our hatred of this song goes. …

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Here Comes Sonny

The AJW is hitting next week, after a three-month hiatus.  This will be the 20th year for the project, so it had to be focused on somebody special.  Appropriately enough, that somebody is Sonny Rollins. I won’t pretend it isn’t a bit intimidating, as a tenor saxophone player, to go onstage and play the music …

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The Absolute Worst Gig I Have Ever Played

Probably I shouldn’t be writing this, because a worse one could come along… No way.  This one has stood the test of time for over ten years, and I don’t think it will ever be topped.  At least, I hope not. Let me begin by saying that the vast majority of our gigs are positive, …

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