Today marks 5 years of playing Jazz trumpet for me. Prior to that was a post college 23 years of non-playing. And even in college, I couldn’t really improvise. I can now. As I get better, and as I am consistently practicing, listening and playing with other live musicians, a simultaneous calibration of my perspective of what is good is occurring. Relative to 5 years ago, I’m good. Good, is the baseline. Good is always changing. On a scale from Suck to Great, Good is in the middle. Great is when I feel like I’m playing at the top of my ability, Suck is when nothings happening. I’ve realized that, despite my desire to play great, I experience a range of outcomes, nearly every night I’m performing or practicing. What I’ve noticed in the past year is that playing good is a state of being. At the beginning(5 yrs ago), I wasn’t sure if I could consistently not suck. Now, I feel that greatness can happen every night. In fact, it does happen almost every night, along with good and perhaps sucking as well sometimes.
Anyways, I’m loving every minute of playing. I’m currently playing in a new band called Groove Holiday. Super fun. Lot’s of originals. Jazz Funk Instrumental. Our 2 gigs so far were Quixotes and Dazzle in Denver. Greg Warren, Chris Anton, Kalin Capra, and Tyler Bender. I’ve been sitting in weekly at the Pourhouse in Loveland(my first sit-in Mar. 2 2000). Kalin Capra has also been playing bass there since 2000. I took another lesson this year from my friend Hugh Ragin. He introduced me to Whisper Tones.
Here are some realizations that I have come to over the years as I’m figuring this music thing out.
It’s not just learning how to blow and play, but learning how to listen and hear.
Seeing sound is basically seeing time.
It’s more about turning parts of your brain off than on.
Remember, it’s all about the music. Music is not playing notes, playing parts, theory. Forget all that. Just play!!!!
Practice your ass off. You really can’t practice too much. But, even if it’s a small amount of time, make it count. Practice your ass off.
When you play, it’s your soul talking.
Music is not a sum of precisely placed notes or the result of thousands of hours of practice.
Music is separate from technique.
Some amazing music can happen when a musician is putting his heart and soul into it.
Pushing through worldly limitations, the music shines through, despite technique, taking the musician and the listener beyond this world, beyond technique.
The phrase pushing the envelope? The envelope: It’s you. Don’t fight it. Let it go. It’s your soul that’s trying to get out. Let it out.
Don’t practice not stopping. Practice taking your horn off your face.
Brad Goode once told me “Listen to everyone else but yourself”. Bam! That was a game changer for me. It showed me first, that I don’t listen enough. And second, in doing so, I can still play. Stuff comes out of my head, even though I’m not technically thinking of each and every note I’m playing. Kind of like walking without thinking of each step you are taking. It’s just natural.
Listening to everyone else allows me to involve myself in the musical moment. That’s where magic happens. That’s the only thing that matters. At that moment, that is your reality. And is, for the most part, created by everyone else on stage. You’re free to do with it what you want. “Reality is your perspective of the manifestation of all others perspectives”. Jon Long
Today is the 3 year anniversary for me and my new Trumpet life. I’ve been playing non-stop, every day since.
It’s been a blast! I’ve been lucky to have had many great musical experiences, including all the crazy gigs with the awesome funk band Futaba, subbing with another great band: The Lindsey Obrien Band for Bandswap, my latest adventure: The Steve Johnson Group and sitting in and gigging with some amazing, talented rhythm section players: Mark Raynes, Mark and Myles Sloniker, Roger Barnhart, Steve Thurston, Alwyn Robinson, Mark Diamond, Andy Weyl, Kalin Capra, Chris Kroger, Peter Knudsen and many more. My school yard has been the jam sessions at the Brad Goode Jam Session in Boulder, Tavollas and the Jaeger, in Greeley, The Pourhouse in Loveland and the Sunday jam at the Boulder Outlook. The Longtones, of course, threw down everything from Bitches Brew inspired grooves to ballads at many Avo’s gig’s.
What started 3 years ago as a renewed ambition to “be good” is now as normal a part of my life as breathing. In fact, a good percentage of my breaths exhale through my horn.
I still take lessons a couple times a year. Hugh Ragin, Brad Goode, Gabe Mervine and Peter Sommer have all sparked ideas in my head for creating the integral pieces of the puzzle for learning to play this crazy thing we call Jazz. Form, Harmony, Articulation, Air Speed, Time, Space, Sound, Rhythm, Performing vs Practicing, Listening, Transcribing, Creating and Collaborating.
Now that I’m 50, I have a perspective on my perspective on life that I never had before. It’s almost like reaching a summit. I can see all around for miles. It’s the most symmetrical age. Halfway to 100. Excuse me…….
… life flashing before my eyes………
…………Where are my new superman glasses. ……~0.o~……..Ok, I’m back.
Things I’m suddenly pondering:
Age 50, divide by 10 = Dollars per day spent on pills
Age 50, multiply by 6 = Dollars per year spent upgrading perscription on glasses
Age 50, multiply by 20000 = Amount that should be in retirement account($1Million)
Take that($1M) and multiply by -1 = Actual amount in retirement(Relative to $1M,$0)
Age 50, 300 good nights sleep per year
Age 50, 365 good naps per year
Surprisingly, I feel less old than I would have thought. I have pictures of long dead relatives from decades ago that really looked old at 50. And it wasn’t just the wacky old clothes or the Post-WWII hair-do’s. They still look old to me in pics. Perhaps I benefit from an easier life. I don’t work in the fields, never been to war myself, I don’t work in a factory, I write software at a desk in my home for factories. My water is clean, good healthy food is at my fingertips, my house is automatically regulated for temperature and is fairly bug free with non-lead based everything. My wife showers me with girly ointments, oils and bath salts for my wrinkle-free look. I breathe clean air, except for allergies to my 3 cats that are killing me.
The fact that I’ve always been on the cutting edge of social immaturity, probably gives an illusion of seeming young. Other than that, my lifestyle, I think, keeps me feeling young.
I have a great job that I love, I play music everyday, most days with other musicians, my family is amazing, awesome, supportive, encouraging, healthy, fun and endlessly entertaining. I have my moms impeccable genes.
Life is good.
At 50, I have all I need.
On Mar. 2nd 2010, after 20 something years of not playing, I decided to start playing again. Of course, I played some long tones to get in shape. The first night out was awkward. I felt like a little kid with a lunch box going to kindergarten for the first time. I seriously was scared to death. But, I even more seriously want to do this. I sat in with a trio at the Pourhouse Jazz Jam in Loveland CO. made up of grad students from UNC. I had 3 songs memorized. I had to read Freddie the Freeloader. My solo chops were probably about as good as they were back in college. I pretty much sucked but had moments of not sucking. The difference was, I had a new ambition to be good that I didn’t really have back in college.
My lips were somewhat in shape(partially due to long tones), so I could actually last through a couple songs.
So, with renewed confidence, the next night, I showed up at Jay’s Bistro in Fort Collins CO.. Mark Sloniker, piano, has been headlining Jazz there for years and always asked me if I had brought my horn in. (I think just to tease me. I don’t think he ever seriously thought I would.). That night, at the time, it seemed as if I didn’t suck. They let me play the 3 songs I had memorized. Mark Raynes was on drums, Roger Barnhart on bass. It was frightening but I did it.
Now, it’s been almost a year of playing every day and I’ve played out live close to 150 times. I’ve had some horrible nights where I’ve felt I really sucked and times where I felt that maybe I can’t do this, but, I’ve also had nights where I surprise myself. I’ll play beyond what I thought I could. I feel like I’m getting it. I can improvise. I can play jazz.
I took a few lessons this past year. Hugh Ragin is teaching me Autophysiopsychic music method(google it). Because of Hugh, I play from the Omnibook daily. Peter Sommer taught me to play space, practice space, hear space. He taught me new ways to practice chords and learn songs. Sitting in at Jam Sessions has been an amazing learning experience, especially the Brad Goode Jazz Jam in Boulder. I go in there for a butt kicking every Monday night. That’s my school of Jazz. It’s been really helpful for me listening to and playing with great players.
My biggest challenge is listening. Oh, and coming up with good ideas and getting them out my horn. I find that good ideas are directly proportional to how much I’m listening.
I would like to dedicate this site to my biggest influences in my trumpet life: My Mom – for buying me a trumpet at age 9 and putting up with most of the long tones I’ve ever played, Miles Davis, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan – for their sound that I admire: cool, lyrical and funky/bluesy, Don Barrozo and Dean Arnold – for inspiration and keeping the fire burnin’ and Gordon Richards – my trumpet teacher when I was a teenager. He always knew when I skipped a day of long tones.