Shout out: Smooth Jazz for Scholars

If you are a jazz fan and don’t know about Jay Rowe’s Smooth Jazz for Scholars, you probably should.

jay rowe
Jay Rowe, at last years Smooth Jazz for Scholars. Photo by yours truly.

Here’s the back story, kids.

Jay Rowe is the keyboardist for Special EFX, as well as a lot of other people. If I had to list his entire curriculum vitae, I’d probably be typing all night, so I’ll just spare you that and keep it at he’s really damn good at what he does and I’m sure you’ve seen him before. And for the past 13 years, he’s been holding an annual concert to benefit the music program in the public schools of Milford, CT.


Some not very many years ago, this event got so popular that it expanded to two nights. And the lineup just keeps getting better. Best part – you never know who will be invited until Jay Rowe announces it.

Well, here’s the deal this year, for the 14th anniversary event:

Peter White, Marion Meadows, Brian Simpson and Matt Marshak

Nick Colionne, Chieli Minucci, Eric Darius and Nelson Rangell.

Yes, you look at this and you think, “Well, it’s the same people as usual”. Yes, seems that way, but for this event – no. No it’s not.

Meadows, Minucci, and Rangell are the only people who can be counted on to return year in and year out, for multiple reasons. Marion Meadows is currently involved with Project Music in his hometown of Stamford, CT, which, among many things, provides kids with music lessons after school. Nelson Rangell – those of you who know, love, and remember his Turning Night Into Day album know just what he can do, and his current work is a continued credit to his style and ability, and he’s someone whom I only ever see at this event. I don’t see many Nelson Rangell performances advertised anymore, which is a crying shame, because truly…a sound like his is rare as all get-out. Chieli Minucci – if you don’t know who this guy is, I can’t help you. If you want to know, find out for yourself.

But everyone else rotates year to year. I don’t think I’ve yet seen Brian Simpson at that event just yet – to note, I started attending in 2011 – and Eric Darius is another new face, though I have a pretty clear memory of him at Berks in 2010 and he has only improved in his stage presence and sound since. You guys know I’m a major supporter of Matt Marshak, and this is Matt’s first go at Scholars that I can recall. Nick’s last go at this gig was 2014. And Nick and Eric together… party o’clock, people. Party the hell o’clock! in the best ways.

You probably remember my jaw being on the ground when Jackiem Joyner took the stage last year and completely blew everyone away. Well, that’s what this event is. You don’t know who’ll spontaneously combust. You don’t know who might walk out onstage as a surprise.

Here’s an even better perspective for you. A standard California two-day event, if you’re out of town, will cost you, inclusive of flight, hotel, meals, tix, and transit, close to $1,750.

Now consider this:
– You can fly into Bradley Airport in New Haven, or into NYC and take MetroNorth to Milford. Late April is still not tourist season, and you’re likely to get pretty decent flights.
– The local Hampton Inn in Milford offers a special rate for the event, and the special rate is more than reasonable.
– The venue, the Parsons Complex, sits within about three blocks’ walk from the Milford train station and on the opposite side of the train overpass, there’s a pretty hopping downtown area with plenty of restaurants for pre-game and after-party.
– And again… the tickets are $70 for both nights.

If you’re out of town or not on the East Coast altogether, you can, very very reasonably, attend the entire event for under a grand, depending on your flight costs.

Yes, I’m serious.

Think about it.

More info at:

General admission tix at:

Who knows? I just might see you there.



CD Review: Marqueal R. Jordan’s Catalyst

CatalystI will preface this review by saying that while yes, Marqueal is a longtime friend thanks to Capital Jazz Cruises, you guys should know by now that knowing me doesn’t give anyone any special perks. In fact, if I know someone, then they’ll have double the pressure to prove their moxie and merit. I do not do favors for folks I know; I double down on them more than I would on complete strangers.  If they’re friends of mine, they know they need to stand to merit.

That said…

Marqueal Jordan’s debut album is interesting, and titled quite aptly. The definition of the term is agent of change, and if you’ve ever taken chemistry, then you can apply this to music. Indeed, Catalyst is an album that will change the way you see a person.

Chicago local sax slinger and vocalist Marqueal Jordan is no stranger to changes, and nor is he a stranger to versatility. You see him on the tenor sax, and you hear him sing, and usually you catch him on tour with Brian Culbertson. But pop this CD into your audio device of choice and you suddenly see him in a new light. The tenor sax takes on a whole variety of flavors between 2am and Maracas Beach, which push at a more straight-ahead flavor, and Chillin’ with MJ, in which Jordan calls on Chris “Big Dog” Davis and stews the same tenor sax in a sauceful of R&B. Between the Sheets is an immediate introduction to Marqueal as a vocalist independent of anyone else’s show, and while I know his voice well, something about the way he sounds is interesting. Engaging, easygoing. Somewhat reminiscent of Dwele. Featuring Brian Culbertson on When You Smile, Jordan firmly crosses into the R&B boundary, and does so in such a way in conjunction with the rest of the tracks on the album that you will not only not notice the shift but want more of it.

Whether or not the listener gets that, I won’t tell you. You just have to find out on your own.

A catalyst indeed: a catalyst for mixing genres, lyrical style on both vocals and tenor saxophone, a catalyst for propelling Marqueal Jordan out of the sidelines and firmly into a spotlight all his own  – any way you slice it this album is something you need to hear if . If you like your Euge Groove, if you like your Dwele, if you like Brian Culbertson, and don’t mind a Stanley Turrentine-gone-modern flavor to your instrumentals, then you need to pick up a copy of Catalyst  by Marqueal Jordan. Right away, if not yesterday.

Amazon link:

Also on iTunes and CD Baby.

Chasing Music 2013

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve written about music.

In part because the political matters in this country had gotten to be intense enough to become distracting, and in part because I’ve gotten way busy – long story! – I’ve almost forgotten all the things I’ve had the chance to see this year, so far. But how can I forget? I have all the photos I’ve taken, thousands of them, that commemorate the shows I’ve seen, and that bring back some of the finest memories of the year.

Of course, I write this in the ramp-up towards another photo jaunt, this one planned well in advance. What’s absolutely most important about this jaunt is that there’s a buzz to see what I will turn out. Not just my own as an adventure-loving photographer, but turns out that my audience has been wider than I originally anticipated. My photos were seen, actually seen, and they are an anticipated thing. It’s a heady, exhilarating sort of feeling, to know that your venture is gathering buzz and success. And this upcoming adventure…well. :) We’re going to see what that’ll turn out.

This has been an interesting year for music so far, and I’m glad to say that there have been new experiences. I’ve had to sit out Newport Beach Jazz Festival – the lineup didn’t strike my fancy – but I had the chance to go to the Capital Jazz Festival in Maryland in June, and that was certainly an experience. My first time in MD, my first time at the Cap Fest, and my first time having people whom, for the life of me, I can’t recall by name, asking me about the pictures. But the hallmark of that fest, who else but Dave Koz?

Dave Koz and Summer Horns, a tour and a force to be reckoned with. Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, and the Koz himself – with a handpicked backing band – didn’t just take over the festival. They dominated the stage. And not just with music out of their catalogs, no; they took all the classic horn-section-powerhouse artists – Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Tower of Power – and reimagined it. Four powerful saxophones, all the music close to your heart, and an energy that defies description. If you have never seen a pavilionful of people up on their feet, having a grand ol’ party within the first five minutes of a song, then you have not attended a Summer Horns show. And, considering that that tour is coming back next year, I say that it’s imperative you see it.

Even at the gig that I went to later on, the Ridgefield Playhouse, back in August, the entire theater was up and partying within moments of Got to Get You Into My Life. But the show-stoppers were, hands down, Gerald Albright breaking out his inner James Brown, and Richard Elliot taking front and center on Reasons. I’m definitely a EW&F fan, even though I wasn’t even a concept in the universe when most of that music has been released – well, most of the good music has been around well before I was born, anyway – but Richard on that particular tune… Blazing sax doesn’t quite cover it. Explosive doesn’t do it justice. The way that Reasons rolls off the bell of Richard Elliot’s tenor sax is something that has to be seen and heard to be experienced; it floods every nerve in your system, well after the initial Good Music Goosebumps. You know what I mean. Even if you have never heard the song in its original variation, when Richard Elliot will get into it, you will remember it very, very firmly. You just don’t hear a rendition like that every day, and right now, looking through the Ridgefield shots, I feel the same heady thrill that I felt when I heard it strike up and the roar of the crowd as they remembered their favorite old-school song.

No school like the old school, eh?

And of course, there’s Dave, turning the last bit of the show into Dave Koz & the Sunshine Band. Yes, I’m going there, and everyone in the audience at both Cap Fest and Ridgefield can relate to what I mean.

You know, guys, this is a huge part of why I love to photograph live music. These things will grab you by your heart and soul and not let go.

One of the other pivotal moments in this year of music photography and music listening was the Long Beach Jazz Festival – Long Island’s Long Beach, that is – and it’s all the more crucial considering that Long Beach was never quite the same after Hurricane Sandy. I’ve not been able to – mentally, mostly – set foot there much prior to the fest. Just couldn’t put myself up to seeing the storm-ravaged town that, prior thereto, has been a home away from home, a place that I’d go out to just to while away a long weekend, see some music friends, and hang out on the boardwalk. Sandy, of course, wiped the original boardwalk out of existence.

But the new one has been finished up in time to open the first sections well before the festival. And of course, I had to go. The LBJF has been a staple of my life since 2007, and I wasn’t about to miss it. It was a sweet, lovely festival, complete with not your everyday swing band – Uppercut – and old known favorites: Special EFX, Edmar Castaneda, Steve Adelson, who put this entire thing together time and again… It’s always the place where I can have a lovely reunion with friends, as well as crank up my photo mojo.

Another new thing on the musical radar was my first foray into the Lyman Center series, that is to say the concerts at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. Every year, they have a great music series, and every year, the music series sells out like nobody’s business. I see why: the lineup is stellar! I got my season tickets early and right now, in retrospect, am I glad I did. The lineup is all the people I enjoy seeing, and all the people whom I enjoy photographing too: Marion Meadows & Cindy Bradley as a double bill, Boney James just two days ago, Acoustic Alchemy… I won’t be seeing Najee and Alex Bugnon, though. Can’t be in two places at once…whoops.

Yeah, there have been a lot of places for me this time around. Rochester, NY and West Point Academy’s Ike Hall (no photos from either of those – drat), Ridgefield, CT, Baltimore… and very soon, I’ll be embarking on yet another photo adventure; very very soon, I’ll be on a ship headed to many a beautiful island, where the music and the landscapes both await only one thing: my camera shutter.

And to think: all of this started with someone I know convincing me, back in May of 2008, to take a trip aboard a ship departing Miami in January of 2009. My very first Caribbean trip was, by all accounts, a life-changing experience, and it continues to pay itself off in more than just any money I earn through photography: it pays off in memories, experiences, and connections. And that, in and of itself, is what makes this life of mine colorful.

But this year also, there’s something else that’s very different. Since the trip is in November, not October like the usual, I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo while aboard. So I get to back-to-back photography and novel-writing. To say that it’ll be a busy trip is an understatement, and I’m sure I’ll need to set aside a few days for just sleeping everything off. Won’t happen, though; I know my life.


Summer Horns at the Capital Jazz Festival:

Summer Horns at Ridgefield Playhouse:


Until the next adventure…


A WordPress writing prompt

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

…Way to make me remember certain things, WordPress…

Honestly, I’ve had many such moments, and they all had to do with one thing in common: risk. Each time, I was taking a risk, and each time, I had to make a choice: would I step forward and throw caution to the wind, or step back?

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to say it, but I’ve stepped back far more than taken the leap of faith at times like these, and usually, I regretted stepping back. Usually, it had to do with someone, rather than something. The one time I did decide to jump in with both feet and did not follow through, turned out that not following through was the best choice. It’s a bit of a pattern for me, unfortunately: when I feel an adrenaline rush, my immediate impulse is to take stock of all variable and possible outcomes, instantly, and decide on the safest course.

I tend to err on the side of caution, and sometimes, it’s to my detriment.

But the most recent moment of such nervousness came aboard the Capital Jazz Supercruise. Stanley Clarke Q&A. And Stanley Clarke in the world of music, especially among bassists, is kind of sort of synonymous with the Holy Grail. This was the man who played on Charles Mingus’s bass. Legend is a bit of an understatement for him.

And when the Q&A came around, I wanted to ask him something. He’s been around the world many times over, and looks it; his eyes speak volumes about what he’s seen, and me being a perpetual student, I wanted to learn something about his perspective.

You know how for some people, public speaking is a challenge? Their mouths dry up, they forget what they want to say, they stammer? I’ve not been one of those people…until that moment. All I knew was, when Angela Stribling handed me that mic, that here I was, a whippersnapper girl of 27, who’s got a knack with a DSLR camera…and I was standing across from a jazz legend who’s seen it all and I had no idea what to say. The noise of my blood in my brain was helping me very, very little. All I could think was, even though I want to know what I want to know, how in the universe can I possibly ask it of someone who has traveled the world over in such a way that my own mind can’t wrap around? It was, for the lack of words, a student-meet-teacher moment, but such was the school and such was the teacher that, for the first time since I had gotten entrenched in music, I truly felt how new I was in all of this. For the first time, I truly felt like a student getting schooled in perspective.

Later on in the cruise, though, at lunch, when I had another brief chance to converse with Mr. Clarke, I did not feel as nervous as before. But that original adrenaline rush, that feeling of absolute newness in all of it – and I’ve done a lot of traveling for the sake of jazz and music so far – that will stay with me for a while.


In Memoriam: Dave Brubeck.

Just a day short of his 92nd birthday.

You may remember my writeup of the time that I had gone to the Blue Note to see him play live. It was not the first time, but until age blurs the details, I will remember that when Dave Brubeck talked, the entire club went absolutely quiet. The bartenders stopped mixing, the guests would stay frozen, all to hear him speak, and tell of the Dwight Eisenhower-endorsed trip to Poland to perform. Think about it. He had traveled the world before some of our parents were a concept in the universe. He was a WWII vet, which is something few people remember. And he was a delight onstage, no matter the age of the audience. People’s grandchildren had been at the Note that night, and I’m certain that they too will remember the energy that he and the band had brought to the stage.

I’ll always remember him smiling. Always making a jest at his own age. But no matter what, he’d play note-perfect and with as much verve and cheer as though the clock had been set back forty years.

He had left everyone with an indelible memory, and he had left the world his music. And his music has inspired and will continue to inspire thousands to foray into the meanders of what we know as jazz.

In Memoriam to a consummate entertainer, and an icon of jazz then and now. You, Joe Morello, and Paul Desmond will be playing the iconic tune at the big jam session in the sky now.


Reflections on Smooth Jazz for Scholars 2012

Once in a while, I would go out of my way for a show, knowing that I’m in for a treat, and this show right here has to be one of the highlights of this year’s jazz season. And it occurred to me that I’ve dug so deep into my photography that I forget to write about the music that I love.

Here’s to hoping I get back into the routine with this write-up.

So! Smooth Jazz for Scholars, held annually in Milford, CT. A train ride and a small schlep away, but it’s a balm for the music lover’s soul.

A brainchild of keyboardist Jay Rowe, the SJFS show is a fundraiser for music education in Milford public schools. Considering the slashes at extracurricular activity funding, events like these are a must, and when you look at the lineup, you are bound to see great artists. Jay will not tell you, though, that the show is absolutely electrifying, and you do not know what to expect on stage.

Among the highlights were Paul Taylor and Nelson Rangell, both on saxes, a visit from Shilts, and Nick Colionne on guitar. Fantastic lineup indeed, and each and every one of them has stellar stage presence.

Nick Colionne is someone you will recognize immediately if you’re into jazz, and if you’re not, then I recommend you have a solid listen. His guitar is Wes Montgomery/Chicago cool; strong and melodic enough to catch your attention, but you won’t catch him sticking to a script of any kind. He gets onstage and makes sure that he has your attention from the first few minutes. And if you don’t recognize the guitar, then know this: to date, Nick is the only person I know to pull off a full-scale, sharp, bold Zoot suit.  I will certainly not be the first to say that he gets an A+ for stage presence, and that has nothing to do with the suit. I promise you: he will make you laugh. More than that, he will make you take notice of his sound; he does not pull punches on the strings, and his music is as strong as his presence.

And right alongside Nick, who on the sax but the one, the only Shilts, formetly of Down to the Bone. If you want funk, this is your man right here. If you like a strong tenor, he’s got one. If need any further convincing, download Back on the Hudson. That, ladies and gentlemen, is funk. Shilts also brought a new CD with him, and new and old songs alike to the stage, including my personal favorite, the more sedate, contemplative Good Evans.

After Shilts – Paul Taylor. NY doesn’t see Paul often; come to think of it, nor does the East Coast with any sort of regularity. Some people may even call Paul commercial. However, when he kicks out something as entrancing as On The Move, you stop and listen. And when he’s on stage, he is fun; he is fun and he makes sure you have it too. Paul Taylor thrives on that stage; he gets the audience into his music, he gets everyone on stage with him into the show, and whether or not he plays the more recognizable material like Ladies’ Choice, or gets into  Prime Time material, which is a lot bolder, you’re right there with him. Together with Chieli Minucci on both Special EFX music and his own, he left me smiling.

And then, there was Nelson Rangell.

I took notice of Nelson accidentally, and comparatively recently (a couple years ago!) when Pandora kicked out Starting Now. By no means a new track, but one that didn’t really leave my head since…still in there, really. Since then, I made a point of browsing through Pandora’s stash of Rangell music, and found that his style is to my liking. Simple, lyrical, straightforward, and very melodic. Starting Now probably won’t pull you in at first, but it will make you take notice. It’ll wrap itself around you and warm your nerves. And Nelson has a unique ability: he whistles in perfect pitch.

If you don’t believe me? Mosey on over to Youtube and look up Sonora. I am telling you, I didn’t take a single photo of when he had whistled Sonora at SJFS because my jaw was busy resting on the floor. How often do you hear someone whistle note-perfect as part of a jazz show? This was a first, and a very intriguing first at that. When Nelson would come back through NY, I hope to be there. That was brilliant.

The closing was something that I can only describe as outrageous. Nick Brown/James Colionne. That is all I can say, and it was brilliant. Outstandingly rousing, delightfully over the top, and perfect.

Major props to the Foran High School jazz band and chorus alike; those kids have talent.

Also, props times two to Dolly, Estella, and Kelly. Love my ladies.

Facebook album can be found here. It contains only a tiny percentage of the photos from that night, and if you’d like to see more, I will upload them to SmugMug soon…yes, I’m getting an account.


Chasing Music – What’s On The Menu

Whew. It just occurred to me: there hasn’t been a jazz-related post on here for quite a while, and I won’t lie, I missed writing about my favorite music.

In truth, I’ve been pretty busy, both with the day job and writing, but as it is, I have been making every effort to see my music. I’ve taken to photographing the shows more than I write about them, and if you have me on Facebook, whether my personal profile or my business page (which I strongly encourage you like on FB to see some of my shots), then you may’ve seen them.

So far, the notable shows have been Ragan Whiteside at Trumpets, Chuck Loeb going straight-ahead with the Plain ‘n Simple Trip at the Blue Note, and Elan Trotman pairing up with Will Donato at the Houndstooth. Ladies and gentlemen, I take back whatever I said about Koz or Brian Culbertson being hams. You just have not met Will Donato, and you cannot possibly mistake it when you do: chances are, he’s either in your lap or pulling you onstage, and yes, I mean that literally.

For crying out loud, when I met him, he was between me and my coffee! :)

(Will, I know you’re reading this. Hi! Hugs! See you soon!)

May and June will be busy indeed. I have so far:

– Smooth Jazz for Scholars, Connecticut. Nelson Rangell is coming for that gig. Uh…yes. Please.

– Shilts at the Houndstooth for the release of his new CD, All Grown Up.

– Newport Beach, CA, for the jazz festival

– Acoustic Alchemy coming back to the Iridium

– Steve Cole and JJ Sansaverino in Lucille’s Grill at BB King’s

– Spyro Gyra at the Blue Note (in July, I think).

There is much to catch up on far as writing about music goes, and once my brain recuperates from being Swiss-cheesed by tax season, I will happily proceed to do so.


In taking a very small break from the gamut of politics – and unfortunately, there will be plenty more strongly-worded posts from me about it; it’s an election year and I will not think myself a good citizen if this country goes Republican in 2012 – I have to remind myself that yes, there are Things To Do.

I have been noodling at an article for Wine and Jazz, which is way overdue, and touches on the new experience of a wine festival that I had. There’s another one in the making, actually, at the Hilton Short Hills in NJ, and I’m thinking of making the trip. The only problem…time.

The anthology, which has been poking at my mind for a long time, is still slated for a Christmas release. I need to start gathering content, and maybe write the first of the Haunted Club shorts. Zanzibar Blue in Philly’s about to make a small comeback (yes, I’m aware it’s closed…bear with me here).

Book 4 of The Index is still in heavy progress, and though I’ve been seriously behind (for good reason, dammit), I’ve made some progress in finishing out Chapter 10. The rewrite isn’t much of one, really, but it’s adding certain elements that I’ve been able to spot in retrospect, and it’s doing my work a load of good.

Now, for the reason that I’ve been this delayed in everything.

Tax season.

In case you’re new to this blog, or you simply hadn’t heard me mention it, I have a day job. I kind of have to, because while my book royalties are enough to get me a decent steak dinner once in a blue moon, I am not making a living off the book sales. I’m hoping to make a living off of them one day, but for now, I work a day job. On the resume and from 9am until the cows come home, I’m an administrat0r at an accounting firm, and I do everything from billing and accounts-payable to actual tax-prep and bookkeeping. Basically, if you send your stuff to a CPA firm, chances are that the return starts and finishes in the hands of someone like me.

During tax season, I barely have the time to breathe, and I’m sure that if  I have your cell number, then you probably already got a phone call where I sound like death warmed over from exhaustion. The only way I have the chance to type up an entry is either over breakfast on a coffee break, or during lunch (and there’s no guarantee that said lunch will take place during actual lunchtime).

Yes, it’s a difficult job. I work in a small office, part of a staff of 7 people, and we have a hell of a lot of accounts to wade through and prep. Thankfully, we can file extensions in March and April, else…well, yeah.

So do pardon if there’s a lack of cohesive, informative, writing-related posts from me for a bit, because for the love of world’s finest Brie, I’m starting to forget what a good night’s sleep feels like. But the muse has been biting, and it’s been biting all the more because of the stress. By the time that tax season comes to a close, I will have a good amount of stories and plotlines to flesh out, and not just as a part of The Index.

Also, since when does WordPress auto-correct? Seriously; when I italic-underline something, I expect it to stay that way.

Yeah, the next couple of months will be a little crazy for me, more so because I have to actually start putting some serious planning behind Book 4. As a wrap-up of the first arc of the series, it finishes up the plotline with a bang, ties up the loose ends, and leaves enough to springboard right into Arc 2. I have a cover design in mind, and have to chase down my artists – yes, plural – and have to put some consideration into reworking a lot of what I previously had in mind for the second arc as well. This will be a very madcap year for me as a writer, to be sure, and once these two months, March and April, are hurdled over, then I will be OK and will work on the other things through May and June. July and August are Spirit months, and I will have my hands full on the boat. :)

Two things, though:

1. Have to renew my passport. It ain’t cheap. I mean…it REALLY ain’t cheap.


2. My trip to CA is likely not going to happen.

Last year, I went out to the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, which was a fabulous event, and I got to meet my beloved friends across the country. It was a great time, but I just honestly cannot afford it this year. Hell, if I really think about it? I’m still paying back last year’s travel expenses. I am looking at the costs of the trip to CA this year, and thinking that, fiscally, it is just not prudent. Unless someone is willing to Paypal me enough money to cover the expenses of the trip, or my boss pays out the first segment of my overtime (of which I already accrued more than enough), it is just not a good idea for me to overdo it in traveling. It’s $1,200 that I really can’t spare at this moment, even in credit cards. I have more than enough credit card debt now.

On the good bit about it, the money I will save by not going to CA will go right into renewing my passport. Which, honestly, I have to do one way or the other, because CapJazz in October REQUIRES it as travel documentation. So guess who really wants to ensure she goes on at least one vacation? This girl!


So I’ve been noodling around this idea of an anthology of music-themed stories, art, and poetry. I’m no poet, but I do know several who may do well being featured. This anthology will not be just mine.

I have also signed up for Duotrope, and will attempt to find a paying market or two for some of the stories, because hey – won’t hurt. That and if there’s a trad-pub market that will like some of these stories, all the better.

Now, for what this anthology will contain:

The Haunted Club Series: I was thinking about Etta James after putting up her commemorative story, and how every time that we lose a great musician, I always say, “They’re at the grand jam session in the sky.” Well…this, in turn, gave me an idea: how about I write about what some of those jam sessions are like? Let’s cross decade boundaries and time, and put Count Basie together in the same room as George Howard. The reason for it being a series – of short stories, not novels! – is because there’s just too many pairings that I can have fun with. Benny Goodman and Wayman Tisdale? Duke Ellington and Grover? There can be a lot of potential genre crossovers.

– Photo & Art: There are a lot of great photographers and artists in the contemp-jazz world. Jerry “JB” Brooks shoots a great set. So does Ron Hancox. So does Keith McD. So why not feature them? Also, Bettie Grace Miner’s paintings are gorgeous. Nathan East is on Flickr.

Musicians’ Insights: This is an endless set of possibilities as well. I’ve read Mindi Abair’s columns in Wine and Jazz, and Matt Marshak’s blog posts. Bob Baldwin is trying his hand at being a book author as well. I will see who is willing to contribute what, and I have no idea what I’ll get. This is a little exciting.

– Commemoratives: Self-explanatory.

Altogether, I’m looking for about fifty pieces to go into this anthology. I will have to figure out how copyright and royalties will work, depending on how many people will be contributing. They will get fair share of their royalties, and I will publish them in a medium that is beneficial to all of them. Yes, I plan on paying the contributors if the anthology will be selling. No, I have no intention of running a small press, but I do not think that it’s right for me to take a contribution and not give something back for it. Not how I roll.

Lots to think about, and I will have to do plenty of research.


Cheikh Ndoye, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Life on the Road

But of course, it’s music season. :) Yes, early.

Cheikh Ndoye & Friends, Blues Alley, Washington, DC

If you’ve not heard of this guy, I strongly recommend checking him out. Doubly so if you like Gerald Veasley’s brand of music: kicky, funky, with a strong bass lead. Unlike Gerald, however, Cheikh is less groove and more snap. His brand of music is a different deviation of bass-heavy jazz; a bit more serious, almost as though his bass, in and of itself, is a bit more thoughtful than its counterparts.

So this show, with Chieli Minucci, Lao Tizer, and Karen Briggs as special guests, was an impulse trip. I thought about it, then thought against it, and about two weeks prior to the show, I asked myself, “What do I have to lose? It’s DC, a new city, and someone new to see.”

Well, it’s not like my travel bug is that difficult to convince. But you already knew that.

The thing about Blues Alley – and my regulars will confirm this – is that it’s located, quite literally, in an alley off North Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown. In my meanderings around Georgetown, I had ended up walking past it twice, before I glanced down the alley next to the sushi place where I just had dinner. Yep, there it was, and immediately, I thought of the old speakeasies, and the way they were hiding in plain sight. One glance inside, and the comparison is all the more apropos: the entire club is exposed brickwork and mahogany. The house lights, even when on, are dimmed, and the atmosphere is a modern look at an old-school concept. For an old-school soul like myself, yep – that’s what home looks like.

Cheikh definitely impressed me from the get-go, and that is because having a show with the electric bass as a lead instrument, balance is key, and he more than had it. If you’ve heard Chieli Minucci on stage, then you know that when he starts up on the electric guitar, he has no trouble overpowering the backing musicians. Karen Briggs on the violin – same. Cheikh clearly had lead on the stage, even though Chieli did indeed let it rip on the electric. The bass was front and center, right on par with the guitar and violin; snappy, a little introspective, and definitely front-and-center.

The others were also showcased on that stage. Scheherazade by Karen Briggs, a lovely deviation on a classic, and Special EFX’s Daybreak, that same bass that had led the game just a few minutes ago would blend into the rhythm on both songs.

One thing to note: Daybreak was pleasantly different last night too, and that is thanks to Lao Tizer. It’s usually a vocal-led song, and I’ve heard it in that variation effectively ever since I had started attending Special EFX shows. But this time, it was piano-led where the vocals would ordinarily be, and I found myself feeling the same warm little tingle down my spine that I felt the very first time I heard this live. Lao gave this song a whole new flavor, and it’s a flavor I should very much like to sample again.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, BB King’s

If you are among my fellow jazzers and you’re not familiar with the band offhand, I recommend that you look up Mr. Pinstripe Suit. You’ll recognize some of the riffs from the Olympics and Carly Patterson’s gold-winning floor routine. You’ll also recognize this band as one of the players of the 90s Swing Revival.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ll see it as a trip right back to the 1940s.

I will say this outright: before I fell ass-over-teakettle in love with contemporary jazz, I had a love of an entirely different music: big-band and swing. I was maybe 10 when I started listening to it, and it was also the time of the Swing Revival, and I caught a rendition of Glenn Miller’s In the Mood. Hooked? Oh, come on, like you have to ask.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was on that radar here and there, but with time, and with a love affair with contemporary jazz, swing receded to the back burner…right up until I saw the BB King’s schedule and saw that they were playing.

This was last week.

You know, BB King’s has a very under-utilized dance floor. It’s a dance floor that I usually see set with tables as part of its usual audience seating plan, but this time, in an anticipation of some people knowing the proper steps to the swing (who were, in fact, hotdoggin’ it on the floor later on), the floor was free.

Out comes Scotty Morris and the band, and I will say this without hesitation: that has to be one of the best horn sections I’ve ever heard. Trombone, two trumpets, a tenor sax and the very seldom heard bari sax – and you’ll find yourself saying only three words: let ‘er rip! But easily, the guys who stole the show were Dirk Shumaker on the upright double bass and backing vocals, who actually went on and spun that bass on its peg like no one’s watching, and Joshua Levy on the keys, who looks like and plays like a very young Dave Brubeck. Scotty may’ve brought Mr. Pinstripe Suit front and center, but between Dirk being Mr. Heatmiser and Andy Rowley on the bari sax, photographing this show fell by the wayside somewhere around Cab Calloway’s Reefer Man. That was somewhere in the first 25 minutes. The rest of the time…well, what else can you do when the music is just begging you to hit the dance floor?

My feet have stopped complaining at me since that show, by the by, but the day after was a lulu.

Life on the Road

Technically, I’m not on the road that much, if you consider the number of days out of the year that I actually pack up and get out of town to catch a show. The thing is, I’ve noticed lately that whenever I see something on the music radar that requires traveling, I immediately think of the tote bag in my closet, and how quickly I can assemble what I need to crash for two nights max. The rest is getting there, exploring, meeting up with people, and whatever else I need.

You’d think it’s ordinary, but not on short notice. I know a lot of people who would be thrown into a panic at the prospect of jumping and getting on a bus, train, or plane within any timeframe less than a month. Me…nope. In fact, the shorter the time, the more I like it.

I’ve been thinking, more and more, of why I keep doing it. What is it about even this moment, where I’m sitting in the back of a Bolt bus, on the free wi-fi network, nursing a soup that I grabbed right before I left Union Station, that holds the appeal? I’ve always known myself to chase adventure and chase jazz, and far as I can tell you, I do it out of love for both. At the same time, I’d love to take a couple of days and stay home and keep putting the apartment to rights.

And yet, if someone told me, “Great show at Warmdaddy’s; grab your camera!”, you and I both know that I will be on the next Philly-bound Bolt bus and booking a room at the cheapest hotel possible as I go.

Still, even in this frenetic chase of music, moments, and memories, there are certain things that give me cause to lean back and simply enjoy it. For instance, right now, the bus is about halfway to NY. The mushroom bisque from Au bon Pain is delicious. Free wi-fi. A fantastic musical high. Pause to reflect on the first two shows of the new year, and the first out-of-state trip of the year that, all in all, didn’t put a massive dent into my budget. And it’s a fabulous way to start off the year.

May the jazz season officially begin.