NOAHJAZZ - NB PONTIFICATES

MY REFLECTIONS ON MUSIC, LIFE, FOOD AND WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE . . .

Alternate Realities: EDS Awareness Month 2016

This year’s EDS Awareness Month post: examining what it means to speculate on “what might have been” without our adversity.

“Nice” Is Overrated: Farewell, Randi

On Monday I attended the memorial services that marked, in a sense, the last goodbye to my friend and colleague Randi Brandt. One conclusion is that Randi was not a nice person – and I mean that in the best way possible, for reasons I’ll explain here.

Top 10 Favorite Prince Tracks

Like so many, I can’t believe that Prince is gone, and I’m struggling not only to reconcile that, but also to reflect with any coherence on his impact on my own musical conception. When I was a kid, I listened eagerly to all his singles and watched his videos, with no conception of anything else [...]

Top 10 (x2) Favorite James Williams Tracks

My biggest “eureka” moment as a budding jazz musician (or, to be accurate, the moment when I decided I needed to BE a budding jazz musician and not just a dabbler) came the first time I heard “Magical Trio 2″ by James Williams, like the moment in the “Wizard of Oz” where it goes from black & white to color – in a flash I heard everything I wanted music to be, all in one place. If life were just, the Soulful Mister Williams would’ve been 65 today.

Top 10 Favorite Ted Dunbar Tracks

Every few years I dust off Ted Dunbar’s “A Nice Clean Machine for Pedro” and challenge my students at Wesleyan to learn it – such a gorgeous and deceptively challenging tune. Last year I wrote about Ted’s impact as an educator, but now it’s time to talk about his unique and powerful voice as a guitarist and composer.

Top 10 (x2) Favorite Jazz Albums of 2015

It seems that with each year it gets harder to keep up with all the great music being released. I began with a Top 10 list, and in the end struggled to narrow it down to even 20.

Whose Burden Should This Be?

If you saw somebody carrying a heavy load, would you take your knapsack and put it on his or her back? Of course not. Should a healthy person walking up hill ask for a ride from someone in a hand-cranked wheelchair? Of course not. In situations that concrete, it’s pretty easy to assess who can handle more burden and who could stand to be relieved of some. So why do we so often do this with our words and our actions? Why do we take people already burdened by trauma or oppression and unload our own comparatively manageable burdens upon them? The “Love Wins” mantra to which I and so many others have clung for the last three years is predicated on compassion, and we mustn’t lose sight of that amidst philosophical arguments that ring hollow without it.

Is Music Enough?

In times of turbulence (or, I should say, times when for whatever reasons we are acutely aware of turbulence) I and many in my line of work contemplate the big question of whether music is a sufficiently “important” pursuit. My honest answer is “yes and no.”

Top 10 Favorite Allen Toussaint tracks

Allen Toussaint, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who passed away this morning, is best known for his monumental work as a songwriter and producer, so it’s easy for folks to lose sight of what a powerhouse he was as a performer. I enjoy his subtle vocal style and his bandleading but it’s his piano that knocks me out, incorporating the sounds of New Orleans giants Professor Longhair and James Booker along with elements of jazz and pop, with the result being a totally distinct style.

Farewell to Tennis and Lessons Learned

It’s now been a year and 17 days since my last ever time hitting a tennis ball. Not that I’m keeping track. I miss it tremendously, but I was also determined when I began my “comeback” in earnest to have a different experience when I eventually hung up the racquet than I did the first time that happened. And indeed, the overarching sense is one of gratitude. Gratitude not only for the great experiences, but for what being on the tennis court has taught me about life outside the lines.