March 27, 2009
It's 6:40AM. I've been up for an hour. Called home, Practiced Giant Steps. Yesterday, I was reminded by Sharlene Waller from my Bass BootCamp staff to get some rest, sleep in. I meant to, but I was up until about 2AM.
I'm wired. I'm mentally preparing for Bass BootCamp - thinking about classes, my teaching, my playing in those classes. I'm also thinking about my Stevie Wonder tribute concert: the music, the television broadcast, soundcheck/rehearsal, the musicians, the guest list, and so on.
OK. To be honest, I'm not just thinking, I am worrying. Mercifully, amid the worry, one thought that keeps popping in head is "Remember Rule #6".
The remembrance of Rule #6, smooths out the wrinkles in my forehead. It makes my breathing a little less labored and shallow. Rule #6 makes me smile.
What's Rule #6? It's one of my favorites. Apply it liberally to your own forehead when you're anxious or angry. It also brings instant relief from the pain of self-pity or the nausea of self-aggrandizement.
Rule # 6 is "Don't take yourself so seriously". It really works.
Have a nice day.
I saw a typical fall scene last Sunday - two teenagers tossing
around a football. It reminded me so much of those fall days I
experienced as a kid. I'd get so excited about a game I may have
just seen with one of my heros of the grid iron, that I'd have
to get outside and play football. We city kids would imagine we
were those legendary players - quarterbacks possessing super hero
throwing arms and wide receivers blessed with dazzling speed.
I was such a receiver.
"Go long", somebody would say, and I would dash - my
arms pumping, looking over my shoulder as the football would soar
over a telephone wire and into my capable outstretched hands.
There is no crowd in any stadium today that can match the roar
I heard from my imaginary fans. Unfortunately for me, this was
before the days of inventive end zone celebrations. I would have
been good in the endzone.
Of course things are different now in pro football. There is
so much celebration. Back in the day, teams celebrated championships.
These days, players celebrate everything. They celebrate first
downs, they celebrate tackles - pretty soon there will be dance
moves for successful time outs.
Watching these neighborhood football players last Sunday, I was
reminded how just how different things are now. For sure, these
two young men were leisurely passing a football back and forth,
as kids have done for decades. Through World Wars, the Great Depression,
Vietnam, Watergate, and the fall of the World Trade Center, simple
things - like tossing a football - have served as reminder that
life in America can return to normal.
I have to say, watching observing these two teens challenged
my sense of "normal". Picture this. The quarterback
was throwing while scooting along on a skateboard and the receiver
was chatting on his cell phone. They went back and forth like
that - playing together, but each one doing his own thing at the
same time. Multi-tasking.
I am now absolutely convinced there is no turning back from the
Age of Multitasking. It is no longer acceptable to just devote
your attention to one thing. Doing more than one thing at a time
is a basic requirement for modern life. People watch TV while
having dinner, read while riding exercise bikes, surf the internet
while on a phone call and, even text while driving.
Who am I kidding? I hear a voice saying, "judge not, lest
ye be judged".
OK. I admit it - I am a recovering multi-tasker myself. Last
night my wife caught me answering emails from my desktop and my
Blackberry at the same time - while watching the evening news.
"What are you doing?", she said with more than a hint
"I don't know", I answered. I was wearing such a blank
expression, I'm sure she was satisfied that I really didn't know
what I was doing.
This morning, after careful reflection, I realize what I was
doing. I was trying to keep up. This is the challenge of modern
life - trying to keep up.
We want it all. Ok. Maybe it's me. I want it all. I am like the
skateboarding quarterback. I want to scoot AND throw.
Don't make me choose.
February 4, 2007
I just finished playing on the All Star Smooth Jazz Cruise, hosted
by Brian Culbertson. It was an amazing 7 days of music, sun and
fun. In between concerts, jam sessions autograph sessions, and
interviews, I got the chance to enjoy Montego Bay (Jamaica) the
Cayman Islands and Cozumel, (Mexico).
Here's a tip: If you rent a moped in Cozumel, make sure you practice
when to use the throttle and when to use the hand brakes. A friend
of saxophonist Pamela Williams, throttled when he meant to brake.
This was not good. This friend ran into Pam and her manager who
were stopped on their mopeds.
October 2, 2006
The two women on the train station platform are speaking rapid
fire Italian this morning. I can't catch a word of it, but it's
a nice reminder that I'm in Europe, at least for a few more hours.
I'm in Lugano, Switzerland, a beautiful city on a lake. Here the
greeting of the day is "buon giorno" and not "guten
morgen", as it is in the German speaking part of Switzerland.
I've got to keep that straight.
My daughter, T.J. asked me, "how do they understand what
Great question! The truth is I have an affinity for languages
- a musician's ear for hearing and repeating. I know a few useful
phrases that I can use in French, Italian, German and Spanish.
The other unfortunate fact is that I've been very lazy about seriously
Talent isn't enough.
The answer then, T.J., is that I rely heavily on the graciousness
of strangers for answers to my questions.
"Is this the way to the train station?", I ask the
gentleman approaching me.
He doesn't get it at first and I am too out of breath from walking
up a steep winding hill from my hotel to dig for the Italian word
for "train". I do remember how to begin, though. It's
"dove" (pronounced doe-vay), for "where".
Quite a handy conversation starter, since traveling in a foreign
country means being lost most of the time.
I try again, this time with a physical enactment of a train.
"Is this the way (I am pointing) to the... (here I pantomime
the universal gesture for a moving railroad car, my arms bent
at 90 degrees pumping in a circular motion)...train?"
The Swiss stranger smiles and repies, "Yes, the train. This
way, yes". The look on his face suggests he is relieved I
am only asking about the location of the railway station and not
inviting him to a fist fight.
Gestures can be misinterpreted, after all.
I'm on the train now and settling in for a three hour ride to
Zurich. I am determined to relax but not sleep. I am not carefree
enough to dare missing my stop. At home, if I miss an Amtrak train
stop, I could end up in Wilmington, Delaware. Here, missing my
stop means ending up in Stuttgart.
If ever you get lost in Germany, by the way, you would ask, "Wo
ist...?". This is prounouced 'voe ist'. After that, the pantomimed
motion for "train" or "restaurant" or "bathroom",
is completely up to you.
July 24, 2006
Leaving the hotel here in Pasadena, we hit a wall of heat. There
is no way you should be this hot at 7:30 in the evening unless
you're minding the brick oven in a pizzeria.
Earlier, onstage at the Old Pasadena Jazz Festival, it was a
even warmer. We played at high noon - one hundred and five degrees
Farenheit. By the time my band and I left the stage, I had lost
five pounds in jazz sweat.
What is jazz sweat?
It's very different than sweat of any other genre. First of all,
you have to let it flow down your face as though you barely notice.
After all you're so absorbed in music making, things like a soaked
shirt and sweat in your eyes don't matter.
You're a jazz musician and you're cool on the inside. Jazz sweat
is the sweat you don't wipe.
Then again, there's Louis Armstrong.
By the way, the Old Pasadena festival is a great one. Great audience,
promoter, production staff and setting. It's a nice mix of subgenres
of contemporary jazz. I was especially looking forward to hearing
one of my favorite singers, Maysa, who was on the bill.
Unfortunately, the heat had gotten the best of me. Besides, my
band and I had to take a red eye flight back to the balmy Philadelphia
climate, where I believe the heat finally dropped down below ninety
Do I sound like I'm complaining? Actually, I'm whining. There
is a difference, you know.
Three news stories caught my eye today.
First, the passing of Rosa Parks. I learned something interesting.
Her 1955 refusal to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery bus was
not her first act of civil disobediance. In 1943, Rosa Parks was
kicked off a bus for not observing the strict Jim Crow law that
kept tired working white people from sitting next to tired working
black people on buses.
That day, in 1943, Rosa walked home. Eight years later she had
had enough and her actions would jump start a civil rights movement
that would change this country forever.
Eight years later. Guess what? It was the same bus driver!
I've been wondering, "Why that day, Mrs. Parks, when you
knew you would be arrested?"
On my car radio, today, I heard Rosa's answer, in her own sugary
drawl, more befitting a Southern socialite than seamstress, "I
wanted to see what rights I had as a human being and as a citizen
of Montgomery, Alabama."
The second interesting news item was the retirement of Alan Greenspan
as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and the selection of his
successor. I find it fascinating how Greenspan's every utterance
was dissected by Wall Street.
He didn't shrink from the attention either. Greenspan came up
with some hum dingers for economists to ponder.
Try this for size: Greenspan cautioned investors against "irrational
I like that phrase. As a musician, my life is the epitome of
"irrational exuberance". I vow to take my temperature
each day just to make sure I am irrationally exuberant.
The final news item is about somethng called "Blackberry
Thumb". It is a repetitive motion affliction caused by overuse
of the thumbs in typing on Blackberrys, Treos and other handheld
This doesn't affect me. My thumbs are strong and my Blackberry
is not a problem for me.
Ouch. I'm signing off now. Goodbye.
You can't stay in Catalina forever. I came home where I belong.
I had a lot of preparation to do. As host of a soon-to-be-seen
television show called Music Lab, I had to get background information
on my guests.
This sounds like one of my self-deprecating jokes but it isn't.
I host a show for INHD, an in-demand high definition network.
They only broadcast content that's shot in high definition. You
haven't lived until you've seen broadcasts in high def. Everything
is so clear. Nose hairs, for example, are stunningly realistic.
The point of Music Lab is to present intimate interviews with
important music makers. The easiest way to understand the concept
is to think of Behind The Actors Studio - without the interviewer
asking, "what's your favorite swear word".
The format for the show is: the guest performs a short piece,
we talk a little, we play together, talk some more, play some
more and so on. There is very little crying and no arguing.
The appealing thing for me as host, is not in coaxing tears or
profanity out of my guests, but rather in gaining insight into
how people like Joe Sample or Michael McDonald or Bela Fleck deal
with the challenge of being a creative person in this world. As
a creative person myself, I'm very interested in this subject.
By the way, when I refer to "the challenge of being a creative
person in this world", I am not implying that there are forces
in this world that are enemies of creativity. Only a paranoid
person would suggest something so sinister. But, if there IS a
vast anti-creativity conspiracy out there, I would not be shocked.
Watch your back.
Anyway, when I returned from Catalina, I had to prepare for the
Interview Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson - who turned out to be both
quite brilliant and mischievous;
Jam convincingly with Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones - I
yelled with delight when it struck me that the guy on the drums
playing "Satisfaction" was really Charlie Watts and
that "Satisfaction" was the very first bass line I ever
Also I had to practice the deliciously tricky tune, "Spain",
so that I could play it with Chick Corea. After we finished playing
he jumped to his feet and with a big grin, shook my hand saying,
"you came prepared!".
Homework is a good thing.
What insights did I gather from these great artists?
1) When I asked Ian Anderson about his musical education, he
replied that he has never taken a lesson. Ian is known as the
musician who introduced the flute into rock. He was the first
and the last rock flautist. I think I know why. Have you ever
tried to play the flute? I tried it once. It made me as light
headed as a Santa Monica cheerleader. To play the flute without
instruction is some kind of magic trick.
2) Charlie Watts likes to play jazz. He swings with pure joy
I know, that was cheesy.
3) Chick Corea thinks of the piano as an orchestra. To demonstrate
this conceptual approach, he played the piano as though it was
a string, woodwind and percussion section.
Personally, I think of the bass as an AK47 assault rifle. But,
I live in a big city.
I'll keep you posted on when Music Lab will start airing. In
the meantime, check out Studio Jams on BET Jazz. It's produced
by Tom Emmi, the producer of Music Lab.
Upon hearing my recent activities a friend, "at least you
shouldn't be bored".
What he meant was that mine is a varied life of doing this and
that to make a living. No two days are the same, hence - excitement!
I would appear ungrateful to disagree, so I won't. Better yet,
I'm going to list all the "this and that" I've been
up to so I can better appreciate the variety.
Item: performed Catalina Jazz Trax Festival with new all-star
project, The Triad Tour featuring Michael Paulo on saxophone and
Steve Oliver on guitar and vocals.
Result: Eight standing ovations! No exaggeration. Frankly, it
was an embarrassingly enthusiastic response.
Where do you go from there?
Answer: Nowhere. I stayed in Catalina to play with Pieces of
a Dream the next day.
Item: Performed with Pieces of a Dream at Catalina Jazz Trax
Result: Despite playing different music and wearing a different
shirt, people recognized me as being the same bass player as the
day before. Very astute.
By the way: Congratulations to Art Good for 20 years of presenting
music his way. You can check out Arts radio show online at www.jazztrax.com.
You can also hear some of the performances from the festival.
Don't bother with the standing ovation, I won't be able to see
More info about my varied bass life coming soon!
The flight attendant has just encouraged us to "sit back
and relax" on this flight from Las Vegas to Ontario, California.
If you've heard my latest CD or seen my live show lately, you've
heard me encourage my audience to do the same thing - "just
sit back and relax". You might suspect I borrowed the phrase
from the airline industry. Not so. I am an artist and therefore
In any case, on this leg of my trip I am actually quite relaxed.
That wasn't the case on the flight from Philadelphia to Las Vegas.
I had the misfortune of sitting in the row in front of "Disgruntled
Traveling Couple" or DTC, for short.
They were disgruntled because they had missed a connecting flight
into PHL airport by five minutes - the airline hadn't held the
plane for them. Thus, DTC (Traveling Disgruntled Couple, have
you forgotten already?) was forced to spend part of their vacation
in terminal C.
How do I know all this? DTC told everyone within striking distance
their tale of misery and distress. When they ran out of passengers
to entertain with the account of how bad the airline was, they
called friends and relatives to include them in the fun, too.
Meanwhile, I started thinking I should say something witty like,
"Are you two going to whine all the way to Las Vegas?".
I don't think that would have gone over too well, though I did
have a right to ask.
When did we start taking flawless air travel for granted? Roxanne
and I watched a People's Court segment in which the plaintiff
was suing an airline for the cost of her entire trip because they
lost her luggage and when it was recovered there was damage to
some of her clothing. Apparently, some water had gotten into a
suitcase and dye from one of the garments had bled onto other
clothes, clothes she was going to wear to a wedding. Oh, and she
was the matron of honor.
Before you become too sympathetic, keep in mind she was suing
for the entire cost of the airline ticket because her clothes
had been ruined. Now, I realize wearing tie-dyed clothing to a
wedding is not the most fashionable choice, but was her trip really
"ruined"? By the way, even though she took the trip,
she didn't show up for her matron of honor assignment at the wedding.
I'm telling you, as air travelers we are downright spoiled. Have
you ever seen the old footage of early airplane flights? When
those rickety planes got off the ground and stayed airborne for
a few tentative minutes it was a cause for celebration. We have
no idea how miraculous it is to get from say, New York to San
Francisco in the same day. If you had attempted this journey in
1849, because you wanted to get into get into a new career like
gold mining, you would have had more serious things to consider
than your luggage.
There was no air travel, your most likely mode of transportation
would have been train, or for families on a budget - covered wagon.
The preparation for a journey by covered wagon would go like
"Do you have the map, honey?"
Your spouse might ask
"Do you think we packed enough food? You know rest stops
haven't been invented yet."
"You kids make sure you go to the bathroom before we leave
- we're not going to be stopping at every tree we pass.
Honey, don't forget to pack the chalkboard for the kids, you
know the Game Boy is decades away."
"Got it. Oh boy, almost forgot the buffalo repellent. Alright,
let's get this wagon on the freeway before rush hour."
"Honey. There are no freeways.
Hey, let's stop and buy a Cherokee phrase book on the way out
of town. You never know when we might have to talk our way out
of a tight situation - or ask for directions."
"Yes, Mr. I-Know-Where-I'm Going. Please don't have us riding
around in circles in the desert because you're too darn stubborn
to ask for directions."
"Don't worry. I went to Map Quest."
"I know - you don't like Map Quest. Just trust me. Ok?"
"You know I trust you. After all, you're my cowboy."
"Yep. The Brooklyn Cowboy and don't you forget it, my little
Ok. Maybe I went too far with the "little squaw" part,
but you get the idea. Travel in the old days was no picnic. Let's
keep this in mind when we're tempted to berate a flight attendant
about the air conditioning, pretzels, lack of blankets or late
By the way, saxophonist Michael Paulo told me a great story about
a disgruntled traveler. Her flight was cancelled, therby making
her late for a meeting. She was beside herself with anger over
the inconvenience. Meanwhile, a couple of hundred other passengers,
including Michael Paulo, were experiencing the same inconvenience.
Nonetheless, the DTP (Disgruntled Traveling Person) took the
flight cancellation personally. She told the airline customer
service rep, "This is unacceptable. I am an important person
and I have to make a presentation at a very important meeting."
Michael couldn't help himself. He leaned over and cheerfully
reassured the woman, "If you're that important, they'll wait