Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Giuseppi Logan's Final Chorus



I went down to the basement to find a case for an old King Zephyr Tenor sax today. Coming back upstairs Brother Diaz shouted at me saying "Hey man, your friend is here!" I rounded the bend and there he was. Brother G was embroiled in a new piano creation. He was playing those wide dark and ominous chords he enjoys so much. His running buddy and hustle partner Jimmy wasn't with him so I knew something was up. G had a ginger ale and a 7 Eleven danish in a wrapper on the floor. I picked up his food. The danish was still warm. As it usually goes with G, music had taken over the need for food. He stopped playing and gave me a hug. After a little prodding I learned the situation. No reeds and no neck strap had his music for nickels and dimes program at a standstill. It was like that time in the 70's during the gas strike when we waited in line for two hours and then a sign was placed on the back of the car in front of us. NO MORE GAS. No reeds means no sound. That's why at the Ash I'm the connection for notables such as Sonny Fortune, Paquito D' Rivera, and James Carter. Everyone knows I'm the guy to see for reeds at that special price.

G was out of cash. My wallet had nothing but dust in the wind. I told G to get back into his music while I stepped out to remedy the situation. I returned with my friend Andrew Jackson, who promptly made sure Giuseppi's needs were met. G then asked me to show him beginning violin and guitar books, in case he found any music students. Then we listened to some tracks from the great Monk record Underground. The swing on the song Green Chimney's really perked G up as was evidenced by his body language. Eventually I walked him to the bus headed back to Avenue D for destruction. G is walking slower and slower these days. I have witnessed age tighten it's grip on him. I'm truly worried about him. The doctors notes in his room are written with urgency. On the way to his last gig for ESP he caught violent shakes on the subway and really scared me. As I tried to help him calm down I told him in my mind "Not like this man. Don't end your life here." As usual, tenacious G made the gig. A door gig of course. And maybe his last.

Giuseppi doesn't trend on Twitter you see. He has no social media presence. He's been charged with not being able to play anymore by the musical community at large. He can't defend himself without any gigs. Ever since this article in the New York Times ran called Giuseppi Logan's Second Chance, I have witnessed a steady decline in interest in his music. Despite my best efforts, the well has run dry. All those people that book the Stone don't care about an old man that created a free jazz masterpiece before they were born. It's all about them now, or their friends. Nobody from any scene will offer him a gig. Mostly because he doesn't give them any political power or support their agenda. Can he still play? Giuseppi's music comes out in short bursts now. He might be wiped out in 25 minutes, but he's in there. Trust me on that. At a piano he could play a full long set. Doesn't matter now. The NYC he knew back then is a far cry from NYC today. The NYC of 2014 has turned it's back on brother G. They treat him as a relic, simply watching the world go by from his self-assigned busking bench in Tompkins Square Park. The cute little old guy with the sax. What a great way to decorate your NYC experience in a city that has cast aside it's own culture in pursuit of the holy cash.

We went down swinging though. Believe that. I tried to get G a grant from New Music USA. We went down in the first round. I reached out to Music Cares from VH1. The response was bleak as hell. They chose not to even write me back an email about it. Judgement has been served. Brother G, you are guilty of trying to live your final days out as an artist!

The only time the late great master Roy Campbell got mad at me was when that New York Times article came out. Roy said that the article validated the stereotype of the down and out Jazz musician. I was surprised that Roy got mad but have come to see just how right he was. There is a part of the media that expects and wants us to fail. The down and out Jazz man. Perfect for their distorted perspective of the kind of life you lead if you actually dare to let your art lead the way. People like to see that their choice to lead a safer life is validated when they see an older musician living his life out in a super busted little room. The recent New Yorker and Washington Post articles prove that our adversity is actually funny to them. Ha ha.

I get it. Life is all about choices. If you choose to be a cop then you might choose to kill an unarmed teenager. If you choose to be a cop then you might choose to choke hold somebody to death for selling a few loose cigarettes. If you choose to be a soldier then you choose to possibly scar your soul by killing someone in the name of freedom only to then end up homeless in the country you fought for. 

Brother Giuseppi Logan chose to be a musician. Yes. He also chose a life of self-destruction. All of that is over now. He's just a man with a song to sing. No one is listening however, too busy with Facebook.


I'm still listening though. I'll keep listening and fighting for you man.


Every human being on Earth deserves a final chorus.













 
   




 





    


















Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Standing Tall in a Den of Demons


First an apology to all my Fat Eb peeps. I have been remiss in finishing interviews. I have interviews in process with Sabir Mateen and Francois Grillot but they need more work. I might interview myself, being drunk with power in an act of pure gluttonous but gluten free will. Back in my Myspace days I interviewed the Sun, Death, Jazz, Sex, and Love. These interviews were hard to get and are now tragically adrift in the cyber-abyss. Maybe I can get them back during the creative writing course I'm about to take as I try to finish school. I have to get better at writing. I have to be able to at the very least, write something better than the lame ass, supposed-to-be-funny Sonny Rollins piece I just read in the lame ass New Yorker. I can only hope that any audience I have is not sitting back in their $6,000 a month rent Union Square pad finding the adversity Jazz musicians face as funny. I wonder if Giuseppi Logan reads the New Yorker each morning with tea before he hits Tompkins Square to hustle up some nickels. The Village Voice is even worse. The bad part is they still think they're relevant. That rag used to have some cred. The last legitimate question they asked was if Jar Jar Binks was gay.

Point being there actually are some real things happening that deserve far more attention. Things like TRUMPET CITY.



I am still reeling from this impossible experience. Long have I imagined giant music ensembles. Back on Myspace I wrote a fantasy called "How to tune the World," in which stadiums all over Earth would fill with musicians who would all play together simultaneously in an attempt to create a common energy of intent. An intent that would create world peace, and bring balance to the continued adolescent tantrum we continue to spit out all over the globe. I encountered Craig Shepard a month or two ago on FB with his trumpet city project. Craig is really on to something. Something really big and so important.

I didn't know what to expect when I gathered in a Church basement with 92 trumpet players. Right off Craig really surprised me by leading the group in a meditation. This was a brilliant move. Going further in Craig next removed ego from the table by about 97% by having people focus on his composition and his vision. A vision which would have us take over 30 odd blocks outdoors in NYC. Graig also conducted simple but very powerful listening exercises. He created a small army of trumpet players looking to play TOGETHER. Finally in just a few notes I felt a musical power greater than anything I had ever experienced. I felt a vortex of sound form at the center of the group. This was it! I had dreamed of what would happen if a group of musicians this large could focus their power. By playing together we became vastly more powerful than apart. Craig, mad respect to you man. Maybe we can do an interview here at Fat Eb.

My own orchestra the 12 Houses is where I have put all the energy of this dream for the last few years. UNITY is the foundation of this growing musical family. We have no boundaries in regards to gender, race, culture, orientation, style, generation, and especially sound. I want EVERY sound to be with us. The greatest example of this by far was the cosmic synchronicity that allowed a master of the SAW to join us. My new friend from Japan, Hajime Sakita. Hajime had people straight mesmerized. (Links coming asap from Don Mount). Today I went hunting for some big venues for 12 Houses. We even recently almost received a grant. Send us some positive energy today. We need a kickstarter of positive energy and intent.

Up to this point with 12 Houses I've been featuring each member with melodies that are not unlike hymns. They're like William Parker's song called poem for June Jordan. I wrote a piece about Moonflowers that only bloom at night featuring Claire de Brunner on bassoon. Another piece about the power of Faith as represented by my Mom's ability to walk into a third brain surgery like she was headed to a walk in the park. That one featured pianist Chris Forbes. Another piece with no title was named Sleepy Harlem by clarinet player Sweet Lee Odom. I'm deep into what is known as exotic Ellington. Duke validated me and my avant-garde approach when he declared that for the avant-garde he had Paul Gonsalves, my biggest inspiration in music. I have my own version of body language conduction based on seeing Duke conduct in one of his sacred concerts. It's a simplified reduction of the Butch Morris technique. I learned a great deal from master Butch. Butch in fact makes 12 Houses possible, I couldn't do it without his innovations. As the ensemble has grown my relationship to music has deepened. What's happening now is that after listening to Alice Coltrane for many years, I'm really starting to HEAR her. You can spend years listening to somebody before you're ready to hear them. Amazing.



From her piece Wisdom Eye where she actually captures the moment of spiritual surrender and allowance, to Radhe-Shyam where she conjures a futuristic landscape that I can only perceive as being on a beach on a planet in the Sirius system, Alice is truly transcendent. She continued on a very personal journey after her time with Trane. Her music has become a huge signpost as to a direction to travel with the 12 Houses. I'm about to sink into a book about her music that I just found. I've sought out every known record she made that I didn't yet have. Commencing study now. Her music always had a profound spiritually positive energy and always had the LIGHT. I once stopped playing music to pursue an entirely spiritual life. While I came back to music as a primary focus, I have never reconciled the two perspectives. Gratitude to Alice for helping to show the way.               


As usual we need all the positive musical energy we can summon. How else can we turn the tide as the police murder Eric Garner? What else can we do to save the girls kidnapped in Nigeria? What other energy can we summon to stop the entire Middle East from absolute chaos? I still believe that what Albert and Trane believed is true. We have to keep creating, keep playing, keep burning.

I have my own selfish reasons of course. I want the world to take a vacation from itself so I can make the 20 records I carry around in my head. I want the resources to rehearse and record the 12 Houses. God bless them, they have stuck with me up to this point. I want the resources to become a better writer and write stories that expose our true cosmic reality and our true destiny. Until those glorious days when we arrive at the mountaintop however we have to keep on writing, keep on playing, keep on painting, and keep on creating despite whatever adversity reels its ugly head this week. We have to keep creating just to hold on to our basic standards.


It's like William Parker said that one time..


Demons you see, the demons must be BOWED away.





For Eric Garner ****

TBC August 16th with John Pietaro's Dissident Arts Festival.

The Dissident Arts Festival

The 12 Houses meet Daniel Carter

The 12 Houses play at the CSV for Arts for Art

Matt Lavelle and the 6 Houses (first set) - Freddy's Back Room, Brooklyn

Matt Lavelle & the 6 Houses (second set) - at Freddy's Back Room, Brooklyn





  




 




Monday, July 14, 2014

Living Stories



Being at the counter at Sam Ash selling reeds is not much different than being a bartender for musicians. I cross paths with musicians from every scene. They often don't know what my allegiances are and I don't know theirs. I can usually find common ground for us to stand on. It gets deeper with people that are involved with music that don't have the need to immerse themselves into attempting mastery of speaking a musical language of their own. It gets deeper still when I have Spotify nearby on a big screen and I stream music not from the mainstream for all to hear. It often ends up being a subtle confrontation of sorts as people are placed outside of their musical safe house where 2-5-1 patters and great voice leading are demonstrated with great mastery.

Why just the other day I was playing the music of a living titan of the tenor saxophone up on the big screen. This musician was not interested in chord resolution by any means. He needed something more. I had the volume not too loud, but loud enough. Two older woman reacted as I rang up their sale. They spoke quietly as if it were a private conversation not wanting to offend someone. 

Karen: "Someone is murdering the saxophone."

Jane: (with a touch of sarcasm) "No...they're telling a story."

Karen: "Well what's this story about? Can you tell a story entirely in metaphor?"

Jane: "Well we're in no position to judge."

Karen: "I'm judging this. I'm sorry but it's just not good. What good is it if you can't understand it? What do you think young man?"

Me: (smiling) "I'm glad you asked that. When someone reaches this level of expression the feeling is paramount. It might be the feeling of what he experienced in his first marriage, or the feeling of trying to become a better person, or the feeling of trying to make the world a better place. It's obviously a very personal thing."
  
Karen: "But is he playing for himself or for the audience? I need the story to make sense."

Karen had me on the ropes and gave me something to delve into. I'm all about the story myself. I want to tell the real stories, but I enjoy science fiction big time. The line between reality and science fiction is paper thin to me. I like stories when the gloves come off. Stories with no limits. I'm looking for a way to bridge my literary world and my musical one. I came to the conclusion the other day that for me story is what it's all about. In music that's my new bottom line. Are you telling a story or not? I'm not just applying this formula to Jazz, I'm self-righteous enough to apply this to ALL music. Say what you will about rap and pop music, they tell stories. Problem is they usually suck eggs. I'm like Daniel Carter, everywhere I look I'm searching for gold. In Regina Spektor's song "You've got time" from the show Orange is the New Black she sings these lyrics:

"Taking steps is easy. Standing still is hard." I really took something from that. I've had lots of time on the sidelines. Orange is the new Black is loaded with stories. Good ones. It's the new crack but without the side effects. I still remember this guy on 8th ave in 1986 telling me "Got that crack, got that smoke, ain't no joke." He offered me a free hit. If I took it my story might be vastly different. Years later a friend told me at a diner on the Lower East Side at 3am that you can never match that first high anyway. This cat may have won the award for most firings by Cecil Taylor. 

Stories can be where we see something go down that relates to the core meaning and experience of being alive. Do the right thing, or not. The core message of a good story is usually to live life. It's by living life that you get the real benefit. The choices and consequences are where you get into the Nitty Gritty. I feel that music should contain ALL of that. It was Bird who said that music is the story of your life. Here in Fat Eb I have told the stories of Roy Campbell Jr, and Sir Hildred Humphries. They lived lives that are stories and testaments to the power of music. The quest to make music your life. They will always be remembered for living lives of music. Their music is their story. I've set up interviews so people could tell their own living story. More of those on the way. If you're alive right now then you're a living story. What is it? Have you dedicated your life to something or someone? What would you be remembered for if you cut out tomorrow?

That's why I'm at odds with Facebook. If you're a FB user could you stop for a day? Could you stop for a week? If Facebook charged $50 a month would you pay for it? Would you pay $75 a month for Facebook premium? Watching everybody else lead their lives on Facebook it's easy to forget that you're supposed to be living your own. Is it all about people needing approval they don't get in their actual life? There are different directions you can go. I like it when people challenge your perception of religious reality like Lonnie Plaxico. I like when Ras Moshe gets you to think about the true reality of music and politics in the world. Some people initiate necessary discussions that otherwise would not take place. I have dabbled in this in discussions about the Crop Circles and also asking everyone on Facebook to describe a musical experience that made them tremble. Big response on that one. My goal was to prove that those moments were more important than any top 10 list. The other side of Facebook is family photos, cat photos, comedy, tragedy, and lots of superficial crap thrown on top. When you click on "new stories" you're playing roulette with the world.

The other part of FB I'm at odds with is that it's seemingly impossible for us not to invoke the love of our heroes and their music at every turn. I'm just as guilty as everyone else invoking Miles on a dime. We have to focus on the living stories. Some of us try to do just that. I've digested many living stories in many forms on multiple levels and extracted three core things that I think the human being is being asked to do. What we have always been asked to do regardless of where or when we lived.


Clean your body.

Clean your mind.

And the biggest challenge of all..


Clean your heart.


*****

To be continued with the 12 Houses tonight at 10pm at the CSV. Peace.







         





  


     

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sir Hildred Humphries. It's all about the music.



Sir Hildred Humphries

Ahh Hump. My man. Hildred was my first mentor. Unlike most of the young guys today, at 44 I have spent extensive time learning from true masters of the Art. It was legendary music educator Bert Hughes who not only got me to spend a summer getting my chops back in 1986 so I could go to Russia, he would also introduce me to Hildred. Hildred was so much more than a mentor. For a period of about two years he was just about my best friend. This inexplicable relationship crossed all generational and cultural boundaries due to our shared prime directive. Just as Roy Campbell reminded us from beyond this world, the bottom line remains: It's all about the music.

Who was Hildred Humphries? Well Hildred spent 6 months on the road with none other than Billie Holiday.

"Everyone told me not to work with her because she was nothing but trouble, but they could not be more wrong. It was a true pleasure playing with her and one of the great experiences of my life."

Hildred was also someone who went deep with none other than the Count. Count Basie.

"I was on the road with Basie for a few years and we had a good thing going. I got tired of the road however and wanted to stop. Basie bought me a gold plated tenor to get me to stay! I stayed for awhile for the tenor, but eventually I told Basie I had to go."

In his up and coming days Hildred's main partner was trumpet king Roy Eldridge.

"When we were 15 Roy and I would practice Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins solos in the basement of my mother's house." 

Hildred was not alone. His brother Frank "Fat Man" Humphries was an extremely powerful swing trumpeter who could out Maynard Maynard before Maynard existed. I know because I tracked down a recording. I'll never forget when I played it for Hildred and his nephew Frankie, Frank's son.

"That's him!!! That's Frank!!! We all looked at each other with tears in our eyes listening to Frank blow the roof off a Louis Armstrong vehicle called "After You've Gone."

"Young Miles Davis used to come see Frank. He would sit in the front row studying his every move!"

When I met Doc Cheatham playing at Sweet Basil and mentioned Hildred, Doc went off. "Tell Hildred to call me right away!" 

It really started when I was living in Nyack New York in 1990 and I went to Hildred's house down by the riverside. It was a big old amazing house that he shared with his sister, who usually answered the door. I started bringing my horn as Hildred would spin stories about Jazz back in the day. Eventually I started bringing my Aebersold tapes and a cassette recorder. I still have about 5 hours on tape of us playing blues and standards. We always tried to come up with something different. We would always listen back and fall out laughing at some of the wild chances we took. I still remember his core advice:

"Start your solo off as exciting as possible. You'll have the audience hooked. Make sure you can keep it up though!"

Eventually Hildred started bringing me around to gigs and having me sit in. Then I joined an actual band he had. I can remember at least 4 places we used to play. The Hudson House. A place on Main St. A place down by the river, and a church. We played at least 2 festival gigs, one had Bill Crow on bass. Hildred had a great little band. The only time he really got angry with me was when he thought I called double time on a blues. It was the drummer man!

This brings me to a quintessential moment in my relationship with Hump, as we called him. (I nicknamed his big white Cadillac the Hump Mobile) We were playing a jam session at the Hudson House and somebody called Summertime. Erik Lawrence was there and took a phenomenal alto solo. When it was my turn I plunged into what could only be called free Jazz. I was slamming down into the low F# of the horn, playing wild. On the chord change I went into a Sonny-boy Williamson valve squeeze that came from blues outer space. I was playing Summertime on Mars. What would Hildred think?! He shouted out for all present to hear..

"YEAH MAN. BLOW BABY. PLAY ON."

This was the most important moment of my musical life. It was the key defining moment. The message was so clear, so loud, so perfect.

GO FOR YOURSELF AT ALL COSTS.

Getting validation from somebody from the swing era was the supreme seal of approval. I have never looked back. Hildred gave me an incredible gift that day which I will forever be grateful for.

One day when I stopped by, I found Hildred with 3 music stands lined up. Laid out was John Coltrane's Countdown solo. Hildred said "Watch this" and then played down the whole solo note for note. I was flabbergasted.   

"You know there are people today still not feeling Coltrane. I'm here to tell you that not only is he one of us, but he may the greatest of us all."

Again Hildred gave me an incredible gift, opening the door to the world of Trane. I had been listening to music from all over Trane's history and was perplexed, but so drawn to the spiritual intensity that was always present.

Hildred and I continued to hang out. I used to drive him around in my insane red pickup truck. I took him to the Wiz to buy a boombox. I took him to the barber and the shoe repair guy. I took him to this Blues guy's house so we could jam in his basement. I took him to my house to listen to Louis Armstrong and watch my copy of the Sound of Jazz video. I'll never forget his reaction when Coleman Hawkins appeared.

"COLEMAN.HAWKINS! NOBODY CAN CHALLENGE HIM!"

Eventually I got a scholarship to the Berklee College of music. I wrote Hump letters that said stuff like..

"This is some bullshit man. You can play better than everyone here. Everything you've taught me surpasses this."

Time passed as time does. On a break from school I stopped by Hildred's place on a Sunday around 10 AM.

"It's a good thing you're here man. I need somebody to make breakfast for."

I then got the supreme honor of watching Hump cook up a vicious soul food breakfast. He refused help and made me sit down and tell him about school. It reminded me of a few times we did that at his sister;s house and another time at a church where his wife had made all these sweet potato pies. It was a church where we would play our last gig together. I recall playing "When the Saints Go Marching In." Hildred was also a great singer you see. I watched as he sang the Pops classic "What a Wonderful World." I watched how there was not a dry eye in the house. Hildred had silenced the place and filled it with Love once again.

It was Bert Hughes who called me a few months later to inform me that Hildred had passed on. I was devastated. I played at 2 memorials for Hildred after that. I was playing My Funny Valentine a lot back then.

I often think about Hildred today. His story is where mine begins. I would go on to eventually learn on the bandstand with Sabir Mateen, in the Chamber with Ornette, and then finally from iconoclast Giuseppi Logan who once exclaimed:

"You know you can play right Matt? You can play man, you can play!"

Every note I do play these days comes back to a great gift I received from getting to spend time with a great friend and teacher, the great Sir Hildred Humphries. No you, no me.


I love you man. Peace to you always. I will forever cherish your gift of music.


May God bless Sir Hildred Humphries.


*****

 



 







    








      


    


Friday, June 6, 2014

Trumpet Prophecy



Maybe Roy Campbell set it up somehow from up on Trumpet Mountain. There I was drowning in the hustle and grind when none other than Hugh Masekela walked in with a small entourage. That's what we trumpet players need more of, give me an entourage. Having recently heard Hugh and then written about him, I never dreamed I would get a heavy one on one session, but here it was. Right away I told him I would never forget what he told the audience at Lincoln Center: "For many of you here, this is the first time you have screamed in your entire lives!" Hugh fell out laughing and gave me a big hug. What a beautiful cat, so full of life. I wasted no time in getting to whatever the core connections were between us. I learned so much. Hugh told me about one of his greatest life experiences when he returned to South Africa after a 30 year exile and then played 4 months of 5 hour concerts!  Hugh told me about his experiences with his good friend Lee Morgan, and how he and Miles would hang out after playing festivals together. Having Miles come up in conversation I probed a little deeper and we got to the crux. Hugh broke it all the way downtown.

"Anybody that plays with a mute after Miles is just fooling themselves."

And then Hugh got really real. Skip this part if you don't enjoy getting to the crux.

"What is a mute anyway? A mute is a condom. Take if off and get natural."

I completely understood this, and now have to rethink my obsession with mutes. The sexual aspects of music and trumpet playing in particular are understood but not discussed. To deny it we would just be fooling ourselves. I was truly blessed to have a continued exchange with master Hugh. Upon reflection I understood the concept of the Trumpet Shaman on a deeper level. I saw a similarity between him and Roy Campbell in their energy and way of communicating. Like Henry Red Allen might say I was right there with em'. I asked Hugh about how he could possibly dance like a 25 year old on stage and he told me how. 11 years of Tai Chi. Beautiful. My intense Hot Yoga transformation was validated. Hold up, Woody Shaw was into Tai Chi.



A heavy Roy Campbell Jr story comes to mind. Roy and Woody were hanging out and going to a jam session uptown. Woody said "C'mon Campbell", always calling him by his last name. As they were leaving by the bar Woody said "Hold up Campbell".

Woody then picked up a bar stool over his head and HURLED it over the bar destroying the mirrors and all the liqueur. As the last of the glass shattering subsided and every liqueur at once spilled out onto the carpet Woody said calmly,

"Ok, now we can go." 

I hear it all at the Ash. I'm not unlike a bartender there except I serve up reeds. Choose your poison. Sonny Fortune came through today and I told him a new Miles story I just heard from a customer a few days ago. The customer was a kid back in the 70's and he and his crew were riding bikes not far from Miles place on West 78th, just christened Miles Davis way by NYC in 2014.

As they were riding they saw Miles arguing with a woman standing in front of a limo. They stopped and watched, all knowing who Miles was. The woman really lost it and started screaming and acting crazy. Miles got back in the limo and left her outside.

2 guys got out. One guy handed the woman a BIG wad of cash. Both men got in the limo and then they drove off leaving the woman standing there dazed and confused.

"Sounds like Miles", Sonny Fortune told me. I put on Sonny's record with Woody Shaw up on our Spotify machine to close out.

My big brother Daniel Carter has a Miles in person story as well. I have another Miles story from a friend who ran into him in a bar in Harlem one time. But to hear our Miles stories you'll have to come hear us in person. Just this past Sunday a long time dream of mine came true as I got to feature Master DC with the 12 Houses . THANKS DC. THANKS 12.


As usual we talked about Miles afterwords. We don't know what's up with that new film that Don Cheadle is doing about him. I just hope he deals with the REAL Miles.

To deny that we would all just be fooling ourselves.



That's all from Trumpet mountain for now. Someday I'll be teaching a Jazz History course. I'm going to teach the real history. I'll open talking about my first mentor and bandleader, the great Hildred Humphries who played with Billie Holiday and Count Basie. You never heard of the great Humphries brothers?


Stay tuned here at Fat Eb. 


TBC with Sabir Mateen live at the Clemente Solo Velez June 16th.


*******


For Karl Berger  



<> <> <> <> <> 















   
        







Friday, May 16, 2014

Blues for Fritz


The human race is a massive story composed of millions of stories. Digital storytelling has really changed how we are all collaborating on what really is the most important story of all time - us. Just where are we going with all of this? I went back to school recently in order to pursue a masters in teaching Jazz history, but I never even finished getting a Bachelors. My first two courses upon returning are the history of Math and digital storytelling.

Digital storytelling led me to create this

Please peep this out my friends. The creative process behind this got my Mom going back through her own memories which in turn allowed her memories to unlock more of mine. Going deeper I'm looking at making music videos as a whole new medium that I now have access too. Maybe I'll stop writing and switch to music videos and attempt to go VIRAL.

Telling my grandfathers story began here at Fat Eb, in maybe my most important piece besides "Roy Campbell and Bright Moments", Grandpa's Rainbow  

This is more or less part 2 of that entry . The whole thing is leading up to my making a record about and for my grandfather with the 12 Houses, my orchestra that is going to tune the world.

******

In 1978 my teacher Mr. Napoli handed me a list of instruments and told me choose one to play.  I didn't know what any of them were. These days, I tell parents and kids to go on youtube and listen to the different instruments before they choose a path. I chose the trumpet, having literally no idea what it was or that it would consume me in years to come. Dhortly before their impending divorce, my parents rented me a Bundy Trumpet. After looking at my teeth, Mr. Napoli said it was a good choice.

It was tough early on. I recall trying to cheat by writing the fingerings down on the music and getting busted. I was always playing louder and more aggressively than the other kids. Right or wrong. After the requisite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star phase I went on to stage two. During the second concert I played, I'll never forget misreading the chart and exploding a huge loud fanfare at the wrong place and time. Mr. Napoli was terrified, as I could have thrown off the whole band, but everybody kept their place. I see now that even then, I was demanding a solo. Staying quiet in the ensemble would never be enough. I MUST be heard no matter the cost. Eventually I ended up in a little dixieland combo that played at the library, of all places. I was so into it.

Stage three was a solo feature playing outside in 6th grade. I was placed into the middle school band of 7th and 8th graders, which was a big deal. The solo? Popeye the Sailor Man, and I was terrified of not only an F but a high Bb above the staff. It was too hard and I was freaking out. Showtime came on a hot summer day and I was late, got lost, and was the last to set up. I was sweating bullets when it was time for Popeye. Once I started playing it felt like I was watching a movie of myself playing. I wasn't even sure of some of the notes but it came out sounding like Popeye and I had been eating spinach together for decades. My grandfather was in the audience and as my mom recalled, he was always smiling when he saw me play more aggressively and over the other kids. Leading the way. Even today, in free Jazz situations I end up sometimes forcing everybody into cohesion.

Eventually I would end up in the all-county band where I played 3rd trumpet on a record that played "March of the three Oranges". My stellar career would soon spiral downwards however, as my parents divorced, my grandfather died, and I would gain 50 pounds or so. A lot for a kid. My next teacher in middle school was a Mr. Sherman. I bristle at the mention of his name. Sherman made fun of me in front of the whole orchestra saying I was always "making love to my mouthpiece." He switched me to the- Tuba, making my typecast as the fat kid so much worse. I sucked on Tuba and eventually gave up playing and switched to art, where I ended up drawing pictures of trumpets all the time.

It wasn't then until 1986 or 87 that I played again, when the legendary music educator Bert Hughes found out I used to play was in need of a trumpet to go to Russia! I spent a summer with Bert getting my chops back. Bert introduced me to the blues scales, which would open the door between me and myself. Later on the late Bill Garbinski would become my teacher. I upgraded to a super Olds trumpet that I really miss. Soon my mentorship with Sir Hildred Humphries would begin. Hildred had played with Count Basie, Billie Hoilday, and Roy Eldridge. My path was clear.   
 
I wrote a piece about Hildred once and it seems lost. To be continued here at Fat Eb.

It all comes back to seeing my grandfather in the audience. I have never had more respect for a human being. His being an artist resonated with me on a profound level, even as a kid. His approval meant everything to me. I'll never forget showing him my painting of the solar system which was so so at best. As he looked at it, I saw him switch from critique to support, and tell me it was good with a slight restraint. He would soon teach me how to play Chess and then allow me to checkmate him in order to build my confidence.

My grandfather's art was everywhere in my life. His paintings adorned the walls both where we lived and also at my Uncle Fred's house. I would watch him work on his sculptured head busts (seen below) of Beethoven and Dr. Martin Luther King. I'll never forget watching them cook in his Kiln!

My Grandfather was a devout catholic and his artistic and spiritual worlds were linked. I would go to church with him during the week and sit in the front row praying louder than everyone else. One of our greatest moments together was when the sermon was about the kid in the front row who was more dedicated to God than all the adults present. My grandfather gave me a big hug when the priest pointed at me during the highlight of the sermon. I'm still testifying in my own way these days with a trumpet in my hand, in an endless tribute to my grandfather Fritz.

Dark times were ahead as ominous storm clouds gathered, turning the Sun dark as night. Just where did the Sun go?

Liver Cancer had arrived to tell my grandfather it was time to head home.

In his final days I would witness him leave his death bed to help my grandmother walk to the bathroom, as she was ravaged by Parkinson's disease. Strength beyond strength.

He would call me to his side the night before he died and whisper that I was now the man of the house. I was only 13 but I told him I would handle the responsibility.

At his wake a couple of days later one of the defining moments of my life would take place as I would witness the priest openly weeping in sorrow at my grandfathers transition. Tears streamed down his face in a profound sadness. That a man of God would be so touched by my grandfathers life had a profound effect on me. This memory has been sealed in my soul as perhaps the most important of all.

Moving on my friends. At some point in our lives the past must be undone so that we may live into the future.

There's music to be made, art to be created.


But I'm taking this moment here to pause in reflection and call a special tune. . .



Blues for Fritz.



*******


Dedicated to Fritz Klueber.




                                                       


                                             Hildred and Frank "Fat man" Humphries