It has been one long year, hasn't it? Although there were times where it seemed to fly right by, it seems like 2013 has had a bit of a drag to it over the past couple months. Christmas is still going around here and through this weekend just to make sure we meet up with all of the family. As much as I enjoy it, it serves as a constant reminder to take advantage of the time you have - and to take advantage of the time you get in the practice room.
Melissa Brumfield and I played a fun set at Othello's Italian Restaurant in Norman, OK on Saturday night. It was our first time down there and we had a blast. We didn't get through all of our new tunes, so we'll debut a few new ones on Friday, January 3rd at The Paramount in OKC. We're updating our setlist to feature modern compositions and be friendlier to the non-jazz crowd while still maintaining a few standards. Come on out on Friday!
2013 has seen the fall of several of jazz giants: Yusef Lateef, Jim Hall, Chico Hamilton, Marian McPartland (of NPR fame), George Duke, Donald Byrd, who are just a few of the many who passed on this year. Jim Hall is of particular significance, and influence, to my playing. I first heard Jim playing on Jim Hall: Live! And after listening to the entire album, I knew I wanted to do that for a living. What spoke to me wasn't his "chops", but it was his effortless ability to speak melodically through his instrument. He created melodies and counter melodies in his improvisations similar to classical etudes. He did not "noodle", nor did he play anything too flashy, he was thoughtful, careful, and above all he listened and played only what needed to be played in a given moment. He will be forever known as one of the greatest improvisers of all time.
Now I may be ringing in the New Year with a sinus infection, but I have had a lot of time to sit and listen. Lately I have become a big fan of Jesse van Ruller, a jazz guitarist out of the Netherlands who won the Thelonious Monk Competition several years back. He has such a fluid and lyrical style to his improvisations, meanwhile capturing dynamics and articulations most guitarists skip over. I've been heavily influenced by his playing style on his Live at Murphy's Law recording. There is so much life in his playing, it is not as rigid as a lot of jazz guitarists can be these days. His feel is so free within the music that it is truly inspiring. He is definitely someone everyone should check out!
I am thankful for another New Year and hope it is filled with even more joy and music than 2013!
Right now, I am hunkered down in my house due to the cold weather looking back on all the great playing experiences I have had this year, the people I have met and worked with, and the opportunities that have been offered to me, and one word springs to mind: Blessed. I feel truly blessed to have worked with Lee Rucker since this past summer, and to have met the great saxophonist Eric Alexander, while working in his combo at the Aebersold Jazz Workshop this summer. I'm thankful for those whom I met, and got a chance to create music with, at Aebersold: Hannah (bass), Brian (tenor), Cole (drums), Matt (tenor), Greg (trumpet), Melvin (alto), John (pianist). We shared an amazing experience working together that week, playing the great George Coleman's "Amsterdam after Dark". Sitting in countless masterclasses by Mike DiLiddo, Dave Stryker, Fred Hamilton and Corey Christiansen, who shared their wisdom and techniques, helped to broaden my horizon of what this music is really about.
I'm blessed to be a part of Jazz Ensemble III at UCO this semester, and to be among all the great guitarists at UCO, all of which continue to push each other musically. I am thankful for Taylor Carmona, who spent countless hours texting everyone to set up regular jam sessions all summer long. She's since moved to Kansas City and set up a jam session at UMKC, and it has been a challenge to set up sessions with people since, her influence has been missed. I'm grateful for Danny Vaughan, UCO's guitar instructor, who encouraged me to come sit in at Grand House with the "old cats". He gave me the push necessary to play outside of my comfort zone with the master musicians in OKC.
I feel blessed to be working - whether it is teaching students, playing gigs, or most recently, playing guitar for People's Church OKC campus. A great deal of thanks is in order to Jemar Poteat, for setting me up with such an inspiring group of people to create music for the ultimate purpose.
I really cannot thank Stephen Schultz and Drew Wilson enough for their work on my Junior Recital last month. It was a pleasure to work with them, the ease and finesse they play with took me to another level. It was a joy being able to get together weekly to rehearse, and follow the music where it took us. I look forward to being able to play with those guys again soon.
Looking back at all these experiences, and even those not mentioned here, it is hard not to feel blessed and inspired musically. I look forward to next year, to continue playing at UCO, People's Church, and anywhere else I am needed. I hope to simply follow the music wherever it takes me.