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!