Strive To Be Happy, Volume 1 (No. 1-5)

1) Lately, Ive had more and more questions from people, basically asking “where do your compositions come from?” This is a tough question to answer, because my first reaction is “they come from me”. Then I usually joke about how my brain is all wild and disjunct and so therefore my tunes and playing are as well. But in a more honest attempt to answer this, (and make my website more worth checking out) I am going to try to list some things that I think are cool or worth thinking about. Some stuff will be things Ive just discovered, other times Ill write about old favorites. Hopefully this will give people an idea of what my thought process is like on a regular basis and at least give us something to talk about. Comment if you are so moved, otherwise enjoy.

St Vincent-“Marrow”. Sweet track.

Playing drums for the musical “Hair” has proven to be very much fun.

Leonard Bernstein always amazes me. Most recently, West Side Story.

Yankee Candle: Sage and Citrus, Lakeside Birch, Autumn Leaves

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser people than yourself. (Desiderata)

More to come. Seems like fun though, right? Check back often.

2) Here we are, with two short weeks left until September. Here are some thoughts:

Working hard (mentally) on the idea of making Rochester a more viable “scene” for music. Yes, Im sure millions have tried this before me, but I think I have some good ideas. Step 1-attract excellent musicians to be in the area. Had a great conversation with old friend Simon Fletcher, who is relocating back to ROC. Matt Stuver, original Bending and Breaking member, moves back to town on Monday. Chris Ziemba has locked it in for another two years. Geoff Saunders continues to live in town, working on his band Walri, as well as some of my projects. Of course, current Eastman students are abound, and thats a start. (If I forgot someone, my apologies).

Anyways, thats one step. My goal is to encourage people to make bands. Good ones, that they put a lot of effort into. I want to turn that into a small festival in town, NOT the RIJF, but something more modest, while still keeping it competitive (aka not just letting any old band in, especially just because they happen to be local)…more on this as it happens.

I enjoyed some vacation this month. Go to the Adirondacks, or any wilderness, and just enjoy it. Do it.

Lately listening to lots of things….couldnt be more excited for Imogen Heap’s new record, so Ive been checking her out on YouTube in preparation. SUPER hip what she does as a “solo” artist. John Mayer has something new sometime soon for us, I think…jazzwise, still into a lot of Dave Douglas, Seamus Blake Live in Italy is really nasty…Steve Lehman still intrigues me, and I am interested in hearing more Tyshawn Sorey.

Reading a really interesting book about Bjork, her biographical stuff is very cool. She is looked at in Iceland as a nationalist composer…Iceland is still very young as an independent nation, and shes quite prominent, obviously, and apparently shes kinda alone in that. Skuli Sverrison is also Icelandic and pretty amazing at the bass…I know they are friends, but it makes you wonder whats happening outside each of our own little circles.

Ive been trying to eat healthier lately. One week down and its going well. Hopefully I can get myself into some kind of shape. Hard to do when Im so busy but well worth it i think.

More soon, strive to be happy.

3) Check out my friend Brownman on Guru’s newest Jazzmatazz record. Guru’s rapping is good.

I didnt think I would like Stefon Harris’ URBANUS record, but so far, I actually do.

Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition is awesome. I really like the substitution of tabla for drum set. Dan Weiss does it really well too.

Very excited to be a part of Eastman’s New Jazz Ensemble again this year. We are supposed to be welcoming Bob Brookmeyer and Fred Sturm this year–two of my favorite big band composers. Here’s to hoping that both of their health’s hold up.

Gran Torino was a sweet movie. Sometimes over the top acting, but the story was very good.

Imogen Heap’s new record IS as good as I had hoped, although some of her songs are starting to sound the same as other ones on previous records.

Sriracha hot sauce was a great call by Ben Thomas. Thank you Ben! I love eating eggs on Sundays with sriracha and soy sauce right in the mix.

I played at the Buffalo Wing Festival over the weekend, yet did not eat a single wing.

Check out my article on creating musicals communities, its in the same section as this. Let me know what you think. Be happy!

4) Things are good. Here are some good things:

Just heard Lee Konitz. 83 years old. Still taking chances musically. I am guessing that he didnt just start doing that a few years ago. Good to think about.

Glad to be going to Toronto to join my friend Brownman in a tribute to the “Plugged Nickel” years of Miles Davis’ career. I am the Tony Williams impersonator. Should be interesting, I am not Tony Williams but I do know a few Tony Williams jazz beats.

Really excited for a few projects I am planning:

1. A 3rd presentation of my song cycle “Visit”. Possibly with some of the original members.

2. A new presentation of a collection of American Folk Songs, hopefully with some new collaborators. This excites me.

3. Eventually some new stuff for Bending and Breaking

4. FINALLY getting down to business on this Abuelita album.

Rediscovering some music that I like lately: Old Rufus Wainwright stuff, the Miles Plugged Nickel stuff, Harold Danko records with Rich Perry, Joni Mitchell “ladies of the canyon”…really beautiful, thanks to Geoff Saunders for hipping me to that.

My friend has an interesting theory that the apocalypse has been taking place since World War I. He has some good support for this claim. Might be true.

Studying a lot with Harold Danko and Clay Jenkins at Eastman. Starting to figure some things out. I go home each day really having figured something out, usually.

Really liking watching The Office, started it in March and am almost 90% caught up. Also love Fringe. This is when I have time to watch TV.

Some things you should check out:

KKBB Apparel

Stephen Guerra’s Big Band


John Hollenbeck’s new big band record

Vijay Iyer’s new trio record when its out

“Nothing touches a work of art so little as words of criticism. They always result in more or less fortunate misunderstandings.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Until next time, friends….

5) Busy busy busy busy busy busy. Things are busy.

Tonight, Ben (Thomas) asked me who my top 5 favorite drummers were. It started when I said that Jim Black, good as he may be, would not crack my top 10. I think these are my top 5, based on how theyve influenced my sound. (Mostly Jim Black doesnt get there because I dont really think I try to sound much like him, nor do I try to borrow from his conceptual ideas.)

SO, my top 5 favorite drummers would probably be (in no particular order):

1. Paul Motian

2. Brian Blade

3. Nasheet Waits

4. Jorge Rossy

5. Tony Williams

5a. Jack DeJohnette

It is so stupid to not include like…Elvin Jones here, for his stretching of the beat, or Billy Kilson for his complex grooves. Clarence Penn for his interjections and John Hollenbeck for his inventiveness. Even someone like ?uestlove should be on this list. So a top 5 is nearly impossible. But the question was Top 5, so I think that if I hadnt heard one of the guys in the top 5 (6…), I wouldnt play the way that I do at all. So check out all of those guys if you havent already. Motion on his Electric Bebop Band stuff….Blade in his own band, or with Wayne Shorter….Nasheet with Fred Hersch, Jason Moran, Tony Malaby….Jorge’s stuff with Mehldau is a chapter in my life itself….Tony on Plugged Nickel or Four and More, and Jack with Keith Jarrett. There are so many other great drummers, but those are my favs.

Also listening to a lot of Bob Brookmeyer in preparation for our concert with him on December 2nd. His work with the Vanguard band in the 80s is stuff that I hadnt heard but it is RIDICULOUS! I love his newer stuff but the old stuff just proves what a legend he really is.

Enjoying the weather lately. The air feels good at this time of year. Cold and crisp but not painful yet. Go for a walk maybe.

Excited for my new project, UNDER OPEN SKY, to take shape. First rehearsal tomorrow night.

Played on young Ethan Helm’s music tonight. Very cool, inventive stuff. Glad the younger guys are writing.

Was honored to play on old friend Matt Stuver’s Doctoral recital on Halloween. Ziemba, Dave Baron, Matt and I made what I thought was some really great music.

Rochestarians, if you havent eaten at Gusto on East and Alexander near the Old Toad, you need to get in there. AMAZING Italian food. Some of my favorite eating ever. Was recently reminded of this with a bowl of Squash soup and a Four-Cheese woodfired pizza with onions and black olives. Get it.

Other listening:

Bernstein West Side Story and Candide (not just the overture)

Wayne Shorter quartet, various live bootlegs

Bill Frisell, various

Claudia Acuna, En Este Momento (YES! too popish? impossible.)


Vijay Iyers new trio record. Apparently is wonderful.

Strive to be happy. It isnt that hard these days if you just look around.

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