April 16th, 2011

I’ve been thinking of many things of late that cause me to stop, reflect, ponder, project.  I find myself overwhelmed with emotion when encountering the simplest and most honest gestures of human expression and dimension. In a world where glitz, fast talking, and posturing (or in the music world; faster, higher louder, or 11/16!) seem to be most valued, I’m more and more moved by the core/essence of things.  (Feeling like I’m stating the obvious, yet the obvious has evaded me for ages).  People are human and all are profoundly different.  We all handle things in different ways and as humans we are often very intolerant of these differences.  Yet these differences can be magical.  I learn everyday from my daughter, my wife, my colleagues, a stranger on the street or in the audience at a concert I’m playing.  May I always be open to receive these things.  Still in search of balance in my life, may I continue to even the scales.

Spending the morning making applesauce and listening to a certain famous singer/songwriter who never ceases to bring me to tears with the honesty in his lyric and delivery.  Emotions be damned!  I had the privilege of being part of a tribute concert to my mentor Jimmy Giuffre a couple of years ago and finally received a copy of the recording.  I had the privilege of making music with some individuals whose sensibilities were touched by Jimmy’s wisdom: Bob Nieske, Frank Carlberg, Alan Chase, Bruce Nifong.  I listened to my sharing of stories to the audience about experiences I had with Jimmy and felt like he was in the room with me.  I miss him, his patience, his warmth, and most of all his honesty. In every note, every word, every gesture, he was honest and walked his path unafraid. I learned so much from being in his presence and am only of late learning to be unafraid of my own path.  Thank you Jimmy, thanks to all musicians who sincerely follow there own path out of honesty and an undaunted curiosity. We can hear it in your voices and we are listening. Please don’t stop singing your song. All of you. My goal for the upcoming weeks is to sing louder and listen more intently to everyone’s song.  There is much music making coming up for me and I thank all my colleagues ahead of time for their voices.  I’m really lucky of late to work with some really beautiful voices and look forward to every note.

Enjoy your weekend….

March 17th, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.  (Hope none of you are wearing orange today…) A beautiful day here in Boston with many things to look forward to.  Lots of good music on the horizon.  Had the privilege of recording a piece for Andrea Pejrolo, a wonderful composer and Assistant Chair of the CWP department at Berklee.  I’m impressed and inspired by his music, his spirit and his incredibly organized sensibilities.  A privilege to work with such a talented individual.  Been playing more with Pablo Ablanedo and Mark Walker’s groups which is always fun and inspiring.  Such talented and dedicated musicians.  Thrilled and thankful for the opportunities.  The NWJCO is getting ready for a couple of gigs in the area and new music that’s been written for us.  Such a challenge to find places to play anymore for such a group.  The music business has never been easy, but the lack of venues is really a challenge.  A recent poll I read asked how many people would rather see a movie in a movie theatre or in their own home and the response was not encouraging.  74% of the people said they would rather STAY HOME and watch than have the experience in a theatre.  Ouch… As wonderful as technology is, it is beginning to replace active socialization and person to person (not screen to screen) interaction and experiences.  I think that this is problematic on a number of levels.  It’s too beautiful a day to rant at the moment but I just hope that people will continue to embrace the value of getting out and experiencing life and all it offers away from the insular tendencies that are being generated.  The creative spirit can only soar when inspired by active experiences in nature, music, literature, human interaction.

Having lived in Japan briefly and bearing witness to the effects of the earthquake in Kobe 15 years ago, my heart goes out to all in Sendai and the area who are experiencing a tragedy of catastrophic proportion.  May the world join together to help those in need and may those in positions of decision making (which we ALL are on a certain level even when we don’t think so…) learn from the many challenges we are facing in the world at the moment and invest in things that are most important.  Take a day this month and walk, ride your bike or take public transportation to reduce dependence on precious resources.  Take a moment to smile and say  hello to someone you’ve never met before.  Sing a song…

December 5th, 2010

My 46th birthday today and I’m really inspired by recent events and feel so rich given all I have in my life: Personally, professionally and otherwise. I awoke to breakfast in bed from my wonderful wife, daughter and mom (who is visiting this weekend).  I also took a minute to check email while obediently waiting in bed upon orders from my daughter Catherine (!) and had a flood of well wishes from friends and family from around the world helping to celebrate my birthday.  I feel truly blessed to have such amazing friends, family, acquaintances and colleagues that I get to share time with on my life journey every day and am touched that they felt compelled to wish me well on this day. This year has been good.  Music has treated me well, my family is tremendous and I’ve had the privilege of playing with some of the greatest musicians in the world with prospects for the new year looking incredibly bright and equally inspirational.  I’ve learned a great deal about myself in the last year and I have so many people to thank for sharing their wealth and experiences with me. When I speak of wealth and riches I refer to abilities, opportunities and life experiences.  We are all wealthy in this way and don’t often take the time to realize that. I think that is what I have learned the most. It’s easy to criticize things, but in reflection I find that I have never gleaned any true inspiration or value in the act of criticism, but never fail to be moved and enlightened by really listening to the experiences of others and equally so in reflecting on my own achievements no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.  Having the opportunity to share and receive these experiences from others from many different backgrounds and cultures has been inspirational beyond my wildest dreams.  I find this inspiration in friends, colleagues, my students, my family and especially from my wife and daughter.  On this day I am most thankful for all of the people I have shared with in the last year, musically, personally and otherwise.  Thanks to all of you, wherever you are, who have taken a moment out of your day to share a word or your music with me. You have made me a better person because of the opportunity.

I hope we can all reflect on the positives in our lives to see how fortunate we are.  This can help us transcend the mundane and the evils so omnipresent in the world. So many vantage points depending on what window you peer through. Hope we can all take a moment to look at some point during the upcoming holiday season.

warm musical regards…

December 1st, 2010

Still trying to figure out the details of adding to this page, hoping this works as there is so much to talk about.  I spent an amazing 2 weeks in Xalapa, Mexico as a guest artist at the 3rd Internacional Festival JAZZUV.  This was my second time as a guest artist/lecturer and this year I had the additional privilege of directing the festival Jazz Orchestra.  The experience of shaping this band over a fast 5 days of rehearsing challenging music was truly memorable.  The spirit and dedication of all the musicians involved  was inspiring and has left a lasting impression on me.  I also had the privilege of featuring Ray Drummond, John Ramsey, Jason Palmer and Nir Felder as guest soloists with the band.  I’ve been a fan of Ray’s playing for years and years and between working with him on the bandstand and talking about life, music, and the state of society was equally inspiring and has changed my perspective and convictions on life and music in ways I had not anticipated.  I’ll elaborate on this at a later time.

The most impressionable part of this trip for me was the spirit and dedication brought to every performance by the community of Xalapa.  The musicians were terrific, but the energy, excitement and support of the community itself was something I don’t often encounter here in the States.  I am still moved to tears by the warmth and generosity of the people there.  Last year at the festival I was treated with respect, treated like a guest artist.  This year I was embraced in a way that made me feel I was at home.  I am still moved to tears when I think of how I was treated and accepted into the community at large.  Xalapa has become my home away from home.  I hope to return soon and share my music and experiences with all the musicians and faculty at the JAZZUV program and am eager to reunite with my new family there especially Themis and Guillermo Cuevas.  You guys are the best and I miss you dearly.  I can’t wait to bring my wife and daughter there to share my experiences.

The octet continues to ride the wave from our new CD release.  The disc is selling well and the music making has been stellar.  The addition of Felipe Salles to the horn section has been amazing, welcome aboard my friend. He brings a dimension to the band that is truly special and personal.  A perfect fit.  Thanks and kudos to my friends and musical colleagues Mark Walker and Fernando Huergo who have filled in for Keala and Steve while on tour in Europe.  These guys are the best and its a privilege to call them friends and heaven to make music with them.

So much more to report on. Especially my upcoming sabbatical leave for the spring semester!  Lots of time to report then.  More to come.

Keep swingin’ everyone and happy holidays to all.

Friday, October 15th

I had to make a note here of what’s been a very rewarding week.  Last night I had the privilege of playing with the great Ron Carter in a concert at Berklee featuring our string orchestra led by Maestro Eugene Friesen.  The group was augmented by some very talented student soloists along with Bill Pierce-tenor (one of my favorite tenor/soprano players of all time, and a colleague and friend), Terri Lynn Carrington-drums & cymbals, Eric Gould-piano and arranger.  It was a great evening of music and a dedication to the great bass player/cellist/bandleader Oscar Pettiford.  Made me realize that I need to go back to my OP records and learn more of his tunes other than Tricotism and Blues in the Night!  Great stuff.  Ron and I have a mutual friend in the Great Bob Freedman.  He’s an amazing composer/arranger and musician extraordinaire.  Not to mention a gentleman.  He and Ron have worked together for years and they just recorded a big band record featuring Ron this summer, Bob wrote all the music and was performed with a big band of NYC’s finest.  It gets mixed in the next couple of weeks Ron told me.  You all need to go buy a copy of this when it comes out.  I had the pleasure and privilege of a preview of a couple of takes this summer.  The band is incredible, the music sublime, and Ron is seizing the day in front.  Can’t wait.

I’m featured in Berklee’s magazine called BerkleeToday as a featured faculty member in this months issue.  Many thanks to Adam Olenn for his time and writing, such a privilege to be recognized.  I do love to teach and play and glad that it comes across.

I’ve worked hard over the last 10 years on my group the New World Jazz Composers Octet and it seems the wave is coming in as we have some great gigs coming up, the band sounds wonderful and the new disc seems to be selling a few copies at the moment.  Just sent off a big handful to the distributor (my largest order yet!) which was encouraging.  Making plans to do a 3rd after the new year.  Call me crazy.

That’s all for now, back to the woodshed.  Had to make note of my performance with Ron Carter, it was such a treat.  No matter how difficult and challenging most aspects of the music business can be, when the downbeat comes it washes away all the dust and makes the sun shine in the darkest moments.  Alas, as it has done just now coming out of a rainy and gray morning!  Someone’s trying to tell me to get off the computer and pick my horn back up.  I’m off…


hello world,

My first blog entry.  So much going on in the world and in life, hard to know where to begin.  My intention is to use this forum as a place to reflect on recent activities, influences, experiences and various and sundry stimuli from all angles. Life has been rich in many ways as of late, but never without its share of tests and occasional obstacles we all encounter. It’s always easy to react viscerally to these things, but I’m finally getting to a place where I take them less personally. Life is too short ultimately and I think if we allow, the good will outweigh the bad.  The music business is always a challenge and it never ceases to amaze me how many musicians add to that challenge.  I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many world-class individuals that choose to make every moment a positive one, on the bandstand, in the rehearsal room, at home and in every aspect of their lives. Their patience and insight is always an inspiration to me.  May we all cross paths with people like this in our brief lifetimes. In our community, in our family, in our chosen profession. If we take time to listen and observe I think we can learn a great deal and the experience makes us better individuals as a result.

I’ve had a group I call the New World Jazz Composers Octet together for the last 10 years.  We released our second CD this summer called Transitions and I’m thrilled to report that the recording has received some wonderful press from AllAboutJazz, JazzTimes, and DownBeat magazine. I’m also getting great feedback from the professional community at large and I’m really proud of this recording and this project (no small feat for me, who usually can’t listen to anything I’m on or involved with!) I’ve never worked so hard to promote a recording before, it’s a full-time job in itself, and I’m really overwhelmed by the response the band and the recording has received so far.  We just started rehearsing again today in preparation for a handful of concerts coming up this fall and the rehearsal really raised my spirits.  This is a great band.  I hope we can keep this going as long as the “band gods” will allow.  We had a personnel change this week as my friend Dino Govoni left the band given a challenging schedule he maintains (he’s a busy and in-demand saxophone player). But I’m thrilled to announce that Felipe Salles has joined the group.  I haven’t seen Felipe in at least 10 years since the last time he played with my big band. He’s recently returned to MA from many years in NYC as he’s been appointed Professor at UMASS Amherst in their jazz department. He’s a wonderful player, an equally wonderful composer and has a terrific attitude and spirit. It’s a pleasure to have him aboard. He played his ass off in rehearsal this morning, I think all were in favor!

I’m already contemplating a 3rd recording slated for after the first of the year. I have some music from Richard Lowell that I’ve been eager to record (one of the first contributors to this band), as well as new music on the way from Ted Pease, Mike Abene, Felipe Salles, Bob Freedman and even me.  Hoping to keep the performing momentum going. It’s not easy to find venues for a group like this and this band deserves to play and needs to be heard. Lots of “pick up” groups out there, but not many groups that have a sound. I first came to this music (jazz) via the Miles Davis quintets with Trane and then with Wayne, and then the Thad and Mel band that I fell into by way of the Basie band.  Those groups always sounded like a band. You could tell it was them in a measure of music.  Sure, you knew it was Miles in a note or two, but it was the band for me that left the impression.  That collectively unified whole. That sound has been a dream for me since I started playing this music, I never wanted to be a featured soloist, I wanted to be part of the fabric, I didn’t want to be the front man, I just wanted to present a sound made up of a collective of great, like minded individuals who had strong personal voices and provide a place for them to be heard. I feel like I’m able to do that with this band, we have a sound, we have great individual voices, we respect the music that is presented to us and bring our collective sensibility to the interpretation of that music. This is a dream come true for me. I hope people will find and take the time to listen and that I may find more opportunities to present our voice.

I’m also preparing for my return trip to Xalapa, Mexico where I will be a featured performer/lecturer and guest director of the jazz orchestra at the 3rd International JAZZUV Festival. I’ve been compiling music for the big band which has been really exciting and it’s making me wish my big band (the Big and Phat Jazz Orchestra) was still active…one thing at a time. I can’t wait to go and see my dear friend Edgar Dorantes and work with his outstanding faculty and students not to mention play with some of my favorite musicians in the world especially my dear friend and pianist extraordinaire Osmany Paredes.  More on that later.

Before I post my first submission here I can’t end it without acknowledging how lucky I am to share my life with my amazing wife Eileen and my angel of a daughter Catherine. I hear so many people complain about their home life and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by the unconditional love and support of these two amazing people. My daughter is only 6 but already so aware and in tune with feelings and reactions. I had a trying week last week and one night at dinner I was quiet and she looked at me and said, “Are feeling OK daddy?  You look sad. I think you need a hug…” and she jumped out of her chair and wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug. Needless to say, I wasn’t sad anymore. She and I had a dad and daughter getaway together this past weekend. Went to NH and I took her to the Sandwich County Fair which was celebrating its 100th anniversary.  I think it’s the longest running county fair in the state. She got to ride a horse, watched goats being milked, ate cotton candy, saw draft horse exhibitions, and this great show with a man who holds the world record for the longest frisbee throw where his dog runs and catches it!  I’ve never seen such attentive dogs before. It was great to watch, they did back flips to catch the frisbees and would run and jump with hang time that would make Michael Jordan jealous!  Of course, the midway got some time too.  We really had a ball. Was equally rewarding knowing Eileen could have some time to herself for a change.  She deserves it. Eileen and I celebrate 18 wonderful years of marriage this weekend. Time flies.  Life is good.  I am truly lucky.

thanks for reading…

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2 Responses to "Musings"

  1. Congratulations on the wedding anniversary! Your remarks about family life reminded me of the period when my daughter was young, good memories. I also liked your remark about Miles’ band, the overall sound and its impact. Cheers. Keep blogging!

  2. Happy Birthday Daniel!


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