Robin Hilt ~ Jazz Vocalist

Photographer Mark Gladding took some pictures of my band at a charity event last weekend. I’ve seen maybe ten of the hundreds of photos he shot. This one is my favorite so far:

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Robin Hilt is one very special and favorite vocalists. Seattle has so much talent and so many great bands to perform for. But Robin choose the Microsoft Jumpin’ Jive Orchestra as one of the bands she performs for. When I hear Robin I think of local phenom Greta Matassa, Etta Jones and other world-class female vocalists.

Here is one of the many videos I have with Robin delivering the goods!

I really love to have friends and family attend the concerts and dances because I love to amaze and impress them with this vocalist, this band, and our music. Hope to see you at one of our concerts soon.

Posted in Band, Female vocalists, Jazz, Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra, Photograph | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manufactured Beauty ~ Body Image Issues

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Facebook is the home of so many people trying to help the weaker people in our lives. By weaker I mean those who struggle with personal issues that impact upon their ability to enjoy live. One of those problems is self esteem. Men and women who feel how they look is more important than who they are are handicapped.

People are unique, I’m tall, you’ve got awesome hair, she as a lovely smile, and he has strength. In this video, we see a graphic example of what the world of fashion considers important. Sadly, it has nothing to do with what kind of person you are.

The ability to see beauty in every person, well almost every person, is a true blessing. Each person brings certain skills, information, and experience to those they meet. So why would one limit their value to something as superficial as how they look? Yes, that is obvious to most of us, but then, that’s not exciting to mass media. You know, normal, healthy people are not good fodder for their audiences.

Developing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman’s happiness and wellness. Read on here for tips to develop a healthy body image.

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Here’s hoping you are working on becoming as good a person as you can, helping those you care about to succeed in life, and being as good an example as you can. Cheers, peeps.

Posted in Culture, Education, Health and wellness | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet the Super Geek League

524663_10200306616171931_900406415_nThis Seattle phenomenon is called the Super Geek League, where I have some friends playing with shock music.  I keep meaning to find time to go to their show and now that they are releasing their third CD, will have to do that soon.

I don’t know much about Super Geek League. I had no idea what the hell I was getting into when I stepped into Cherry’s for the opening night of Music City North. I encountered Super Geek League. It was a blur. White suited brass with steampunk masks and plastic sunflowers. Ringmasters in short shorts and riding crops. A space age diva bringing down the house on vocals. Whatever the hell they are, it was incredible. Funky, soulful and just the right amount of frightening. ~ FOH Photo

If you are in Seattle and the Gods are smiling upon you, you might be able to catch a show. If not, here’s a teaser.  Smile

Posted in Art, Band, Culture, Dancing, Seattle | Tagged | Leave a comment

FAQ: Name Those Saxes

“And I saw the sax line-up that he had behind him and I thought, I’m going to learn the saxophone. When I grow up, I’m going to play in his band. So I sort of persuaded my dad to get me a kind of a plastic saxophone on the hire purchase plan.” ~ David Bowie

One of the most common questions I get is what instrument do I play. I usually just say sax but there is much more to say about that. Most people aren’t that interested, but for those who are, here is the list the kinds of saxes I’ve owned”

“Play difficult and interesting things. If you play boring things, you risk losing your appetite. Saxophone can be tedious with too much of the same.” Steve Lacy

I have to say that it would be much easier to play one or two of the kinds of saxes than to play so many. A number of my instructors have watched me futz with overtones, altissimo, and other voices and said I should concentrate on one kind of sax, say the alto sax, before I do others because it takes a fair amount of time to get it right.

imageBb Soprillo Sax by Benedict Eppelsheim. This diminutive instrument is so hard to play it borders upon the insane. I use this instrument as a color piece for songs like the Star Wars Bar Theme aka the “Intergalactic Rag”. In this picture note that the octave pip is actually in the mouthpiece! (Click on the picture for a bigger view.)

Eb Sopranino Sax by Yanagisawa. This sweetie, titled an Elimona, was purchased so that I could get better at the bigger soprano sax. The voicing is hard to perfect, but it certainly made playing the soprano *much* easier. It also allows me to do a soprillo, sopranino, soprano, alto sax quartet with any standard sax quartet chart.

BitsF Mezzo-Soprano Sax by Conn. I have written extensively about this pristine instrument here. I even commissioned an arrangement done by my good friend Merlin Williams. Here is a recording of one of the times we played it. Not the best version, but you get what you get when the video camera work is done at a concert:

C Soprano Sax by Epplesheim & Reese. This was an experiment by the two manufacturers. I pictured myself playing with my wife on piano by reading over her shoulder. You can read more about this instrument:

Bb Soprano Sax in a number of incarnations is one of my favorite saxes to play. Once I got the voicing, I have used it extensively in my sax xTets (where x equals the number of players who show up). My favorite is the Yanagisawa 992 pictured here next to my sopranino:

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C Melody Sax by Conn. I wrote extensively about this instrument here. I have two of these now because I’m storing my son’s version.

Eb Alto Sax – This was my first kind of sax I played in 5th grade. I don’t have the original instrument a Buescher. I started with the Couf Superba I alto and tenor sax when I returned to music performance after a 30 year break. Then I bought a matched set of Yamaha Custom Z’s.

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I have a very lovely Selmer Ref 54 Limited “Hummingbird” edition sax. I had never appreciated Selmer saxes because of the well documented intonation problems. Pro’s like the sound and could adjust the pitch of the problem notes on the fly. But us mortals like consistency. So where playing a scale on a Mark VI would result in some notes being as much as 25 cents off, plus or minus, on a Couf Superba I, Yamaha Z, and Ref 54 the worst notes would be ~10 cents.

Bb Tenor Sax – This was the third kind of sax I tried. Alto and Bari sax voicing came to me very easily. Tenor required a lot of long tone work. I started with the Couf Superba I, the Yamaha Custom Z and ended up with the Selmer Ref 36. My wife has a Selmer Ref 54 tenor, but I really prefer the SBA sound of the Ref 36.

Eb Baritone Sax – The only bari I have ever owned is a Yanagisawa 991. It is a sweet ride with key works that play buttery smooth. It’s the instrument my son played in high school. And it’s currently the instrument I play the most.

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Bb Bass Sax – I started with a beautiful Buescher bass sax and moved to my mid-life crisis ride a one of a kind Eppelsheim bass sax that was keyed to low A and had a custom engraving put on it. I even spec’d the color of this new instrument. Unlike the Buescher, the Eppelsheim plays as easily as a modern bari, with no need to do the alternate fingerings to get the instrument to speak, but still needs a … lot … of … air.

F Conn-O-Sax – There are more kinds of saxes, most of which I don’t own. I did get to play a Conn-O-Sax, an unusual variant of the saxophone with a straight-conical bore instrument in F (one step above the E♭ alto) with a slightly curved neck and spherical bell. The instrument, which combined a saxophone bore and keys with a bell shaped similar to that of a heckelphone, was intended to imitate the timbre of the English horn and was produced only in 1929 and 1930. The instrument had a key range from low A to high G. Fewer than 100 Conn-O-Saxes are in existence, and they are eagerly sought by collectors. I wrote about it here.

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I did use to own this oddity:

Keilwerth Toneking 3000 Jazzophone which I wrote about here.

I still own this bad boy, the Goofus aka the Couesnophone and wrote about it here.

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There are some more fun instruments on that post including the Play-A-Sax:

My challenge remains to play sax well enough that people invite me to sit in with way too many bands. But I certainly have gotten to play some very nice instruments. Be well.

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Let Post Offices Replace Payday Lenders

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Vote for this idea by signing this petition.

A few days ago, a diary was posted explaining that the US Inspector General had recently endorsed the idea of the United States Post Office offering simple banking services in addition to its normal mail delivery service.

imageWhile this idea might seem foreign to many Americans, in the past the post office actually offered banking services for over 50 years. Per The New Republic, beginning in 1911:

“…the Postal Savings System allowed Americans to deposit cash with certain branch post offices, at 2 percent interest. By 1947, the system held deposits for over four million customers. Though dismantled in 1967 (after banks offered higher interest rates and eroded its market share), the post office continues to issue domestic and international money orders, including $22.4 billion worth in 2011, as well as prepaid debit cards through a deal with American Express.”

Putting aside the sad fact that banks once offered 2% interest rates (and you would now be lucky to get even half a percent), today banks could offer basic banking services such as check-cashing, saving accounts, and even small-dollar loans similar to payday lenders, yet at much lower interest rates which could potentially save low-income Americans thousands of dollars per household per year.

Read more…

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My Conn Mezzo Soprano Sax in F

“Don’t play the saxophone. Let it play you.” ~ Charlie Parker

It was the mid-naughts and I was flush with money. Those were the days. I purchased a one of a kind Eppelsheim bass sax and a Conn F mezzo soprano sax.

DSCF0318The mezzo-soprano saxophone is sometimes called the F alto saxophone. In the key of F, it is pitched a whole step above the alto saxophone. Its size and the sound are similar to the E♭ alto, although the upper register sounds more like a B♭ soprano.

Very few mezzo-sopranos exist — they were only produced in 1928 and 1929 by the C.G. Conn company. They were not popular and did not sell widely, as their production coincided with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Harsh economic conditions forced Conn to reduce the range of saxophones they produced to the most popular models.

My friend Quinn the Eskimo hand picked this instrument for me. As soon as he got it, he pinged me with pictures and a price. It was a done deal. I even got a professional from Toronto to pen a custom sax quartet for me featuring the instrument.

This is one lovely instrument that I have since sold as I reduced my instrument collection. I couldn’t believe how sweetly is played. I even took pictures to get it featured in the Sax on the Web calendar done by our own SaxPics aka Pete Hales.

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Just for fun, here’s a lovely article written in the late ‘20s when this instrument was first introduced.

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Click on the picture for a larger version.

Posted in Music Instruments, Saxophone | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Retiring in Style for the Average Family

“It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.” ~ Barack Obama

retirementRetirement is a pipe dream for most Americans. I estimates that somewhere north of 70% think that they will retire at 80 or will never be able to retire.

An alarming 37% of middle class Americans believe they’ll work until they’re too sick or until they die. Another 34% believes retirement will come at the ripe age of 80. Just two years ago only 25% of respondents felt the same way. ~ Forbes

Photo credit to Tax Credits on Flickr.com.

I have read so many financial guide books and one of the most fitting descriptions I have heard about our ability to save money talks about money being like water running through our hands—we just can’t seem to hold on to any of it. So here are some suggestions from a couple who are retiring this month and we’re only in our late 50s. Note that there are many ways to find retirement success, this is just one couple’s crib notes.

Marry Rich

imageI know a lot of people consider this seriously, so I thought I’d mention it. And people laugh when I suggest that you marry a smart, beautiful, and *rich* partner. One of the favorite quotes online is, “Don’t marry rich, be rich.” If you want to make it to retirement age without running into divorce, you need to consider a lot more than money, but still. Fortunately my lovely wife didn’t consider this an imperative; I was dirt poor with very little to offer when we got married. It was clear to me, and probably others, that I was marrying up.

Pay yourself first

You’ve arrived in the world of a full-time job. If you are successful here, you will get periodic pay raises. Assuming you are making enough to feed yourself and family, if that applies, I have a suggestion for you. Pay yourself first. Split your pay raise and put it into savings. You will still get more money in your paycheck, and you won’t miss the money that you didn’t have the month before. If you do this through out your career, you will do very well indeed. The money will grow so fast, you will be tempted to spend it. But try to consider that your money for retirement only.

Retirement Calculators

There are many retirement calculators like this one from Forbes. If you think you are on a good trajectory to retirement, you can pay a financial advisor to check it out. Or you can use one of the many free calculators that are available online. Click on the screenshots below to find more information.

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Diversify

There is a lot of fear about whether Social Security will be there when you reach retirement age. Born in the ‘50’s, I can expect full social security benefit at 66.5 years of age. I joke that by time my son gets there, he’ll get full benefit at 92. But unfortunately for a lot of people, this is a big part of their retirement plans. If a large percentage of the rich and powerful have their way, this benefit will go away. I won’t go into the politics of this, but it will take a very educated and active population of citizens to protect this benefit from those who would remove it to save their business a little more money.

Stock market fear is out their too. What happens if the market crashes, again, just as you need to pull from it to live. There are ways to mitigate the risk in your portfolio. But that assumes you know what they are and make decisions at the right time.

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I have hedged my portfolio by purchasing property. I bought a small parcel on the lake through auction.com for less than a quarter of the cost it had been listed for. I purchased my home during a housing market crash for almost half what it had been priced 4 years earlier. And I purchased another rental house well below market value from a seller who had trashed the house over 35 year period of time. If you consider this as an option, you will want to have some serious home maintenance skills. YMMV.

Posted in Economics, Education, FAQ, Guides, retirement | Tagged , | Leave a comment