Writer’s Block

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” ~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


When I realize that I haven’t written in a long time on the many, many, … (sigh) many social media properties that I squat on, I will often cull through the pictures I have saved on my computer to post hoping that I will be inspired to write. Doesn’t provide a lot of continuity, but there you have it.

I also write to capture a moment, a project, something special that I might want to refer to later. I know the ages of my dog and cats because I’ve added an entry when I added them to our family. Often these collections of topics, quaint proses of mine, become quite long and there is now stuff from 15 years ago. That seems like a lifetime to me. At the risk of boring you, my how time flies. Be well my gentle readers.

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” ~ [The Guardian, 25 February 2010] ― Hilary Mantel

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Matthew Stone: Cry Me a River

Matthew Stone’s YouTube recordings have long been a fav of mine, almost always inspires me to pick up my sax and give the song a go. (Click on picture for sound.)


Published on 17 Jan 2013

About 25 years ago, when I was 18, I had an older girlfriend, she a much wiser 27. She was nice, cool. She had a little flat right in the centre of town. Sometimes in the middle of the night we would sit at her window, smoking, looking down at the busy streets below.

She had a cassette tape of Julie London’s “Julie is her Name” album and we’d listen to it on rotation. This tune of course is a classic, but let’s not forget the haunting “Laura”, “Gone with the Wind” and “It never entered my mind”

I was playing the guitar back then, just learning some jazz. I was blown away by the lovely guitar of Barney Kessell. That music will stay with me for the rest of my life. The girlfriend, sadly did not.

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Makin’ Music: This year’s MJJO Recordings

“Making music together is the best way for two people to become friends.” ~ Hermann Hesse

This year I decided to take my band to a recording studio, TopOfTheHill Music Studio. This is the second time I’ve done this. The first time was so much fun and I love the CD we cut. Upon hearing we were doing this, Al Lowe, a friend of mine suggested I just post the music and forego the CD costs. Checking with my friends, most of the young kids don’t even have a CD player!

Since we had already done the first CD drop on ReverbNation, I decided to release it on that site. In fact, the music is now playing in the background of my office as I pen this post. Click on the link below to hear some of these amazing songs.


Bill Sheehan, our director, picked the songs for both CDs. He chooses the music based on our overall sound, the soloists we have that year and to optimize the vocalist’s range and style. Both times I wasn’t impressed until we spent the year working on them for the final recording. In hindsight, I should have know it would turn out to be a smashing recording set. I love both of the CDs and listen to them all the time.

Let’s talk about how I placed the music in the list. First I listened to the cuts over and over for about a month. Then I picked the first and last songs. As Bill is fond of saying, “Primacy and Recency, remember that folks. Audiences tend to remember the first and the last thing they heard in songs and solos.” Or words to that effect. I’ve heard that so many times from him that it’s now part of my music patter.


Then I mix vocals with instrumentals with an ear towards the instrumental solos. So, not that complex of a formula all in all.

One of the reasons I love these songs is because they tend to be lyrical representations of the genre. I’m not keen on pure jazz with a soloist who reads changes with the intention mostly being of showing how good of chops they have. Also these are unique songs, and most are not the same songs that are played in every big band out there.

Finally, and this is mostly about me, Bill let me play a very sweet and sometimes loud bari sax to these songs. I do tend to go a little overboard on my bari sax bleatings. But it does my heart good to hear some of the licks I get to share, some of which were NOT written into the part. My adlibs can be credited for the most part to one of my instructors who, after I had spent ~30 years away from music performance, spend years working with me on my sense of timing, vocalizations, and solo interpretations. Thank you Neil Proff! 

For the first CD we had a niece of one of our players do the cover art. She was studying to be a commercial artist. This time I just through some stuff together using a shot of a ‘40s auto that I took at one of our gigs that included a vintage vehicle show.

Here’s hoping you like our little contribution to that vast library of big band music out there. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll see you at one of our dances or catch you singing with our favorite vocalist, Robin Hilt.

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Protect Yourself From Equifax ~ take two

From my friend and retail partner Steve Green…

LockMazeQuick Background: Between mid-May and July of 2017 cybercriminals stole the personal data of 143 million U.S. consumers by hacking into Equifax, one of the three major U.S. credit bureaus.

Equifax discovered the hack on July 29 and disclosed it publicly on September 7, at which time newspapers started exploding with all kinds of information about what consumers should do to protect themselves. After a review of many articles, here’s a shortlist of experts’ top recommendations:

1. Assume your data was affected.

Equifax offers an online tool for you to check whether or not your data was stolen, but people have reported getting different results when they entered their information more than once.

2. Be careful of what you sign up for.

Equifax is offering a free year of their TrustedID credit monitoring service to affected consumers, but initially the language in the agreement appeared to require people to give up their right to sue Equifax. They have now added an opt-out provision, and some attorneys believe the language applied to suing TrustedID and not Equifax – but when attorneys don’t all agree it’s a sign that consumers should be especially cautious.

3. Consider locking your credit with a security freeze.

All three credit bureaus allow you to prevent access to your credit by “freezing” it.
The upside: A security freeze makes it much harder for thieves to open up new accounts in your name.
The downside: It typically costs between $5 to $10 to freeze your account with each credit bureau (although read below to find out how to avoid the TransUnion fee), and it can be inconvenient if you need credit checks when you’re doing something like applying for a loan or changing cell phone providers. There’s a small fee to temporarily unlock your account with each credit bureau.

One of the most helpful articles on this topic is by Michael Roub on the DoughRoller website – click here to read it. He is a big fan of security freezes.

Tip: Security freeze fees are often waived for seniors.

4. If a credit freeze sounds like too much, place a fraud alert.

Anyone who believes their information has been compromised can place a 90-day fraud alert on their credit files for free. The first credit bureau agency you do this with is required to contact the other two bureaus on your behalf. The fraud alert means that any company opening up credit in your name needs to contact you first.
The upside: There’s no charge, and it’s relatively easy to grant access to companies that legitimately need to see your credit history.
The downside: It needs to be renewed every 90 days, which most people are unlikely to do. Also, there’s some disagreement as to the standard of verification that companies are legally required to follow.

5. Be clear on what various resources do and don’t do.

– Credit freezes and fraud alerts are preventative. They help stop criminals from opening up new accounts, but do nothing to protect the accounts you already have.
– Credit monitoring detects suspicious activity that has already taken place. (This can be done via a service, or you can check your own reports regularly.)
– Identity theft protection tells you if personal information such as your Social Security or driver’s license number is being used in ways that don’t show up on your credit history, for example, to open up new utility or medical accounts.
Checking your own financial statements regularly is the only way to make sure you’ll detect any suspicious bank withdrawals or card transactions.

The Bottom Line:

The Equifax event was basically the Hurricane Irma of data breaches, affecting 44% of Americans. Fortunately, by acting now we can ward off a lot of trouble.

The following steps taken together provide a strong combination of prevention and detection:
1. Credit Security Freeze:
Use the links below to set them up.
Equifax Security Freeze
Experian Security Freeze
TransUnion TrueIdentity Service (A free service that includes freezes.)
2. Identity Theft Monitoring: Reviews.com has what appears to be a well-researched review of identity services.
Click here to read the review.
3. Credit Monitoring: Keep an eye on your credit history, or use an identity theft protection service that includes credit monitoring.
– The official place to get your annual free credit report with no strings attached is AnnualCreditReport.com.
4. Track Financial Transactions: Review financial activity regularly, and set automated alerts for withdrawals.
5. Think Long Term: The stolen data will probably be as relevant in ten years as it is today, so keeping on top of things is important.

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Rico ~ A Long Family Tradition

Today virtually every clarinet or saxophone performer has at one time or another performed with a Rico reed—and it all began in France with Joseph Rico in 1928. Rico, a talented musician born in Italy in 1876, ran away from seminary school to America with his brother Libereto.

RicoReedBoxJoseph was a harpist, pianist, and guitarist, and his brother played both the mandolin and the violin. As a result of their hard work, both musicians became quite well known in Chicago and New York. Joseph Rico started composing and conducting, and went on to Paris where he became a sought-after composer. His Valses lentes are still played today.

In 1926, Joseph’s nephew, Frank De Michele, a clarinetist with Walt Disney studios, wrote to him complaining about the difficulty of finding good reeds in Los Angeles. Joseph began sending reeds to his nephew, who was able to quickly sell them to his fellow musicians. Soon Joseph’s supplier couldn’t keep up with De Michele’s demand for the canes from which the reeds were cut.

The resourceful Joseph found another source of excellent reed cane near his vacation cottage in the Var region of France and sent the first shipment of 772 lb. to America in 1928. Having secured a reliable cane supply, De Michele started his own woodwind reed line, and with permission from his uncle, named it “Rico” in his honor. Soon thereafter, Frank De Michele found partners, including musician and engineer Roy J. Maier, and created a woodwind reed factory in the U.S. that bore the Rico name.

With his knowledge of superior playing technique and reed characteristics, Maier devised the first equipment to measure the details of a reed’s cut precisely. Maier’s legacy of ingenuity and attention to detail lives on in today’s Rico reeds, inspired by generations of the world’s top woodwind players.

Among the traditions maintained by Rico, even now all cane harvesting is done by hand. Clarinetists and saxophonists will be glad to know that Rico is in no hurry to produce playable reeds from harvested cane poles. Rico patiently allows the cane to mature, drying the poles thoroughly til they arrive at their golden color and gain the desired acoustic properties. Along with time-honored harvesting procedures, Rico also employs modern technology to ensure that all Rico reeds are properly cut. The reed-cutting machines are meticulously calibrated to produce uniform reeds of specific strengths and sizes.

At Rico, musicians are in charge of quality control, and they carefully monitor the reed-cutting machines adjusting calibration many times daily and randomly test-playing finished reeds from each of the machines. Millions of reeds—all of them—are inspected for imperfections, and only those that pass Rico’s rigorous quality-control standards are finally packaged and shipped.


At Rico’s state-of-the-art reed research center, agronomists, scientists, and musicians produce top-quality reeds, including Rico Reserve Premium Reeds for clarinet and saxophone. Since its inception over 80 years ago, Rico has expanded to offer reed lines for professional to beginner musicians and classical to jazz performers:

-Designed for ease of play
-Unfiled for powerful tone
-Priced affordably for students
-Available for a full range of clarinets and saxophones
-Offered in quantities of 3 and 10 reeds and the 25 Novapak reed dispenser

Rico Royal:
-French filed for flexibility and fast response
-Work well for classical and jazz applications
-Premium cane for consistent response

Rico Reserve:
-Crafted from high-density lower-internode cane
-Sorted by color video inspection
-Accurately measured with optical lasers
-Cut with precision natural-diamond blades for consistency

Grand Concert Select:
-More wood in the heart for better projection
-Premium cane for longevity
-Outstanding articulation and response

Frederick L. Hemke:
-Professional-quality for classical and jazz performers
-Shorter vamp for dark tone
-Balanced, slightly thinner tip for quick response and articulation

La Voz:
-Unfiled reed for powerful tone
-Premium cane for consistent response
-Available in soft to hard strengths

-Coated with plastic to resist changes in moisture and climate
-Coating provides durable, clear tone

Rico Select Jazz:
-Huge sound with powerful projection
-Premium cane for longevity

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Tom “Bones Malone” – Sweet Home Chicago (Bari)

My homework for next week. 🙂


For my first post back after surgery, I decided to go with an old favorite. As a kid growing up in Chicago in the 70s and 80s, few movies had a bigger impact on me than the Blues Brothers. This song in particular touches my heart, and the playing on it is great, so what better place to start?

This solo really swings, and I really love how he utilizes the full range of the horn. I play a lot of bari and use a lot of air, but I really struggled in spots to drive the whole phrase through to the end with the power that I needed. These are long phrases!

Harmonically, the solo is super straightforward, which is one of the things I love about it. C# (concert E) is a real ‘guitar key’, not always fun for an Eb transposing horn player to get around in…

View original post 156 more words

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Jazz, I’ll just put this here.

Overheard: Wonderful piece played wonderfully. It is a little funny though that the title of the video mentions a Duke Ellington cover. There are no covers in jazz, but great pieces known as standards, which all artists interpret their own way, each time differently. And Duke Ellington wrote a great lot of them. Still the Cohens and their set are amazing. Great video!

Mario Silva1: “Standards” refer to songs in the “Great American Songbook”. Most are standards were written for musicals, broadway shows, movies etc.. with lyrics that are performed mostly by vocalists and re interpreted instrumentally by Jazz musicians. That very act kept jazz popular and hip for people who weren’t aware of be bop, hard bop, or big band music that was strictly instrumental and made for the sake of the art and Jazz.

Max: How I wish I could make music in Israel, feel the wind, smell the air, so sweet and wild.  I miss the land, the people, the food, the sights and sounds.  All of it.  The Cohen family is carrying on the tradition of jazz, of music from the heart.  Bless you all.  Shalom Haverim.

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