Mexico Wrap-up


April 17, 2014

The week in Mexico was wonderful.  My good friend David Blink from Yakima Valley CC is a miracle worker when it comes to making things happen.  Years ago we dubbed him the "Hang Coordinator" for simple reasons like he always had the right barbeque apparatus to cook something or just the right bloody mary recipe.  He would manage every detail for a great party.  Now those skills extend to bringing musicians thousands of miles to a beautiful city in Michoacan, Mexico to spontaneously create free jazz with never before combined instruments for elementary school students.  Talk about coordinating a hang!


More connections and on to Mexico!


March 22, 2014

I'm on my first of three flights to get me to Morelia, Mexico where I'll hook up with my good friend David Blink and participate in the Morelia Jazztival.  I'm playing accordion and piano in a couple groups and also teaching a piano/arranging workshop.  I know I keep saying this, but what an amazing ride.


Checking in...


March 14, 2014

The feast continues...

Liza, the gal from Chicago has turned into a great resource and friend.  She's basically doing what I'm doing, but has been doing it for five years.  She knows everybody, she's bringing me up to speed on bands, players, recordings, styles, form, etc.  I will miss her.  It's great to have someone during this time who is as passionate about salsa as I am.  We bang out montuno patterns wherever we are.  She showed me a groove.  I took it into the practice room and put a twist on it and tossed it right back at her.  She played again at the Nuyorican Wednesday night and I got to sit in again.  I can't imagine this trip without having met her.


Music, Music, Music! (And Music!)


March 8, 2014

Well, it's feast or famine on this ride.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised; it has been a rollercoaster all along.  Right now, I'm feasting.  So much has happened this week.  In addition to having my brother Rick and his (our) good friend Bruce here, I made some great connections and walked through new doors of musical opportunity.

Note that all of the following takes place in less than 72 hours.


Week eight


March 2, 2014

Week 8

My mom has been here for the last week and it's been great!  I've transformed from someone focused on how he can do more and what's missing to appreciating all that he has and has accomplished.  I'm truly blessed to be here and to have these experiences and opportunities to acquire new skills.  And I've only just crossed the halfway point!


Identity Crisis....


During my translation of Las Caras Lindas by Ismael Rivera, I was deeply moved by the lyrics and did some writing.  It was an emotional day and so I was pretty scattered, but I think it only makes sense to share it here.

American, Euro-American, Me?

Here's the scenario: I'm sitting in the kitchen of my apartment in Old San Juan listening to Las Caras Lindas by Ismael Rivera.  I'm translating it word by word and crying.  It is absolute poetry.  I'm moved deeply by it's meaning, metaphor, and emotion.  Ismael, one of Puerto Rico's beloved singers, sings about the "beautiful faces of his black people:"


Week six...


February 23, 2014

I'm thoroughly settled into my apartment in OSJ.  El dueño (the landlord) finally got the shower fixed after bathing with bowls (a process mastered in the hot springs in Japan) for a week.  The roof still leaks and honestly, I'm just going to proceed as if it will always leak.  Maybe that's just how it is.  The landlord's buddy has been out three times and worked on it and there's no change.  I thought about getting all huffy and insisting I pay less, but you have to pick your battles and I really appreciate the relationship I have with the landlord.  I call him tio and he calls me sobrino.  (Uncle and nephew)


End of week five - much music!


February 8, 2014

Well, music has officially kicked into gear.  Yesterday I had my first piano lesson with Luis Marin of the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico.  I met him in his studio at the conservatory.  The lesson was exactly what I needed.  He first addressed my time.  His approach to playing successive syncopations is that you need to be as comfortable as you would be playing successive quarter notes.  He gave me a series of exercises that at first seemed too simple and rudimentary for me, but after working with him, I could see exactly how it will benefit me. 


Week five...


February 6, 2014

Bless me reader for I have not blogged.  It has been a week and a half since my last blog and this is my sin.

Well, first off, go hawks!!  Or actually, went hawks!!  And went they did.  The Seahawks won their first Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 2.  I shot up to Texas on a pass from my bro and we watched the game in his basement theater, complete with freshly installed velvet curtains...muy rico.  I ended up going a couple days early and staying an extra day, so I've actually been in PR very little since the last blog entry.  I've been back two days and basically just focused on getting the essentials in the apartment.  I could tell you another story about walking long distances with no payoff, but you've had plenty.  I'm in the apartment, by the way.  Until just a few hours ago I had no plates, bowls, sheets, pillow cases, etc.  Being able to put my rice and beans (arroz y habichuelas - I just had to share the word habichuelas with you) on a plate is quite a luxury.  And sleeping on a sheet tonight instead of the faux leather of my sofa-bed will be heaven.


Week four Part II



Last week I really needed a musical outlet.  I've had a lot of input, but it was time to be a musician and put something out.  So I learned En Mi Viejo San Juan from the week before.  I listened to the version Joel said he remembered as a kid and used it as a guide for rhythm and inflection - the trickiest part of singing in another language.  If you put the acCENT on the wrong sylLAble, you'll sound funny.  I brought my accordion in to the school on Friday and played and sang it for Joel in our lesson.  He helped me straighten out a couple things, but for the most part it was pretty close.  Then I sang it for all the teachers and students on our break, maybe 15-20 people.  It was great.  It's known as the 2nd national anthem of Puerto Rico, so all the teachers and staff knew the words.  There are a couple call and response lines in the chorus and they all chimed in right on cue.


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