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!

That quartet is Dave on the handpan (a type of UFO-looking steel drum played with fingers and palms), the great percussionist Memo Acevedo from NYC on cajon (wooden box), Jeff Norwood on contrabass, and me on accordion.  Starting with Dave's rhythmic ostinatos on the handpan, the quartet would add ideas in layers, building density and intensity.  We had some great moments.

Dave also assembled the Yakima-Morelia All-stars, a Latin jazz septet with sax, trumpet, piano, guitar, bass, and two percussionists.  We performed all original music at a huge outdoor jazz festival, the Morelia Jazztival.  It was a wonderful collaboration.  The same group will meet in Yakima in May for the YVCC Latin Music Celebration.  That Dave Blink!!

I shared a room with the bassist, Jeff, and we stayed up late talking about our personal philosophies on music and life.  It was incredibly inspiring.  Jeff's commitment to excellence in groove and preparation challenged my "it's all good" attitude which pervades my musicianship.  Both perspectives have their place in a musician's persona, and it's not that I have any regrets or judge myself, but the conversations really forced me to ask myself the questions, "Is this as good as you want to be?  Are you happy with the standards you've set for yourself?  Could you enjoy music more if you expect more from yourself?"  My conclusion is I'm going to use the remainder of my sabbatical, after I return to Seattle, to practice. 

I have collected a tremendous amount of information, including leads on who to listen to, what to listen for, arrangers, players, bands, books, etc!  But I've had hardly any time to put this stuff in motion.  My practice time is limited to three days a week at specific hours and then only if something else isn't going on for me at that time.  Anyway, I am so primed to practice and explore.  It's one of things that makes my return home incredibly exciting and takes a little of the sting out of saying goodbye to this island. 


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