Living the double life

For the last 6 years I have been balancing two lives: that of a working musician and that of a working school teacher.

Both are demanding jobs with lots of time spent in preparation  for the performance, and they both include low pay for using a lot of improvisation.

Most of the people who witness me work are indifferent to what I’m doing.

Society snubs both occupations.



From the vaults

Here’s a post I wrote about Kenny Dorham a couple of years ago.


Happy Birthday

How could we not go about today, August 30th, and not take a moment to celebrate Kenny Dorham’s birthday. I mean come on people. KD! The man, the legend…..that’s right you probably don’t know who he is…

….like most people.

Kenny Dorham is considered one of the most over looked musicians in jazz. I’ve read over and over again how KD was never recognized for his genius as a trumpeter, composer, and piano player. He would never live a long and healthy life, he would spend most of his career working for non musical positions including many years as a post office worker. When you hear KD and all of his brilliance, you can’t, at least I can’t figure out how this has become his fate.

I first came to know of KD the same way most do, by performing his classic tune Blue Bossa. Like so many young and starting jazz musicians this was one of the first tunes I ever learned. Then in college I was exposed to him much more from my college teacher because KD was his idol. For every 5 gigs I play or jam sessions I attend this song is played at least 3 of those times. Its a great tune, and great to improvise over.

I don’t want to get into all the details about KD’s life because it requires the amount of space of a full blown novel but I would like to mention a few points.

His album Una Mas had a very strong impact on my life as a musician. Teamed,with an all-star cast of musicians, including his protege’ Joe Henderson, this album is full of great playing, intriguing melodies and full of groove all people of the world need to hear. At one point this album was played more than anything else I owned.

KD got his first break when he replaced Miles Davis in Charlie Parker’s band in the late 1940’s. He played consistently into the 50’s, took some time off then re-emerged in the late 50’s as one of the original members of the Jazz Messengers. He would then continue playing all through the 60’s in various contexts with everyone from Horace Silver to Andrew Hill.

Due to economical reasons in the 60’s KD began working a regular gig at the Post Office and occasionally reviewed albums and wrote columns for Downbeat magazine.

Kenny Dorham was always in the shadow of many players throughout his career. His curse of never becoming a house hold name seemed to just be an act of fate. Miles writes in his autobiography that at a jam session KD swept him under the rug.

Even though he was over looked by all the stars of the trumpet at the time, he was an amazing player. His ballad playing was melodic and so fluid. His fast paced playing was smooth and connected.

He was an original voice.

He was Kenny Dorham

August 30th 1924-December 5th 1972

The grind of running a show

I took over the jazz series at the The Outer Space club back in 2011 in a rather lucky moment of being at the right place at the right time. I’ve known the owner Steve Rodgers for a number years dating back to when my old ska band used to play at his club. He told me he wanted a weekly series and thought I would be the man to run in for him.

I started right away trying to promote and book acts in CT to play our fairly new stage and give jazz, especially original material oriented bands a place to play. I had my connections with students from WCSU and the Hartt school, the New zhaven avant garde scene and various other connections with musicians in the area.

I knew I needed to start with a bang so I asked one of my trumpet heroes, Jeremy Pelt if he would play in a special guest setting to kick off the first set of dates. That show was on 2/17/12 and it was a huge success. I had hired my rhythm section to back up Pelt while he tore it up on some standards. I was able to secure a guarentee for Jeremy and made the money back at the door. We must have had about 60 people in the audience. I spent the rest of that night happy knowing I had something awesome going here.

Then the weekly frustration began…

Starting with the second week,  the show would be the most upsetting task I would volunterrily put myself in. I promoted the shit out of these shows. First online and through facebook. Unfortunately the numbers weren’t happening. The audience wasn’t coming. Every week these great bands would play to virturally no one. Maybe some regulars at the bar if they were lucky. I wasn’t allowed to charge a cover so I tried to tip jar approach. If bands had a good night they could split about $25 in singles.

Most nights are like that. Barely any one in attendance. I’ve heard a slew of excuses but their all so jive. I just don’t understand why people don’t come to check the shows out. I’ve tried everything on my end including flyers, radio promo, online promotion and still no one comes. Funny enough, I am constantly hearing how they’re not enough places to gig.

I’ve had a few more guest artists come in and put together to festival nights. Those are always successful. I then changed the format from all year shows to just two sessions spanning 3 months and the jury is still out on if that is going to work.

The jazz scene struggles and I think it’s because people are selfish. I think they expect people to be at their shows and never pay it forward. I think that regular folk don’t go out to hear music enough due to the evolved-natured idea that paying for music is something you just don’t do. I think people stay in too much and I also think having jazz on a Sunday night is a mistake but not one that should effect people seeing music as much as it does.

Every week I keep plugging along, but I sure as hell need a sign that this wasn’t for nothing.